Saturday, June 30, 2012

On "Magic Mike"

For the past week or so I have been looking forward to seeing a certain movie (okay, FINE..."Magic Mike") because it has an actor that I really like in it...Channing Tatum.  Oh, it is set in the world of male strippers and it even has some dance numbers that will probably be a little more in-your-face than I am typically comfortable with...but I'm going just the same.  Because, you see, I see it for what it is...a story.  A movie.  I am not the kind of person who would normally go to a "revue" because it just isn't my thing. 


After all, if I need a private dancer, I have one at home, thank you very much.

What?  TMI?  Hey, I'm married, people.  Check out "Song of Solomon" in the Bible.  Exactly.

There are people who will not want to see this film because it would be too weird (mostly the males) or because it might be a stumbling block.  And that's truly okay.  But I've always been a sucker for biographies (this is loosely based on Channing Tatum's experiences as a 19 year old), and stepping out to see what the fuss is about if it isn't likely to carry me off into a place I don't need to go.

In the "Places I Don't Need to Go" Department...front and center would probably be the "Shades of Grey" books.  (And by the way, one of the actors in "Magic Mike," Matt Bomer, is probably the #1 candidate for the "Grey" role when it actually comes to pass.  Guess "Magic Mike" is a good way to get rid of some of those inhibitions.)  A lot of women that I know from all walks of life, backgrounds, and belief systems are reading the "Grey" books and mumbling a collective "Oh my!"  They are then telling their friends to read them and the reach has been pretty tremendous through word of mouth alone.  The fact that you can download these books to an electronic device has made it even easier for those women who had any inhibitions about stepping into the local "Books-a-Million" and picking up the trilogy.

But for a lot of people seeing this movie will be like dancing on the edge.  No pun intended.

I recognize that. 

Much like someone bringing a box of doughnuts to work to be nice is fine for a person who doesn't have an eating disorder like I do.  Taking a trip to Vegas or Biloxi and dropping $50 in the nickel slot machine - and then walking away when it is all gone - is fine.  Maxing out the credit card or spending the mortgage payment to not.  Or someone having a cocktail or a glass of wine at a party is perfectly natural...unless that glass of wine turns into a bottle and then into a lost weekend.  For some people, they cannot watch this movie because it will offend their spiritual core and will make them ashamed. 

I get that.  I really do.

We are all very different creatures.  What is fine for one person is obviously very negative for someone else.  I also know that as a Christian, we are supposed to be in the world and not of it.

But I'm not going to be shamed into not going simply because it is "bad."  Many people look at trying to live their lives as perfect creatures when in reality, none of us will ever achieve that standard because we are "in Adam."  We have to do the best to be what God would have us be while understanding that we have our own unique limits.  Unless you are Amish, you are going to encounter a lot of things in life that are probably not wholesome.  Your job is to cut through the garbage and be real.

So, while going to see "Magic Mike" isn't going to do much more than give me two hours of entertainment (except for the popcorn that I will undoubtedly eat because it's what I do)...and will certainly not advance the kingdom of is entertainment.  Of course, it is a very personal decision based on the way that you are uniquely wired.  Much like choosing whether or not to eat, drink, read, watch, learn, or permit something in your life that may or may not be for your greatest good.

But as for me?  I'm a nearly 50 year old woman who is happily married.  Watching this movie is something fun to talk about with my girlfriends.  Plus, I watch all dance movies...from "Saturday Night Fever" to "Urban Cowboy" to "Step Up" to well...this.

As I mentioned, I am a big Channing Tatum fan.  He is 32 years old, happily married, and seems to be the kind of person who I would actually like if I knew him in real life.  He's an Alabama boy that happened to be born very, very pretty, and he has managed to find work as a dancer, a model, an actor, and also as a producer of various films.  He is charming and funny, and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously.  I am also old enough to be his mother (I was 17 when he was born).  This fact isn't lost on me.  And if my son came to me and said that he wanted to be a male dancer (which I cannot even remotely fathom)...I'd tell him what my parents told me..."Be the best...and don't lose yourself."

Maybe you haven't made up your mind whether or not to see the movie because you want to know a little more about what it is about before you choose.  Can't say that I blame you at all.  I normally hang back myself on things like the "Grey" books or something that I think might alter my moods or my thinking about something.  I don't watch horror movies, disaster movies, or even freaky movies.  I'm definitely attracted to romantic comedies, biographical and period pieces, and dance movies. 

Like "Magic Mike."

So, no matter who recommends it to you or tells you that you shouldn't go...make up your own mind in light of your belief system and your personal limitations.  I know I have. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Educators and Employment

Although I really enjoy what I do...sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had I followed a different path.  Not that I really want to try out that theory, but every once in awhile life throws these little "what if" scenarios at you so that you can either appreciate what you have...or start to make changes toward something better for yourself.  I'd say that on average...this happens to me about every year or so in one way or another.  Sometimes it is looking at a room differently...and I go all about changing the furniture around and moving pictures from one wall (or room) to another.  Other times it is in my diet and exercise plan (which is currently nonexistent, but whatever) and I end up losing some weight and feeling better about myself overall. 

But today's dreaming was about the vocation I've chosen and the fact that I have now been at it for 27 years.  Not necessarily in the same job...but in the same industry.  I've seen friends retire from teaching recently, and other friends take on different challenges and responsibilities, and I suppose it has made me think.  Of all of the jobs I might have done other than the one that I do now...I probably would have enjoyed being a schoolteacher. I love projects...beginning something that has an end to it, watching people learn something, and every September - to this day - I think that I need to load up on school supplies for some insane reason.  Not for my kids, either.  For ME.

Not that I was particularly called to do this, just so you know.  It crossed my mind when I was in college along with careers in journalism, law, and computer programming.  I let it slide because people kept telling me that I was particularly unsuited to least in a K-12 setting.  People who should my mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and some sisters-in-law...who were all "living the dream" so to speak. 

Personally, I honestly believe that teaching is a calling much like the medical field, the ministry, and owning your own business.  You can major in education...but if you don't have a true love for are going to freak out completely during your student teaching, burn out fast once you get there, or end up on administrative leave for doing something boneheaded like telling a student the truth instead of what their parents want to hear.  Considering all of that...I was clearly not called.  I considered teaching the "family business" so to speak.  I come from a family of educators and entertainers.

I wasn't called to entertain, either.  Unless you count sitting here being transparent.

Other reasons for not I also find for staying out of the realm of education are fairly straightforward.  The fact that children that are not related to me tend to get on my nerves over time.  I find that the suck-up kids or the slackers try my patience.  I also have way too much of "sticking up for the underdog" in my DNA to be "fair" to any kid who is a bully, spoiled, or a general pain in the rear end.  I understand that we must treat them all the same...and for me...that would be impossible.  Not to mention the ridiculous amount of bureaucracy that comes along with it all.  The one hidden skill set that I have is insight on how to make something easier.  This skill set would not be welcomed or useful in this environment...and it would likely annoy me to no end. 

Perhaps I would have ended up as an administrator...but even that is highly unlikely considering that those spots are somewhat political as well.  I'm not really a political person.  I am respectful to everybody, but I do have a problem with those who want more respect than they deserve just because they think they can demand it from me.  As Madea says, "I don't play that."

I do, however, have a very strong respect for teachers in general.  For people who have to get information into the head of children without losing their attention (and losing their own minds in the process.)  Who have to grade endless papers while having to supplement supplies in their classrooms to teach in the manner that they feel will educate most appropriately.  Who have to endure continuous training throughout their careers and have to concern themselves with getting kids past an ever-changing line of "pass/fail" to be considered adequate.  All of this while dealing with helicopter parents, bullying, political correctness, Federal and state mandates, paperwork, budget cuts, unpaid furlough days and children with the attention span of a gnat.

Most of them are in it because they love it...and because they are called.  The rest just want a job where they have summers and holidays off.  The funny thing?  They think we can't tell...but we can.  Just like we can tell that the lady who is such a royal pain at the DMV is doing a "job."  She works to make enough money to survive.  Not to live in the manner she wants, and not to give anything back to the people she encounters. 

A lot of people are dealing with that kind of life in this economy.  They are so accustomed to feeling either good about what they do, or compensated enough not to care that they have never really looked at what they are being offered in the place that they are...if they are employed at all.  Instead of being angry because the benefits are changing or they are being asked to do more for the same pay...they need to look at what they DO have. 

I suppose that is where my thinking has taken me in the past couple of days as all of this has gone through my mind.  Instead of thinking of what I will get out of a job that I do...I should be thinking about what I have to offer instead. 

In light of that, I am given the opportunity to help people every day of my life.  I can decipher financial statements and can write things in a way that is understandable.  I come into contact with numerous people either in passing or because I am helping them with something.  What I do is noble and helps the public good.  Perhaps not in the same way that a teacher does...but sometimes in exactly the same way.

When I explain why something won't work or help someone understand how something could be better...I am making them better at their jobs.  When I go over something with someone as they do it...I am teaching them skills that will make it possible for them to approach the next customer they serve with more confidence.

I guess, in truth, we are all teachers.  If we are parents, friends, healers, educators, advisors, nurturers, or creators...we are all the same in that one basic aspect.

While I will not be enjoying the sunshine of a fair June day today like some of my "teacher friends"...I will be inside working with paper and people, numbers and knowledge, and concepts and interactions.  It is a calling as well since I am frequently reminded by friends and family that they have no idea how I do what I do.  I assume that they mean this in the best possible way.  Surely they do. 

And I suppose that I needed to see it in the best possible way as well.  I am grateful for where I've been to get me to where I am...and I just have to keep trusting that this is where God wants me to be until further notice. 

So, if you are grumbling a little bit this morning about having to get up early to do a job that you don't particularly like, feel suited for, or you've begun to feel is taking advantage of you...flip the script.  Instead of seeing it as what you GET...see it as an opportunity for you to GIVE.  I know that I'd personally love it if everyone I encountered today was of the same mindset.

Wouldn't you?

Monday, June 18, 2012

On Cleaning, Discipline, and Narrow Roads

Today I am doing my absolute best to avoid doing that which I know I should be taking care of in the world of house maintenance otherwise known as "cleaning."  I have a particular aversion to that word so I try to delude myself.  I felt that it was appropriate to wait until our houseguest left because I didn't want her to see how I clean so that she wouldn't think that I was absolutely nuts.  When I clean, you see, I take out everything and make the most horrible mess, divide everything into piles to sort, repackage, relabel and bag for future use (if applicable) or transit, and then I put it all back together.  It tends to work for me because I know that at some point in time it will actually be done unlike the garage which is the domain of Big Dave...who gets around to it when he wants to and not a minute before.

My method of cleaning is a combination of cleaning up and cleaning out.  There is a difference, you know.  When you clean up, you put things back in their place and put everything back to rights.  You make your space feel like all is as it should be.  The surfaces are clean and everything looks to be in place.  Of course, when you clean rethink the place you are putting something back and whether you actually need or want that item any longer or not.  Oh, and the whole "need" versus "want" thing is another thing altogether.

Don't get me started on that.

I love to clean out because I know that I will eventually be happy that I have new space (to mess back up most of the time, but whatever) and can check it off of the "to-do list" that seems to be always close at hand.  I am seriously a "to-do list" junkie, by the way.  I'm not as hardcore as some other people who have everything on their smart phone/Blackberry/computer/whatever.  And I don't get all freaked out if it takes me a week, a month, or even a year to get around to it. 

Most of the time anyway. 

In writing this, it has occurred to me that many people have different ways of dealing with the "stuff" that almost always at one time or another overwhelms them.  These ways are usually formed in the early years and tend to carry over into our adult lives.  Pretty much like everything else.  But all is not lost if you have given birth to the perpetually messy or someone missing a cleaning gene.  Or so I hope.

There is no really ideal way to organize one's life, because the most organized people often carry as much stress (or put that stress onto other people) in trying to keep everything perfect.  As much as I love being at a friend's house who honestly could have Southern Living in to shoot at any time she chooses...I am extremely careful not to mess anything up and I always ask where she wants items if we are over there sharing a meal.  It is always a treat to enter her home, but I sometimes worry that we stress her out by getting everything out of place.

On the other end of the scale are those who are about as organized as a train wreck and stress themselves out trying to find an elusive item or have a pile of "stuff" that they've dragged out and cannot muster the strength to put back.  I have a sweet friend who is wildly creative who gets into her painting mode and she just tunes everything else out.  Then, when it gets to the point where she can no longer locate anything...she calls in the calvary.

Personally...I am somewhere between these two extremes.  My preference is to be ultra-organized, but there's that dang thing called "reality" to deal with. 

I've been reading books on simplifying my life for most of my adult life.  I'll define "adult life" as approximately the age of twenty...because before then I was too busy making my life more difficult than it needed to be and using "being a teenager" as an excuse...and after that I was expected to take care of myself...which I somehow managed to do.  Something in me screamed for organization during my freshman year of college...because nothing will break you from being messy faster than living with someone messier than you in an 8 x 10 ft room with two beds, two dressers and no air conditioning.  When I graduated, I also wanted an end to the frustration of not being able to find anything when I needed it because I was tired and cranky from working at a real job.  I was also finally able to buy things that were valuable enough that I wanted to take care of them properly...because on my salary...I had precious little extra money.  Over time,  I went from "clothes on the chair" to "clothes in the closet".  From a kitchen that had dirty dishes to a kitchen that had to be cleaned or I wasn't happy.

Of course, Big Dave actually had a whole lot to do with that.

Because I'm very blessed, I married someone who is extremely routined and very neat.  Of course, on the flip side, he gets up at 4:00 a.m. every morning so that he can read and do his devotional...which means that he is asleep by about 9:00 each night.  Every rose has its thorn, I suppose.  Fortunately, I write while he all is well.
I realized not too long ago, though, that in my case...the way I have been managing my external "stuff" is pretty much a reflection of how I am managing my internal "stuff."  When people open the door and see the mess that has been living for two years in my bedroom (I just shift it around and dust it...but it comes back...kind of like kudzu)...they may as well be looking at me and seeing the lack of discipline that has resulted in being overweight.  I'd add "very" in front of that, but I'm trying not to beat up on myself.  When I don't vacuum my car, it is like not balancing my checkbook.  When dust collects, it may as well be a closet full of clothes that I never wear or books I'll never read.

What we have, friends, is a colossal lack of self-discipline.

It is my theory that if the "internal "stuff" is not being dealt with, it will come out in other ways:  the person will be completely disorganized, over/underweight or just obsessively fretting about weight, they are in dire straits financially, or they will have a substance abuse problem. 

Food is a substance by the way.  And some of us have a problem with it.  I can't say that I remember the last time a preacher spoke on gluttony...but maybe a little more on that and a little less on unicorns and rainbows might be in order.

Now, don't read that to mean that if you have three storage rooms and have packed on fifteen pounds over a lifetime that I'm talking to you.  But it is possible that I am.  How we maintain our space and how we live our lives generally run in tandem.  So, if you are struggling with something...maybe you can quit beating yourself up because your closet isn't cleaned out and work on being more disciplined.  Or if you are overweight...maybe you need to get organized by writing down what you eat and preparing meals and snacks ahead of time instead of just hitting the drive thru.

Or not. 

I mean...I think that every theory applies in some way to most of us...just like a fortune teller at the fair can tell you enough to make you think that their reading is accurate...or so I'm told.

It is also possible that you have such a full life that you don't organize things because you just are too tired.  Or you may be going through a season of life that involves treatments or therapy and that is your primary focus.  It could be that you would prefer to spend time with your family while they are home for the summer instead of spending precious time cleaning out your attic...something that can be done when the kids go back to school in the Fall.

But seriously...think about the condition of your closets, your table that has piles of unread mail, and perhaps even your office or your car.  Are you where you want to be? 

Fighting words, yes?   Thought so.  And those of you who answered "say what?" are probably the disciplined and well organized people that we all envy.  How about you use that gift of yours to help a sister out?

What I am dealing with here is what I am dealing with in my life.  The garage that looks like we've lived here thirty years when in reality it has been ten.  The bedroom that is the catch-all for everything in this house because I can shut that door and our open floor plan prevents me from doing that in any other room (except the kids' bedrooms...which is another issue...but I won't go there).  The things sitting around here that I don't love, use, or even dust, if truth be told.  The things that are too good to throw away but are a major hassle to find a place for because they are big, bulky, or seasonal.

Yeah, those things.

Today I want to just look realistically at what is in my home.  Not what I want to see (Southern Living) but what is actually there (a lot of dust, if truth be told).  I want to get the external in line so that I can use it to inspire the internal. 

It boils down a pure and unadulterated lack of discipline.  This has now permeated into not one...but at least three major areas of my life.  Something must be done...because even through all of my denial and excuse-making...I know that this is a serious problem. 

I'm not saying that every person with a weight problem or a substance abuse problem has a problem with organization.  What I'm saying is that sometimes our external environment is a telltale sign of what is going on inside us...even when we try desperately to hide it...or are completely unaware of it.

This week I have seen what can happen when someone gets to a point that they cannot manage on their own.  I understand the pain that that brings and how it is so much easier to either deny, accept less, or dull it.  On the other hand, I have also seen that little steps can make a big difference in my perspective.  It doesn't have to be a full-blown just needs to be a step in the right direction.  I cleaned out my jewelry box and it was an amazing feeling. 

I get the same one when I drop off a load of clothes I cannot wear at Goodwill.

I used to think that I needed some things to change...that my life would be "oh-so-perfect" if this or that would just fall into place the way that I want it to so desperately.  If I could get this bill paid or lose that amount of weight.  If I could get something finished or could get someone to work something out for me. 

All a huge illusion, by the way.  What I needed to change was the only thing that I could...ME.

I believe that sometimes God allows us to gather things that we do not need...not so much to overwhelm us or even to bless us...but so that we will finally get to the point where we not only believe that "less is more" but that "less is sane/godly/freeing."   It is a lot easier to organize that which you need and a little bit of what you want than some of what you need and want and a three storage rooms and a packed garage of something you might need someday.  Because even if you DO need in the world are you ever going to find it?

I'm thinking of something that my stepdaddy, Ralph, says about the point he wants to get to someday.  His desire is to pare down what he does not need to such a degree that we would be able to take one bag and drop it in the trash on the way home from the funeral.  Okay, maybe that is a little extreme...but I think I know what he means.  He doesn't want to burden the next generation with dealing with "stuff" that we will not or cannot possibly manage.  He wants to use it all up and enjoy everything he has...and then pass it on.  This is the man who had a garage sale with no price tags.  If you wanted could just take it and get it out of his house.  And for those of you who do not know him (and he's a wonderful I'm sorry for those of you who don't)...he is an incredibly disciplined person.

I want to be just like him.

Understand that this is from a person who has owned upwards of six pairs of scissors before (and could never find any of them)...I find it far easier to keep up with just one.  Same with hairbrushes, throw pillows, coffee cups, packages of notecards, deck of cards, grill lighter, and a pen in my purse.

So, today I've taken a couple of little steps.  I finished the laundry, changed the sheets on the bed, took out the trash and replaced the toilet tissue in the bathrooms.  I cleaned the kitchen, threw away items in my jewelry box that I no longer need (broken earrings...or one that has been MIA for more than two years), and destroyed a stack of old disks that I had put off doing because I didn't know the best way to destroy them. 

Thanks to the internet I dealt with them in less than fifteen minutes.  They had been sitting on the edge of my dresser for the past eight months.


In other words, I am trying to be more disciplined.  Because my external weight issues are a flashing red light that I need to get my act together...inside and out.  An act that I've been trying to get together for at least ten years now...possibly longer.

You I found an old prayer journal from 2002 and I read a few of the entries I'd made.  The same things that I was working on then...I'm still working on now.  Thorn in my side?  (Ya think?)

I am praying for God to deliver me...and all He expects of me is faith that He will (in His time) and to practice discipline because of my love for Him.  Because it is time. is past time.

I'm about to go find something to organize that will take me about fifteen minutes because that is all of the time that I want to invest in cleaning up and cleaning out tonight.  But a baby step is better than no step at all.  Because over time...all of those little steps will add up to a big journey back to the road of discipline. 

I hear it's a narrow road...and not many walk it.  But I think I can live with that. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Television Viewing

Sometimes you'll turn on the television and you'll be fairly certain that civilization as you know it is over.  Amid the news programs and old movies, the reruns of shows we used to love and the occasional mini-series that totally rocks...television is basically a wasteland these days. 

I do realize that saying that almost qualifies me as an adult.  Next I'll be saying that I walked uphill both ways to school...

I mean, thanks to our fascination with people who have done absolutely nothing except market themselves amazingly there are actually folks who think that the Kardashians and Snooki are normal, and that people do really find love and "happily ever after" in a major competition involving 36 suitors and one bachelorette.  Really?  Ironically, I did watch one of these shows once...because I actually knew the girl who was the "bachelorette" and I was watching it hoping that she would handle it with class rather than what normally comes out of these shows.  She did...fortunately...and I was grateful...because she was a sorority sister of my daughter's.  (Of course, so was Nick Saban's daughter, numerous football players' sisters, University of Alabama's Homecoming Queen last year (also a roommate from sophomore year), sweet Ashley Harrison, who was killed in the Tuscaloosa tornado, the 2nd runner up to Miss USA last year, and the 3rd runner up to Miss Alabama this year.  Those Phi Mu girls at University of Alabama are beautiful, smart, and high achievers to say the least.)

I realize that sit-coms and dramas on television are what I grew up on and so I have always been a bit snobbish about "reality television." Other than a few notable exceptions - those being "Pawn Stars" and those two guys who buy junk from is all just fairly annoying to me.  I may learn something, but I cannot in good conscience waste every night watching something involving cussing Cajuns, whales, Jerry Springer contestants trying to pawn stuff, people actually losing weight while I am in denial, or any of the entertainment shows.  (Oh, go ahead and laugh those of you who know that I am on Facebook or writing here instead.  FINE.) 

Maybe it is that I am not entertained by the shows that feature dancing, singing, talent or dating competitions...although I catch them occasionally and don't die from boredom.  I just tend to go for the programs that I'm more familiar with...the dramas or comedies.  When I'm not watching Fox News, that is.

If he varies from Fox, Big Dave will inevitably find something horrible on because he has control of the remote most nights while I sit across the room typing on this computer like I am tonight.  (Right now, he has "Operation Repo" on...and the bleach blonde with the serious tattoos and eye makeup is beyond annoying.   She may be entertaining to watch...but I just get bored easily.)

Now give me something like "Smash" with all of that talent just waiting to spring into song and dance while they have characters that just can't stay out of trouble and "The Client List" which has some really great actors that I enjoy watching.  They are in the vein of "Dallas," "Falcon Crest," and "Knott's Landing"...with a twist of "Thirty-something" thrown in for good measure.  That feels right to me.

You remember those, right?  Shows that existed before the every night "CSIs" in every major city in the U.S. and the various "Law and Order" shows that were on so much that I never had to really know what time they came on because chances are if I turned on the TV...there they were.

And then there was that three year sabbatical from cable television that we had when we first moved out here to the thriving metropolis of Pike Road, Alabama.  We didn't get cable at first because it wasn't available...and we were trying to swing the increased bills and we just got used to not having it.  Then, one Christmas, Big Dave got a bonus at work and we ended up with can only be referred to as a "Big A**" television...a 60 inch wonder of technology.  Clear picture!  Huge picture!  Shows we can actually see without the ant races in the background!  He got cable for us at that point since it was fairly obvious that watching the fuzzy local television stations just wasn't going to cut it anymore.

He even built cabinetry around "Big A" and she rocked on for about four or six years...I can't remember...before she started looking a little blue around the edges.  A Google search found that we were not alone with our sick "Big A" TV.  Big Dave mourned when she became a victim of Sony's failure to produce a decent product as documented on the Facebook page "I Bought a Defective Sony TV" which has somehow mysteriously disappeared now that I've gone back to look for it.  (Fortunately for me it didn't go away before I learned of its existence and received a substantially discounted replacement set and refund on a bulb that was supposed to fix the problem but totally didn't.)  We now have more of a "Little A" TV...he is only 54 inches instead of 60.  Just in case you are wondering..."Big A" is still going strong, mind with a college kid and looking a wee bit Smurfish from time to time.  But for most things on television it is hardly noticeable and seriously it is a huge set and a lot more TV than most college kids even dare to hope for.

So, he went to a good home.  Which is good, yes?

After all of that, I should admit that I don't actually watch a lot of television shows when they are supposed to be watched because I hate that whole waiting a week thing to find out what is happening next.  Then I get all discombobulated because I will inevitably forget what day it is and miss something...and must then must remember to watch it on the DVR before somebody else erases it.  I have found it so much easier to just get the whole season and watch them one after the other so that I get it all over with at one time.  I've used this method with "True Blood" (because I don't get HBO...and seriously...a couple times a year is about all I can take of "True Blood" with all of its freakiness) and "Downton Abbey" (because I didn't even know about it until after season 2 was over) with great results.  I don't get a lot done otherwise...but I do enjoy myself immensely while I am marathon watching.

I don't know what the future of television holds...because you can watch your programs when you want...and there is talk that they've even found a way to skip commercials.  Frankly, I could use the ability to skip any commercial with medications (ie Cymbalta, Viagra, Cialis, etc.) because I just get freaked out hearing all of the side effects like "skin rashes, mouth sores, liver disease, dizziness or fainting..." (or worse).  I don't want to miss any Geico commercials, though...and I like most of the Aflac ones too.  My newest favorite Geico commercial?  Here it is...

I am okay with Flo...but I'm kind of over it as well.  What is she hawking?  Progressive? 

I hope that one day when people look back at what we are watching now and are trying to discern what kind of people we are that they will also get hold of some of our finer the "John Adams" mini-series or perhaps some episodes of "House."  But then again...that last one?  Never mind.

I am going to try to be more intentional about my time this summer and spend it doing those things that I have put off dealing with because I have been too busy.  Hopefully that plan will work.  If not...I do have a season or two of "True Blood" to catch up on...

Monday, June 11, 2012

On the 25 Yard Line of the 50th Year

One of the grand benefits of being in your 50th year is that you begin to realize that some things are just more a function of a particular age than anything even remotely close to wisdom or sanity.  Kind of like a consolation prize for more frequent trips to see Greg the Hair Miracle Worker and the extra expense of facial creams that do as much as they can.  While I cannot speak to the decades that I have not yet reached...I will say that I most assuredly did have a bird's eye view of coming attractions (if I am so fortunate) from living in close proximity to my grandmother and now my mother-in-law.  I would add my mother to this list...but she is perpetually 39 years old and has offered me little indication that this is going to change anytime soon...which is totally fine, by the way.

When I was a child, my life revolved around the big starting, Girl Scout camp, dance recitals, birthdays, trick-or-treating and Christmas.  I was that annoying kid who always built up everything way more than it needed to be, got excited about everything and I had a runaway imagination.  While I am grateful for those gifts as an adult, I'm sure that raising me was nothing short of exhausting.  I know this because I pretty much exhaust myself just thinking about all that I'd like to do, should do and must do on a fairly regular basis.

Every report card from kindergarten to junior high school had "Karen talks too much" in some form or another on it in the comments section.  According to my grandmother, this was a family tradition that spanned (and plagued) the female members of my family for generations.  Sometimes there would be other comments with words like "creative" or "smart"...but sometimes you could tell by the tone of the comments that I was a bit of a handful.  My grades were pretty good, but I could never really get into the whole studying for grades thing that might have actually helped me in that I was offered a very good education in spite of my thoughts about it at the time.  I pretty much thought that life was full of possibilities and that it was my mission in life to explore those.  Even if that involved creating a whirlwind of incredible hassle for everyone whose job it was to raise or teach me.  Fortunately, I was never given the "just wait until you have kids of your own" curse that so many have suffered under. 

Maybe every kid is that way...wanting to do everything and excelling at nothing.  I honestly wouldn't know.  My two kids were a very different version at that age.  They were annoying in far different ways than I was.  Jill had a stubborn streak that she obviously inherited from her father's side of the family (I'm not sure who from exactly...but I'm going to assume that anything negative about my kids didn't come through my gene pool) and expecting Brian to pick up his toys was somehow impossible (in other words: so not happening.)  I once parked Brian in his room when he was about four and told him that he couldn't come out until it was clean.  Two hours later...although he was quiet and I could see activity in there...I didn't get the full effect of "reorganization by a tribe of monkeys on crack" until I went in to see him.  I remember most that he sat in the middle of the disarray doing a puzzle and he looked up with his sweet dimpled smile and said, "Hi Mommy!"

Never made that mistake again.

My teen years were what everybody's teen years probably are...but I don't particularly remember having a sense of entitlement that it appears many of that particular age range seem to have at this point in time.  When we were teenagers...if we wanted something...we got a job.  We had one or two of something designer...rather than one in every color.  At age 16, if we were fortunate enough to drive a car, it wasn't new.  It was either the family car...or something that would in Dave Ramseys vernacular be termed "a beater."   If there were numerous kids of driving age in the family...they simply shared a car or worked and bought one of their own.  When we finished high school...we either got married, went to work, went into the military, learned a trade, or went to college. Which direction you went was probably more a function of your grades and your parents' expectations...but each path was respectable and seemed to make sense for that individual.

College took four years.  Many of us worked the entire time we were there.

I knew that I was expected to go to college...primarily because most of my family took that path.  This was particularly helpful because I had not a clue about what I wanted to do, and because I really needed to get out of my hometown and figure myself out a bit.  Yes, I realize that college was really supposed to prepare me for a career doing something productive...but for me, it was more about finding myself first.

It took awhile...but four years was enough to pull it together in spite of the fact that I changed majors from journalism to English to computer science and then to general business before I ever settled on my final major. 

Most of the family had a career as educators or entertainers.  Since I was highly discouraged from education (due to temperament) and had no discernable talent other than some fairly lame poetry writing during those years...I went a totally different  I'm sure that my math teachers from high school think that's hilarious...but what I lacked in basic mathematical understanding I made up for in sheer determination and stubbornness.  I also had some really good teachers who made it possible for me to actually understand concepts that eluded me during high school and to enjoy learning again.

(Yes, I guess that stubbornness I referred to earlier in Jill came

People were asking me "why did you choose that major?" and I was answering "why not?"  The truth was the fastest way to get out of college on time.  It was finance or economics to make it out in four years.  Seeing as I still didn't even understand economics after successfully completing what I needed for my finance major and two classes in graduate school, I'm going to assume that I made the better choice. 

Which, now as the parent of twenty-somethings, I am still amazed at how few of them have a clue what they want to do.  It isn't as though they haven't been exposed to more, done internships, even shadowed people in high school and college...but nope.  Still trying to figure it out.  Worse than that?  We aren't demanding that they do.  Part of this, I believe, is that we expect them all to go to college.  And that really isn't in the best interest of anybody except the colleges and universities that we are sending them to in a vain attempt to prolong figuring out how to make them productive, tax-paying, off our dole citizens.

Harsh?  Sorry. I realize that some of them honestly cannot figure it out in four years...and if you are okay with that...then fine.  I just know that getting it done in four years is becoming increasingly rare, and tuition rates are rising every year at a blistering pace.

Recently, a video of a commencement speech with the theme of "You're Not Special" went viral.  While a lot of people were shocked and alarmed...not me.  It felt more like a reality check.  Of course, the economy has been giving us one giant wedgie collectively over the past four years which is just making our participation trophies and self esteem building parenting just that much more glaringly obvious.   Even the kids graduating now are getting it and discovering things like couponing, living with roommates, and being happy with beater cars.  Putting off going to college, rethinking the military or a trade, and being (gasp!) grateful for what they have instead of resentful about what they perceive everybody else has is actually in vogue. 

This is as it should be (in my humble opinion).

The middle twenties are prime time for settling down and the late twenties are usually the baby years where you sleep minimally and your payments for everything from daycare to cars to homes are at their highest.  It is during these years where most of us put our ladder on some wall and begin to climb.  You do that and just hope that the ladder isn't on the wrong wall.  Sometimes it is, you know. 

And generational differences are very, very real.  Back during my twenties, I had to dress very professionally, had to know what was going on at my desk (I was selling Fed Funds for the bank at the time) in case I ran into a senior officer on the elevator who would always inquire (I got over the fact that he called me "Sharon" for two years) and I expected to work hard to be noticed to be advanced.  It was just the way it was.  We respected people in positions over us because we knew they worked hard to make it there. 

That pretty much doesn't exist anymore, by the way.  The younger generations think that everyone is equal, and the lines are blurred with the exception of the very highest levels of management.  Participation trophy equalization at its finest. 

The thirties is a time where you build the life that you are going to have and it is probably the most exhausting and demanding decade.  I know that I wore myself out trying to learn all that I could while managing the expecations of more people than I ever thought possible.  I grew more as a person, an employee, and a mother during that decade, but I don't remember a whole lot of it.  I know that I was in a perpetual state of exhaustion with more on my plate than I ever thought I could accomplish.  A lot of it actually did get accomplished, and the rest of it just spilled over into my 40's on what can only be referred to as the "To-Do List from the 3rd Circle of Hades."  I remember watching people getting promoted over me because they were better at what they did...or because they just had the attention of someone who liked the work that they did.  I realized the value of mentors and of helping people who deserved to be helped.  I also understood my personal limitations and I tried to work to fix what I could and accept that which I could not. 

Being in my 40's, I realized that it was okay to let some dreams die and to begin to strongly applaud the success of other people.  Instead of wanting the accolades for myself, I was (and still am) genuinely happy when something wonderful happens to someone else.  I knew myself better and realized that there are some things that I do better than other people and other things that I am hopelessly inadequate in despite my tenacity. 

I learned that friends fill in the gaps.  They do for you what you cannot do.  This was not only a revelation...but one of the sweetest realizations about life.  I was just a little late to the table.

I also learned that church attendance is not just a good is mandatory.  You can believe in God, but He will do His work in you much faster when you are in community with other believers.  I am still not all that I should be...but that's because God isn't finished with me yet.  This truth has given me permission to forgive myself for the occasional (okay...frequent) boneheaded move that I used to believe was unforgiveable.  Everything is forgiveable.  If you don't believe need to read your Bible a little more.  The Bible is a book about some totally messed up people and God's attempt to have a relationship with us. 

Don't let a bad experience keep you from walking through the doors of a Bible-believing church.  Don't assume that you will be judged or that things are the same as they were thirty years ago.  You may not be and they aren't.  I use that disclaimer "may not be" because people are still a component of churches...and people aren't perfect.  Sometimes the judgment is not about you as a is more of a fear or lack of understanding than anything.  Keep searching for that church home, though. 

Also in my 40's, I realized that some of the desires of my heart that God didn't see fit to grant me...he did so through my children.  He also added "surrogate children" to my heart that were the friends of my children or the children of my close friends.  I have celebrated football and baseball players, cheerleaders, scholarship winners, awards recipients, Eagle Scouts, homecoming queens, and performers as if they were my own children. 

I also learned the power of praying for people who hurt me instead of hoping that karma would deal them a blow.  It is nearly impossible to hate someone that you are praying for...just so you know.  Actually, it is completely impossible.

Now I am standing on the precipice of my 50's...although Big Dave crossed that bridge five years ago.  Most of my friends are over fifty...and they have taught me what to expect.  These are the years that I anticipate actually having a little more time and a little less stress...but perhaps not.  I've seen it go both ways, actually, as people have been reinvigorated with a new sense of passion and purpose in their lives or as they've had more time for recreation and reflection. 

My children are adults - as defined by Alabama state law - and I'm beyond pleased with how they've turned out.  I still frustrate them and I'm still their mother...but I am untying the apron strings with alarming speed.  It is now up to them what kind of relationship we will have.  I can only hope it is a good one...and have faith that it will be.

My Sunday School teacher is in his 70's, and he has been teaching us from the many things that he is still learning in his Christian walk.  He is trying to smooth our paths a little bit and to give us a glimpse of what is ahead.  I am blessed that I have good friends who are navigating their 60's right now and are telling me not to fear...that grandchildren are a true blessing and that the water's fine. 

My parents are in good health, and although Dave's are having some struggles in their 80's...I have a mother-in-law who never complains about anything...and she's had quite a year.  Isn't it a blessing to have someone who loves life enough to not want to burden those she loves with a litany of her aches and pains?  I am awed by her ability to continue to bounce back and to make plans for her future despite tough days after chemotherapy and some limitations with regard to her energy level. 

Life has a funny way of teaching us things that we need to know...and we view the future in part through the prism of the past.  We try to correct what we did wrong through our children and grandchildren and enjoy reliving parts of our lives again through them and with them.  We dispense wisdom because this isn't our "first rodeo" and we hope that the people behind us are paying attention.  We hope for joy but understand that sometimes there is going to be pain and loss.  We realize that the sum of the choices that we have made is the life that we live...but that some things are always negotiable and subject to change.  We get that we are not our possessions...but that denying ourselves some pleasures robs us of all that God has put here for us to enjoy.

I don't know what the future holds, but I'm grateful for every day that I have to find out.  I am grateful for the guides that are pointing out the potholes on the road of life and are sharing their journeys with me.  I am blessed that I have accomplished many things that I set out to accomplish...primarily building a family and having a swimming pool in my back yard.  I am also amazed at how fast it has all gone by.

I don't know where you are on the road...which decade you are in...or what is facing you today.  I do know that God has a plan for your life, or you wouldn't be reading this right now.  Maybe you need to know that.  I know that I most assuredly did.

I'm not perfect...and I'm not in some kind of denial thinking that this is even possible.  I know me too well.  But I also know that I've been granted this gift of time and I want to use up every minute of it.

Every minute of it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reflections on Saturday and Stuff

Today is Saturday and I have absolutely nothing mandatory on my schedule.  Oh, of course, I have to get up and drink coffee (or suffer the wrath of a caffeine headache), do basic dog maintenance (or I'll have a "pick up" to do later in the day, if you catch my drift...and trust me when I tell you that you really don't want to) and feed myself at some point in time.  Getting dressed, doing anything productive, and mailing that eBay package to someone who ordered a dress I've had on there for three cycles at the "buy it now" price (for some inexplicable reason...when she could have saved $5 by waiting 48 hours) are all discretionary.

I love days like today.

Jill is in her own domain...which means "not here"...and Brian will be out of the house all day in Birmingham.  Big Dave is off doing something to earn money...which I wholeheartedly support...and I'm perfectly fine if he just does that all day.

Of course, if you know must also know that I have a to-do list that is somewhere between "exhausting" and "unattainable" - so I will no doubt either feel the pangs of guilt for not succumbing to its siren call or will frustrate myself to no end by doing three things on a list with something like 35 items. 

Except I'm not going to do that.  Not today. 

Years ago, when some sitcom or movie wanted to depict this internal argument...they would put a little angel on one shoulder of a person and a little devil on the other.  The angel would try to guide the person toward his or her highest good and the devil would be trying to drag the person down or to appeal to that base inner nature.

This really hasn't been my problem, though.  My inner struggle is actually more like this.

Except imagine that the monkeys are real.

Ah, that's more like it.

Sometimes you need some time to just shut everything down and expect nothing from yourself.  I don't mean entertain yourself into oblivion with an all day marathon of Season 2 of Downton Abbey (been there, done that...and so should you if you haven't seen this fabulous series) or make lists about what you are going to do instead of actually getting about doing it.  I'm talking about just vacating your life long enough to figure out what is really important to you...and letting the rest of it pretty much fall as it may.  Or taking a small step by committing to do one small task in the hopes that this will encourage you to move to the next and the next and so on.

In other words, find a way to stop the maintenance of the stuff you couldn't care less about while the stuff that you do actually care about sits unattended and decaying...or unused.  To me...this is really an issue because we are supposed to be the managers of everything that we are given.  The problem occurs when we fail to realize that taking something to Goodwill, Plato's Closet, a secondhand shop, eBay or the charity of your choice is actually being a good manager.  It puts the item back in the system for someone who may have been praying for what you have been lamenting about being in your closet.

I had the experience a week ago of going through all of what I own with my daughter to see if there were some things that she would like to have for herself as she set up housekeeping on her own.  Among those were items that have - no lie - sat in drawers for years...and in some cases decades...unattended and unused.  Among those were some items that I received from my grandmother's house and one of the two china patterns that I picked out in 1985 when I was a blushing (and way thinner) bride.  In case, you (like me) are too lazy to do the math...that china is 27 years old.  I ate off of it for probably the third time EVER last week when I went to visit her new home.

Which I thought totally rocked, by the way.  The fact that she is actually using it.

I think that there is so much "stuff" in this house that needs to go somewhere other than here.  Did I really need two china patterns in 1985?  No.  But it was then (and I believe it is now) the tradition to have a formal and everyday china pattern.  For me, it actually made no sense in that when I entertain a lot of people...I pretty much break out the Chinet (I know...classy) or some plates that I purchased at Pier One for three dollars each.  I do actually use my Christmas china...but obviously only for about five or six weeks of the 52 each year. 

This whole business of my china is incredibly wasteful, yes?


Yes it is.

I tend to be a minimalist in some matters (like wardrobe) and then I tend to be a little bit on the "Hoarders" side about others (huge tin pans that are perfectly good that catering comes in that I can save for tailgating/big functions).  I suppose that everybody is like that.  But just imagine having a home where anything that doesn't make your heart sing doesn't live there.  Where the gosh-awful, last-leg, avacado green/harvest gold/brown has been forwarded to Goodwill (or eBay) and the never-used, worn, or purposed has been parted with instead of routinely dusted every Saturday (or every month...whatever). 

I would call that place nirvana.

For most of us, the stuff that we acquire falls into one of three camps: we love it and we saved up for it and we will refuse to part with it, we inherited it and we can't get rid of it without hurting the feelings of the giver or break the chain of generational "passing" or the most insidious...because we bought it at Fred's in 1983 and it is still good.  What we really need is a fourth camp called "because I love it and use it" instead.

I still have wedding presents that are functional (yes, a toaster from 1985 is still operable...and because it was stainless and black is still attractive now) and some doves that live in a curio cabinet (that used to be a china cabinet that some relative at least three generations back owned).  Yet, I also have some Norman Rockwell mugs that are pretty but I honestly don't know what to do with anymore.

Yes.  These.  (Some dude on Etsy has decided to liquidate his for $27.  Well played, sir.)

Anyway, sometimes I just wish that life were a little simpler...that there was less to manage (and dust) and that I could just clear out some of the items that prevent my home from looking like my personal vision of a Southern Living house.  Of course, my complete and total lack of decorating ability might be more responsible for that than this stuff I trip over, but whatever.  (I have taste...I just have no style.  There's a difference.)

But back to my Saturday and how I will be investing it.  I use the term "investing" because time really is a currency that you have at your fingertips that you can choose to squander or choose to reap a reward.  You know..."time is money" and all that.  Today, I just want to go in Jill's room and triage that which has been left behind.  Because if truth be told...what is here (with one exception) is probably not going away anytime soon.  Possibly ever.  Unless, of course, I direct it out my door.

So many of us have things that we no longer own...but are under the illusion that we do.  If we are having to pay the proprietors of a storage facility, cannot use a room in our house because it is the catch-all for anything and everything, or if we don't dare brave our attics or garages because it is pretty much an "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here" situation...well our "stuff" owns us.

Time to flip the script.  Past time, I suspect.

There are many, many things that I'd like to do with this beautiful (but hopefully about to rain because I'm too lazy to go water my garden) Saturday.  I'd love to be productive, but I'd also love to just sit and enjoy some of it without feeling guilty.  I thought I'd do four hours of work and whatever gets done...gets done.  The rest of the day is for myself.

I'll let you know how that works out. 

Perhaps I can get one of the monkeys off of my back...and possibly more than one.  But even if I am not able to accomplish it today...I'll take the bonus points for recognizing that the time has come. 

(I'm a first child who has a thing for gold stars and bonus points.  Yes.  Yes, I do.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


This week there have been some changes that I've noticed all around me.  Change - in my world at least - is not something that I typically shy away from...but I don't rush out to greet it with open arms like it has been away for a year and I'm so excited to see it that I can't help myself.  I'm more like that toddler that stays firmly wired around her mother's leg...immovable...but curious enough to not run and hide in her closet.  I realize that change is something that has to happen for life to get better sometimes...and it is sometimes something that has to happen because that's the normal course of things.

In short, I'm not afraid of change and I don't whine and go into "sackcloth and ashes" mode...but I do tend to take more of a "deer in the headlights" approach to it until I see that it isn't an 18 my lane.  Sometimes change is good.  Sometimes change is bad.  Sometimes change is just...different...not one or the other.  I pretty much have a mixed bag here.

First of all, half of our living room furniture is the couch that we had been babysitting for Jill and the coffee table that was a cedar chest made by her great-grandfather for Dave's Mom (Mimi) are now residing with her.  Our house has a weird echo-ey sound now and the living room looks like a forlorn little room with some things finished and other things obviously MIA.  Every time I walk through there (and I do when I go to my bedroom) just reminds me that something is missing other than the furniture...Jill.

Which, of course, was the plan all along.  So, I'm not whining.  Just noting.

Secondly, there are going to be changes at work.  This is one area that I normally don't mention here in cyberspace...but what I am saying is public knowledge.  Who knows how it will pan out?  But I do know this...whatever happens is happening because God has a plan.  So, I just keep hoping for the best and waiting for signs.  It is a little disconcerting, though, not to know.  I suppose that sometimes it is easier to prepare oneself by I am grateful for that.  I have friends who were working in banking at savings and loans or other banks where they showed up for work one day and realized that life as they knew it was over.  At least I have time to wrap my head around the upcoming change.

And then my son turned 20 this week.  I know that this seems like a minor thing...but to me it is indicative of what I already kind of knew...I'm getting older.   I know that it sounds lame...but having one child with a toehold in his teens made me feel like I still had teenagers (even though Jill is 22).  I feel like I've aged a decade overnight.  Why is this?

Possibly because I've been in denial.  Not possibly.  Definitely.

Change is something that happens to all of us whether we are ready for it or not.  The restaurant that I am used to frequenting is currently closed for renovations.  I actually knew this because a friend's child works there...but did it stop me from heading that way yesterday?  We get in our little patterns - ruts, really - and we just wait for something to propel us out of our hamster-on-a-wheel existence.  Change is quite handy for that.

The fact that change frightens a lot of people is easy to understand...we don't like the unexpected sometimes...and we certainly don't factor in extra time to deal with something thrust upon us...especially if it is a giant hassle.  We like to see the same person we deal with every week at the dry cleaners or have the same doctor we've been seeing for nine months when we have our babies...instead of whoever is on call.  We like to find the lipstick shade we have finally settled on in stock and not discontinued...and we want the Big Mac we are ordering at the drive-thru to taste like it always has.

We want the rules that we played by early in our careers to be the same for us as we last 27 years in an industry (okay, maybe just me)...and we want the world as we know it to only change if the innovations will enrich our lives...not rewire them.

I know that in my purse there is a telephone that can pull up the internet and that I can text from and a camera that shows me the photo that I took before I take it to be developed.  I am writing on a computer that has a program that didn't even exist when I entered the working world.  I remember seeing a fax machine work for the first time (with the awful paper) and I love my iPod...which puts my favorite music at my fingertips and in my head (without bothering everyone around me.)  I own a Nook...which means that I can download whatever I want without dealing with finding it at a bookstore or in the library. 

Change can be positive.

But then there is noting that half of our country is on some kind of governmental assistance, people are far less genteel and far more in-your-face than we were thirty years ago...and everyone is concerned with their "rights" instead of being more concerned with other people.

That's change that I can do without.

For me...change is something that I find a little unsettling...primarily because I am a little bit like the family Atlas.  This is a role that I think that a lot of mothers assume...but it is not one that we are meant to carry.  That role is God's alone.  So, today I need to hand it back over and praise Him for shouldering it with no problem as all.

I know that my living room being empty is just a temporary thing and that my anxiety about having twenty-something children instead of teens is probably normal.  My work situation will work itself out one way or the other...and whatever happens...I'll deal. 

I want to be able to look at the empty living room as an opportunity to put what I really want in there, that I'll see my children being independent as the true blessing it is, and that the changes at work will be either an exciting opportunity to learn a new system...or something new altogether.  I'm just not there yet.

If you are dealing with changes today that you feel a bit anxious about...I hope that you will find it possible to find the silver lining.  That you will see that there may actually be something amazing from dealing with the things that have blown your way.  If not...I hope that you'll know where you can take that burden and that you can rest in the hope that all will be well...eventually. 

Change is most frequently a hassle...but there are sometimes that it is so welcome that we run toward it with open arms like a child welcoming a parent home at the end of the workday.  That's what I am hoping to find today...just something that makes me less anxious and more hopeful. 

I hope that you find it too. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

On Moving Out and Moving On

Tonight I am sitting alone in my house with no sound except the occasional hum of the refrigerator or the air conditioner coming on...and the sound of dog toenails walking across the floor.  And - of course - the sound of my fingers moving across the keyboard here.

It's a little bit disconcerting if truth be told.

My life for the past 27 years has involved climbing corporate ladders, enjoying and surviving a marriage, giving birth to two beautiful children, training dogs, and caring for a host of friends who have come and gone and some who have stayed.  It has been answering telephones, questions, and calls to duty.  It is being up at 2 a.m. when Jill has thrown up chocolate ice cream and is bewildered at the experience.  Worse than that?  Stripping the bed, telling her that it will be alright and trying not to gag.  I've explained the unexplainable, tried to sow seeds of our Christian faith, and wanted her to experience life without messing hers up.

I've laughed, cried, worried how bills were going to get paid, and hoped that my kids would be safe.  Big Dave can take care of himself.  Most of the time anyway.  I've been very blessed that he has survived this with me and is still here in spite of everything.

Tonight, though, was just a Friday night on the first day of June in some regards...and a dividing line in others.  We packed up her things and the items that we had put in the attic from her apartment her junior year of college (she lived in the sorority house as a senior) or somehow smashed into this house for...well...this point in time.

I just didn't know that it would be this difficult to let her go again. 

It isn't as though she is leaving the area...she is actually moving about thirty miles from here...but where she is going is only four miles from her work.  This is going to be a huge improvement for her because she has been and will be working long hours.  Of course, after being in that incubator between our nest and today - otherwise known as college - she found it very difficult to come back home and live here as she did when she was 18 years old.  She is, of course, so over that.  Not that we put demands on her, or even had difficulty getting along.  Far from it.  It was just that we had instilled in her that when she finished college...she was to be on her own.

And now she is.

Tonight I read a post on Facebook of a friend who is a father of little people...and is amazed at how quickly his children have grown.  He is lamenting the fact that the years have blown by so quickly.  I mean...we bring them home, teach them to eat, walk, talk, potty, and play nice.  Then they learn their colors, the alphabet, and later how to read.  They move on to school, to learning that not everybody is going to like them, and that the reverse is also true.  We survive emergencies, illnesses, final exams, junior high,  the ACT or SAT and a whole host of other things before we get them to legal adulthood. 

We smile in the photos at graduations and either send them off to college, to the service, to volunteer, or to work.  We look back up and we hear the sound of their wings flapping furiously to get away from us so that they can move on and live the lives that God intended them to live. 

Doesn't mean we have to like it, though.  Like, at all.

There is a part of me that still wants to hear her in the other room watching her "shows" and laughing at something someone said to her on the phone.  This quiet is just a little unnerving.

Of course, we are not empty-nesters yet.  Brian has another year at home and then he will have to make a break for somewhere to study engineering.  Assuming, of course, that he survives Calculus III and Physics.  I'm quite certain that he will.   Right now, he is on a trip to Kentucky, and Big Dave is picking up his truck from town so I'm all alone with my thoughts.

Sorry about that.

A lot of people might see this as a wonderful opportunity to have the space in my home back...and to have one less person to consider as I go about my business here at the house.  My living room looks almost completely empty as does the study. 

But not as empty as her room is.

I miss her already, though.  I didn't cry (much) when she left home for college...and each break I always knew that she would come back to stay.  I was honestly, completely fine!  Until now.

Usually, when people are sad, I tell them to focus on one positive thing.  So, I'll take my own advice tonight.  Well, I'll TRY.  Here goes:  I am happy that I have raised a competent and wonderful daughter who finished college in four years and was in her job four days after graduation.  She has enjoyed what she is doing and has already made friends at work.  She sorted everything she owned in the four days she had between graduation and beginning work, and because she is very organized...packing her up was not the nightmare that I had imagined.  It took two hours to load the truck.  See?  Lots of positives.

She left a few minutes ago...and said to me..."See you tomorrow." and she gave me a hug.  She knew I needed that hug.  She is happy and is so obviously ready for this phase in her life.  I, on the other hand, am a little bit of a hot mess right now.  I suppose that's because I'm not particularly ready for this phase in mine.

Those of you with young children...and you are looking around you and wondering if you will ever get to go to the bathroom by yourself again...the answer is "yes" - and sooner than you imagine.  Those of you with teenagers that keep you washing uniforms at midnight and monitoring cell phone usage...this too shall pass.  And those of you who are ahead of me on this all look pretty I'm going to just hold on to that.

Tomorrow will be a busy day as we unpack her and get her all settled in  her new home.  I'm sure that we'll end up getting on each other's nerves a little bit...but I hope not.  It is really for the best...her moving on and being independent.  After all...that was the whole point of these past 22 years.   Pretty much, anyway.

She will be living by a friend of mine and has a church home picked out already.  She has enough to start out and will learn that she has very little extra money...but will have two extra hours a day that she won't be traveling to work and back.  I hope that she will be happy...and that we will cross over into that place I've always looked forward to when I am her best friend as well as her Mom. 

But for now...I just hope we get through tomorrow.

Big Dave is back now and has the television on...breaking the silence.  He is probably feeling the emptiness as well but I think that he's ready for her to spread her wings and fly. 

And so she shall.  One to go.