I’m still tiptoeing my way through this minefield that could have been. Growing up in a challenging environment can do that to a person. You probably know what I mean though. Not everyone grew up eating gold and having a flying pony (wise words of Phoebe Buffay). A lot of us, probably a lot more than are willing to admit it, grew up in difficult situations. Our parents weren’t always nice; we didn’t get sage words of advice passed down from generation to generation. The grass sometimes was greener on the other side of the fence; we just didn’t know how to get there. Likely because the fence didn’t belong to us, it belonged to the rich neighbor who sat there eating gold and letting his flying pony crap on our side of the fence.
The thing of it is, I’m not bothered by how I grew up. No, it wasn’t always peaches and cream, but it was my life. I had people who crossed paths with me that made a difference in my kid sized heart and mind. I had the ability to read and a thirst for knowledge that allowed me to escape some of the worst times I went through. And I had this uncanny belief that God was there watching over me and that someday it was going to be alright.
An anomaly. That’s what I’ve been told I was. An exception to the rule. Someone who by chance made it and made out good despite having the deck stacked against her.
I’ll buy that. Maybe I am an exception to some strange rule of the universe that says when life kicks you when you’re down; you’re not supposed to be able to get back up. And if you do, you only stand as high as kneeling and not any higher. Okay, let’s say that’s the case. Let’s say I surpassed all odds to get where I am in life today.
What I’ve been told by a few is that since I am an exception to the rule, I should feel bad for others who haven’t made it as far. That I should even go so far as to feel bad for those who are still stuck in the mire of a bad childhood and can’t seem to live a good life. So, that means I can carve out a life from the so called one that was handed to me years ago, but I have to feel bad about it later.
Misplaced guilt. How does that taste going down? Um, not good. Not good at all. Why should I feel ashamed for clawing my way to where I am today?
Truth be told, I don’t feel guilty. Not daily, anyway. But it does creep up on me every now and again. Like when I’m close enough to some kind of success that I can taste it. Or when I’ve gotten a promotion or bought a house or taken a trip and I don’t feel at liberty to be excited or to share the joy of what just happened.
And that’s a shame. It’s as big a shame as that proverbial neighbor sitting on his side of the fence eating spoonfuls of gold as he watches his flying pony take a dump on my side of life. And it shouldn’t happen. –The pony thing or the guilt.
What ought to happen is when you (or I or anyone) sees a flying pony crapping on our side of life, we ought to pick up that pile of poo and throw it back in the neighbor’s yard. Or charge a cleaning fee and not leave his side until it’s paid in full. Or better yet, snag the flying pony’s harness when he’s over there doing his business and take a ride. That might get the neighbor off his high horse (pun intended).
And no one should feel guilty for making it in life. No one. Whether you’re born into a good life or out there making one happen, enjoy it. [Assuming you are going about it legally and ethically and with moral good sense.] If you’re the lucky SOB who wins big on the lottery or the gal who gets promoted or the kid who wins the scholarship or the couple who finds love, embrace it. Enjoy it. Go buy your own flying pony and your own spoonful of gold.
Live it up. Smile, jump up and down, be proud of your accomplishments. Give credit where credit is due. Maybe even let that poor neighbor kid take a spin around the neighborhood on your flying pony. While there’s no need to rub it in the faces of those who haven’t made it yet, you can be happy. You can. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Because no one needs your pity or your condescending sense of misplaced guilt for having a good life. What people need is your story. Your inspiration of how you made it. They need your encouragement and maybe even a little bit of your stalwart belief that they can make it too. Because sometimes people can’t believe in themselves and they need you to believe enough for both of them until they can see the possibilities in their life.
Shine in what you’ve accomplished, my friend. Rejoice in how far you’ve come, while never forgetting where you came from. Be an example for others; your kids, your grandkids, your siblings, your peers. Support them in their endeavors. And never give up hope. Life might still kick you in the groin even after your successes. (Sometimes she likes to do that.)
If (and when) she does, it means you’ll have to decide if you’re going to get back up again. Maybe it’ll take you a little longer than before if the blow was hard enough. What matters is that you get up again.
Life is like that. A constant dance between man and incidents. Okay, man, woman, and incidents. I can be politically correct. Never give up.
Demonstrate the hard work it takes to get that flying pony. Chew your spoonful of gold thoroughly before swallowing. Teach your flying pony to do his business on your side of the fence. Because that’s what life is, you know. You may get the flying pony, but he still has to poo.
Are you going through a rough time? Have you hit an emotional slump? Don't give up. Count your blessings. Eat some ice cream. Plot your way to getting that spoonful of gold. Whatever you do, don't give up. You'll get through it. We all will.
I’m pretty sure my dog is out to kill me. One long, sleepless night at a time.
For people who suffer from sleep disorders, a night of zzzzz’s with no interruptions are the equivalent of caffeinated elixir poured into a person’s mouth, fountain style in the morning. A long, delicious night of sleep is pure bliss.
Which is why right now, I feel like actors in movies and TV shows where the character can’t sleep. There was an episode like that on FRIENDS. I’ve seen it once or twice, but it’s my least favorite episode. I excitedly fast forward it when I’m going through the seasons on a marathon run. I skip it because even the thought of not sleeping at night makes me want to cry.
This morning I’m exhausted because my dog was up again at three in the morning to be let out. It’s amazing that she hates me enough to wreck my chances for a solid night’s sleep especially since during the day; she cuddles with me to the point of having separation anxiety. A quick minute to let the dog out in the wee hours of the morning might not sound like a big deal, but for me it is.
If you’ve never experienced insomnia or restless leg syndrome (RLS) or any other disorder that creates exhaustion, the thought of crying over lack of sleep may be difficult to understand. I assure you, sleepless nights are very real and they affect many people.
Did you know there are over one hundred identified sleep disorders, according to The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences? More than a hundred. As if that’s not mind blowing enough, it’s not uncommon for individuals with one sleep disorder to get the hard packed punch of having more than one.
These disorders can present themselves in various ways. From insomnia (persistent inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) to sleep apnea (episodes in which a person stops breathing because the brain doesn’t give the cue to breathe (CSA) or when the airway is blocked (OSA)) movement disorders (Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) to a whole host of other kinds of sleeplessness, there are a lot of us who can’t get enough shut eye.
What can you do to help? I’m glad you asked. Here is my list of the top ten things you can do to help the sleepless.
1. Stop telling us to drink more caffeine. This is not a good idea. Caffeine is one of the things that can result in sleepless for those of us who don’t sleep well. And to tell you the truth, it would take buckets of caffeine to get me going after a night of tossing and turning anyway.
2. Don’t encourage us to nap. While the idea is appealing, getting that “extra” sleep in during the day just means that we won’t be sleeping tonight. A good nap simply messes with our circadian rhythm that much more.
3. Refrain from getting us engaged in a conversation or conflict that might cause a strong reaction. Without a proper night’s sleep, people are often irritable and vulnerable to stress. Don’t poke the bear. Please. It’ll be better for everyone involved if you don’t.
4. Respect our need for a bedtime routine. Forgive me if I sound like I’m talking about getting a toddler to bed, but bedtime routines are important. Getting our brains and bodies into the habit of preparing for sleep might actually get us a peaceful night’s rest. Trust me, this is good for everyone involved.
5. Quit making us feel bad. For those of us who experience RLS or PLMD or a host of other sleep disorders that disturb our bedroom partners, enough is enough. You think we enjoy disturbing your sleep? We don’t. We would appreciate a good night’s sleep just as much as you would. Don’t make jokes about sleeping on the couch or getting twin beds or finding someone who lets you sleep through the night. It’s not funny and it hurts. Especially when we’re running on only a few hours of sleep ourselves.
6. Give us a chance to wake up in the morning. Not all of us are raring to go when the alarm goes off. Those of us with sleep disorders would prefer to chuck the alarm out the window lest it disturb the few minutes of precious sleep we’ve been able to grab onto –like a life raft in the middle of an ocean, where we’re surrounded by sharks. Don’t judge us, don’t demean us, and please, for the love of God don’t sing chipper songs or engage us in some lively and entertaining dialogue about the events going on around the globe. Simply tell us good morning and let us wake up. You may not realize it, but for some of us who struggle with sleep, we had just started dreaming five minutes before the alarm sounded.
7. Believe us when we tell you we’re tired. We’re not making it up, we’re not trying to ignore you, and we’re really not trying to get out of being intimate with you. Having your sleep interrupted by nightmares, twitching, snoring, the inability to breathe, or a brain that just won’t turn itself off is awful. It’s a real problem. We’d love nothing more than to go to the movies after work or slip under the sheets for a little romp in the sack, but sometimes we can’t muster up enough energy to do anything more than fall asleep at the dinner table. If we’re lucky.
8. Be a part of the solution. When your sleepless partner comes to you with ridiculous sounding ideas on how to rearrange the bedroom or de-clutter so that s/he can sleep, don’t resist. Just do it. Trying it won’t hurt and it could help the situation. You might be glad you did.
9. Listen. Not to us whining or anything, but to the sound of a fan whirring or rain falling. Whether your partner wants to try white noise or pink noise or discovers an article on how rainbow colored noise will increase her ability to sleep, encourage her to try it. It likely won’t bother you anyway because you’ll be asleep.
10. Understand us. Educate yourself on the number of ways a person can increase healthy sleep patterns. Stand up for us when others make rude or negative comments about how tired or confused or irritable we are after a sleepless night. Go with your partner to doctors’ appointments, help her keep a sleep diary, buy that weighted blanket in her favorite color or turn the bedroom into a haven conducive to getting some REM sleep.
Telling the 1 in 10 people who have sleep disorders to “sleep well” isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you know someone who has trouble sleeping, be supportive and creative in your efforts to understand that special someone and help her get her zzzz’s. And if at all possible, tell me how I can get my dog to sleep through the night. That bit of information would help me tremendously.
As a mother of six kids who all burst into the world one right after the other, I have found that the toddler years were less challenging than the teen years. Back then, I could play games with them or read to them or put them down for a nap. Those were simple tasks.
These days, the kids have burst into the teen years and with their unique personalities and different interests, keeping up with them has been difficult at times. There are all kinds of things to compete with like school, part time jobs, boy/girlfriends (yikes!), and technology. I am competitive though and I love, love, love spending time with my kids. So, if you’re a mother like me who wants to get in some quality time with the kids before they leave the nest, here are my #Top10Things to do with your teens that are fun and guaranteed to bring about some mother/child bonding.
1. Play video games with them. If you’re really into it and they are up for the challenge, play the old video games from your childhood with them.
2. Find a great TV series and marathon watch it with them. For me, that means watching Parenthood with two of my kids who are hooked on the series as I am.
3. Cook together. Some of my best memories with my kids are when we’re all in the kitchen putting meals together for the upcoming week. We blast the music and enjoy the time together.
4. Travel. It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you get out there and explore with them. We’ve taken our teens to Pennsylvania, California, Alabama, and Mexico as well as a host of other places in between.
5. Go for coffee. I remember the first time I took my daughters out for coffee with me. It was fun and I got a glimpse into the kind of women they might be someday.
6. Text them. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to talk to their parents about what’s going on in their lives. Don’t get on to them about putting their phones away, join them. Pick yours up and have a conversation with them. You might be surprised what they’re willing to share with you when they can do it via text.
7. Introduce them to old movies from your youth. I’ve found bonding can be done over a bowl of popcorn and a movie from the ‘90s like very little else can.
8. Learn a phone game to play with them. Words with Friends or Crack Trivia are just a couple of the games I’ve played with my teens. As they branch out into the world and prepare to launch into the world, you’ve got to connect with them on any level you can.
9. Do chores with them. This may not be the most fun thing to do with your teen, but it can be rewarding. Instead of harping on them to do the dishes, sidle up to the sink beside them and help out. You’ll get less resistance from them and more chance to hang out together. Oh, and the dishes will get done more to your standards too.
10. Read a book with them. Not to them or for them, but with them. Pick up a copy of something you both want to read and as you both read it on your own time, talk about it. It doesn’t have to be a formal book club and your conversations will likely happen in snippets via text or Facebook messages, but conversations are conversations, right?
Just because your kids have reached the teenage years doesn’t mean you can’t still spend time with them. Try one of these ideas for quality time with your kid or share your own ideas in the comments. #MomsofTeens #Parenthood
I had lunch with a friend recently. It was a real lunch, one that consisted of chatting while we ate instead of shoveling my food into my mouth with one hand while using the other to respond to work-related e-mails. It seems there’s never enough time in the work day to get all the work done.
Maybe I was being lazy today. Maybe I had checked out of the office a whole lot earlier than I was supposed to, mentally speaking. Maybe I was just still really tired after a restless night’s sleep. Maybe. Or maybe, my brain and my heart are trying to tell me something.
As we ate, I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t want to be at the office today. I wanted to turn off the computer and pack up my bag and go home. I didn’t want to respond to e-mails or write reports or answer calls.
“I want to do fun stuff.” I told my friend. I told her about the play I’d auditioned for the night before and how even though I’m a novice actress, I really want a part. I told her I want to sit at home tucked up in my loft writing novels. I thought about the #365K writing challenge and how I’m looking forward to a weekend of writing.
It got me thinking about a picture I’d posted on Facebook a while back posing with my friend, Minnie. She’d stopped by my office unexpectedly. I was so excited to see her after having been away from her for over a month that I couldn’t stop hugging her. I couldn’t stop smiling at how happy I was to see her. I couldn’t stop my heart from soaring over the joy of seeing a long lost friend.
All those things, the visiting, the plays, the writing, the walking, the novels, all of those things are fun stuff. Eating lunch with my friend without thinking about work was fun too.
I do more fun stuff now than I used to. I used to work ten hour days and then work more from home on the weekends. I didn’t smile much. I haven’t been in a play since my teen years. I used to fret about how little time I had to do fun stuff. Well, not anymore.
Now I get three and a half hours to myself five days a week. I don’t sleep as much as I used to, but the morning hours are bliss. And I get a lot of writing done every day too. Things like #WriteJar and #WritingChallenge and #10MinuteNovelists are all wicked fun ways that I get to spend my time. Who needs sleep, right?
At lunch today as we talked about doing fun stuff, my friend and I smiled together. We talked about other fun things we want to do and made plans to carve out time for more fun stuff. And we toasted. Her diet soda and my glass of water; they weren’t glass bottles or anything, but we clinked them together. A promise to ourselves and to one another to do more fun stuff.
Have you lost sight of the joy in doing fun stuff? How can you carve it into your life? Never forget how to smile and enjoy life, because one day it will end. Shall we toast? To fun stuff. *clink*
I’ve always been fascinated by the Civil Rights Movement. I read the book “Through My Eyes” to my children multiple times when they were small. I wanted them to know the importance of education, of standing up for yourself, and of our country’s history. They learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his famous “I have a Dream” speech. Not because we were celebrating black history month, but because I wanted them to have a dream far bigger than anything they could imagine at such a young age. And because I wanted them to be able to see someone’s skin color and also see past it.
Growing up “mixed” (half Mexican, the other half White (Swedish, Irish) and reports of Native American Indian heritage (that I have yet to confirm), I tended to identify with the Mexican side of my history. Now a days I can admit that I’m a White girl in a Mexican woman’s body. When you are a fan of country music and your skin color doesn’t really reflect that, what else can you do? A lot of times, though, I didn’t really fit in.
I didn’t (and still don’t) have the blonde hair and blue eyes that so many other people I grew up with sported. My hair didn’t (and still doesn’t) lay tamely on my head. I still can’t speak enough Spanish to make myself useful or respond coherently to any Spanish speaking waiter in the myriad of Mexican restaurants I’ve eaten in. I know, right? I’m so ashamed. I didn’t have a quinceañera or a sweet sixteen party. I can make a mean homemade tortilla, but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of making tamales.
Most of the time, though, none of these things really mattered. Not in the grand scheme of life anyway. More than anything, it provided multiple opportunities for funny stories or reinforced the quirks about me and my life. Until recently. Until race and racism and conflict over skin color became a big deal again.
It’s strange isn’t it? How that’s happened. After all that Martin Luther King, Jr. did for the Civil Rights Movement and yet here we are. In the midst of violence and hate and racial tension. It’s heartbreaking. Between Ferguson Missouri and New York City, it hurts to see so many people hurting and fighting and trying to find their place in this country.
I’m not writing this to debate about who was right or wrong in those situations. It’s not my place. I wasn’t there to see it firsthand. I’m writing this because it lays heavy on my heart. Because I grew up hearing stories about people who wouldn’t like me because I didn’t look white and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
I’ve been asked where I come from more times than I can count. I’ve been mistaken for half black, Native American, Hawaiian, Venezuelan, and a host of other nationalities over the years. My all-time favorite question to get is: “What are you?” Um, yeah, I’m human. What are you?
My father used to say he didn’t see skin color. I was never quite sure how to take that since skin color is one of the first things you notice when you meet a person. Because I do. I’m sure you do, unless you’re blind and can’t see skin color. And I don’t mean it disrespectfully, but dang it, God created us with eyes. We see color!
I saw color when I dated my first boyfriend whose skin was a dark chocolate hue. I saw color when I married my fair skinned husband. I saw color when I took my son to class with me when he was three years old. When he asked me why black men on campus high fived him and not his fair skinned brother, I knew he saw color too. And probably so did the men who gave him high fives.
I see color, but I also see past it. I see past it to the personality and wit and humor and compassion of others. I see past it to get to know my sons’ girlfriends and my daughter’s friends. I see past it when I meet someone new, knowing he or she could become an important part of my life. I see past it because choosing not to is like judging a book by its cover with much worse repercussions than the possibility of missing out on a well written novel. To see skin color and be stopped by that is to miss out on a potential friend or confidante or lover.
You may be caught up in the debate about who’s right or wrong in the recent racial conflicts that have occurred. And those events have been tragic to say the least. But I encourage you to ask yourself what happens when you see skin color. Does it stop you in your tracks, preventing you from seeing someone for who she really is? Or can you see the beauty of someone God created and look past it to find the beauty inside that person’s heart?
Here are just a handful of reasons why I'm a #10MinuteNovelist...
1. Because I have a day job. As much as the #WriteJar is helping me get “paid” for writing, $2 an hour doesn’t go as far as it used to when I was fourteen and working at a daycare. I’d like to blame it on my husband, but honestly, I’m accustomed to a fairly high class way of living.
2. Even though I get up at 4:30 in the morning to write, sometimes those couple of hours before work doesn’t give me enough time to write. I blame Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You know, the evils of social media. Can I use that as a status update?
3. I like to sleep. Sometimes the snooze button is my all-time favorite friend. Well, second to sleep anyway.
4. I have kids. They might be teenagers and can cook their own food, but sometimes I have to say more than “uh huh” while sneaking a glance at my hands to make sure I’ve found the middle row of the keyboard. Ignoring the kids completely will not get me a mother of the year award.
5. Sex is kind of important. It’s not the most important part of a relationship, but let’s face it; it can be one of the most fun parts. And when you’re balancing writing, kids, work, and sleep, you have to limit the writing time so you can get in a good bedroom date.
6. The #10MinuteNovelists group is full of fun people. They keep the writing life interesting and much less solitary than it could be if I didn’t know them.
7. I get to host a weekly writing chat. It’s on Sundays at 11am AKDT (shameless plug there) and if you’re part of the #10MinuteNovelist group, you can join in. It’s totally fun.
8. I am a procrastinator. If I don’t have like-minded people prodding me along, I might never get anything written, much less published.
9. It gets me out of my shell. I’m a serious introvert and these folks stretch me out of my comfort zone. They also have excellent book reading recommendations; a bonus.
10. #10MinuteNovelists have amazing swag. Like this coffee mug. I think I’m going to buy that for myself for Valentine’s Day this year.
Don't you want to be a #10MinuteNovelist too?
When my husband and I first started going out, we lived an hour away from each other. It was torture to be so far away from someone that I really, really liked. Work, kids, and the price of gas meant we didn’t see each other very often. Eventually, we found closer living quarters. And while it wasn’t always easy, there were some great things that helped us stay close.
Whether the long distance is between you and your soulmate, relatives, or good friends, there are all kinds of wonderful things you can use to keep close despite long distances.
1. The all night phone calls. With the advances in technology, people rarely use their phones for actual talking. Sometimes though, you need to hear that person’s voice. I know hearing his voice had a way of making everything a little bit better.
2. Writing letters. And I’m not talking e-mails either. I mean, real letters written on actual paper that you had to wait by the mailbox to get. It was like Christmas every time a letter was in the box. I still experience this kind of excitement when I get a letter in the mail from my sister or best friend from high school.
3. Meeting in the middle. When you’re separated by many miles from that special someone, meeting somewhere in the middle is a great way to stay in touch. Just this past summer, we met my mom and her husband for lunch in Florida. Where none of us live.
4. Texting. Honestly, I’m not sure how hubby and I managed without texting when we were dating and living away from one another. With this kind of technology, I can stay in touch with loved ones all day long. It’s not the same as chatting over a cup of coffee, but it’s still good.
5. Speaking of chatting over coffee…how about FaceTime? I’ve used this a few times to stay in touch with my sister. We used to love going out for coffee. Now that we live a few thousand miles away from each other, we periodically set a coffee date via FaceTime. She goes to her local coffee shop and I go to mine, order drinks, and voila. We’re practically in the same room while we visit!
6. Exploring the world. I miss out on a lot of events with my niece and nephew. I’m not at their birthday parties or school events. But I am always thinking about them. And since I travel a lot, I incorporate my love for them into my travels. At every new place I go to, I pick up a little something for them and ship it to their house. Whether it’s specialty chocolates or a shirt with the name of the state on it, I box it up and head to the nearest post office. It lets them know that even though I can’t physically be present, they are always in my heart.
7. Post cards. These are great to send on the fly when you’re out and about. Sometimes just having something tangible from that person you care about is like a hug from them.
8. Making the drive. Fortunately for my husband and me, we were close enough to drive to one another when we were dating. And every now and then, that’s exactly what he’d do. After a long day of work, he would drive the hour to where I was staying and we’d go out for cheesecake. It broke up the days of being apart from him and created a tradition (sharing cheesecake) that we still hold dear, fifteen years later.
9. Pictures. When my son and his girlfriend were separated by many miles due to him being at boot camp, they would FaceTime one another and take pictures together. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those photos spanned miles as they held their hands up to the screen to make one heart.
10. Cards. Whether you make them yourself or find great ones at the store, dropping a card in the mail lets someone know you’re thinking of them. It doesn’t have to be Christmas or a birthday to send a card either.
Long distance relationships aren’t always easy. At least they aren’t for me. But putting some fun things into practice has helped me to remember that just because distance separates two people doesn’t mean the relationship is lost. It just means you have to work harder to keep that spark alive.
I graduated from university in 2008. It was a long road of books and classes and interning that I was happy to have behind me as I forged a path into a new career. At times I contemplated getting my PhD and even applied for a program at one point. After careful consideration though, I was able to acknowledge that my reason for taking that academic journey any further was all wrong. I withdrew my application and jumped into the professional world of work.
And it was good. There have been other moments since then when I considered going back to school for that PhD and each time I came close to diving in before changing my mind. Honestly, even though I love to learn and have always enjoyed homework (sans math homework) I don’t see myself ever getting that PhD. I don’t want it. I think I would become resentful and in many ways use it as a ruse for getting out of the hard work of writing that I’m trying to make something of.
But in a few days, that’s where I’ll be. At school. Again. Only this time I’m not seeking a degree. I’m going to learn. I’m taking another step in the world of writing and taking a class on writing short stories. I’m really looking forward to it.
For starters, I’m not taking the class to get a degree. There is no “goal” in sight other than to show up each week, complete the assignments, and see where it takes me. It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? To enjoy the journey of learning as opposed to going to school to get the “A” and the degree at the end of the ride.
I find it exhilarating that I’m taking a class on something that I never would have studied before. Not because I didn’t want to be a writer even as a kid, but because I didn’t know you could be. It never occurred to me while contemplating what to study at college that I could get a degree in fiction writing or literature and do something with it.
It’s going to be good for me to learn more about the craft of writing. I can easily whip out 50,000 words (and more) in a month’s time each November. But I need some purpose in my writing. I want to grow as a writer. And this is one way to do it.
In a few days, I’ll be back in the saddle of school. Failure isn’t an option and learning is the goal. It’s time to take another step in this journey of a writer’s life. Short stories here I come.
Have you ever done something for the sake of learning? What craft do you want to learn for your own personal growth? It’s a new year…how about taking that step? We can learn and grow together.
Every now and then we have Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Turkey, stuffing, and all the other trimmings that are usually sequestered to the fourth Thursday in November. We do it because we like turkey and because I tend to have trouble following the rules. If someone tells me Thanksgiving dinner is to be relegated to only one day out of the calendar year, you can bet I’ll usurp authority and have it more times than that.
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks, yet why do we celebrate that only once a year? Are we celebrating thanklessness the other 364 days? Probably not, but if we aren’t somewhat mindful of our attitude toward gratitude, we can get sidetracked. This year, we’re trying something new.
No, we’re not having Thanksgiving dinner every night of the week. Though I could probably be persuaded to have pumpkin pie on Tuesdays. Instead we’re trying to focus our minds on thankfulness every day of the year in 2015. A friend of ours designed some pretty calendars she’s dubbed “A Year of Thanks.” You can find them here. It’s a simple concept, really. You hang up the calendar (preferably where you can see it on a daily basis) and jot down something you’re thankful for each day.
Since we started using ours, I find myself redirecting my thoughts when I’m really frustrated. Instead of spending several minutes complaining (out loud or to myself) about something that’s going wrong, I remind myself of what I’m thankful for. A lot of times, I’m reminded of the small things I’m thankful for. Like a good cup of coffee, sleeping late on the weekend, having my favorite snack, or ordering pizza after work when we’re too tired to cook.
How many times do we get caught up in the heavy things in life and forget to be thankful for all the little things? Like the local barista knowing exactly how you like your coffee or when you get to relax after a long day by watching your favorite television show. Isn’t it the small stuff that makes up a really great life?
We may have only one designated day of the year to celebrate Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful every day of the year. You might even find yourself writing small so you can fit more than one thing into each day. I know I have.
There are all sorts of ways to be mindful of what you’re thankful for. Whether you use a traditional journal, an app for your smart phone, Kristy’s calendar, or even jot things you’re thankful for on your wall calendar, I encourage you to try it in 2015. It just might change your life.
Whenever life hands us opportunities to do something big or exciting or scary, it’s always great to have a cheerleader nearby. Someone with pom-poms (real or proverbial), a big smile, and lots of encouraging words…er, cheers. And I’ve had a few of those in my lifetime. But, it’s also good to have a supporter.
Anyone can give you a high five and tell you to “do a great job” or “keep your chin up” or something equally encouraging. But not everyone can help you put your nose to the grindstone to get that goal accomplished. And a supporter is a different kind of person. Let me tell you a little story about my biggest supporter.
I was twenty-three years old, newly divorced, and had three little bitty kids to take care of. I had no marketable job skills, had never gone to college, and wasn’t really sure how I was going to make a go at life and come out on top. My mission was to raise my kids and give them the kind of life I’d always dreamed of having and I knew it would require me to get an education so that I could have a career.
With that mission in mind and a long unfulfilled desire to go to college, I applied to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Women’s External Degree ‘WED’ program. Even though I’d applied to and been accepted to Indiana State University around the time I had graduated from high school, I’d never gone and truth be told, SMWC was my dream school. Thankfully, their distance program would allow me to be home with my kids and work without overextending myself by going to classes. And honestly, I wasn’t ready to move away from the town I’d grown up with. My family lived there and it was somewhat comforting to be around people that I’d grown distant from during the length of my unhappy marriage.
The first order of business upon being accepted to SMWC was to go to the campus to meet my professors, purchase textbooks, and get oriented to what life as an adult college student was going to be like. This was really scary business. I was scared to death of going to school already and now I had to drive a couple of hours to a town I’d never been to? Yeah, that’s where my biggest supporter came in.
He was a dream. Good looking, friendly, strong moral values, and totally up for a road trip. We’d only known each other a few months, but I could already tell he was someone special and when I asked him if he would go with me, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. But I was still nervous.
As we pulled out of my little driveway that day and got on the road, I was certain I would throw up. My palms were sweaty, my heart rate sped up the closer we got to the campus, and I must have checked my paperwork a hundred times as we drove along.
My biggest supporter? He kept his cool. He kept the music on, drove at a steady pace, and didn’t let me wiggle out of this life changing event. Not even when we pulled up to the beautiful campus and I was mere minutes from being an official college student.
“Maybe there’s something else we can do instead. We can drive to Vegas. Or maybe just find a nice place to eat somewhere…far away from here. Maybe we could even go get married? Do you want to get married? I’ll say yes, right now. Let’s go. Anywhere but here.” I told him, almost on the verge of tears.
Nothing swayed him. In fact, he turned down my proposal without missing a beat. “You said you wanted to go to college, so I drove you here. Now get out [of the truck].” He told me as he stood beside the open driver’s side door and pointed in the direction of the campus library.
I thought about my kids then and the fact that they were depending on me. I thought about the time and gas money this person had given up to drive me to orientation. I thought about my dream of getting a college education. And I thought about all the people in my life who had told me that getting to this point in life wasn’t going to happen for me.
And I did what he said. I got out of the truck. I made my way through orientation that day. I bought my textbooks. I ate lunch with fellow students and marveled at the beauty of the buildings.
When my biggest supporter showed up at the end of the day, just like he’d promised he would, I was all smiles. I had taken the first step in a series of many more steps to give my kids a future. I was on my way to a college education and a career.
It’s been fourteen years since that day. The memories that day holds bring tears to my eyes when I think of them. Because that was the first of many semesters when I went back there to meet professors, purchase textbooks, and marvel at the beauty of the campus. I also went there to celebrate Ring Day and graduation.
My biggest supporter? He went with me every time. And just before I graduated, he supported me in applying to graduate school. Even though he turned down my harried marriage proposal that day in 1999, it all worked out. He proposed to me that summer and together we have given our kids the kind of life I’ve always wanted for them.
What about you? Who’s your biggest supporter? What dreams and goals have you accomplished with that person’s support?