Thanksgiving Shenanigans

As many of you know, I am NOT a morning person.  So you can imagine my joy when Pete says the Thanksgiving train is pulling out at 5:30AM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  “But Pete, that’s so early!  And I have to put on makeup because you know Nickie is going to want to take pictures.”  “Well get up in time to make it happen.”  When the alarm screamed at me, I dragged myself out of bed, slapped on a face, and off we went.  It’s only fair to note that I slept the first 5 hours of the journey, only waking for bathroom breaks, breakfast, and because Pete was shoving his fingers in my mouth as it hung open while I slept.

But before I could even get comfortable for my roadtrip nap I hear, “Mom, did we get Miss Cindy’s cookies?  If not, we have to turn around.”  “Yes, son, we have the cookies.”  “Oh good, can you pass me some?”  “But it’s only 5:30!”  “I know.  Let’s call them breakfast cookies.  Now pass them back.”  These cookies ya’ll.  They are the kind of cookies that make men fall in love with women who can bake.  They are the kind of cookies that make skinny girls fat, and cause wrestlers not to make weight.  Yeah…They’re that good.  I must note that these cookies did not even make it to the Georgia state line.  The boys were licking crumbs out of the container by the time we hit South Carolina.

We roll into Savannah around 2:30 that afternoon.  I am greeted by tiny people throwing their little bodies at me with arms wide open, and my brother in law kindly offering to make a pot of coffee.  After 17 trips back and forth to the car, we are unloaded.  While sipping on my coffee my dad sheepishly tells me that we need to go to the grocery store to get a few things.  My brother in law, Chris says, “But I just opened a fresh beer!  And I thought we went yesterday so we didn’t have to go with Miss High Maintenance!”  “Yeah, that was the plan, but I forgot the stinkin sweet potatoes, and you know how much she wants them.”  Ummm….excuse me!  I’m standing right here!  I can hear you!    We ended up at Publix.  I DID end up asking for about 7 things other than sweet potatoes, but it was FINE!  It’s really not that hard to go to the grocery store with me.  I swear!

We arrive home, and Chris immediately starts making a giant pot of spaghetti.  “Oh crap.  The noodles are boiling, but I’m not sure if we have any spaghetti sauce.  How do you feel about plain noodles and meat?”  Miraculously he digs up two tiny containers of spaghetti sauce, and we throw down like it’s our last supper.

My sister strolls in around 10PM.  Here is the tricky part about Thanksgiving.  My sister works retail, so we only see her in little snatches of time.  You know, like when she walks to her bed, when she walks to her car, and during Thanksgiving dinner.  Other than that, the girl works, and then works some more.  I honestly don’t know how she is able to stand after Thanksgiving week, much less function.  I hug her neck when she comes in, and then we all stumble off to bed.

Now bedtime was a little comical.  Nickie and Chris have a big family.  Six kids total.  This makes sleeping arrangements a little interesting.  Pete and I were placed on a futon.  Guys, I haven’t been on a futon since college, and I forgot about the slope when they open up!  We lay down on that thing, and we both are hanging on the the edge for fear of rolling into the middle.  We love each other, but we like a little space when we sleep.  I whisper, “Hey Pete?  Are you awake?”  “Yeah, I’m busy holding on so I don’t roll to the middle and get yelled at.  Let’s pull the mattress on to the floor.”  Chris was quick to remind me the next morning  about the time they slept at our house on an air mattress and woke up to it being deflated.  It’s the price you pay to be with family!

I stumble into the kitchen Thursday morning, and my dad immediately hands me a cup of coffee.  “It’s time to go to work.  Nickie’s kids are getting picked up by their dad at 1.  So drink up, and let’s cook.”  I groan a little.  Still not a morning person!  I walk toward the guest bathroom, determined to wake up and start this day.  I’m a little confused.  The bathroom has a door, but no handle.  Chris must have seen the confusion on my face.  “It’s ok.  Go on in.  You can shove a towel in the hole if you want, but I promise we won’t look!  Kids broke the handle off when they were hanging on it.  I’m not replacing it until they are teenagers!”  While I WAS a little freaked out by the bathroom peep hole, I did find the whole scenario rather comical.  “You know Logan is only 7, right?”  “Yup!”  Oh, and did I mention the kids broke the handle off the kitchen sink too?!  “Just pull the screw up.  We’re gonna fix that once they’re all teenagers too.”  LOL….I had forgotten how much mischief little people could get into.  But these little ones are so cute, I sometimes have a hard time believing they could possibly be bad!

Once we got past learning how to operate the rigged doorknob, having coffee, and finding my morning brain, I began to make the sweet potato casserole.  Chris says to me, “I don’t know why you make that stuff.  Sweet potatoes are gross.”  “Shhh!  The children will hear you, and my kids love this stuff!”  My nephew comes in, “Aunt Katie, can I help you make whatever you are making?”  This might quite possibly be the highlight of my trip.  It took a little begging because Chris had said no kids in the kitchen while we were cooking, but after a few minutes Mr. Adorable is perched on a stool pouring in vanilla, brown sugar and marshmallows.”  “Yummmmm….Aunt Katie these are really good!”  Take that Chris!  The boy loves them!!!!

We gobbled up all the Thanksgiving goodies, and then if was time to load the tiny people into their dad’s car.  Everyone should be proud, despite my strongest desires, I didn’t say anything tacky or hateful.  And trust me….there was plenty of material to work with!  I seriously was just typing examples but I could just hear my sister’s disgusted “shame on you” phone call.  So I’m keeping my mouth shut!

Lunch is done.  Dirtbag has the children.  Now it’s time for telling my sister bye as she heads off to work, taking naps, and getting geared up for shopping.  It’s the one day of the year that even my boys offer to go shopping.  We hit the outlets HARD, and we usually end up finishing our Christmas shopping.  And every year we say it’s insanity, and that we won’t do it again.  And weeks before the next Thanksgiving we get giddy about the craziness, and make our plans to do it again.  My brother in law is the instigator.  It’s all his fault!

 

There are some highlights to shopping though.  For instance, Austin gets super silly, and offers to model anything you ask him to.  And Jackson’s pockets seem a little deeper, and he actually asks me what he should get people for Christmas.  Then we sneak away and buy Double Doozy cookies from the American Cookie Company.  (This is probably one reason poor Jackson has spent the last 4 days running in sweats trying to cut weight for tomorrow’s wrestling tournament!  Oops!)

We rounded the trip out with a death defying ride home courtesy of Jackson.  3 hours of Jackson driving, and controlling the music.  We walked the line with Johnny Cash, went way down yonder on the Chatahoochee and sang along to Alabama as we crossed the state line.  I’m not even sure where my child heard all those old songs, but they were his jam as we cruised down the highway.

I am tired, about 2 pounds heavier, and glad to have another Thanksgiving down in the books.  I suppose now it’s time to wrap presents, finish decorating for Christmas, and gear up for the next round of holiday craziness.  Paige, I swear child, if you peek at one more present I’m going to take them back and give you coal and sticks for Christmas!

A Father’s Letter

A few weeks ago I received a request to share some words on my blog.  I have read the writing over and over, and tried to figure out how I could take portions and add it to my writing.  And the truth is….I can’t.  It comes from an unlikely place, a prison cell in Texas.  The words are powerful, but again I struggled.  “How can I make this “ours”, when I can’t contribute?”  I received another letter two days ago, and I learned that the writer is a father of two girls.  He is desperate to share his message, so I’m doing something I have never done before.  I am turning this post over to Justin.  I believe his message is powerful, and worth sharing.  (And no, this is not the same fellow who helped me write, “Be Still.  Just Listen.”)  The floor is now officially yours Justin.

“#ListenToThisStory (Young Ladies and Women Everywhere)

I’ve read a few articles about women who post nude and exposing pictures.  What type of attention or people do you think this attracts?  What would you expect in response to these images?  Well a few people replied that these girls were slutty, and others salivated.  So one woman says, “Internet bullies and perverts not welcome.” Another was offended by the “slutty” accusations and perverts?!  And her boyfriend of 5 years left her because she was becoming an entirely different person for attention.  So, she doesn’t come to her senses, and belittles him by saying, “Obviously he’s insecure just because I’m comfortable in my body and not ashamed.  It would take a real man with confidence to date me.”  This clouded outlook encourages our daughters and sisters to think it’s ok to degrade themselves.  Somehow it’s cool to be a stripper.  Young women are saying they are “exotic dancers”.  So I’m like, “Hmmm, do you belly dance, Hawaiian hula, or what?  These are foreign, exotic dances.”  So the girls say, “No dummy.  I’m a stripper!”  “Oh.  So “dummy”, you’re NOT an exotic dancer.  I think you mean “erotic” dancer.”

Women are putting themselves in situations where they are in danger of being sexually harmed or abused, and are seriously not understanding how this could happen to them.  Really?!  Now to be clear, I do not condone abuse to women in any form, even verbally.  So let me say to all the women out there, showing your body is not a way to show confidence.  You are advertising your body, attracting potential harm.  And to the girl who belittled her boyfriend to build herself up at his expense?  You are the internet bully.  Girl, no real man wants to date a woman who exposes herself to the world.  There’s just some things that should be specially for your significant other.  In a relationship I make you feel special by opening to you the parts and things about me I don’t share with anyone else.  You wouldn’t feel special if I didn’t save anything especially for you.

Confidence?  You don’t have to expose yourself.  Confidence is attitude you have, your aura.  Not your breast.  That reflects something else, that you lack self respect.  And if a woman can’t love and respect herself, why would any man believe she can love and respect him?  It reflects, “I need attention.  Look.”  Believe me, trying hard comes off as needy and unattractive.  Your unique mind is attractive.  Your potential infinite.  Use your following to embed real confidence and morals to our youth.  Be a role model parents are happy their daughters look up to.  Your philosophical idealism is great.  You don’t need to show your body to get people to listen.  If your followers log in to see breast, they’d be content watching your show on mute!  They’re not really following you as a person.  That’s not the following you need.  Yet you’re offended when people disrespect you?  You don’t respect yourself!  But you expect respect from others?

Social media has a way of consuming people, creating characters.  People pretend to be someone else in fear of the real them being rejected.  Being original is what makes people stand out.  You don’t need to be liked by everyone.  There’s all types of traits people are attracted to.  Be yourself and you will find someone really interested in you!  Accept you for who you are.  You can stop living in fear of maintaining a false image which is very strenuous on the mind.  There is somebody for everybody.  If you find yourself in an awkward relationship, it’s because your false image online attracted that person.  And in person you really don’t like him.  He really doesn’t like you.  This can hurt you both, breaking confidence that was unsteady to begin with.

So there you have it!  Reality check.  Perception is everything.  Positive and negative criticism because you need both sides of it to create the energy to start anything.  Be yourself.  Originals are worth more than copies!  Calibrate your moral compass, and act responsibly.  Perverts aren’t the only ones watching.

To young women everywhere…Education is empowering.  You can make a difference, and be confident in clothes.

-Justin”

I really can’t add to his message.  I think it was heart felt, incredibly relevant, and articulate.  Well said Justin.

 

Love Your Own Skin

“I love you, and I’m sorry but I cannot send you a full body picture.  I know you want me to love the skin I’m in, but I’ve really been battling some weight issues along with some depression.  I have tried for the past week to get dressed and take the picture.  I’ve probably taken 100 and I just cry…I’m sorry, but I can’t do it.”

This text was sent to me a week after I told my beautiful friends I wanted to write a post about women loving the skin we are in.  Not the shape we were when we were 16, 24, or even 40, but truly loving the woman that stares back at us each morning.  Let’s be honest….That’s hard!  When I look in the mirror I see wrinkles etched around my eyes that weren’t  there even 5 years ago.  But I’m slowly beginning to love those fine lines; they were created from years of laughter, squinting in the sun at baseball games, and crying along side my children as they learned tough lessons.  Those lines hold memories, and are an a testament to a life well lived.

But what about the extra 5, 10 or even 30 pounds we may be carrying around?  How do we still love ourselves when our pants are snug or don’t even button?  It’s tough.  I get that.  But here is what I want us to consider.  Confidence is beautiful.  Owning your body, and the journey it has been on is empowering.  For too long we have let the world tell us what is and isn’t beautiful.  We’ve watched young women starve themselves for fear of what the mean girls might think about the way they look.  We’ve allowed society to dictate what is too small or too big.  Let’s be honest.  We aren’t all the same shape, height, color, or nationality.  What a boring world it would be if we were!  But one thing is certain.  We are ALL beautiful.  Some of the most beautiful women I have met have curves, laugh lines, and stretch marks.  But they just glow.  Beauty isn’t about being a size 2, having the perfect legs, or meeting a certain description.  It’s about that glow that comes from being a woman who loves life.  THAT is beautiful.

While we are talking about the glow, let me address pregnancy.  I remember hiding from the camera while I was pregnant.  “Please don’t take my picture.  My face is fat, and everything is wide on my body.  I look horrible.  I don’t want anyone to remember me like this.”  I kick myself regularly for that.  I wish I had photos that documented my growing belly, the glow of my skin, and the joy mixed with apprehension  I felt while carrying my children.  So love those baby bumps.  Flaunt them the same way you would a pair of diamond earrings.  Smile at the camera, and say, “Look at me.  I’m growing a tiny human.  What are you doing with YOUR free time?!”

I remember working out with my friend a few years ago and she had on this sweatshirt that said, “Pretty For A Black Girl”.  It had this adorable cartoon of this black girl with big hair blowing a bubble.  “Faith, I don’t get your shirt.  Why does it say “For A Black Girl”?”  “Katie, do you know how many times people say that to me?  They don’t just tell me I’m pretty.  They tell me I’m pretty for a black girl.”  WHAT????? Why have we been conditioned that some races are more beautiful than others?  Do we sit little girls in front of mirrors and tell them they are pretty, but the girl down the street is prettier because she is a different color?!  I was disgusted by what  I had learned ignorant  people were saying.  Friends, I don’t care what color you are.  You are BEAUTIFUL!  You may have your grandmother’s nose, your dad’s eyes, your mom’s smile, and hair like you Aunt Clara.  THAT is what makes you beautiful.

Then there are those of us who say, “I just wish I wasn’t built so thick.  I want to be petite or tiny.”  STOP!  I am of German decent.  I have big thighs, a behind that needs it’s own zip code, and a waist that is about a size 4.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a pair of pants?!  But I embrace it.  I don’t care that my thighs are big now.  Instead I focus on looking strong.  Let them be big.  I’ll just make them as strong as a Clydesdale’s.  Let society tell me to eat more grass and carrots.  Forget them!  I am strong, and thus I feel good.  Stop freaking out about size, and focus on health.

Let’s not forget the tiny girls.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that tiny girls have it easy.  I remember a time when my daughter came home in tears.  She was just a tiny wisp of a thing, and another girl told her only dogs liked bones, and that no boy would ever be interested in her.  Other times people have accused her of not eating enough or even having an eating disorder.  Again, there were tears.  So many misconceptions about beauty.  I doubt my baby will ever be very meaty, but she is beautiful.  She may not have as many curves as the girl next to her, but she has dancer’s legs, long curly hair, and the sweetest button nose I’ve ever seen.  Are you sensing a trend?  It’s not about the size of the package.  It’s about what’s IN the package.  We as women have to be done letting stereotypes define our beauty!

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I also want to talk about those of us who say, “You should have seen me when I was younger.  I used to be really pretty.”  Ladies, beauty is ageless!  I personally don’t think gray hair will look good on me, but I don’t even know what my real hair color is right now!  It’s not that I’m afraid of getting older, I’m just destined to be a blond until I die!  While I will forever take care of my skin, and take my vitamins, I will not curse the aging process, or get a facelift so that I look more cat like than old lady.  We need to age with grace, and love ourselves as we go.  I caution you though.  Some women get sexier with time.  I have a friend that has a better body than I do, and she’s in her early 50’s!  Age is just a number!

So here is the take away.  We are women.  We are beautiful.  Every curve, every wrinkle, every stretch mark, every shape, every age.  We need to love ourselves right where we are.  If you have areas you want to work on, that is ok.  There is never anything wrong with trying to create a healthier version of yourself, but stop punishing yourself for not being perfect.  Look in the mirror.  See the beauty.  It has been said that when we believe we are beautiful, others see more beauty in us.  I won’t sit here and tell you that I wouldn’t like to drop 5 pounds, or that I don’t constantly work to be healthier and more fit than I am today.  But  I refuse to beat myself up for not being perfect.  I will NOT hide away until my body is just the way I want it.  I want us to live life to the fullest, loving ourselves along the way.  On your birthday, eat the cupcake!  When your are invited to the beach, wear the swimsuit, and saunter like you own the place.  Stop letting others dictate how you feel about you.  I’m telling you…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. 

And to the young lady who cried at her own image….I’ve known you since you were 19.  I’ve seen you go through 2 hair colors, multiple boyfriends, and several career changes.  I thought  you were beautiful when I met you.  Your hair was tied in a top knot, and you had that young fierce look that only a kid ready to take on the world can have.  You are STILL beautiful today.  You have mellowed a little, and when I look at you, you look a little more seasoned, and a little wiser.  Every curve, every dip, every scar is beautiful.  If you choose to change your body, do it for you, not because the world told you to.  I love you.

I’m the jerk, not him…

My daughter has been nagging me for days.  “Mom, you are behind on blogging.”  “Mom, you still haven’t posted.  What’s the deal?”  Well…sometimes we get writer’s block.  Other times we have lots of ideas, but none of them really gel.  So today, I was going to force myself to write something, anything.  And then I was nudged to “just be honest”.  Groan….I hate those nudges!  So here’s the deal.  I was a colossal jerk.  I hate admitting when I’m wrong, but apparently today it is easier to admit that I’ve been a butt head than it is to go to the gym and do leg day!  So here goes nothing!

My friend Alison texted me today.  She’s had a long week with a sick mom who lives in another state, and on top of that her husband is deployed.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  When your spouse is deployed, every crazy, inconvenient or emotionally draining thing that could happen WILL happen.  Alison has spent the last week in another state, sitting in a hospital, away from her kids, dealing with making tough choices ALONE.  And today she is home.  She texts me, “I am home, and I am angry.”  I felt compelled to ask why.  I mean, what kind of friend ignores a text like that?!  As we are talking we sort out that Alison isn’t really angry at all.  She is overwhelmed.  Her husband asked her from across a distant sea what her plans were for the day.  “What does he think my plans are?!  I’ve been gone for a week.  Life went on, and now I’ve got to catch up.  I guess I’ll start with grocery shopping.”  I found myself reminding her that her husband loved her, and was just trying to use that question as a conversation starter.  He wanted to show he was interested in her day.  And in that moment, I felt humbled….

I have been married for 14 years to a man that works terribly hard.  In fact, he has a hard time pulling himself away from work, and just relaxing and hanging out.  It has been a topic of conversation for years.  Lately though, he has really tried to break that nasty habit.  He has invited me on dates, sat down to watch TV with me, and really made an effort to connect.  But I have been short sighted.  I too have complained about the question, “What are your plans today?”  In fact, I have been salty and snapped back, “What am I, 4?  Do you want a running list of my plans Dad?  Are you keeping tabs on me?”  Here is what I didn’t realize until I was sharing so much wisdom with my friend.  *insert eye roll here*  Pete wasn’t trying to keep tabs on me.  He was trying to make sure that he showed interest in my day.  In his mind if he asked early about my day, he could mark “asked about her day” off his list.  Not the most romantic line of thinking, but he still should get an A for effort.  Of course if I snap at him enough, eventually he will stop asking.  So who’s the idiot now?  But it gets worse.  I somehow manage to up my jerk game, and I don’t realize it until I’m talking to Alison this morning.

Pete invited me on a date Friday.  The invitation was extended on Thursday evening with tentative plans for Friday night.  “I feel like Asian food.  Let’s go on a date tomorrow night.”  I happily agreed, and mentally noted that that also meant there would be no time for the gym after work.  Bonus!!!  Well Friday rolls around and he texts me the name of the restaurant, and my grumpiness kicks in.  This place serves Thai food and Japanese food.  I don’t LIKE Thai food or Japanese food, unless it’s sushi.

In the midst of being annoyed with the restaurant choice my oldest son pops into my classroom with a giant grin on his face.  “I’m filling out the recruitment form for the Naval Academy.  I’ll let you know if I have any questions.”  In case you didn’t know, the Naval Academy is in Maryland, and this mama wants to move back to Florida when my boy finishes high school.  (We will save that emotional roller coaster for another blog post.)  So you can just imagine how my emotions were that day.  I was excited for my son, but my heart ached as I thought about the distance.  Oh, and I should probably also tell you that my hormones ran out a week ago, and since I was without my cell phone full of my contacts, I had been unable to call the out of state pharmacy to check on my refill.  So yeah, I was a wee bit hormonal.

All of this should have factored in to how I addressed my upcoming date, but it didn’t.  Nope, I opted for mad and pouty.  How could he not know I don’t like Thai food?  We’ve been married a long time.  He should know everything about me.  Bless him.  He sensed I didn’t want to go to the chosen location.  He even offered other options.  Most of them were still in the Asian food realm, so this didn’t help with the situation.  I just folded my arms and stewed.  “I’m trying to make you happy.  Tell me what you want.”  “OMG…Let’s just go to the stupid restaurant and get it over with!”  I was in full on brat mode.

We were seated at a table near the door.  Every time anyone walked by they bumped my chair.  It was beyond annoying.  Pete offered to switch seats.  “Nope!  I’ll just sit here.  No point switching now.”  Poor man.  They served us water with no ice and no straws.  Another strike!  A young college couple sat down at the table next to us.  I could have reached out and stolen food off their plates they were sitting so close.  So I got to hear all about sorority elections on Saturday, and how Ellen couldn’t believe that Itsy had the nerve to run for president when she KNEW that Bella wanted to be president.  What was she thinking?!  Oh dear heavens, I’m going to snap!  Of course Thomas Paul Walker the 4th was busy trying to console her and tell her that when elections were done he would take her out some place nice.  I kept thinking, well I hope it isn’t this place!

Pete just looked at me.  I pushed my food around my plate looking sullen.  Pete meanwhile looked defeated.  “You hate this place don’t you.”  “It’s fine.  Now stop asking.”  Needless to say the date didn’t go well.  And for the record, I did indeed hate the restaurant.  But it wasn’t Pete’s fault.  He had offered to take me somewhere else.  We get in the car and he says, “Well I definitely won’t ask you to get Asian food ever again.  But I DID offer to let you pick somewhere else.  Now will you PLEASE tell me why you are so grumpy?  What did I do?”  Now would have been a good time to change my approach.  But why do that now, right?!

“You wanna know what’s wrong?  Jackson wants to move to Maryland to attend the Naval Academy, and I’ll have an even emptier nest.  First Paige will go.  1 year later Jackson will go.  And my own husband doesn’t know I hate Thai food!  Or that I don’t like seeing TV cords on my wall!  All these years I’ve been mothering, and you haven’t listened to know simple things like what I like to eat.  PAY ATTENTION!”  Well that certainly felt good!

But here is the problem.  I stand by what I said.  I have spent my adult life being a mother, and it’s scary not having that job much longer.  But my dad scolded me.  And for those who don’t know, he rarely doesn’t take my side.  “Katie, you complain that he doesn’t make time for you or pay attention, but did you miss that tonight that is EXACTLY what he was trying to do?  Sure, he may not have listened enough when you were younger, but now when he tries to be there and listen, you punish him.  Give him credit for trying to be more present now.”  And again as I reminded Alison that she wasn’t angry with her husband, she was just overwhelmed, I again felt guilty.  (For the record, she agreed that indeed she is overwhelmed, and just wishes she wasn’t doing these hard things alone.)  But I messed up.  Pete tried, and I messed up.  One day it will just be us rattling around in an empty house.  I need to stop punishing him for not listening when he was 20 something, and instead be grateful that he is willing to listen now.  I’m the jerk, not him.  At least this time…

So I guess what I would say to young wives is…First off, guys sometimes say dumb things with the very best intentions.  Second, don’t hold grudges, you only punish yourself.  Be grateful for the effort  your husband makes, even if he messes it up along the way.  Third…Learn to be humble and say I’m sorry.  (I’m still working on this one.)

Pete, I’m sorry I was a brat.  I still hate Thai food, but I love you.  And I promise to get more hormones so that my emotions aren’t all over the place!  You were right.  I was wrong.  I was being a brat…

Photo Credit Goes to Amber Joy Phinisee Photography