Mama Bear

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, but I am a mother. This post is written after being given the word “bear” as a prompt…I ran with it.

Everybody knows you don’t mess with a mama bear in the animal kingdom. Generally speaking, you don’t mess with a Mama Bear in the human world, either.

Mama Bears can be mamas, or they might be teachers fighting for their students, coaches fighting for their players, or any adult fighting for a child.

Let me start by saying I am a person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I expect good things from people. I think most people are good. I think most people try. I want good things for other people. I also want good things for my child and other people’s children. Most of the time, I think everyone around me is doing everything they can for everybody.

And then there are the times I feel like I’ve been gut-punched.

If you’re a mama, you’ve experienced it…that feeling you get when you feel the need to protect your child, or even your teen, from something. You feel the need to intercede. It’s an instinct that becomes part of who you are when you become a mother.

It might be you feel the need to keep them from going to a party. Maybe you feel the need to talk to a teacher. Maybe parents need to come together sometimes. MOST of the time, I try to encourage my child to work things out on her own. But Mama Bear is always in there…sometimes she’s hibernating, but she’s there.

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It’s an instinct that’s difficult to ignore. I know, because sometimes, I become Mama Bear.

Generally speaking, I don’t act on the Mama Bear instinct (and sometimes it’s painful to hold it in), unless I see what I perceive to be a real problem. Lots of times, I’ve had to vent to friends. Sometimes I ask for feedback about my instinct, but usually, I just want to vent.

My friends know the difference. They know when I want feedback and when I want to vent. And some of them know when I need feedback, whether I want it or not.

I’m not a big complainer, and I’m a reasonable person. Usually, if I run across a situation that I think needs to be mentioned, I sit on it for a while. I try to shelve it for a few days…a cooling off period, if you will. Often, I realize the “situation” was no big deal.

I have one child, a 14-yr-old daughter. What I have learned in her 14 years of life is something my mother always told me: Something might be a big deal to her, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. 

Remember when your child was a toddler? There were things that bothered him/her that seemed completely trivial to an adult. For my child, one of those things was collared shirts. She hated them. When I put a collared shirt on her and realized how it bothered her, I couldn’t get it off her fast enough…because it became painful listening to her! Whew! What was a big deal to her initially seemed small to me, but after much ado, it became very clear to me that it was a big deal all around!

All these teenage “big deals” should be taken into consideration too.

And sometimes, I have to help her put things into perspective. Easier said than done, but I try. If she continues to act like it’s a big deal, then I try really hard to see things from her point of view.

One thing I do know is that middle school girls are not like everybody else. I remember being 14, and I remember an emotional rollercoaster…daily. I also remember that I didn’t feel like I had the power to take problems to higher-ups, i.e. adults. So I kept my mouth shut.

My own daughter tends to do the same thing, like lots of girls her age. She gets upset about something, but she doesn’t say anything to anyone…except me. I try to teach her that she needs to learn to handle these “situations” on her own, but sometimes, it’s just impossible. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t be heard. Maybe she’s afraid of repercussions.

Let me clarify that I have never complained about a teacher. In fact, I am usually the first one writing a complimentary letter for just about anyone…teachers, flight attendants, customer service personnel, waitstaff, salespeople, hotel employees. Truly, I know people work hard for a living, and I like to help people. My friends actually LAUGH at how much time I spend writing complimentary letters, but I appreciate a job well done. I can’t remember the last time I flew somewhere and didn’t write a complimentary letter for at least one airline employee. Same with hotel employees. I find something good in them. That’s my long way of saying I’m a positive person.

Here is something else I know: sometimes we have to intercede on our children’s behalf, because truly, they feel like they are being disrespectful if they question authority. It’s an interesting thing we teach our children in this country: We start with “respect your elders,” and then we change our tune to “handle it yourself.” That’s a pretty confusing message to lots of preteens and teens…including mine.

We even teach girls not to call each other out! How many times do we talk about how polite they have to be, and how many times have we said, “Be nice.” Ugh. Yes, please be polite and nice, but don’t be a doormat.

They have this fear that they will appear too sensitive. They have a fear of getting in trouble for being “mean” when they defend themselves. My child has actually said to me, when someone has been rude, that it would be “mean” if she defended herself. WHAT?!? But sometimes, people will be rude as long as you let it go on. I’ve spent countless hours trying to teach my daughter to stand up for herself and others.

Growing up is hard. It’s hard for the child/teen, and it’s hard for the parents. It’s hard to see our teens lose confidence because of something an adult does. It’s hard to see our teens feeling sad.

Most kids learn to handle it, including mine. Most of the time when this Mama Bear flares up,  no one ever knows it.

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Usually, my flare-ups are about adults who act without considering the psyche of a 14-yr-old girl. Do people actually have that much difficulty remembering what it felt like to be that age? At 14, they are still part little girl and just taking one baby step into adulthood. They don’t know if they are little girls or big girls. They need guidance, and they need conversation, and they need someone to hear them.

Will a middle school girl speak up if she feels slighted? Maybe. Is it possible she will shut down if she feels slighted? Maybe.

And sometimes they internalize it…thus, the emotional rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, they often are afraid to speak up. That’s when Mama Bear has to step in. This Mama Bear always feels great pain about this. Generally speaking, I give people the benefit of the doubt, but problems arise when someone dealing with teens doesn’t take into consideration that they are still kids at heart. If someone doesn’t understand teens, they shouldn’t be in a position to deal with teens.

Their reality is different than the reality of adults. They can’t drive. They are trapped at school all day. They have to follow more rules. They’re distracted by social stuff. They’re distracted by almost anything. They’ve been told to be “nice” their whole lives, and dang it, most of them are.

I don’t profess to be a mental health professional, but I am a Mama Bear. I choose to be a Mama Bear who TRIES really hard to keep it to herself.

I give a mean “stink-eye,” though.

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Cheers to all the Mama Bears of the world!

Kelly

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Seeking Human Kindness

My friend, Neill, posted this on facebook yesterday: Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person. 

That is an amazingly true statement.

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

It makes me think of one of Oprah’s shows. Didn’t we all love to watch Oprah back in the day? Well, on one of her shows, her guest was a lady named Tish Hooker. Years before, when Oprah was an eight-yr-old little girl, Mrs. Hooker visited her church while campaigning for her husband in the gubernatorial race in the great state of Tennessee. While visiting, she stopped as she passed the 8-yr-old Oprah. Mrs. Hooker looked at Oprah and said to her, “Why, you’re as pretty as a speckled pup!”

Apparently, no one had ever told little Oprah she was pretty before that moment. So sad, because don’t we all think our own children are beautiful? You’d think she’d have heard it from a relative at some point, but no, she hadn’t. And to be told you’re as pretty as a speckled pup? Well, it’s a southern girl’s dream!

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On the show that day, Mrs. Hooker came out to the stage with no prior knowledge of why she had been invited to appear. Oprah told her the story about the church encounter, and of course, Mrs. Hooker had no recollection of it. But Oprah remembered it. She said it made her feel so good to hear those words that she never forgot it.

Mrs. Hooker had done something kind in passing and didn’t even realize what a profound effect she’d had on that child’s life, but because Oprah went on to fame and fortune, Mrs. Hooker got to find out!

Wouldn’t we all love to have the same effect on someone that Mrs. Hooker had on 8-yr-old Oprah? It’s possible you’ve had that same effect on someone and don’t even know it. Maybe you believed in someone when no one else did. You don’t have to be a gubernatorial candidate’s wife to have a big impact on someone. I don’t mean go around throwing out hollow, baseless compliments, but doing kind things or giving thoughtful compliments can change a person’s outlook…and it can improve your own mood too.

Just today, I was leaving the grocery store, and I was deep in thought about all the things I have to do. It had been an uneventful day, and I had spent the morning tying up some loose ends. I was pushing my cart (or buggy, to those of you in the Deep South) to my car when a smiling lady complimented me on my hair. “Your hair is so pretty!” It put a smile on my face immediately, and I thanked her, adding, “You just made my day!” We started talking, and I detected an accent that wasn’t Charlotte, so I did what I do. I asked where she was from.

She was from a small town outside Knoxville, Tennessee, which explained the accent. I told her I thought she might have been from Alabama. She is a Tennessee Vols fan, and of course, I’m a Bama fan, so we talked SEC football and Bear Bryant for a few minutes before hugging like old friends and going on our merry way.

She had no idea how much that one little compliment brightened my day.

And that’s what I mean.

The late, great Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.” And that’s the truth.

It turns out Oprah remembered what Mrs. Hooker said, but she remembered it because of how it made her FEEL.

A few years ago, my friend, Angela, attended her 20th class reunion. (OK, so it was more than a “few” years ago.) At the reunion, a gentleman approached her and her then-husband. After introducing himself to her husband, he said, “I just want to tell you that your wife is something special.” He then went on to tell how, when he was a new student at the high school, he played football. After every game, the school’s spectators would rush the field and hug the players…important stuff to a teenage boy. The football player didn’t know many people at the school and didn’t have a lot of family in the area, so he could have felt lonely on that crowded field. However, after every single game, Angela made a point of finding him and giving him a hug…every…single…game. He remembered, because it made him feel special in a sea of new classmates. And guess what? By remembering it and telling her husband the story, he made her feel special 20 years later.

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My brother, Mr. Tough Guy, is good about performing random acts of kindness. Yes, I’m going to brag about him for a minute. He has always been good about helping stranded motorists in one way or another. Just last year, he was driving behind a truck on a country road. At some point, the truck pulled over to the shoulder. Brother (that’s what I call him) kept going, but after about a half mile, it occurred to him something might have been wrong. He turned around and went back. When he and the other driver stepped out of their trucks, it turned out to be someone he knew from high school but hadn’t seen in years! The old friend thought he might be running out of gas, so Brother followed him to the nearest gas station…just in case. That act of kindness turned into something positive for Brother too…seeing an old friend. He didn’t tell me the story to get “good deed points.” He told me the story, because it made HIM so happy to see his friend!

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My brother (on the right) sent me this selfie after running into his old friend.

Random acts of kindness…

If you find yourself feeling less than great, practice random acts of kindness. You might make someone else’s day, year, or even change their lives with one gesture! It’s probable you will benefit, as well. It gives me a little rush to think I’ve done something nice for someone. It’s not a “patting myself on the back” thing…it just makes me happier!

Next time you see your child’s teacher, tell them something nice instead of complaining. Treat a new friend to coffee. Stop by to meet a new neighbor. Pretty flowers growing in your yard? Cut some and take them to a friend. Greet your flight attendants with a warm, genuine “good morning” and a smile as you board the plane. Give a little extra tip to your server…or a big extra tip…especially if he/she is having a bad day. A generous tip could turn the day around for them. You never know when someone might need that extra cash. Donate needed items to a friend who collects things for the homeless in your area (remember, homeless people are somebody’s babies too). Check on someone’s elderly mama. I know I’m grateful to people who checked on and visited with my mother as she got older.
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My friend, Mary Ann, won’t take credit for this, but yesterday, she sent a message to the gentleman who organizes free mowing services for elderly people and veterans who need it. He has a country-wide network. Mary Ann wanted to help an elderly couple, both of whom are veterans, but they don’t have a lawn mower, and she couldn’t haul one in her automobile. She contacted the gentleman, and less than 24 hours later, he had someone going to mow the lawn. Mary Ann made it happen.

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My friends, Mary Ann and Neill, and my new friend from the grocery store (whose name I did not get) were my writing inspiration today. They’re all good eggs.  I’ll keep Mary Ann and Neill on my friends list, and next time I see my new friend from the grocery store, I’ll get her name.

So, make a conscious effort to practice random acts of kindness. The recipient will feel better and you will too.

Just think of it this way: Act like a Hooker…Tish Hooker, that is.

Why, you’re as pretty as a speckled pup!

XOXO,

Kelly

 

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

We always hear people say, “Follow your passion,” or “Follow your dreams.” I saw a video by Mike Rowe recently in which he questioned that, and I totally get it. See the video here.

If you watched the video, you heard him say lots of people have “passion” about something, but no talent for it. There are lots of people whose pursuit of their passion or dream failed, because they had not talent (or skills or knowledge).

My favorite part of the video is when he says, “Your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself.” And he’s correct. I really believe we can find happiness in places we never believed we could. I’m a big fan of “Love the one you’re with,” which I interpret as “find the good where you are.” I have a friend I’ve heard say, “Bloom where you’re planted,” which basically means the same thing to me.

Happiness is not always where we expect it. Haven’t we all firmly believed we wanted something, and when we got it, we realized it was all wrong? (“Be careful what you wish for.”) On the other hand, sometimes, we find ourselves somewhere we think isn’t a good fit…maybe a college or a position on a team…in reality, we often find it’s the best thing for us. Maybe we should, as Mike Rowe says, “Follow the opportunity.”

There are some people who possess passion, talent, knowledge, drive, plans, and more passion for what they want to do, and some of them can turn that into income.

As a child, in Spanish Fort, Alabama, I had a sweet, smart, adorable friend named Michelle Prouty. (She is now Michelle Prouty Johns.)

Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was immensely talented.

Michelle’s mother is a prolific gardener, and Michelle shares the same love of plants and gardening.

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Michelle tells me she doesn’t remember a time that she wasn’t interested in gardening, “so it must have started at a very early age.”

Her dad owned a manufacturers’ rep agency in Mobile but decided, when Michelle was five, that he also wanted to be a part-time farmer. Purchasing ten acres, he moved the family, and started his vegetable farm. Her mother had flower beds and containers on the back deck, and Michelle helped with all of it. Michelle says they never had trouble getting her to help. Her exact words: “It wasn’t a chore to me.”

And there you have it. A passion was born.

Her mother taught her to plant seeds and propagate plants, and when the family left the farm and moved to my neighborhood, Spanish Fort Estates, her dad built a greenhouse, which she considered her “own private play house.” She says she loved going in there during the winter. “There was nothing better than being in there in the winter when it was full of my Mom’s plants, many of which bloomed through the winter.”

I remember going back to a community festival at Spanish Fort School in spring of 1978. There was Michelle, a fifth grader, with her own booth at the festival, selling her plants. It made quite an impression on me. She was tending that booth all day while other kids were doing whatever they wanted. But she was doing what she wanted…taking care of her plants, talking with folks about gardening, and selling the fruits of her labor.

Looking at all that hands-on gardening experience she had, one might think she would have pursued a Horticulture degree when she attended Auburn University, but she didn’t. She says, “I questioned my father many years ago on why they did not push me to look at horticulture as a career, and he said they didn’t know anyone who worked in the field, so it wasn’t really on their radar.” But…sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She went on to get her Marketing and Statistics degrees, which have been helpful…as she pursues her dream.

And this is where it gets really good.

After working with her dad and working in outside sales for a company in Tampa, one year ago, Michelle opened her own retail garden center in Fairhope, Alabama. The perfect piece of land came available, and she seized the opportunity. She is the proud owner of Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe. You can see the Corner Copia Gardens Facebook page here and their Instagram page here. She opened the gardens in 2015 and opened the retail garden center in March 2017. Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe just celebrated its first anniversary.

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Michelle says her business goal is to carry a “unique variety” of plants that are difficult to find in “big box stores” and will do well in the area. She also wants to offer advice to local gardeners and is offering educational classes. Follow the Facebook page for Corner Copia Gardens to see which classes are being offered and when. (Again, the facebook page can be found here.)

 

 

Michelle named her business after some gift shops her mother had called The Corner Copia. According to Michelle, “While she did not sell plants, she carried many garden-themed gifts in her shops.” Michelle got her mother’s permission to use the name, adding “Gardens” and slightly modifying the logo.

Corner Copia Gardens is the realization of a dream.

Michelle says it has been her dream for at least 25 years…since soon after college.

It has not been without challenges. A particularly cold winter in Fairhope has been tougher than expected, but she says she has learned what it takes “to keep them (two 24′ x 100′ greenhouses) heated with 20 nights below freezing and down into the teens.”

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Another challenge has been the fact that business is seasonal, but Michelle made adjustments. Because business is seasonal, she needed to find a way to keep income flowing so her employees could work all year, so she added a small gift shop and is growing her live plant floral business, with hopes to begin making deliveries this spring. I’ve seen pictures on the facebook page of some of the gift shop offerings, and it’s exciting!

 

The greatest thing about this, to me, is that Michelle found a way to channel all her life experiences into pursuing her dream. She knew it was something she wanted to do, but she did other things that gave her the ability and lots of valuable knowledge when the opportunity came along. She takes everything she has learned along the way from her parents, her career in business, her education, and her life as a mom (she and her husband have five children between them)…channeling it into her business, sharing her knowledge and passion along the way.

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Succulent head planters. I love these! I also think they would make lovely Easter gifts.

So, while Mike Rowe questions whether folks should follow their dreams, I know some should do just that…even if they have to get there by following opportunity first. Maybe I should say, “Follow opportunity to get to your dreams/passion.” That’s what Michelle did, and it’s working. She has always had a kind, engaging way about her, so I’m sure people love visiting her gardens and shop, and they love attending her classes. I can hardly wait to visit when I’m in Baldwin County!

If you are in Baldwin County, Alabama, stop in at Corner Copia Gardens. If you live in the area, stop in and see her…maybe take one of her classes. You’ll be glad you did. She would enjoy seeing you. She says her greatest joy is when customers come in and tell her how well their plants are doing or when someone sends her photos of arrangements they have made. As she says, “For me, it really isn’t work at all!”

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Now, if only I could find a way to make money by remembering birthdays, talking, connecting people, or harassing people into volunteering for stuff…

Kelly

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CORNER COPIA GARDENS:

Corner Copia Gardens 

11983 E State Hwy 104

Fairhope, AL 36532

PHONE: 251-517-0453