Search

chicwhitesheep

SPEAKER OF THE FLOCK

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

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Featured post

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

Featured post

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

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

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

Happy Awkward-Days

“Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”—Clark Griswold expertly navigating an awkward situation in ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’

A How-To Guide for Handling Festivity Fretfulness

It’s been said that Christmas isn’t a season; it’s a feeling. Unfortunately, sometimes that feeling is nagging uneasiness. This is hardly surprising, given the fact that most of our holiday get-togethers involve the people we’ve been avoiding all year: distant relatives, casual acquaintances, quirky co-workers, and that one neighbor with the yappy dog that wakes us up at 2 a.m. This mixing of unlike, yet related people for an annual gathering outside the confines of their natural habitats can be, well…awkward. Whether you’re headed to a 3:30 “dinner” at MeMaw’s house, your office Holiday Happy Hour, or your neighbor’s Progressive Dinner / Ugly Sweater / White Elephant Gift Exchange, consider this a primer for identifying where the most common pitfalls lie and how to avoid dipping your sleeve into the awkward sauce.

Respondez, s’il vous plait.

grinch at mailbox
That’s the long version of RSVP, the oft-ignored plea from hosts that you let them know if you’ll be attending their soiree. It sounds more formal than it has to be. Call your mom and tell her to let MeMaw know that you’ll be at Christmas dinner, or lunch, or lupper, or whatever you like to call it, and that you’ll be bringing a friend. Better yet, call MeMaw yourself. She’ll be thrilled to hear from you (if she still hears well), and it will give her a chance to get some of her more probing questions out of the way. For your office party, shoot an email to the organizer letting them know you’re looking forward to the get-together, even if you would actually rather take a razor scooter to the shin than make small talk in the break room with Bob from Accounting. If your neighbor is hosting a gathering, roll down your window next time you see him at the mailbox to say you’ll be glad to pop by for just a little while, but not too late, because you have to go to work early and it sure would be great to get a good night’s sleep without waking up to that darn dog EVERY NIGHT, HOW DO YOU NOT HEAR THAT?? On second thought, leave that last part out, because we’re going to focus on being joyful and avoiding police presence. The point here is, there are people who have extended an invitation to you. They plan to provide you with something they believe to be edible and company they believe to be enjoyable and the least you can do is to let them know if you’re going to show up. A bonus of the RSVP is that it also gives you a chance to get some advance directive on the details of the gathering. Maybe you can even find out what exactly “Festive Casual” attire means. If you do, please share with the rest of us, because I have to admit, I’m feeling less than confident about these bedazzled sweatpants.

Gifting.

gremlin gift
Be careful what you wish for…

They say it’s better to give than to receive, but no one ever said what to give. Gifting scenarios are tricky and rate high on the Awkwardness Potential Scale. Tread lightly here. Show up empty-handed and you risk being typecast as stingy and thoughtless. Overdo it and your gift recipient may feel inferior. This is where your RSVP skills will come in handy because you’ll have already taken the temperature of your host. For MeMaw’s house, first ask if you can bring anything. If she insists that no, she has it all under control and all she wants for Christmas is to see your smiling face, then give her what she asks for…and add a small, useful gift that she’d never buy for herself, like a pretty tea towel. MeMaws just love pretty tea towels. And don’t make a big production of giving it to her, because your sister-in-law will just think you’re sucking up and that you’ve always been the favorite. (WHATEVER, MADGE, just go sit at the kids’ table and quit trying to cause drama.)

The office party will probably have some lame Secret Santa type thing. Unless you know all of your co-workers really well, avoid the gag gift route because you never know who might get offended and plot a New Year’s lawsuit, putting everyone out of a job. (“Why would you give me a Chia pet? Don’t you know my ancestors rubbed dirt on their heads as an ancient fertility ritual?? You mock my traditions and this is a hostile work environment. I am outraged!”) Avoid finding yourself in this awkward spot by bringing a small, useful gift that one would never buy for themselves, perhaps a pleasantly neutral tea towel.

The neighborhood party may include a gift exchange of some sort. Gift exchanges are hard, because your gift is on display, and let’s face it, ultimately judged. This can lead to stress shopping, putting you at risk for picking something awful, which will be super awkward. Keep your wits about you and think of a small, useful gift that one would never buy for themselves, like, I don’t know, maybe a humorous tea towel??

Keep this same level of focus when considering a hostess gift. Don’t be the guest that stumbles into the party with a showstopping but unwieldy bouquet of fresh flowers that requires your hostess to drop what she’s doing to put into a vase, or your delicious but insanely messy Mississippi Mud Cake that she’ll have to cram onto her carefully curated buffet table. No, instead, you should consider bringing a small, useful gift that one would never buy for themselves, such as a festive little tea towel.

The moral of the story is unless given to a small child or a frat boy, the gift of a tea towel is universally well received and rarely awkward. (You’re welcome.)

Eating.

vegan santa

‘Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry, not to eat, drink, and preach to others about your strict dietary regimen. The holidays are about spreading comfort and joy, so if some folks find their comfort in a plate stacked high with homemade fudge and their joy in two cheeks full of sausage balls, they don’t want to hear your views on the addictive properties of sugar or the irresponsible swine production industry. Every party has a quiet corner with some celery, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, and that is where you will find your people. You may even find someone who plans to run a Jingle Bell 5K tomorrow! Of course, the exception to this would be if you have a serious or life-threatening food allergy. That would be pertinent information for your host to have. You could address it in your RSVP and then offer to bring a gift of food that doesn’t have the potential to kill you. Best of all, your host will not have to stop entertaining to comb the house for an epi-pen or have the party flow interrupted by EMS, all things that would be incredibly awkward for everyone involved. And while we’re on the subject of “eat, drink, and be merry…”

Drinking.

drunk uncle

During the holiday season, almost all events become an Occasion with a capital “O.” Everything is a little more sparkly and it feels natural to loosen up a bit with a celebratory cocktail or four. Here are the Cliffs Notes for boozing it up at the holidays: If you’re normally a drinker, then drink as you normally would. If you have a tendency to drink to excess, take it down a notch. If you rarely drink, now is not the time to start. To expand a smidge on the subject, the irony of alcohol is that it starts out as a means to cringe less and laugh more, but it often causes us to take a hairpin turn straight towards a steep ravine of awkwardness. The holidays are filled to the brim with stress and sentiment. We spend large chunks of time in confined spaces with people we love, people we hate, people we used to love, and people we just plain don’t understand. Pouring alcohol into this mix creates an environment that can turn a cozy hearth into an all-out dumpster fire. This is not meant to be an intervention (we’ll save that for the dessert course at MeMaw’s house); rather, a reminder to recognize and abide by your limits when the drinks start flowing. Don’t seek solace in the bottom of a bottle once Uncle Bud starts spewing his political views. The last thing you want to do is toss your cookies on MeMaw’s antique Persian rug, even if you do plan to inherit it one day. (You think I don’t see you eyeing that rug, Madge. Back off.) How awkward will it be when MeMaw has to clean up your mess with her new pretty tea towel? Although it would certainly make a memorable story. Which brings us to our next topic…

Small talking.

small-talk
Our society seems to be in a perpetual state of taking offense, so the act of making small talk is kin to walking through a minefield. We all know to avoid the big three: sex, politics, and religion, but now even our safeguards can be misinterpreted. Don’t talk about the weather, because it will spawn a discussion about global warming, which points a finger at our elected officials, and the next thing you know, the environmentalists won’t leave the living room because there are real estate developers over by the food table. Take caution when complimenting another guest’s appearance, as they may prefer that you see their inner beauty instead of their snappy take on “Festive Casual.” A decent opener is, “How do you know <host name?>” However, this won’t work at MeMaw’s house, or at the office party. You’re kind of supposed to know the answer to that already. Another icebreaker is, “So what are your plans for the holidays?” This question puts legs on your conversation and leads to helping you find out what holiday they celebrate, what sort of family connections they have, their vocational commitments, or in the case of unbearable silence, if you need to find another person to entertain with your sparkling conversation skills. At a family gathering, they’ll want to know about your work. At a work gathering, they’ll want to know about your family. Speak respectfully about both those subjects, as it’s called “small talk” for a reason. Save the “big talk” for your therapist. Think of your small talk as little hors-d’oeuvres that are meant to be consumed in bite-size pieces, giving the other person a chance to easily move on to speak to other partygoers if they feel the need. For example, tell a quick story about your entertaining Uber ride to the party instead of the endless wonders of your two-week Alaskan cruise.

Wrapping it up.

byefelicia-sq2

All good (and painfully awkward) things must come to an end, so keep your eye on the prize and don’t let your departure leave you or your host cringing. You may be tempted to pull an Irish Exit, which is the act of “ghosting” from a party without telling anyone you’re leaving. This is only acceptable when the party has clearly gone on too long and most of the guests have ignored the booze guidelines. It would be simply unforgivable to ghost on MeMaw, and in the best interest of your livelihood, you need to make a special point to thank your boss for that ah-mazing gift of membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. The best practice here is to thank your host personally for their hospitality, wish them a happy holiday season, and make repeated empty promises to get together again sometime soon.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through your holiday gathering. Now it’s time to treat yourself. Go out tomorrow and get something nice, something you’d never buy for yourself. Might I suggest a lovely tea towel?

treat-yo-self.jpg

 

Find Your Merry

“May the day be the bowl of cherriest; And to all, the Merriest!” –June Christy, singing “The Merriest”

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Is it? That’s the message that gets shoved in our faces at every turn before we can even put away our Halloween candy. But by the time December arrives, things are feeling a little less than “wonderful.”

What is “wonderful” about madly dashing from one get-together to another? Arriving in a full-on sweat, watching the clock to make sure we make it on time to the next party, or to relieve the babysitter, or just figuring up how many hours of sleep we can get if we leave right now? I suppose there’s quite a bit of “wonder”-ing involved in the process of figuring out what to wear to an event described as “Christmas Casual,” or “Festive Attire.” And while all the heavy foods, drinks, and tempting sweets are incredibly “wonderful” the moment they hit our lips, the headaches and extra pounds they leave behind are certainly less than desirable. And what about the gifting? I would estimate about half of my gift list is enjoyable, but the other half is admittedly out of duty or given to people for whom I have absolutely no idea what they may want or need. Another holiday activity I’m 50/50 on? Christmas cards. I love having a great picture of my kids to share, but the arduous process of locking down the perfect photo can be downright painful. I have so much fun combing the web for all the different design options for the card, but panic sets in when I have to commit to the one that will be ours. I get so excited when I go to the mailbox and find holiday greetings from our family and friends, but I feel a distinctly Grinchy sense of dread when I look at the box holding my own unaddressed cards, waiting for my late night undivided attention.

Some holiday activities start out as “wonderful,” then take a hairpin turn into woeful. Take, for example, holiday decorating. For me, decorating anything is a painful process. Bookshelves, bulletin boards, cookies, console tables, even trying to pick out a necklace to go with an outfit is a journey of intense indecision for me. I can look at the placement of objects for hours, wondering if it’s just right or blatantly wrong. So, the task of adorning my home to make it festive for approximately just a month and a half is, well, maybe not the most wonderful time of the year for me.

Each year I start out full of joy and positivity. I don’t do my decorating until after Thanksgiving, so by then I’ve had time to look at scores of catalogs that have landed in my mailbox, making holiday decorating look fun and easy, and most likely completed by Santa’s very own elves. Just a few weeks ago, I captivated an audience of ladies at my daughter’s ballet practice by telling them all about my plans to purchase an all-white Christmas tree and decorate it with shiny ornaments and multi-colored blinking lights. Sure, it might sound tacky, but I saw it in a catalog, and it looked so fun! So easy! So festive! Everyone thought it was a fabulous idea. No one had any advice on where I could find an elf to bring my catalog idea to life. Fast forward a couple more weeks. The Christmas card pictures were snapped, scrutinized, and selected. Thanksgiving was planned, prepared, and consumed. An 8-year-old’s birthday party was hosted and (barely) survived. The Clemson vs. Carolina game was endured. The decorating was next on the list. *sigh*

So, as I’ve done in every year past, I trudged up to the attic and opened the oddly shaped little door that leads to the dungeon where unnecessary things go to finish out their useless lives. There, my gaze settled on scores of boxes and bags of merry and bright STUFF that would all have to be carried downstairs, unpacked, placed, then their boxes returned to the upstairs dungeon. All to be enjoyed for just a few weeks, when the entire process would then have to be reversed. *sigh*

It took almost 2 days and 427 heavy sighs for me to sprinkle holiday cheer around my home. Garlands and wreaths were hung and fluffed (and cursed). Ladders were climbed and dismounted. Three pre-lit trees were assembled and adorned. One had zero working lights. One had a random section of lights that were burned out, which required me to manhandle the entire tree to turn the offending section to the wall. The last tree, the biggest one, didn’t let me down until we added on the last section. I was proud of the way I held my composure up until the moment I had to snake an extension cord from the top of my pricey pre-lit tree down to the floor. The top section needed to be plugged into the timer that I’d carefully set up to provide us with automatic sparkly merriment from the hours of 3:30 to 11:30pm. Like some sort of Christmas Marine, with my belly on the floor and greenery snagging my hair while I dragged myself by the forearms towards the outlet, I searched for the carefully hidden extension cord. I found it and went to connect it to the timer so I could survey my twinkly masterpiece. This was when I discovered that the timer only had one outlet. An outlet that was already occupied by the cord supplying power to the rest of the tree. If I wanted scheduled sparkly merriment, my only choice was to start over with a new timer. *cue cursing and kicking under the tree*

angry elf

And that is the story of how I started drinking wine at 2:00 on a Sunday.

And this is the start of the story of how I turned it all around. The timer dilemma is actually a rather small event in my storehouse of holiday snafus. One year, half the lights went out on the tree after it had been fully decorated. I was planning to just slap a bunch of extra lights on it, but after a closer examination, I noticed that I’d put the sections together in the wrong order. The whole thing had to be disassembled and reassembled AND extra lights strung. Incidentally, that tree ended up at the dump the day after Christmas. One year, the entire tree fell over approximately one hour after the decorating was complete. That tree ended up on the curb, along with dozens of shattered special ornaments. And what about the year that I dragged our little family onto an odyssey to capture the Christmas card photo, only to arrive at the destination and realize that I’d forgotten to pack the camera? That was a long time ago, as in, before the days that phones had cameras. We don’t really talk about that, actually.

So, in the midst of all this drama and these less-than-wonderful duties, where can we find our merriment? For me, it’s not surprising that I find my merry in a song. After I shimmied myself out from under my half-lit tree, located a new timer (and, yes, a glass of wine), and got my corner of the living room sparkling bright, I turned on a little mood music to carry me through the final stages of decorating. I stood back and surveyed roughly 500 pretty little lights and all the boxes of ornaments that were about to escape their exile to get their chance to shine when I heard the first strains of the song that would usher in the official start of the holiday season for me.

“I-I-I don’t want a lot for Christmas…

 “There is just one thing I-I-I need…”

 Y’all, I don’t care what kind of diva-like behavior she displays, Mariah Carey is an angel. She could rob a bank in broad daylight wearing a full-sequined Dynasty-esque dress, carrying a Chihuahua, and when she went on trial, the attorneys would play “All I Want for Christmas” as Exhibit A, and all charges would immediately be dropped.

mariah-carey-macys-1024-2

But maybe that’s just me.

Christmas music, when used in moderation, can cure many holiday ills. I’ve seen it firsthand! In the interest of spreading merriment, and because I can’t buy you all a present individually, I made you a mixtape. Enjoy responsibly.

Jingle All the Way Playlist (get it here on Amazon Music)

“All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey. Because the song is magic.

“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” by Michael Buble. Because it’s a law that every holiday must include some Michael Buble.

“Run Run Rudolph” by Kelly Clarkson. Because she completely rocks this song.

“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. Because he’s the King.

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. Because of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, duh.

“Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong. Because he, and this song, are the epitome of cool.

“Donde Esta Santa Claus” by Augie Rio. Because it’s adorable and catchy and we all need to know more Spanish.

“The Man with the Bag” by Kay Starr. Because if you’re not waiting for the man with the bag, you are the man with the bag.

“Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters. Because we can all empathize with Clark Griswold and his swimming pool dreams.

“Jingle Bell Rock” by Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert. Because your family drama doesn’t seem so bad when you compare it to hearing yourself on the radio singing Christmas carols with your ex. Ummm, awkward.

“Merry Christmas Baby” by Lou Rawls. Because “got me some good music on the radio…”

“Jingle Bells” by James Taylor. Because it’s funny to watch people sing along to a song they think they know, but it’s arranged completely differently.

“My Favorite Things” by Tony Bennett. Because Tony Bennett is a national treasure.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Temptations. Because once you get past the first 15 seconds, your whole family will be singing along.

“Please Come Home for Christmas” by the Eagles. Because sometimes Christmas is sad and it makes us miss our people.

“Sleigh Ride” by Harry Connick, Jr. Because you gotta bring the party back up after those Eagles made you sad.

“Christmas in Hollis” by RUN-DMC. Because the lyrics are actually family friendly and you also want to know who’s really listening to your playlist (hint: they’re looking pensive and saying, “Wait, is that…RUN-DMC??”)

“What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder. Because it’s happy and has the right message.

“Winter Wonderland” by Aretha Franklin. Because, in true Aretha fashion, she hits it hard from the first “Sleigh Bells RING.” Oh, I’m listening, Aretha. Bring it.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ella Fitzgerald. Because that’s what I want for you.

A holiday full of merriment and quality time spent with those precious people that you love and enjoy, free of stress and pressure and unrealistic expectations. It’s a tall order and will take nothing short of a miracle to achieve. But it just so happens that this is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and miracles abound if you just open your eyes.

 

 

Let’s Be Adults About This

Being an adult isn’t a matter of age. It’s a matter of responsibility.” –Jonathan Howard

For millions of Millennials, “adulting” is trending. Or maybe it isn’t anymore. I’ve been an adult for so long now that I’ve missed the novelty in regularly announcing my proficiency in being a capable and marginally responsible citizen. But apparently, Kids These Days (also known as “Millennials”) saw a need for a hip way to complain about the tragically un-hip, mundane tasks of ordinary life like paying bills, working a full-time job, or maintaining a vehicle. Enter #adulting to the rescue.

Example: “Feeling so ick. Probably should go to doc, but my mom says I have to call and make my own appointment. What the what? UGH. I hate #adulting.”

 Or: “So, you guys, that Check Engine light thing is totes for realsies. #needaride #adultingistheworst”

 Or this one: “It’s Saturday and I’m gettin’ my grocery on! Feeling so accomplished! #adultingonthedaily”

 As a long-time, card-carrying adult, I get a little annoyed by all the fuss made over people just doing what they’re supposed to do. What’s next? Participation trophies for taking out the trash? If so, I’d better clear some space for the motherlode of awards headed my way, because I am the adultiest of adults. I pay the bills on time. I clean out the refrigerator regularly. I make all my people go to the bathroom before leaving the house. I carry a light sweater in case it’s chilly. I use the word “chilly.” I have ibuprofen and lip balm at the ready at all times. For heaven’s sake, I own a garlic press. AND I USE IT. Basically, I could give a TED Talk about adulting. But I won’t because I am too busy, you know, adulting.

The irony of the term “adulting” is that the person using it is likely only scratching the surface of what adulthood really means. Which got me thinking, how does one legitimately earn adult status? Is it turning 18? 21? I don’t think so. I know plenty of 40-year-olds who have miles to go before reaching adulthood. Maybe it’s when you get the boot from your parent’s insurance plan. When you leave college, do you just automatically enter adulthood? Or does your adult card get punched when you send in that first income tax return?

After careful thought and reflection while organizing my garage this weekend (a super-adult-y activity), I’ve come to the conclusion that adulthood is a milestone reached by repeated successful completion of grudging tasks that are necessary for living a productive and hygienic life, and that generally receive no recognition whatsoever. If that last sentence was confusing to you, all it means is that being an adult is complicated, and just spending one Saturday afternoon paying bills doesn’t make you one.

One thing for sure is that once you’ve crossed over into adulthood, it’s nearly impossible to come back. You’re just in too deep. There are many experiences, large and small, memorable and forgettable that eventually earn you the rights and burdens of adulthood. For some people, adulthood is achieved on the 455th morning that they sit in the parking lot of their job, looking at the door, taking a deep breath and saying, “You have to do this. You have to go in there. Again.” For others, they know they’re an adult when they’d rather turn in early on Saturday night because they don’t want Sunday to be a total wash. It’s different for all of us.

As for me, I owe my adulthood status to a rat. I don’t like giving that much credit to a lowly rat, but I’m an adult, and I give credit where credit is due, so there you go. That fact of the matter is, only a real adult can handle a rat and live to tell that tale, without shame. Fellow adults can empathize with me here without judgment.

Do you have a dwelling for which you are solely responsible? Congratulations. You now have problems for the rest of your life. A rat will be one of many excruciating headaches you will encounter. Rats and headaches and dwellings are all very adult-y. You’re well on the way to earning your first adulting trophy.

Dealing with a rat can also earn you a badge in adult problem-solving. Your problem starts innocently enough. You might notice a jagged hole torn into your bag of $12.99/lb organic almonds. Maybe you yell at your husband that he shouldn’t tear into the snacks like some sort of rabid animal. Perhaps he snips back that he didn’t do it because what sort of wacko wants to eat raw, unsalted almonds anyway, and how much did you say those cost?? There’s a chance that when you hold up the vandalized package as evidence you notice an unusual amount of small, dark…crumbs? Those are crumbs, right? Right?

Ummm, no. Those are not crumbs. And those almonds need to go in the trash because, friend, you’ve got yourself a RAT. Not a mouse. A RAT. You see, a mouse runs through mazes while smart people in white coats write things down. A mouse sings and dances and cons you into handing over a month of your salary in exchange for 5 sleepless days in Florida. A RAT exists only to eat your food, leave droppings, and possibly kill you with the plague.

The good news is, you’ve identified the problem. Level complete! Now you need to articulate the problem and accept it. At my house, this usually involves profanity and rage cleaning. Cursing while cleaning is a very adult thing to do. Gold star.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that you’ve been unknowingly sharing your living quarters with plague-carrying vermin, it’s time to solve your problem and serve some eviction notices. An adult steadfastly defends her castle (and the almonds contained within it).

I still remember the first rat I battled. I called my mom to see what I should do. I was not an adult yet. I thought I was, but I obviously still had things to learn because I didn’t take her advice immediately. Mom offered to give me a few traps that she had for just this problem. Oh, no thank you, I said. Surely rat management had come a long way from the old days of using traps. Certainly, there was a better way. If not more humane, at least less visibly barbaric, right? Right?

Ummm, no. True, rodent extermination options are more varied now than in the days of The Pied Piper, but as with most unpleasant duties, in this case the simplest method is the most effective. In my experience, an old-school mousetrap is the way to go if you’re not interested in sharing your living quarters with a rat. Sure, you risk breaking a finger or two in the process of setting the darn thing, but that’s the kind of sacrifice a real adult is willing to make. Rats are certainly smarter than you think, but they also can’t resist the allure of a strategically placed glob of peanut butter, even if it’s sitting atop a spring-loaded platform of death. Be an adult and don’t lose your nerve here. When you start getting all soft-hearted and feeling bad about trapping the rodent, just remember that this uninvited guest has been frolicking like a schoolgirl across your food in the middle of the night, carrying disease on its tiny feet and laughing at you while it leaves souvenirs of bubonic plague confetti. The rat shows you no mercy, so don’t return the favor by being all ethical and civilized.

I am not ashamed of my truth. I fought the rat, and I WON. I am now supremely confident in my status as a bona fide adult. And for any rats out there who think they can help themselves to my almonds, BRING IT. We’re all adults here–and adults don’t play. #adultswin

 

 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

 “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting it is.” –Arnold Palmer

 

“Nah nah nah nah. Nah nah nah nah. Hey, hey, hey. Goo-ood Bye!”

So many Friday nights of my teen years included the sounds of our high school’s marching band blasting the popular song that bands play when they’re confident that their team’s opponent has been put away. The nails were in the coffin, so we linked arms and sang at the top of our lungs to mark the occasion. There was nothing left to do but watch the clock tick away those last useless seconds and make plans to meet up for a celebratory chicken finger basket.

Football in the South is more than just a pastime, it’s a way of life. Being part of a team with a winning tradition makes life all the more rewarding. During Fall in the South, a week no longer has 7 days. It’s divided into three parts: Getting Ready for the Game, GAME DAY, and Reviewing the Game. 7 Day Weeks will resume after State Championships and Bowl Season.

Many, many years after the fact, I am still proud to say that I played a small spectator role in the long-time winning tradition of the Greer High Yellow Jackets. I enthusiastically filled a spot in the student section almost every home game during my four years there and even traveled with friends to nearby away games. While the players did warm-ups before the game, we played our pre-game warm-up songs on a portable CD player. When the cheerleaders held up their spray-painted banner for the players to run through, we lined up on either side to get high fives from those boys who were about to play their hearts out for the next three hours. When the band played, we pumped our arms in time with the drums and shout-sang snippets of brass-fueled tunes that gave our team the momentum they needed to get that next first down.

Winning isn’t everything, but it sure is a lot of fun. The four years I spent at GHS, our record was 42-10. That means that we won over 80% of the time. Losing a game was a surprise. On the rare occasion it happened, it left us with an unsettled feeling of, “what just happened here?” A feeling that didn’t last long, because a return to winning was always just around the corner. My last two years at GHS we didn’t lose a single regular season game. During our senior year, my friends and I road-tripped to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia to watch our boys easily and rightfully claim the State Championship.

All we did was win, win, win. It was exciting, it was exhilarating; and, here’s what makes it a tradition: it was expected.

I spent my college years at Wofford, attending games every now and then, and also going to Clemson and Carolina games with my friends who were students there. For those four years of my life, football was admittedly in the background of my studies and social schedule.

That is until I met a boy. At a football game.

Wofford was hosting the Citadel in Spartanburg for the first time in 50 years. It was an historic event that filled our stadium, inspired parties at every corner of campus, and brought alumni from all years and locales to the Sparkle City. I don’t remember who won the game, but I do remember letting all my girlfriends leave me at an unfamiliar fraternity house so I could have more time to talk to this really cute guy. Now, here I am, almost 18 years later, and I get to wash that cute guy’s socks every week. True story.

I’m here to tell all the young ladies of marrying age that wedding vows are really so much more than just the simple words that you mindlessly repeat in front of God and everyone while your mind is actually fixated on worrying about what exactly is an appropriate kiss when in church. For example, what you’re really signing up for, is, “To have and to hold, and to adopt his college football team as your own, from this day forward.” You’re also committed to, “For better and for worse, in sickness and in health, in winning and in losing. (Especially in losing.)”

My husband is a tried and true, die-hard, Forever to Thee, South Carolina Gamecock. He is an Unconditional Fan. From what I can deduce, he’s been this way since he was a child, and although from time to time it is a painful condition, it’s not something I would change about him. And since his passion is so strong, it only made sense that when we joined hearts and homes, that I would join him in supporting his team, as well.

In the beginning, it was easy. We were newlyweds at the start of the Lou Holtz era and Gamecocks all over the state had a sense of hope. There were more wins than losses. We were young and in love and we had no kids dictating our schedules so we could tailgate every weekend. We fattened our bellies with chicken fingers and brownies and beers, and it felt like the party would never end. Sure, there were heartbreaking losses, but there were also promising wins. And did I mention all the chicken fingers? Looking back, it was the Jazz Age of football for us. As it turns out, the party did have to come to an end, and we weathered a few losing seasons before climbing back up the roller coaster when Steve Spurrier took the reins of the team. But even that was rocky terrain, and my unfailingly loyal Gamecock husband took the losses hard. By now, we had small children, so the tailgating part (my favorite) was removed from the equation, leaving just us at home to watch the games, which became increasingly tense with each passing week. (This would be a good time for me to insert the fact that God knew what he was doing by not letting me meet my husband until after the Gamecocks’ 0-11 season in 1999. I would have never made it. But, I digress.) My husband could easily be a sideline coach. Each week, he strategizes with a good buddy, also an Unconditional Fan. After the game, they talk again, to figure out what went wrong, and where they need to improve the next week. As for me, I could not be any sort of coach whatsoever. I can’t remember the lineup and I’ve always got questions about the rules. I’m more interested in figuring out what sort of alternative methods the team needs. Should we get them a team therapist? Some essential oils? Is hard liquor allowed? Oh wait, those are all the things that I need…

I’ve determined that since I married into this Gamecock legacy, their record has been 105-84. Victorious 56% of the time is technically a winning record, but it’s a far cry from that 80% winning ratio I enjoyed with the Yellow Jackets. In this realm, very few wins are assured, and almost all come with a fair amount of anguish. It can be hard to watch. Literally. Sometimes I have to put my hands over my eyes it makes me so nervous. Sometimes I don’t watch at all and just go to another room, and decide to find out the outcome once it’s all over. As hard as it is, every experience is a chance to learn, and after so many years of watching this team through the eyes of one of its most ardent supporters, I’m able to see the benefits of being what I call an Unconditional Fan.

A true Unconditional Fan has to maintain a certain level of humility to make it through the lean seasons. It’s no secret if your team is having a down year, so you just have to own that fact and deflect the trash talk. By the same coin toss, an Unconditional Fan knows that winning seasons can’t last forever, so there’s no need to be overly boastful when your team is in the winner’s circle. An Unconditional Fan has a keen sense of gratefulness and humility when their team is the conqueror.

The Unconditional Fan always has hope. This is a must. Without hope, every team would be fan-less at the first whiff of a bad recruiting class. The Unconditional Fan is full of hope every season. A friend of ours put it best during a long ride on an at-capacity RV, westward-bound to watch the Gamecocks play at Vandy for a season-opener. He looked around appraisingly, took in a deep breath of stale RV air and said, “This is the best time of the year to be a football fan. Nobody’s messed anything up yet.” His actual words were a bit stronger than that, but you get the gist. So, what happens when the season goes off the rails? The Unconditional Fan is already looking forward to next year. Hope. It’s what brings the Unconditional Fan back, year after year. Hope is also what gets a girl like me on an RV traveling from Columbia to Nashville; because, let me tell you, that was really not one of the best ideas.

To me, the most impressive mark of an Unconditional Fan is loyalty. This brand of loyalty is a type of steadfast devotion that is hard to find in these times. The Unconditional Fan supports their team no matter what the predictions are, or how much they disagree with the coaching staff. They wear their colors with pride, even in a sea of opponents. The Unconditional Fan rejoices in the team’s triumphs, but they also agonize in the defeats, with a resolve to come back stronger. The Unconditional Fan is a lifelong member of the team. They might throw their hat, shout choice words, and sulk for days on end, but they would never fully walk away from their team. The Unconditional Fan knows that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you come back for the next year.

I haven’t earned my wings to be Unconditional Fan yet, but I do love one. And I appreciate all the others I’ve encountered over the years. I think I might even be raising a couple more gals to join the League of Unconditional Fans. I hope so. What better way to teach life lessons of humility, hope, and loyalty? All that, AND a tray of chicken fingers? Sign us up!

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑