Lessons

Keep calm? Seriously?

Have you seen what I have to deal with?

KeepCalm

And "keeping it crazy" is the exact route I took when my daughter Lauryn came to me to discuss her fears regarding a recent situation at school.

Let me give you a little background history...

Lauryn is sweet, friendly and creative. She a beautiful girl who likes to dance, sing, draw, paint and write stories. She's tutus and glitter...she's never been a tough girl. She took longer to learn to ride a bike than most kids because she was afraid to fall. She's not into a lot of running...never played many sports. She's a sweet softy. Always meek and peaceable. Even shy in some respects.

Because of this, she seems to be a magnet for aggressive, bullish behavior.

I've been interceding on Lauryn's behalf since kindergarten. Every year, there has been some ill-mannered child or adult who has set their belligerent sights on my daughter (Yes, she has even been the target of hostile attacks from adults--a PE teacher even pushed her once! You should have heard what I had to say to him!).

Now, let me clue you in on a few things about me...

I'm not one of those parents who thinks her child can do no wrong. I'm probably the hardest on them. In fact, I know I'm the hardest on them. That said, I'm also fiercely protective and I will advocate for my children if they are being wronged. For that matter, I will stand up for anyone who is being abused or treated unfairly.

For years, I have been trying to coach Lauryn on being tougher, stronger, more confident.....Being brave...Believing in herself!

After school on Tuesday, Lauryn told me that seating changes had been made, resulting in her being placed at a table with 3 boys, one of whom is allegedly racist. So I began asking questions.

Racist? How do you know? What does he say? Has anyone informed the teacher? What has he said to you? What about the other little boys? What are they doing to you? 

She couldn't answer any of those questions with any facts. She has heard the little boy make unkind remarks about other races; however, he has never said anything to or about her. And as far as the other little boys, well, she just didn't want to sit at a table with all boys.

So I got a little NOT calm.

And I began saying things like, Why are you getting all worked up to the point of tears over something that has not happened? Why are you allowing someone's unkind remarks towards a separate group of people intimidate you? Why are you the one feeling uncomfortable? If this boy has a thing against minorities, then sit right at that table a let him be the one who feels uncomfortable! I need you to be strong! I need you to be confident! No, don't do it for me, do it for yourself! Believe in yourself! You are a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful girl! Find strength in that! Walk into yourself, Lauryn! I need to know that you are going to be able to take care of yourself in this world! I don't care how nervous you are on the inside, you be strong on the outside! You have to practice being confident! You have to pretend you believe in yourself until you really do!

And, I kind of went on and on and on...And yes, I was talking in this excited, flared up, overly passionate tone.

I couldn't help it...I just couldn't remain calm. I just wanted to shake some sense into her. No, not sense...Courage! BELIEF!

I mean, doesn't she understand that she is MY daughter and that she better not EVER let anyone cause her to feel inferior or minimized? Doesn't she know how fabulous she is? Doesn't she see it? Doesn't she know?

I tucked her bed...told her how much I loved her...and explained that I wasn't yelling at her, I was just a little hyped up only because my love for her makes me CrAzY.

I asked my husband later if I had gotten too worked up. Surprisingly, he said no. He's usually the one telling me how nutty I get over things. But still, I felt I handled it incorrectly. Lauryn isn't me. She's not even the me I was when I was almost 12. At age 11 and 12, I had already gone through things in life that toughened me. I had already learned to be a fighter.

So, I decided on a tender approach.

And this is what I did...

I got her this inspirational journal with a matching pen.
I got her this inspirational journal with a matching pen.
I wrote her a sweet note, from the heart.
I wrote her a sweet note, from the heart.
I wrapped it in ribbon and placed it on her pillow.
I wrapped it in ribbon and placed it on her pillow.

I often wonder why I--the Inspiration Specialist, the one who leaps at every opportunity to encourage a woman or young girl, the one who always seems to know exactly what to say and how to say it--why do I always seem to fall a little short when it comes to inspiring her?

She loved the journal...she loved my words...and she loves the idea of writing from the heart until she believes in the strength that lies within.

And of course, sometimes I sing her this song...minus the Lena Horne facial expressions! Haha!

How do you remain calm when it comes to allowing your kids the space to practice and apply these teachings on their own? Share in the comments below! Others will benefit...I know I'm not the only crazy one!

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I love glitter.

Anyone who knows me can tell you.

I'm drawn to it. I craft with it. I design with it. I love it in nail polish and lip gloss. I've brought my love for it into the cyber world by virtually "Glitter-Bombing" my social media friends whenever they are deserving of celebration. I'm even on a hunt for it's edible version so I can have it with my coffee...talk about a cup of inspiration!

More importantly, I've passed my love of glitter and all things sparkly onto my daughters:

~Lauryn started working on a blog called Sunshine, Glitter and Dreams. There, she's the Glitter Girl, champion for powerful, sparkly girls everywhere!

~Chloe...Well, let's just say she would bathe in glitter if you let her! And with her sweet, loving disposition and her affinity to skip everywhere, it's fair to say that she has mastered the art of sprinkling shimmery happiness wherever she goes.

~Kourtney...Even my tough girl adores the twinkling dust! Thanks to her, glitter is now a verb in our household. "Mom, can we glitter?" "Is it time to glitter, yet?"

Glitter, like innocence in the palm of your hand.
Glitter, like innocence in the palm of your hand.

As fantastic as glitter is, I've often wondered why an almost 42-year-old woman still gets so starry-eyed at the sight of tubes of twinkly, colorful fun.

Maybe it reminds me of the innocence of childhood dreams--the innocence that was taken from me far too soon.

You see, I don't remember bright pink, shimmery, sparkly, glitter-filled afternoons. I don't remember wildly swirling glue across paper, dumping a colorful mix of magic on top and dropping my jaw in amazement at the masterpiece I had created. I don't remember the feeling of being a 5-year-old girl bursting with excitement and wonder.

I remember fear and terror...loneliness and abandonment...confusion and pain.

My twin girls are almost the same age I was when I was molested. A 5-year-old girl being molested...There is no glittery magic in that.

But the cruel attempt to break me was unsuccessful. Through God's grace, innocence lost was replaced with an undying strength. I think my strength was God's promise to me...His promise to ensure the innocence and protection of my girls. And I would suffer a million times over if it would guarantee them a lifetime of safety, happiness and joy.

Wickedness tried to steal my sparkle. But here's the thing about glitter...No matter how hard you try to clean it up, no matter how much you sweep, rub or try to wipe it away, it's NEVER all gone. Some always remains.

No one can EVER completely steal your sparkle...

Glitter-filled Dreams

 

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"Hey Sis! What'chu doin' on Saturday..like 'butt-crack' early?"

This is what my girl, Kat, said when she called me that Thursday afternoon.

I answered. "Uh, nothing, why? What's up?"

Excitedly, she squealed, "I was just blessed with two bibs for the Cooper River Bridge Run! You wanna go?!"

Never mind the fact that I had just hours earlier asked her about going to Bokwa class with me on the same Saturday at 9 am, to which she replied, "No, it's the only time to 'sleep in,' or at least try!" Apparently, butt-crack early is an acceptable time on a Saturday morning for a wife and mom of two...but anyway.

Conveniently forgetting that she had just turned me down for Bokwa, I yelled, "Yes!"

Obviously, butt-crack early is also acceptable for me...a wife and mom of 8! Who knew?!

So I made sure my kids would be covered and excitedly prepared for a 6 mile long walk WITHOUT children in tow! YES! A dream come true! Which, now that I think about it, is probably why butt-crack early didn't seem so offensive. It was a chance to have some time to myself and with a great girlfriend.

That Saturday came, and we did it...we both participated in our very first 10K Bridge Run!

It was wonderful.

Power-walking on a beautiful day while having great conversation with a special friend...it was all I needed on an early Saturday morning.

And yet, I received so much more.

Inspiration surrounded me.

The fresh, spring air; the crisp, blue skies; the fluffy, white clouds; the gentle, cooling breeze; the feeling of being grounded, connected.

All of this surrounded me.

And as I neared the top of the bridge, this is what lay before me.

The Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven

And then there were the messages...

Hebrews 12:1-2      All Things You Can      2 Timothy 4:7

Our conversation was great, but at some point it turned from more laughable, lighthearted topics to those a bit more serious and closer to home. We talked about family...its challenges...the obligations of supporting a loved one as they transition from one stage of life to the next.

I brought up my daughter and how she is currently transitioning from being a little girl to a young lady. This stage comes with emotions I've never felt before. I find myself feeling angry with her...angry with her for allowing the little girl I once knew fade away.

Silly. I know.

And she needs me right now. She needs me to persevere, to be strong, to do all I can, to fight the good fight, to have faith and to help her finish strong. She needs me to be her stairway...not to heaven...but definitely to the highest heights. She needs to be able to trust me to recognize her promise, lift her towards the sky and deliver her unto her greatness.

And then I saw this...

The journey is long...I'll walk you through it.

And then she did this...

When life gets tough and tires you out...I'll carry you.
And when you get tired, I'll carry you.

My heart rejoiced and broke all at the same time. All the signs were there that day...and they all pointed to my daughter.

My daughter is at that age. She's trapped in this state of in-between...no longer a baby, not yet a lady. One moment, she's that sweet little girl...the next, a moody stranger with a rebellious attitude.

It's hard to deal with. So much fussing, behavior correcting and reprimanding goes on. And it makes me question if I'm doing the supportive part of my job. Am I there for her at the time when she needs me most? Am I holding her hand enough? Carrying her through?

You see, I know I am like the mother above--strong yet tender, guiding yet allowing. What I don't know is if I have been those things enough with her recently.

A large part of me just cant bear to let go of the little girl she once was. But I know the journey is inevitable. And I can either choose to join her or let her go it alone.

In my mind, her going it alone is far worse.

Sometimes our journey is not really about us.

Inspiration and thoughts of my daughter on the bridge run...

I miss this little piggy...
I miss this little piggy...

 

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With life in a big family, it seems we're always balancing the budget, comparatively shopping, weighing the costs.

How much is that gallon of orange juice? How much was that? We can get it cheaper at Walmart. If you buy a dozen, it's less than if you buy two of the 6-packs. How much gas did you put in your tank? How much time does it take? How much longer will you be? How much money is left in the account?

We're constantly trying to get more for less...always trying to squeeze in extra...always on this never-ending quest to save time and money. Heck, even I cashed in on the "BOGO" special with two of my pregnancies. Twins...twice! Talk about a time saver!

But are we really weighing ALL of the costs? Is life really cheaper when we squeeze all we can out of it without putting anything extra into it? Does life really come in bulk?

Recently, our world has turned into a real-life depiction of Cheaper By The DozenYou remember that movie. You know, the 2003 remake starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling?

A little eye candy for the mamas! All right, that's enough!
A little eye candy for the mamas! All right, that's enough!

Ahem! Hello? Um...Hellooo??? I lost you at Tom Welling, didn't I? Dang, girl! FOCUS!

Anyway, in that movie, husband and wife duo, Tom Baker (Martin) and Kate Baker (Hunt), parents of 12 children, are both offered wonderful opportunities that could potentially take their careers to all-time highs. After a move to the big city, Kate and Tom forge full-steam ahead with their career goals only to discover they are on two separate paths. Drastic changes and a bulk-sized order of life prove to be too much for the family. Tom and Kate's inability to accurately weigh the costs shows what happens when we try to buy more out of life than we can afford.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how life in my crazy household resembles that of The Baker's. Let me break it down for you:

  • We don't have 12 kids, but 8 is damn sure close enough...believe that!
  • Aastan is not a big time college football coach, but he is the Systems Architect for his company's IT team, which essentially means he plays a large role in "designing the plays" that will be carried out by his teammates.
  • I, like Kate, am a writer and the manager of this family's chaos.
  • Like The Bakers, we JUST moved.
  • Much like Tom and Kate, Aastan and I, both, have been making positive strides career-wise that unfortunately require extra time, effort and commitment on our parts.
  • Oh yeah, and our frog escaped, too! I'll tell you all about that in a minute!

With new and exciting things happening on the job front, Aastan has been away a lot. This has been challenging on the entire family. He's tired...the kids don't see him as much...I don't see or talk to him as much...we're a little grumpy...a little stressed...the whole nine!

But let's keep it real, for a moment. It's challenging on everyone, but it really presents me (the wife, the mom, the ringmaster of this circus) with a heavier load. And this heavier load comes at a time when several awesome career opportunities have presented themselves for me, as well.

I'm on the cast of Listen To Your Mother: Charleston; I'm about to submit my children's book manuscript to an agent; I just signed a contract to be a contributing writer on a major women's website; I've been asked to be a speaker at two events coming up in the fall; and I'm hammering out a few ideas designed specifically with women and young girls in mind!

But...timing is everything.

All of these wonderful things are happening for my husband and me...I am happy for him and proud of his achievements, AND I'm happy for and proud of myself, too. But of course, we have to think of our kids...they need us...BOTH of us!

I don't know that we've truly weighed the costs. Our family has been set on fast-forward recently, and it's become a wild ride. Awesome things are happening, but at what price? Our family's happiness, our family's laughter, our family's love?

Life in a family of ten is hard enough. Add in everyone's stuff and there are days when it's beyond difficult.

All of this has me wondering...Is life really cheaper by the dozen? Does a big box of happy and fulfilled life even come in bulk-sizing? And if it does, can we even afford it right now?

How do you deal with this type of balance? How do you weigh the costs of all of life's options? Please share in the comments below! These are discussions that all families--large and SMALL--can benefit from having.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! The Great Frog Escape! Our albino African-clawed frog got out of his tank...TWICE! We had to hunt him down! His name has been legally changed to Froggie Went A Courtin'. The scene looked something like the following...pretty much!

The six boxes of books that I initially packed quickly multiplied. And after several trips with my van, my husband's car, my man-child's truck, my father's truck and a giant U-Haul, we've finally completed the move.

This was when it got real.
This was when it got real.

We even closed on the house. With a few scrawls of a black pen at a rounded table filled with strangers I've never met, the home, that for 12 years had become a major part of us, was no longer ours. We are now officially renters, living in a state of "in-between" until we decide what's next.

Saying goodbye wasn't easy. It still isn't.

On my final walk-through, seeing our home completely vacant was strange. It was void. Only empty spaces remained. Blank rooms were waiting to be refurnished and refilled. Walls were waiting to be repainted. Like the wall in the kitchen with the pencil etchings that marked the growth of my boys. Or the walls with the holes in the sheet rock from the kids endlessly picking at them to pass the time while in Time-Out (Have I ever mentioned that Time-Out does NOT work? But the Get-Along Shirt does!).

Empty spaces need to be filled.

The boys' room, empty and clean
The boys' room, empty and clean
The family room, minus the family
The family room, minus the family
The girls' room--No baby dolls here.
The girls' room--No baby dolls here.

On Mother's Day 2012, Aastan and the kids bought me a Magnolia tree. And exactly one week later, Aastan and I planted that tree along with my Parrain's ashes (Parrain is french for godfather. He was also my uncle.) That tree carries such meaning for me.

We dug it up, placed it in a large patio pot and took it with us...it in its temporary home and us in ours.

Aastan digging up my "Pa Tree."
Aastan digging up my "Pa Tree."
My "Pa Tree" uprooted
My "Pa Tree" uprooted

And we left behind an empty space.

Empty spaces must be filled
The space that once held a very special tree.

But empty spaces need to be filled...

So we planted a new baby Magnolia for the new homeowners to enjoy.

Aastan filling the empty space with a baby Magnolia.
Aastan filling the empty space with a baby Magnolia.

On the way to my van, I noticed another tree...Aastan's gorgeous tree we planted when we moved in all those years ago. It's full grown. We can't take it with us.

But we did enjoy a peek at it's first signs of life.

Buds for the future...a promise that Beautiful things are on the way.
Buds for the future...a promise for Beautiful things to come.

Springtime and New Beginnings are on the way!

What uncertain life changes have you gone through? How did you adjust to your new beginnings? How did you refill your empty spaces? I'd love to hear your story! Please share in the comments below.

And if you love all the crazy here on this blog, please Grab a Crayon & Sign Up!

 

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Books. Six boxes of books. Those were the first things I packed. And as I placed each handful into the empty cardboard containers that would become the temporary residence for our entire lives, I thought, "How blessed my children, my husband and I are to have so many books."

Freedom through books!
Freedom through books!
Books are such a beautiful privilege.
Books are such a beautiful privilege.

This whole selling, house-hunting and moving process has been a challenge. There were moments when we had no clue where we would go or where we would end up. There were odd questions and comments from the kids like, "If we can't find a house we're gonna have to live in a bush." To which another child responded, "And we'll need a peeing bush, too." Poor Chloe even broke down in tears one evening when we came home from Walmart WITHOUT having purchased a house, because apparently Walmart sells homes these days and I just didn't get the memo.

But then, we found a place. A big place. More bedrooms. More bathrooms. A spacious kitchen. A place with lots of storage, which in a child's mind means the ultimate locale for a great game of Hide-N-Seek.

I've had little excited people, eagerly packing their things and finding their place in this whole transition process.

Kourtney packs her things.
Kourtney packs her things.

We've slowly, but surely, begun to unpack things, awkwardly fumbling around unfamiliar surroundings deciding how to best utilize this blank slate.

I've started setting many things in place in the new kitchen and foyer.

Kitchen

 

Foyer

The refrigerator is even beginning to take shape.

Refigerator

I've even had time for my first bathroom selfie and a great cup of coffee!

Selfie!
Selfie!
The elixir of life!
Coffee!

But no matter how many things I set in their assigned places; no matter how many cups of coffee I drink or selfies I take, the fact remains that we have to let go of what has always been ours and find home in a rental...a house that belongs to someone else. We have to let go of a place that holds such heartfelt treasures and find some semblance of home in the interim...a temporary home.

I know we'll be alright. I know there are beautiful experiences and adventures ahead. I know it's okay to let go.

But it's tough. And it hurts a little.

So here we are finding home in a place we don't belong, windows and rooms that we're passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where we're going. I'm not afraid because I know this is our temporary home.

 

Today was the first day back in the saddle after the Christmas and New Year break.

Driving the kids into school this morning, I saw old faces in the neighborhood re-emerge. They were refreshed and recommitted. These faces were those of the walkers, runners and bike-riders I had seen on many occasions in the past, but over the course of the last few months, their presences slowly faded and, eventually, vanished. I assume they're back at it in order to honor their personal resolutions.

I don't make resolutions. In fact, I don't like them, at all. When this blog was a column in a local parenting magazine, I addressed my feelings on resolutions:

I am not a fan of resolutions. And, after becoming a mother to three daughters, I dislike them even more. In my opinion, resolutions are usually unreasonable, rigid declarations with no built-in wiggle room. They add unnecessary stress and cause women to experience feelings of self-doubt and defeat--not exactly the image you want to convey to young and impressionable daughters.

Gadson, Donloyn T. "Banish Resolutions: Share Traditions with Your Daughter." Lowcountry Parent Magazine. January 2013: 40. Print

Am I saying that personal development, change and commitment are a waste of time because you're just going to fail? Absolutely not!

I suggest that you set intentions instead. Intentions are just a list of non-threatening, purpose-driven goals that you'd like to accomplish in the year ahead. Then approach them with a light, positive attitude...in other words, lighten up! Stay focused and hold yourself accountable, but don't beat yourself up if you slip. Just pick yourself up and begin again.

For 2014, I had every intention of looking Time in the face and saying, "Hey! Can't we just get along?" I had every intention of throwing out my broken clock that was always stuck on "a half past late" and finally upgrading to one that says, "Go girl, wit cha bad self! You are SO on time!"

Notice I said, "Intention."

Yeah, you guessed it! In true crazy fashion, I hit ALL THREE of my alarms, and went back to sleep! THREE alarms, people! THREE!!! I have 2 alarms set on my phone and an alarm clock on my bedside table, and they all received a little smack from me this morning.

So, I peeled myself out of bed, much later than I had intended. And I rushed! Like I have many times before.

But, when we left the house and started down the road, an unexpected feeling of peace came over me. Although we were leaving later than I had hoped, it felt good. The familiar feeling of being back in our routine was good. Lateness and all.

And suddenly, I was okay with having had a rocky start in my new relationship with Time.

And as I continued down the road, seeing all the neighbors committing to a new start, seeing all the remnants of Christmas decor still lingering from the year that has passed, I felt the in-between. In the midst of all my crazy, seeing things both old and new, I felt the beauty of the in-between

TheBeautyofTheInBetween

Life is really just a series of interrupted transitions...The In-Between. The place where old and new coexist.

I think that's the place where all the lessons reside. And when we take the time to notice, appreciate and really feel the presence of the in-between, it makes where we're headed (our intentions) so much clearer.

So, we were a little late today. Tomorrow, I'll do better. I'm sure of that. I know this because I've gained a new perspective.

A new perspective on Intentions, Transitions and The Beauty of The In Between.

How has 2014 reshaped your perspective? Tell me in the comments below.