Kindness and Laughter are always best.

As I was driving downtown yesterday, a young woman thought I was not going fast enough and sped around me. She gave me the “mean face” look as she passed me. One minute later, I pulled up beside her at a red light. She refused to look at me. She had sped down the road and I had traveled at the normal sped. We had both reached a stopping point. Her sped did not get her anywhere faster.

When the light turned green, she sped off quickly, only to get stopped at the NEXT red light. Ironically, I rolled up beside her again. When this 2nd red light turned green, again the same thing happened. She sped off quickly.  I rolled out and then rolled up beside her at another red light a few blocks away. This little comedy happened about four times, might have been five. I was laughing hysterically. She was sulking. She finally turned and I continued straight on to my destination. From this little encounter, the Lord reminded me of a few lessons.

First, speeding is not necessary. We will all get stopped at red lights and the extra speed is not necessarily going to get you there faster. It only puts everyone else in danger. I hope that in her young life she learns this lesson sooner rather than later. As she sped away, I said a quick prayer for her safety and the safety of those who travel around her.

Second, kindness is always a good idea. You never know if the person you were rude to will be the one who rolls up beside you at the red light, is the next person interviewing you for a job, the banker that you need that loan from, or your next in-law that your cousin marries. Kindness is just best. I was kind to a woman once who sat with me and applied for Financial Aid at Texarkana College. She was scared at being a single mother and going back to college. I honestly do not remember her. But she remembered me and told me so when I ran into her at Kohl’s where she was an Assistant Manager and I was returning a purchase. Kindness IS worth it. I have also had it flipped where I had once openly expressed my dissatisfaction with a government employee at the food stamp office. I was less than nice as I verbally told her what I thought about their system. (All that ranting and story is really for a different blog.) I met the same woman at a church I visited a few weeks later. My face was red. I thought her greeting after recollection could have helped the awkward moment better. She was less than forgiving. But then, I didn’t ask for it either. None are perfect and we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Last, I have learned to laugh at life and God’s lessons. Life is too short not to find the hilarious joy at something so silly.  Just a few moments before, I had been crying at news of a sweet friend in the hospital with grim diagnosis. I was wallowing in selfishness that I don’t want to think of the world without her on it. The Lord threw my laughter out there to break me from the tears. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  When this little comedy at the red light began, it could have taken a very different path and outcome. When I was that young girl’s age, I probably would have stuck my tongue out, had a haughty look or made a right turn to go around the block and avoid having to pull up next to the older woman again. But now, I am older and I have learned to laugh. It was probably scarier to her that I was laughing manically while wiping tears from my eyes. How ironic was it that it happened not once, not twice but several times? It was like a surreal moment in a comedy sitcom like Malcolm in the Middle.

Laugh with me that life is ever changing. It gets better. It gets worse. We get older, and hopefully wiser. Hair grows, and grass in the yard, and wrinkles on our faces. Children grow and 2:00 am feedings do not go on forever. My oldest is almost a junior in college. My 2nd child will be a senior in high school. My Wonderboy, surprise baby is 9 years old now. I thought when I had him at 35 that it was the hardest thing in my motherhood. I laugh now because it certainly got harder and he did not stay little.  Life never stays the same. If we are down and blue now, it will change. It might get worse before it gets better, but it will not stay the same. If I am doing something stupid, I will be the first to laugh at myself. I also learned that my real friends with laugh with me. They know I will laugh when I fall down or trip in a hole. They are not scared of hurting my feelings. They are already laughing with me at how life is ever changing. Try kindness in the little things and laughter at the unexpected. It makes our crazy life here on earth, oh so much better.

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Alone in the Hood or Gussying Up the Ghetto

I had another coworker today ask me which part of town I was living. When I told them where I live, they made “the face” I have seen several times when giving this answer. Yes. I am living in the outskirts of the hood. My immediate neighbors are nice. No. I have not had any issues, other than the brief rodent ones and bugs, oh and cleaning and painting (I am exhausted and no hope of finishing soon to my standards, but it is livable.) I do not plan on living here forever. No I can’t move. I am broke. Moving costs money I don’t have at the moment. I would need deposits again, moving vans and favors that I have cashed in. I am not fearful here and this older house is just old. It is relatively solid, sturdy, and in my budget price. It just needed a lot of cleaning and painting, which I knew when I chose it. I, however, was not expecting mass quantity of both of those or the cabinets being basically unusable. (They really should be ripped out and replaced, but I’m dealing with it by just not using them.)

So I just pray everyday and deadbolt the doors. God will show me a way and open a window when He is ready. In the meantime, I am doing what I can with what I have in front of me. I remember to thank the Lord for my roof over my head, electricity, running plumbing with hot water, food to eat, my health, my children’s and family’s health, employment in only ONE job, a good & efficient vehicle, and my little furry companion (my dog) which gives me comfort on the lonely days.

I have said before that I am not designed for living alone. Some people are, but not me. I grew up with 3 siblings and sharing a bed with my sister. The house was always noisy, waiting for the bathroom, and fighting for the TV, which is why I read a lot. Then I went to college with a room mate in the sorority house for two years before leaving to marry.  But I also know the torture of living with the wrong person and choosing someone just because I am lonely or afraid. So is the Lord is truly trying to make me stronger or am I on the wrong path? I am reminded to do the best I can with what is in front of me. But the silence sometimes is too much. I find myself talking to the dog and becoming the crazy lady that talks to her self and the squirrels in the trees when I am outside. I love my new job but I question if the move here is worth all this.

I have always been a person with a goal, a dream, a hope for the future, a list maker with a vision. At the moment, I have no vision for the long-term future other than my immediate days. I have employment in the morning. I tend to work late during the week because I have only cleaning, painting and the dog at home. I like the work, so I don’t mind engulfing myself in it. Tomorrow after work, I will drive the hour to pick up my son for the weekend and hope that my daughters might choose to spend a little of their teenage weekend time with me. Then return him on Sunday evening to his father to start another routine week. If I felt I was in a holding pattern before, I am definitely in a different one now.

I laugh because I can see the growth in me that God is doing. I was one year at Nana’s after the separation with my 2nd husband. I needed her, and that time to heal. I cried myself to sleep often and I waited for him to change his mind. He didn’t. I was emotionally broken. I worked temp jobs where one let me go after a week stating there was a “conflict of personality.” I felt rejected on many levels. I tried dating, much too early, but we all make mistakes. I got played by someone who publicly humiliated me to try and get back with an ex.  I was like a tiny seed in a pot. I wanted to pull the ground up over my head and just feel the sun for some happiness.  I found permanent employment. Then another that was better.  After that year I had wore out my welcome and God made a way for me to get my own apartment. God transplanted me from the little seedling into a different pot to grow some more. It was tiny, but it was all mine. I struggled, whined to God, prayed. I worked two jobs. I was exhausted, frustrated, scared some days, ok most days. But I was on my own two feet. Then I started to plan for the future. I knew I would burn out working the two jobs. I started looking for one big job to replace the two and started working on a plan for my debts.

At the same time the lease was up on my apartment, I was offered my current position an hour away. My oldest was here in this town for her freshman year in college. It seemed like a God send, like God pulling to move me in this direction. I had to move anyway or renew my apartment lease. So I moved the hour away and took this position. At the time of the move, many rentals were not available, it being a university town and the school year still going. This little house was in my price range and available at the right time. I took a friend to see it with me. We looked at the sleepy neighborhood and the manicured lawns of older houses that sat around this one. I knew the house needed cleaning and painting. If he dropped the price, I would agree to paint if he bought the paint and supplies. He agreed. I didn’t know it had been previously heavily infested and still had mice and a few bugs. (Who looks behind the door hinges and on tops of closet shelves for bug evidence? Well I will in the future.) The landlord bought a new refrigerator, mows the lawn, replaced the floor in the bathroom and laundry room, bought paint and supplies, paid a professional bug man, and fixed the oven. (I probably forgot something. He has been very accommodating and even humored me that the oven was “smoking” when it was just burning something off after he replaced the element.)

All that said, two blocks down this street is the straight up “hood”. I have seen “deals” going down in the street on the way to and from. I try not to make eye contact and remember to drive a different direction during that time of the day. On the night I moved in, the police cruised up and down the street every 30 minutes. There was a shooting, I am told, a few months ago in this area. But in fairness, shootings can happen anywhere. We had shootings when we lived out in the country. This past fourth of July, the neighbors here were shooting off fireworks. My 9 year old son didn’t flinch that he thought they were shooting off guns. He has lived in the country so long where hunters often fire their guns in target practice or squirrel hunting. This was a normal sound for him. A friend came by and said that it was in fact shotgun fire and not fireworks we were hearing on that day. So my son was probably correct.

All that said, I actually do not feel fear here, but I am careful just the same. I have an alarm system that is on the house and new deadbolts, care of the nice landlord, who is grateful that I am an awesome cleaner and painter. I hug my dog and know that this new “pot” God has planted me in will not be my final bed of growth for this flower. Even though I am currently in a new holding pattern, sometimes God puts us in a place to grow before moving us again to bigger and better beds. God knows my needs. He is my protection and sends me comfort, sun and nourishment when I need it. I am not afraid to know that when and if He decides to transplant me again, He will provide the way and the means. While I might be lonely in the hood, I have the comfort that as a child of the Lord, I am never truly alone.

April Can Bring More Than Showers

moving

 

 

It is the first part of April. In just a few more days I will say my final goodbye at my current jobs, yes plural, and start a new career the following week in a town an hour away. I will pack all my things and relocate this month as well.  We are taking a road trip tomorrow to view another rental house in hopes that this is “the one”.  As I have been anticipating all the changes coming in my life this month, I have noticed a pattern of extreme change over the last few years that have all seemed to happen in April.

First of all, the obvious, April is my birthday month. I have friends who celebrate all month long of their birthday month, but then their birth date falls at the end of their month. So they build to the celebrated day. My date is the 3rd. We get to it fast and it is over. Then onto celebrate the next person in the month with a birthday. As a child, I got great gifts from my mother because she would use her tax return check for my gifts.  That is how mom could afford my great keyboard for my 17th birthday, which I still have. (It was handy when I went to college and still now for practicing my music for choir and musicals.)  A few times in my life, Easter fell on my birthday. My 21st birthday was one of those Easter/birthday years. Birthdays always create a benchmark in our mind from gifts received to people who attended our parties and even how the year went. My extreme changes however were not just my birthdays.

April is also my son’s birthday month. My third child, late-in-life, surprise Wonderboy, has been both a joy and a challenge. He was not planned or I would not have picked my birthday month to have a child. But since he was due in April, I tried my hardest to coax him out on my birthday. He would have none of that. I was induced shortly after my 35th birthday and Wonderboy was born on the 6th.  The lessons learned thru him and challenges faced have changed all our lives for ever. Two extremely gifted girls did not prepare us for a mild-moderate, special needs child. My Wonderboy has changed the way I see people and even approach the world. I often remark how others just don’t understand things. Then I remember that they don’t have a Wonderboy who has helped me see the world with different eyes.

Birthdays are certainly times of celebration and reflection, but I was originally referring to all the other things that have happened in the past 5 years, all in Aprils. It was an April that my 1st divorce was final. It was the same April that I got engaged to my 2nd husband. (I do not recommend it happening like this. Learn from my mistakes people.) The next year in April my ex served me with custody papers, filed on my birthday no-less. My teens had decided they wanted to live with their dad.  While still April, they broke my heart and moved out. I cried for days. (That story is for another day, if I choose to publish it at all. It is still a touchy subject since the kids are all not adults yet.)  After the girls moved out, I also lost the child support associated with them. I finally put the house up for sale and made the final preparations for a move to relocate where my new husband lived (we had not yet combined households due to me finishing college, de-hoarding the home I had been in for 15 years and needing to sort out the custody stuff.)

I do not remember anything significant about the next April. I think my husband took me to see a touring musical I loved and out to dinner, but nothing life changing. However, the following April brought another emotional chapter. That same beloved 2nd husband and I separated. The lease was up and, due to irreconcilable differences, we mutually decided to separate for the purposes of divorce. I had liquidated everything for the 1st divorce, custody suit and move there. I was about to do it again? I had not yet recovered from the 1st one. But if I wasn’t going to be living with that husband, why live alone in a town where my children were not?  That sad April, I once again resigned a wonderful position and relocated back to the town I had lived with the kids’ dad. Only this time, finding a job in the smaller area was much more difficult. My ex-mother-in-law, Nana to my children, took me in. I felt humbled indeed, homeless, lost, broke. While I began to work thru a temporary agency, it was not enough to live on by myself. I refused to find some sugar daddy to just take me in (trust me, I had offers, gross ones, but offers). That would have led to whole different list of emotional issues. I was grateful for Nana more than words can describe.  I could not see having a roommate and 3 kids visiting on the weekends. Nana graciously allowed me to live there for awhile, until I had pretty much outlived my welcome.

It was the following April, a whole year later, before I was financially stable enough to leave Nana’s and move to an apartment of my own. I had cashed in retirements again, changed employers again, and waited for the 90 day temp period for a raise before being able to swing it. Even then, I don’t think anyone understood the crazy amount of scared I was. I had NEVER lived alone. Never. I went from my mom/step-dad’s home to the college dorm/sorority house to engaged and living with Nana planning the wedding. Then I was married with kids to living as a single parent with kids. I remarried the second husband and after lived again with Nana. I was now a whole new emotional mess of loneliness. I don’t do bars. I worked all the time. Thank the Lord I had kept my little dog thru all this. (I have new appreciation for lonely cat ladies with 100 cats. I get it now.) You laugh?  My day job had little human interaction. My evenings had zero. I was a people person with no people. I was going insane. On the off chance I got a date, I sort of gushed and was told more than once that I talked too much. Wouldn’t you if you had no one to talk to like solitary confinement?  I digress.

So this April, just a year from moving into my apartment, my lease is up. At the same time I have taken a wonderful position an hour away at a university. I find myself once again looking at another major move in another April. Not JUST a job change, not JUST a physical housing move, but both again at the same time. This one is full of emotions again also. Maybe not heart-broken emotions, but filled with excitement, a little worry about the finances, and trepidation about the kids take on this. I am trying to look at the whole picture. And on top, in just a couple days I turn 44 and my little Wonderboy will be 9, all at the same time. To add to my plate, because God thought it was not full enough I guess, to be able to afford the move, a yard sale is in the mix and training my replacement in my last days at the old job. (God always tests my multitasking skills.)

Hopefully, this April of change will be the last in this string of spring growth. You know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”? Well for me sometimes those Aprils brought flowers and joy, sometimes April brought my tears. For certain, big changes have happened more than once in these spring months. I actually don’t like change. I want to be the lady that grew up in the same town and knows everyone, but God had different plans. Seems God wants me to know people in towns all over the place. I had a pastor once say that growth is important in the Christian life. No one likes the little still pond with algae growing on it, but everyone likes the bubbling brook and the beautiful, cascading waterfall. The moving water shifts the silt and clears the debris. No funky slim can grow on the moving water. And so our Christian life should be growing with God like moving water. If God is moving in your life, then you know there is no funky algae, no stagnant, undrinkable water. Maybe this is what God has done for me in my physical life as well. I know there were missteps in there. We are human after all and fall short of His glory. God is putting me back into a place to use me greatly.  In the spring, He shakes me up. Or maybe like the plants, the growth has been there under the soil and we finally get to see the sprout in the spring. Not yet the fruit, but the budding plant and the hope for the fruit in the future. No matter what, I look forward to my birthday month as another year to celebrate life that, if I am following the Lord, could always mean change.

Brrrrrrr…..Baby It’s Cold Outside…..

To say my life is an adventure is an understatement. This morning, on one of the coldest of the year here, I got locked out of the apartment about 7:30am while walking the dog. The lock literally broke or froze up in the weather. I had my key but it ceased to work. No phone, no car keys, just me and the dog and I was not dressed for long-term outside.

In just thin work slacks, ballet flats with trouser socks, small sweater and my quilted coat, I was not prepared to linger outside longer than a quick visit to the yard with the dog. Luckily, I did grab a hat and had gloves in my pocket. It was 19 degrees with a 10 degree wind chill at the time. I was literally freezing. The dog was visibly shivering.

It was also super lucky that my neighbor was home and kind enough to drive me over to manager’s office and back again. (It is a long walk to the front of the huge complex.) Neither of us had the number in our head for the main office. My neighbor let me call Nana on his cell and Nana called in reinforcements. It was before the office opened, but maintenance hopped to it, trying first their master key. Then they called the big boss off his vacation to come and fix the lock, because as I said, the lock was broken.

I was outside total of about an hour. I did get to sit with a worker’s wife in her car, then Nana, then at the club house. I was seriously worried about frost bite on my toes for a bit. I knew as long as they were hurting, it was still a good sign. Dog and I had tried to keep moving and stay in the sun light, but it only helped a little. Maintenance suggested I go to the club house, but Nana wouldn’t know where I was when she got there. And for liability purposes, I am not allowed to ride in their golf carts. I would have had to walk up there and then walk back if they fixed it before Nana arrived. It was less time pacing and waiting for Nana. And they were going to fix it soon, right?

I have been cold before, but never that cold. It has been a few hours and my hands and feet are still cool. I am trying to warm them slowly, but I am still chilled to the bone, literally. I also have never felt so desperate. I did very well to not panic. I prayed. I found pennies and even a dime in the parking lot to distract me. If I had to walk to a gas station or office, I had no ID or wallet, no cash to make a call. I was literally stranded, at the kindness of strangers and just feet from everything in the world that I needed. In the future, if you see me walking my dog with a purse or back pack, do not question that at that moment I chose to “…not leave home without it,” like the commercial says.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Christmas stories from my child hood, “Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story,” by Dick Gackenbach. If you haven’t read this to your child, I recommend it highly. In the story, Claude has a friend who is outside and cold. Claude gives his friend his bed, his blanket, and I think a scarf, because  while the friend had nothing, Claude has a house and boy inside to keep him warm. The story always reminded me to share what I have with those less fortunate and that the people in our lives are truly more valuable than just things. At the moments I was outside with my shivering dog, I was wishing for one of those many who were warm inside to look outside and share their dog blankets. Ultimately though, you have to communicate that you are in need before anyone just looks out and says, “hey, that’s weird. That lady has been out there a long time and she is not dressed very warm.”

This short time outside also made me consider retirement to warmer locations, the truly homeless and feeling grateful to the ones who responded when I called for help. Life is not made to live alone. Not truly alone. I am glad I have greeted and talked with my neighbors and felt comfortable to knock on their door. I am glad memorized Nana’s number and she could come to help. I am happy that when Nana called a friend for me, they came over also for moral support, in case Nana wasn’t there yet. And thankful the first maintenance man had not made me wait until 9 am, when they opened, to start helping me and get his wife to help me too. Chalk this one up to another crazy Christmas-week story for the books. I am certainly laughing. My dear friend tells me, I need supervision. I am starting to believe I need more than supervison. But I am leaving all that in the hands of the Lord to provide. For now, I am still laughing and very grateful to be warm.

 

Pennies from Heaven….and nickels and dimes and sometimes a quarter

Last April I moved into an apartment for the first time all by myself. My overly gracious, former mother-in-law and grandmother to my children, aka Nana, had allowed me to live with her for a while after an unfortunate separation from my second husband. That “short while” grew into a year. Having her during that dark period was a tremendous help, but it was time for me to stop grieving and move on.

This would be the first in my life, other than the two years of college right after high school, which I am responsible for the rent all by myself and the first time I ever lived alone.  I was scared about being able to make my bills. I chose the cheapest apartment I could find that was clean and in a relatively safe area, well better than some others. However, I was living paycheck to paycheck. My worry was great. I started to remember all the wise words of my mother when I was growing up and she was a single parent. I remembered how scared she always was and that she prayed a lot. I begin to pray and pray without ceasing.

The first week in my apartment, I was out walking my dog and praying.  I looked down and saw a penny in the parking lot. That one little penny brought back a flood of memories of my mother who used to say she found a penny everyday. On a day she didn’t find a penny, she knew the next day or the next she would find a nickel or a dime.  Mother kept a wooden bowl on the top of her microwave that she threw her pennies daily. I remember seeing her gather those pennies a few times to buy a gallon of gas, back when gas was less than a dollar, to get to work or a jug of milk until payday. I never laughed at mom for her pennies found. I remember her saying some thing like, “If you saw a dollar on the ground or a twenty dollar bill, you would pick it up, right? So how can we ask God to provide and not take the penny He put in front of us? If we prayed for God to give us money, and he puts money in front of us, pick it up. It might just be one cent, but after you add a few more together, they can add up fast.”

Needless to say, I picked up the penny that day.  I thanked God for my penny and found peace in His reassurance. But it did not stop there. As we kept walking, I found another.  I praised God for my extra blessing that day.  Then I found a dime. And I started to laugh that God was surly finding enjoyment at dropping those for me.  I came back home and got out my own decorative bowl to put in my kitchen and I dropped in those three coins to remind me of God’s promises to never leave me or forsake me.

It has now been four months and I am happy to say, I am still finding pennies, sometimes nickels, dimes or quarters. Every time I see a coin, I praise God at His reassurance that He is taking care of me. And I cast my worry on Him.  Sometimes I find several together, sometimes not.  Once I came back inside with seven pennies I found in seven different areas. Another time, I found 25 pennies in a little pile all together. There was the penny that was almost green and another that was partially buried in dirt revealed only by the perfect circle of the coin showing. There might be a rare day that I don’t find a penny, but I don’t worry, like my mother, I am already so blessed. And then the next day, I might find three.

Since that first penny, the Lord has used finding these daily coins to teach me more lessons. As I stooped to pick up a bent, oxidized penny one morning, I looked at that circle next to the shiny, copper one I had gathered a few steps before. It struck me that humans are like those pennies. Some are shiny souls that draw attention, glistening in the sun. Some are bent, weathered and hide in the dirt, hard to see. Some are found in large groups like the 25 I found together and others are spread out, the solitary penny dropped between two cars. Many people pass up the solitary, weathered and crusty penny saying it is not worth bending over to get it. But to God, we are all worth the same. Each penny is worthy of being picked up. Each penny started the same, made of the same materials. One penny might be coppery, another oxidized green or so beat and weathered it has no color, but like humans that are all colors, we are all made up of the same stuff on the inside. When a lot of us are put together we can add up to make a difference.

Another day, as I picked up a penny in a puddle, I could hear a friend in my head that said, “Ew! Don’t pick that up. It is dirty!”  Well, be reassured, I am walking my dog at the same time and picking up his poop in a plastic baggie.  I wash my hands thoroughly upon reentering the apartment. And usually I wash the coins too. But God reminded me that we are also like those dirty pennies. We might have the most, vile filth on us, but we, just like the penny, can be washed. He paid the ultimate price to make us clean again. He sacrificed His son that we could be washed by Jesus’ blood and forgiven of our sins. We could be clean again. We could be gathered together and reminded we are worthy.

About a month ago, my 8 year old son, Max, noticed my bowl of coins on the counter. Max has been saving money in his penny bank and he asked if he could have the change in my bowl. I told him no, that those were my pennies from God. Max looked at me like, “what?”  I explained simply that God shows me pennies in the parking lot everyday to remind me that He loves me. Max just said, ‘oh!”  Later that day when I came in from walking the dog, Max asked me if I had found more pennies from God.  I said yes and showed him the few coins I found that day. Max then asked if God would give Him pennies. I told Max that I could not promise that God would give him pennies, but that God would bless Him. How he was blessed was between Him and God. Then it struck me that God had used my mother’s lesson with the penny to remind me in a dark moment of my life and now I have job of passing my own lessons to my children. I had just planted the seed in my son. Hopefully Max will allow God to remind him later when it is needed. The seed is there.

At a time when I was at my lowest and scared, God used some lost pennies in my apartment parking lot to remind me of some valuable lessons. They are a reminder that God will provide for my needs, we are all equal, that no matter how dirty we get we still have the same value after we are washed and God can teach me a lesson with something as simple as a penny. They remind me to pray and have a hearing ear. They remind me to share what God has taught me so that others might be blessed also. I am still finding pennies. I found two of them today. I found a dime yesterday. Tomorrow I might not find one at all. If I never find another one, I will always have this time of growth with me and God. I know I am blessed. I know He could also teach me more lessons as long as I have a willing heart. It was more than “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.” These silly pennies are truly my gift from Heaven.

 

Off to college….lessons learned

 

Tomorrow is the end of an era in our family and the beginning of something new.  Tomorrow we move my first born to her college dorm. My living room is full of suitcases, crates, and bags of bedding. Her father will be here in the morning to make a convoy with me to haul all her loot the hour away to the university. She did her due diligence and worked for an academic scholarship and a music scholarship for marching in the band. She will report two hours after move-in to start band rehearsal. Her first year is completely paid in full. We are so blessed.

But as her mother, I of course am worried.  Will she keep her room clean so her roommate won’t strangle her in her sleep with dirty clothes?  Is she going to stay focused on her studies and music enough to keep the scholarships?  Will she keep her head straight and not run after parties and boys?  Well, she can’t get into too much mischief with just a bicycle on campus and no car, right?  Oh, don’t answer that.  And last, is she going to miss me like I will miss her and have come to depend on her?  Well most likely the last one will be a no. She is in fact very independent, except not having her driver’s license yet or a car. She will probably only miss me folding her clothes and always having leftovers in the refrigerator, I suppose.

In these recent momentous turning points for her, I have been remembering what it was like for me when I graduated high school and left for college. And then I put myself in my own mother’s shoes.  My mother was unfamiliar with going off to a large university. My parents married when my mother was still in her senior year in high school.  Mom attended secretarial school and my father was a mechanic before he passed. While I am not the oldest of my mother’s children, I was the first to trek this path to college in a dorm right after high school.

I will never forget the day I left to move in the dorm. My mother had been to campus with me for Orientation weekend the prior month. She had toured, talked to professors and other parents, spent a night in the dorms and eaten in the cafeteria. She had been reassured I was going to be okay and thrive there. So on the assigned day to leave, she helped me pack my car with the required bedding, toiletries and some clothes. (That was all I really needed, right? Like going to camp for a long time?) When all was packed and I had delayed long enough, I realized she was not coming with me. She hugged me and told me that I knew the way. I knew where the Housing office was and could put on my own sheets. She prayed over me and said she loved me. And she stood in the driveway and waited for me to get in my car and leave.

At first, I was furious that she wasn’t going with me. Was she not concerned? Did she not want to help me?  Then I was scared. She is not going with me?  I have to do this all by myself? ALL BY MYSELF?  But as I backed down the driveway, I remember having a weight lifted off of me as I exhaled and thought, “I am free. I am a grown up. I am no longer under her rule. Sink or swim, it is just me and God. My scholarship, my academics, my life.”  I look back and realize how very, very hard that must have been for my mother to watch me drive away, and for her to push me out of the nest to watch me fly.

In my teen years, I used to resent my mother for our life. She sometimes worked two jobs and I had to take care of my younger brother and sister. While she was at a 2nd job, after I got home from school, I had to make dinner and do chores like wash clothes, which meant hauling them to the apartment laundry mat, or help my siblings with their homework. I felt I never had time for my own homework. I certainly did not have time for dates or parties. I resented her for making me ride the school bus. Especially when I missed the said school bus on my sixteenth birthday and I called mother for permission to just stay home that day. She was at work and told me I better start walking the two miles to school then. I had missed the bus and I had better show up, even if I was late. (She did at least call ahead to the school to tell them I was on my way.) At the time, I felt humiliated. I felt ALL my classmates were given cars on their sixteenth birthday and I missed the bus. How much lower could I be?  What I realize now, is that she taught me hard lessons. Face your reality. Face the consequences of your actions. Do what you can with what you are given. I admire her more now for teaching me those lessons and pushing me out of the nest to fly on my own.  I can now see my long, lonely drive to college was to both liberate and strengthen me.  I faced the fear and I was stronger for it.

While I will drive my daughter to her dorm tomorrow, mainly because she doesn’t have a car, I am anxious mostly because I worry that I did not teach her enough hard lessons. Does she know to face reality? Can she face the consequences of her actions? Can she learn to use what God has given her to succeed?  Well time will tell. I am hopeful that while she might resent me now from time to time, maybe, just maybe, one day she will realize that the lessons taught were not because I was being mean, but because I wanted her to fly.

 

Just Keep Smiling

Well here it is. I have threatened. I have pondered. I have promised. I have finally created….a blog. What is my blog about? It is about everything. It is about nothing. It is about me. I figured, if every one who followed my other social media posts reads this every once in a while, I might have a couple of readers. Maybe.  I read recently that a true writer will write down everything they know and not stop until they have it all down. I never considered myself a writer. A talker (I talk a lot at times), a great story-teller, a performer, a mother, but never thought of myself as a writer.

My mother always said she was a writer with no time to write. I listened to her stories and tales my whole life.  Her stories came from her life. Her fiction was created from her views, beliefs, insights, and the weaving of different ideals and theories. I always believed, and still do, that mother IS a writer who just hasn’t written it down yet.

So now I hear my own stories growing and growing in my head. Stories of my life as a child, stories of my children and stories of my own insights, that are now spilling out until I feel like I am already behind and trying to catch up. Of course, professors have told me I needed to write and friends have said, “write it down for your children at the least.” I never felt compelled yet, until now. I always said there were parts of my life that I could not write until I was old and certain family members had passed away. But there are many parts that I CAN write. Many funny stories that you can laugh at with me.

I admit being inspired by a wonderful new friend, which may or may not be discussed later, who has had a blog for a few years. As I have been reading my new, dear friend’s blog, my own topics started flowing again where for a while they have felt dormant and still. Sometimes, there is just a certain person who comes into your life and they don’t even know what a catalytic change they have started. I hope I am an inspiration like that to someone one day. But for now, I am just me. Here to tell my stories.

So what will I write about? (I asked this myself.)  I have sat the last two weeks in Sunday morning service and instead of taking my usually notes, I started to write topics. (Yes. I was also listening to the sermons on Matt 5). I filled two pages of just topics. Will you get to hear the funny quips of my clever daughters and of our path with my son’s autism? My childhood in Tennessee and my father’s untimely death when I was 7?  The struggle with living with step-fathers (yes, plural)? What of being a socially awkward teen in Texas and never feeling worthy even though I got up on stage to do my thing without a qualm? What of finding me at 42, without the custody of my kids, living with my ex-step-mother and facing a 2nd divorce in less than 3 years after the wedding? (That one is touchy and for purposes of good relations and will have to be written with discretion.)  Re-entering the dating scene again when I had never been out there before? And what of my 30 year struggle with physical pain that was FINALLY diagnosed only when the doctor had gone in to remove something else? (The doctor actually looked at me and said, “You must have a high tolerance for pain.” My response is for a later blog.) Will I write of my tales of Supermom and Wonderboy and how they were created?  Yes….all of it….one at a time.

The one thing, however, that I have always been able to do thru everything in my life is smile and (especially after my braces came off in the 7th grade).  I am told I have an infectious, beautiful smile. My mother says it lights all the way to my eyes, even though it did not get me to Miss America like I dreamed as a child.  It is God-given and a reflex for me. In joy, in pain, in sorrow, in fear, in depression, I continue to smile. A mask to wear so no one would ever know the way I actually felt. I never believed anyone, but my mother, actually wanted to know the true turmoil in me.  Some looked at me, I know, as if my IQ points must be lacking.  “The girl is in the midst of hard labor and she is smiling! What is wrong with her?” I always figured if I could just keep smiling, it was going to be okay. I would be happy on the outside and eventually the inside will match. Well, do not worry. I AM happy, generally speaking. The smiling does work, eventually. I laugh at myself, I sing, I dance thru life. I actually sang, instead of spoke, “Time to go,” this morning to my son while ushering him to the car. He responded, “Mom, stop speaking in opera.”

So, many never know the struggles in my past because I kept smiling.  I had a customer once say I must have been a loved and spoiled child by a caring father to be such a happy adult. I responded that joy comes from the Lord, not from being a spoiled child. And then I smiled bigger. That customer had no idea the God-glued together person that looked at her behind the smile.  Just as Dori says, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming….” in Disney’s “Finding Nemo”, I like to say, “just keep smiling, just keep smiling, smiling, smiling…”and in the end, God has got this.  So come along and laugh with me, instead of at me. It is so much more fun to laugh together. You just might find I can make you smile.