March 2013

No , no.  This isn’t  a column about placing obnoxious pig snouts on the frig to oink at me whenever I open its door to grab a handful of spinach. (Because I’m always rooting around for more spinach.) It’s about the stuff in my pantry that calls to me once I have successfully played the part of Mom from 6:30 a.m.- 9: p.m., and I am finally alone on my couch watching DVR’ed Offices (I made it completely through all the Brenda Lee Johnson and the Gang in the LA Major Crime Unit so I’m onto Michael and the Funny Folks at Dunder Mifflin.  I completely missed them their first time around as they showed up about the time my girls were toddlers, and when they went to bed, I went to bed.)

Please understand this isn’t a self help column.  Do not write in with your late night snacking tips.  I know what I need to do.  I need more camping and less TV watching once the kids are asleep,  but since Mr. TIS is away at the moment, if I partake in camping then I am also guilty of breaking Commandment # 7 of the Big Ten. I’m kind of big on the whole commandment following thing…also, I’m too daggone tired to go out and finding a Camping on the Side Partner.  Seriously, how do these serial campers do it.  They must not be mothers to young children that’s all I’m sayin’.

Wow, I am really off target here.  When I get off target in my writing I like to think it’s because I’m a genius at the stream of consciousness genre, but, honestly, it’s because I’m completely undisciplined as you all have noticed by now.  (And I wonder why I’m not the next Erma or Dave. )

Okay. Focus.

I’m sitting on the couch.  I’m tired mentally and physically, and the voices start calling.  No, not the voices in my head.  The other voices. The ones from the kitchen saying, Prisciiilllaaaaa.  They actually do draw out my name as I have a name that draws out very nicely.  Like Odysseus, I know the dangers of listening to these voices, and I hunt around for the swimming ear plugs Twin B used to have to wear to fight off ear infections, but like every other small object in this house, they have rolled under a sofa or down a heating grate.  I just tune into the Pam/Jim saga even more intently, but the voices don’t stop.  Prisciiiilllaaaaa, we are in here, and we are looooonnnneeeellyyy. 

Like the serpent in the Garden, the voices know me all so well, and while I the idea of possessing the wisdom of God doesn’t lure me to the bad side,  curing all loneliness for all the broken hearts out there is my kryptonite.  I hate hearing folks are lonely.  I want everyone to have a friend –  even the inanimate objects in my kitchen pantry.

So there I sit.  I’m lonely. The packages of processed food and sugary treats are lonely.  They keep calling.

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(Side note here.  Yes I know this isn’t the cheapest way to buy chips, but I do it so I won’t sit and eat an entire family size bag in one sitting.   Does this work?  Last night I ate three small bags in one sitting.  Apparently, I’m not winning the chip bag size psychology contest. )

The others in the pantry hear their calls and chime in.  We’re here! We’re here! much like the Residents of Who that reside on a dandelion or whatever that thing is that scream to Horton the Elephant in the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who. 

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Wanting to make sure these sirens didn’t feel lonely or rejected, I oblige them the honor of my company.

This morning, though, their voices were stilled as I prepared breakfast and my children sat and ate. Nothing, Nada. The Cheetos sat cheerless and the Saltines lay silent.

I opened the refrigerator door to grab the milk, and started looking around.  Opening the crisper I asked these guys, Where on God’s green earth were you last night? Why don’t you ever call me?

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You’re supposed to be the big guns of healthy hearts and yet you do nothing to self promote! I chided.

(If Mr. TIS were home more often, my kids probably wouldn’t find me yelling at the fresh produce portion of my kitchen. So much therapy in their future.)

The rock stars of the super foods sat sneering at me.  That’s when I got it.  The foods hanging out in the frig literally think they are too cool for school. Why not? CNN Doctor Sanjay Gupta has nothing but fabulous things to report about them.  Dr. Oz is always touting their benefits – when he’s not holding up a 35 foot long large intestine for the cameras. Publishing houses can’t get enough authors to expound upon all the magical powers of the goji berry.  Fresh is Best! Green is Keen!  Of course the Gang of Nine (That’s what I call my salad fixings drawer) has an ego the size of Kanye West. Look at their spokespeople!

The same can’t be said for the lowly Pop Tart with the shelf life of 22 months. How about the 89 feet of Stringed Fruit? Thanks to all the bad press about high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, they’ve gone from darlings to demons in just a few short years.  Poor things.  No wonder they are lonely and calling to me.  The bean sprouts, yogurt and flax seed don’t make them feel any better about themselves what with all the jeering of Hah! We’ve got Jamie Lee Curtis and Jillian on our team.  Who’ve you got?  Losers!

Deep down, my uber processed, completely devoid of nutritional content friends know they aren’t losers, and they never will be.  Why?

I’ll tell you why.

Because as long as Priscilla is sitting on her fanny on the couch late at night watching reruns, these sugar laden, insulin spiking, sodium stricken treats have a friend and advocate in the family room that  will always be there for them whenever they need a sympathetic ear to listen.

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Now THIS is my kind of bumper sticker!

by Priscilla on March 23, 2013

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A special thank you to my friend (Who ditched me and moved far away, but I’m not bitter.) , Julie, who alerted me to this car and its non running owner from Georgia.

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In the early 1920s a young woman, Oma, from the small, rural farming community of Union, Michigan, graduated from the eighth grade and from her community’s one room schoolhouse . (Yes, her name really was Oma.  Yes, I know Oma is German for grandma.  No one knows why the name was chosen for her, even Oma herself.) She was a promising student, but educational options were limited as the high school was too far away for her to attend.  Her family doctor, Dr. Plank, the man who helped bring her into the world,  was a member of the Michigan legislature.  He saw promise in Oma and arranged for her to attend high school in Bristol, Indiana, which was much closer even if it was across state lines.

Dr. Plank

Dr. Plank

Oma walked a mile to the state line where she picked up the bus that took her to Bristol High School in Bristol, Indiana. Her uncle, Joe Kyle, paid the monthly bus fee to get her to school.

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Joe Kyle and Oma’s written description of his help in 1929.

Without that bus, Oma, like many other girls and boys her age in that area, would have finished her school career in the eighth grade, but thanks to Dr. Plank and the politicians and family members who agreed that students like Oma deserved to get to school to better their lives, she continued on for the next four years until her high school graduation.

Grandma's senior class Bristol High School  Oma brown, 1929 senior picture

Oma is in the center behind the young woman sitting on the stool. This is her senior class from Bristol High School in Bristol, Indiana.

That experience opened Oma’s eyes to the world beyond her small farming community, and she  was the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma. Oma married, reared a family  of her own and sent three of her daughters off to college themselves. (Oma gave birth to four daughters. Sadly one, Janet,  died at the age of four.)  Her three daughters in turn sent their children off to various schools and universities to become doctors, nurses, pastors, teachers, salespeople, members of the US military, and their children reared their children to become nurses, pastors, teachers, comedians, artists, architects, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen.

It’s now 2013 -almost 100 years after Dr. Plank and Joe Kyle got Oma on that bus. Two of Oma’s great granddaughters have moved back to the area where their great grandmother was born and raised. Every Wednesday afternoon upon finishing school, they climb into their mother’s car and travel the 10 minutes it takes to arrive at an elementary school in, of all place, Bristol, Indiana.

Sound familiar?

Waiting there is a young second grade student named Ana.  Ana is quiet, yet witty and eager to learn.  She needs a little help with reading so twice a week she stays after school for a reading camp where adult volunteers work with her and other children like her to improve their reading and spelling skills. How does Ana get to school and home from school? A bus.  There’s a special bus that runs later so she can stay and participate in programs that will ensure she gets the extra help she needs to succeed – and she will succeed.  She shows up. She works hard. She doesn’t complain. She improves every week.

Oma’s great granddaughters sometimes asks their mother why she volunteers, and why they have to go with her to help.

It’s simple, their mother explains, and she tells her daughters the story of Oma and the doctor and an uncle and a bus.  It’s the story that changed the direction of their lives almost one hundred years later, and it’s the same story Ana may be able to tell her great grandchildren someday.

Oma was my grandmother.  Her daughter Joyce, my mother, graduated from Elkhart High School (Bristol High School eventually closed) and earned a Miles Labs Scholarship which allowed her to attend Ball State University and earn a B.S.N. in nursing.  Ana is the sweet child I read with every Wednesday. Sadly, the bus that takes her home from after school activities like Reading Camp may not be able to do so much longer due to the threat of pending transportation budget cuts.  My new hometown has been hit hard by the recession. This, along with  property taxes being capped, means school funding is not what it used to be.  I’m a writer not a budget expert or political pundit.  I’m not here to blame sides or choose political parties. I simply tell stories, and the story of Oma in 1925 should be the story of Ana in 2013.  It’s the story of people coming together to figure out how to ensure young people in the community get the education they deserve. Times are tough. Funding is tight, but we adults can and must figure out how to do what is best for our children – and by our children, I mean the community’s children – not just my children or your children.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I don’t believe for a moment that it’s a fluke that after all these years, I’ve returned to the place where my grandmother was educated to rear my own children. I don’t believe it’s chance that I’m writing about a girl named Ana who needs the adults in the community to help her achieve academic success.  So let’s do this. Let’s make sure in this time of fiscal tightness that children like Ana get the resources they need.

Who knows? Maybe one day Ana’s great grand daughters will ask their mother why she is helping others, and she’ll tell them the story of a community who cared.

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Laying Down My Stone – An Apology

by Priscilla on March 18, 2013

My pastor continued today with his sermon series entitled 6 Words. The six words at the heart of his message?  I am sorry.  I forgive you. Walking into the auditorium this morning, my daughters and I were each handed a smooth river rock. One pastor joked that of all the days he was asked to give announcements, it was the day the entire congregation was armed with stones. I gripped my stone firmly. I didn’t know what we were going to be asked to do with our rocks, but I had an uneasy feeling, and the more the pastor talked, the uneasier I grew because I had an idea of what was coming, and in my heart I knew what God was asking me to do.

I’ve been thinking about it for about 15 years, and I still cringe with regret and sometimes cry over a series of events that I royally screwed up.

Sure enough, at the end of the sermon, the pastor asked us if we would walk to the front of the church where a cross stood and place our stone at its base as a symbol of laying down our burden of either asking for forgiveness or extending forgiveness – both big choices to make. I sat motionless.

I couldn’t rise to make the walk to the front of the church.  I just sat wiping my eyes in a failed attempt to keep my makeup from swirling into two big massive black blotches across my eyes. I whispered to my daughters, Go on up without me.  It’s okay. I’ll come up later. I knew I wouldn’t though.  I couldn’t.  I looked down at the necklace hanging across my chest – one of my own creations using my late grandmother’s costume jewelry beads.  Whenever I wear it, I am reminded of the bond I have with all the women who have gone on before me, and of my responsibility to encourage and love all women I come in contact with as my gentle, unassuming grandmother demonstrated to me. I rubbed the rock in my left hand and fingered the beads with my right. Both felt like a ton of bricks.

There was an apology I needed to write before I could lay down any stones at the foot of the cross.

For the past 15 years a young girl’s name has come into my mind every few months, and for the past 15 years when it has popped into the forefront of my brain, I’ve groaned in prayer, God, please don’t let me have screwed you up for this girl.  I did wrong by you and by her, and wherever she is, God, please keep holding her in the palm of your hand.

Her name was Tammy.  Her dad was stationed in Germany where my husband was stationed way back when.  She was a student in the school where I taught, her family was  involved in the chapel on post that my husband and I attended, and she was active in the chapel youth ministry where I volunteered…and she liked me. A lot.  Like all the other kids she called me Mama J.  It all started with a kid who dubbed me Big Mama J.  I told him to drop the Big part, and we had a deal. Mrs. J.  Mama J., I didn’t care.  I loved those kids, and they loved me back. Mr. TIS and I chaperoned trips all over Europe with that bunch, and like most ministry involving middle school kids, we learned more from them than they ever could have learned from us.

Tammy loved God and strove to do the right thing.  She was bubbly and outgoing, and she loved to sing and worked hard to develop her gift of song…and then one day she was brave enough to sing in front of the chapel congregation…

…and I threw stones at her.

It’s funny.  The weapons others have used to break us down – we sometimes pick up and use in the same manner even though we utter the words, I’ll never.

In my case the weapons of my childhood and teenage years were the relentless lectures and sermons I sat through involving how a godly woman must dress.  I still don’t know what the people spouting about this stuff meant to convey, but all I heard was Your body is awful. It causes men to lust. You keep it covered. You shut it down. You. Are. The. Problem.  At 41, I’m still recovering from all those painful words. I’m not here to take issue with what is modest or what isn’t, but let me make it clear, we need to be careful with our words when we go sermonizing to young children because we never know what their tender hearts and minds will internalize.

I swore I’d never hurt another female the way those years of mental beat down hurt me….I was wrong.

Tammy stood to bravely sing her first solo in front of the service, and I didn’t hear one note because all I saw was what she was wearing…a miniskirt. I focused in on her choice of outward fashion instead of listening to the words coming from her heart, and somewhere deep inside me judgment and harshness and bitterness bubbled up, and instead enjoying God’s gift of her voice, I sat there pondering how she could stand up in front of the church dressed like that. (Just writing about my wrong reaction is making me shudder.)

Did I mention she was probably all of twelve or thirteen years old at the time?  Did I mention that her mother was nothing but lovely to me and taught a Sunday school class to the middle school group?

Did I mentioned I behaved like a complete ass?

I can’t remember the specifics of the next series of events, but it went something like this:  another lady and I got together and talked about Tammy’s skirt length, and how we thought it was inappropriate for church.  The lady then called Tammy’s mother and told her what we thought.  Tammy’s mother called me upset (rightly so) and told me Tammy couldn’t believe of all people, Mama J was taking such issue with this.  Mama J – the one so many  kids came to talk to with their problems knowing she was a safe person to unload upon.  Mama J who loved her – or so she thought. I felt sick about what I’d just done to another Christ follower – and a young one at that,  and told Tammy’s mom I would come over and apologize for my hurtful gossip and harsh judgment…

…but I never did.

I can’t remember who moved first – whether it was Tammy’s family or mine, but somebody did, and that was my lame excuse for never getting over there and telling a beautiful, vibrant, talented young lady, that I screwed up royally, and that I had no business judging what she wore – ever. What my actions or lack of them were really saying was that Tammy wasn’t worth my time of day.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tammy deserved better from me, her youth leader.  She deserved a cheerleader for using her talents to bring a smile to God’s face. She deserved a helper to get her through all those feelings and frustrations puberty threw at her.  She deserved a friend to sit and listen to the ups and down of middle school life.

Instead Tammy got a wounded, selfish soul who decided to pick up a rock from her own childhood and hurl it straight at her heart.

I don’t know where Tammy is.  I don’t know if there is any chance she’ll ever read this, but I’m putting it out there to say, Tammy, I’m sorry.  I was so wrong. Will you forgive me?  I’m putting it out there for Tammy’s mom as well.  Now that I’m a mother, the idea of other women in the church throwing stones at my little girls for whatever reason appalls me. I’m putting it out there for anyone who has been hurt by someone in the church who had no business hurting you. You are not the problem. You didn’t deserve what you got.

I pray that Tammy has found the God who loves her completely. I pray she doesn’t listen to the lies and the doubt that might creep in thanks to thoughtless people like me in her past life. I pray she’s still using that voice of hers to share the love of God despite the stones that others might cast at her. I pray that somehow she would forgive me of my sin towards her…

and I am walking forward in front of the Church and laying down my stone at the cross, hoping and praying I will never pick it up again.

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Yesterday’s announcement of the new Pope found me in a kerfluffle. There is so much  that I don’t know about all things Catholic as I was raised Baptist, and every good Baptist child knows that all Catholics are going to hell.  Yes, I know all good Catholic children are taught the same thing about Baptists.  If it is up to the prognostications of our fearless leaders, hell is going to be very crowded indeed.  Fortunately for us, in the end God makes that ultimate decision despite what our fearless leaders tell us. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m pro-God, not so much pro – I speak for all Christians when I’m in front of the cameras, and I love the cameras leaders. )

According to the news it is important for me to know that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, is the first pope from the New World.  He is the first Jesuit Pope.  He is the first one lunged Pope. He is the first oldish male….wait a minute.

This is where I need my Catholic friends and Google to help me because I’m a Protestant, and we Protestants stick with simple names like Pastor Dave or Reverend Sandy.  I get the Father thing.  When I was a little girl a Father lived down the street from us. He later received the title of Monsignor which I need to educate myself about as well.  I very distinctly remember my mother taking us kids down to the Father’s house to Christmas carol one wintry December evening, and then she got all kinds of nervous when he started blessing us.  Mom was a good Baptist. As a kid I couldn’t see what the big deal was.  I had just gotten in trouble for going to church without wearing any underpants and then proceeded to turn somersaults in Sunday school class which, apparently little girls aren’t supposed to do sans bloomers, so if this guy with the special stick of something could make all my naughtiness go away, I couldn’t understand why my Mom wouldn’t be all over that one. Even then I knew I could use all the blessings I could get.

I digress.

So – the Papal Name?  What is this about? The nice folks over at Wiki tell me it’s a regnal name.  Well, that’s another new word for me. It means reigning name. (I know I’m going to get in trouble here, and I’m really not trying to be pert, and I like the Catholics, I really do, and I mean no disrespect…but….you nice folks at Wiki, regnal is just too close to rectal for me. You have to understand that I am the daughter of a doctor and nurse so body parts and their given names and functions were frequent subjects of discussion around our family’s dinner table, and I just think it behooves whoever is writing these things about papal names to remember this when using words like regnal to explain papal. Just say reigning if reigning is what regnal means. No one, and I mean NO ONE uses the word regnal anymore.) It is a signal to the world what former Pope’s policies he will emulate.  So, our newest Pope choice Francis, after Saint Francis of Assissi,  and from what I am reading it it to identify his stance on the Church’s responsibility to take care of the poor and the least of these in society as demonstrated through the life of Saint Francis who strove to emulate the life of Christ.  (In all seriousness I have always admired the life of Saint Francis, and the courage he showed in doing exactly what Christ told the rich young ruler to do which was, Give it all up and follow me.)  

Another little aside here, the nice folks over at Wiki have compiled a long list of names of all the Popes, and I hate to be critical of any mothers – you know that – I mean we moms have to stick together, but some of these mothers about 500 years or so ago were just setting up their little boys for a lot of fights on the playground when choosing the names they did.  Just sayin’.

The idea of getting to choose a new name to reign under intrigues and excites me so I’ve been thinking about what I’d choose if given the opportunity.  Forget about the fact that I’m a Protestant married woman for a minute, and let’s pretend I’m Pope…or I guess Popess. I’d need a name…and you would too because I’m going to ask the same question of you, my readers.  I’m looking over here at female saint names, and there are a lot about which I must educate myself.  I know this much, Priscilla hasn’t gotten me too far and people misspell it a lot, so I think I’m going with something shorter and sassier. There’s a Saint Ia. That’s a nice short name… and, oh, my.  I’m really not feeling to good about my faith when I read her biography. I’m going to keep looking here…I’ve always like the name Laura…and…you know, there is a reasons these women are saints and I am not. I jokingly tweeted that I would choose the names Babs because everyone could spell it, but reading here about St. Barbara, I think that name’s a no-go as well.

So, since I’m not a Catholic.  And since I’m not a male.  And since I’m not single….I’m not going to be Pope, but IF I WERE….I’d change the rules and choose a biblical name for my papal name, and I think we all know where I’m headed here.  That’s right.  My papal name would be JAEL.  Why?  Because Jael was everything I am not – clever, quick thinking, courageous and gritty….(and apparently, according to this artist, Jacopo-Amigoni, quite buxom.)

Jael

What would your papal name be and why?

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Girls Who Wear Glasses

by Priscilla on March 12, 2013

It all started last night innocently enough with the girls and I sitting at the dinner table, they – ignoring the fabulous French Onion Soup I’d conjured up with the help of Julia Child, and I – listening to them ask questions from a great little dinner conversation cube that my wonderful SIL, Glynis, gave me for Valentine’s Day.  It was actually a late Christmas gift. Glynis and I are great at turning Christmas gifts into other holiday gifts later in the year. It’s called Table Topics, and it’s a plastic cube filled with all kinds of questions for families to discuss from wishes and worries to gripes and giggles and everything in between. Besides my children not touching my three hour creation from scratch, things were going just fine until this question came up.

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(Confession: The peanut butter smudge was not there last night.  I just put it there while simultaneously trying to take a picture for this blog and eat my lunch of a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter.  Livin’ the dream, people!)

Out of the blue Twin B started crying.

This started an evening long on again off again conversation with her telling me that it was hard to be Twin A’s sister. In her eyes, Twin A gets all the attention.  Twin A just came home with all kinds of hardware from the state swim meet, and it’s only her first year swimming competitively . Twin B only came home with ribbons.  Everyone knows medals trump ribbons. Twin A gets math fast and is doing fifth grade work with another boy in class while she, Twin B, and the others in class are doing fourth grade math.  Never mind that they are in third grade doing fourth grade math.  That’s lost on Twin B at this point. Twin A is the leader of the pack at recess when the girls get together to play super heroes.

Twin B isn’t jealous of Twin A.  She loves her and is genuinely happy for her, but she doesn’t know what to do with all her feelings right now, and so in the middle of ignoring my perfectly delicious French Onion Soup that was getting colder by the minute, Twin B burst into tears and said, I hate having  braces AND having to wear glasses!  No one notices me because I have glasses. I never tell anyone who I have a crush on because I don’t think he’ll like me back!

In two seconds I was catapulted back to the green trailer that served as my fourth grade classroom where I played the role of  the go-between with my cute little girl friends to my cute little guy friends finding out who liked whom, and never telling anyone I had a huge crush on David Hoopingardner because what was the point? I was the chubby little girl who had food all over her face that everyone agreed was funny but who no one said was a fox.  (Being compared to a small, furry carnivous animal that is a member of the Canidae family was a big deal back in the 70s. )

I told Twin B that I have plenty of friends who wear glasses like Amy and Hope, to name two, who are beautiful and funny and smart and married to handsome men.

I  wondered to myself later why  I had added that last part about being married and that the men were handsome.  This wasn’t about men and what might happen to her someday.  This was about a little girl who told me that when people laugh at her (In a good way – Twin B is quite the comedienne.) she wonders what they really think of her.

All the things you tell me about myself, Mom?  No one else ever tells me those things. 

Ugh.  Punch in the gut.  She’s only nine, and she’s having those thoughts of What do other people think of me?  Thoughts that used to rule me until about five years ago when I figured out everyone else was too busy worrying about what everyone else thought of them to have time to worry about me.

I sat on her bed, and we talked about courage. We talked about true beauty.  I told her she took my breath away whenever I looked at her. We talked about how God viewed her and how much God loves her. We talked about where doubt comes from, and how important it is to do battle with those thoughts whenever they try to sneak into the recesses of our minds. I wanted to cry when she said, You know how people say, “Your day will come.”  I don’t think my day will ever come. I held it together, though, and told her it was very important for her to always talk with me or other people about these feelings, and that I was proud of her for being real with me. I tucked her in. I turned out the light. I tiptoed downstairs…and then I cried.

Crying usually leads to praying.  I asked God to protect my sweet little daughter from all the doubts and self loathing that are starting to creep in. I asked God to show me what I can do as a mother to counter all those negative messages little girls receive about beauty and acceptance.  I asked God to guide her to realize her self worth was not found in girlfriends or boyfriends or medals or trophies, but that she would recognize her worth is in the person of Jesus Christ.  I prayed for all the little girls out there facing this same issue, and I prayed for all the former little girls who are now women who feel inadequate and unloved.  I also asked for an idea that would meet her where she is right now because it’s all nice and good to talk about the intangibles with our children, but sometimes a nine year old girl needs something tangible to meet her where she is.

This morning I made this to put up on a wall by her bed along with a letter from her dad reminding her how beautiful and special and smart and great she really is.

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She’s in good company.

 

 

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My morning in One Photo

by Priscilla on March 6, 2013

So, we had about six inches of snow last night which led to a two hour school delay this morning.  I’m thankful it’s only a delay and not a full closing because I fear Twin A would be apoplectic if she could not continue her ISTEP tests today.  This girl is on a mission, and she wants these tests over.  (Are you HEARING me Indiana legislators and legislators across the country?  Stupid standardized tests only mean teachers are forced to teach to a test not to a human being.  Bastards. Quite frankly, viewing all the nonsense from our political leaders countrywide, I think we ought to implement a standardized test for them, but I’ll save that ire for another posting.)

Anyway, a delay, I thought, meant everyone stays in bed until Mom decides to get up and do whatever it is I’m supposed to do every morning – testing time means I’m supposed to feed my kids hearty, brain food filled breakfasts.

My kids had other ideas.  I came down to find this scene in our family room.

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That’s right.  They got up early to continue teaching themselves sewing while eating fake Rice Krispies.

And this is why I am a mother who withholds A LOT of judgment towards other  mothers.

(The book is a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories.  I haven’t touched it in years, but it makes us look like an intellectual family, no?)

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I was talking with another mom today who, like me is a survivor.  What did we survive?  Mothering small children.  She and I talked about all the pressures we felt from the co-sleep crowd to the school of let them cry all night.  There were  the people who didn’t want to see breastfeeding in public and then there were the folks who excoriated any kind of formula feeding.  We screwed up the environment using disposable diapers.  We screwed up the environment using all that hot water to wash our cloth diapers. We drank coffee when we were breastfeeding in order to wake up.  We drank wine when we were breastfeeding in order to fall asleep.  We ignored every call out to drive an hour to the nearest children’s museum because hauling kids around only to watch them have a complete meltdown in the middle of Scienceland didn’t sound like a whole heck of a lot of fun for everyone involved.  Just getting to the weekly lapsit at the library was a feat worthy of a medal.

We struggled with guilt….because we weren’t being the kinds of mothers we thought we were supposed to be, and our kids were going to be left behind…or up the creek….or out in the cold….or in the dark.  Pick the preposition, we pretty much screwed it up. Now comes along a fresh batch of moms to young children, and you are faced with even more pressure than we were because you all have those nice perfect images from social media being hurled upon your sleep deprived brains about how things should be, and you look around, and they are not. 

So here’s our advice – take it or leave it…because you do have that option.  Isn’t that wonderful just to hear? I speak the truth.  You can blow me off because you are a Type A and you can get it all done – hey, serious kudos to you,  or you can say, Yes! Yes!  That’s Me!  I feel that way right now!

You moms out there with babies and toddlers pawing at you while your just trying to sit for three seconds of silence on the potty -you know who you are.  Your laundry pile is stacked up higher than the Tower or Babel.  The dishes are in the sink from last night’s dinner.  You smell of spit up and poopy diapers.

Yeah, you.

I’m talking to you.

You don’t have to do it all.  And it doesn’t all have to be done right now.

The laundry doesn’t have to all make it through and be folded and put away.  Do you have enough clean underwear for yourself?  Does your family? (Remember, underwear can be turned inside out every once in a while.  Just sayin’.) Okay, put that in the winning column.

Did you eat something today even it was a banana downed over the kitchen sink in less than 30 seconds flat?  Okay.  Put that one in the winning column.

Your house doesn’t have to look like a Pottery Barn catalog.  If it’s inching towards an episode of Hoarders, then we need to talk, but anything other than that put in the winning column.

Not having the mind blowing sex of your youth?  Neither are a lot of other people despite the media’s fascination with mind blowing sex.  Just the fact that you can even say or spell sex right now puts you in the winning column.

If you are a person of faith who feels like you aren’t praying enough or studying Scriptures enough, let me ask you this:  Are you at least getting a please and thank you into God on a daily basis?  I’m pretty sure God gets that right now with small children leeching out every last brain cell that you have, you don’t have time for a full blown inductive Bible study on the practices of Levitical priests. If all you are able to speak is a lot of Help, me, God’s!, put that in the winning column.

Haven’t brushed your teeth yet today?  That’s okay, you still have a few more hours of daylight to get that done.  If you are able to at least chew on a piece of sugarless gum, let’s put that one in the winning column. 

Didn’t get the official one month, three month, six months, nine month photos taken?  Who cares?! You’ve got a lifetime of school pictures in front of you that will more than make up for all those delightful trips to Target or Walmart with a baby who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his or her photo being taken.  That’s right.  I said it.  Rats ass.  Seriously, stop beating yourself and baby up with all the official photos.  Does your baby recognize you?  Okay?  Put that one in the winning column. 

If you’d rather take a nap instead of vacuum the living room.  Take the nap.  Getting more than four hours of sleep a day puts you in the winning column.

If you’d rather go back to work or if you have to go back to work, you do whatever you think is right for you and your family.  Whatever choice you decide upon may make you feel guilty, but you are moving forward, and moving forward puts you in the winning column.

If you are staying home with your baby/toddlers and look around and wonder why can’t you get it together and do it all – there is no all. All is a lie.  There are only choices, and just now, at this stage in your life, having the one or two brain cells required to make those choices, puts you in the winning column

If you only get the bold letters here about being in the winning column, then you are in the winning column, baby!

Being a mother…or father is tough. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done before. There’s nothing out there to prepare you for it. Not even a litter of puppies.  Sometimes you get it right.  Sometimes you screw up.  It looks different for every parent out there, and it’s okay to say out loud, I’m a little overwhelmed right now, and I could use some help.  It’s okay to admit that on some days you’d like to turn back in the parenting badge and turn over your children to someone else. It’s okay to love those little creatures fiercely and hug them and smell them and rock them, but it’s also okay to have a good cry in the shower or walk away  for a minute or so to collect your nerves.

So there it is.  You may not even have time to read this, and that’s okay.  I’m going to put it out there anyway because somewhere there’s a mom or dad who needs to hear it.  So for these few minutes, allow me to be your own personal cheerleader, and put yourself in the winning column.

 

 

 

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Whew, that title was a mouthful, and I’m still not sure if it is correctly punctuated. I know.  I know.  You all are thinking I am beating a dead horse with this whole bumper sticker thing.  Aside here – where in the world did we get the idiom “Beat a dead horse?”  Seriously.  That one is just gross.  So gross that I am not going to google it because I don’t want to know.  That reminds me – have you ever stopped to think about a google or have tried to actually write a google out on paper…or…SQUIRREL!

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know two things 1.) I am in awe of the pioneer women.  2.) I am not a fan of self promoting bumper stickers.  3.)  I wrestled Spanx in a public restroom and lost. Yes, I know I said two things and actually wrote three.  There is a reason for that.  I wanted to tell you all that the world famous scientist, Helen Free, who was sitting about 10 rows behind me when I wrestled my undergarments through the entire first half of Miracle on 34th St. at the Lerner Theater in Elkhart, IN, this past December,  is having dinner with my super smarty brother and his family tomorrow night.  When my sister-in-law texted me about these dinner plans, I reminded her not to wear Spanx anywhere near world famous scientist.  Upon receiving my text, she promptly returned her Spanx garments to their rightful place…the back of her closet. If there is a prize for being the world’s best sister-in-law, I believe I should get a stab at it for that advice alone.

Anyway, back to the pioneer gals and bumper stickers.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what might have been slapped on those wagons, (I mean literally, this is not a euphemism for anything – titter, titter.) and if they were into self promotion or public activism, and if mass production of bumper stickers was occurring in 1810, then maybe the following ideas and phrases may have traveled the route of the Oregon Trail itself:

    • I’ve had 15 children, 5 of whom survived, and I vote!
    • Cholera Free and Lovin’ It!
    • Madison/Gerry 1812  Because Dolly Makes Great Snacks!
    • We eat organic (or we don’t eat.)
    • 2,498.5
    • We brake for the Rockies!
    • or
    • The Rockies broke us.
    • Typhoid Free and Lovin’ It!
    • This Wagon is American Made!
    • or
    • The 1810 equivalent of Calvin relieving himself on a Chinese made wagon.
    • I’ve shot and skinned  three bears in three days, and I vote.
    • My other wagon’s a Conestoga.
    • Clinton/Ingersoll 1812 The Other Angry Looking White Guys
    • Life if Pretty Daggum Hard
    • I can catch trout with my bare hands and fry it up over a fire that I made from rocks and sticks all in order to feed my family, and I vote.
    • Boulder Fest 1808
    • Smallpox free and Lovin’ It!
    • Proud parent of a child that’s survived to see five!
    •  PETA Can Bite Me
    • I’ve killed coyotes with axes, and I vote.
    • Got hard tack?
    • 3/4 of our family did not drown in that last river crossing.
    • KJV only
    • We brake for buffalo!
    • clip-art-of-a-stick-figure-woman-and-farmer-man-by-c-charleyfranzwa-373stick babystick babystick figure girlstick figure girlstick figure girlstick boystick figure girlstick boystick boystick boyijrfffs1ijrfffs1ijrfffs1ijrfffs1ijrfffs1

(The angels are for a friend of mine.  You know who you are.)

Okay, what did I leave out you very witty readers of mine?

 

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