What I Learned in 2018

Every year, I’m glad to see the old year go and ring in a new one. This one is no exception. There are lots of great things that happened in 2018, but there were some not-so-great things too. No matter what happened, I learned a few things along the way (these are things I’m trying to apply to my own life…not preaching to you, per se):

  • Celebrate every year. I don’t mean blow horns and throw confetti at midnight tonight. I mean celebrate every year. Sure, we’re all getting older, but turning 50 or 60 or 70 is a gift. Celebrate your life by living it! As my parents would say, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” It’s not, folks. Is work important? Yes! But should your entire life be about work? No. Do the things you have always wanted to do. Want to go skydiving? Do it! Want to write a novel? Do it! Want to drive cross-country? Do it! And for the record…only one of those things is something I want to do.
  • Spend money on experiences instead of things. I actually learned this a long time ago, but I stop and think about it regularly. Do you remember most of the things you’ve purchased this year? Probably not. But you likely remember most of the experiences you’ve had. I bought a lot of things this year, and I remember some of them, but I have memories from every experience.
  • Don’t sleep your life away. This is one of those things my parents used to say. This year, I slept through the month of January, after my mother died at the end of December, because that was how I grieved. At the end of that month, though, I knew my mother would be disappointed if I didn’t “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” Sleep used to be one of my hobbies, but every minute you sleep is a minute of your life ticking away. You can’t get it back. Live it, people. Sure, we need sleep, but too much of it is just laziness, unless you have some health issues. And if your napping or frequent sleeping is affecting others by delaying get-togethers or slowing folks down, rethink it. Do you really need that rest? Or it is just laziness? Or selfishness? Don’t be a Lazy Daisy.
  • Be coachable. Nobody knows everything about anything. I certainly have a lot to learn about life, in general. This is one of those things I heard retired Alabama football coach, Gene Stallings, say…be coachable. Listen to others, and actually hear what they say. He talked about how the best players had good attitudes and were good listeners…the ones who did what he, as the coach, wanted them to do, instead of what they wanted to do. Were they always the best ones on the team? Not necessarily, but sometimes, they got to ride the travel bus just because they were coachable. He also said that, as a coach at a high level, he needed to be coachable too. Sometimes, he had to listen to others to learn…and he certainly had to be “coachable” at home. Be coachable in life. Stay in your airplane seat when the seatbelt sign is on. Don’t pass on the double yellow line. All of those “rules” (or laws) are in place for a reason. Someone before us knew we would need to know. Be coachable.
  • Give grieving people a break. If you haven’t lost a loved one, you don’t understand what grieving people are experiencing. Even if you have lost a loved one, you don’t know what someone else is feeling. We all grieve differently. In grief, I lost my mind. Generally speaking, I have a good memory, but not in 2018, after losing my mother in December 2017. And I lost a dear friend six months later. As scary as it sounds, many times I didn’t even know what month it was. I have been angry. I have been sad. I have been hateful. Maybe someone was complaining about something I considered trivial. In grief, I would think, “Really? Who gives a flying fig! My mother just died!” Every emotion I’ve had this year has been amplified tenfold. And I have been forgetful. I have thought on several occasions I might have dementia, but then I realize it is grief. I have been crazy. I have tried to fake it till I make it. I have tried to hold it together for family. But I’m still grieving, and I know that, because when my brother calls to tell me he loves me, I cry. If I forgot something important to you, or if I was unkind, some of it (not all of it) might have been grief. If you have never lost a parent, I hope that if you do, I can help. I will remind you grief makes you crazy. In fact, I’ve wanted to go back and apologize to people I know who experienced it before me…because I didn’t get it. You can laugh or say I’m making excuses if you want, but we all grieve differently, and obviously, mine manifests itself in crazy. A friend texted me yesterday, “Grief sucks.” And she’s right. I like to think I acquired some coping skills after Daddy died, but I’m not sure. You can read all the self-help books about grief, and you still don’t know about another person’s grief, so don’t throw that mumbo jumbo out there. It’s insulting. You might have some understanding, but every person is different. I have a friend who lost both parents a month apart earlier this year, and even though I lost both parents twelve years apart, I cannot even imagine what she must feel. Cut your grieving friends a break, because you do not understand. Grieving people keep putting one foot in front of the other, because we have to, and sometimes, we think we are OK, but then something happens, and we know we are not. Maybe we’re putting on a brave face. And if you think grief ends after one month or six months, you need to know now it does not. I have been more sad the month of December than I was any other month of the past year. I don’t need people to understand that, and frankly, you don’t have to cut me a break, but I will forever cut grieving people a break. 
  • Fake it till you make it. I mentioned this above in my rant about grief. I still believe “fake it till you make it” is good. I still believe you start to feel happier if you act happier. I still believe you might be able to do something if you convince yourself you can. Just trust me on this one. Fake it till you make it.
  • Let it go. The new year is the perfect time to let go of excess baggage. I’m not one of those people who carries anger and resentment, but a lot of folks do. Get over it. It’s hurting you. Someone was snarky to you? Who gives a damn?!?! Move on. That doesn’t even begin to compare to real problems…like losing a loved one. Let it go!

And with that, I bid you a Happy 2019. My daughter and I are meeting friends in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day to celebrate new beginnings. We hope to have fun and laugh and celebrate, because that’s what I want to do this year. I’m kicking 2018 to the curb. I wish I could say I’m kicking grief to the curb too, but only time will help with that.

 

 

 

 

*

Advertisements

Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

img_7843.jpg

Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

*

*

Can’t You Control Your Child?!?

We’ve all been there. You’re in a store, shopping with a toddler. She isn’t behaving correctly, and you need to be firm. People are looking. You know you look like a sucker. You know they think you can’t control your child. And they’re right. You can’t control your child. And you know why? Your child is another human being who isn’t supposed to be controlled by you. Your child is supposed to learn to control herself. It’s a tough lesson for parent and child.

I was in a big box store at the beach with my daughter when she was about 2 1/2. I don’t even remember why we were there. I don’t remember if we were trying to buy groceries or what. I know she was in the seat in the grocery cart, and I was not happy with her behavior. Honestly, it has been thirteen years, so I don’t even remember what she was doing. Was she yelling? Was she throwing things? Was she crying? I just don’t remember.

I do remember my reaction.

After countless efforts to get her to behave correctly…talking with her, reasoning with her, bribing her…she was still not complying. I stopped the cart, picked her up, and carried her out of the store.

She screamed. Loudly. She thrashed wildly. People were staring. I didn’t care. I needed to get out of there with her. By the way she was acting, some folks probably wondered if I was taking someone else’s child. But mothers knew. They knew she was mine, not only because she looked just like me, but they’ve been there too. They’ve had to make a decision on how to handle a situation in front of other people, and they knew people were staring then too.

She screamed and cried and yelled all the way to the car. I even saw someone I knew as I was buckling her into her car seat. I got her buckled in and quickly closed the door…so I didn’t have to listen to the incessant wailing. I spoke briefly with the friend I hadn’t seen in seven or eight years, explaining my child was having a meltdown. This particular friend doesn’t have children, so she probably thought we both needed to be locked up.

I got into the car, and my daughter was no longer screaming. She was just sad. I didn’t even speak till we got back to the condo. When we stopped in the driveway, she was calm. She was exhausted, I’m sure, from losing control. I unbuckled her from her carseat and sat in the back seat with her, holding her in my arms and explaining that I love her, but I didn’t like the way she behaved in the store. I told her I was sad too. We cuddled for a while before going inside…and cuddled some more when we got there.

IMG_7600

As much as I hated that scene at the store, I loved the later result. Any time we were in a store, and she started to misbehave, all I had to do was say, “Remember that store?” She would look at me with those big brown eyes, and I could see that she remembered. She knew how to behave correctly, and she would prove it to me immediately.

Did I feel terrible about the incident? You bet…at the time. I felt like a terrible mother. Later though, I realized we both learned from it. I still hated that she had been so upset, but I was glad she remembered it, and I was really glad I never had to do it again. Yep…I never had to drag her out of a store kicking and screaming again. She remembered the lesson.

Sometimes, we have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to get to a better place. That day, my daughter and I both learned that lesson. It was a painful way to learn, but we learned.

 

 

 

 

 

*

The Bad News Bears Were Our Babysitters

Earlier this week, someone posted a video clip on Facebook. It was a clip from The Bad News Bears, a movie that was released in 1976. And oh, how that one short clip took me back in time. Not familiar with the movie? You can see the trailer here.

When I was a little girl between the ages of seven and ten, the movie theater was my babysitter. Many Saturday nights, our parents would drop off me and my younger brother at the local movie theater. Sometimes it was a double feature, but I think that was with the less popular movies. The local theater was a Mom and Pop operation with one screen. No megaplex. Just one screen, and they showed first run movies, usually a different one every week. The only one I remember showing for two weeks was Jaws in 1975, and yes, I was eight, and my brother was six when we saw it.

Our parents never did any “pre-screening” of any of the movies. As long as it wasn’t rated R, we went, and we loved Saturday nights at the movies!

In 1975, our favorite movie was Jaws, and our favorite in 1977 was Smokey and the Bandit, which was released on my tenth birthday…both rated PG, and both inappropriate by today’s standards. I saw Smokey and the Bandit again last year, and there is no way that movie could even be made today.

Between those great movies, there was The Bad News Bears, released in 1976. It was rated PG, and every kid wanted to see it. IMDb.com sums it up saying, “An aging, down-on-his-luck ex-minor leaguer coaches a team of misfits in an ultra-competitive California little league.” It starred Walter Matthau as the coach and Tatum O’Neal as Amanda, an 11-year old girl with mad pitching skills. The movie’s language is bad; it’s completely and utterly politically incorrect, and the coach is a drunk, but the team of misfits pulls together. If it were released today, lots of parents would freak out at the political incorrectness, language and mature content. Heck, there might even be an uproar, but it was a great movie from my childhood. I don’t remember anybody’s parents making a big deal about it. Back then, there wasn’t a PG-13 rating, so everything that wasn’t G or R fell into the middle category, PG. This movie would have been a PG-13 by today’s standards. We loved The Bad News Bears.

MPW-90219

Yet somehow, The Bad News Bears stands the test of time. There are lots of movies that just aren’t as good 40 years after they’re made, but this one is just as funny and heartwarming to me now as it was in 1976, because despite the political incorrectness, it’s a story of people coming together. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen it over the years. I purchased the DVD a couple years ago and watched it with my daughter. Sure the language was inappropriate, but the rest of it…the beer cans, drunk Buttermaker (Walter Matthau’s coach character), the drinking/smoking/motorcycle riding guy named Kelly Leak who would become a part of the team…well, my daughter was as surprised as I was when I watched it in 1976, but she liked the movie. And Tatum O’Neal was so darn cute. The movie stands the test of time, though, because it wasn’t a glossed-over, Leave It To Beaver version of childhood. Somebody, somewhere was actually living that childhood.

While lots of people would think The Bad News Bears is a terrible movie for kids now, people didn’t worry so much about stuff like that in 1976. Heck, we could ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, as long as we were home when the streetlights came on. My parents were buying themselves some date time by dropping us at the movies, but we were also getting an education. The Bad News Bears is set in Southern California, a place I’d never visited at the time. It was about a little league baseball team of misfits that was sponsored by none other than Chico’s Bail Bonds. While those of us who lived in South Alabama could relate to a baseball league, I didn’t know anyone like Amanda (Tatum O’Neal’s character), who sat on the side of the road selling maps to stars’ homes. That seemed fun and exciting to me. Add in the fact that she was a female, 11-yr-old, pitching dynamo, and I thought she was awesome. She was still feminine, yet that team of boys needed her. There was a lesson of “girls can do anything boys can do” in there, and there was a big message about teamwork and friendship.

When I was a kid, we all talked about the characters and even had favorites. If I said something about Tanner from The Bad News Bears to someone my age today, most people would immediately know who that is. Say the name Buttermaker today, and everybody my age knows who that is. I just tested that on my brother. I texted him and asked, “If I say the name Buttermaker, do you know who that is?” He immediately texted back, “Bad News Bears.” And any time one of us hears Bizet’s Carmen Overture, we think of The Bad News Bears, because an adaptation of it was used as the theme song.

So, while lots of parents would never watch The Bad News Bears with their children, I allowed mine to watch it, inappropriate or not. Truthfully, I had forgotten how terrible the language was, but we watched it anyway. Language aside, maybe she saw a glimpse of life outside her bubble. Sure, some of the characters were over the top, but the overall theme and message in the movie was a good one. I mean, really…who can forget the scene near the end of the movie where Tanner tells the Yankees, who have just defeated the Bears in the championship, what they can do with their apology and their trophy? And little, mousy Lupus tells them, “And another thing! Just wait till next year!”…as he pours a beer over his teammate’s head.

The Bad News Bears was well-received by audiences and critics when it was released, even winning a Writer’s Guild of America Award.

I never dropped our daughter at the theater when she was younger than 12. Times have changed since the 70s. Kids aren’t as free-ranging as they used to be. Now that she’s a teenager, she meets friends at movies occasionally. They check movie times on their phones and purchase their tickets in advance online. At some theaters, they reserve their seats in advance. I wish we could have done that in the 1970s. And I wish we’d had those big, reclining seats too.

Back then, we had to call a pre-recorded message line (from our landline phones!) to hear the title and movie times. It was along the lines of, “Thank you for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema. Today is June 1st. Our movie this week is Jaws. Showtimes are 4:00, 7:00 and 9:30. Admission is $1 for children under 12 and $2 for adults. Thank you again for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema.” Here’s how often we called that theater line…I still remember the telephone number…more than 40 years later. And the floors were sticky. Everyone drank sodas back then, and there were no cupholders at the seats, so when they spilled, the soda would run down the sloped floor of the theater, making a long, sticky, soda line. Y’all remember…

So, cheers to The Bad News Bears and all those great 70s movies that could never be made in 2018. They were great babysitters, and they were educators too. They don’t make ’em like they used to. We learned a lot about life from those “inappropriate” movies, and we haven’t become ax murderers…shocking, I know.

Wish my little brother and I could share a beer with Buttermaker.

***To see a clip of one of the best scenes from the movie, click here.***

***Want to see some of the oldies but goodies mentioned in this blog? Amazon Prime has lots of them! Go to Amazon here and in the search box, enter the name of the movie you’d like to see.***

 

 

 

Chicken Necks Make Great Crab Bait (and other Life Lessons From My Mother)

 

img_5351

My mother and I, probably February 1974. (I look thrilled to take a picture with her, but she looks like she could use a martini.) One of my favorite pics.

It’s almost Mother’s Day weekend, and this is my first Mother’s Day without my Mother. She passed away in December.

I’ve lost a parent before. My daddy died in 2006. I know how difficult all these “firsts” are. They’re tough, but I also know it’s a good time to reflect on my life and what my parents taught me. In this case, since it’s Mother’s Day, I will reflect on what she taught me. Of course, there is no way to cover it all, but I will do what I can.

My mother wanted nothing more than she wanted to be a mother. She loved being a mother, and she loved mothering…neighbors, neighbors’ kids, classmates, friends…she took care of lots of us. She was an exceptional caretaker…it was what she did.

My earliest memories are from my early years in Brewton, Alabama. I remember wanting to go to school. I must have been almost or barely three. My mother called her preferred preschool, but there was no class for three-yr-olds. The owner/teacher relented after Mother called her several times, but she would only take me if I were potty-trained. I was, so I started preschool.

Other parents got wind of it and called her too. And it worked out well for the teacher, because she then had double the number of students…four-yr-olds for part of the day, and three-yr-olds for part of the day. Nobody loved that teacher or her preschool more than I did.

My mother was my advocate.  She taught me to advocate for my child.

A couple years later, she decided she wanted a Volkswagen microbus for us to take on road trips. After searching for the perfect one, my parents bought a beige and white one. Mother couldn’t drive a stick-shift, but she learned quickly as soon as we got the bus. I remember stalling at traffic lights in downtown Brewton as she learned to work the clutch, but she did it. She was determined. At 34, she learned a new skill…driving a stick. Daddy would always laugh that we chose to take the un-air-conditioned bus on road trips. “We have two perfectly good air-conditioned cars sitting in the driveway, yet we opt to travel in this!”

Mother taught us to try new things, and she taught us to be resilient.

olaf-huttemann-8029-unsplash.jpg

When I was seven, halfway through second grade, my family moved to Spanish Fort, Alabama, a community on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Some mothers would be nervous about a new place and new school, and the kids would feel that, but my mother approached the move as if it were an adventure. The transition was a smooth one at my new school and neighborhood.

Living near the water was a new adventure for all of us, and Mother took full advantage of that. Unafraid of a new challenge, she talked with locals and learned how she could take us out to the Fairhope Municipal Pier to catch crabs from Mobile Bay. She learned chicken necks are good crab bait, and she learned how to tie them into the nets and how to hang the nets from the pier. Back then, it was OK to hang the nets. She learned how to get the crabs out of the nets and cooked them up when we got home. She even made her own recipe for crab cakes.

She taught us to be adventurous.

For more information on Fairhope, click here.

adam-wyman-20682-unsplash.jpg

We spent almost every afternoon and many evenings at the pier. One day we were catching lots of crabs, so we stayed into the night, checking those nets regularly. At some point, I was stooped down, pulling up one of the nets to check it for crabs, and I looked up. I saw some men coming down the pier dressed all in white. I’d never seen anything like it.

I walked over to my mother and asked, “What are those clowns doing here?” It was actually members of the a white supremacist group. She said to me, “Just keep doing what you’re doing. They won’t mess with you. I need to go over here and sit with Miss Essie, so they think she’s with us.” She then got up and walked over to a bench to sit with a sweet, elderly African-American lady we had met months before, and with whom we often visited on the pier. Soon thereafter, we left the pier for the night, and Miss Essie left with us. Once we knew Miss Essie was OK, we got in the car, and it was then Mother explained everything to us.

Mother taught us compassion and that it’s important to help other people. She also taught us we are all created equal.

It’s important for me to tell you that most people I know who grew up in Alabama have NEVER seen the aforementioned white supremacist group. That sighting on the Fairhope Pier that night (I think it was 1976) was extremely rare, especially in quaint, upscale towns like Fairhope, which is why it is memorable. I don’t want readers to think it is/was a regular occurrence. In fact, I can’t name even one of my friends who has encountered the group anywhere. 

No matter where we lived, Mother volunteered. Sometimes she volunteered at the school, and often, she volunteered with the Red Cross. She was a Registered Nurse, and while I’m not sure what she did with the Red Cross, I know she went into underserved neighborhoods. She used to come home talking about what nice people she had met along the way.

She also seemed to always meet people who had elderly family members who needed care. In one place we lived, an elderly couple lived across the street, and Mother would check on them every day, helping them with tasks on a regular basis. After we moved, an elderly gentleman around the corner needed assistance a few times a week. Mother helped him. We received several late night calls over the years…people needing her assistance, and she was always willing to help. Not many people knew she did this, because she didn’t toot her own horn. She believed it diminished the deed if you went around boasting about it.

Mother taught us to help those who are less fortunate.

When I was a teenager, I learned a lot more from my mother. Just yesterday I was dress shopping with my 14-yr-old daughter, and I thought of my mother when I heard myself say to my daughter after she gave “thumbs down” to another dress I held up, “You don’t really know what it looks like till you try it on.” That was straight from my mother. That, and “Always put on lipstick before you leave home.”

While she taught me not to be superficial, she also taught me to try look “presentable.”

As we went through high school and college, my brother and I learned that our mother had a great sense of humor. That’s not to say we didn’t get in trouble, but she didn’t make a big deal out of things that weren’t a big deal. She also tried to approach situations with humor, and the good Lord knows, she loved to laugh. Even in the last year of her life, she loved when our now-adult friends from college came over to visit at her house. I think it reminded her of when we were younger. We would all sit around and laugh, and that was when she was her happiest.

She taught us not to take life too seriously, and she taught us about perspective.

IMG_5410

Mother and my daughter at dinner one night.

Mother was a tough chick, and we are who we are because of her and Daddy. I like to think I’m passing some of their wisdom and humor to my daughter.

When mother passed in December, we wrote her obituary with all the normal information about family, but we also included a list of things she had taught us. Because she did not want to have a funeral service, we thought it was important for people to know who she was. Here’s the list:

LESSONS FROM MY MOTHER:

Nobody goes hungry on Mama’s watch. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. It’s OK to laugh at yourself. Save for a rainy day, and when it does rain, splash in the puddles. Take care of your brother/sister, your children, and other people’s children. Enjoy coffee with friends at Waffle House on a regular basis. Call your mama often. Raise your children to be independent, and encourage them to spread their wings. Spend time with your children and their friends (especially at Coaches Corner). Ladies never leave home without lipstick. It’s never too late to learn to drive a stick shift. If you break an arm, you can make your own sling till you get to the ER. Always say “I love you” at the end of a phone call or visit. What other people think is not important, because God knows what you are doing. Laughter cures a lot of ills. Doing something nice for someone else will make you happy. Never pay full price if you don’t have to. Children/teens sometimes think small things are big deals; remember they are big deals to them. Pizza will cure the Sunday night blues. Don’t schedule events during football season. Learn new skills your whole life. Be grateful. Turn it all over to God. You can’t tell what clothes look like till you try them on. Chicken necks are perfect bait for crab nets. Defend people who can’t defend themselves. It’s more important to get into Heaven than it is to get into Harvard. If you want to have good friends, you have to be a good friend. Life is not a dress rehearsal; make it good. All people are created equal.
We loved our mother, and we will make a toast to her on Mother’s Day. God Bless Mama.