Search

chicwhitesheep

SPEAKER OF THE FLOCK

Planning Your Planner: A How-To Guide

“It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos.”—Mel Odom

Back to school season always gives me the itch to get my act together. Something about stores with long aisles loaded with organization solutions and brand new office supplies feeds a strong urge in me to put an end to my summertime mode of flying by the seat of my pants. All those orderly stacks of notebook paper and dry erase markers awaken a new dream of organizing all the things in my reach. New Year, New You? How about New Tape Dispenser, New Outlook on Life?

Are you also looking to get your act together, but don’t know where to start? Well, never fear! I am here to help you simplify the process of complicating your life. In the interest of looking out for the greater good of all people, I am setting aside my humble nature and confiding in you that I am, in fact, Her Royal Highness, Chief Executive Officer, Reigning Queen and Prime Minister of Planning all the Things. This position was conferred upon me by myself, and I proudly hold this title for approximately 3 days in August of every year. You, too, can experience an entire half of a week in organized bliss! Just read further to see how you can begin planning a plan that you will plan to put in place at an undetermined later date. I am giving you all my knowledge, absolutely free of charge! (You are very welcome, my dears.)

Some of you may be saying, “Wait a minute. I know you! I’ve been to your house. There’s laundry all over the place, and unopened bills, and I’m pretty sure I saw and smelled some very questionable fruit on the kitchen counter. Are you sure you should be advising people about anything?” Others of you might think, “Hold on, is this the lady that is five minutes late to every single place she goes? What sort of cockamamie plan includes constant tardiness?” And there may even be a few of you reading this who have attended meetings with me and wondered, “How did that hot mess get on this committee? She showed up five minutes late, her shirt is inside out, and she just pulled four lipsticks out of her purse, when I think she was looking for a pen. How can I possibly benefit from this person’s guidance?” *several minute pass* “Good heavens, she still doesn’t have a pen.”

And to all those incredibly insightful inquiries, I answer, “Those are all very valid questions. And, FYI, real people don’t use the word, ‘cockamamie.’”

 Now, moving on.

The cornerstone of every plan is a Planner. The good news is, it’s back-to-school time, and Planners are everywhere, in a vast assortment of trendy designs and sizes. It can be hard to narrow down the selection! Lucky for you, I am willing to share my best secrets for success when it comes to Planners. Gather close, friends, while I tell you that the most important thing to consider when choosing your Planner, and I cannot stress this enough, is that it needs to be obscenely expensive. Choose the planner crafted by the designer whose wares you normally can’t afford, and purchase it right away so you don’t risk leaving a single page blank. I know this sounds a little crazy (but, let’s be honest, aren’t all geniuses a little crazy?), because you’re thinking that you don’t want to spend a lot on something you may not keep up with, but that’s exactly why you have to do it! You gotta get a little skin in the game, bro! Envision yourself in October, looking at your Planner across the room, and not really wanting to fill in the new month because you’ve gotten lazy, and planning is no fun, and you can’t find your pen, and you keep forgetting to take it with you anyway, and excuses, excuses, excuses! It would be so easy to ignore your $5.98 junky Wally World Planner because you never fell madly in love with in the first place! Now envision yourself gazing across the room at that darling Planner you so lovingly selected in August, when your future was bright and all things were still possible. The Planner you spent a hefty sum on because it was so obvious that the two of you were Made For Each Other. The Planner that turns heads when you manhandle it out of your bag at important meetings and place it on the table with a satisfying thump, proclaiming, “Look at me! I mean business! I am a very expensive Planner!” Now doesn’t that make you want to get your lazy bum up out of your recliner, walk across the room and start planning some crap? That’s what I thought.

When selecting your Planner, pay close attention to its features. Of course, your Planner will include several calendars. Yearly, weekly, monthly, daily, maybe even hourly. Whoa. Wait a minute. Hourly? Slow your roll, compadre. The end game here is to spend your day doing the things, not just planning the things. Back away from the hourly Planner. As an annual three-day veteran in expert planning, I’ve seen sufferers of EPB, Extreme Planner Burnout, and let’s just say it ain’t pretty when the wheels fall off the wagon. Try to keep up with an hourly Planner, and by November you’ll be living life as a suburban hobo, resistant to all plans, observing inconsistent meal times, and taking your kids to school on the weekends because you don’t even know what day it is. You’ve heard Keep It Simple, Stupid? I like to say, Keep It Moderately Hard and Somewhat Inconvenient For Yourself. Yes, KIMHASIFY is definitely my motto.

In addition to the slice and dice views of a conventional calendar, several Planners will also include a page that lists the holidays throughout the year, so you are always ready to celebrate. This is incredibly helpful to those who can never remember the date of New Year’s or the 4th of July. A very handy reference indeed.

Some Planners include stickers, which is a great feature for people who harbor a grudge against their kindergarten teacher for withholding the gold star they rightly deserved for washing their hands after circle time in the fall of 1984. If you are this type of person, you can now give yourself a tooth sticker on the day of your dentist appointment! Go ahead and give yourself two stickers if that’s what you want, because you are in charge of the stickers, dammit! Yeah! Or maybe you’d like a thumbs up sticker for the days you see your therapist to discuss the feelings of inadequacy you’ve had since kindergarten. Great job, you! Sticker it up, girlfriend!

I’ve seen Planners that have several blank pages reserved for Notes. Some people use these pages to write down useful bits of information during meetings. However, I find that these pages are also very good for writing down shopping lists and other reminders for yourself, all while looking as though you are paying attention and taking notes during dull meetings. You can even use these pages to write notes to a friend sitting next to you whom you suspect may also be suffering. Notes such as, “OMG, I’m DYING, I’m dead, R.I.P. ME, please make it stop,” or “I really have to pee, but I don’t want to get up,” or, “Do you smell that? It smells like pork chops and sweaty socks… What are you doing for lunch?” Sometimes your seemingly random notes can lead you to important discoveries about yourself. Like the shopping list I made that said, “Milk, Gas, Light Bulbs.” Not long after that, I was diagnosed as dairy sensitive. Coincidence? I think not.

With all these available special features, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so focus on finding a Planner that has a feature you can really connect with. Remember, you’re looking for a soulmate, not a roommate. For instance, I chose my Planner mainly because it includes several inspirational quotes, which I find to be very, well, inspirational. One of the pages in my Planner has the quote, “Find what brings you joy and go there.” This quote is especially dear to my heart because it encourages me to go to Marshall’s and buy all the throw pillows and phone cases that they have. Another quote in my Planner that inspires me comes from none other than the great Oprah Winfrey. She says, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” Now, any time someone asks me to make a decision, I can just reply, “I would like you to give me whatever you think Oprah would ask for.” It takes a lot of courage to ask for two balsamic vinaigrettes on the side, but here I am, doing it at least twice a week. I have my Planner and Oprah to thank for giving me such bravery.

Now that you’ve selected your Planner, you’ll need to find the perfect pen with which to fill in your Planner pages. It needs to be a subtle ink color, should glide smoothly, and feel solid and sure in your confident planning hand. It’s your favorite pen, and it’s probably already somewhere in your house! If you don’t remember where you bought it, and you’ve never seen another one like it, then this is definitely the perfect pen. Take a moment to make an appointment in your Planner (you’ll have to pencil it in, because, well, the whole pen thing) to spend an entire afternoon searching for it.

Once you’ve finally located the Perfect Pen, along with a whole bunch of other stuff you didn’t even know you were missing, you’ve likely generated several To-Do List items.  It’s now time to sit down and fill in the information that will make your Planner work for you! Go ahead and pull out your phone, where all your contacts, dates, and notes, are already conveniently located. Use your Perfect Pen to hand write all those items down in your exorbitantly expensive, fancy-feature-filled, sticker-happy Planner. Sometimes twice. Because remember, there are monthly pages and weekly pages. See? Aren’t you glad you followed my advice and ditched that hourly crap?

In all seriousness, the dual system of a paper Planner and smartphone has its merits. For one thing, I feel that manually writing the events down, in addition to typing them into my phone acts as an extra reminder of my commitments. Instead of accidentally double booking myself, I’ll stop and think, “You know I feel like I have something going on that day… I’m not sure what it is, but there’s definitely something happening.” Secondly, giving others the impression that you rely on a Planner can get you out of all sorts of things. Someone asking you to bring 12 Bundt cakes to the church bake sale? You can always say, “Oh, shoot, I don’t have my Planner on me. And you know, I feel like I have something going on that day…I’m not sure what it is, though. Can I get back to you? After I check my Planner?”

And you thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. Ha! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to basking in the bliss of these 3 days that I actually have my act together. Right after I find my pen.

 

Advertisements
Featured post

The Dog Days of Summer

“Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”—George Carlin

A mere 9 weeks ago, school was just letting out and we were giddy with excitement for the glorious promises of SUMMER. The season of staying up late and sleeping in! A time of living outdoors and hanging by the pool! Entire meals eaten directly from crinkly packages at any given time of the day! The Season of Anarchy was upon us and we welcomed it with open, sunscreened arms.

So. How the heck is all that going for ya?

Let me tell you how it’s going for me. I haven’t stopped sweating since Memorial Day. There are about 3 more weeks until school starts back, and in my estimation, a solid 8 weeks until I’ll stop sweating like a plow mule.

If Summer was a sweater (oh, and, believe me, it is a sweat-er), it would be an itchy wool turtleneck, unusually tight around the neck and armpits.

If Summer was a beer, it would be warm, watery, and served in one of those flimsy see-through cups that’s really just a bigger version of the swish cups you get at the dentist.

If Summer was an ice cream cone, it would be melted and dripping from the bottom, with most of the scoop having fallen to the ground, surrounded by ants. Ants that appeared from seemingly nowhere, and that will not go away no matter how many things you spray on them because they have some crazy primal instinct to go back to that exact spot where someone dropped a stupid ice cream that ONE time and didn’t clean it up and now we all have to suffer and be attempted ant murderers for the rest of our lives.

OK, so I might have gotten sidetracked with the ants. The point I’m trying to make is that I think most of us would agree that the best parts of Summer may be behind us. Sure, it’s great spending so much quality time with our families, but maybe it would be better if we didn’t have to be together so much to do that? Definitely not all together in tight quarters with a toilet to behind ratio greater than 1:4. Staying up late is all fine and good, but it also has a way of turning children into the type of beasts only found in mythology. The pool was refreshing and fun those first few weeks, but it’s now so warm and crowded it’s more like People Soup.

crowded pool

If Summer was a hotel room, it would have two double beds very close to one another and its occupants would include children that go to bed at 8:30. It would have one shower that has no water pressure and a travel hair dryer from 1984.

If Summer was a swimming pool, it would be one of those above-ground jobs, with a 3-foot depth all the way around. The water would be a tepid 95 degrees, and more than just a little murky, due to the fact the pool hasn’t been skimmed since mid-June. Jump on in.

Did anyone make any Summer Resolutions? A Bucket List, if you will? While we’re on the subject can we please clarify that a “Bucket List” is a list of things you want to do before you DIE?? As in “kick the bucket?” Do people not know this? Because I see Bucket Lists for everything. Unless you’ve got a date with the Grim Reaper over Labor Day Weekend, you should not be making a Summer Bucket List. Stop it. Call it something else. You’re freaking me out.

Gelati ice cream cone held up to the hot summer sky
Please be sure to play with puffy paint before you die. Anything less would be a tragedy.

Anyone get workbooks for the kids? Good for you. Me? Didn’t even look at ‘em. “Summer Slide,” you say? Well, I say, “Wheeeeeeee! Sounds like fun to me! Where can we buy tickets? Is there a discount for dummies?” In all seriousness, I did think about incorporating some little educational field trips with the kids into our summer plans, but it just never really worked out. In part, because I worried if we stepped foot outside the house we might all either be incinerated on the spot, or carried away by a flash flood. That would be such a bummer. I mean, we wouldn’t have a chance to finish the Bucket List!

Did I mention the sweating? Because that’s still a thing.

Britney Sweating.gif

How about those little around-the-house projects we thought we’d finally accomplish in these slow summer months?  Listen, I’m barely keeping the lights on in this place because I keep misplacing the bills under stacks of other mail. I’ve come to realize that I am incapable of taking on any project more labor-intensive than “Keep the Electricity On.” Without A/C and Wi-Fi, we would surely go the way of the Mayans. Or was it the Incas? Just plug in the name of any civilization that mysteriously vanished. But don’t ask anyone here, because we certainly haven’t learned anything since May!

If Summer was Wi-Fi, it would start out with a great signal, and then get progressively weaker. You’d check your settings, and reset the router, and pray to the gods of Netflix to shine upon you, but no dice, friend. All you’d see is a spinning wheel until finally, you would just have to lie down because you’ve gotten all sweaty again.

Once upon a time, I thought that Summer would be a good time to practice some healthy cooking skills. Makes sense, right? All that extra time on my hands (“extra time,” I love that joke, it just never gets old, does it?), the abundance of fresh ingredients, the little people in my house so hungry from all their romping around gleefully in the outdoors…

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I told my family that we needed to eat up all the food in the house before we left for our beach trip and I haven’t done a proper grocery run since then. I’m not going to tell you if the “beach trip” to which I’m referring was last week, or right after school got out, or all the way back to Spring Break. It doesn’t matter. Don’t judge me. I promise you, no one is starving. Hallelujah, drive-thrus are still open in the summer!! And Pop-Tarts are a very acceptable choice for dinner. One of the kids asked me, “Mom, can we just put Capri Suns in our cereal since there’s no milk?” To which I responded, “You know, it’s not the worst idea I’ve heard. Maybe you should try it. It could be like a science experiment.” BAM! Feeding the body and the brain.

If Summer was deli meat, it would be one or two days past its expiration date; probably completely fine to eat, but also equally as likely to make you a little queasy. And definitely sweaty.

If Summer was a tomato sandwich, the tomatoes would be underripe, the bread soggy, and have way too much mayonnaise.

Here we are. 3 weeks until school starts. 8 weeks until we can walk to the mailbox without breaking into a full-body sweat. Hold on and finish strong, Summer Soldiers. This too shall pass. Until then, pass me the Zinc and a cold one, because once it’s over, we’ll be begging for the Season of Anarchy once again.

beverage-celebration-cheerful-1266020

Cheers to Anarchy!

 

Featured post

Pool Parties and Peach Queens

“Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired… jumping, running—that’s the way to live.”—Jack Kerouac

Aside from a brief period of time when my children were small and hadn’t yet learned to swim, pools have always held an alluring quality for me. As it generally goes, the things you don’t have are the things you want the most. My family didn’t have a pool, nor were we members of a neighborhood association that provided one. This meant the only time I got to dip my toes in a pool was either when we were on vacation, or some kind soul invited me over to their home for a swim. I spent most of my summers paddling around in murky lake waters. I yearned to be in water which was clear enough for me to see my feet; and, to be able to plant those feet on a surface that didn’t squish up between my toes. Bonus points for the feeling that there wouldn’t be any unidentified creatures sharing my swim space. It didn’t bother me a bit that the chlorine in those pools turned my hair green and plastic-like, resembling some sort of radioactive straw. Never mind that my eyes were red and scratchy for days after hours spent in a pit of chemicals, giving me the look of a pre-teen meth-head mermaid. Also of no concern to me? Those pools that had the rough concrete bottoms that worked on my feet like a meat tenderizer. By the end of a week of vacation, I could still find that one spot of uninjured skin on the corner of a big toe, and I would use that to bob up and down when I couldn’t just tread water.

Dive competitions, Marco Polo, handstands, breath-holding contests, balancing on floats, you name it, I was ALL IN FOR IT. Drop me at the pool and drag me out when it’s time to eat dinner.

In high school, many of my summer days were spent sweating it out at my summer job, but every now and then, a group of us would all have a day off. I can see myself now, having spent the entire morning in pajamas, watching MTV and eating peanut butter out of the jar, just waiting for the phone to ring. (What must it be like for kids these days, to have all their friends just two thumbs away right there in their phones? I think of all that time I spent staring at the phone at my mother’s house, willing it to ring.) Some days, the call I was waiting for would finally come in.

drew barrymore scream
Actual photo of me being super excited that someone finally called me.

“Hello?”
“Hey.”
“Hey.”
“What’re you doin’?”
“Nothin.’ What’re you doin’?”
“Nothin.’ (pause) A bunch of us are goin’ over to Lotie’s. You wanna come?”
“Yeah, let me get my bathing suit on. See you in twenty?”

That was cool, right? It didn’t sound at all like I was dying to get out of the house and go somewhere, and that I would actually be ready and watching the driveway through the blinds in approximately 7 minutes, right? On the other end of the line was my friend Libba, and she was talking about getting a group of our friends together to go to her great aunt Lotie’s (a nickname for Lois, and pronounced “low-tee”) to swim in her pool.

shag girls
“Get in, loser. We’re going swimming.”

There was a pool. There were friends. There might not be diving competitions, but there would definitely be laughing. Actually, there probably would be diving competitions. Whatever it was, I was ALL IN. Libba, usually accompanied with a couple of our other friends, would pull up to my house in her gigantic, late-model baby blue Bonneville and lay on the horn. I would practically skip down my front steps and jump in for the outing. It wouldn’t be unusual for us to make a stop at the nearby Clock restaurant for cheeseburgers and fries. Not necessarily because we were all that hungry, but because it sounded good, it was on the way, and we were 16, blessed with the metabolism of caffeinated squirrels.

crazy squirrels
“Anybody got a Diet Coke I can have?”

Soon after we arrived at Lotie’s, a slow trickle of friends would start showing up for the impromptu get-together. Libba’s cousin would almost always be there, too, with a pack of his friends, and before we knew it, a small party would be underway.

Lotie’s house was an oasis hidden in plain sight in the middle of residential downtown Greer. It sat on the corner of two well-traveled streets; a modestly sized house with a backyard that was almost completely enclosed by a decorative brick wall. I wonder how many people passed it regularly, having no idea what a beautiful secret garden, sparkling pool, and quaint pool house were in that backyard. It was built in the early ‘50’s, and it is believed to be the first pool in town, and for a short while, the only one. I didn’t know Lotie personally, but she and her husband must have been quite the entertainers back in their day. For several years, they opened their home and pool area as hosts of parties celebrating the contestants of the Peach Queen beauty pageant during the South Carolina Peach Festival, which was held for many years in Greer. One year, they filled the pool with peaches for a photo shoot with the beauty queens, who had traveled from all over the state. In the pool house hung several black and white photographs from those parties. Smiling beauty queens, with perfectly coiffed hairdos and makeup, wearing modest bathing suits. Some floating blissfully on pool rafts, while others sat on the side and dangled their long legs into the clear water. I imagine an invitation to one of Lotie’s pool parties must have been a pretty hot ticket back in the day. Those gals must have primped and prissed all morning long to get ready to strut their stuff at literally the only pool in town.

My friends and I arrived at Lotie’s pool party about 40 years after those beauty queens, and while there was certainly no primping and prissing on our parts, I imagine we enjoyed it every bit as much as they did. I also like to think that Lotie still enjoyed the art of entertaining. She almost always came out to greet us and make small talk (before her afternoon nap, naturally). Ever the gracious hostess, she would have her housekeeper, Imogene, bring us fresh chocolate chip cookies. Imogene was like an angel, dressed completely in white, and those cookies were undeniably heaven-sent. Even if we were still full from the cheeseburgers, we devoured those cookies as if we hadn’t eaten in days. Lotie was from another time: the summer after our senior year she asked some of the girls in our group if they had their hats and gloves ready for going off to Clemson in the fall. Her mannerly demeanor and dedication to keeping up her home had a way of making us feel special. Knowing that she thought highly of us kept us in line. We would have never wanted to disappoint her by acting like a bunch of hooligans. Now, that’s not to say that we abided by royal protocol every time we went over. There may have been some jumping off the roof into the pool during Lotie’s naptime. Probably a fair amount of foul language was batted around. But for the most part, I think we highly respected this lady who showed us that she thought we were worthy to share in her lovely oasis and partake in the Lord’s cookies.

For a hot minute, back in early Spring, I fell under the swimming pool spell and thought about having one installed at my own home.

At first, I thought it would be easy. I stood in the backyard with a very friendly and motivated contractor who told me, straight-faced, that we could be swimming by July. Sure, there would still be decking to be done, but we could work around that, right? I was like a female Clark Griswold, staring out the window at my crystal clear blue pool, with my smiling family and friends waving back at me, singing my praises for making all their dreams come true. A hero for the ages, I tell you.

cousin eddie in pool
“We love you, Mom!!”

But there was a problem. Well, several problems. The more we learned, the more we wanted, and, as home improvement projects tend to do, the plans outgrew the budget and we had to put on the brakes and redirect. I wonder if this happened to Lotie and her husband as they planned their pool? It must have seemed like an insurmountable task at the time. Not like now, when there are pool companies all over town. They were the very first one! Their neighbors must have thought they were crazy, digging a giant hole in their backyard and building a whole separate house. Think of the traffic they must have created with all the workers. And how did they find someone to help them maintain it? It was the only one in town! Surely, at some point, they had to think they might have been making a colossal mistake, that the whole thing was more trouble than it was worth. But at least one of them had the motivation to keep going with it. At least one of them was excited about being the center of the social scene. One of them had a vision of children paddling around in the backyard, growing up and inviting over a new generation of friends. They almost certainly were committed to this being their “forever home,” and couldn’t let resale figures cloud their judgment. But I doubt that even the most visionary of people could have foreseen a great-niece and great-nephew with a pack of restless teenagers still enjoying the fruits of their labors and worries a full 40 or more years after they had the idea to take the risk and make it happen. I guess sometimes in life you just have to shut out all the reasons you have for not doing something, and instead look at what kind of happiness you can create for yourself and spread to others in the process. It’s like thumping the first tile in a line of standing dominoes and having no idea where the line ends.

Lotie and her husband (and probably Imogene and many of the Peach Queens) departed their earthly oasis several years ago. The house went up for sale, and I’ve heard that a lovely young family lives there now, which makes me so happy. I hope they use the pool often and that they love it as much as so many people before them have. There are gallons upon gallons of memories and good times in that treasured pool, each generation adding more, to the point of overflowing. But isn’t that the great thing about memories? There’s always room for making more.

IMG_8223
“Off my raft, sister. I’m making room for memories.”

 

Featured post

Check Your Privacy Settings

“If you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product that’s being sold.” –Unknown

Unless you’re completely off the grid (which makes me a teensy bit jealous of you), by now you’ve heard there’s been a privacy breach at “the Facebook.” Also, if you call it “the Facebook,” you’re likely a victim of the breach. Even if you don’t call it “the Facebook,” but you have friends or relatives that enjoy forwarding you quizzes about your celebrity spirit animal, then those people probably exposed you to the breach somehow. I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but it sounds a lot like internet lice. Ewwwww.

urkel quiz
Dude! You just got Internet Lice from Urkel!

 

When the news of this latest privacy breach broke, I had to laugh. It’s hard to think about anyone squawking about their privacy on a platform where so many people share entirely too much information. Every day I log in to Facebook and I see intimate details of the lives of people who I barely know in real life. Literally hundreds of people that might not speak to me in the grocery store, but I know exactly what their kitchen looks like, where their children go to school, their favorite spot for takeout, and what they like for breakfast. And that’s just the standard stuff. There’s also a subset of people who freely share the particulars of their latest injuries and maladies (complete with pictures) or remarks about very personal bodily functions. So, you’re telling me that you want me to know about your bowel habits, but your gender and birthday are privileged information?

we did not need to know that

If I sit and think about it too much, I can get really angry about all the cost and effort I put into protecting the things that are, without a doubt, MINE. We are in a constant battle to defend ourselves against people trying to take our things. Our homes and cars have alarms to alert us to intruders. We install video surveillance to record suspicious activity. We use shredders to deter people who might go through our trash. We struggle to set up passwords that are challenging to hackers but are still simple for us to remember. We get stumped trying to remember the answers to our own “secret questions.” My favorite one is the company we pay monthly to protect us from identity theft. They were breached several months ago, exposing millions of their customers’ personal information. The fox lives in the henhouse. You work hard so you can have more things, just so you can work even harder to keep what’s yours out of the hands of others. Frustrating to say the least.

Nice-henhouse

It’s one thing to protect your hard-earned, physical possessions from theft. It’s quite another thing to put safeguards on the objects that are more cloudy and ethereal, like your online presence and your personal and financial identities. These are things that may carry far more worth than many of your tangible belongings, and their loss or misrepresentation can cause you more hurt and hassle than any collateral damage.

I consider myself at an intermediate level when it comes to technology. I do all I know to do to protect myself and my family online. But this latest privacy breach has forced me to take pause and consider my personal privacy settings. Not the buttons that I push on the screen in my profile, but the decisions I make about what I want to share about myself and my family with the social media community.

I’m a mother, and like most parents, my children are the things in my life that I am most proud of. I think they’re funny and smart, beautiful and clever, incredibly unique, and, at times, a giant pain in the neck. Something in me wants to share their awesomeness with the world, and, likewise, find company in our situations that maybe aren’t so ideal. Enter social media to the rescue. “Thumbs up, mama.” “Love to you, girl.” “Those babies are precious!” “I know, my kids are bloodsuckers, too. We’re all in this together!” It takes 30 seconds for me to post, but I might receive a day and a half of affirmation. If it weren’t for the kids, my social media would simply be a place for me to ask for handyman recommendations, avoid sales pitches, and make smart remarks about traffic. Not nearly as affirming.

One of my daughters is camera-shy and generally attention-averse. Often, when I whip my camera out to capture a moment, she puts a hand up over her face like a harassed celebrity. I get it. I’m not a huge fan of having my picture taken, either. But I’m the mama, and it’s my job to document our lives, so I coax and coerce until she gives in. Also, because I’m the mama, I worry about the reasons behind her photography ban. Is she unhappy with the way she looks in photos? Does she think I’m being pushy? Am I spending more time on getting the photo than experiencing the moment? Worry, worry, worry. Then one day, while convincing her to let me take a photo, my daughter said, “Fine, take it. Just don’t post it, OK?.” “Oh, sure, darlin’,” I answered. “This one is just for me, I promise.” And I meant it. Because if I don’t honor her requests regarding social media now, how can she feel empowered to control her own social media narrative later, when it becomes a much bigger issue?

I truly dread the day I have to start navigating the social media waters with my kids. As it stands right now, they’re not old enough to have social media accounts, and they’re really just beginning to get to the age to even think about asking for access. I rarely tell them when I’ve posted a picture or anecdote about them, and I never tell them how many “likes” they’ve gotten. For girls especially, frivolous compliments (in this case, in the form of “likes”) are a fast way to fill the self-worth bucket. But that bucket drains quickly, and what good is a full bucket if it’s filled with a bunch of junk anyway?

I don’t know what Facebook is doing with my data. I don’t know what my bank is doing with my data. Or my CPA, or my doctor, or my dry cleaner. I realize this sounds naive, but I don’t care if the Russians know my birthday. (Although, you would think they could send a card with some of their finest vodkas if they really wanted to influence my voting habits.). Unfortunately, the risk of having your basic information exploited is the cost of doing business these days.

 

vodka-russia
My new #squad. We’re making it Facebook official. Y’all my devushkas!

 

So, yeah, my name, my address, my birthday, and who knows what other about me are out there floating in cyberspace, waiting for someone to snatch them up and analyze for their own purposes. The analysts would say they’re trying to “improve my online experience,” which I think is just code for “we’re trying to sell you something.” Is this a justifiable risk for having access to community event information, the kids’ activity schedules, and the privilege of seeing that random girl from high school’s new living room addition? 2.2 billion Facebook users think so.

But I can’t stop thinking of my daughter asking me, “Just don’t post it, ok?” My kids, my family, my friends, my home, our special times, those are the things that I hold most dear. There’s a difference between your basic demographic information and your personal details. Those personal, intimate details are the things that make us who we are, and some of us are sharing those details without so much as a second thought. We’re making multiple copies of the keys to the castle and handing them out like candy at a parade. Of those 2.2 billion Facebook users, it’s estimated that the median number of “friends” each user has is around 200. Do you know 200 real people with whom you feel comfortable sharing your most precious moments? Would you say you have 200 people in your life that you trust enough to hand a picture of your child and have zero concerns over what they will do with it? What if you were asked to fill a room with 200 people that you could easily stand in front of and share a funny anecdote from your recent family beach trip? I can’t say that I have 200 of those people in my life. And that’s not so unusual. See, the average Facebook user has 200 “friends.” But a recent Gallup poll asked people how many real close friends they have. Spoiler: The answer was not 200. Not even close.  A real poll of real people revealed that the average real person has about 9 close friends. Nine!

 

dont post that
It is unclear as to whether the Gallup poll included animals in their statistics. However, it can never hurt to consult your pet about your posting decisions,

Maybe I can’t keep my social security number from being sold on the dark web, but I do still have control over how my real personal information is shared. It might be time for my social media to be just that: social. I do have 200 or more people who I don’t mind knowing that I have been blessed with an incredible family and group of friends that make me so very happy. I want to share my happiness and success and, likewise, see theirs. I even have 200 or more people who I don’t mind if they see some of my smaller failures, with whom I can laugh and commiserate over this crazy life we’re all living. The first day of school, the Santa visits, the beach pictures. All those I will share with pride and reckless abandon. But that funny little booty shake my daughter does when she’s feeling happy? Or that sweet, sincere smile that shows the dimple that both my husband and other daughter share? What about that uncontrollable laughing-until-we’re-snorting fit I had with my friends last night over dinner and wine? I don’t know 200 people who would appreciate those precious moments for the pure gold that they are. Those moments? They’re all mine.

 

I want to keep more of that mined gold for myself and those few people who can accept what I’m giving with an attitude of joy, empathy, and mutual respect. My most treasured experiences are not on the virtual auction block, put forth to be scrolled past and swiped over. In a day and age when is so much is being taken away from us without our permission, why would we willfully give so much away?

Simply put, I think it’s time to update my privacy settings.

lock-1516241_1920

 

 

 

 

 

Featured post

I Have One Word for You

 Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.—Buddha

 Several years ago, I abandoned the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. I reached a point in my life where I knew myself well enough to realize that whether it be a result of unlucky circumstances, low willpower, or goals that were set too high, any resolutions I put forth would likely be shattered before Valentine candy replaced Christmas decorations in the stores. I start my New Year much the same as the rest of the world, puffy and exhausted from the holiday happenings, gently nudging my loved ones out the door so we can all get back to our regularly scheduled programming. I resolve nothing, except to continue being the same delightfully moody, disorganized, running-five-minutes-behind contained mess that I’ve always been.

In the midst of blocking out all the Fresh Start and Resolution propaganda, my attention was drawn to some people who were starting out their New Year with “One Word.” Not a laundry list of resolutions waiting to be broken, but a one-word mantra to give guidance throughout the year. Hmmmmm. One word. I could probably handle this. It’s just one word! But it needed to be a good word. Strong and lasting, as we were going to be partners for an entire year. One of the websites I visited advised, “Your one word will shape not only your year, but also you.” Another person said that when you pick your word, you should ask yourself, “What would you like to be more true about you at the end of 2018 than is so now?”

Whoa. This one-word thing was serious business. What if I picked the wrong one word, and for a whole year every time I needed to invoke my mantra to bring me back to my center, it was the wrong word and all I would think about was how I couldn’t even pick the right ONE WORD? At the rate I was going, my one word was going to be “stressed.”

Words chosen by others filled my screen and my thoughts. Fearless. Obedient. Courageous. Grit. Beauty. Focus. Depth. Strong. All of them inspiring in their own right. It’s true, a lot of meaning can be packed into just one word. I was sold on the concept, but no closer to finding my one word. I tried several on for size, but none felt right. Not trendy enough. Not classic enough. Not insightful enough. Not introspective enough. This was going about as well as making resolutions.

Ugh, ENOUGH already!

Wait… “enough.” “Enough.” While not the prettiest word on paper, nor lovely on the lips, for me the word is just as smooth as a worn river rock, having been delicately honed by rolling around in my head for so long.

When the children are unruly… “That’s enough, now.”

When I push back from a table heavy with delicious food and drink… “Heavens, no, I’ve had enough!”

When someone disrespects me or those that I love… “Well, that is enough of that.”

All those enoughs are empowering. In those times, I am holding the river rock. It is pressed into my palm, cool and smooth as I turn it over and over again, giving me a sense of calm and control over my circumstances.

But what about the times that I feel like I’ve been overtaken by the idea of enough? When the river rock grows to a size that I can no longer hold in my hand? When it grows so big that I have to put all my weight behind it to roll it along with me?

When my husband or children want something from me that I can’t provide to them, whether that be time, or patience, or material things… “I’m not a good enough wife and mother.”

When I’m tempted by unhealthy food, frivolous spending, or idle time… “I’m not strong enough to deny myself.”

When I refuse, ever so politely, requests from worthy people and organizations for my time or talents… “I don’t do enough.”

When I compare myself to others, not knowing their full circumstances, but still in awe of how amazing their lives seem to be… “I don’t have enough. I don’t do enough. I’m not working hard enough. I am not enough.”

Deep down I know those things aren’t true. In my core, I know that I am and that I have so much more than enough. My cup runneth over with love for and from my friends and family. My comfortable home is bursting at the seams with more things than we could possibly need or want. And on the days that I feel like a wandering soul with no lasting purpose, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father put me here for His purpose, and the only person who thinks it isn’t enough is me.

2018, I’ve got your “one word.”

ENOUGH.

I have enough.

I am enough.

I have love to give and love to receive, and that, my friends, is ENOUGH.

 

 

Featured post

What I Did This Summer : Family Edition

I know that teachers nowadays are way creative and no longer require students to write the quintessential “What I Did This Summer” essay, but I remember doing a few of these back in school. I wondered what it would be like if I asked my family to submit their own “What I Did This Summer” essays. Just a guess…

What I Did This Summer
By: Mom

The summer was just really great. I mean, I didn’t even mind that there was no rest whatsoever between those crazy last two weeks of school and the start of a new set of activities for everyone. It just did not bother me a bit that we traded homework for afternoon swim team practices. And I am telling you right now that I am completely fine with all the towels that I washed and dried this summer.

We went to the beach, where we sweated buckets and sprayed $18 cans of sunscreen into the wind and carried all the things to all the places. But it was a resort and we did not wash any towels, and that made it a vacation.

We went to the lake, which was kind of the same, except we carried all the things onto a boat, so we could see what it’s like to cram all our things under the seats and not be able to find them when we needed them. And then we could carry them off the boat later when we were really, really, REALLY tired. We are completely convinced that wet towels are 100 times heavier than dry towels.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, I opened and shut the back door approximately 57 times a day so the dog could go in and out at her leisure and not do her business on my already dirty floors. By doing this, I generously provided cool air to the entire backyard. Always giving back.

I called the air conditioning repairman 8 times because it felt like the AC was struggling to keep up. I don’t know? Is 85 degrees an acceptable indoor temperature? Whatever. Nothing works like it’s supposed to.

I went to the grocery store almost every day. Turns out, every single being that lives here has to eat. Every day. Multiple times!

Do we get extra credit?  Because I can also tell you what I DIDN’T do, which is cook the food from the grocery store. I didn’t even act like I was going to. For 3 months, all the people in my house consumed food that came in crinkly packages, and no one is even remotely close to dead. Even better, the kids have learned that they can actually prepare this kind of food by themselves, and I am beginning to think that once they learn the Amazon password, I may be out of a job.

Something else I didn’t do? Schoolwork. That’s right. Aside from sporadic required reading, which served the dual purpose of getting everyone away from everyone else, I basically stood at the top of the Summer Slide and pushed my kids down it. (Sorry, teachers). Wheeeeeeeeeee! Then I greeted them at the bottom of the Summer Slide and handed them iPads. It was in those moments that I knew I was loved.

I didn’t take my kids roller skating, something I hear about every other day from my 7 year old. I didn’t let my tween get a YouTube channel because I don’t even know how it works, and it sounds like a bad idea, no matter how many times she tries to convince me otherwise. I didn’t do any home improvement projects. I didn’t plant a garden. I didn’t keep the house clean. I didn’t declutter the playroom. I didn’t book next summer’s vacation. I didn’t read a ton of books. I didn’t lose my cool, except once…a day.

You want to know what I did this summer? I WASHED ALL THE TOWELS. I KEPT ALL THE LIVING THINGS ALIVE.*

(*most of the outdoor plants were dead before summer actually started, so they don’t count)

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Tween

The summer was ok. I mean, better than school, I guess. Mom made me do swim team, which I HATE. Because swimming every day and being with my friends is THE WORST. She let me play on my iPad a lot, which was cool, except sometimes, out of nowhere, she would yell, “Oh my gosh, you are such a zombie!” And then I would have to stop, right in the middle of what I was watching, and try and find something else to do. And that’s’ hard, because there’s nothing awesome to do, ever. Sometimes, if I was really super bored, I would do stuff with my sister. Mostly we would just pull out a lot of junk that we never play with anymore, and leave it lying around in what Mom calls a “very inconvenient spot.” I mean, does she want us to play with the stuff or what? She’s always saying, “We buy you all these things and then you never play with them,” but then when we do, she wants us to just put it right back where we got it. Whatever.

We went to the beach, which was fun, except for the sunscreen part. Sunscreen is the WORST. Mom says that being sunburned is actually the worst, but, I mean, how does she even know? She sits under an umbrella the whole time. Whatever. We went to the lake, too. I really like being there and going out on the boat, but there’s no Wi-Fi anywhere near the lake. Nowhere. There’s a TV, but it only has 4 channels. But, Mom lets us eat ice cream twice a day, and we can have potato chips for breakfast, so… Whatever. Summer’s OK, I guess.

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Little One

The summer was awesome! Swim team was so cool. I loved hanging out with my friends, and I think my dive got a lot better! I missed being at school a lot, but I asked Mom to let me buy a workbook, and I almost finished the whole thing! I thought that since I finished it all that I could skip the second grade, but Mom says it doesn’t work that way. We went ice skating one day, which was awesome, but we didn’t get to go roller skating like I wanted to. I kept asking her about it because I didn’t want her to forget, but all she said was, “Camp Mom is over. Play with some of this stuff you leave lying around everywhere.” So, I did, and it was so fun! I made a lot of crafts. I like cutting things into teeny tiny pieces. Some of the pieces I glue to other things, and some I just leave on the floor. I like being creative. Sometimes my sister would play with me, which was the best. Mostly she would just make me bring her stuff in her room, and act like I was on her pretend YouTube channel, but I didn’t mind. It was fun! Summer is the best!

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Dog 

Summer? Summer? What’s Summer? Can I eat it? Does it squeak? Can I eat it while it squeaks?

No? Soooooo, Summer is a period of time? Oh, so all these days it’s been really hot and all the Little People are around all day, that’s Summer? Yeah, it’s ok, I guess. I have a hard time deciding if I want to be in the house, hiding from the Little People, or if I want to go outside, where it is H-O-T, so I just get The Lady to let me in and out, over and over. Sometimes I don’t really even want out, but it’s funny to see her get worried that I’m going to pee somewhere I shouldn’t. I like to wait until she’s either sitting down or has her hands in a sink full of dishes. HI-LAR-I-OUS. Her face. Oh, man, you should see it. But, you know, now that I think about it, she might not even care about that whole potty business inside the house thing anymore. A long time ago I went into the fancy room no one ever goes in and left a little “present,” if you know what I mean. It was just too hot to go outside and that big neighbor dog was out there, always giving me the evil eye even though I bark and bark and bark at him. Anyway, The Lady never even yelled at me and my present is still sitting there, behind that fancy chair no one ever sits in. You know, I think I’ll go poke it around a little bit right now. Is Summer still happening?

 

What I Did This Summer
By: Dad

What did I do this summer? I WORKED. Like I do in the Spring, and the Fall, and the Winter.

So, um, hey, what’s for dinner?

 

**Featured Image courtesy of IFC.com.

 

Featured post

Here’s to You, Mrs. Buchanan

“There is nothing so stable as change.”—Bob Dylan

Growing up, I remember a house that stood out from all the others in our neighborhood. All around us were rows upon rows of boilerplate, square homes, shingled in varying neutral shades, all with a similar wide front porch, brown front door, narrow front yard and some form of a brick chimney.

But this house was different. It had the same asbestos shingles as the others, but they were bathed in a sunny shade of buttercup yellow. A gabled roof was perched atop a quaint entrance with a freshly painted white front door. The porch was not the standard issue front-facing variety, but screened in, and thoughtfully set off to the side, under a grove of shade trees. You could see that there was sturdy white ceiling fan turning lazily, offering gentle assistance to whatever breeze was already there, and the puffy cushions on the patio furniture looked positively nap-worthy. The corner lot was meticulously manicured; a stark contrast to the surrounding lawns in this working-class neighborhood where yard maintenance was a low priority for the begrudging homeowners and renters. The house was an example of above-and-beyond smack in the middle of a lot of just-getting-by.

Every Autumn, a tall maple tree on the street corner of the yard would burst into a beautiful blaze of gold that would literally stop traffic as onlookers slowed down to admire it. It was one of those trees that most people would think was more trouble than it was worth. The glorious display would last no more than a week, at which time every single leaf would make the ultimate sacrifice and careen off the tree and onto the lawn to make a thick golden blanket beneath the empty branches. Unlike the other lawns in the neighborhood, whose leaves would remain until they were brown and crumbly and half-blown away, these gilded leaves would be scooped up within hours of when they reached the ground, stuffed into lawn bags that looked like gifts, and lined up orderly along the street, waiting for the City to come and pick them up.

One day I asked my mother who lived in the golden cottage. She replied, “Oh, that’s where the Buchanans live.”

Buchanan. I knew that name. But it couldn’t possibly be the same Buchanan that I was thinking of. The Buchanan I was thinking of was Mrs. Buchanan, the meanest substitute teacher in all of Greer, SC. Maybe even all of Greenville County. And while it would have been hard to prove, I would have bet my whole piggy bank that she was the crankiest, toughest, and downright saltiest sub in all of the great state of South Carolina. Everyone agreed. Kids who couldn’t see eye to eye on anything would unite in synchronized groans when Mrs. Buchanan entered the classroom. In general, substitute teachers were welcome, sometimes even cause for celebration. Maybe because of their ignorance of classroom rules, or their fondness for showing movies instead of following lesson plans, or just because having a substitute was a departure from the ordinary humdrum of school days. None of this applied when Mrs. Buchanan was substituting. It was as if she wanted to be tougher than the teacher for whom she was substituting. She wasn’t about to phone anything in. She doled out plenty of schoolwork and even assigned homework for the evening. She was there to teach, and she expected you to learn; no, master the material she presented. She wouldn’t take any lip, as we said in those days, and in the rare instance that a student dared to buck her authority, it was straight to the principal’s office.

Everything about Mrs. Buchanan was no-nonsense. Her silvery blond hair was coiffed into a perfectly wispy helmet, likely the result of a weekly wash and set. If there was a threat of rain, she would proudly don a clear plastic rain bonnet to protect her investment as she walked through the parking lot to her spotless, waxed gold Buick. She wore small reading glasses that she kept on a golden chain hanging around her neck. When not needed for reading, those glasses rested on her formidable bosoms, unmovable in their WWII-era underpinnings, meant to withstand a bombing with nary a jiggle. Smart, neutral sweater sets paired with polyester blend pants and sensible flats provided her with a uniform that was both comfortable and the height of appropriateness. She was there to do a job. Not to make friends, or to waste time, or to collect a paycheck for doing the bare minimum, and, heavens above, not to merely babysit.

“Class, today you will have a substitute teacher, Mrs. Buchanan.”
All together now: “UUUUGGGHHHHHH.”

So, of course, this house must belong to another set of Buchanans. A cousin, perhaps? There was just no way that that Mrs. Buchanan could live in this lovely house full of goodness and light. It was like seeing the Wicked Witch of the West wearing Glinda the Good Witch’s dress. It was all wrong.

My mother was still talking. “Oh, you know them. Mrs. Buchanan. She used to be a school teacher when I was your age. I think someone at the church told me she’s a substitute now. Couldn’t stand being retired…”

Nooooooooooooooooooo. How could this be??? Mrs. Buchanan (a.ka. Mrs. ButtCannon; kids can be so clever in their mean-ness) was the force behind this lovely home of sunshine and buttercups? You’re telling me that the woman who used wooden rulers to paddle little hands came home to relax with a tall glass of sweet iced tea on that breezy screened porch? The same stoic lady I saw stand like a stalwart captain behind my teacher’s desk by day also stood gazing out the window with the delicate white curtains patterned with sweet little yellow flowers washing dishes by night?

As a child, I could not possibly reconcile the two. So, I blocked this knowledge out of my brain. I didn’t tell any of my friends that I knew where she lived. I stopped looking at the house when we passed it in the car. I don’t know why, but it felt like some sort of betrayal. My imagined story for this place had been shattered by cold, hard truth.

As an adult, however, it makes complete sense. The perfect home doesn’t just happen. You either have a full staff at your disposal, or you have to be a no-nonsense battleax to stay on top of the never-ending tasks. You have to have a Mr. Buchanan who will take orders. And you have to be willing to work. HARD.

Mrs. Buchanan, who was old even when my mother was young, has long since passed away. I think I was in college when I heard the news, and it made me sad. Meanie or not, she made an indelible mark on my childhood, and I think I always knew that deep down she had a soft heart. She showed her caring through discipline, not coddling. And there was always the case of that lovely home. A beautiful and welcoming space can only come from a beautiful and welcoming soul. She might have hidden it from us crass kids, but to those she kept close, she was surely a loving person.

Homes carry the character of those who inhabit them, and once Mrs. Buchanan left us, the home began to pass away, too. I see it often when I go to visit my mother, and I’m usually disappointed to see how it has deteriorated. The once cheerful yellow has taken on a very tired, almost sickly hue, and all the bright white trim paint is peeling and flaking away. The lawn is full of weeds and almost always in need of a trim. I can sometimes see people relaxing on the screened porch, but I also see that the ceiling fan blades are wilted from humidity, and the screen is torn and stretched out in places. Someone must have decided that the traffic-stopping maple was indeed too much trouble; all that remains of it is a ground-level stump.

I know that Heaven is not a place with disdain or annoyance, so I can’t imagine Mrs. Buchanan as I’d like to: an angel glaring over the top of her reading glasses at these ingrates who have run her haven into the unkempt ground. Instead, maybe she looks down with love on those that are leisurely enjoying the simple pleasure of sitting on that shaded, screened porch without the hours and backbreaking toil of the upkeep. Maybe.

I don’t like change. I never have and, unless something changes, I never will. But, change we must, and if Mrs. Buchanan can accept change, then I guess so can I.

 

Much Ado About May

“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.” Fennel Hudson, author, naturalist, and countryman

“May is trying to kill us.”—Parents everywhere

A slightly bedraggled, yet smartly dressed couple, somewhere in their late-30’s to mid-40’s stand together in the well-appointed foyer of a large, bright home, filled to the brim with guests. Their heads close enough to touch, they speak in hushed tones, while looking over each other’s shoulders, seemingly in an attempt to not be seen.

 “I mean, aren’t you ready to go?” the man asks imploringly.

“Of course I’m ready to go, Derek. I was ready to go when we got here! I just feel bad. I mean, there are still so many people here, and no one else is leaving. And, besides, I can’t find my purse in this mess. I swear I put it right…here. Somewhere. Do you see it?” They both dig through a mountain of purses and light jackets scattered over a pair of matching swanky chairs. Chairs that have probably never served their purpose of supporting a single derriere.

“Susan, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t know what your purse looks like, or why you even brought it. You don’t need anything in it! I’ve got your phone and lipstick in my pocket, for Pete’s sake. And, I promise you, everyone here wants to leave. It’s just that no one wants to be the first one to go! Come on. Let’s do it. No one will even notice. Seriously. Come on. We can go to Waffle House on the way home.” Derek wiggles his eyebrows at this prospect and reaches for Susan’s waist. “The babysitter’s not expecting us for at least—“

“Oh my goodness! Are we bringing the party out into the foy-AY? Tell me you are not leaving?! Not this early!”

The gathering’s hostess, Lillian (spelled “Lillian, but pronounced “Lilly Ann,” a nuance that everyone knows, is rarely questioned and, if it is, only once, and never again), has appeared from thin air, riding on a gust of strong floral perfume and wearing a brightly geometric printed, floor-length caftan that she purchased on her last exotic vacation. Derek and Susan look at her with wide eyes and simultaneously burst into nervous laughter.

“Oh no, I just…I just came out here to help Susan look for her purse…” But Derek doesn’t look at the purses, he just looks down at this shoes, positively sheepish.

“Yes, I just could not find it anywhere!” Susan babbles away. “There are just so many of them out here… I mean, all I needed was to grab my phone. You know, check in with the babysitter… Let her know that things were running a little late… Just having so much fun (more nervous laughter)…” She tries to change the subject. “Goodness, Lillian, these chairs are just gorgeous! Where in the world did you find them?”

Lillian ignores Susan, but playfully slaps Derek on his behind. He is momentarily shocked, then manages more nervous laughter. “Looking for your phone, darlin’?” she simpers. “Well, I think I found it! Right here along with this scrumptious little peach!” Another pat (and maybe, no definitely, a squeeze, a firm one, in fact) on Derek’s rump, and raucous laughter from all three of them rings out in the foy-ay, while Derek mockingly slaps himself on the forehead as if to say, “Oh, silly me.”

“Yes, darlin’, you just go ahead and text that babysitter that you are gonna be LATE TO-NIGHT! Sweetheart, they are just now linin’ up for the three-legged race, so y’all just get right on in there! And after that, we’ll do the potato sack race. Were you in charge of bringin’ potato sacks? I can’t remember who signed up for that… Anyway, after all the games, there are AWAAAAARDS! You can’t miss the AWAAAAARDS!!!! Have y’all had a cupcake yet? Margie made them from SCRATCH, and they are simply amazing. I promise you, you will not even MISS the gluten a single bit. Y’all just come on back in, now, I will not hear another peep about you leavin’ and missin’ a single thing!”

Lillian throws one arm over Susan’s shoulder and loops her other arm around Derek’s elbow as she steers them away from the foy-ay and towards the backyard, where a multitude of weary adults shoot serious side-eye at them for their attempted escape. Lillian whispers in Susan’s ear, “Oh, and the chairs? They’re from Paris. I saw them and just could not bear to leave them there. Cost more than the whole darn trip to bring them back here! Bwahahahahhahaha!” Susan offers a half-smile and cranes her neck to see how the wine levels are holding up at the bar. The wine. It just seems so far away…

“Dude, why didn’t you tell me? I would have gone with you,” a man whispers to Derek, as he walks by. He’s in the process of tying his right leg to his wife’s left leg.

“Man, I couldn’t. It was a split-second decision. We thought we saw a way out, but…” Derek’s words trail off as he looks wistfully at the doorway leading back into the house, now filled with Lillian’s caftan-clad figure.

Through gritted teeth, the woman who is now firmly attached to her husband’s leg hisses, “We. Are. All. In this. Together,” As if to further drive this point home, she tosses Susan a large burlap sack. “Here. Get in.”

three-legged-racei

This? Yes, this. This “party.” This is what it’s like for parents of school-age children during the month of May. A party that started out reasonably fun, but now? We’re just so over it. We’ve met the people, we’ve made the small talk, we’ve eaten the canapes and sampled the dessert. It is time to G-O go. Vaya con Dios, suckers. We out. At this point, all we want to do is go home, take off these stupid pants and lie down for, like, 10 minutes. But the hostess of the gathering is a snapping turtle that just will not let go.

Well, legend has it that a snapping turtle won’t let go until it thunders. So I say, MAKE IT RAIN. The thought of another awards ceremony, recital, performance, recognition event, or season-ending wrap party makes me want to just lock myself in the pantry with all the snacks I signed up to bring and tell everyone to come back for me in June. It feels like everything is ending, and yet, it’s all still going on, requiring more involvement than ever! How is this happening? And some of these people want us to go ahead and sign up for next year. Next year? You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t think about next year! Honestly, I checked out of this year right after Spring Break.

I would rather bite the inside of my cheek in the same place seven times than call out spelling words ONE. MORE. TIME. Hello? We’ve been going at this for, what? 8 months? Clearly, some of us in this house know how to spell, and some of us do not. No one has crossed over into a level of spelling proficiency any different from the one in which they started. We have auto-correct now. Can’t we move on?

If given the choice, I would choose to put my big toe in a mouse trap over trying to calmly figure out how to divide fractions. I mean, why is this still happening? One-quarter of one-eighth of a… Don’t know, don’t care, don’t wanna do it. Google it. Mama’s going out on the patio with this WHOLE glass of pinot grigio.

This week we’ve gotten multiple messages from our school as to how to best prepare our children for standardized testing. TESTING? Lord above, we are being tested every morning that we have to drag our ragged selves out of bed. Here’s a test. Can we get to school, on time, with shoes that fully enclose our feet, and shorts that go past our fingertips and last night’s homework completed, and a check for lunch money? No. No, we cannot. We do not meet standards.

Lunch money. Did someone say “lunch money?” Oh, my lands, I need to send in lunch money. Like three days ago. Please feed my children, kind lunch ladies, who are surely just as over all this nonsense as I am. I commend you all for not just tossing pizza slices to children at random. I know that’s what I’m doing for dinner tonight.

Once upon a time, May meant day-drinking and getting dressed up for parties that came with pretty invitations, not links to a Sign-Up Genius. May is supposed to represent a new beginning: the bright foy-ay leading into summer; the award we get for making it through the long, dreary winter.

Wait. Did somebody say “award?” Don’t you even start with me, May. I might be off my game, but I’m on to yours.

MAY

 

Moms on Trial

“The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.”
–Michael J. Fox

Do you delight in having your every move scrutinized by strangers in public places? Strangers who seem to know how to handle your life better than you do?

Do you find joy in receiving unsolicited advice from distant relatives or pearls of wisdom from random women on the Chick-fil-a playground?

Do you bask in the glow of hard stares from your fellow shoppers or diners when you raise your voice to the tiny human(s) accompanying you?

If so, I have good news! PARENTING IS JUST THE THING FOR YOU!!

Just between us, I don’t like any of these things. But like a bunch of other stuff that comes with parenting (sleep training, potty training, training wheels, all the TRAININGS), no one told me that being tried in Mom Court on a regular basis was part of the parenting package.

I made it through my pregnancies with a few misdemeanors, mostly related to food: sushi, cold lunch meat, and the occasional diet Coke resulted in a sentence of serious side-eye from the Mommy Militia. My baby registry choices faced the firing squad (“You don’t really want that stroller, do you?”). My birthing plan, or lack thereof, received several citations (“You do not want to deliver at that hospital.” “You can’t do that birthing class; you need to have this lady come to your house.”)

My grand jury trial as a mother took place when my baby arrived and we began the arduous task of breastfeeding. This was an aspect of mothering that I had been warned about, and I thought I was going into it with my eyes wide open. I was fully prepared for the experience to be hard, but rewarding. I was banking on being motivated to stay the course by the vast amount of data that undeniably proved what a superior choice breastfeeding was for both me and my baby.

As it turns out, there is no amount of preparation, motivation, or hard data that can ready you for the real-life experience of being solely responsible for sustaining another life. Breastfeeding was not a magical experience for me and my baby. It was kind of awful, actually, for everyone involved. The baby was frustrated and hungry. My husband felt helpless and excluded. And I felt…all the feelings. Exhausted, hopeless and unsure of everything except that I was a complete failure as a mother, unable to fulfill the most basic of mothering functions. It was literally what my body was constructed to do, and yet it couldn’t. How would I be able to give this baby the best life possible if I couldn’t even feed her? Each time someone suggested how to increase my milk supply, it felt like a veiled way of saying, “The real problem is you’re just not trying hard enough.”  My confidence level was in the tank, and each judging comment sent it sinking lower and lower. I remember being so ashamed when I would feed the baby a bottle in public. It felt like everyone was staring at me and whispering about the poison I was feeding my baby.

You know, there are classes you can take that will certify you to be an official lactation consultant. OR, you can be like some people who think classes are for dummies, and just up and decide one day that you are an expert on all things related to breasts and milk and feeding babies. You can also roughly push all your thoughts and opinions on to sleep-deprived, confused, and emotional new mothers who can barely process the plotline of a 3 a.m. episode of The Golden Girls. You can tell these women how they should feel about this unfamiliar body that they are inhabiting. A body that is no longer their own, and yet it must be their own, because every inch of it hurts in some new way, and they feel every ache, pain, and tear. Something else you can do is deliver all that very useful, personal information in a way that makes it seem like your way is the only way to do things so that this baby will thrive, that anything less will result in a child with the IQ of a tree stump, and it will be 110% the fault of the hopeless mother who selfishly refused to perfect the football hold. You need a license to be an official lactation consultant. But all you need is a mouth to be an UNofficial lactation consultant.

It seems that when it comes to parenting, all you need is a mouth to be ANY sort of consultant. Who knew? Parenting experts are everywhere! And they are more than ready to tell us exactly what they think. About what we’re doing, about what we’re not doing, about what we should be doing, about what they’re doing, on and on and on.

“When have you been judged as a parent?” This short question posed on my Facebook page garnered some lengthy responses. The stories were as varied as the ways you can feed a baby (yes, there is more than one way). Working mothers felt judged when someone thought they spent too much time away from their children. Stay-at-home mothers felt judged because they felt society viewed them as lazy, pampered, and insufficiently contributing to their household. Mothers with small families felt judged as selfish because they didn’t have more children (as if that decision were completely under their control). Mothers with large families felt judged by others who thought maybe they had taken on more than they could handle. Mothers of children with special needs felt judged by people who didn’t understand their child’s differences, or worse, thought that they should keep that sort of thing at home, away from view.

The individual stories were each different, but they all followed a similar sequence.

1. Mother finds herself vulnerable in a situation of uncertainty.
2. A disconnected person intervenes with unsolicited opinions and/or advice, usually under the guise of trying to be helpful.
3. Mother experiences a range of emotions, including shame, rage, defeat, frustration, and more uncertainty.
4. MOTHER NEVER FORGETS.

“I don’t know why you even had these children if all you’re going to do is work all the time. They never see you!”

“Oh, so you don’t work? What in the world do you do all day? Must be nice…”

“Just one? Well, you better get on it. Can’t wait too long, you know.”

“My, you have your hands full. I don’t know how you keep them all straight! How will you ever be able to send them all to college?”

“I don’t know why she brings that child out to things like this. Isn’t there someone who can stay at home with him? It’s just so uncomfortable.”

Mothers everywhere are feeling judged. The traveling courtroom can pop up anywhere: your local Target, a PTA meeting, even in your own living room. The presiding judges are constantly rotating. Sometimes it’s a well-meaning, but know-it-all friend sitting on the bench. Often the robe is donned by a complete stranger. The holder of the gavel could be a mother-in-law, a sister, a teacher, or a Sunday School matron.

Or it could be me. Wait, what? That’s right. Guilty as charged. If I’m under oath, I have to admit to passing judgment on my fellow mothers. Even though I’ve been judged and know the pain, even though I know I’m not the perfect mother, even though I know it’s counter to everything I want to teach my children…I’ve done it.

 

sheep as judge
Judge ChicWhiteSheep, presiding.

“Can you believe she has that child out at a restaurant this late? That baby should be in the bed!”
(One of the parents does shift work, and a 9 PM dinner is the only time of day they can be together.)

“I mean, he still has a pacifier! He must be 5 years old. That mother needs to put her foot down.”
(I literally have no idea how hard it is to wean a true paci-addict. Don’t hate me, but my babies gave them up almost voluntarily. Also, just because he looks 5 doesn’t mean he’s not just a really big 3-year-old.)

“She doesn’t work, but I can’t get her to sign up for a single volunteer position in the classroom! She needs to step up.”
(But she can’t step up because she has a controlling husband and crippling anxiety. She’s barely holding it together.)

“Kids, do you see that child acting out? This is why I tell you girls to behave in public. Don’t be that kid.”
(There are children with all sorts of special needs that I have no way of understanding. I have no idea what their mothers struggle with every day. But those mothers need groceries just like everybody else does. There’s no telling what sort of pep talk she had to give herself to walk into that store, knowing her child would probably act out in a big way.)

Let’s flip the script one more time. If the judge is not always some terrible, horrible insensitive monster, but rather a harmless busybody, or a normally kind person such as myself who sometimes indulges in a bout of self-righteousness, could our feelings of being judged actually be somewhat self-imposed?* Stick with me here. I’m not saying we’re asking for it, but could it be possible that while we’re swimming in this sea of self-doubt and vulnerability that we call motherhood we’re constantly judging ourselves, and thereby jumping to the conclusion that everyone else is judging us, too?

Hold on a minute. My head just exploded a little.

OK, I’m back.

(*FYI, I’ve already contemplated this whole idea about how we judge ourselves unfairly. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.)

Let’s go back to when I said I was embarrassed to feed my babies bottles when we were in public. Remember that? I felt like people were shooting daggers at me with their eyes as I poisoned my child with powdered infant formula. But what if they were looking at me just because I was holding a beautiful little baby? An angel with bright eyes trained on my face, and chubby kicking legs, so excited to have that delicious bottle to drink, and a warm, squishy body to melt into. What if those people I perceived as judges were actually admirers, or at least appreciators? Maybe my “judge” was actually a fellow mother who remembered what a hard season of life this was, but knew that if I heard “Enjoy every minute,” one more time I was liable to go into full-on rage mode. How I wish I could go back to that unsure version of myself and tell her to stop worrying about what everyone was thinking and just return the gaze of that sweet baby, and know that she’s happy. She’s fed. She’s loved. And, in this moment, it’s all good. You’re good.

I have so much to learn about parenting. For each perceived “mommy win” I secure, there are countless failures propping it up. But if there is one thing I know, it’s that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING. It’s all a giant game of trial and error! The very best parents are simply doing the best that they can.

Mom Judging is real, and it needs to stop, no question. We need a village to raise these children and not one that wants to prosecute each other on the Town Square! (I mean, who will microwave the chicken nuggets if all the mothers are stuck in Mom Court?) The best place to start is with ourselves. We are our own worst critics. We have to start giving ourselves a break when it comes to parenting. When we are gentle with ourselves, it gets us in the habit of being gentle with, or at least tolerant of, others.

But let’s also be realistic here: haters are gonna hate, and judges are gonna judge. A bunch of self-care mumbo jumbo isn’t going to eradicate the scourge of Mom Judging. So, the next time you feel that you’ve been put on trial, take a beat. Your judge likely doesn’t know your heart or see your full situation. Your judge is imperfect. Your judge is misguided; possibly acting out of feelings of their own insecurity. Most importantly, your judge wasn’t picked to be the parent to your child: YOU WERE. Momma knows best.

To Mommas everywhere, doing your very best and giving it your all, just let those judgments roll off your shoulders. Remember that your judge is self-appointed. The conviction they hand down is unenforceable. You can skip bail. None of this is going on your permanent record. I found a quote that summed up the situation nicely: “Behind every person is a story, behind every story is a person. So think before you judge, because judging someone doesn’t label who they are, it labels who you are.”

Court is adjourned.

olderfemalejudgewithgavel

Hello, Lovers

“Romance is thinking about your significant other when you are supposed to be thinking about something else.”—Nicholas Sparks

 Love is in the air. I see it on my husband’s face as he tries to decipher if I really mean it when I say, “You don’t have to get me anything.” Love lurks in the stores I frequent, where candies and chocolates taunt me at every turn. Love lies in stacks and heaps on my kitchen table, in the form of cards and treat bags to be handed out at classroom Valentine parties. Love is all we need. That and some calorie-heavy chocolates, dinner reservations, and some refrigerated red roses. OK, so maybe Valentine’s Day is not my thing. Even though I am comfortably rooted in a romantic relationship, and I have plenty of friends and family to love on, the holiday feels contrived and overwrought with expectations. I make a point to tell my dear ones that they are loved throughout the year, so setting aside this one day for something we should always be doing feels terribly insincere, both for the lover and the lovee. (Man, I hate the word “lover.”)

 

IMG_4620
“Is this a test? Because it feels like a test.”

Anyway, all that said, I do plan to participate in the holiday, because I’m not completely heartless. Also, I love all things chocolate, red and pink are great colors for me, and I am a hapless victim of pretty much all marketing schemes. My nearest and dearest, which include my husband, children, family members (the ones that I actually love and not just have to say that I do), and my closest friends, will be showered appropriately with love-themed candy and cards. They should understand that they will have to share any candy they receive. In the case of my kids, I’ll give them a lot of useless junk that I will have to pick up over the next few weeks before finally throwing it away, and some candy that I will secretly eat in the pantry after they go to bed. Because I love them, and it’s not healthy to eat that much candy.

But what about my other loved ones? Some of my nearest and dearest literally don’t know I exist. Still others know that I’m here and may suspect that I love them, but a Valentine’s gesture might be a little weird. So, I’m taking this opportunity to get in the spirit of the holiday and say something from the heart for these beloved ones that might otherwise go unrecognized this Valentine’s Day. This is for you, Lovers. (Ew.)

  1. Target

My dearest Target, you smell so nice.
And everything here is just the right price.
My love for you shall never die,
As long as my RedCard you do not deny.

target-marketing-to-women

  1. NetFlix

Oh Netflix, sweet Netflix, it is so true
I want to spend the whole night with you!
Let’s skip the intro and get this thing started.
If the queue is full, how can I be broken hearted?

netflix bffs

  1. Tamiflu

Kids are so great, but they can carry the flu.
When the test comes back positive, You’re My Boo!
You keep us all well, which makes my heart flip,
Maybe my stomach, too, but we’ll overlook that bit.

kid taking medicine

  1. My Girlfriends

All day long, we’re on the group chat.
Cursing and moaning about this and that.
I just don’t know how I’d make it through
Without a hundred stupid GIFs shared with you.

mom jeans

  1. Seat Warmers

On these cold and dreary winter days,
When the winds like a knife can cut,
I shiver as I climb into this freezing car,
And, in no time, you warm my butt.

seat warmer meme

  1. Justin Timberlake

The way you move, it’s just too much!
My kids are at school, wanna meet for lunch?
You’re clever, you can sing, and we all know you’re cute.
Just give me a chance, and give Jessica the boot.

 

Justin Timberlake
Took this video when I went to lunch with JT.  We’re bringing pie back.

 

  1. Snapchat Filters

You make me a better woman, (or a cat, dog, or bunny.)
You smooth away my wrinkles and make my voice sound funny.
You keep my kids entertained and cause all my friends to snicker.
This mom over 40 won’t take a selfie without her Snapchat filter.

snapchat meme

  1. My Dry Cleaner

Dry Cleaner Man, I have to say, you’re really not that sweet.
But when I pull up in your drive-through, you never miss a beat.
I also want you to know, your plight I understand.
I’m giving you all these shirts, because I can’t do ‘em, man.

seinfeld dry cleaner

  1. Tacos

You’ve been with me through thick and thin.
Mostly thick, because I want you again and again!
Made of crispy corn, or the softest flour,
If it were up to me, I’d have you every hour.

 Notebook Taco

  1. Wine

You can be red, or you can be white.
It doesn’t matter which, as long as you’re here tonight.
And when I feel that I must partake during the day,
It’s perfectly acceptable to lunch with Rosé.

wine poem

 XOXO, all you Funny Valentines. Show extra love to your people today, and don’t forget them the rest of the year. And if you’re feeling a little lonely on this made-up holiday, just remember, there might be someone loving you from afar, or someone who might be pleased as punch to get a quirky poem from you.

i-like-you-funny-valentines-day-card-sexy-valentines-day-card-funny

An Open Letter to January

 

“And I’m like… ‘I just… I mean this is exhausting, you know, like,
We are never getting back together. Like, ever.’”—T. Swift

 Oh, January. Do we have to do this again? Really? Must we trudge down the same slush-covered, black-ice paths that we’ve trod so many times before? Is it really necessary to huddle by that proverbial campfire to hash out our feelings, just so we can walk away with hot faces, cold backsides, and smoky-smelling hair? Okay, fine, let’s do it. Let’s go there. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

First of all, you absolutely exhaust me. I don’t know how you’re doing it, but I’ve spent our entire time together in a bleary haze. Much like Dorothy running through the field of poppies on the way to Oz, most of my days are spent barely putting one foot in front of the other. Must. Lie. Down. What in the world? I’ve taken more naps in January than I did all of last year. I’ve lost all will to be productive. January, are you drugging me? If so, NOT COOL. Stop it.

giphy
“Poppies…”

Speaking of cool, you’ve got a cold, cold heart, January, and frankly, I’m tired of it. (See? Tired again! What’s in this drink?) Seriously, you’re freezing me out, and I can’t take it anymore. I’m a Southern lady, and my blood just isn’t thick enough to withstand all this Arctic blast nonsense. My core body temperature has dropped and I’ve taken to wearing blankets as clothing. In public! I simply don’t care; I am THAT cold. What’s that? You say you tried to make it up to me by tossing a few spring-like days into the mix? We both know that’s a bunch of malarkey. You were just being moody and manipulative, toying with my emotions and giving me a glimpse at a Spring that is still far, far away. I’ll tell you how you can make it up to me. How about you show up with some Benjamins once this gas bill lands in my mailbox? Yeah, just what I thought. You’ll be long gone by then, I’m sure of it. Deadbeat.

cold lady
I only walk as far as the cord on this space heater.

You know something else, January? You’re making us all sick. Literally. Flu here. Strep there. Stomach bug hovering all around us. I feel like I need a mask and latex gloves every time I go outside of the house! Once I put all that on along with my blanket, I’m pretty sure I’ll get picked up and put on the first train to Crazy Town. So, I’ll just stay home, where all the real germs can be found, because I’m too stinking tired and cold to clean anything up around here.

sick-person-costume

January, we’re just not good for each other, and I think we both know it. We were doomed from the start. The first day you were here I had a roaring headache, a slovenly house, and an appetite for all things fried and gooey. I know, I know, you tried to make me feel better by telling me all the things I could accomplish in the New Year, but where are we now? My jeans still won’t button, and I just tripped over a pile of laundry while looking for the remote under an empty bag of chips. Those aren’t kale chips, January, that laundry isn’t clean, and I’m not looking for the remote so I can watch a thought-provoking documentary. Oh, and those Snow Days you threw in? Way to turn our attempts at a Dry January into a wet, sopping mess. Good one. Nice touch. Honestly, you bring out the worse in me.

drunk woman

You’re right. It wasn’t always this way. I wasn’t always this bitter. There was a time when you could whisper words that would inspire joy and excitement. Words like “inclement weather,” “wintry mix,” and “school closures.” But things have changed. That was a different time. A time when those words meant that I had no responsibilities and could live recklessly. A time when someone else picked up all my things and washed them for me. A time when hot chocolate and marshmallows and warm cookies had no calories. I’ve grown up, January, and you and I have grown apart.

unhappy-couple

That, and, also, you’re a jerk. We’ve been through this enough times for me to say with confidence, it’s not me, it’s ALL YOU.

Buh-bye, January. Don’t hurry back.

bye felicia

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑