Trying Something New

In high school, I was a cheerleader. Back in the 80s, it was great fun. We had big hair and cute uniforms, and we cheered at football and basketball games. I loved everything about it.

Our daughter has always loved sports. She played soccer for years before switching to lacrosse and field hockey. In seventh and eighth grades, she played basketball too. This year, as a freshman in high school, she opted not to try out for a basketball team, so she’s cheerleading.

Isn’t it scary to try something new?

Her school hasn’t had cheerleaders in years. I’m not sure why. She has been at school there since transitional kindergarten, in 2008, and there haven’t been cheerleaders since she has been there. We have a fabulous dance team. Those girls have crazy talent! But we haven’t had cheerleaders.

Lots of the girls at our daughter’s school participate in other sports, so I guess, cheerleading just wasn’t on their radar.

This year, though, some of the high school girls came together and decided to start cheerleading. My daughter came home and told me she had been to the informational meeting. I was surprised, to say the least. They started practicing before the holidays. I have to be honest in saying I thought she was probably doing it just so she could know I would take her to all the basketball games, but I’m wrong. That’s not why she’s doing it! The cute uniform might have a little something to do with it, but she is thoroughly enjoying her adventure in cheerleading!

The faculty member who is coaching them knows what she is doing. She has gotten the girls excited, and she has gotten them prepared. According to my daughter, she has made the practices fun! They cheered at a game for the first time a little over a week ago, and they looked good! I was shocked at how “together” they seemed! I should have known their coach wasn’t going to let them go out there and look bad. She is a person who has it all together. She made sure they made their debut in the perfect way: at a JV boys’ game…sort of “easing into it” instead of throwing them out there in front of a big crowd at a varsity game.

Our daughter was out of town this past Friday, so she missed a game, but she will be cheering again later this week, and I can hardly wait to watch this group perform again.

It makes me smile to know these girls are out there trying something new. We all know trying something new can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. And my daughter has never been much of a “performer.” She is athletic and competitive, but when she’s on the field, she’s not thinking about the people who are watching her. She’s thinking about the job she has to do. This is different. Sure, she has a “job” with this too, but it’s performing. And that’s what makes me happiest. She is facing a crowd and performing…and smiling through it!

Personally, I think she is learning a lot. Most of all, she is learning it can be fun to try something new, and I am proud of her and thrilled for her. Hopefully, she will translate some of what she’s learning into some life skills. I’m grateful to their coach for making it fun, but I’m especially grateful to her for giving them the opportunity to try something new. And they’ve discovered they like it!

This Friday, I’ll be there watching them again…and cheering them on!

 

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We Survived Homecoming

After all the dress shopping, shoe shopping, and planning, Homecoming 2018 is officially over at our daughter’s school.

My mom friends have been posting photos on social media since the big night, and I love that every girl has her own style. I also love that the students go in groups.

At our school, the Friday of the Homecoming football game, there is a pep rally at the end of the school day, followed by the game that night. The Homecoming Dance is Saturday night. I can’t speak for everyone else, but before the dance, our daughter’s group went to dinner…26 kids total…at the home of one of the boys. It was fabulous! I know, because all the parents went over to take photos, and the hostess even had a lovely spread for us!

Now, here’s the skinny for parents of young daughters who will be going to a Homecoming Dance one day in the near future: that dress you had altered? You know, the one that had to be hemmed and taken in at the waist? You know, the dress that cost less than the alterations? She might not wear it. She might decide two hours before the dance that she wants to wear a different dress that you didn’t take for alterations, so she will need to be pinned into it. If you are lucky, like I was, she will get dressed at the home of one of her friends, and the friend’s mother will graciously do the pinning. I wasn’t there for it, but I’m hoping my daughter didn’t make it difficult, like she would have done for me! Here’s the great thing, though…she also wore some shoes she already had, so I get to return the new shoes she didn’t wear…money back in my pocket!

Girls wore all kinds of different dresses, each expressing her own personality…all colors, all silhouettes, and all lengths. It would be interesting to add up the total number of hours it takes to outfit a girl for the dance. We probably spent four hours shopping online. She then had to try on dresses…another three hours. Online shoe shopping plus in-store shoe shopping…three hours. Getting hair and makeup done and getting pinned into dress…2.5 hours. Add another hour for the time I spent getting two dresses altered that she didn’t wear. Grand total? It comes to 13.5 hours of my time, but probably more of hers, because I feel sure she tried on dresses in her room repeatedly…I’ll say 15 total hours. That’s a lot.chuttersnap-514371-unsplash

Parents of boys have it a lot easier with attire…khaki pants, collared shirt, tie (bowtie or regular), blazer, and shoes. It’s like the man uniform. I noticed while we were taking photos, though, that the mothers were all writing their sons’ names on pieces of paper and having them put them in their blazer pockets. Since the blazers all look alike, that’s a good way to make sure the they go home with the right person. So if your son hasn’t gone to the dance yet this year, go ahead and put his name in his coat pocket.

But for Homecoming, the boys who take dates have to make the plans. They figure out dinner arrangements, and they assemble the group. That’s not easy, but the boys, with the help of some hardworking mothers, pull it off.

Here’s another great thing: some kids go with dates, and some don’t…and it doesn’t matter. Most of them do, however, find a group, large or small, to go to the dance with. There is no right or wrong way to go to the dance…just go! And have fun!

After the dance, some moms very graciously took our group to iHop. It takes a lot of people to pull off all this fun for kids, and our kids are very fortunate to have parents who are willing and able to do it.

My daughter had a lovely time with her date, who is a great friend and perfect gentleman (I’ve always thought he’s a wonderful person). Together, they had fun with each other and their classmates.

Now we can start planning for the Sadie Hawkins Dance in February, when the girls invite boys! Ugh…what will she wear?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nuclear War and Other Childhood Fears

Yesterday, while driving my 14-yr-old daughter to a friend’s house, she asked what I worried about when I was a child. We all worried about different things, and I had multiple fears, but at the top of my list, once I was aware it could happen, was nuclear war.

In the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear war was a looming possibility.

I was born in 1967, but I remember Daddy talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. My parents were living in Florida at the time. They were in the panhandle, so at least they were in Northwest Florida, but they were on high alert. After all, Cuba is just 90 miles south of the southern tip of Florida, and the Soviets had placed missiles there, aiming them at Florida. Concern was warranted.

Back then, people were buying and building bomb/fallout shelters. If you’ve seen the movie, Grease 2, you probably remember the silly scene with the song, Let’s Do It For Our Country…some teenagers are messing around in a bomb shelter. (Here’s the scene.Grease 2 wasn’t reality, but bomb shelters were.

My parents had been married less than two years when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. They, with some friends, devised a plan they would execute in the event of a nuclear attack. They didn’t have bomb shelters, but there were some caves on a friend’s property. If the alarm sounded, they would all drive there immediately. Daddy used to talk about how they drove around with canned goods and other essential items in the trunks of their cars for months, in case something happened.

Of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis simmered down, but the threat of nuclear war loomed for years.

I wasn’t aware of the threat of nuclear war until about 1976…fourth grade. I’m not sure how it came up in class. My guess is we were talking about that year’s Summer Olympics Montreal and the perfect 10s earned by Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci. The world became fascinated with the young gymnast from an Eastern Bloc Communist country.

I remember our fourth grade teacher talking about Communism, saying children in Romania were tested when they were young to see what gifts they had. Some might be gymnastically talented; some might be built for dancing, rowing, or anything else…or maybe have special science, math, or writing abilities. We were told their professions were picked early for them, and if they were gymnasts or gifted dancers, they were taken from their parents to live at a training facility, because that was what the government demanded.

Whether all that was factual, I don’t know. But in fourth grade, that was what I believed. We talked about Communist countries, the Soviet Union, and somehow, we talked about nuclear war. I don’t remember much about the discussion, but I remember the teacher saying, “It’s nothing to worry about. If they drop a nuclear bomb on us, things will happen so fast that you won’t even know it.” What?!?!?! Yes, that thought was terrifying to a nine-yr-old girl. I remember actually thinking, “Why did my parents have me if they knew this was a possibility?” I remember exactly where I was sitting in the classroom when I had that thought. Big thinking for a nine-yr-old.

When I told this to my 14-yr-old daughter on that car ride yesterday, she was wide-eyed. Then, I told her it wasn’t a concern for her generation, because the Soviet Union has fallen, and we made peace with Russia…even though things seem a little precarious sometimes, I think Russia doesn’t want nuclear war any more than we want it.

But she corrected me. “Doesn’t North Korea have nuclear bombs?” I told her they do, but they can’t reach the US mainland. She asked, “But what’s to stop them from using them when they can reach the mainland?” With my limited knowledge of international politics, the only thing I came up with was, “Well, they haven’t used them on South Korea, and they can definitely reach there.” She asked me if the U.S. has the capability to intercept nuclear missiles. I told her I’d heard we do, but I didn’t tell her it’s 50 percent (or less) accurate. I then told her I think the North Koreans are too smart to start an all-out nuclear war with us. I hope I’m right.

When we were discussing fears, it seemed there were a lot of parallels between kids’ worries in 1976 and 2018. I worried about my parents’ health, which is normal, I guess, since that’s who took care of me. She said that had crossed her mind before too. But now there is an added fear that I never considered as a child: school shootings. There were school shootings in 1976…in fact, seven people were killed when a man opened fire at California State University at Fullerton that year, but because we didn’t have a 24-hr news cycle, we didn’t hear about them constantly, so they were never a fear for us. Now, not only do we have a 24-hr news cycle feeding our brains bad news, but children prepare for active shooters. That’s something we never had to do. Living in Alabama, we had tornado and fire drills, but never lockdown drills.

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The Sandy Hook shootings occurred when my daughter was in third grade, and I remember her asking me if it would happen at her school. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to scare her either. I explained that we never know what could happen, but that it wasn’t likely. That year, she had a male teacher, so I added, “Besides, you’ve seen your teacher’s muscles. Do you really think he’d let someone get into your classroom?” She relaxed. At age 9, all she needed was reassurance, and that did the trick.

So it seems everything old is new again, plus some. Kids still have the same worries. There’s the threat of nuclear war. Kids still worry about their parents’ health. Plus, the worries of school shootings. My daughter, thankfully, has somehow managed to stop being the worrier she used to be. She told me during our chat that she learned a long time ago that she shouldn’t worry about things over which she has no control. I’m proud of that. I didn’t learn to control those worries till I was in college.

So to help keep those worries to a minimum, I’ll keep the 24-hr news cycle out of our home.

 

 

 

My Daughter Is Starting High School

As the mom of a rising 9th grade girl, I have lots of things swirling through my head, just like most moms of children who will be entering high school in the next few weeks.

On one hand, I feel a sense of relief. We survived middle school. As it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, but maybe it’s like pregnancy and childbirth…we forget the bad and remember the good. Having a daughter in middle school was stressful at times, but it was a lot of fun too. It was all about survival. They played sports. They had social lives…real social lives they planned themselves. They had drama but solved it themselves. We survived. My daughter even told me recently she loved middle school.

On the other hand, there’s excitement. My daughter is starting high school. I feel like she’s ready. I hope she’s ready. I pray she’s ready.

And while I’m nervous and excited and worried at the same time, I know high school is her job, not mine. My job is to give her the tools to make her successful at this job, but ultimately, it’s her job.

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So, I’m arming her with some tools. The first tool she has is experience. She earned experience on her own. You can’t hand your child experience, and there’s only so much they can learn from their parents’ experiences. Besides, they have to go to school, so they all get their own experience. Simply by making it this far, she has experience from which she can build. Hopefully, she has learned and will continue to learn what works for her and what doesn’t. Of course, I will share my own experiences with her, and maybe she will hear some of it.

Another tool: encouragement. She shares with me what her goals are, and I encourage her to do everything she needs to do to accomplish those goals. Let’s say she wants to try out for a sports team. I provide encouragement when she needs it. I tell her I love watching her play, even after a terrible game. When the coach is not happy with her play, I continue telling her I love watching her play. I encourage her to work hard and play hard. I encourage her to be the best she can be. The same can be applied to schoolwork. History test coming up? It’s her job to study and be prepared. I’m not a mom who helps with homework. I usually don’t know what her homework is…and that’s how I like it. But if she comes to me and tells me she is studying hard for a history test, I offer encouragement. I tell her I know she can do it, because I do know it. I remind her hard work is her friend. She is more likely to make the grade she wants if she studies efficiently and works hard. I encourage her to set aside the time to get the work done and get it done well.

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Unconditional love is another tool. It’s an important tool, in my opinion, as the parent of a teenager in high school. We hear it all the time: teenagers’ frontal lobes are not fully developed. It’s true. They can’t always reason through things, and sometimes problems appear larger than they are. They need us. They don’t need us to make problems go away. They need us to love them through their problems. My daughter needs to know I love her “no matter what.” That doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. It means she knows I love her even when I’m angry. Sometimes, when we’re riding in the car or sitting at the dinner table, I will say to her, “I love you all the time. No matter what, I love you. If you have a problem, come to me first. Things aren’t always as bad as they seem.” That’s what I want to give my daughter: unconditional love.

Another tool? A bit of wisdom: Get to know your teachers. I tell her the story of my freshman year in college. I had done well my first semester of Calculus, but about two weeks into the second semester, I was struggling a bit. I made an appointment to meet with my teacher, and we set up regular times to meet, so he could tutor me through his class. I had a low A going into the final, but then I bombed it. I received a B in the class, even after bombing the final, and I know it was because of my effort. After seeing my final exam score posted, I stuck my head in his office, and he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I told him I had seen that, and I was sorry to disappoint. When I asked him about my grade, he replied, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” You do good in long journey has been one of my favorite quotes since then. My daughter has heard that story many times. From that, I hope she learns to know when she needs help in a class and “nip it in the bud” by meeting with teachers for extra help.

What more can we provide?  Freedom…freedom to make their own decisions…bad or good. Good decisions can propel them forward, and bad ones can help them learn how to make better decisions. We can provide them with independence. We can provide them with the opportunity for lots of rest. We can provide them with the opportunity to enjoy their social lives. And we can provide them with plenty of study time and a good place to study. We can provide them with healthy meals and with a home in which they can be themselves. But we have to give them the freedom to make their own decisions about all those things.

Is it going to be easy? Heck no! It’s going to be difficult, but together, we will get through it, and we will both enjoy it from different places.

Let’s do this high school thing!

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Parents’ School Year Goals?

Looking through “the Facebook” today, I came across a friend’s post asking, “Parents, what are your goals for this school year?”

Am I supposed to have school year goals? I’d never considered it, but maybe I’ve been missing out on something. Maybe, while teachers and students are setting goals for the new school year, I should be setting some goals of my own. I’ve asked other friends, and they looked at me like I had fourteen eyes. One of them said she has one goal: drink more wine. Another one said her goal is to keep her children organized for the school year. I told her, “Good luck with that.” I’m not a terribly organized person, so personally, I’d probably hurt my daughter’s organizational skills rather than helping them.

So, after talking with friends, I decided to make my own list of goals for the school year, and they are goals for me, not my daughter:

  • Family time. My first goal is to make sure we carve out some family time. Between school sports, school, real life, and social lives, this can get neglected. This school year, I will make it a priority…to make sure we have time to just be together…maybe dinnertime, maybe watching sports together, maybe vacations…whatever…I will make it happen.
  • Have fun. This is always at the top of my list. No matter what we are doing, we can make it fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t take things seriously; it means we approach it with joy. I’ll use my library volunteer job as an example. I volunteer every other Tuesday, and the job entails checking out books for students, shelving, reloading paper in printers, etc. Sounds boring, right? And I’m sure it can be, but it has always been fun for me. I look forward to it every time, because I became friends with the people who work there, and it’s always fun to spend time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with sharing jokes or life stories while you work! I try to become friends with people in my volunteer positions, so it feels like I’m hanging out with friends while we’re working.
  • Enjoy lunch with friend(s) at least once a week, and once a month, I need to try a restaurant in town I’ve never visited. My friend, Linda, and I meet regularly, and we tend to meet at the same four or five places. Next time, we are going to a new place, and I’ve found the perfect place for us to try. It’s easy to keep going to the same places, and I won’t abandon those, but if I try a new restaurant once a month, that’s twelve new lunch places in a year!
  • Laugh a lot…a whole lot. At the risk of sounding like a song from Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Really…it’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up with a brother who loves to laugh and naturally makes people laugh, so I’ve had a lot of laughing practice. It cures a lot of ills. Therefore, I’m going to try to keep myself out of non-laughing situations.
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  • Spend time outdoors…all year. I love being outdoors. I love sunshine. I don’t love camping, so don’t get any ideas about that. In spring, summer, and fall, this doesn’t take much effort. But winter? That’s another story. It’s exactly when I need to get outdoors…to avoid SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder…or what I call the wintertime blues. So this year, I am going to try to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Brrrr.
  • Make some new friends. We have some new families coming to our school this year, and I plan to welcome them with open arms. You never know where you’ll find a friend…and I love fun, new friends…especially ones who like to try new restaurants and laugh a lot.
  • Travel when we can. High school means lots more time spent on homework, and it means lots more time dedicated to school sports. Whenever we can squeeze in some travel fun, we will do exactly that.
  • Exercise more. OK, I had to throw in one of those things that is a “must do.” I need to exercise more, so I added it to the list. If I can find people who want to laugh with me while exercising, that’s even better!
  • Watch more football. Yes, I’m putting it on the list. I watch a lot of football anyway, but I want to watch more. Don’t worry, Bama fans, because I am Schleprock, I will not watch Bama games in real time. I will record them and watch them after the fact. But I want to watch other games…a lot. Besides, this is a good way to fulfill the first goal I listed…spending time with family. How many more days till football season starts?

And those, my friends, are my back-to-school goals…nothing education-related at all. Sure, I could make my goals all about my child, who is now a high school student, but guess what…school is her job. Yes, if she asks me for help or I think she’s having issues, I will help her, of course. She knows that. But she also knows it is her responsibility to take care of school work. After all, I’ve already done 9th grade. It’s a lot more difficult than when I was in school, but she knows I will help her if she needs it, and she knows if I can’t help her, I will help her find someone who can. The one school-related thing I will do is continue to encourage her to establish relationships with her teachers…they can definitely help her if she needs help.

Let’s get this party started!

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

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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