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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.

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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.

…That I live in a place where I can drive, have a job and choose my own husband (and divorce him if he turns out to be schmuck);

[150 years ago I would have been little more than property, 100 years ago I could not vote, and only in the last 30 years has it been that a woman could divorce her husband without cause – and that is still not true in all countries today]

…That I live in a time when my Sawyer is accepted as a valued and important member of society.

[50 years ago my doctor would have recommended institutionalizing Sawyer for the simple fact that he has Downs Syndrome.  Even worse, 200 years ago he may have been a complete outcast… or 300 years ago be left to die]

…That medical science has progressed to the point that I had my babies (2 of them, anyway) with an epidural so I was able to participate in the process and see my newborns immediately.

[in addition to the fact that Sawyer would have been taken from me because of Downs, 40 years ago I would have been knocked out in a “twilight” anesthesia, shaved and not known whether I had boys or girls for hours afterwards…just like my mother]

…And that modern dentistry has progressed to the point that it is no longer a horrific torture perpetrated on patients, but instead has layers of pain management from nitrous to topical anesthesia to lidocaine – all of which my very empathetic dentist used on me yesterday, God bless her.

[because 100 years ago they would have had to tie me down – if they could catch me, that is]

 

 

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.

Poor Ezra has been having a rough few days. Last Thursday Jay’s mother, sister and twin nephews came up and spent the night. He had a blast. It was basically a surprise sleep-over for him. They were even allowed to watch part of a movie after lights out. It was a glorious suspension of rigid bedtime rules. He was thrilled.

That started the downfall.

Ezra’s father continued it by (over) filling his weekend with, in addition to t-ball, hiking, visiting friends, playground (which included a nasty – literally, he fell into the mud – fall off a merry-go-round). He was playing to his heart’s content. He was happy and active…
He got to bed late 4 out of 6 nights.

This is a recipe for disaster for Ezra. And it is taking its toll.

He is in a really bad mood. Sometimes. Other times he is breathtakingly adorable, oozing a sweetness and loving nature that shows how kind he truly is.

But those deep emotions run the gamut for Ezra and he has quite a temper. Teaching him to control it is going to be a challenge.

The problem for me is that Ezra is struggling with emotions, concepts and communication. And these are a big deal. Not to mention that his efforts to deal with these big things can be comical and interesting in an absolutely adorable way.

But he can be a defiant little shit child when he is struggling with these things and that is not funny at all. It is maddening.

His latest thing is to tell me, “I not talking to you anymore!”

The vehemence with which he tells me this removes any doubt whether (i) he means what he says and (ii)  is he fully aware of how mean it sounds – he kinda means it that way. He also tells me over and over – talking to me by announcing that he is most certainly NOT talking to me.

I am trying to remove the stressors that contribute to his meltdowns – get him to bed earlier, allow him time to rest and heal up from all his bumps and bruises, feed him well so he is not hungry or on a sugar high in addition to all the other challenges and (try) to deal with him calmly and rationally.

Especially when he isn’t.

Therein lies the problem.

It requires me to stop and think like him. To get inside that little head and find a way to talk to him and explain the situation to him. And get him to understand the appropriate and acceptable way of dealing with the situation. In a way he can not only understand, but also in a way he will accept and try to implement.

There is a lot of bargaining. I try and make sure it is not done by compromising my expectations, but instead by showing him how acting appropriately is beneficial to him, both practically and emotionally.
[Do what you NEED to do first, then you can do what you WANT to do.  If you walk to the car and get on your seatbelt first, it will be easier for you to figure out how to turn your Bumblebee transformer back into a car rather than try and do it WHILE you are walking to the car. If you wait until you get to the car to do it, you will walk faster (which will make Mommy happier) and you will have an easier time putting Bumblebee together when you can focus on what you are doing. But, not doing that and getting too frustrated does NOT mean it is ok to lose your temper and throw Bumblebee across the car.]

So I find myself saying, “Calm down and pay attention.”

Over and over and over again for an hour and a half every morning.

But you know the even more frustrating thing about all this?

It means I have to watch myself. I have to “Calm down and pay attention.” Because if I cannot do it, then exactly how am I going to be able to teach a four-year-old little boy with a lot of conflicting emotions how to do it? Yeah, that is the sucky flip-side of parenting – the responsibility part.

The living example part. Even on the small thngs. 

Just another way in which I have to grow up so I can raise good kids. Not my favorite part of parenting, but it is a requirement – at least for me, anyway.

Some of you may be all grown up already. But I don’t think that would be near as much fun. 

A 14 year old girl lay on a bed in a pale yellow room.  Yellow was not her favorite color.  Right now it was blue.  In later years it would be green. You can tell from her wardrobe. 

She was reading Gone with the Wind for the first time.  It was spring and the pale yellow bedroom was in the deep south of Alabama.  Her mind, however, was roughly 200 miles north, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now, you have to keep in mind that this was 1985 and she was 14.  Whatever racist reputation the book has to the broader world outside the South was totally lost on her – as it mostly is even to this day.  She had read Twain with the same obliviousness: that of a white southern teenager who understood the South from that perspective alone.  She was neither privileged nor disadvantaged, walking that treacherous line between the two. She was also only slightly aware of the events that had played themselves out a mere twenty years before in Selma and Birmingham… and Montgomery.  The only thing she cared about that had to do with Montgomery was that she would get to go ice skating on the next trip they took there – Daddy had promised she could. 

For her Gone with the Wind was all about the story she’d been drawn into. 

The beauty and romanticism of it thrilled her.  The story pulled her through it.

She could feel the breeze and smell the barbeque at Twelve Oaks.

She was wrapped up in characters who fascinated her as much as the language Mitchell had masterfully crafted into beautiful images in her mind. 

There were azaleas and dogwoods in bloom outside her very window.  Her father had taken to digging dogwood sapplings up when he got the chance and bringing them home to plant in the yard for her mother to enjoy the first few splendid weeks of Spring. Daddy’s own unique way of bringing her mother flowers, she supposed.

But, for the girl, the dogwoods she could see with her own eyes paled in comparison with the lovely north Georgia woods Mitchell described so skillfully. 

She learned to flirt from Scarlett.  And, she had to admit, she’d learned a few other things from her as well. 

Melanie taught her about turning the other cheek. Although Melanie generally annoyed her and made her feel guilty for liking Scarlett as much as she did. 

It could be argued that she had, sometimes cautiously and other times recklessly, pulled from the good and the bad of these two fictional characters and implemented their tactics her own life.  Subconsciously – most of the time.

She desperately wished now that there were more of Atticus Finch in her than Scarlett.  But Harper Lee’s hero was an embodiment of virtue that even Gone with the Wind could not handle. And, besides, it would be several years until To Kill A Mockingbird would make it to her bedside table.  When it did, however, it would never really leave again.  She would re-read it periodically for the rest of her life.

This weekend, however – and more than a few years past 1985 – that same girl looked out the picture window in her living room at the dogwoods she could see with her own eyes.

And for the very first time it dawned on her.  She had done it unconsciously, but she had done it . 

Reluctantly, the knowledge of the dark side of her beloved South raised itself in her mind.  She acknowledged the unflattering and embarrassing truth about that South of 150 years ago.  It was not something you could ignore. 

But in true Scarlett fashion, she would not think about that right now; she would think about that another day. 

Right now the azaleas and dogwoods outside her window were too beautiful to ignore. 

Margaret Mitchell had been right about the beauty of the north Georgia woods.

She knew it for a fact.  Because she now lived in them herself.