The love in the No-nos

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As Nana instead of mama, I can get tickled when my almost two year old granddaughter is testing my daughter.  I have earned that right but I am wise enough to hide my laughter.  My cousin’s wife has termed it being “rascally” when she starts acting like a little stinker.  This usually happens when she is fighting sleep, but lately with the two’s looming in the near future, it happens more often.

She will go up to something she knows she isn’t allowed to touch and get her finger as close to it as she possibly can and look at you, studying your response.   There is a snowman dish that captivates her, but she knows she can only look at the “no-man”, not touch.   The other day, she touched it and took off running.

She is trying to see how far she can push before it’s too far.  What can I really get away with?  Will this really hurt me, or is mom just saying that?  What happens if I touch the forbidden?  She runs full speed ahead trying to taste, touch and see everything as fast as her little legs will carry her.  When she knows she has committed a “no-no”, she will swing those golden curls back, look at you and swat her own little behind, all with a smile on her face.

She knows exactly what she is doing, yet there is something in her that rebels.  She doesn’t always just listen and obey.  At times, she has to learn the hard way.

This morning, I was contemplating sin and temptations and how long suffering God is with us.  I am a firm believer that Jesus died for my sins, but I also believe when I committ them, I need to repent.  Daily I pray that God will search my heart and help me to live a holy, committed life for His glory.

I thought about my granddaughter’s behavior and it reminded me so much of us as God’s children.  Oh, how He loves us!

How often do we run through life anxious to see it all and do it all, and we wander too close to the things that God knows might cause us harm?  He warns us, yet sometimes we fail to heed the Father’s voice.  That seemingly harmless conversation we are being lured into might cause us pain later.  A still small voice whispers, “no-no” but we ignore the plea and carry on, like a toddler running with scissors.

Thankfully, when we fall, He is there to pick us up.  He willingly forgives the offense and loves the hurt away if we let Him.  If we are smart, for our part, we will repent and learn something and we don’t have to repeat that lesson over again. We aren’t toddlers trying to figure out who is in charge.  We do already know that God wants the best for us, and that His plan for us is perfect!  Why do we question that?  If He keeps something from us, it will always be for our benefit.  If He changes our direction, it’s to keep us on the best path.

His banner over me is love.  Maybe we can remember that the next time the spirit of God is dealing with us about something.  His no is always shrouded in love, just like ours are with our children.   It always means, I know a better way or I want a better outcome for you.  It means, I love you.  Trust that love.

 

The Old Green Truck

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Deer, Big Cypress

My post from yesterday made me begin to ponder pride and I thought about other times that mine has caused me to feel bad or to make others feel bad (or both).  This brought to mind an old green truck.

As I have mentioned before my dad was a commercial fisherman and stone crabber for most of my childhood.  It was seasonal; there were some times of feast or famine and I even remember once when my stay-at-home mom had to get a part-time job to help out when Dad suffered with a ruptured disc in his back.  I think Dad’s pride hurt more than his back did then as mom had never worked, but that’s another story.

This story stars an ugly old green truck with multiple compartments on the sides.  I don’t remember where my dad got it or why, but I hated it.  It was the ugliest old truck I had ever seen in my life.

Dad worked hard, but on the days he got home early enough, one of his favorite things to do was to load his family up and go for an early evening ride on one of the neighboring dirt roads.  My brother and sister lived for this kind of stuff as they got to ride in the back and let their hair whip in the wind.  I enjoyed it too, but I didn’t want anyone to know that.  I think I was around 12 and maybe hormones played a part; maybe I was just a brat.

We would all pile into the truck with me finagling a way to ride in the front when I could.  Many times I got my way since my brother and sister actually wanted to be in the back.  Our first stop would be at Mrs. Watson’s general store about a mile (if that) from our house.   One of the highlights of stopping here was talking to Mrs. Watson’s mina bird, Sam.  The other highlight was the candy.

Dad would get his beverage of choice and we always got to pick our favorite candy.  Mom would always tell us we were silly if we got anything other than chocolate (her favorite).  My sister would usually get chocolate too, but my brother and I often ended up with wax candy bottles filled with juice, gobstoppers, or Laffy taffy.  My sister says we always wanted what she had, but I don’t remember this.  I will have to take her word for it.  Often, we would all get Astro Pops.  Remember those?  I learned an interesting fact about them today.  They were created by Rocket Scientists working on the space program in El Segundo, CA who decided to quit their jobs at Rocketdyne and create the Astro Pop®, modeling the pop after a three-stage rocket.  They were very pointed and had wax around the bottom.  We used these to poke each other after we licked the tips until they were even sharper than they came.   We had to be very discreet about our pokes.

After talking to whoever we might have encountered there, we were off for our backroads drive.  Dad would crank up his country tunes and make me sing along and we would see our share of wild animals and a beautiful sunset.  My husband and I take the same drive sometimes and I now understand why it was so relaxing to my parents.

The part of this memory that brings me pain is my hatefulness about the old truck.  I remember one time in particular that I really did not want to go on one of these outings; I wanted to be left behind at home.  I made up every reason in the world, but my dad finally discerned that I was embarrassed to be seen in the old truck.  He was absolutely correct, even though I denied it vehemently.  I remember the look on his face when that realization set in that his eldest daughter didn’t want to be discovered in the old green truck by one of her friends.   I don’t remember the outcome on that day, but I am 99% sure, knowing my dad, that my high-and-mighty little backside was parked in the back of the truck with the rest of the family.

When I look back, my despicable behavior was rooted in pride; the same pride that caused me not to want to be seen at church in yard shoes.  Looking back, of course it was incredibly silly as I know none of my friends would have thought any less of me and probably would have loved to be doing the same thing with their family.

Surely I am not the only one who had these types of struggles and I am thankful that I have learned from them by the help and grace of God.    I try to be transparent here in hopes that perhaps something I say may resonate with someone or spur a conscience.  It is a great truth that if we can learn from our mistakes, there is potential for growth in our character.  The lessons we learn can be considered a gift that keeps on giving.

 

Mom or Mother?

Rose

As the day we celebrate Mother’s Day draws nearer, I can’t help but think about mine even more than normal.  My mother was the epitome of the mother deserving of all the accolades the holiday encourages.  Everywhere you look this time of year there are advertisements for the perfect gift or card or dinner; many choices to bestow them honor.

We actually called my mom “mother” until we were in our teenage years.  As we grew older and I think due to the influence of our friends, we slowly, carefully tested out “mom” and eventually made the switch.  I say slowly and carefully because my dad didn’t like the term “mom”; he thought “mother” was far more respectful.

Today I was remembering how all of our friends loved mom.  She always had a smile, a kind word and a way of making them feel special.  She was very discerning and could quickly tell if someone was going through something and needed a hug.  She was always compassionate and loving, but they also knew she didn’t put up with any shenanigans and showed her the utmost respect.

On a fall day, if we had friends over to play football in the yard full of crunchy leaves, she was inside making a big pot of chili and brownies, enough for all to share.  On a trip to the mall, our car was busting at the hinges with teenagers who weren’t the least bit ashamed to hang out with “Mom Goff” which is what most of them called her.  I still have one of her old scrapbooks and it is full of pictures, cards and even poems that our friends gave to her through the years.  The expressions of their love continue past high school, as some kept in touch with her long after they’d lost touch with us.

How I would love the chance to honor her on this Mother’s Day now that I am older and fully understand how truly blessed I was.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew it then; we all did, but she died when I was a mere 30 years old, pregnant with my 2nd child.  In the years since, my girls have grown up and moved out and away to begin their own adult lives and I am Nana to a precious five year old.  I know so much more than I did then about the joy and yes, even the pain of motherhood.

I know more of how she felt at graduations, weddings, the birth of a grandchild.  I know more about the sacrifice, the beauty, the love and the heartaches that every mom partakes of.  I’ve walked in similar shoes, I guess you could say.  I now understand that from the moment you birth that child, they own a piece of your heart.  Because of that, you feel not only their joy, but their pain for a lifetime.

Motherhood is worthy of honor; it is a lifetime calling.  You can’t quit, take a break, walk away and find yourself or turn off your emotions when you feel like they might pull you under.  You are in it for life!  For those of you who might be saying, some aren’t worthy of the praises you offer; some abandon, some mistreat.  You are right, and I sincerely offer my heartfelt sadness and regret for those who can’t celebrate their childhood.  However, those can begin a new chapter and leave a better legacy and those of us who know how, can help them.  Women everywhere should try to help fill those voids in children who have broken hearts and low expectations with love and understanding.

And for those of you who still have your mother, whether you call her mom, mother, madre, or mamma, I would encourage you to spend time with her!  Cherish every moment because I can assure you, you will be glad you did when she is gone.

I am glad my mom knew how deeply her children loved her and I am beyond grateful for the 30 years I had her in my life.

Be All There

Me, Ash and Ayda

This morning, daylight found me missing my girls and my granddaughter.  I was looking forward to the valentine card my granddaughter had put in the mail, which should reach me today and wishing I could hug her and shower her with kisses.

One thought led to another and I began to remember when mine were younger and how many times I was so busy with some pathetic task that was actually meaningless in the big scheme of things.  They would scoot up next to me, needing some love and affection and too often, I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity.  I never ignored them, but I let a pat on the head with a promise for more attention later suffice when I should have stopped what I was doing and relished the moment.

The more I thought about it, the tears began to roll and I let them.  My husband came to find me and kiss me goodbye and noticed the tears.  I told him I missed the girls and that I was lamenting the hugs and kisses and undivided attention I didn’t always give.  He understood perfectly, and gave me a big hug.

It’s not that I didn’t love my children deeply; I just didn’t know then what I know now.  I was always busy cooking and cleaning and multi-tasking to make sure the household ran smoothly.  If I could go back and re-do things, they would be quite different.

I would throw that mop down and rush outside to catch butterflies or draw chalk figures on the concrete; the laundry could pile up, while we played dress up and the dinner dishes could sit and crust over while I sat with one in my lap, just because.

I share this because I’m older now and I know that it’s all too easy to rush through a day and neglect the most important things, which are not things at all, but people.

We aren’t promised tomorrow and if you have children, they are growing as you read this.  Before you know it, they will be adults and making their own way in the world.  You will have some type of regret because no parent is perfect, but you don’t have to have this one.   Give them the time and attention they need while they want it.  As they age, it isn’t always as treasured.  I am blessed with two loving daughters who think I’m the greatest (at least that’s what they tell me), but I know there were times I could have been “all there” and I let life get in the way.

Deposits in our children

Ayda at Disney 2011

Ayda at Disney 2011

As I look back on the past 47 years of my life, I am convinced that of all of the lives I have touched, the biggest impact has been on my children.

Knowing this, I contemplate the failures which sometimes seemed as plentiful as the successes.  For this, I can promise, you will fail at times, more than once or twice.  You will find though, that how you handle the failures is the most important part.  There is no shame to be found in saying, “I’m sorry”; this is teaching your children to do the same.  You also have to forgive yourself and move forward.

I recall many times that they called me out on something that I had taught them not to do or also the times when I beamed with pride at the awesomeness of their character shining through.  There were times I was impatient and didn’t give them the chance to explain, or completely misread a situation and found myself at their bedside asking forgiveness.  There were also times that I know I rocked; that I gave them praise and their smile and hug told me I had got it right.  Those are the times your heart feels as though it will burst.

I have found that patience is mandatory throughout their lives; not just during the terrible twos and sassy teenage years.  Your complete and undivided attention is a must and forgiveness a necessity.  Praise is essential and should be used in far greater quantity than negative remarks.

The words that are spoken should be carefully chosen, the looks you give always filtered by love and the example that you set should be stellar.  If it hasn’t been thus far, make the rest of the years count!

Yes, there will come a time when they will make their own choices.  However, you will want them to make good ones, based on the things you have taught them and shown by example.  The little sponges will soak it all up, so make your choices wisely.

After all, you want to look back with more good memories than bad ones and you want to know you have done your very best.

Too much stuff

Cluttered Bust

Cluttered Bust (Photo credit: mikecogh)

When my mom was in her forties, although she only survived until 49, I remember her saying, “I’m sick of stuff!”  She said it was time to enjoy people and memories and not concentrate on accumulating more stuff; her nick-nacks started to decrease because she didn’t want to spend the time dusting.  Lately, I find myself sharing her sentiments.  We have so much stuff to take care of that our efforts to keep up with it all cut into the time that we actually spend with our loved ones.

With this in mind, I knew one of the junked up areas in my home/life was my closet.  When you go to get ready in the morning and you continually run into the problem where you cannot find that belt or tank or whatever the need of the day may be, you know it is time to get busy!  I realize I should have done this as part of my annual spring cleaning.  The problem with that is mine never got fully accomplished.

The closet attack started off with a bang and then as per usual, I get hung up in the details.  Which hangers should I keep?  Should I arrange by season or by color?  Will that EVER fit, or should I just give it away and be done with the disappointment?  Should I keep the few shoe boxes I have or get rid of them since I don’t have them all?  This is the type of minutia that impedes my progress no matter the task!

Finally, I got frustrated, headed for my laptop and read some blogs about closet organization.  You would think by 47, I would have figured all of this out long ago, but no, so thankfully I gleaned valuable  tips from some savvy women.

Three bulging garbage bags later, I finally saw the bottom of my closet and everything was on a hanger or in a box.  Oh, the feeling of finally allowing yourself to let go of “stuff”!  But, seriously, if you haven’t worn something in a year, you just aren’t going to.  You probably bought it on a whim, on sale or someone gave it to you .  Let it go and preferably to someone who can really benefit!

Not a moment too soon, my husband came in for the evening and rescued me from further detailing, so I still have the color coding to go, but this girl is feeling accomplished.  Yes, my first efforts in down-sizing to a more manageable collection of clothing was a success and I’m anxious to move on to something else.

Digging up Memories

Reaching upward drinking in the rain

Reaching upward drinking in the rain

There is nothing more therapeutic in my opinion than digging in the dark soil, until it’s trapped beneath my fingernails, or pulling out the weeds around a plant or in a bed.  These sneaky imposters, sporting defiant root systems and a plethora of seeds would like to spread themselves far and wide, but not while I’m on guard.

There is also something to be said for the feeling of accomplishment when you stand, back aching and neck burning from the sun’s much too ardent kiss; and admire your work.

The desire to dig in the dirt goes back at least four generations on my mother’s side.  Most of my memories of my great-grandmother Hall are in her yard as I relentlessly peppered her with questions about what each planted was named.  I loved to hear the names roll off of her lips; “Why that’s night blooming jasmine, honey”, or “this is a hydrangea or sweet viburnum”.  The names sounded exotic and romantic.

Granny’s yard displayed much beauty due to her diligent care.  I can only suppose that it was her love for gardening that sparked an interest in my grandmother.IMG_3378

Many times, if you visited either of them you would find them outside.  I don’t remember ever seeing either of them in anything but dresses.   They may have worn something else, but not that I ever remember.  Of course that was when the length of dresses kept their “neathies” (as my mom liked to call anything that should be covered by clothes) unexposed.

My mother shared their green thumb and quickly transformed any yard we had into a well landscaped display of her talent.  She recruited us as often as she could to help her and most of the time I was pretty compliant.

I inherited the love as well, but unfortunately not the knack or skill; I fear my thumb is sorely lacking in green.  Thankfully, I’m getting better with age, but my kill quota was pretty high there for a while.  Maybe one reason I love it so much is due to the memories that I made with each of them.  Take some time to dig up some good memories of your own and relish them!

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The Two Anniversaries

This week holds two special days for me; one is the anniversary of my marriage, which symbolizes a beautiful beginning and the other is the anniversary of the death of my mother which epitomizes an agonizing final chapter in the book of my life.

Since 1996, I have endeavored to honor both dates with all of the respect and enthusiasm I could muster.  The first few years after mom died, it was especially difficult to enjoy my anniversary.  There was that “other” day coming on its heels, the one where the sky always looks the same as it did on that fateful day and details that would be better off forgotten gallop through my thoughts.

As I have grown older and realize the brevity of life and the importance of enjoying it, I often think of how my mom embraced life.

She was a dreamer, a romantic, intelligent and funny.  She lived through some tough things; she lost her mom, her dad, her grandmother and a brother.  She went through a heart-wrenching divorce.

However, if you were to inquire of anyone in my family as to who absolutely lit up a room when they entered; they would tell you quickly that it was my mother.  She is often remembered for her smile, even when in the midst of adversity.

I will never forget the first time she met my husband and how much she adored him.  She said, ‘he’s a keeper”.  I reminisce on the first (sometimes bumpy) years of marriage when I dialed her number seeking solace and more importantly someone willing to blindly take my side.  Although I’m still not sure exactly how she pulled it off, my outlook was often altered by the time I hung up the phone.  She would cause me to look inward, and sometimes identify (much to my chagrin!) when I was the problem.

So, in a strange, somewhat enchanted way, the two days are combined into the fond memories of my mother, the wonderful times we had together; and the beautiful memories of my marriage and the hopes and dreams of many years to come.

There is also the knowledge that she would want me to give my anniversary the recognition it deserves and celebrate it to the fullest.  She would flash that big ole’ smile and give us her blessings all over again if she could.

Once again, my memories, which threatened to take on a life of melancholy this afternoon, have only catapulted me to a happiness that comes from knowing that I have been and continue to be loved and nurtured by some of the best!  I’m sitting here with your smile, mom and happy tears.

The day I became a Nana

Stop and smell the flowers

Stop and smell the flowers

 

Yesterday I was mom, aunt, daughter

A friend, cousin and wife.

Today I became a Nana

I never could have guessed the way I would feel

You changed my life on February 28th, 2010

The day I became a Nana

Those other grandparents tried to warn me

They spoke of a new and different kind of love

About how hearts turn to mush

But I just didn’t get it

Until the day I became a Nana

 

Happy 3rd Birthday to my baby girl 🙂

Valentines shoe box

Puppy Love Valentine CardsI remember when my girls were young and we had to buy or make valentines for the entire class.  There were big decisions to be made about who got which one.  Patience was a necessity as they carefully pondered the possible ramifications of each selection. “But mom, if I pick this one, he might think I like him”, and “Which one should I give my teacher?”

Some years we would carefully transform a shoe box into a glittering, shimmering, pink or red valentine mail box.  After the inevitable Valentine party with punch and cupcakes, they would bring it home and excitedly show me all of their cards. I would catch them perusing them again later in their room and maybe tucking one in the frame of their dresser mirror.

We used to make some of them together with construction paper and doilies.  We would cut out shapes, make drawings and pen our own verse, then deliver to family, friends and neighbors, often along with valentine cookies. Their smiles were the only reward I needed for my help. I imagine I could still find some of these treasures if I looked in the right boxes.

Time passes and those memories grow more precious to me as I try to hold on to every one of those sweet moments.  Love grows and changes and those precious little children, who captivated us at birth, weave their own unique and precious pattern deeply and permanently into our hearts.  Once again, I am so grateful for all the times I took the time to really enjoy them, to look in their eyes and listen to them.

Time flies and you never know what is waiting around the next corner. Live well and spend plenty of time with your family.

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