Having a weird mom builds character

If having a weird mom does indeed build character my babies are set for life.

“Who needs 2 fat heads??? You have one. That will do,” those are the words I said to my daughter before senior swim night.

At the swim banquet last night I got my answer. “Who needs 2 fat heads??” The answer: anyone child who participates in 2 sports.

The crowd chuckled when the picture popped up.

I sank as low as humanly possible in my seat.

To her credit my girl didn’t say, “I told you so.” I didn’t even get the, “MOOOOMMMMM!” That would have been screeched just a few years ago. Age has mellowed my girl. I got a smile and a non-bitchy roll of the eyes.

I deserved much worse.

“Hey—-you will never forget senior night!” I challenged. And than reminded her that having a weird mom builds character.

When each senior got a copy of the said picture I put my head in my hands and groaned, “I could die!”

She laughed.

We survived that moment although I couldn’t make eye contact with my co-worker across the aisle (also a swim/dive dad) because I knew he would be laughing. He hasn’t let me forget my faux paus after seeing it on Facebook.

The state team members were recognized. My daughter was up there. She didn’t want to be. As an alternate she was embarrassed to me amongst the elite swimmers when she didn’t actually swim at the state meet. I was thinking of how incredibly proud I was of her. Her 4 year goal had been to swim at state. When she was asked to be an alternate, she didn’t hesitate. She knew she wouldn’t be allowed to attend the meet, but she kept practicing and kept pushing herself nonetheless. She didn’t think she deserved to be up there but I did. Her heart and her commitment despite her disappointment were honorable. I was proud she was up there and for everything her being up there represented.

I was busy thinking about how she would never know how proud I was of her. I was beating myself up for not getting her a fathead, if for nothing else, out of respect for all her hard work.

Next came team awards. I was busy obsessing over my failures as a mom and only 1/2 heard words like: integrity, supportive of everyone, hard working, committed. “Someone’s about to be proud,” I thought to myself as they went on to describe the team voted upon award.

“The swimmer most embodying the spirit of a Titan is…”

I don’t have a poker face.

I think my kids are AMAZING but understand not everyone shares my opinion.

But they said HER name.

The Titan Tide spirit award went to my girl!!!

I acted a fool.

“YOU?!” I asked incredulously.

I think I whooped.

I know my shock was displayed in my face because the teacher who handed her the award told my girl, “I wish I had a picture of your moms face!”

I don’t have a picture of her winning the award.

After my shock and disbelief I immediately started discreetly crying. The team voted for MY GIRL! They didn’t know her self-confidence struggles as a swimmer. They didn’t know she was disappointed to never have been an official state team member. They didn’t know she hated every stroke, every turn of practice because swimming was pure WORK for her. They didn’t know that she stayed up until 1a doing homework during swim season because swim took so much time. They didn’t know on top of AP classes, swim practice and football games she was also responsible for her little sister. They couldn’t have possibly known how much this award would mean to her.

I cried because I was hurt. For seven years I’d tried to make the swim banquets special with homemade decor. I’d done it for her brother and always thought I’d do it for her. This years banquet wasn’t like the others so I I had no hand in it. We were lucky, in a covid world, to even have a banquet so I was thankful to have the event but said that these hardworking seniors didn’t get their just due. It made me sad to not have a part in making her night special. It hurt to think that she might somehow see that as a sign I wasn’t extremely proud of her.

There were tears because it was over. My days as a swim mom were over and that left a hole in my heart.

There were tears because she was so damn beautiful standing up there.

I wiped them away discreetly so as to not embarrass her.

Although it was probably too late for that; As I sat there in my glittery tennis shoes and bright red sweater with stars on it.

All the chapters of her book are waiting to be written.

One of the most important chapters of my life had just closed.

So I cried for that too.

Don’t worry. I quickly dried up the waterworks. This was a night to celebrate her… not to pacify me.

I wish I could go back and hear the words I missed. I wish I could hear her coach describe her and her Titan spirit.

I also wish I could go back and get her an appropriately sized fat head.

Or maybe I don’t.

As ridiculous as it looks it does adequately depict our swim life.

Like the time we drive 4 hours for a meet only to realize she’d forgotten her entire swim bag. Does the phrase you had one job!? Resonate here?

Or the time she’d splurged on acrylic nails. They were too long I my opinion. My opinion were justified when her talons got stuck in the grate as she was diving off the block.

Then there was the time she had to walk a balloon llama in front of hundreds of people. It seemed like a good idea when I bought it. Repeat after me: having a weird mom builds character.

Then there are my gold shoes. Yes. I had gold tennis shoes to wear to the meets.

I am not sure what I did here to deserve this look but I am sure it was something she didn’t a Appreciate.

I am sure she was stopping one of my motivational attempts here. “Just don’t be last and don’t drown” probably didn’t do much to motivate her.

Regardless of our wacky years at the pool I hope she knows that I think she’s a total bad ass and I am in awe of all she’s accomplished.

My girl is strength. She’s pure grit. She’s a fighter. She’s committed and determined. She’s responsible and trustworthy. She’s selfless (most of the time). She’s powerful but humble; hardworking and driven. She’s sharp, witty but soft at sweet at the same time. She’s got a infectious laugh that comes from her belly and spreads joy to anyone that hears it. She’s got stars in her eyes even as she keeps herself firmly rooted.

That’s my girl.

My Titan.

No Hallmark card here

I have written, and discarded, post about being lonely this Valentine’s Day. Though it’s how I feel I couldn’t write it without sounding whiny—which I refuse to be. So, instead, I am focusing on other kinds of love.

This year is full of love.

Yes, I am 1/2 of a whole living in a world that was meant to be lived in pairs. Yes, I am lonely. Yes, I am feeling unloveable but I have to elect to not focus on that but to focus on the love that I did see today.

I love that my big ones found people to love that I can love too.

Flowers

The big girls beau came over today with flowers for his girl, his girl’s baby sister and his girls mom. Each a different color. I love that he loves her so much that he loves the people she loves.

The gang

Big brother and his girl. Big sister and her beau. Little sister (who is now as tall as her big brother). I love that they double dated with a +1. Hearing them kidding with one another and chatting as they headed out the door with little sister in tow made my heart happy.

My heart

I love that my big boy loved his sweater. I loved how nice he looked in big boy clothes. I love the happy smile on the youngest (I can’t call her the little one much longer) one’s face. I love my big girl and I love that they all match. Totally unplanned of course.

I love that we have a fire and a fireplace.

I love that this picture is taken just before the +1’s arrive and they all head out to a double date at the outdoor ice skating rink.

Sweet and rich?

I love that I raised sweet and thoughtful kiddos that have a sense of humor. My big girl’s valentine to me…a sweet, rich and perfect man.

I can’t lie. Today has been hard. I am acutely aware of how alone and lonely I am. I struggled today. In a day full of celebration for couples it’s harder to be single. 1/2 of a whole. 1 in a world of pairs.

But thanks to my babies I did my best not to dwell.

I love that my girl and I had our own little date.

Her daddy had to cancel his weekend with her because of ‘other plans’. Her little heart was hurt when she found out those other plans included another lady and a vacation in a town she thought he was taking her. She wasn’t feeling too loved today as a result.

This day shouldn’t be ruined for her too.

So we have faux bubbly, a fire and a good dinner planned. The bigs are off with their loves so she and I are left to celebrate on our own. She’s cozy in her sisters sweatshirt. I am comfy in my sweats. The fire blazes, the dog is curled up at our feet…I chose to focus on those sweet things.

We were doing okay until we realized that even our dinner was heart shaped!

WTH

Even the crab cakes are heart shaped!

Once I realized that the faux bubbly didn’t quite seem enough. “Mom…you getting cranked up?” My daughter asked as I prepared a pink adult drink. I don’t know where she heard that or what she meant. I laughed, she laughed and we went about our business. In the end I ate the stupid heart shaped crab cake. Then I ate hers.

We did face mask…a gift from big girls beau.

We ‘chilled’ and watched tv.

We did a little crafting.

I love (and hate) that both the big kiddos called to check in while on their valentine dates. I loved that they thought of us but hate that they were worried.

I booked a trip to take my big girl on an college tour adventure. I loved that I could do that.

Did I mention how much I love my fireplace? It was a dreary, rainy gray day which was perfect for a fire. It took a cord of wood and constant stocking but I kept a fire going all day long.

I can’t lie…the day was hard. I am alone and lonely. Alone I am used to. Lonely is something I will never get used to.

I was sad for my little girl who had lots of emotions all her own today.

I felt unlovable. I felt sad.

I almost stayed there.

But, isn’t the middle of all the sadness, there were things to love. I chose to focus on those things instead of the sad things. I decided to look for things to love instead of the lack of love I had during this silly, made up holiday built for couples.

Life is meant to be lived in pairs. I am solo.

Life is meant to be shared with a partner. I don’t have one.Being alone is one thing. Being lonely is something else entirely. Today I am lonely.

But in the middle of the loneliness I have a lot of love. It took a little bit of determination but today I decided to focus on that…the love I have in my life, the parts of my life I love instead of the love that I am missing.

My big ones are loved.

I love my little one.

My big ones love me.

I have crafted a life I can love.

I have a fireplace! I love my fireplace.

Heart shaped crab cakes are stupid but they taste just like regular crab cakes…which are delicious.

This day, February 14th, is meant for lovers I don’t have one. But I have a lot in my life to love. That is what I have to focus on.

I am 50. I look 50. I’ve never dated well. The old saying “teach an old dog new tricks” doesn’t apply here. I didn’t date well when I was of dating age and in dating shape. The very idea of dating now is absurd. It is obvious I am going to end my life the way I live my life…alone. Yes, that makes me incredibly sad. But I have options. I can dwell in the sad or I can fight my way out of the sad and try and find things to focus on. I am focusing on the parts of my life where I see love…not in the areas where I am not loved.

Today I saw lots of things to love.

That is what I decided to focus on.

Matching sweaters, face masks, crab cakes, roaring fires, adult and non-adult bubbles and text check-ins…that’s what I am focusing on today. My valentine’s may be filled with a different kind of love but it’s filled with love none-the-less.

For the first time in about 15 years I didn’t make handmade valentines for school.

See my handmade valentine story here.

For $5.95 or so I got little packets of candy for my little one to hand out. I was both elated and horribly disappointed in myself.

But alas, 2 months of crazy long days, a move, some disappointmentsthe and the selling of a house had all taken their toll. I just didn’t have it in me.

To be honest I don’t think my little one had “it” in her either. 5th grade homework is killing her. 5th grade meanness is too. I just don’t know that finding, and writing, something nice about everyone in her class would be possible. Plus, to be honest, I think maybe she wants to be “normal”. The handmade valentines aren’t normal. She doesn’t want to stand out. God knows she doesn’t need one more thing to be made fun of.

So I bought valentines.

On the last year of her “trading valentines” I bought valentines.

My heart hurt but my head was screaming, “YES! YES! YES!”

And I thought that was it.

Until…

Yep.

I did.

I handmade valentines.

Not 23 for a 5th grade class.

Nope.

I made almost 100 handmade, homemade valentines. For work.

WTH

I just can’t help myself. So much for my head prevailing over my heart.

Give me a sharpie, some cars stock and some crafty paper and watch me work.

I was excited. I felt creative. I felt useful. I felt I was doing my part…While I was making them.

Today I felt a little embarrassed.

Homemade valentines for grown people? Was I being ridiculous??

I don’t know.

But…

Today I was hanging some valentines donated be a youth organization. I decided to put them in a very visible area with a sign that said need some love-take one.

There is a lot of stress and angst where I work. I thought maybe, just maybe, a valentines might make someone smile as they were leaving an extremely difficult shift. Or maybe it would make someone coming into work feel hugged. One nurse saw me taping little handmade valentines to the walls and said,”what a wonderful way to spread kindness!”

Was she taking about the precious little ones that made the valentines?

Was she talking about the need-one-take-one note?

Was she talking about the idea in general?

I don’t know.

But in a rare moment for me I decided to take her passing comment as a compliment. I decided to look at my wagon full of handmade valentines as my little way of spreading kindness. I decided to think about the person that would smile when they saw them instead Of the person that rolls their eyes and thinks it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen.

We all have different ways of showing kindness. Maybe NOT making my little one make her own valentines was kind.

Maybe buying a box of valentines for her to hand out was me being kind to myself.

Maybe me deciding to make handmade valentines will be an act of kindness to someone that needs to feel some kindness.

Maybe me making the valentines was a kindness in its own way. It was nice to feel creative and productive vs feeling inadequate and stressed.

Maybe….

Maybe not.

Who knows?

I won’t. The valentines are hung and timeclocks, put on cafeteria tables and scattered in areas where they will be seen.

I won’t know if one person smiles when they see it.

I won’t know if seeing it will make someone’s day or night a little easier.

I won’t know if someone feels that kindness intended by the gesture.

And I don’t need to know.

What others think isn’t as important as what I feel in being able to tell people that they are appreciated and loved. I feel goof about being and encourager. I feel good about making a tiny gesture for strangers.

So my handmade valentines days aren’t over. My desire to make something for someone isn’t finished.

My paper cutting, hot gluing, glitter-everything skills remain in tact.

And I choose to let my heart be happy believing that maybe, maybe I had a hand it making someone feel good.

Snapshot

There is so much in this picture that makes me happy.

This week had me beat. This MONTH had me beat. Worry, work, doubt, stress…I spent more time questioning myself than I should have. “I. Am. Trying!” I wanted to scream. My best efforts seemed to fall short at every turn.

But I kept going.

Friday night I declared to be family date night. Decisively I bought tickets to a socially distanced movie for the whole gang. The Greatest Showman had songs, inspiration, amazing costumes and hopefully had some appeal for everyone.

I asked and everyone said yes! The big boy and his new girl; my big girl and her beau and the little one too (not that she has a choice!)

As dorky as it sounds I even started a group chat. And to my delight all the big kids seemed genuinely happy to participate.

I called it a “groupie”.

Yes, I made goody bags for the occasion. Complete with a circus animal for each of us. I was ridiculously excited to have found them. An adult should not be so tickled at a themed goody bag, I know. But I am. Someone once called me extra and I don’t disagree. On this night I embraced my extra-ness and allowed it to make me happy.

The movie was a hit. As the movie opened with a song I could feel my big boy roll his eyes. By the second song my big girl was telling him—it picks up, don’t worry. Before the 4th song I heard him say “here comes a song” seconds before the music started. But he was good natured and funny and my fella can be. No one even shhhed me when I sand along. In fact, my big girl joined in!! Little girl was eating her way thru her entire goody bag so she didn’t sing but she didn’t stop me from singing-to which I was grateful.

I was happy. And content. Right there, in a darkened theater with people who delight me.

Colton was funny…jete-ing down the aisle, signing. Kinsley was adorable in her disgust at our antics. “Like this is the first CLASSIC CENTER. It’s like a NICE place!!! And y’all are embarrassing yourselves,” her indignation and passion made us all laughing. Laughing at kinsley when she’s riled up can be dangerous. But on this night she took it in stride and ended up laughing along.

When I suggested a stop at Alumni Cookie Dough for a treat everyone cheered. My little troop walked down the downtown streets of a college town weaving in and out of college kids and skirting around lines of people waiting to enter bars. In my merry band were 2-21 year olds, 2-18 year olds, a 10 year old dressed like a drag queen in training and me. At one point I wondered if they were embarrassed and I asked them if they wanted to go their own way. No one did.

Happy heart.

When my big boy put up a fuss when I offered to pay, I was proud. (I won in the end)

When my middle girl went for the littlest option-I smiled. She was conscience of the expense of the evening and was so cautious and respectful of what she asked for. Love her sweet, thoughtful heart. 3 scoops of dough and a topping of Nutella later we ambled back out of the store.

Dinner I sat and sipped in my adult beverage and watched the 2 couples chat and laugh.

When they asked if they could come back and “chill” at our house I almost burst. “Hey…we don’t have to call our house a half-a-house anymore!” My daughter exclaimed.

And for a second I was proud. Proud that we now had a place that wanted, and could, come to.

And then this happened.

A little girl, cost in raccoon pajamas sitting in front of a roaring fire.

An intense game if connect four. Laugher when the little legitimately beat her big brother…3 times.

Acknowledgement that my kiddos were attracted to girls and beaus that wanted to be involved in family nights.

An adorable dog that drives me crazy but who also makes us all smile.

That roaring fire…I love cold nights and warm fires.

My big girl snuggled against me.

A Friday night at home. A Friday not at home but not alone I should add.

My boy looking handsome in his pull over sweater.

My pretty girl.

My little one looking little and not like a little trying to look like a big girl.

A handsome lad who “dressed up” for family date night. And that he was comfortable enough to change into his comfy clothes once he got here

A pretty girl who prettied up for the night. And was so successful in her attempts that my son looked at her with sparkly eyes.

My little troop sitting under a sign that captures the essence of our house…including we so loud really well. Because tonight we were all loud and rambunctious but no one seemed to mind.

Just moments before the house has been full of laughter as the middle couple made a video of some silly dance while her brother hilariously trolled in the background.

I loved that no one had to ask the big kids to include the little one. Each one of them, one at a time, challenged her to a duel in her connect four game. Each one was engaged and intent on beating her. She delighted when she beat them and smiled when the boys girl “cheated” and told her where to go next.

It was a simple, silly night.

And this little snapshot captured all of it.

Once it was home

After my first divorce…that in itself is humiliating-the fact that I have to number my divorces-I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I purchased a little townhouse in a town with an amazing school system.

It was terrifying.

After my second divorce…yep, doesn’t get any less humiliating the more times I type it….I retreated back to my little home.

Where there is a will there is a way

When I say I tucked my tail between my legs like a wounded puppy-I am not kidding. My little house was down the street from my bigger house. At the end we literally put our belongings in a furniture Dolly and finished the move, by hand, by pushing our belongings down the street. I was out of pride by the time that occurred.

For years we called it home. It was too little but we made it work.

My kids grew up there. I did too.

It was mine.

It represented a brave moment, it gave me a place to hide in shame; I cried a million tears in that little place but we laughed a million and one times there too.

I—no WE—refinished my cabinets on a whim.

We brightened the place up with an obnoxious color that I found on the Oops Paint story paint shelf. I gave it to an urge and painted an entire wall in glitter during the initial covid days.

Oops I did it again

On the front porch we: played games, listened to whipper wills, practiced for cheer tryouts and celebrated homecoming.

Porch party

There will forever be glitter found in the nooks and crannies from all the crafting I did there in that little den.

It was home. It was mine….it was ours.

Little sweet home

At some point it switched from being the bravest thing I’ve ever done to representing something else.

There wasn’t room for us all.

Everyday we drive by the house that wasn’t ours anymore. /The old house.

My soon-to-be college girl would never want to come home to a place she didn’t think she fit into.

My son wouldn’t want to stay if he felt like there wasn’t room for him.

How was I going to welcome future daughter-in-laws or son-in-laws in such a space?

So….

I did the next bravest thing I’ve ever done. I went about buying a new house on my own.

During a pandemic.

In a world that no one understands during times that scare us all…I went about buying a new house.

I fought off humiliation. I retold my story with as little shame as possible. I forged ahead despite being afraid.

On faith I persevered.

And, in faith, I signed my name and started all over.

I turned the page and started a new chapter

And someone else will start a new chapter in that little, tiny place I called home.

I am both excited and sad.

My little house went on the market late Friday night. This morning I had 3 offers. Someone else will call my house their home soon.

The glitter wall has been painted over. The turquoise paint is gone. The walls are scrubbed and painted a safe and neutral gray. The nick in the wall from my big girl and I fighting to get the double bed up that stairs is gone. The scuff marks from years of coming and going’s are wiped up. The porch is cleaned off and the handmade paintings are all packed away.

I’ve unpacked a thousand memories during all of this. I’ve relived moments and softly smiled as I re-read some blogs. I’ve let my children laugh at me and my glitter wall as we painted over it. On the second coat I began to agree with them that a glitter wall might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had.

A house is a home.

And that little house was our home for a long, long time.

And now it’s time to make a new house a home.

And to let go.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done will soon be someone else’s.

And I’ll start making memories in the second bravest thing I’ve ever done…

More of a chunky head

How many fat heads does one person need??

One. I thought that answer was one.

I might have been wrong.

Swim team senior night. At the basketball game. In a year where I can’t watch her swim. I can’t cheer her on obnoxiously. Like everything else this year- it’s weird.

It didn’t seem likely but we got our senior cheer night. It involved flowers, a fat head, a banner and all the appropriate hoopla.

A whole lotta kinsley

Despite all odds the swim season happened. We didn’t have our home venue: UGA. Parents can’t attend. Swimmers have to be masked up to the blocks but we had a season.

Without a home pool any sort of senior recognition seemed unlikely. One day my girl came home and said, “I am going to be hanging in the gym in my bathing suit. My worst nightmare,” she went on to explain that senior night was going to be in the gym during a girls basketball game so they were having a banner made. In uniform.

Uhhhh….their uniform is scanty to say the least. I can’t say I blamed her for not being excited about having her picture taken, in the gym, in her bathing suit, to be hung…in the gym.

Senior swim banner

But hey—we went with it.

When I was asked about buying a fat head for her I declined. How many fat heads does one need??

Senior night came. “These people are probably thinking who the heck are these people,” my daughter quipped as we waited in line. Dryly she added, “they probably didn’t even know there was a swim team.”

I was already feeling a little wonky. The other girls had flowers. I thought the school bought the flowers so I didn’t have any for Kinsley. She said she didn’t mind. I don’t know if I believe her but there wasn’t much time to dwell on it.

The dance team ran out to make a “tunnel” for us to walk thru. My girl commented that she hoped they didn’t trip us as we walked out because us being here meant they didn’t get to perform.

We walked to center court where the coaches bowed to us. Thanks covid…no handshakes allowed. Awkwardly we stood there not sure what to do after we’d bowed at one another. Eventually we got in a line and took the obligatory picture.

2020-21 makes everything awkward

Afterwards we gathered in the gym lobby for pictures.

It was then the question of how many fat heads does one person need? Was answered for me.

More then one.

Guess which girl is mine??

Everyone around us started laughing.

There were lots of jokes about itty-bitty Kinsley. Hers was less of a fat head and more of a little bitty head.

“It actually fits your body!”

If anyone was going to go out in style-it was us. Would you have expected any less from me???

No flowers. A recycled fat head. Being the butt of lots of teasing… I was not winning an mom of the year prizes tonight!

Luckily my girl took in all in stride. Luckily the fat head, I don’t even think I can call hers a fat head-maybe chunky head is more suitable, hid her face in most of the pictures so I didn’t see her if she was glaring at me for having embarrassed her.

I apologized all night.

I bought her and her beau a steak.

I got her a gallon of ice cream.

And, too little too late, I did get her flowers. From Publix. After the event.

Next time I ask myself how many fat heads does one person need I will not say one. Advice to parents—-buy the fathead. Get the flowers! Not matter how odd the season or bizarre the circumstances senior night is your chance to tell them, publicly, how proud you are of them. It’s your last chance to me a mom-lete to your athlete. Make it count.

FNL

Friday night lights.

Tonight the Friday night lights will shine bright as my daughter’s high school takes the field just a few miles from their home stadium.

The game is against their biggest rivals. It’s the civil war of high schools. North of the county takes on the south of the county. Boys who played youth recreational football together tonight will be rivals across the line of scrimmage. Girls who once played softball or swam together will, tonight, cheer on opposite sides of the field.

Blue and white vs red and black.

It’s an epic night. Dubbed the Hog Mountain Bowl it’s always the game of the season.

This year, September 4, 2020 will be more epic than ever before.
We didn’t know if there would be a football season. We didn’t know if there would even be a school year. For weeks we held our breath and prayed for this…the first game of the season.

For my senior it’s her last chance. To cheer at this game with girls she’s been in school with for her entire life, to watch her boyfriend play, to be part of it all…we didn’t know if it would happen.


Even as late as Monday kids were being sent home in quarantine. If it weren’t for one chair my girl couldn’t cheer tonight. I have no doubt that had we had access to a full body hazmat suit she would have worn it to insure she would be able to be here tonight.


Tonight, when we take the field it will be more than a game. It will be a return to normalcy…or at least semi-normalcy.

I miss normal. I crave normal.

I’ll take even an ounce Of normal.


Tradition has the Titan football players and cheerleaders at the elementary schools for every home game. They open car doors, create a spirit tunnel for the little ones to walk thru and then host a pep rally to ignite the team spirit in the littlest of titans. It’s special. My daughter once sat in the gym and watched the ‘big girls’ cheer. She had a crush on more than one of the ‘big boys’ who gave her high fives. Now she’s the big girl in the fancy red, black and white cheer uniform. Her little sister is now sitting on the floor watching in awe.


Those same little ones flocked the front railing of the stadium on Friday night to watch the ‘big girls’ cheer. They proudly bragged about knowing them, about seeing them at their school, about wanting one day to be one of those girls.


Last year a teacher emailed me to let me know that Sadie was crying during the pep rally. When I asked her about it she couldn’t really articulate why. She just said, “When I saw Kinsley up there tears came out of my eyes.”

There is power in tradition.

There will be no live pep rallies this year. But the high school cheerleaders taped a pep rally to show to the little titans.

The football players weren’t there to open car doors this morning.

But the cheerleaders were there to make a tunnel for the little ones to walk thru.

This is what 2020 looks like.


It’s not the same but it’s something. It’s not the senior year we’d hoped for. But it’s something. A glimmer of tradition is better then losing traditions altogether.

Her senior year and her 5th grade year: our last chance


Most of those little girls won’t be able to get into the game tonight. Each cheerleader, each football player and each band member get 2 tickets. That’s it.

The stands won’t be full of costumed, yelling, rowdy students. The cheerleaders won’t be yelling, “HEY SENIORS….” And waiting on the senior class to yell back. Not this year. The winning team’s student sections won’t flood the field after a victory. Not this year.

Only after parents claimed tickets, only after the season sponsors got theirs were tickets made available to students. There weren’t many left to offer them.

The track surrounding the field won’t be standing room only.

There won’t be little ones running under the stands in little blue/white or red/black cheer uniforms.

There won’t be little boys in the field behind the stadium playing with a small, nerf football pretending to be the big boys who are fighting it out on the field just feet away. Not this year.

But the Friday night lights will be on.


Friday night lights represent our communities fight to reclaim tradition. To stand up to the craziness that has taken over the world. We will be sitting in stands distanced from the family next to us. Our cheers will be muffled behind mask covering our mouth and noses. But we will be there. Clapping, cheering and breathing in the magic of fall Friday nights under the lights.

When the boys bust thru the paper banners carrying the American flag we will be there.

When the school flag is raised high and run around the track, we will be there.

When the announcer asks us to stand for the playing of the national anthem we will. Hands over hearts with tears in our eyes we will face the flag and sing. And we will be touched.

There will be a moment of silence for the rival team to mourn the loss of a teacher and coach. And, because we are neighbors, because we are one OC, we will all bow our heads and whisper a little prayer.

We will cheer for our team but we will wish the best for the opposing team too. Because on that opposing team plays our daughters boyfriend, or friend. Each parent will know someone playing or cheering for the other team. Someone in the band has been to our house or played with our child.

We want to win but that won’t stop us from hoping the other players do well, play safe and find some triumph.

There are 2 teams but we are one OC.

And tonight we will be normal. We will be there, under those Friday night lights. And we will appreciate the moment a little more than normal because we almost lost it.

How I love those Friday night lights!

This is what tradition looked like in 2019.

Handprints

A picture is worth a thousand words…

I was leaving for work one morning. My newish car was clean. A rarity. I was enjoying it. No dusty dash. No empty water bottles rolling around in the seat. No random smell that hinted at a forgotten snack.

Everyone was set to the where they were supposed to be. I wasn’t horribly late. I was rolling thru my morning checklist:

The little one was on the bus. I’d checked to be sure she had on drawers, something I’d learned the hard way I needed to do, I’d soothed her fears over the test that day, I’d explained for the 99th time that week why she took ADHD medicine, I’d taken away her tv privileges for a sassy mouth and I’d policed her book bag for contraband like candy and toys. I’d reminded her that her sister would pick her up and I’d fought off the guilt when she asked why I wasn’t picking her up. All part of our daily, normal routine.

The bus came to the front door. The doors barely closed before I raced thru the house, grabbed my coffee and headed out the back door. Already running….all part of the daily, normal routine.

As I drove out of the driveway I switched out of mommy mode and into work mode. It was a busy week and I was juggling a crazy schedule. In my mind I was sorting it all out.

I stopped at a stop sign. Normally I pause there. Today, my coffee sloshed out and I’d had to mop it up so I came to a complete stop as the sign suggested. Cursing as I did so because my newish car was clean and I wanted it to stay that way.

I cleaned up the mess and started to make my way. I glanced up the street to make sure there wasn’t anything coming. The sun was coming up. That’s when I saw the hands.

At first I was mad. I’d told her to keep her hands off the windows! At 10 I shouldn’t have to tell her not to smear finger prints everywhere. It led me to think about the clothes that she’d discarded in the floor that morning. The amount of crumbled up paper I’d pulled out of her book bag that morning. I got irritated all over again about the junk littering her lunchbox and the shoes left in the stairs. Or the Nutella jar laying open on the counter or the leash she left lying on the chair. She left a wake wherever she goes…much like a tornado.

Then I laughed. The evening before I was on my work phone, finishing one last call, when I picked her up at cheer practice. I hadn’t noticed they were finished. Suddenly there was a BAM! Against the window. I jumped and yelped. At the window she had her hands and little face pressed against the glass. She was laughing. A deep, sincere belly laugh at my fright.

While I don’t like being startled, I do love her laugh. I especially loved hearing her laugh after cheer practice. Last year she fretted after practice-worried that she hadn’t done well, worried that she didn’t fit in, worried about performing at the game…just worried in general. Hearing that laugh made me hopeful. Hopeful that she was more confident this year. Hopeful that she was having fun. Hopeful that she wasn’t plagued by doubt and fear.

I admonished her for scaring me. She loves to do it-startle me or jump out at her sister to cause her to yelp. No matter how many times we tell her to stop she keeps doing it.

She laughed again. “No phone,” she reminded me as I pulled away. I put the phone down. We discussed her day all the way home.

Then I thought about how sad I am that my girl always feels like she’s in the outside looking in. That’s what those little prints made me think of…her being in the outside peering in.

I thought back to our conversation just a few days ago.

“I had a bad day, momma. My math teacher called in me to answer the question. I didn’t know the answer! I hadn’t even finished!” She looked crushed. Math isn’t her strength. Answering questions in class isn’t a strength. Being asked to answer a math question in class is her idea of HELL.

“The other girls were all in their sports tops and shorts. Why can’t I wear what they wear?” There was no way to answer that without hurting her. I did my best to maneuver away from the question. I told her that I didn’t like it. “But Kinsley does it,” she argued. “Just like kinsley gets to wear a two piece but I don’t.” I had to settle with an answer I hated: because I said so. Because I didn’t know any other way to answer.

“They called me dumb because I didn’t do good on the test.” She’d gotten a 39. And she’d cried because she knew that was an F. And an F meant she failed.

On and on and on it goes.

But how can I be surprised?

Just the other day, at church of all places, I felt the same way. It’s silly. But it was there. That feeling of being an outsider.

I sit in the risers. From my view I can see the row of chairs in front of me. It’s a big church. There are lots of rows. What struck me as I sat up there, alone, was the number of “pairs”. The amount of arms laid across the back of the seat or across the women’s shoulders. There were very few single chairs. But I was one. A single chair.

The same Sunday, during the announcements, they announced that it was time for groups to form. The pastor talked of the importance of living life in circles…not in rows. How being a part of a group helped you belong and have support. As much as I wanted to be part of a circle I just couldn’t make myself join a group. I’ll continue to go in Sunday’s but I’ll be there in my row.

What keeps me on the outside always looking in?? Sometimes I really wish I knew. But I don’t. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me…being outside of things. But sometimes it does.

All this happened in seconds. Seconds where I was stopped at a stop sign that I rarely stop at. Stopped in what happened to be just the right light and at just the right moment.

That’s the way things happen sometimes, isn’t it? At just the right second you catch a glimpse or hear a sound and it sends you down a winding, twisting, complex train of thought.

2 little handprints. That’s all it was. 2 little handprints on a car window.

49+

I turn 50 tomorrow.

50. In all likelihood I’ve already lived more than 1/2 my life. I have to admit that realization caused some immense panic. Quickly I realized my spiraling into despair at all I hadn’t done needed to be stopped!

So I built a list of things I HAVE done in my 49 years. Things I am proud of.

1. Crowned Miss Meadowcreek. It’s not the crown or the title. It’s the fact that I did it!


2. Named Miss Congeniality

1980something


3. Performed in a State Championship play
4. Took part in a musical-despite not being able to sing
5. Went to college on a scholarship
6. Graduated from college
7. Graduated from college in 4years and a mini-mester
8. Have worked as a paid actress
9. Ran the Warrior Dash without missing a single obstacle


10. Learned a new skill and took on a job I’d never imagined I could do
11. Bought a house all on my own
12. Saved money as a high school student and traveled to Europe
13. Started a blog
14. Maintained a blog
15. Survived an acquisition
16. Colton
17. Kinsley
18. Sadie
19. Being a single mom and keeping it all ‘moving’
20. Only missing 1 swim meet in all the years of being a swim mom
21. Never missing a softball game
22. Homemade Halloween traditions

Octo-cutie!
My little flower “plot”


23. Wiring houses as a summer job
24. Feeding calves and working on a farm one summer
25. Jumping off the broken bridges

No-that’s not me. Only Colton can get to the top. The railing is high enough for me.


26. Having a strong support group of friends
27. Giving birth with a worn-out epidural (twice)
28. High level Recognition
29. Won best actress in college-TWICE


30. Being an all present, all in team mom
31. That my son came up the auditorium and asked me to dance at his 5th grade Perfectly Polished recital. He was the only one that did so. He encouraged, “Don’t worry Mom, we got this”


32. My daughter saying, “Mom you should be proud of yourself and all you accomplished”
33. Surviving financial ruin
34. Traveling: cruises, NY, beach house for a week. And for giving my kids a story they will never stop laughing at! The moped story…I’ve linked it because it’s a story that definitely belongs in the story of me.


35. I’ve been able to re-create myself after several life changing events
36. Jumping off a bridge into the lake just last week

37. Handmade valentines

38. Purchasing 2 used cars all by myself

39. Handmade birthday cakes for the first few years

40. Realizing I am not talented at cake making and stopping the madness by buying cakes from that point in

41. Forgiving myself a little

42. Not quitting. I may slow down and give in to tears but eventually I get back up

43. Being bold (or stupid) enough to be my natural gray.

44. Parenting an adult Colton. Parenting a child and parenting a grown child are 2 different beast! Hearing my son say, “my mom is my best friend” makes me feel like I’ve made that transition at least a little successfully.

45. Parenting a semi-adult Kinsley. She challenges me at every step-to be better, to do more and to BE better. I don’t always meet her standards but I try.

My amazing daughter

46. Having a son that was recruited by a college and being able to give him the experience of visiting and being courted.

47. Being self-proclaimed decorator for swim banquets and the occasional football event. And for making all the decor!

48. For getting back in church

49. For having an impact-good or bad I’ve left lasting impressions.

50. I am proud of this life I’ve created and the incredible little ones I share it with. I’ve raised thoughtful, funny, personable kiddos that are each amazing in their own way. I’ve built a family that makes them feel loved and safe. THEY MAKE ME FEEL LOVED and that in this life I’ve mattered.

Bring it on 50! Looking back I see that for all I haven’t accomplished there are more things, more important things, that I have done.

Holding it together

Do you know that saying your mama used to say…”always wear clean underwear-you never know if you will be in a wreck.”

Well…like my mama says…

Something extraordinary happened today. Details of that will be woven into this story. It’s just natural for me to see something extraordinary from a wonky perspective. You see, I have an easier time poking fun of myself then bragging about myself.

I am so proud of what happened today. Proud is an understatement. Someone I admire wrote something for our employee recognition program that was very, very special about some work I did. My boss read at a meeting for our leaders. Amidst amazing, talented, selfless professionals I got mentioned. It was humbling and exhilarating and meaningful for me.

That’s the part where I admit how proud I am.

Now on to the part I find easier to talk about. Me being me.

In this incredible moment I was asked to come up to the front of the auditorium.

My first thought, “my white hair is probably sticking up in 95 different directions.”

My next though,”I am going to look like a balloon at the Macy’s day parade walking down that aisle!”

My next thought was that these people save lives! I delivered food in a little red wagon for months. How can I stand in front of them???

But I went. And I stood there. And then I remembered mama’s old adage about wearing clean underwear. And I panicked.

Yes, I was wearing clean underwear. They were old, cotton and droopy but they were clean.

I panicked because standing there for one of the coolest moments in my professional life I realized that I had a safety pin holding my pants together.

I’d notice the inseam was busted out mid-thigh during at 7a meeting. I was sitting at a conference table when I felt the draft. Inconspicuously I found a pin from another part of the pants and went about mending the larger hole. I couldn’t see my work. Just had to guess at my success when I felt less airy

From that meeting I’d gone straight to another. Left that one and hauled myself across campus to meet with another group. Darted back to the auditorium for our leader meeting. I’d been blowin’ and goin’ since 6:45am. I hadn’t had time to go to the bathroom and check my inseam or my pinning.

Now I stood in a crowded auditorium with all the big wigs not knowing if skin was showing, pins were visible or if everyone knew I’d busted out my pants!

Only me.

This is it: this is the moment my mama warned me about. This is why you always wear clean underwear (or unbusted pants!)

So there I stood. White hair shining in my COVID hairdo. Glasses cock-eyed atop my head. In a shirt my mom loaned me wearing pinned together pants.

Y’all at this point I am barely holding it together. Hopefully the pin is doing a better job then I am!

That’s me there in the corner.

That’s me trying not to cry.

That’s me not making eye contact with anyone.

That’s me suddenly remembering I have a safety pin holding the entire inside of my pants together.

I have to laugh. The absurdity of the moment was 100% me.

At one point I even thought to myself this is totally making the blog! Not the award. The pants. Because thats the part that is easier for me to write about. I can poke fun at myself. I can see the humor in it all.

The part that I struggle with is acknowledging how proud I am. How excited. How much it meant to me. That’s nearly impossible for me to describe.

But I felt so proud to have been a part of making a difference during unprecedented times.

The nomination quoted something I say often. “I don’t take care of sick people. I take care of the people that take care of sick people.” I mean it as a way of underscoring how important the work that others do. To be acknowledged for my part in taking care of the incredible people taking care of sick people will always be a high point in my career.

That moment only topped by seeing those same people clap and stand up after the sweet note was read. Standing up. And clapping.

I can’t even….

That’s all I could say when people texted me afterwards. I can’t even find words…

For months during COVID I pulled a red wagon around campus delivering food and notes; jewelry and produce; posters and gifts to our hardworking staff. Thanks to the generosity of the community my red wagon and sparkly tennis shoes and I became quite popular. I was just playing a small part in a much bigger scene. I did it to help. I did it because I care. I was honored to help. Honored to be allowed to be a smile or a wagon of hope when days were hard.

I never imagined being thanked for that. Never dreamt it would matter.

But to someone it did.

And today, in busted pants, I got applause and my own little wagon.

I can’t even…