Who’s the Bully Now?

I’m so heated right now that I’m just going to jump in.  I rarely speak my mind publicly about politics or my positions because I believe that the voting booth is a very private and personal place.  Who and what I vote for is my business, and mine alone.  My political views shouldn’t affect my ability to be friends with someone, work for someone, or be a leader.  I am adult enough to respect all views and positions, and understand that that is the point of a democracy.  But I’m going to be honest.  Today I am angry.  I have sat back and watched people jump on soap boxes since the campaigning for President began.  It seems when the crowd doesn’t get leverage on one issue, they quickly jump on to another one.  Well today I have had enough.

I’m going to start with education first.  Electoral college vs Popular vote.  I want you guys to put on your thinking caps for just a minute.  Think about the size of California versus the size of Rhode Island.  Please tell me why the voice of one state is more important than another.  The forefathers understood that some areas would be more populated than others, but they felt like that shouldn’t make the voice of one state more important than another.  Why should what California think matter more than what Rhode Island thinks?  Are those people somehow more important?  Hence the Electoral College which gives every state an equal voice in the election process.

Now that we have that cleared up, we can maybe accept the fact that the Electoral College speaks for the ENTIRE country.  The people have spoken.  You may not like it, but the people have spoken.  They voted for Donald Trump.  No amount of dancing in vagina costumes, ripping down monuments, or rioting in the streets is going to stop that.  Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, and he is going to do the things he promised his voters he would do.

You know what I find interesting?  Unemployment is down.  More people have jobs and can support their families.  Trump has enacted historic tax reform.  He has strengthened NATO by getting NATO allies to contribute $12 billion toward our collective security.  There are other positives I could list, but I won’t bore the haters with them.  Here’s my real beef.  The haters are hypocrites.  First, you condemn the man for using profanity, yet you yourselves describe the Commander in Chief using vulgarity.  You jump from agenda to agenda, and refuse to defend your position when asked about it publicly.  And now?  Well now, I’m beyond annoyed.  I’m outraged.

Today you decided to pitch a temper tantrum because you are not getting your way.  President Donald Trump has decided to put Americans first, and deport illegal immigrants, and you’re mad.  So you have decided to hold the military hostage until Trump backs down.  So here we are again.  You’ve stuck you thumb in your mouth, stomped your foot, and decided that if we don’t play the game so that you win, then everyone suffers.  Congress, are you stopping your own pay?  Of course not.  Congress, is your government shut down keeping illegal immigrants from buying groceries or paying their bills?  Of course not.  You liberal, hissy fit throwing, agenda makers are quite literally throwing the very men and women who defend your right to be a opinionated horse’s ass under the bus.  Find a new pony to ride.  Go to a different circus.  Answer our questions when we ask you WHY the lives of immigrants are more important than the lives of Americans.  I guess now we should ask you why the lives of American soldiers are less important  than the lives of illegal immigrants.  Why Congressmen?  Please tell me why my husband won’t have money for rent simply because he decided to defend our country, yet a non tax paying, non American illegal immigrant will get the red carpet rolled out for him.  And furthermore, why should soldiers go on defending your freedoms when they are the first to be bullied?  I’m going to say it.  The left is quick to call our President a bully, but today they have proven that they are the bullies.  They have proven that they will do anything to win, even hold American soldiers hostage until their demands are met.

You say you are for the people.  I would like to know what people you are actually for.  Soldiers are court martailed if they don’t show up to work.  Yet we don’t have to pay them if we get our panties in a bunch?  So left, how does this make you the good guys?  I don’t see our President threatening to punish soldiers if he doesn’t get his way.  In fact, I don’t see him threatening any Americans.  He simply wants the Americans to be a priority.  I’m sorry, but today the left showed their true colors.  You still feel good about yourselves?  If so, can you call my friend, Alison, who’s husband is deployed without pay?  Or maybe you can call my friend, Chris and tell her why she just had to give birth to her baby girl ALONE while her husband sits in a sandbox without pay.  And why?  Because Congress is mad they aren’t getting their way.  Shame on you.  Shame on you all.  Shut your mouths.  Trump didn’t just vote to take my husband’s pay.  Who’s the bully now?

Why Wrestling?

I remember the day Jackson came home and told me he wanted to wrestle.  My mind rushed to images of boys being thrown to the ground, bodies contorted in painful ways, and possible concussions.  I wasn’t so sure I was excited about the sport.  But I was in a difficult spot, and Jackson knew it.  In our house we have a rule that you have to participate in some kind of extra curricular activity.  My boy is small.  He’s always been small, and he probably always will be.  In a lot of ways that can make sports an obstacle.  “Why do you want to wrestle, Jackson?”  “Mom, I hate track.  I mean, I really really hate it.  It’s just not for me.  But I was at the high school for my sports physical, and this coach came over and invited me to practice with the wrestling team.  He said my size makes me a diamond in the rough, and he wants me.  Can I just try it?”  I relented, and agreed.  I figured he would go to a few practices, hate getting thrown around, and we would move on.  Little did I know it would only take a few practices to get my boy hooked.  And I certainly wasn’t prepared for the fact that I too, would love the sport.

Jackson started wrestling the summer in between his 7th and 8th grade year.  He wasn’t even 100 pounds yet.  He was forced to wrestle boys bigger than him over and over again.  The smallest weight class is 106 pounds, and he was tipping the scale at around 95 pounds.  So what does one do when you walk on to the mat to face Goliath?  You dig deep, and you wrestle with heart.  I sometimes would watch other athletes point at Jackson and smile.  They believed going up against such a tiny guy would be an easy match.  Little did they know that Jackson had a taste for victory, and he wasn’t going to rest until it was satisfied.

But before you think that he was just a natural, and the wins came quick and easy, I should probably let you in on a little secret.  There was a fair share of losing.  As a mother you never want to watch your child fail.  I remember the coaches coming to me that first year.  “Let’s get these losses out of the way this year before he starts high school.  It’s good for him.  He will want it even more after he loses a few times.  And trust me Mama, he will be a better man if he learns that you don’t always win in life.”  They were right.  Before a boy can become a man, he must learn humility, and how to get back up after you fall.  Wrestling was teaching him life lessons.  Get up, shake your opponents hand, and walk away with your head held high.

But what happens after that loss?  A wrestler has a decision to make.  How bad do you want it?  If you want it bad enough you go to the off season practices.  You wake up early to squeeze in a run before school.  And you learn a very important phrase.  “Leave it all on the mat.”  Freshman year Jackson was a little bigger, a lot stronger, and determined to make a name for himself.  He won medals, quieted the giants who thought the little guy across the mat was no big deal.  And he found his place.  He was learning who he was, and what he was made of.  Jackson still wasn’t 106 pounds, so he was spending another year as the underdog.  His coaches came to me again.  “He’s finding his way.  He is wrestling with his heart; that will make up for his size.  We knew he was something special.”  Jackson finished that season wrestling on a separated shoulder for a week.  He never complained.  He never said a word.  He finally came to me and said, “Mom, I think I need an xray.  I’m pretty sure I did something to my shoulder last week.”  “Jackson, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”  He shrugged and smiled.  “You would have made me stop wrestling until I was better.  I wasn’t ready to stop.  It’s just pain.”  Wrestling was teaching him to push through in order to reach the goal at hand.  Another beautiful life lesson falling in to place.

Moving into sophomore year, Jackson had a growth spurt, and bulked up.  Never in a million years did I imagine my tiny boy could get so muscular.  He no longer looked like the underdog, but instead stood on the side of the mat with sculpted arms looking menacing, and ready for battle.  We faced new challenges this year.  The military had played it’s cruel trick, and we had been reassigned.  This meant a new team, new coaches, and new things to prove.  Jackson hated us for moving.  Every day I felt his anger in his stares.  I only hoped that wrestling would help him find his place here, and he would develop a brotherhood.  Ahhhh…the brotherhood of a wrestling team.  Wrestling isn’t like football, basketball or soccer.  The team is small.  The boys really get to know each other, and a bond is forged.  It’s unlike anything I have ever seen before.  Slowly the anger ebbed away, and friends were made.

    Midway through his sophomore year Jackson was forced to tangle with another monster.  Arrogance.  Jackson had come on to this team, proven his talent level, and then he settled in and got cocky.  Remember how I told you that wrestling helps you dial into your inner fight, and you find the will to win even when you don’t have the strength?  In this business they call that heart.  Well….Jackson had lost his heart, and now walked with the strut that comes with being a 15 year old at the top of your game.  You know what happens to a wrestler when he loses his heart, and gets overly confident?  He loses regionals.  He goes home and has to admit that his head was in the wrong place.  Isn’t that what happens in life so many times?  We have this “I’ve got this” attitude, and things slowly begin to slip out of our control.

Jackson came to terms with the loss, and what had caused it.  (I will also throw out that some bad calls were made, and Jackson was forced to wrestle on a mat that had no circle.  One should never have to wrestle without a circle clearly defining boundaries.)  I began to see that look in his eye again.  “Mom, this is my year.  I’m all in.”  Jackson and a few other guys began meeting before school to run a few miles.  Then there were stadiums, requests for extra practices, and intense recruiting.  These boys reached out, and encouraged others to join the brotherhood.  The team grew, and so did the boys.  Last year’s rookies were learning how to be mentors.  Leadership was being birthed, and these boys basked in the opportunity to be something other than followers. 

The season is in full swing now.  Medals are being draped around their necks, some losses are being logged into the books, but the spirit is strong.  The long runs are paying off as they watch their opponents tire in those last seconds.  The extra practices are seeing reward as they add another pin to their records.  Pride beams from their faces not only for their wins, but for the wins of their brothers.

Why let my kid wrestle?  Never before have I seen a sport that demanded so much from an athlete, even long after the season is over.  If you want it, you never stop grinding.  Never have I seen a quiet shy boy burst from his cocoon quite like when my boy is on the mat.  There are very few sports that allow you to compete both individually and as a team.  If Jackson loses, it’s on him.  No blaming anyone else.  This is a lesson that should be learned early in life.  How many sports make you get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday in order to compete all day long?  Sometimes the athletes (and yes, their parents too) do this for days on end.  You have to really want something to be willing to give up your sleep, your weekend, and often times your favorite foods, just to punish your body in hopes of a victory.

I will never stop holding my breathe when he walks onto the mat.  I will never stop worrying and praying this isn’t the time he gets hurt.  But I will never tire of seeing the hunger in his eyes.  Wrestling teaches discipline, passion, the will to get up and keep going after what you want.  And at the end of the match?  Stand up, look your opponent in the eye, shake his hand, and leave it all on that mat.  Never are you allowed to stomp off angry, throw your headgear, and pitch a tantrum.  Oh no, that’s now how the game is played, or how life works.

So to the coaches who spotted my little boy across the crowded gym all those years ago, I say thank you.  Jackson has learned, and continues to learn so much more than just how to wrestle.  I believe the sport has equipped him with characteristics that will make him a better man.  I only pray that in all he does he always strives to go at it will all his heart, and then walk away knowing he left everything he had on the mat.

Lipstick, High Heels, and the Spirit of a Fighter

I have sat on this post for weeks, asking myself if there would ever be a right time to write it. Today I received a text that made it clear it was time. The women in my family are fighters.  We sometimes forget our strength, and the fight that is buried deep inside of us, but it is who we are.

A few weeks ago I was bombarded with teary text messages, snapchats that revealed a splotchy neck, eyes about to flood over with tears, and a million “why’s”.  I struggled because I didn’t know what to say.  I’m not very good at saying the right thing at the right time.  I want to jump straight into problem solving mode.  How do we fix this?  Where do we go from here?  That wasn’t what this loved one needed, so all I was left with was a feeble, “I just don’t know what to say.”  Well that and…”I’ll buy the pigs and alligators.”  No, I don’t expect you to know what that means.  But she did, and that’s what mattered.

Around this same time another member of my family hit a major road bump.  She called me sobbing, and became frustrated when I once again went into fix it mode.  “Can’t you stop?  Please?  For one minute just sit in sadness with me.  Let me have this day.  We can fight for the next step tomorrow.  Just let me have today.”  I struggled.  “I can’t do that.  I don’t know HOW to do that.  I know that is what you need, but I’m not sure how to give that to you.  Don’t you know who you are?  You are a fighter.  The women in our family don’t take time to be sad.  But I will try to do better.  I’m sorry.  I love you.”

The women in my life needed me to be something I don’t know how to be.  But they had forgotten something.  THEY are part of the reason that I am the way I am.  I remember being tired and not wanting to fight through the haze after my husband died.  Both the little one and the big one grabbed my shoulders and told me to put one foot in front of the other.  “There will be days after today.  It’s time to march toward them.”  They wanted me to step into life with defiance, telling the world that I didn’t stay down and out.  I may have lost the battle, but with them by my side….I would NEVER lose the war.  And every scar I gathered along the way would tell the story of my strength, my will, and my desire to fight for a better tomorrow.  I needed them to be fighters for me when I was too tired to put the armor on for myself.  But somehow they had forgotten the fighter that lay dormant inside their souls, and they were kneeling behind the battle lines hoping the war would just go on by and forget that they were lurking in the dark shadows.

I did something unusual.  I hugged the little and let her cry.  I encouraged the big to keep sending me snotty splotchy pictures until she was all cried out.  I would let them rest today, and we would talk battle strategy once their hearts were rested.  It took one a little longer to bounce back than the other, and the bouncer keeps fighting her own inner doubts.  But here is what began to happen.

I saw joy come to the splotchy face.  She even put on makeup and looked human again!  I saw fear give way to faith in the other little lady.  I think they began to remember who they were, and where they came from.  Today I got a text.  I will sum it up.  “I couldn’t stand waiting.  There had to be some way to make this work.  I got out of my bed, dragged myself to the office and began to ask questions.  Turns out there were answers, and now it is sorted.  I just couldn’t take no for an answer.”  She had found her fight.  I knew it was in there, tucked away, a little dusty, and certainly tired, but it was in there.

Girls, this is written for you, about you, and to you….We are fighters.  We each get tired, and when we do we must carry each other for a while.  I’m still working on the carrying part.  I would much rather grab my sword and run straight into the battle, but I will learn to carry.  You will ALWAYS look toward the sun.  I will not allow you to wallow in the darkness and self doubt.  The fights we have had, and  the fights we have ahead of us are HARD.  At times they will be painful, and not even make sense.  Would it really be much of a battle if we could stand at the top of the mountaintop and see our enemy long before his approach?  Each day wake up, swing your feet out of bed, and find your battle gear.  If you want it, slay every obstacle that comes in your way.  Strategize, plan, clean your wounds and keep pressing on.  We are not weak.  We did not come to this world to look like delicate flowers.  We came into this world determined to turn it on its head, and make everyone know we are here.  Every thing worth having takes everything you are willing to give.  Suit up girls.  It’s time to go into battle and fight for what you want.  I love you both….let’s do this!

Red Heads, Male Escorts, and Talking To The Moon

On Christmas Day I called my favorite spunky red head.  I knew calling my grandmother meant that I would be on the phone for at least an hour, that I would quite possibly hear the same stories more than once, and that I wouldn’t get a word in edge wise, but I was looking forward to it.  Momsie answered on the second ring.  “Hi there!  How’s my favorite red head?”  “Well I’m just fine!  How are you doing?  It’s so good to hear from you!”  “Ummm…I’ve gotta ask.  Do you know who you are talking to?”  “No, but you just said I’m your favorite, so I must like you.”  “Momsie, it’s me, Katie.”  “Well hey there Baby!  How’s it going?  I have so much to tell you.  Do you have a minute?”

Momsie then began telling me about her gardener.  My grandparents have had the same landscapers for years, and even took a few Spanish classes to improve their interactions with the crew.  After my grandfather died, Momsie began to look forward to the gardener’s visits even more than before.  But apparently this time the little guy ticked Momsie off.  “Katie, I’m tired of people telling me that I’m old.  And my gardener said that ladies my age should take naps!  How rude!  I don’t LIKE naps.  But I showed him.  I told him that I pay him, and I can make him do anything I want him to.  So I made him come inside, and vacuum under my bed.  Don’t tell me to take a nap!  I showed him my bedside drawer, and told him I had a gun in there, and I knew how to use it.  I then handed him the vacuum and told him he was going to vacuum under my bed for telling me I needed a nap.”  I could hear the mischievous grin playing on her lips as she spoke.  I know my little red head could never hurt a fly, but I also knew I needed to caution her about what she could and couldn’t say.  So I swallowed my giggles, took a deep breath, and decided to give the old girl a little advice.  “Now Momsie, we need to talk a little bit about this.  First, it’s not safe to be letting people in your house.  You never know who might hurt you.  And second, you can’t make that poor man vacuum under your bed!  That’s not what he was hired to do, and you REALLY can’t threaten to shoot him if he doesn’t!”  “Oh Katie!  I didn’t threaten him.  I just hinted as to what I could do if he didn’t vacuum!”  “No more Momsie.  Others might not be as patient with your suggestions!”  But I can promise you I will never suggest a nap to my grandmother in the future!

We kept chatting and she told me about the new Bible study she was going to with my aunt, and how much she loved it.  “But Katie?  I don’t like old women.  They just want to sit around and show pictures of their grandkids, knit blankets, and sip tea.  That’s boring!  When your grandfather was alive we went to the gun club and hung out with red blooded men.  I liked that.  They called me “Bill’s Redheaded Woman”.  Why can’t I still hang out with men?”  I honestly didn’t know what to say.  I mean, I’m her grandchild, and clearly she doesn’t want to pass around pictures of me, and she wanted to hang out with boys like a school girl.  Turns out I didn’t need to say anything at all.  “You know what I want?  I want a male escort.” “What?!?!  Do you know what you are asking for Momsie?”  “Oh, do they have sex with you?  No, I don’t want that.  No one could be as good as your Papa.  But I would like a rich younger man to take me to nice dinners, and talk to me about things that are interesting.  Is that not an escort?”  “Ummm…no.  That sounds more like a companion Momsie.  And you having a friend to keep you company might be nice.  But PLEASE don’t ever tell anyone you want a male escort EVER AGAIN!  People will think you want the booty!”  Never in a million years did I think I would be having these kinds of talks with my grandmother, but here we were, talking about male escorts….Sigh.

“Well since you won’t let me call them escorts, let me just tell you another story.  And if I’ve already told you the story, just be quiet and listen to it again!”  I can’t put into words how hard it was to keep my composure while we had our little chat.  My grandmother was a riot.  The older she gets, the less her filter works.  “The other day I was weeding my rock garden.  I like for my yard to look nice you know.”  “Momsie, how old are you?  Should you really be working in the garden?”  “Gosh, I don’t know how old I am.  I’ve lied about it so long that I’ve forgotten my real age.”  Thatta girl.  If you forget your age, you can stay as young as you want for as long as you want!  We eventually worked out that she is 86 years young.  “Well back to my story about my rock garden, Katie.  You distracted me by reminding me that I’m old.  Anyway….I was pulling a little weed, and my arm got stuck in the fence.”  “Momsie, why did you put your arm through the fence?”  “Would you hush and listen?  That’s not the point.  Just accept that it got stuck.  So it got stuck, and I spotted this man working on the roof next door.  I told him to come help me, but he wasn’t moving very fast.  I told him if he didn’t get his butt over here right away, that as soon as I got free I was going to get my weapon and make him wish he had helped me!  And you know what???  He came and helped me!  Now that wasn’t so hard!”  By now I don’t know whether to fuss at her for being so brazen or award her a gold star for being so sassy.  But I know what my aunt would ask me to do.  So I clear my throat and use my big girl voice.  “Momsie, it may be Texas, and you may have been married to the toughest cowboy that ever was, but people are sensitive now.  You MUST quit pretending you are going to shoot everybody if they don’t do what you tell them to!  Someone may think you’re serious!”  “Nah, if they think I’m a little spunky, they will behave!  But if you want me to be good, then I will try a little harder.  You’re just no fun!”  Well we may have dodged a bullet there!

“Katie?  I know you think I’m a little crazy, but I really miss your Papa.  Susan takes good care of me, and I’m doing ok, but at night I miss him more than you can know.  I creep to the front window, look out at the moon, and I swear I hear background music, and he talks to me.”  Crap, this is a little weird and crazy, but I’m not about to tell that poor lady she is losing it.  Or am I????  “Now Katie, I need you to do me a favor.  I need you to go outside tonight.  Stand in the middle of your driveway and look at the moon.  Listen very carefully for Papa’s voice.  If you try really hard, you will hear it.  Then I want you to talk back to him.”  Screech!!!!!!  Halt!!!!  Back up!!!!  “ You want me to do what?!?!  Oh Momsie, I love you to pieces, but I can’t talk to the moon!  I just can’t.”  “Ok…Well, it’s your loss.  He would visit you if you let him.  Now, let’s just move along. Will you and Nickie plan a trip to Dallas, and take me somewhere fun?  Maybe we could go see a show?”

I talked to my sister, and we will indeed try and take the roudy redhead to see a show.  Perhaps we can hire her an escort too.  Who knows?!  My Momsie is funny, fearless, and as full of life as she ever was.  She may be a little too spunky for this cupcake generation that now runs the world, but there is nothing more fun that a visit with that little lady.  Just don’t tell her she needs a nap or she might shoot you or make you vacuum under the bed!

Class and Integrity- If You Don’t Have It, Stay Home!

The Urban Dictionary defines class as  “a person who is poised, graceful, mature, or exudes any of these qualities in dress, mannerism, language, and everyday life. Possesses excellent self-control, is gentle, soothing, and unoffensive.”  I almost wish this was given to every parent and coach before a sporting event took place.  The things I continue to witness grown adults do when they are supposed to be leading children not only shocks me, but it sickens me.

Let’s talk coaches… Please know that if you coach a team, your athletes are watching you.  Often times an athlete is more likely to listen to what you say than they are their own parents.  So if a coach is talking trash about another team or athlete, what kind of example are you really setting?  Encouraging players to physically hurt the other team, making fun of kids on the opposing team, and throwing out vulgar and obscene language only makes you look weak and classless.

And please remember that often times the parents can hear you.  I was recently at a wrestling tournament.  Seating was limited, and all the parents from both teams were sandwiched in together in a few rows of chairs.  I heard the opposing team’s coaches.  They sounded like a bunch of frat boys, not leaders.  They were not coaching in a pure way, giving tips on how to win, but instead making jokes about the other team, pointing, and suggesting that their team play to win, even if it meant playing dirty.  “If the ref doesn’t see it, I don’t care what you do.”  Stop right there.  Remember when I said that these kids listen and look up to coaches?  Telling a high school kid that you don’t care what they do as long as they don’t get caught carries right on over into every day life.  You just taught your athlete that as long as they stay below the radar they can do whatever they please.  Whatever happened to teaching integrity?

Let’s dig a little deeper.  During certain seasons coaches see more of my boys than I do.  They are essentially like a second set of parents.  When I let my child participate I am trusting those coaches to not only teach my kids a skill, but also to keep them safe, and help shape them into men of integrity.  If you as a coach then turn around and blow your top, screaming obscenities at students and parents, and can’t keep it together during stressful times, what exactly are you teaching my boys?

Then there are the fun Daddy Ball coaches.  Super.  You want to coach your kid’s team.  You want to “be involved”.  We are so proud.  Let’s give you Father of the Year.  But for the love of sports, LET OTHER KIDS PLAY!  Just because you are the coach doesn’t mean that your kid is the star athlete.  He may be a chip off the old block, but that doesn’t mean that he is really THAT good.  And even if he is, so is little Johnny, Timmy, and Tyler too.  I did not show up to watch Junior run the bases over and over while you tell the rest of the team they aren’t good enough to play.  And while I’m at it…I’d really like your wife to sit down and shut up.  She’s not special!

Now we come to the parents….I’ve sat in stands along side parents for so many years that I have a permanent dent in my hind end from bleachers!  I’ve made so dear friends while sitting in the stands, but there is always that one parent.  I’m betting every single one of you can think of one of these parents.  During this season of my life it is a wrestling dad that just won’t be quiet.  I’m seriously getting short of breath and my heart rate went up just thinking about him.  He coaches from the sidelines.  He coaches so much that the actual coach is quiet because the coach can’t be heard over the dad.  (Side note- Jackson shut that boy’s dad up on Saturday when he beat him!)  Anyway…This dad says things like, “Shove him down, and don’t let him up for air.  Don’t let him breathe.”  It’s a miracle I don’t come down out of the stands and give this father a piece of my mind!  Parents, stop coaching from the sidelines.  You aren’t the coach, and half the time the kids tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about anyway.  Be quiet.  Let the coaches do their jobs.

Accept when your child doesn’t win, even if the ref made a bad call.  Life isn’t fair.  These kids should learn it early in life, rather than later.  Bad calls get made, injustices happen, and we become stronger because of it.  If you want Little Billy to be given a cupcake and a medal every time he puts on a uniform, then perhaps you should start a No Competition Necessary Club.  In fact, I believe some of the greatest lessons are learned from losing.  Life isn’t handed to you.  You get knocked down.  It’s all about whether or not you get back up and learn to do what it takes to win the next time.  Earning a medal is way better than being given one.  Now sit down and hush so your kid can learn that lesson.

Sadly, I have to take this one step further.  Remember how I told you parents should sit down?  I want to keep pressing that point.  Please remember that you are an adult, and you should act as example to youth.  On Saturday I didn’t just watch coaches tell kids to play a game with no ethics, I watched a father come out of the stands and rush a coach from the opposite team.  He was screaming at the coach, getting into his personal space, and itching for a fight.  It took multiple adults to hold the dad back, and usher him into the hallway.  NEVER should a parent engage with a coach from the other side unless it is to congratulate, welcome, or ask general questions.  The way a player behaves is the business of the coaches and refs, NOT YOU!  It begs the question, what are you teaching the athletes?  Do we now come out swinging when we don’t get our way?  Screaming, getting red faced, and acting like a fool won’t change the outcome.

I actually was threatened myself as a coach.  It never ends well for the parent.  In this case the parent was unable to watch her child play the rest of the season because she wasn’t allowed on school grounds.  Be an adult.  If you have nothing positive to say, please keep your mouth shut.  If you have questions for your child’s coach, address them like an adult.  There is no need to cause a scene.

My family has actually been very fortunate with the coaches they have been blessed with.  My daughter cheered for a coach who pushed her to break past her fears, swing for the fences, and always challenge herself beyond her comfort zone.  My eldest son, Jackson has been surrounded by wrestling coaches since the 8th grade.  (I’ll tell you the wrestling story another time.  It’s quite a lengthy chat!)  In the 8th grade my son learned that powerful things come in small packages.  He began learning that winning is important, but it isn’t everything.  Learning from your loss has value; don’t lose sight of that. Jackson also began to see that being a real man means you speak softly, and listen to those who have been there and done that.  Fast forward 3 years.  Jackson’s little brother joined the wrestling brotherhood.  Together they are learning that team is more important than self.  Hard work is more important than talent.  And winning with integrity beats cheating any day.

The boys love their coach.  He pushes them beyond their mental limits, praises them for hard work, and encourages them to be better men.  “Leave it all on the mat.  Put your heart into it, and then walk away knowing you gave it everything you have.”  Those are the lessons coaches are supposed to teach.  Read it again.  That’s a life lesson.  No amount of screaming, cursing, fighting, or cheating can teach that kind of lesson.  They will remember you long after they leave these halls.  Not for that fancy move you taught them, but for the life lessons you shared with them along the way.

The Day I Met My First Squirrel

“Mom, why did Aunt Nickie send home a stuffed squirrel?”  “Ugh, she’s enjoyed tormenting me with them since the squirrel incidents years ago.”  “What squirrel incidents?”  Ok, Paige, I will tell you the squirrel story.  I can’t believe we haven’t told you this story before now.

When I was in middle school my parents bought this ridiculously large house with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and it backed up to a wooded lot.  My favorite place in the whole house was my dad’s office.  He had this massive desk (which is in my office now), a cozy fireplace, and a comfy couch.  I would go in there to nap, read, or just hang out.  I loved it, until one day I didn’t anymore.

I was camped out on the couch half asleep when my mom called me.  I had a habit of just kind of rolling off the couch, catching myself with my arms before I hit the floor, and then standing up.  You can image my horror when mid roll I see a dead squirrel staring up at me from the floor.  Let me paint the picture for you.  This joker was on his back, his mouth in a snarl showing his jagged little jerk teeth, and his hands up like he was about to grab a nut.  Have you ever seen a 13 year old girl defy gravity, roll back UP a couch, and hurdle over a kitchen pass through before?!  Well that’s exactly what I did!  To this day I don’t know how I managed to jump through that pass through.  It was an epic move worthy of an Olympic Medal.  I screamed the whole way as if I had been taken over by evil spirits.  And then the rest of the evening is a blur.  I have no idea who removed the squirrel, whether he went to a squirrel heaven, or what his fate was.  But I knew I hated squirrels from that moment on.

Now there is a little fun fact we had not yet discovered about the woods behind our house.  They were full of FLYING squirrels.  Not regular, normal squirrels.  Oh no!  Everything in my life has to be extra, even the squirrels!  Well, if you don’t KNOW that the squirrels are flying, you don’t know to close the fireplace flue now do you?  So does anyone want to guess what happened?!

Fast forward about 6 months to a year.  I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning against our rolling island while my mom cooks.  The fact that she was in the kitchen cooking should have been an odd enough turn of events for me to know known something bad was going to happen.  I mean seriously, we grew up on KFC and Foster’s BBQ.  Mom didn’t cook.  Anyway….there we were, attempting to have a mother daughter moment.  She turns around to look at me and her eyes do this funny twitchy thing.  I can tell something isn’t quite right, but she’s trying to keep her cool.  “There’s a squirrel isn’t there?”  She couldn’t speak.  Wooden spoon midair, she just nods.

Guys, I really should have considered track after the squirrel episodes.  I jumped up, jumped back over that pass through, and up to my room.  This squirrel was ALIVE!  That asshole had been in my room.  I found his tiny soot covered rodent footprints on my window ledge along with his droppings.  Why were these furry jerks after ME?  Why not torment my sister or my mother?!  I mean seriously, this wasn’t funny.  And Nickie, I STILL don’t think it’s funny!

When I believed the coast was clear, I ventured out of my room, and back into our home which was now part of Snow White’s Enchanted Forest.  Turns out that squirrel panicked a little when I started screaming.  He flew from the kitchen into the dining room, kept right on going to the music room, and then committed suicide as he flew into our Christmas Tree.

Great….Now we’ve got a dead squirrel hanging from the limbs of our tree.  How decorative.  Ugh!  I made it abundantly clear that I did not care how the squirrel was removed; I just wasn’t helping.  Somehow my dad had managed to dodge the bullet on this one.  He was out of town on business, so my mom conned the pastor next door into removing the rodent from the tree.

I’m pretty sure we never lit Dad’s fireplace again.  The flue was permanently closed, as my parents were afraid one more squirrel encounter might lead me to an early death or a padded room.

Now days I won’t even go outside if a squirrel is in the yard, I run past them in public parks, and I curse at them through windows.  And of course my family finds this hilarious, and thinks that we should relive this moment every once in awhile, so they wrap up fake squirrels and give them as gifts.  Maybe one year I’ll wrap up an alligator and give it to them.  Hateful people!  So if you are in a park and you see a lady running at full speed while yelling obscenities at the wild life, don’t worry.  It’s just me having a minor squirrel meltdown.  And as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

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