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I stood in front of my closet, took a deep breath and opened the door.  I was going to have to try on last some of my fall clothes this morning.  Ugh. This is not going to be fun.

I sifted though my choices and finally noticed my taupe skirt peeking out of the bunch. Well, it does have an elastic waistband, at least, I thought as I took it off the hanger.

Feels alright.  Nothing too tight anywhere, thank goodness. I tried it on with a shirt I liked.  I figured it was a good enough outfit for the office yet fit loose enough that, should I find myself in a situation where I had to chase a toddler, haul around a baby or have the immense good fortune and find a few minutes to nap, I could do any (or all) of it comfortably enough and without ripping, tripping, things slipping out of place… or generally embarrassing myself.

Most importantly, I could breathe.

Good thing I can, I thought, as I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the mirror.  The moment of truth.    

First I checked the overall look. The top and skirt worked together well and had style I could enhance with those 1930s style shoes I never get to wear and some earrings.  If I did my hair right, I could create a bona fide retro look. Let’s not get ahead of myself, I thought ruefully. 

Now for the hard part.  As I turned to each side, I gave a critical eye to the waistline, neckline, arms and butt.

Hmm.

I stood up straight and sucked in my abs like all those instructors in all those exercise classes I never found the time to get to would surely have admonished.

No belly bulge.  Whew! Great! Awesome, actually. I can wear this!

Wait.  Shit.  Let’s see what happens…

Now I let go, slumped a bit and did not hold in my abs.

Bulge. Fuck! Of course, there is.  How bad is it?

I had not been in this skirt since the fall before Sawyer was born.  I had seen this coming a mile away.  I chided myself as I picked a pashmina out of the basket of shawls, scarves and such in the closet, trying to decide if I could really wear this or not all day long.

The bitchy conscience I never seem to be able to strangle into silence piped up with a more than a chiding and made the decision for me.

“This is what you get for thinking about exercising, making plans to exercise, putting it in your calendar to exercise, but NEVER ACTUALLY EXERCISING!  Today you are literally going to suck it up and suck it in.  This weekend, you are going jogging!”

Ok, ok.  Fine.Your are right. I will, I will. I promise. What a way to start the day, though I suppose this IS a form of motivation, dammit

I grabbed the pashmina, wrapped it around to hide any bulges resulting from slips in posture and ran out the door to take my punishment, sucking in and standing up straight.

No, it is not Cotton. 🙂

Weaving The Fabric of Your Life

Weave the fabric of your life carefully. 

You hold in your hands the strands you have chosen

to use in weaving the fabric of your life.

It may be that you think some threads are more beautiful than others. 
And there may be others you think are muted and dull.  

But do not be fooled.
All of them are necessary.

If you are careful and treat each strand
with the knowledge that the finished composition
can only be one of beauty when all are woven together seamlessly,

then you will be able to look back on the fabric of your life 
and see that,
though it is surely flawed,
it was woven with
love and care –
making it the beautiful manifestation of your
heart’s desire.

You know why it seems like a fairy tale when you hear a real life story that moves you?

Because you are not seeing all the in-between bits that got a person to where they are. 

You are simply reading an account of the major events without having to live through the time and little details that seemed eternal to the person actually living it. 

In this time of instant gratification (something that is not likely to change any time soon, if technology is any indication), we are used to hearing the story in an hour tv show, a 200 page book or a 20 minute conversation. 

But the events we are listening to actually took place over years, sometimes decades. 

It is only with that distance that we get the opportunity to look at someone’s own personal story as inspirational or moving. However, I can guarantee that the person who lived every minute and second of the story does not have the same fairy tale perspective.  And they didn’t know everything would turn out ok in the end.  As a matter of fact, unless they are dead, the story has not even ended yet.  There is still time to lose it all – or gain it, as the case may be.

No Fairy Godmother swoops in and fixes everything in an instant. You have to do it yourself, one day – or minute – at a time.

We all know that JK Rowling has literally gone from rags to riches.  We know she is a wonderfully talented author whose work has been both critically acclaimed and read worldwide by a range of readers from critics and literary types to families and children. 

What we don’t always think about is that she got the idea for HP in 1990 and, while writing the first book married, had a child and divorced, eventually being forced on to welfare as a single mother before the first manuscript was finished in 1995. 

I am pretty sure she had no clue she would be a billionaire by March of 2011.  

While I read biographical information in a few minutes, this rags-to-riches story played out over a decade of hardship for her.  One I am pretty sure held many sleepless nights of mental torture wondering how she was going to get through the next day, much less the next decade. 

Stephen King (my most favorite writer) almost lost it all – or maybe never would have even had it.  He threw Carrie in the trash after writing it in the laundry room while he was an English teacher. His wife dug it out and got him to finish it (and we all thank her for that).  He also does not remember even writing The Shining because he was every bit as strung out as Jack Torrance (his character) was.  That just about cost him his family.  Yet now he is seen as the epitome of a successful writer. 

These are only fairy tales of the rich, lucky and successful now because we don’t see the days of rejections and living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t see the minutes, hours, days, weeks and years or waiting and working and hoping. To us – and only us, the audience – this seems to have happened over night.

And this is true of all kinds of successful people (not just writers) from Lance Armstrong to Warren Buffett.

Seeing only the end result makes you wonder, “Why can’t that kind of thing happen to me?”

What we often don’t consider is that, just maybe, it is. It may be happening to you right now.

On Alabama/US Highway 231, you can traverse the entire state north to south.  But when you hit a stretch of road in the southeast corner of the state between the small college town on Troy (home of the Troy Trojans) and the town of Ozark, you are near a very special place.

Aunt Maug and Uncle Hubbert’s farm. 

The farm is located just outside of Brundidge, Alabama, which bills itself as “Alabama’s Own Antique City.” And that, I suppose, is one way of putting it.  

Once you get south of Brundidge on 231, you have to start looking for the turn.  It is practically hidden.  And the road you are looking for is not paved with asphalt, but concrete slabs.  About halfway down that concrete slab paved road is a sign that says Tennille with an arrow pointing down Shiver Road.

Shiver, as in Hubbert and Maug Shiver, my mother’s sister and her husband.

It is fitting that the road is now named after them, but when I was growing up it was simply Route 2, Brundidge.  And my Uncle Hubbert was the mailman for the area. 

You go almost exactly a mile down Route 2/Shiver Road and as you come around at curve you can look down a hill and see the farm.  The gray house had changed a bit since I was a child, but it is certainly recognizable – as is the small house across the street where Uncle Hubbert was born in 1928. During the 1980s it was Aunt Maug’s shop where she designed flower arrangements and had a wedding planning business. 

Uncle Hubbert worked full time delivering mail, but he also ran a fully functioning farm. At one time or another he raised horses, chickens and pigs.  He also had fields of soy beans, corn and no telling what else I don’t know about during my childhood. Uncle Hubbert is one of the two hardest working and most respectable men I know.

I could not begin to count the nights I have spent there.  As a matter of fact, up until my brother was born when I was 4, Santa Claus only came to the farm.  I don’t even think he knew where our house on East Collins Street in Dothan was.

At one point or another, my mother and all of her sisters called the farm home.  Before I was born my grandmother’s house was moved from Tennille (a now dead town my mother’s family moved out of – with the exception of my grandfather who is buried there in a lost graveyard behind the kudzu covered ruin of a church) to the farm and still stands on an acre of land next to my aunt and uncle’s house, even though my grandmother – who would have been 101 on April 2nd – has been dead over a decade now.

I barely remember the pigs or my older cousin’s horses.

But I can remember reaching under chickens for eggs and bringing them back to the house for breakfast.

I wish I could tell you all about it. 

About Suzi the Suzuki motorcycle Daddy and Uncle Hubbert used to ride us cousins on – along with the smaller less impressive, but still fun to ride, Yamaha.  We used to go down the dirt road and stop and pick blackberries still warm from the sun for a snack. 

About the tractor that was built sometime in the 1940s, but Uncle Hubbert assures me still runs like a champ.  I cannot imagine how many miles Uncle Hubbert has logged on her – I have a few miles under my belt as well.

About the stars you can see from the yard on a clear night. 

About my grandmother’s flower beds (when she was alive), sassy as ever and could grow anything – with a dip of snuff in her lip. 

About Roadey the donkey that once literally kicked Uncle Hubbert in the ass – and then got a kick back. 

Jumping hay bales with my cousins. 

Skipper and Gigi – the untamable horses.

Fire ants!

Fishing with a cane pole with my grandmother an cousins. 

Simon the Siamese cat who we thought would live forever.  And, for a cat, he just about did.

Fish frys on Saturdays.

Cutting down Christmas trees. 

Sleepovers at my grandmother’s with my cousins.

Stickers in the yard.  (I learned to always wear shoes.  Grown ups did not like it when you got stuck and they had to come rescue you when you ran out of bald patches of ground to walk on between the houses.)

Climbing trees. 

Fighting and playing and running like mad with the closest things to sisters I have ever had – my cousins.

No matter how far any of us have roamed we have all come back to Aunt Maug and Uncle Hubbert’s at one time or another and basked in the memories of our childhood. 

I think it is getting time for a trip home.

I remember:

The first time I felt you move.

The first time I saw you.

Crying the first time I was left totally alone with you and I realized it was my job to keep you safe and alive.  I was scared to death. I still am.

Sleeping with you and nursing you as a baby.

Taking you to Ft. Rucker ER in the middle of the night with croup.

What a beautiful baby girl you were – literally.  Everyone knew it – all they had to do was look at you.  And then you would smile and cackle and they really loved you.

That your first word was “light.”

Singing “Five Sleepyheads” every single night for 4 years straight. Reading One Fish, Two Fish every night for at least 2 years.  And I still am able to recite The Cat and the Hat for Ezra now because of you. 

Moving into our first apartment together at Fieldcrest in Dothan.  For the first time you had a yard to play in and we spent hours at the pool playing. For the first time I was a single mother.  For the first time I had my own apartment – with you. 

The night you fell into that pool upside down with a swim ring on (because you didn’t listen to me and stay off the deep end ladder) and had to be pulled out by your ankle.  And I put you right back into the shallow end before you had a chance to be scared.

Your wide, scared eyes from your car seat the time I hydroplaned and wrecked on the way to take you to daycare.  You never made a peep while the car was spinning, when we hit the tree (a very small one with the back bumper, thank goodness) or even after I got you out.  You didn’t know what to think, so you just took it in stride and trusted me.  You were 1.

The first time you ever flew. You were 2.

The first wedding you were in.  You were 2.

The time you cut your hair while I napped on the couch.  You were 4. I still have the hair – dated.

The second wedding you were in.  You were 4.

When you broke your tooth at Aunt Maug’s and how cute you looked when you smiled with that chipped front tooth. 

Being the tooth fairy.

You dressing up in Monna’s clothes for a tea-party at First Presbyterian preschool – complete with hat and pearls. I have pictures.

When you broke your ankle in kindergarten. Twice.  I still have both casts.

Taking you to Disney World, Epcot and Universal Studios for you 5th birthday.

Field day, relay races and “We Are The Champions” in Miss Stevens’ class.

The third wedding you were in.  You were 8.

Reading Harry Potter to you… and then you reading them to me.

Going to the Peanut Festival and the beach every year with April, Jess and Tim.

Your sprinkler birthday party in our front yard.

Your first prize winning photograph.

The poem about America you had published.

Taking you and Anesia to tour the USS Alabama – and watching a live news broadcast.

Going to Dauphin Island just the two of us on Saturdays. Stopping at the farmer’s market stand on the way home.

Going to Orange Beach just the two of us.  We walked along the beach and you caught hermit crabs with the other kids at night.

Mardi Gras in Mobile. I still have a jar full of our coolest beads.

That you used to ride your bike everywhere, and I let you – as long as you had the walkie talkie and stayed within its range.

All the hermit crabs you had. Well, most of them. And the other pets – Miles, Snidge… the good ones.

The second time you flew.  You were 12.

Your 13th birthday party in our back yard… with the unbreakable piñata and shaving cream fight.

How well read and articulate you are.

Your art.

Your photography.

Your writing.

I know how smart you are. 

I know how strong willed and defiant you are. 

I know how talented you are. 

I know how much potential you have.

 I know how good you are.

I know because I made you and raised you.  For good or bad.  For both of us.

But I need you to know these things as well. 

I need you to know that, at 20, your life is really just beginning.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  I know this because I have lived your lifetime with you.  I remember it all. And I know exactly how long it takes for 20 years to pass.

As your mother, I need to know you are making the most of it.  It will go by so fast and I don’t want you to take it for granted.  You still have plenty of time.  If you take advantage of it. 

Don’t short change yourself, Greta.  Please.

I am not a very good decision maker.  I know people who are and I admire them for their decisiveness. However, as much as I wish I could, I cannot count myself among them.

That does not mean that I don’t make decisions (it is not exactly something you can avoid doing), nor is it that I make bad decisions (although that has certainly happened over the years), but I have a problem knowing when enough is enough when it comes to extrapolating the possible outcomes of the choices. 

I can get paralyzed by the possibilities.

Once a decision is made, I can follow through without much of a problem, but up until that point I can worry myself sick and silly imagining.

Except on certain occasions.

There have been a few times in my life that I have made a snap decision without thinking much about it. 

I have been ruminating for a few months on doing something that, on the face of it, seems like a good idea. I have even convinced myself of it.

Except.

You see, I had this decision to make years ago as well.  I had it offered up to me on a silver platter once….and without the issues that would make it difficult now. 

I turned it down flat. 

And I was flat wrong

The door of opportunity opened and I slammed it shut.

I should have taken what was offered to me and run with it. But I had such an aversion and a visceral reaction to the idea that I immediately thought, “There is no way I am doing that.”

I did not weigh the possibilities and benefits.  I did not think about how far ahead it could get me.  I did not think about the fact that I may never get the opportunity again.  And there may have been a few self-esteem and emotional issues holding me back, about which I was not fully aware at the time (I was 24, give me a break).  Ones that didn’t allow me to either recognize my own potential or maximize the opportunities given to me.  Had I been confident, thoughtful and more strategic at the time, I would have jumped at the chance. 

As a matter of fact, looking back on myself at 24 from 17 years into the future, I realize what an idiot I was.  If Greta is ever offered a similar opportunity at that age and turns it down for the reasons I did, I will have a fit.  I will do everything I possibly can to change her mind. 

No one did that for me.  And, on the one hand, I wish someone had. At least then.

But on the other, not so much.

Because the visceral reaction my younger self had to the opportunity back then is the very reason I am choosing not to pursue it all these years later. 

In the last 17 years I have learned a lot. 

I have learned about responsibility, duty, trust, honesty and work ethic.

I have learned about myself, both my strengths and shortcomings …and hopefully how to both accentuate and mitigate them.

But there is something that tends to get squashed down as you learn all of the above. 

Your inner voice.

Your desires and spontaneity. 

Your id and ego get pushed around by the superego so much and so often that we not only ignore them completely, but we vilify them for wanting.

Or…NOT wanting.

We learn to ignore the part of us that reacts and says, “I don’t want to.”

Ezra says that sometimes. Depending on my mood and the situation, the answer to it is either (1) “I didn’t ask you if you wanted to, I told you to.  Now go.” (usually used if I tell him to pick up his room or eat his vegetables and that was his response); or (2) “I know you don’t. I don’t want to either, but we have to.  So come on and let’s get it over with.” (used to commiserate not wanting to go to school or get shots or the like, but still teaching that some things have to be done no matter what we want).

As we get older, we think more in terms of what I should be doing instead of what we want to do. 

How many mothers can sit down for an hour during the day, shut out the world to read 50 Shades of Grey?

Ok.

How about while knowing that the dishes need doing or dinner needs cooking or laundry needs washing?

Not so many, uh?

Most of us would start thinking about all the things we should be doing and allow that to trump what we want to do. I know it is a small scale example, but Pavolv didn’t have to use the Liberty Bell and a fillet mignon, either, now did he?

Given a few decades of that, it is not surprising that we over extend ourselves and stop listening to the little voice inside that simply says, “I don’t want to” and get bullied by the one that screams, “I didn’t ask what you wanted, now did I?”

But I am not going to do that. I am not going to be pushed into something I don’t want, even if I am the one doing the bullying. 

I am going to believe that the reason I don’t want to do this is because there is a better way, another option, an opportunity that I can’t see yet coming down the pike. One that will be infinitely better for me and mine than the one I am passing on. 

I cannot believe that at two different times in my life I have been presented with the same idea and that both times my gut tells me no… and then that there is no reason for it.   

There has to be another way to get where I want to go.  A way that suits me and who I am.  I don’t know what it is and I don’t know how to even figure out what it might be.  But I have to trust that there is a path for me that gets the same – or better – rewards. 

Gulp. 

Holy cow, I had better be right about this.

It is serious what we do.  I know it is not what we choose to talk about most of the time, but there is a reason for that. 

This is just one of the many, many, many mommy blogs out there. 

I try to post things here that are thoughtful and (hopefully) a little bit funny.  I want people to come back, after all.  And I try not to make it all mommy all the time.

But mommy blogs give an outlet to both the writers and the readers – a much needed one. 

The reason?

Because raising your children is one of the scariest and most serious things you will do in life. 

One of my friends told her husband once not to get all high and mighty with his job and his responsibilities while she is a SAHM.  He may very well be doing something important and serious, but she is making people.  People who will one day be well-balanced, well-adjusted, responsible, happy human beings who will then go on to do good things with their lives.  Top that. 

She is so right. 

You worry and fret.  You model and teach.  You set boundaries and rules.  You hand out rewards and punishments. 

You above all pray for their safety, because someone always knows someone else who has been struck with tragedy.

And all mothers know it can happen to them. Even if they are vigilant and responsible there are always sicknesses and accidents – the randomness of life – in addition to the danger and evil inherent in this world. I look back on my own life and know that there were a few times that, if things had gone just a little bit differently, I might be just another sad story. 

And the fear of becoming a cautionary tale or a tragic story of loss is something mothers live with all the time.  No mother will ever let her kid go off to camp or play football or drive without thinking about all the news stories she’s heard about a kid going missing or being injured or having a wreck.

But if we dwelled on this fear we would be paralyzed and damage our kids with our overprotectiveness. So that well-adjusted part would be out the window.

And that is why mommy blogs mostly talk about the funny and the inspirational parts of parenting, because not one of us need to be reminded of the Fear.

But a lot of moms take being moms so seriously that they forget to have a good time.  Put up the dish gloves, let down their hair and just have a good damn time. 

We need to laugh and enjoy what is right now because, although we give assurances to our kids that all will be fine and things will work out in the end, we know that happy endings are only a sure thing in fairy tales. 

Real life is more unpredictable than that. 

But as uncertain as it is and as scary as it can be, this life that we live and the children we raise are worth the risk we take by allowing them to carry our hearts with them every day. 

That is why I put off dinner and threw the football with Ezra last night.

It is why so thoroughly enjoy t-ball games. 

It is why I want to take the boys to Disney World and Washington DC and the beach and the mountains. 

It is the uncertainty of life and the fleeting nature of it that gives deep meaning to having a good time and enjoying the people you love as much as you possibly can. 

It is why we all need to make sure we have a good dose of fun to balance the responsibility of life. 

Now, go have a good time with someone you love.  I am.