Monday, September 17, 2012

Caskets and Wedding Cake: A Strange Marriage

I did a wedding this weekend. No, no, I didn't perform the ceremony, but I helped coordinate the rehearsal and all of the bazillion things that a bride and groom must do to become married. You know...the wedding party, flowers, music, gowns, candles, etc. All of the details that make most folks crazy when they've already fallen crazy in love. And I'm the crazy lady who helps their day of love fall into place. It's just craziness!

It is exhausting work, but then I love weddings...and making simple things hard: which is exactly what a big wedding does. All that is really required are five people, (bride, groom, two witnesses, and an officiant) about ten minutes of their time, and a piece of paper from the county court house. But we take ten minutes at the cost of oh, maybe $40, and turn it into an affair of thousands of dollars, countless hours of planning, executing, and paying. get to have some ole church lady like me queueing folks up like they are in a parade wearing stuff that will hang in a closet, never to be seen again until your kids play dress-up or need a hideous outfit for Halloween. Well, hideous might be a bit harsh. But you know what I mean. Bridesmaid dresses do kinda push that 'hideous' envelope. My goddaughter has been in about twelve weddings. Her plan, when she marries, is simple: all of the gals whose weddings she was in must attend her bridal luncheon wearing the bridesmaid dresses she had to wear for their big day. Fair enough.

Weddings are big business. So are funerals. Umm...why those two thoughts came out together is a bit random. But true. I kinda like the wedding gig a bit better. There's a party atmosphere...and dj's, dancing, and it is usually prettier. Do you remember when wedding guests use to pile in their vehicles, follow the decorated car of the 'Just Marrieds' and drive around town honking their horns? I loved it!! And that is similar to a funeral....we follow that hearse with the blaring of the escort sirens. Just no sign or tin cans on the back of the hearse. Hey...when I die, I want that!! Yeah!! Put a sign on the back of the hearse that says, "Just Buried (Almost!)" and tie some of those cans and streamers, and let everybody just honk their horns and wave! That's the way to go! Guess I am still wanting to make noise as long as I can. Kinda sorta.

I am sure that some of you reading this may say that I am morbid. Naw...just not quite right. I just seem to draw parallels between things that most folks just wouldn't see. But think about it...weddings and funerals are both sacraments of the church. They are laced in emotion. One event usually takes place when you are young, the other when you are older. While there are certain protocols for both, both events are quite personal. (Yeah, that funeral deal is definitely pretty personal). Each involve certificates which are filed with the state. Folks gather, and mutter, "Seems like we only see folks at weddings and funerals." You usually dress up for the two, and are glad when they're over. Often, they both occur in a church, with a preacher presiding, Bible in hand. In the presence of flowers, tears may flow and music will fill the air. Folks in attendance are reminded of the reason that all have gathered, and how that trip towards the altar will be life changing.

Oh...and there will probably be a church lady like me organizing the funeral dinner or the wedding party, keeping things moving. Well, until it is my turn to move no longer.

When that day comes, you can order flowers and serve all the cake you want,  but please: don't bury me in one of those bridesmaid dresses.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th: Hope has Arrived

September 11th....for most of America it was a day of tough memories, remembrance, service, and reflection. A day to utter prayers for those people whose lives changed forever. It matters not if we knew them personally; grief and loss are pretty universal. And as we remembered the victims, we honored those heroes...ordinary people who woke up, started their day, and were immersed in performing courageous and life-saving acts. Was it all years ago? Seems like yesterday, in so many ways.

My son-in-law-to-be was experiencing his first day on the job: as a firefighter. My daughter, soon to be his wife, decided to hang out with me in the classroom. As I walked by the television in the school cafeteria and saw the plane hit the towers, I quickly said to myself, "That was purposeful. No plane would ever fly that close to those buildings." Being married to a pilot had taught me a thing or two, and "see and avoid" was etched in my memory. Still it made no sense. Would it ever? But I said what I needed to say about September 11th in my book. It was the absolute hardest day as a teacher in the thirty-two years I taught. Explaining slaughter to little lambs is beyond comprehension.

But that was then. We were a victim of this crime collectively--and our personal security was snatched from us all. America is still "home of the free and land of the brave" but there is a new line....."but with greater caution." Life goes on.

This evening, my best friend welcomed her first grandchild into this world. This little guy will celebrate his birthday every year on a day overshadowed by doom. But as they say, "love wins." And I am reminded of that quote by Carl Sandburg which says, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." And so it is. This is a joyous event for all of us who love him already. And I don't know if it was planned or not, but his name is Lincoln. Imagine that. A 'grand' child named after a great leader. See? That's how it is. Hope just seems to find its way home. And is there no greater joy than in an infant? He will wander through his childhood as an innocent boy, full of wonder and giggles. But for him, September 11th will become a gathering of family and friends, gifts, candles and cake. 

Welcome to this world, Lincoln Jonathan. With your coming, you push us into tomorrows laced with promise. Kids do that, you know. They take us adults by the hand, and lead us into the unknown, whispering, "Don't be afraid." Without this wisdom and promise we would be nowhere. The Scriptures say, "A little child will lead them" and this has proven to be true.

As I put my final thoughts on this page, the clock tells me that the eleventh has faded into the twelfth. September 11th will now begin another chapter for many of us....fresh with new life. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lights! Action! Escape!

Took the three older grand-kiddos to the movie last weekend. Yep, the two kindergarten grandsons were uninvited. On purpose. Now before you go writing hate mail to me, let just say this: "Mr. Poppers Penguins."

See, I used to read that book when I taught second grade. So when the movie was released I called dibs on taking all five of the eldest grandkids to see this film. I was so excited!! I even figured out how to turn the movie booster seats upside down to serve as a tray for all the snacks. knew that already? Sigh. Well, the movie started and the thirteen year old, nine and eight year old and the fifty-something year old was chuckling at so many penguins creating chaos for Jim Carrey. The two five year olds were good as  gold. Until then.

'Then'. I don't know how to explain 'then' but the movie was nearly over and one five year old we will call 'Jack' and the other one will be known as 'Conner' both started moving. In opposite directions. As I was trying to sit one down, the other circled around. Before I knew what was happening, they escaped! Conner, with the mischievous smile and glint in his eye went one way. Jack, with his glasses on one end of his body and clomping fireman boots on the other end bolted down to the front of the theater. I started after them Sure of my skills as a parent and teacher, I was so confident that one scolding shout of "BOYS!" would suffice.

Umm no. Faster than a penguin toboggans across the ice, there were my grandsons running in front of the screen. I was mortified! And too slow. Couldn't catch them for anything. I tried. I would hide in the outside theater seat and sit low so I could catch 'em as they ran by. No go. Now the thing is, I am short. But they are shorter. So while they were really not being that disruptive, I sure was! My "faster than a speeding bullet" waddle was no match for run-away testosterone, even in the Pre-K size. They were having a ball. I was having a fit.  As I got close to them, I would hear a small voice proclaim, "There she is! Go this way!" Do you know how hard it is to chase small children in the dark? I was desperate. I decided I would move to the edge and trip them when they whooshed by. Nothing doing. I would zig and they would zag. I  sweated and they laughed.

My other grandkids sat wide-eyed and serious. Somebody was going to get in big trouble! The question was: will it be those two "awful, terrible no-good very bad" boys, or the lady running around the theater disturbing the other patrons?

Soon, I gave up. I grabbed the other kids, jackets, my purse and headed up that darkly lit ramp to the exit. Those three grandkids were in shock. One would say later, "I don't think he has ever been that bad for my parents." Gee, I have all the luck.

As we headed up the ramp, here come two little out of breath, yet quite proud of themselves boys, giggling to beat all. Wasn't that fun? Well, let me just say that "Mr. Poppers Penguins" drew an icy response from me and yes, there was some 'popping' going on with my hand on their fannies. Oh come on, you know I am old school and I don't play. None of that sugar coated, "I am so disappointed with you and your bad choices." Huh uh. And don't even think about a 'time out' chair. I was in the mood for an electric chair. I was wicked mad.

Now...I did call both of my own children and told them that I had to enact some tough love on their perspective offspring due to their horrible theater behavior. My son said very little. He knows. My daughter, however, was picturing all of this in her head, and was stifling giggles. Boy, was I mad. I told those two juvenile delinquents they were NOT going to the next movie, then sealed that promise with kisses. And hugs. My kids would tell me later, "Mom....I know you will see the humor in this one day. Maybe it will even be in a story."'s your story. I have seen the humor in all of it, even if I still lay awake at night and say, "When did it all go so wrong? When did I lose total control?" time you get to thinking about taking a herd of children to the movies, I warn you to reconsider.

Those little buggers are fast!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Child Proof: Thoughts on Raising Good Kids

Not so long ago, an acquaintance asked me what I had done to raise such great kids. Immediately, I started scrolling through my mind and could not come up with any quick or clever answers. I even smiled at how many moments I felt they deserved a better mother. One that wasn't tired, short-tempered, too busy, imperfect. I have failed each of them many times. I do harbor some regrets, but mostly I think of being bailed out by my God, my mother, and true friends. When I was at my worst, there was someone who came and sprayed a little polish so I would clean up pretty nice.

In fact, it could have been you. I am uncertain of a magic formula for taking kids from the crib to careers. From transforming mischievous little boys to men admired by their peers. I must say that daughters put a mother in her place. How satisfying it is to see my girls making their world a better place by their nurturing and giving spirits

I used to tell my kids: "I would like you guys even if you weren't mine." And that is still true today. I cannot tell you it was easy. I used to share with my students' parents on 'Back to School Night' some of my personal philosophies. Of course, there are a few thoughts I did not share with parents, but I am offering them here. You be the judge if they are sound principles or just pretty words:

*Parenting is hard. If you aren't overwhelmed you aren't doing it right.
*Your child will never speak to me in a tone of voice, or call me a name that my own four kids aren't allowed to.
*Don't tell me you are "too busy." I am very fact, I feel like I invented the concept.
*"Only believe half of what they tell you about me, and I will only believe half of what they tell me about you."
*Let your kids own their successes and failures.
*Be their parent. Not their friend. My kids had plenty of friends. What they needed was a mother that held them accountable, held them up to high standards, and held them when their world was falling apart.
*The best gift your kid can have is a best friend. If they have more than one, then they are blessed beyond measure.
*Be authentic. That means different things in various situations, but be a person of integrity. Do I get a 100% on this one? Hardly. But who I was did not waver; I was not one person at their parent conferences and a different one when I tucked them in at night.
*Do not build your world around your kid. Raise your kids to help build the world around them.
*Create a "Day Out" in which you spend time with only one kid. It does not need to be an expensive adventure, but time carved out for just that kid.
*Hardest yet....give your kids boundaries, limits, and be unafraid to  limit their TV, cell phone, and computer time. My kids were never allowed to have a TV in their rooms. We only owned one. Funny...some of my grandkids have TV's in their rooms, but they would rather mix with the family than be isolated in their rooms.
* is not what is easiest, most costly, or the latest trend that creates great kids. Investment of time is the greatest treasure in a child's world. Roosevelt said it best: "Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have."
*Expect failure...both in being the parent and in being the child. And remember the 'F' word: Forgiveness.
*Empower your kids with a self-worth that will not collapse under the pressures of the world. "If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't" was my catch-phrase of judging a situation. Oh...and if something happens at a sleepover or party, always supply them with strategies to come home without losing friends or face. I told them they could always fake diarrhea. Nobody wants that kid around! And I would pick them up, no questions asked.
*Each of my four kids has a word: Laugh, Love, Learn, Live...assigned to them by me, based on their gifts and talents and what they brought to my life. Notice: each kid claims their word and two of them wear them proudly---tattoos they had inscribed on their wrists for me for Mother's Day. One day, I will do the same with all four words on my wrist. Why? A covenant to pray for them whenever I glance at my wrist.
*Never send your kids to church. Go with them. And be brave by not allowing them to work on Sundays. Hard, but workable. (Forgive the pun).
*Listen to their music. Save the notes they wrote to you. Help them with homework, but not every night. If they don't do it, let them face the teacher in the morning. 'Bail outs' are a kid's strategy to avoid consequences. I honored the parent who did not do the kid's project; it should look like a seven year old completed it. At my house, I gave them a 'frame' of ideas, and then I went back to folding laundry, grading papers, or reading/writing a book.
*I did not give my kids an allowance. But if I needed an extra hand with a chore, I would kind of 'bid it out' to one of the four who was willing to work for it. They worked for free, inheriting the privilege to contribute to the good of the family. Many folks do not agree with this, and looking back, I am not sure this was the right thing.
*I usually did not ground them. Why? Because it would punish me to have them around. I just assigned them the worst chores.
*I told them: "You can think it, but you can't say it." I pray I never become proficient at reading their minds. It would break my heart.
*Lastly, my one daughter put it quite eloquently. When visiting my classroom, one of the students asked what it was like having me for a mom. She replied, "Well, she's the kind of mom other kids want, be we don't." Enough said.

If you read between the lines I am sure you will see that my four children became great adults, in spite of me. I can ask for nothing more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Escape to a Safe Place

Got a bill in the mail. that is a pretty boring way to begin a blog. And way too realistic. But let me continue. My house is old and I have a mail slot with a little wooden door and so the postal contents fall on the floor. Okay...when the bills spill out of the mailbox they pile onto the floor. Junk mail seems to stay put. Not Quite Right Rescue Canine Max, likes to pretend he is 'Jason Best Mailman Ever' and decided to deliver/devour one bill. By the time I rescued the envelope, all I could read was that I owed $45 to my credit union. I called them to find out what it was all about, and they answered that it was for my safety deposit box.

Ohhhhh that box. The one I decided to rent and forgot about. Yeah, there is nothing in it but dust..kinda like my wallet. But I gathered up some important stuff and headed off to pay my bill. Here is the cool part of the safety deposit box ritual: when you get your trusty container, you are led to a small little closet. It has a chair and a counter and a light. Then they close the door. I is private!! What I wouldn't have given for a little cubicle like this when I was raising four kids! A safe haven of quiet, calm, and privacy! No neighborhood ball team walking in when trying to nurse the baby. A respite from my son waking the girls up with his trumpet, and his standard stupid question, "What'd I do?" A break from my girls arguing about which one made the biggest mess in their room or why one sister cut the hair of the other one. I could have escaped the commotion when the four of them took a sleeping bag and engaged in 'stair surfing'.

One little room. And not a toilet stall. Yeah, I have tried escaping in those at the mall, but eventually they shoo you out at closing time. And the bank furnishes a chair! So....I don't know if you have a safety deposit box, or not, but I say to every parent who has begged for an island: call your bank. Pay the price. And it is soooooo appropriate to say, "Kids. Be good. Mommy (Daddy) has to go to the bank." And just take your little key, sign the paper, get the box, and escape into that little room. Hey...take along a snack...and if you don't finish it all, stuff it in the box. Who will know? So what if your property deed or will has a little bit of Cheetos crumbs on it. Nobody reads that stuff until you die.

Well, this is my new found respite from this crazy world....the Safety Deposit Box Lounge. Sigh. So...if you slip into your financial institution and hang out in the cool little cubicle, enjoy! Your secret is safe with me.

Ummm.....can you leave me some of your Cheetos? That important paper stuff is smashing my bag of chips.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Male Past-time: Passing Gas

If you have spent time with a male between the ages of five and, oh, say nine, then this story will make perfect sense. If you have only been surrounded by young ladies, and have had no brothers, skip this blog. You will roll your eyes and mutter, "I don't get it."

But this is about boys and their fascination with farts, farting noises, and the like. Let someone 'break wind', 'cut the cheese', 'pass gas' and the male gender will collapse with laughter. Oh...and this bodily function can be imitated by said males by putting their hands in their armpits and mimicking the farting sound. I don't this what is taught in boys' bathrooms as well as at recess? I should know....I spent 32 years standing outside the boys' room counting down for them to exit and learned more than 'knock-knock' jokes at recess. And I must admit, there is nothing that can disrupt the teaching moment more than a kid passing gas. Or the teacher. Just saying...

I truly think that trying to study a fetal ultrasound to see if it is a boy or girl is unnecessary. All that is needed is for the technician or dad to make a farting sound, joke about farts, etc. and watch the screen. If the fetus smacks its knee or starts bouncing off the womb's walls, then you know it is a boy. Which will grow up to be a man. And will still find farts funny.

This is why I recently purchased a special gift for my six year old grandson. I bought him a Whoopee Cushion. You know, that rubber pillow thing that has entertained youngsters for years. Well, this may be the day of electronics and techno-toys, but my three grandsons were over the moon (pardon the pun) with this ridiculous toy. I showed them how it worked, and let them loose. The room erupted with laughter when I um... 'surprisingly' sat on the Whoopee Cushion. I thought we would have to pull out riot gear, that's how delirious they became when Mamaw let out such 'gas'!!!

Well, the party was winding down and I decided I would sit on the Whoopee Cushion one more time-- very satisfied that such a simple, old toy could create such fun. So, I inflated the rubber device, and plopped my fanny on the thing. Either it was placement or my weight, but as I settled myself on the Whoopee Cushion, the sound was very, very different. It was like a fart gone postal. Seems that I had popped a hole in the darn thing! Well, the boys were irate but the adults---myself included---could not stop laughing. Leave it to grandma to break the birthday gift, and laugh until she almost leaked.

Sigh. So there you have it. Boys will be boys....and some grandmas will end their entertainment. Once, when I was about to read an article out of the paper, I summoned my husband and son, and said, "Listen to this!" But my gaseous state pre-empted my reading voice and what they heard was a female fart that made both males proud. Never did get to share the newspaper story. I am certain that when the merits of my life are recalled, someone will say, "Remember the time mom said, 'listen to this' and farted really loud?"

Well, I just want you all to know that on this day, I replaced the Whoopee Cushion that my big butt erupted. My grandson's world is now set straight by a silly toy of yester-year. And I can go to my house and do what any person living alone can do: fart with freedom.