Share If You Agree

I’m not afraid to say I’m sorry—and some of these apologies are long overdue. Facebook has done all it can do to help us declare our love, devotion and allegiances; but I feel like I’ve not only let them down, but scores of others, due to my unwillingness to share what I’m told to share. Let’s go.

brother

I have this brother, but I couldn’t—in good conscience, hit “share,”—not because I don’t have the best brother in the world, but because it’s one of the most poorly constructed memes my feed has ever seen. Since when did ellipses become two periods? Oh that’s right, just up until the 11th line. They had to warm up, I guess. Where is the apostrophe on the complicated contraction “can’t?” The worst part? It doesn’t even complete the thought it ramped up to. It started out as an if/then, and left us hanging.

It was like saying, “If you like food and love meat and adore spices and can’t wait to eat it and enjoy it and savor it and can’t be without it !!” Don’t even get me started on the space before the two exclamations. Sorry—I can’t share ill-designed memes.

dad

Again with the atrocious sentence structure—but anyway, Daddy, I didn’t post this (like I was ordered to do), even though you fit the criteria stated in the meme. I am truly sorry. I hope you weren’t on Facebook the day it made the rounds, because I’m quite sure its absence on my wall made you second-guess every parenting decision you ever made. Maybe you even looked back with regret, the day you came home from work to hear of a fight Jeni and I had—and proceeded to ask HER if I deserved a spanking. That was a pretty bad misstep—which not surprisingly led to me getting spanked, but I assure you it’s not why I didn’t post this horribly written meme.

Jesus

Jesus, I wasn’t ashamed of You; I didn’t ignore You; and I do love You. I just wasn’t too keen on the rendering of your beautiful face—the eye shadow seemed excessive, and far too much time was spent on the chisel of your already perfect cheek and jaw. The red border around the green background also threw me off, as did the out-of-character exclamation point. That’s all—that’s why I didn’t share. Because I do totally love You. I’m sorry for possibly seeming like a heathen when I didn’t share this.

lies

I almost agree. The thing is, sometimes we need to fib out of kindness. There is just no way to always tell the truth, if you have a considerate bone in your body. You don’t agree?

“Your new baby isn’t very cute. She almost is, but those thin lips and that scaly skin are super off-putting.”

“I’m gonna pass on meeting you for dinner this weekend. It’s monumentally more important to me to get this bra off and eat cereal while standing up.”

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re responsible for the low-life deviant your son has become.”

Sorry I didn’t share what was intended to be a character-proving meme, but was actually a short-sighted, inconsiderate theory.

pets

I don’t own a pet, so this wasn’t directed at me. However, even if I did have a boxer named Rookie or a bulldog named Shakes, I’d never be able to share this meme—I’m sorry. It’s in need of some punctuation and some grounding in facts. Dogs ARE pets—and that’s OK, because pets are certainly family. We needn’t split hairs here. While we’re on it, “Like” and “Share” have incorrect punctuation around them—and there are two exclamation points in a 3×3 space. Again, I’m sorry, but no.

prison

I’m sorry I didn’t share this gem. I totally should have, because if I believe anything with fervor, it’s that declaring my own personal, possibly divisive and inciting opinions on Facebook is a wonderful idea and an excellent use of time.

proud parent

I’m mostly interested in why this meme came to pass. I want the back story. And not unlike so many of these head-shaking calls to action, the punctuation and “your” usage is dreadful, so I’m gonna scroll on by without apology here.

gym

Sorry I didn’t share this riveting sentiment. I was lost, broken and lonely—and doing some lunges at the g.y.m. And now I’m s.o.r.e. And still quite lost trying to find the nearest Chipotle.

daughter

I don’t have a daughter, but it’s such a relief to know how I’d hold her in my heart for a lifetime—just by sharing this meme on my Facebook page. This mom seems to have a particularly large heart area. No need to do things with my beloved daughter when it’s so much more efficient and lasting to post about my undying love on social media. I’m sorry I don’t have a daughter so I could circumvent all the bond-building with a simple share.

daughter 2

Again, I don’t have a daughter, but you know who I just realized does? MY MOTHER. What the hell, Moma?

Heaven

I love someone in Heaven, but I couldn’t share this because I didn’t connect with the chosen image. Heaven is everything good and perfect, so I know it doesn’t have hard benches. If the designer had gone with a big leather chair from Restoration Hardware or maybe a polar fleece beanbag, I’d have hit “share” immediately. I’m sorry your choice of imagery kept me from sharing.

family

The sentiment is probably fairly accurate, but again, I couldn’t share this because of the sheer number of design and punctuation flaws. “No family is perfect we argue, we fight.” Really? Even people who hate all things composition know that’s a pitiful attempt at a sentence, right? And what happened to the poor “will” towards the end? The previous serif fonts were like, “You’re not one of us! You’re san serif, so just get away from our family, you freak!”

Pure love

Pure Love doesn’t pay the AT&T bill. Being a mother is the most important position in the world—agreed—but let’s work on our word choice here and maybe more “likes” will follow. First of all, let’s aim to be less cheesy than a crock of queso. Second of all, let’s bring home some bacon so we can feed the children. Do those two things and I’ll share with abandon.

sizes

I agree, but I didn’t share, sorry. The image chosen was too limiting for the sentiment. I’d have shared if they’d chosen four beautiful things—all varying sizes—like they purport to believe. Preferably—this lady, a Jaguar XJR, a quarter-pounder with cheese, and an itty bitty jungle frog.

lady friends

I didn’t tag my lady loves like the meme recommended because of one simple reason. I’m not seeking confirmation of their devotion. I’m not unsure of their loyalty. Except Ellen—I’m not all that confident she’d repost and tag back. Or Maya Rudolph. If history is any indicator, I’d be waiting on that validation for quite some time. Better to just go on not knowing. Ignorance is bliss when you’re forcing the hands of true friends you’ve never met. Sorry.

sister

Sorry I didn’t share this, but I had a good reason—and it wasn’t because I don’t love my sister. It was because I’d just told her I loved her in a text. It was also because I knew she saw this in her Facebook feed and didn’t share it for me. I’m the little sister, and little sisters can be kinda bratty—sorry.

children

I should’ve shared this, because I agree, but I didn’t and I’m sorry. It just seemed too remedial—like saying, “Cold beer should be sipped and enjoyed, not used to wash the dishes.” It was the captain-obviousness of it that kept me scrolling right through.

arms

Yeahhh, the day I share a fear-mongering political post like this is the day I renounce my love of guacamole. Not. Gonna. Happen. It should’ve said, “Unfollow me if you don’t agree” because that’s what I did.

I hop on Facebook to see cute babies, unlikely friendships between animals and killer sushi spreads. I also pop in to see what interesting things my friends are up to. I’ve never once thought, “I just can’t make my mind up about immigration—let me log on to Facebook and see what my high school friends think.”

Side Note: No offense, high school friends. Y’all are the best. Go Bulldogs!

creepy eyes

I’m sorry I didn’t share this, but quite frankly, I found the eyes just a wee bit crazed and creepy. I didn’t think it painted an accurate portrayal of my deep and abiding love for my mom. I’ll try to snag and share the next one I see that has kinder, more childlike eyes. I love you, Moma—which means I love you enough to not creep you out with eerie-eyed smiley faces in your Facebook feed.

stray

Happiness is feeding a stray if you want that stray to be YOUR stray. And many of you do! More power to you and God bless you (sorry, God, I’m not bossing You around—You totally don’t have to do that … only if it was in Your plans and You want to … I mean, I think it would be swell of You, but that’s Your call. Next time I’ll say, “May God bless you.”)

Maybe the meme should say, “KINDNESS is feeding a stray.” Because, like, I’m sure it makes you happy to do it—I know how happy it makes me to give homeless people food—but are you going to stay happy when you’ve got a new member in your family and your 4-year old wants to name him Tooter? Anyway, that’s why I didn’t share. I thought the word choice was suspect.

bitching

I didn’t share because I already know bitching burns calories. So does complaining and so does whining. These are facts. We wouldn’t do them so often if they didn’t help us work off french fries. #sorrynotsorry

idiot

With all of my being, I hope I don’t need to explain why I didn’t share this handmade sign. I have four reasons, but I’ll be happy if you just know the main one. Are cyber-friendship depends on it.

one eye

I’m sorry to be so picky, but I couldn’t share this since I actually have two eyes. It felt wrong to act like I only had one—like I was fishing for sympathy. I also could really use some past tense on “love” … “because I LOVED my mom.” Combine those two dilemmas and that’s one big non-share here. I also vividly recall my first thought upon opening my eye(s), and it was more along the lines of, “Feed me, Womb Lady!”

Anyway, you know how, when you check out at Target or Banana Republic, they say, “Do you want to save 15% on your purchase today? And you feel so dumb saying no? It’s that whole “Yeah, but” thing. Yeah, but I don’t want a credit card.

It’s the same with all these incriminating memes on Facebook. Do you love your mom? Yeah, but I don’t want to share something where “your” and “you’re” are treated as the same word. Do you believe that guns don’t kill people—that people living in a culture of glorified violence with unfettered access to firearms kill people—with guns? Yeah, but I don’t do politics on social media.

I can’t help but think I’m not alone, so if you want to get more likes and shares, proofread your work, put thought into your imagery, and … you know what, scrap that. Stop posting things and asking for shares and likes. It’s obnoxious and it ruins Facebook for people who want to see this:

friendship

and this:

sushi

and this:

tinyfrog

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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Dear Diary, I Get Around

Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker about why some people seem to have no self-awareness. We questioned why some people don’t pick up on social cues; why they can’t tell when they’ve intruded on a conversation; why they don’t read the faces of those who are negatively receiving the words they’re delivering. We puzzled over some people’s inability to read the unfavorable reactions of others.

But also not funny.

But also not funny.

We both confessed to hoping our self-awareness was on point and felt like—as a rule—it was. We ended the conversation feeling pretty darn good about our ability to read social cues and self-regulate.

My self-awareness confidence took a mighty blow later that night when—for reasons I can’t remember—I peeked into the first journal I ever owned and saw something wholly mortifying.

Unbeknownst to me, I was a first-rate floozy.

Let’s unpack these shameful years.

diary

This was my first diary, and it was given to me by my sister. Many months ago, we discussed a few of the entries in this journal, related to the rigorous crush I had on one of my middle school teachers, Coach McCahon.

That was but the tip of the iceberg.

diary1

You’ll see that this is the first of many professions of love. Apparently, I had a lot of it to give as a kid. Also, please note—I am nine. This will be an important detail as we move along.

diary2

I wonder what good things happened to me? Was it the fact that we had company? That my autograph was coming along? Time will tell.

I’m not sure what’s more shocking—that I felt Groundhog Day was worth two mentions or that I love a boy “very much” when I’m still drinking milk with my supper.

diary4

Here we are. And because this simply cannot be said enough—I’M NINE. Okay, I kind of understand how I could think I love him; but it’s shocking to me that I’m eager to kiss him. It’s more shocking that I want it to be “for a long time.” It’s jaw-dropping that I’m going to take the bull by the horns, when I don’t even have enough years under my belt to spell lips correctly.

diary5

Great. I’m ready for marriage. I’m simple-minded enough to think a definition of spring is warranted, yet I’m contemplating the rightness of nuptials and monogamy.

diary6

Still hoping he pops the question. I wonder where I thought it would happen? I have vivid memories of playing inside the big tractor tires on our elementary playground with him—I bet that’s where I hoped he’d drop to one scabbed knee. Oh, and if the suspension is killing you, I did get Mrs. DeShields—so my appalling punctuation was her gift that year.

diary7

WHAT?! What the hell is, “well, you know?!” No, I don’t know! WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?! So again, I think it’s worth pointing out—I’m ready to get serious, but I only manage to get the first and last letters right.

Side Note: I actually remember writing this. I was listening to the Top 9 at 9 on KQTY. I hate to tell you this, but it was when, back-to-back, they played Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Feels So Right by Alabama. This is not cute, y’all—it’s capital T Troubling.

diary8

Still love Billy. Still can’t spell for shit.

Side Note: This kind of enduring love shouldn’t be plausible when I’m young enough to still enjoy puppet shows.

diary9

Hmm, wonder when this happened—a new dude. You will see that this is the beginning of my downward spiral into tramp-ville. I’m 10 now—apparently approaching womanhood—and want some skating rink lip-locking.

Side Note: I remember this entry too, and he was there. We couple-skated to Hard To Say I’m Sorry by Chicago, and the song was especially meaningful to me because, while Brandon was a “hunk and a half,” I felt like I owed him an apology for coveting his speed skates.

diary10

More love in the air. I love God and I love a new boy, Kevin. I found my watch a week later in a pair of shoes—so I’m sure I double-loved God that day, but just didn’t get it documented.

diary11

Still love Kevin.

diary12

I’m going with Daxton, but I’m not sensing much love. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with a man 18 years my senior. No big deal. Oh, and I’m still struggling with basic spelling.

dairy13

I guess Coach McCahon was a gateway drug to Paul McCartney. Let’s see, I was 11 and he was, what, 70? Seems natural that I would love him and write about him in my diary, along with my grades, my Christmas gifts and an unforgivable spelling of the complicated word, “for.”

Side Note: The super clever initials are, Anna Christie BFFs … I love Paul McCartney (because one mention wasn’t enough) … I love Daxton Patterson (guess I did love him after all) … I love Scott McCahon (so, two men whose combined age was approximately 100) … I love my family … and Heaven only knows what BMOA stands for. I shutter to think.

diary14

And we’re back. Yes, these entries are in order.

diary15

In case anyone forgot.

diary16

Whoa. Daxton is out of the rotation.

diary17

Enter: Donny Griffin. Sure doesn’t seem like I’m very judicious with my love. If I spent half as much time on learning to spell as I did on acknowledging my love for anyone with a Y chromosome, we’d be in good shape.

diary18

There’s a lot going on here. Apparently I enjoyed learning about Anne Frank. I also worried a lot about our income tax return. I thought my TV debut—for something related to basketball and a telethon—would catapult me to stardom. I still loved Coach McCahon, and his body—despite his snotty behavior—but it wasn’t reciprocal. Spelling is still out of my wheelhouse.

diary19

Spoiler alert: I still love Coach McCahon, and Christi and I did not remain best friends for all of eternity, as I predicted—but hey, my grades were on point and I spelled some words right.

diary20

So much love to be had here. I’m still in love with a fully grown man, and Donnie (a new Donnie) is romantic. HOW? How is a 12-year old romantic? I have to know. Can someone remind me what pre-teens do to be romantic? Seems as if all that romance is fleeting, since I’m still with Donny G, but would also be down for some Donnie W, or Scott or Mike lovin’ on the side. Well, at least I also love my family and God—so some morsel of me remains honorable.

diary21

Sheesh, what’s with this income tax return? And why was I on TV again? I didn’t profess any love in this entry, but I can tell you that I wholeheartedly loved DQ. And it’s almost worrisome that I was so attached to my diary that I thought it could join me in prayer.

diary22

A new player: Mike Hammonds. I see no mention of love, so I must be taking things slow this time around.

diary23

Aww, poor Mike—I still don’t love him. I guess I’m just passing time until Coach McCahon and his “good body” get with the program.

diary24

I loved IZODS. I wonder if that’s why I was so obsessed with our income tax return?

diary25

I love God. I also love Coach McCahon, Mike Hammonds (although I question my sincerity on this one), God again, my family—and as a bonus, the w/w/w (whole wide world). That’s you—you’re welcome.

diary26

No love here, but I include it to tell you that my friends and I tried out for the talent show by dancing a choreographed number to MJ’s Billie Jean. On the opening beat, our backs were to the judges—as we stood with our feet shoulder-width apart—and one by one, we spun around and pointed out across the auditorium dramatically. We wore white tennis shorts, IZODs and Gilligan hats. I can’t make this up—nor would I want to.

Side Note: We didn’t make it.

diary29

I was single? How did I survive? Oh I know—on the “total” love I had for Scott Frederic.

diary30

Really diggin’ this Scott fellow. Let’s not allow the misspelling of his name to negate the obvious depths of my love.

diary31

But for now, Layne Moffitt will do.

diary32

I’m now going with Steven Moore, but love Ricky Schroder. Where’d Layne go? That was fast. I can say with confidence that I was more devoted to The Ricker than Steven, as I had approximately 104 pictures of him wallpapering my bedroom.

diary33

My love for Brad (yes, this is a new guy) is making me question my feelings for Steven.

dairy34

Annnd I’m back with Daxton. Enough time has passed that we’re now making out at dances. The first time around, we probably just played in the sandbox.

diary35

Oh hey, Travis. When did you get here? Have you met, Ricky?

diary36

I think kids who call people and chomp ice as their prank are totally mature enough to juggle a dozen loves in a few years.

I hope my diary was a way for me to work out all this angst and longing in a safe place—and that away from this time of reflection each night, I was out having fun and not drooling nonstop over these dudes. I have exponentially more memories of friends and laughter, than yearning and solitude, so I guess it was just an outlet I enjoyed. I must have, because I have stacks of journals from most of my life.

You should look back at your old stuff. Hopefully you’ll get some good news about your past ways, and not be confronted by the surprise news that the journal of your youth was actually a little black book housing enough names to field a pee wee football team.

The bad news? I only shared a fraction of the journal—and professions of love. The good news? Spelling is no longer my undoing.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter 🙂

Old School Parenting Prowess

My parents were extraordinary. They still are.

They were ahead of their time in so many ways.

Sure, we sat—or stood—anywhere in the car we wanted, but whatever, they got so many things right. They got them right without the luxury or convenience of the internet and a million how-tos at their fingertips.

1. My mom didn’t need an army of mommy bloggers to figure it out.

My mom stayed at home with all three of us—before going back to get her college degree and embark on a 25-year teaching career—without blogging about it or reading blogs about it. GASP! How did she make it through the school drop-off line or traverse the competitive world of child-rearing without the virtual company of 8 trillion mommy bloggers by her side? How did any of our milestones mean anything when they couldn’t be shared on Instagram or posted on Facebook? We’ll never know. But she did it like a B.O.S.S.

hairflip

2. They believed in lessons.

We got dropped off at the skating rink on weekend nights and picked up at midnight. One time when I was around 10 or 11, I had my brand new Nike kicks stolen from my locker. They were gone, period. End of story. Yes, my mom felt bad for me, but again they were gone. It sucked, but to my parents, the theft didn’t equate to a replacement pair, it equated to me learning to be more vigilant about prized possessions. You better believe I started double-checking the padlock after that.

Yes, my Nikes are gone, people.

Yes, Emma—MY NIKES ARE GONE.

3. My mom ROCKED nightly home-cooked meals—for well over a decade.

We also ate dinner at home every night. Yes, up until high school, the five of us ate my mom’s home-cooked meals, around the kitchen table, every night. I can’t imagine how she pulled it off—that many meals, that many years—but she did. I’m sure one thing that made it possible was that she (logically) cooked one meal, and we ate it. Up until my freshman year, I have only a few memories of dinner anywhere but our kitchen table. I also have next-to-no memories of bumming out over the meal put in front of me.

It was also really, REALLY good.

It was also really, REALLY good.

Well, there was that one night when my dad was exceptionally cranky and put down the edict that he was “the father of this family” and he’d “by-damn get the piece of fried chicken” he wanted. I believe it was a thigh, which now makes me wonder what the fuss was about. Who was putting up a fight over a thigh? It was super fine by me. We also always had a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread on the table—a far stretch from the artisan breads of today, but I loved it. My favorite thing (after watching my dad do this) was capping off supper with a scoop of mashed potatoes in a single folded up slice of bread—a mashed potato sandwich dessert if you will. Heaven!

Now, at restaurants, when the waiter says, “Did you save room for dessert? Maybe some flan or a sopapilla or cheesecake?” I’m just thinking, “Please say mashed potato sandwich, please say mashed potato sandwich.” I’m still waiting on that offering.

Side Note: My dad and I used to love to eat gross things, too. Pickled pigs feet, sardines in the can—we relished every moment of grossing out those around us. We still do.

Another Side Note That Deserves Its Own Post: My mom is the world’s best cook. This is not up for discussion. I’d pick one of her home-cooked meals over any food, any where. I got my love of cooking from her, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts.

And with food. Lots of food.

And with food. Lots of food.

4. They took responsibility for teaching us about God.

We didn’t really grow up in church, we sorta just had church at home. As kids of praying, steadfast believing parents, we learned all the important things that we still hold dear today.

But one awful night (I don’t remember what led to this), my parents told me—what I considered at the time—a huge lie. They said I should always put God before them, and … wait for the shocking news … love God more than I loved them. I felt like someone slapped me across my precious face. I’d never been so upset with them.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

As a little kid whose life still revolved around her parents, this made ZERO sense to me, and I wanted NO PART of it—not because I didn’t love God (I so did), but because my parents were my world. I devised a plan to disobey them, because it was simply something I could. not. would. not. do. I knew in my heart they’d gotten it all wrong. I almost felt bad for their misinterpretation of God’s will.

ALMOST—I was too disappointed in their careless mandate to empathize with them.

I knew that the God I trusted would never want to me to love Him more than my parents, so I decided I’d go along with them outwardly, nodding like it made perfect sense, but continue loving them #1 in my heart.

Fortunately, nothing bad came from my disobedience, and no one ever tested me. In my head, my defiance looked like this: choosing teams for dodge ball and picking my mom and dad over God—and then immediately getting struck in the head with lightning and my gravestone reading, “You picked the wrong rule to break.”

Side Note: I, of course, understand all of this now—but as a very little kid, I was appalled by my blasphemous, lying parents. I even remember where we were standing when they told me the lies. I also remember throwing myself face down on my pillow to cry it out—vowing in my heart I’d never love anyone more than my parents. This was, of course, before I laid eyes on Ricky Schroder.

I’d now like to lighten the mood by telling you that on our summer vacations, they’d make us virgin Tom Collins.

wiigswivel

5. We had wonderful traditions.

Speaking of vacations (and life in general), my mom was, and still is, the best of the best at creating traditions for our family. Her fingerprint is on everything that is real and wonderful about my family.

One of my favorite traditions growing up was our summer vacation down to Corpus Christi. The five of us would road trip (although when I was little, that didn’t have a name—it was just how you traveled) to Corpus. We’d leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kiddos would sleep in the car—all over the car. Floorboard, back window, across our parents laps. They probably would’ve let us sleep in the trunk if we’d asked. I doubt it, but I have nothing to base that doubt on.

Here was where the swoon came in. We’d start stirring in the late morning and wake up so happy when we saw we were well on our way—and then the realization that we were hungry would kick in, and we’d all start looking for a river bank or cool area for our lunch spot. My mom would break out the cooler of cold fried chicken, cheese, bread, pickles and bottled Coke. Nothing has EVER tasted so good in my life.

Then we’d crawl back into the car and play with our handheld games.

autobingo1

Side Note: I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about everything today’s kids “need” to “survive” a road trip—or the monsters we’re creating—I’m just going to say that I’m thankful beyond thankful that I grew up when I did, and learned how to entertain myself and just be happily alone in my thoughts.

We’d drive and drive, listening to The Beatles. We had a stack of 8-tracks in heavy rotation and it was pure bliss. No, I never did understand some of their lyrics (why is he a walrus? why is Lucy in the sky? Why’d Joe Joe think he was a woman?) but I never once tired of the music we grew up with.

Everything about our summer vacations to Corpus has stayed with me. The music, the stops for beef jerky and pickles, feeding the seagulls, looking for “butterfly” seashells to present to my mom as my promise of everlasting love.

I love you, Moma <3

I love you, Moma ❤

6. My dad guided us early and swiftly.

Me: Bye!
Daddy: Bye.
Me: See ya later, alligator!
Daddy: See ya later, alligator.
Me: After a while, crocodile!
Daddy: After a while crocodile.
Me: Soon, raccoon!
Daddy: No, Ma’am. I don’t want you saying that.
Me: Why?!
Daddy: Because it could be construed as racist slang and I won’t have you saying it. Alligators and crocodiles are plenty enough.

And that was that. I didn’t fully understand until he explained it further; but I knew not to ever say it again and knew why.

7. Their worth wasn’t tied to my athletic performance.

From the moment I set my eyes on the game of basketball, I was hooked. And one second after that realization, my parents found a way for it to be part of my life. They got me an outdoor hoop and they made arrangements for us to go play at a nearby community college gym.

I played all the time—every day and night, I shot baskets and played. That was all wonderful, but when they were truly ahead of their time was when I was on real teams. Never once, EVER, in a zillion games, did they ever show anger or disappointment in me. They were not those parents. This wasn’t as surprising coming from my mom—I think moms are naturally nurturing—but it was definitely more uncommon for dads to show nothing but support. And my dad was not a sugar-coating kind of guy. He was a “call it what it is” man. Yet, there he was, game after game with his arm around me—and a proud look on his face.

I have memory after memory of nothing but love and comfort after games, while nearby, I could hear snippets from disgusted, disappointed, furious parents railing on their kid. Don’t get me wrong, mine didn’t celebrate poor performances by any stretch—they just opted (way ahead of their time) to not take that route with me. Maybe it was because they knew I was extremely hard on myself and needed ZERO assistance in that department—I don’t know—but not ONCE? Not one chewing out session? Pretty impressive. I do know their worth wasn’t tied to my performance or success like seems to be the case so often these days … and that right there also puts them well ahead of their time.

No one but me can really know what their support did for me, or how it molded me—but it was a true and lasting gift. I can only imagine the damaging effect the opposite type of behavior has on kids. I’m glad I don’t know this firsthand.

nothankyou

8. They couldn’t care less about attachment parenting.

My parents gave us the perfect amount of “attachment parenting” vs. “cry-it-out.” In fact, one time I got my whole foot stuck in my bike spokes and my dad not only did NOT comfort me, but he was actually pretty mad about whatever carelessness led to my ankle being wrapped up in my wheel.

We consistently took off on our bikes, never to return until dusk—riding on hills and through terrain not cleared for children on Huffy bikes.

I have memories of taking off on foot or on the back of a bike of neighborhood friends and not seeing my parents for hours on end. Maybe whole days would pass—who knows?! I’m sure that’s wrong, but maybe my dad was OK with some suspect overnights if it meant peacefully getting the piece of chicken he wanted after a hard day at work?

9. They accepted life and its (occasional) unfair outcomes with grace.

In my preteen years, I used to compete in these “Hoop Shoot” contests. We’d basically shoot 25 free throws, within age brackets, and the winner would move on to sectionals, regionals and state. I won a lot of them and collected lots of cool trophies. People made a big deal about it because I was quite a little nugget and shot a men’s basketball (not the women’s size they have today) … and I was one of very few who actually shot it correctly, and not a granny shot.

Side Note: I was wholly unamused by the kids shooting granny shots. I cringed for them and wanted to point out how utterly embarrassing it was to be a nine-year old, still acting like a toddler. Come on—shoot the dang ball or go home and play with Barbie and Ken.

Anyway, one year I won the round that would take me to the big regional shootout—but found out a short while later, that I’d been placed in the wrong age bracket. I was disqualified. Nothing could be done. There were no do-overs or shuffling of winners.

While my parents and I were incredulous as we discussed the situation—and as it sunk in that it was just over for the year—no one threw a fit. I felt extremely disappointed, but nothing beyond that crossed my mind. My parents didn’t come unglued or “demand” anything of the sponsor. We all just kind of accepted the suckage of the situation.

They didn’t take me to Disneyland, in place of State, to soothe my disappointment. I might have gotten a Slurpee, but that was about it. What did happen was I kept practicing and I made it to State the following year. They even flew my whole family to the shootout in Austin.

suethem

10. They were the parents.

When we were growing up, directives like, “clean up your room,” “be home by dusk,” “put on your shoes” weren’t suggestions. They were orders that we obeyed, and when we didn’t, there were consequences. When we refused to do as we were told, there wasn’t some absurd discussion about it, like, “Why didn’t you mind me? Annnnnnna, didn’t I tell you to get dressed? Why didn’t you get dressed? Why are you disobeying me? Sigh, okay, go play.”

Oh. Hell. No. We didn’t engage in the bargaining and negotiating that’s so prevalent today. There was a very distinct line between the parents and kids—not the excruciatingly blurred lines of today. THANK GOODNESS.

And yes, we were spanked. With a hand, with a belt, with a ping-pong paddle and quite embarrassingly, with a flip-flop outside of Dairy Queen … for my “smart alec mouth.” So here’s the thing, we weren’t perfect kids. We absolutely disobeyed—but there were consequences for it.

If I got a lick at school, I got a lick at home. I didn’t get my mom rushing up to the school to question why I got in trouble for what I did—I just got in double trouble at home. This was a known and understood rule among pretty much all the kids we were in school with. And the truth is, I only got one lick during my school years, and it was for something quite benign … I ran from the back of the classroom to my seat in the front. But guess what? I got a lick and then got spanked at home.

And I didn’t run in class again.

True story—with each passing day, I’m more and more blown away by the job my parents did raising us. I read so many articles and blog posts about parenting and I just marvel at the fact that they did it without much help at all. I love that fact that they were ahead of their time in so many ways—and I hope, hope, hope we were fun kids to raise. I know I was pretty easy, because, as the third child, I put myself down for naps and changed my own diapers—but that’s a story for another day.

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Coziness Of The Soul

I crave small, cozy places and amber-lit spaces. I swoon over the soul-fulfilling ambience of food and drinks, laughter and joy—shared with mindfully-present people I love.

But I had no idea this deep-rooted affinity for authentic conversation—and coziness of the soul—had a name.

Hygge. (pronounced hue-gah)

hyggefeeling

It’s Danish, and it’s the concept of being present … of creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere that makes us feel rooted and connected. It’s about our behavior towards one another, and the coziness and shelter found through reciprocal giving and receiving. It’s the art of creating intimacy, camaraderie and contentment all in one—and it often occurs around a candlelit table, while sharing good food, good drinks and good conversation.

hygge13

Hygge nourishes the soul, and is presumably the #1 reason Danes are considered the happiest people in the world. You heard me—the happiest people in the WORLD.

Before you turn into a 2nd grader and start making faces behind the Danes’ backs and whine-chanting, “Woo-hoo, I’m Danish and I’m the happiest person who ever freakin’ lived,” you need a few facts. Scandinavians experience some of the darkest winters in the world. They are accustomed to long, cold months, where the sun emerges for a few lonesome hours a day. Just reading that will lead half of the U.S. population to a Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosis.

Yet, people have settled in Scandinavia for thousands of years—essentially choosing to “suffer” through darkness and cold. Why?

Hygge.

“Hygge is, at its essence, the feeling of warding off the dark and cold through the light and love of those around you,” says Philip Trampe.

hygge10

From hot tea, cocoa and wine … to candles, crackling fires and conversation, it’s the art of creating a place where people can lay the hustle aside, while adding another log to the fire, allowing the candle wax to run and absorbing tranquility—without distractions or the noise of the outside world.

And while no other language has a direct translation, words like coziness, security, comfort, fellowship, simpleness and living well are often used to describe the idea of hygge.

Side Note: Of the many attributes of hygge, there is one common—dominant, prominent—thread. Candles. Always candles. In windows, on tables, on stairs, with every meal (even breakfast). Danes feel that lit candles dispel the gloom and defy the long dark hours of winter. They believe there is no distinction between time worthy of candlelight or not. The warm, signature glow is at the core of hygge.

hygge11

In outlining the components of hygge, have you noticed the exclusion of smart phones, TV, drama, heated debates and hurried schedules? Yeah, Danish people don’t partake in the glorification of busy. #blessthem

Hygge is all about celebrating reality, being present and mindfully enjoying the moment with good people, in a warm setting.

But let’s not gloss over “celebrating reality.”

No, none of these.

No, no, no. NOT THESE.

I’ll tell you what that means to me—someone who is not Danish, not living in Denmark and not in the middle of a very dark winter.

It means being in a cozy space with people I love and people who love me; people who want the best from and see the best in each other; people who are too busy being happy for and proud of each other to feel competitive or threatened. It’s us celebrating life’s victories—getting raises, getting the baby to sleep all night, getting better at life—because through those wins, and our shared affection, we all feel lifted. It means being with people free of motives and full of a desire to share in daily joy, good news, successes and answered prayers; people who enjoy talking about pop culture, but also like talking about gratitude, the absolute hilarity of life, acting better, living longer and loving stronger.

It means laughing; because we know that a good, hearty, lose-your-mind-laugh-fest—that builds and spreads and ends in a blinding, breathless pounding on the table—adds a full 365 days to our lives. A mind lost in laughter finds stress healed, anxiety deadened and worry abated. Shared laughter pumps hope into our cells and creates wellness, memories and love.

rafafederer-o

Federer and Nadal actually laughed like this for about 14 minutes straight.

My idea of hygge also means … a second helping and another round, as the candles burn down a little more. It’s not about focusing on rotten people, destructive conspiracy theories, unspeakable tragedies or overly partisan politics; it’s ensuring that after the deluge of negative news and Debbie Downers all week, we’ll take an evening and let the good stuff in. We’ll allow the intrigue of life to nourish our minds and hearts—not pretending everything is good and right, but making sure all the things that are good and right take center stage: a child’s good week at school, a nephew’s home run, a friend’s kid finally asking his crush out (and her saying yes), a project at work that turned out better than you hoped, a loved one’s answered prayer, a parent’s successful transition into retirement (and a fun conversation on why they deserve it), your friends who worked out the problems in their marriage and are stronger than ever, your friends who couldn’t work it out but have successfully put their children first. I want to talk about Heaven and grace and books and why babies are really just tiny drunk people.

IMG_7413

If you’re thinking this sounds great, but isn’t realistic, I have a theory. Your circle is too wide. If you’re having trouble imagining being surrounded by people you can do this with, your circle is too wide. The unworthy people you’ve let in are making it impossible for you to envision hygge. Your “friend” who instigates, your “friend” who sees the negative in everything (and if unable to find it, creates it), your “friend” who only wants the best for you as long as it’s not better than hers, your “friend” who may or may not take up for you when given a chance.

I learned a long time ago that I’m happy with quality over quantity—in all facets of life—but especially with my inner circle. I’m meticulous and unwavering in choosing the people I truly let in. That leaves me with a small, loyal, trustworthy and wonderfully fulfilling inner circle to whom I’m extremely devoted and who faithfully love me back.

We’re talking about inner circles here, not regular everyday friends and acquaintances; it’s not rocket science, so don’t panic. I’d just encourage you to be very judicious with whom you surround yourself, and get comfortable with the fact that you are not obligated to include anyone in your inner circle who doesn’t feel right to you.

Side Note: I have far too much to say on the topic of inner circles and eliminating toxic people from your life for a side note, so perhaps we’ll revisit this. But I will say that toxicity isn’t usually anything overtly evil; it’s typically very personal and subjective—meaning, a lot of times, it’s just you “knowing” someone isn’t healthy for you. If you’re confused and wondering if you have a toxic friend, then just know this much … if you have a friend who competes with you (in life, not in Trivia Crack) … that’s not a good sign. A competitive dynamic overrides a supportive friendship—and you’re never going to alter the actuality of that. So once you identify this issue, you need to know that it’s absolutely and unequivocally OK for you to shift gears and change lanes. I implore you to not give toxic people—or people on the periphery of your inner circle—access to your life. Again, we’re not talking about being cruel or never conversing—we’re talking about access to the inner workings and private, personal parts of your life. Those areas are for people who truly love and protect you.

love&protect

Imagining the comfort and security of hygge forces you to think about who, in your life, would fit into that environment. Knowing it’s a warm atmosphere and a time to enjoy the good things in life, with good people—who do you want with you? I hope you can name a few. My family and friends are at my table. All are eating, some are drinking, a few are talking and a few are listening, and most—thank goodness—are laughing.

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My Untimely Demise

If any of the following incidents serve as foreshadowing, I might be in for an unfortunate, untimely demise. I’d rather die when I’m around 90, from a battle of wits gone awry, but it’s out of my hands.

Here are a few reasons why I could probably die in a mortifying way.

The bounce house incident. My sister and I were fully grown and her daughter was around six. Our neighborhood was having a party in the park, complete with hot dogs, sno-cones and bounce houses, so we invited Jeni and Libby to come out for it. I can’t even remember if my niece wanted any part of the big bounce house—but Jeni and I sure did—so I tossed Libby up in it and we trailed behind.

It's all fun and games until Disney suffocates you.

It’s all fun and games until Disney suffocates you.

After getting her footing, she started to really enjoy it—jumping wildly and giggling heartily. I thought I’d crank up our good times by showing her some cool flips I had in my arsenal. My sister bounded off to the side, giving me ample room to impress. Once I got the tricks out of my system, I hopped off to the side to join Jeni and give Libby more room. On my final hop over, the bounce house shifted on its axis a bit, and instead of landing next to her, I slipped into the side seam (imagine a 1970s water-bed and the part between the “bladder” and the side frame.)

We were laughing really hard as I tried repeatedly to leap, catapult and fling my way out; but then Jeni realized that—based on the size of the blow up and the amount of strength I lost from laughing—I wasn’t going to be able to dig myself out of the crevice of death. She reached down to pull me out, but this caused a full tilt, and she quickly joined me, head first, in the valley of doom.

Now the “super fun” bounce house was 75% on its side and kids started tumbling towards us—not intentionally—and an unfortunate 10:00 news story flashed through my mind of solemn newscasters reporting injuries to several small children and two 30-somethings in a Disney Princess Bounce House.

Somehow, we acted quickly and propelled our way out, with Libby in tow. Little Doodlebop seemed unfazed, but Jeni and I were emotional wrecks on the inside. We race-walked up to Jocelyn across the park—wild-eyed and out of breath. She looked at us suspiciously before tossing some Cheetos in her mouth and saying, “I told you they’re built for kids.”

The escalator incident. Before I begin, two factions of people exist. People who think this story is funny and people who actually love me the way love was intended. I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s a “true colors” kind of story and I remember each person who laughed before making sure I was okay.

I’d flown back home from a trip up North. I retrieved my luggage and headed to the down escalator to catch a tram to my car. It was one of those escalators with the see-through cover over it … like a tube. The genius traveler 10 steps below me had his big rolling suitcase IN FRONT of him (rookie) and when he got to the bottom, the bag didn’t make it over the lip—and it caused him to fall backwards. He was down, but of course the escalator kept moving. Since the exit was blocked by a body and luggage, the next man behind him fell backwards also. Within one second, several people in front of me had fallen and were trapped among moving metal and several tangled bags—while the sharp teeth of the escalator continued on its merry way.

It was a small pile-up and I was going to be next in the heap. I could have turned and run up the escalator to escape that outcome, but it was packed with people and bags. I stepped backwards, trying to gain even a step before I joined the mess, but an escalator full of people facing forward, going down, and trying to step UP and BACKWARDS on a relentless DOWN-MOVING escalator was causing complete mayhem. As soon as I could, I literally jumped over the four fallen men in front of me to get away from those incessant steel steps.

Women with children, still coming down and seeing the chaos, but unable to stop it or escape it, were screaming. It was awful—so scary. I was at the bottom at this point, and looking up, but also scared of what I was going to see in the melee (I was imagining fingers and hair getting stuck in the rotating linked steps.) Someone was finally able to hit the emergency stop button and people peeled themselves up and away. Bags were everywhere; kids were crying.

I headed to the (wrong) tram really shaken up and hurting, but not sure what was injured. I had blood all over the side of my jeans, by my knee, and my palms were bleeding like I’d fallen on gravel. Once I got home and surveyed the damage, I had grotesque bruises where the steel teeth of the steps had scraped down my thighs and calves. I also had some awesome bruises on my lower back and upper butt. I mean, these bruises were colossal. I felt like I’d been beat up.

escalatorcard

Side Note: I’m actually glad Instagram wasn’t around then, because I’d surely have my bruised ass on the internet—there is not one doubt in my mind.

The bug-killing incident. Last summer, we had quite a wasp/yellow jacket/hornet issue. By some people’s estimation, we didn’t actually have a situation, but because I see all of them as flying grim reapers, I took to Amazon for an answer to the nuisance. Enter The Executioner.

Battery-operated butchery.

Battery-operated butchery.

With the acquisition of The Executioner, I became a lean, mean anything-flying-with-a-stinger-killing-machine. For those of you new to this wonderment, the “strings” of the racket are actually wires with an electrical current running through them. A mobile bug zapper.

Side Note: I’m a major nature and animal lover (think more owls and bobcats, and less cat litter and dog hair) … and I really do go out of my way to take bugs outside and generally relocate all unwanted critters, as opposed to ending them. Just a couple of weeks ago, a huge tarantula stopped by unannounced. We were sitting by the pool when he let himself in the yard. We went the extra mile to gently coax him into the pool net and I ran a 1/4 mile to introduce him to a more fitting oasis, where he could mingle with his own kind. But, I’m telling you, when it comes to aggressive things with stingers (wasps, scorpions, etc.) … they’ve got to go. I don’t mess around with that crew. In fact, I’ve considered displaying their dead, ratfink body on a stake in the yard, with a sign that reads, “Anyone who thinks this was a good guy is NEXT.”

Back to the point. I’d had a fair amount of luck with The Executioner connecting with random stinging insects—not an elite performance, but nothing to be ashamed of. Enter the Cicada Killer. They’re like a honey badger with wings. They sound like a helicopter and THEY HAVE THE WORD KILLER IN THEIR NAME. Have you seen them?

They're up to 2" long and called a "ground dwelling predator wasp."

They’re up to 2″ long and called a “ground dwelling predator wasp.”

Have you been dive bombed by one for absolutely no reason? Well, I was tired of it. One evening, I decided it was time to show the little jerk what happens to evil trespassers. I heard him coming around (how could I not?) and I grabbed The Executioner and positioned my thumb over the on button. I walked out onto a wider span of grass and said, “You wanna go, son? Let’s do this” as I spun the murder racket in my hand like Roger Federer. I stopped just short of pounding my chest to signify the size of my heart.

In he zoomed, all hateful and aggressive, like my clothes were made out of cicadas. I was in a good crouched position with my racket poised, so I swung hard and, shockingly, made good contact on the first try. Down he went. I bounced like a boxer, saying, “Yeah, Punk—what now, Homie?!”

What I did not account for was his wherewithal.

He had been zapped square on his despicable face with electricity and he got up. HE GOT  UP. I hoped he’d be stunned and clumsy, but he was reinvigorated and irate. He came at me so hard that I almost zapped myself with The Executioner. I was swinging and tripping and ducking and swatting like a lunatic who’d lost control of every limb.

Fortunately, the Cicada Killer ended it by flying away; otherwise, I’m almost certain it would have ended poorly for me. Feel free to Google “cicada killer stings” to see what torment befalls a sting victim.

The entire brawl probably lasted all of 25 seconds, but you’d be surprised how many times your life can flash before your eyes in only a few seconds.

After the trauma of nearly nuking myself with my Amazon purchase, I headed back to the patio and was ill-prepared for what I saw—Jocelyn, virtually immobile as she fought for a breath in between noiseless convulsing laughter.

All I saw was the headline, “Woman underestimates tenacity of giant predator wasp; turns weapon on self. Expected to plead guilty to personal assault and battery.” But apparently  Jocelyn saw the best comedy show of her life—from the front row.

I’m doing my best to live a long and productive life—to die with dignity and without a headline. But it sure is hard when there are predators to eliminate and bounce houses to capsize.

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Patience Cards™

T: West, can you spare a few Patience Cards™?
Me: Sure, what’s up?
T: My mom called and they’re having issues with their router. She asked if I could come help my dad sort it out.
Me: *sympathetic silence* Please take what you need.
T: I wouldn’t ask, but I just loaned my sister my last two PCs™ because our cousin needs help with her resume.
Me: What’s mine is yours. I have nothing in the foreseeable future that necessitates any, so take ’em. Godspeed.

Patience Cards™ were born out of a desire to be patient with people you love. … keep reading

A Better Love

Happy New Year! I know, I know—it’s almost February, but it’s still a good time to talk about resolutions. My proposition doesn’t require a yoga mat or a Ninja Blender, but it does involve removing the focus from yourself for a bit.

(I just mentally saw some of you backing away. I won’t name names.)

Um, no thank you, please.

Um, no thank you, please.

This resolution is simple: Love (the people you love) better.

Don’t cringe—you love these people! I’m not even talking about co-workers or the table full of unreasonably loud chip-eaters next to you. I’m just suggesting you start with the people you truly love and value.

Side Note: If it’s actually your family eating chips too raucously, then that is something we’ll address another day.

By no means do I want this new resolution to take the place of your original resolution to post fewer selfies—please, PLEASE do us all (and yourself) a favor and stay.the.course.

Also, go ahead and organize your pantry and back up your photos to yet another external hard drive. Give coconut oil a try and see if cauliflower really can serve as passable pizza crust; but, in and around and between all those lofty Pinterest goals, I want to encourage you to just treat your people better. Make an intentional effort to be a better spouse, daughter, mom, sibling, son, uncle, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, dad and friend.

If your head is cocked in confusion, then you’re not using your imagination. The very best way to figure out how you can do better is to ask yourself what you would regret if that loved one was no longer in the world or in your life. It might sound slightly morbid, but that’s OK, because it’s eternally important.

Here goes. What would you regret if _______ was gone?

I have a feeling you’ll say things like:
Why did I fixate on the little things? Why didn’t I encourage her more? Why didn’t I thank him for the invaluable life lessons? Why didn’t I make sure she knew how much joy she brought me? Why didn’t I take a day off work and spend it with her? Why did I let our yesterday cloud our today? Why did I tell everyone but him how amazing he was? How could I have ever been too busy to hug her?

And on a smaller, but equally important note, you might ask yourself:
Why did I continue to leave clothes in the washer when I knew it drove her nuts? Why didn’t I rub his shoulders more often? Why didn’t I put my dirty clothes where she asked me to? Why didn’t I surprise her with more dates? Why did I stop leaving him love notes? Why did I play on my phone when I could have been reading to her? Why did I always let my car get below half a tank when I knew it was his pet peeve? Why did I try to temper her spontaneity? Why did I miss his games for meaningless work meetings? Why did we stop talking for hours and replace it with texts? Why didn’t I write him letters when he was serving our country overseas?

When your loved one is gone, the smallest thing is going to send you into a downward spiral of unspeakable sadness. Yes, things like moving a load of laundry into the dryer and remembering how happy that would make her. Yes, things like seeing The Pokey Little Puppy at Barnes & Noble and remembering how she’d curl into you and giggle when you read to her.

A loss is going to be devastating no matter what, but if you can lessen the number of unnecessary regrets AND make your loved one happy, isn’t it worth the effort now? The only thing that will make paralyzing sadness worse is to stack on top of it a profound remorse for which you are now helpless to fix.

I thought we might need a smile break.

I thought we might need a smile break.

So let’s crawl out now, while we can, and resolve to do better by our loved ones. Whether it’s your relationship with your spouse or your mother or your adult child—if you search your mind—you know where you can extend more grace, be more patient and give more effort.

Does your husband do something that gets on your nerves? Like, does he always want to know the plan? “Hey, what’s the plan when your family comes in town next week?” Do you reply with exasperation because it’s a week away and you haven’t even thought about it? Does it annoy you that he continues to ask?

Here’s a tip … he’s probably a hard-wired planner and not likely to change. The quicker you accept this, the better. Just meet him halfway and get some plans going. He’s not asking you to re-shingle the roof or move cross-country. He’s just asking for something that meets his predisposed needs. All relationships are give and take, so just think what you might gain by meeting him in the middle here—this could open up a whole new world of him asking for directions and clipping his toenails in private.

Do we all agree that the majority of arguments start over extremely stupid things—sometimes so little and ridiculous that you don’t even want to tell your friends why your morning is off to a bad start?

Me: How’s your day so far?
Friend: Sigh, just so-so. Brett and I left the house kinda “off” today.
Me: I’m sorry, is everything OK?
Friend: Yeah, it’s fine, it’s just got me off on the wrong foot. It’ll be fine as soon as we text or talk.
Me: OK good. Wanna talk about it?
Friend: Sure, if you’re up for learning how CEREAL can actually cause a fight.

Sometimes you have to sit back and acknowledge that life is short—and grasp that being upset over trivial things OR needlessly contributing to someone’s fury, is a waste of precious time.

You: Hey, what’s the deal? You and Kirk seem like you’re in a fight.
Friend: Ugh, we’re not in a fight, I’m just so mad at him I could spit.
You: Oh no, what happened?
Friend: Grrr. He won’t use exclamation points or smileys when he texts me.
You: *stifles a laugh* Is this something you two can get past?
Friend: Who knows?! I’ve told him a hundred times that I can’t read his tone without them, but he still refuses—it’s infuriating.

I can't live like this.

I can’t live like this.

To the one who feels slighted: Is it possible that you should just always assume his tone is normal and loving, unless there is reason to believe otherwise?
To the one who refuses to text properly: Could you tap the stubborn brake and do what you can to ensure your tone is reflective of how you’re feeling? Could you reply with more than one word, so she gets the reassurance she needs?

I’ll answer these questions for you both: YES, IT IS POSSIBLE and now is your chance to compromise. I can assure you that when he or she is gone, you’re going to wish you weren’t so unyielding.

Another way you can be better to people you love is to tell them how you feel.

I think it’s potentially a big mistake to assume that everyone you love knows you love them—and to what degree. Yes, perhaps your partner (perhaps) … but what about the rest of your family? “Oh sure! I say ‘I love you’ all the time!”

Not so fast. I’ve had instances where people told me something nice or extremely loving another family member said about me and I was stunned. Like, I knew we loved each other, but the details were such news to me. Good news. Life-enriching news.

So, consider that not everyone in your close circle really knows how you feel, and by all means, tell them! It can be a conversation, a letter, a card. Don’t recoil and say it’s too hard. Fighting in Iraq is hard; watching someone suffer with a disease is hard; seeing Odell Beckman, Jr. make that three-finger touchdown catch and realizing you could never do the same thing with 20 fingers is hard … but sitting down with a pen and paper and telling someone you love them—and why—is not hard.

Even if it’s slightly awkward, it takes about 20 seconds to say, “Hey, you know I love you, but I also want you to know that having you in my life means the world to me … and I didn’t want another day to go by without telling you that you’re wonderful and one of the best parts of my life.”

Again, all you have to do is imagine what you WISHED you’d said if you were no longer able to … and say it while you can.

When you’re in your final moments, which of these statements do you think will play through your mind and heart?

A. I wish I had more Facebook likes. B. I wish I had shown people how much I liked them.

A. I regret putting the care of my aging parents first. B. I regret putting the state of my bank account first.

A. I regret spending time with loved ones. B. I regret spending time being angry.

A. I wish I’d made more time for myself. B. I wish I’d made more time for them.

A. I wish I’d spent more time on my diet. B. I wish I’d spent more time enjoying a feast with her.

A. I wish I’d kept up with the Joneses. B. I wish I’d kept up with my old friends.

A. I wish I’d worked harder to get promoted to the corner office. B. I wish I’d made more reservations for us in a corner booth.

See, you didn’t even have to study and you aced it. In our bones, we all know these things. And we’re never going to be perfect. We’re never going to give every person everything they ever wanted—but we can do better. We can be more aware. We can try harder. We can be more selfless. We can and we should.

Let’s make this the one resolution we keep.

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My Lyrical Life

Music is my second language. My sister nailed it over Christmas when she said I was bi-singual. She lit up and repeated it, “Bi-singual!” Then she bowed and strutted away like a boss.

I can’t sing well, but I’ve got a song in my head from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, that’s so sweet! A song in her sweet, precious heart.” WRONG.

Here is a glimpse of the brain I’m dealing with:
Do what you want, what you want with my body
Do what you want, what you want with my body
Do what you want, what you want with my body
Do what you want, what you want with my body

kristenbell

I didn’t say I was proud. That’s why I shake off Lady Gaga with five verses of “Our God Is An Awesome God” … my Christian version of five Hail Marys.

I mean, why can’t the loop in my head be the more acceptable chorus?:
You can’t have my heart and
You won’t use my mind
You can’t stop my voice cause
You don’t own my life

Nope, only the sketchiest for me, thanks.

Because of my tendency to get lines stuck in my head, and because I don’t want my brain in a non-stop loop of:
Have a drink, clink, found the Bud Light
Bad bitches like me, is hard to come by

… I often just change lyrics to align with my beliefs. Simply put, I dislike both her grammar and her choice of beer.

I use to really like the song Closer, by Ne-Yo, but I had to change this line:
She’s the sweetest taste of sin to She’s the sweetest taste of cinnamon, so I could fully enjoy it. (Yeah, I know cinnamon isn’t sweet, but neither is sin, and my hands were tied.)

Remember the song “Breakeven” by The Script?:
I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing
Just pray to a God that I don’t believe in
Cause I got time out, she got freedom
Cause when a heart breaks, it don’t breakeven

I didn’t want to miss out on a pretty good song when I could just as easily sing over them:
Just pray to a God that I do believe in
I win, Script—I win.

Similarly, Five For Fighting says in Superman:
Man, Heaven is overrated
That’s an easy fix:
Man Heaven ain’t overrated
Sure, I could say “isn’t” … but I like to match the syllables when possible, leaving the integrity of the song intact.

And it’s not even like I bought these songs on iTunes. I just knew they’d be on the radio every hour, on the hour, and I’d be sunk.

Those are all child’s play compared to “Imagine” by John Lennon.

I’m fully aware that what I’m about to say will cause some of you to back away, shaking your head side to side slowly at first, then faster, as you turn and sprint into the direction of the first loving arms you find. But you know what? You can get over it the same way I got over this:

Well this is certainly disappointing.

Well this is certainly disappointing.

It’s true—I don’t like the song “Imagine.” I don’t like the lyrics and can’t find any way to change them, because the entire song—while melodically beautiful—is built around an unappealing portrait, in my opinion.

When a song starts off with, what is likely the writer’s favorite line, and that line is, “Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try,” I’m pretty much out. I wouldn’t stick around if a song jumped off with, “Imagine there’s no salsa,” so I’m certainly not cheering on the idea that there’s no Heaven.

But that’s just me! Everyone has his or her own parameters and sticking points. I’m no saint just because sacrilegious lyrics are a no-go for me.

I’ve got next to no discretion when it comes to hip-hop and R&B. We’ve already discussed, my inexcusable—yet gifted—ability to rap about a wide range of obscene topics. It’s despicable.

Side Note: Please don’t blasphemy my Lord and Savior while I’m polishing my glock on the way to the club.

Songs, hooks, choruses … it’s a part of every hour of every day. Some people can’t quiet their minds of to-do lists and itineraries; I can’t quiet my mind of lyrics—and I’m not even picky or discerning.

It seems logical that a current hit would be on my brain, but no. A lot of times it’s just the Napa Know-How commercial: Na-na-na-na Napa know how!

When that commercial comes on and I’m in earshot, Jocelyn knows how the next hour will unfold. That is, unless a Mattress Firm commercial takes its place.

Mattress Firm, where it’s easy … to get a great night’s sleep.

O-O-O-Oreillyyyyyyyyy!!!!! Auto Parts.

OK, I’ll stop. They’re all so catchy.

So just know that if we’re talking and you make the grave error of accidentally using a line from a song, I will hear nothing from that point on, except the song you got stuck in my head.

You: Oh hey Anna—how’s it going?
Me: Good, good. Looking forward to the weekend.
You: Right? The story of my life.
Me: The story of my life, I take her home, I drive all night, to keep her warm and ti-i-ime, is fro-o-o-o-o-zen.

Meeting Leader: Good morning! First things first …
Me: I Poppa freaks all the honeys, dummies, playboy bunnies, those wantin’ money …

Side Note: Our God is an awesome God 5x.

When I hear someone in a nearby cube answer her phone, “Hello?” I’m just over at my desk finishing it off, “Is it me you’re looking for? ‘Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do. Are you somewhere feeling lonely, or is someone loving you?”

I usually don’t even know I’m doing it. I’ll be chopping veggies, singing quietly, when Jocelyn will stop and tilt her head:
J: Is that Foreigner?!
Me: Is what Foreigner?
J: That song you keep singing.
Me: What song? I don’t think so.
J: Yeah. It is. That’s the second time I’ve heard you singing Cold As Ice. You know it’s 2014, right? Why?
Me: *hangs head* Because my hand got really cold when I was trying to break up the ice in the dispenser.

JT

At this point, my family pretty much knows not to say someone’s a “good ol’ boy” unless they’re up for some Waylon Jennings. I don’t hold back either. I’ve stopped many a conversation in its tracks by belting that song out, on the heels of my dad talking about a good guy.

And here is the thing—when it comes to music, my filter is pretty faulty. Whatever fits, fits. From Kenny Rogers (usually Lady, but The Gambler is a close second) to Jay-Z … they’re all fair game if you say anything that makes me think of a song or sentiment.

My mom was having a bad day awhile back and it wasn’t anything I could really help with, so I did the next best thing. I left her a message singing, “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu. Why? Because have you heard it? Are you telling me that getting a voice mail of your daughter crooning, “I’m gettin’ tired of YO SHIT, you don’t never buy me nothin,” wouldn’t brighten your mood considerably? Well. Then you are not my mother.

Be glad. Be very, very glad.

Come join the harmony on Facebook and Twitter!

Cancer Can’t Take A Joke

Several years ago, my sister was diagnosed with cancer—Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If ever there was a time to vehemently deny the title of this blog and the notion that Life Is Funny (even when it’s not), it was at this moment. Life wasn’t funny and I didn’t think it ever would be again. I was devastated by her diagnosis.

It was my closest dealing with the c-monster and I was terrified of the unknown and heartbroken that it was her—my very own sister—who was stricken with the unpredictable and vengeful disease.

I wasn’t even living in the same state as her when the cancer was detected, so my first step was to come home for a few weeks while she endured a battery of tests to better categorize her diagnosis and confirm its stage of progression.

My mom also came down to stay with us, and during one of the first nights the three of us spent together, my mom and I prepared my sister a nice, huge dose of delicious barium. She had to drink an obscene amount of it for a scan she was undergoing the next day.

It looked like a jug of milk—and by jug of milk, I mean jug of wet chalk. We were a bit apprehensive about presenting it to her because we knew she’d be put off by the smell and by the fact that it probably tasted like emulsified drywall.

We found her cozied up in bed, watching Frasier, when we entered her room bearing gifts. She sat up and situated her pillows just right and pulled her long, blonde hair in a ponytail before reaching for the milky delight.

We stared, unsure, as she stuck the fat straw down in the bottle and smirked through a deep breath. She then went into some kind of freak mode and drained the barium like it was a keg of her favorite college beer. She didn’t stop ONCE—even held up her finger, as if to say, “Hold up. Lemme get this last drop.”

She handed the empty container back to my mom and opened her mouth for a well-deserved (albeit disgusting, man-like) burp and then flung herself onto her side, laughing heartily at our shocked and delighted reactions.

such a champ

such a champ

We all laughed … and laughed.

The next day, she underwent an extensive scan that was virtually painless, aside from the fact that she had to lay still for an unacceptable amount of time, ignoring intense itches and numb or tingling extremities. One wrong move and she’d have to repeat the entire process—and since the barium wasn’t actually Keystone Light—she soldiered on and plowed through.

Later, she was scheduled for a bone marrow extraction. For those of you familiar with this test, I’m sorry. For those of you unfamiliar with it, I hope you stay that way. For reasons unknown, they didn’t put her out or under for it, which I found out later, they often do.

My mom and I were sitting in the room as nurses came in with prepping trays. The loose plan was for my mom to stand by the bed with her, while I sat in the chair at her feet. But when they uncovered the tray and my mom saw the instruments, she motioned for me to take her place, as she sought refuge just outside the windowed door.

I then stood next to my sister’s head and held her hand, while proceeding to talk non-freaking-stop as they extracted bone marrow from deep in her hip bone—WHILE SHE WAS AWAKE.

Side Note: There is really no way to describe what it’s like to watch this procedure at all, let alone when it’s on someone you love dearly.

She squeezed my hand hard enough to break my precious baby bones, while I said, “Your butt looks really good at this angle. I think you’d be real happy with both its contour and finish.” She nodded her head like, “Go on … tell me more.”

I said, “I know you wanted Moma in here with you, but you need to know something—she’s a fainter. She’d be face down, scrounging for smelling salts, unable to tell you how good your ass looks while they stick you with the same syringe I’d use to inject garlic butter into a deep-fried turkey. I’m telling you, even if she somehow escaped a first-round blackout, she’d see what Dr. Awasthi is using now and be all, ‘Say Doc, why do you have a meat thermometer on that tray? Oh what pretty stars I see!’ … TIMBERRRRR!”

I don’t know how, but she laughed … and I laughed.

And then I saw my mom looking horrified through the vertical window like, “Why are you laughing?!?!!!” … and we laughed harder.

And then I just wanted to climb on the table and scoop my sister into my arms, because I’d never witnessed such resolute courage in all my life.

Days passed and a prognosis was given and treatments were planned—six months of intravenous chemo, several days a week, for a few hours at a time.

chemococktail

One of the nights she was feeling especially yucky, I wasn’t sure what to do. I mean really, how do you make someone who’s nauseous and weak feel better?

Oh, I know. You—a bit of a tomboy—go into her closet and put on the most hookerish, girliest clothes and highest heels you can find and you crank up “So Fresh and So Clean” by Outkast and execute a runway show for the ages. Multiple outfits, struts, turns, hair flips and a general disregard for self-respect.

Nausea will never beat indignity in hand-to-hand battle.

her awesome laugh

her awesome laugh

I went to many, many chemo sessions with her and we fell into somewhat of a routine. We’d get to the oncology clinic and wait on them to call her back. We’d claim the best station we could find and set up shop. She’d get settled in, while the nurses came over to impale her with IVs and situate the chemo IV tree next to her reclining chair.

As soon as her drip was underway, I’d run over to Sonic and get us large drinks and cheese tater tots.

It became a bit of a running joke that I took everything way harder than she did. (Have I mentioned that she’s a strong free spirit and I’m … you know … NOT?)

Every time we walked through the clinic’s doors, I’d get nauseous and uneasy. Instantly. Every single time.

Side Note: My capacity for sympathy pain is unrivaled. I even gained five pounds during her pregnancy and feel certain my periodic hip pain is residual sympathy from her bone marrow aspirations.

I’d often need soothing after particularly traumatic IV mishaps. It was not uncommon for them to mis-stick her several times before getting a good vein, then looking over at me and asking if I was alright. My sister would squeeze my forearm and search my eyes, “You good? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Even on a good sticking day, I’d just hold my breath until they found purchase, then I’d put my hand up and let everyone know I was OK. This cracked her up.

one of the bad IV days

one of the bad IV days

We made the trip so many times—for check-ups, chemo, blood work, and scans. It was a good 30-40 minute drive and no matter what, I simply could not get the directions right. Normally, she’d drive, so I was fine—we’d just blast Lady Marmalade or Destiny Child’s Survivor and sing like lunatics. But the times I did drive, I’d just cringe when we got to the confusing exchanges, feeling uncertain about my internal compass. She was forever gracious in sensing my hesitation and pointing me in the right direction.

Every single trip, we passed the same huge amusement park with the worst-looking death appliance you’ve ever seen (some people call them rollercoasters). I’d aggressively turn my head away from it until we passed. My stomach was already fragile and compromised from being so close to the oncology center—I couldn’t very well look at a mobile execution chair horrendous rollercoaster, too.

I’d keep my head turned away and wait on her to tell me it was behind us, then relax back into my position before coming nearly FACE TO FACE with it. She’d LIED to me again. You’d think that trickery would lose its luster, but no, she’d laugh every time. Cancer patients can be cruel.

They can also be extremely manipulative.

I could never say no to anything without a head-tilt and, “But I’ve got cancer” reply.

“Sis, no, you can’t eat cold ravioli out of the can.”
“But I’ve got cancer coursing through my body.”

“No way. We’re not sneaking into a second movie. It’s called theft—NO.”
“But it’s what my cancer wants and I might be on borrowed time.”

don't be fooled by her beautifully contemplative look here—she's just scheming new ways to mess with me

don’t be fooled by her beautifully contemplative look here—she’s just scheming new ways to mess with me

One day we were driving back towards home after a scan, where they’d injected her with a ridiculous amount of contrast material. We were riding along on a pleasant day, just listening to music, when she immediately gripped the steering wheel at 10 and 2, and sat straight up.

Her: Oh.
Me: What?
Her: Uh-oh.
Me: WHAT?
Her: I’m gonna shit my pants.
Me: No you’re not!
Her: I’m prrrrrrretty sure I’m gonna shit my pants.
Me: Shut up! You are not!
Her: YEP, reeeeeally gonna shit my pants.
Me: You are NOT going to SHIT YOUR PANTS.
(then she paused, got really still, as if deep in thought, and then held up her index finger to confirm)
Her: Yep, definitely going to shit my pants.

You’ll be pleased to know she did not, in fact, “shit her pants.” But once she determined the threat had vanished (and I want to iterate that we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s), we flip-laughed and heave-laughed and pushed-each-other-laughed until we were absolutely spent.

The way she’d announced—so straightforward and business-like—her realization of imminent danger is something that still makes me laugh out loud to this day.

She fought cancer like a champ and kicked it to the curb for nearly six years. When it reared its despicable head again, we cried and cried. We even cried all the way through her second bone marrow extraction, not even pretending to be tough. And when she received her second “six months of chemo” game plan, we left the appointment and parted ways after a long and extremely sad hug.

Then I did what any sister would do. I, who can’t even tolerate Tylenol PM and have never successfully inhaled helium from a balloon, sent her a text:

mj

And we laughed.

We also prayed.

And she kicked its sorry ass again.

So yeah … in life, there will be times of hardship, times of endless tears and times of sincere doubt and dreadful worry—but I still believe that with the right outlook, with a faith that dares to be shaken and with a bit of twisted humor—Life is Funny (even when it’s not).

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook and Twitter … it’s good for your health.

Wanna Play?

I’ve lived and breathed competitive sports for most of my life, but I’m surprisingly not that competitive.

Whoa! To those of you who know me and are yelling at the screen, hear me out. I love competing—games, sports, anything with an opponent (I also think smack-talk is a sport in and of itself. YES, even during board games.) It’s just that my favorite part of it all is the ride itself. I rarely get bent out of shape about losing, if the game’s been fun.

Side Note: I actually win a lot.

When I say I’m not overly competitive, I mean not in the way you hear about certain people—where you barely recognize them. You know, the ones who will stop at nothing to win even the most inane argument, like how many of Grisham’s books have “The” in the title? I mean really, if you have to Google it, then you didn’t win. Google won.

Google: 1
You And Anyone Searching For the Answer Anywhere But Their Brain Vault: 0.

I refuse to accept that the look of satisfaction on your face is because you were the fastest Googler. You’re better than that.

carrollstrut

I’ve heard many stories about people getting competitive with their workouts. Just regular fully grown adults who workout to stay fit. You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill, sneaking a peek at the screen of the person to my right and adjusting my speed so I’m running faster—because here is the thing:

1. We’re not actually racing. We’re on a conveyor belt that leads to a land called nowhere.
2. I don’t care, even in the slightest, what you’re doing.
3. Because this warrants repeating: We’re not racing.

Side Note: I could have stopped the original sentence after “You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill” because while I triple-love being active, I have to PLAY … racquetball, flag football, catch, tag, softball, in the pool … anything not in the monotonous family.

I laugh because sometimes Jocelyn will come home from a run and appear a little extra amped up as she guzzles water—telling me about the three people she beat. I cock my head, wondering if this calls for a high five or dap of some sort, but I’m too confused about why her run turned into a race at all. I usually think I’ll lay the conversation to rest by simply asking, “Did they know you were racing?” But she’ll catch her breath and reply with peaceful satisfaction, “No, but I did.”

See? I don’t have that need. I can’t fathom a day where I’d be on a run and thinking about anything other than how I’m going to make the torture stop. I wouldn’t even know who I passed or was getting passed by, because my one singular.laser.focus would be to get the suffering over with.

I know people (oh how I know people) who want to win everything … from games to arguments to how many shiny things they own. When I imagine that type of brain or outlook, it exhausts me. It must be so emotionally draining to feel the need to “win”—if we can even call reading a trilogy the quickest—winning.

competition

I’m trying to conjure up that existence and how it would feel if I “lost” at a few random things. I’m imagining:

  • Getting rip-roaring mad if my sister-in-law is able to open the jar of pickles I couldn’t. I’d huff around, saying under my breath, “Hmph, must be nice to have never fractured the thumb that helps you grip.”
  • Feeling completely defeated if I couldn’t swat the aggravating fly on the patio, but my dad could. “Yeah-yeah, go ahead and cheer him on, see if I care—he’s wayyy older than I am so he’s had more practice. Like, decades.”
  • Being livid if I can’t get my niece to stop crying but her mom can. “Whatever. That’s such an unfair advantage since you provided her an umbilical cord in your womb. Must be nice to have connections.”

I’m bone-tired just picturing it!

I mean, I have a healthy amount of drive, but it seems to stick close to me—living in and around my own personal goals. I rarely wonder how I can get what someone else has (unless it’s a big crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, then all bets are off because I WANTS.)

It's impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

But on the off-chance I do want what another person has … I don’t want to take it from them, I just want it, too.

  • Oh, you have a vacation home on the Italian Riviera? I hope to one day, too—do you have any advice?
  • Oh, you have a kegerator with perfectly cold, carbonated beer at the ready at all times? Where might I purchase this treasure?
  • Oh, you only have to visit your gynecologist once every three years? Is she taking new patients?

I’m much more competitive when it comes to team sports. I really love strategizing, working and winning as a team. I also like knowing that the losing team can pick each other up and have some help getting over the loss—unlike a tennis player or gymnast who loses and just has to sit there with her own stupid losing self.

tennis1

I never thought it was fun to beat someone one-on-one. Well wait, except tether ball. In elementary school, I was unstoppable and enjoyed the perks of tether stardom. But winning a dance off or Checkers made me feel no more good than bad. Even in racquetball, which I love, I prefer cutthroat or doubles, because it means 3-4 of us are playing—which cuts down on the awkwardness of winning or losing.

Winning is winning—we’ve all done it and it doesn’t suck. Losing is losing—we’ve all survived getting beat. But what I love is the journey … the game itself. Whether it’s a sport or a board game or air hockey, the most fun part to me is the process and every step leading up to the end. The outcome is relatively unimportant if it’s been fun.

Side Note: My sister does not feel this way and won’t hesitate to gain a suspicious advantage at every turn. And by gain a suspicious advantage, I mean cheat. Let me give you an example. Every Easter my fun, awesome parents have an adult Easter egg hunt for us “kids”, where they place gift cards in big plastic eggs and get our nieces and nephew to help hide them.

We’re quarantined during the hiding process, then let out and corralled until they say, “Go!” Well last time, right when the light was green and we bolted out, my sister “pantsed” me—putting me back a good 30 seconds and scarring my nephew for life.

I thought there was a lesson in all this for my sister, when I still scored iTunes, Home Depot and Amazon, but no … 4th of July weekend she was caught pinching our niece during 3-on-3 when we were one hoop away from winning.

Bottom line: I love sports, games, competing and playing. I enjoy winning but can handle losing if we’ve had a good time getting there, even if—especially if—I start out with no pants.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.