When Adulthood Comes Early

Whenever Ahab visits, he likes to remind us that “I never sleep more soundly than when someone else is paying the bills.”

Amen.

And surely, nothing inspires maturity like your own bills to pay. Or diapers to change.

I’m sure we could all swap stories about some momentous occasion when we finally got it – that moment when we knew there was no going back from adulthood.

I wonder how many of us would mention owning our first car, paying our very own rent for the first time, or being the only one to decide whether to head to the doctor for that rash, or not?

But, some brave souls walking among us, were inducted into the halls of adulthood far too early.

The threshold of adulthood is no respecter of age. And, age, sometimes, has nothing to do with maturity; especially when you are forced to see life through the lens of adulthood earlier than you should.

Taking care of your younger siblings, because your parent is passed out drunk on the couch?  Adulthood.

Getting a job to help your single parent make ends meet each month? Adulthood.

Pleading with a guardian to take their medications because without it, their minds go dark? Adulthood.

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Childhood is precious to me.  Mostly, because it was a time I cherished, growing up.

Grace now sifts the reasoning behind the decisions made by the adults during my childhood. Some decisions were born of necessity. But almost always, my best interest was taken into account.

Having heard plenty of stories where this was not the case, I understand that this is not a truth that everyone can claim.

For those of you that can’t claim a carefree childhood, my heart… it hurts for yours.

And, I long for you to know that the God who loved you then, and saw, loves you especially now.

Why especially?

Because, if you’re here, reading this, then I think you still want to believe in good.

To believe in a God who cares.

For whatever reason this God I speak of gave me a heart that hurts for you, He did. And it does.

So, to those of you for whom adulthood came all too soon, I hope you’ll continue to want Good to win out.  I hope you keep fighting The Fight.

Because, you are not alone. Not in this world and not after it.

You matter.

Yeah, What She Said

“You couldn’t pay me money to get within 10 feet of one of those places!” This, from one of my dearest partners in crime, as I begged asked her to accompany me to the local Indoor Play Place on a recent rainy summer afternoon. Even a promised future pedicure couldn’t get her to budge on her decision to stay home. She said she’d rather be trapped in the house with her crazed preschoolers.

No one, not a single friend, could be convinced to go.  It was like I was asking them to skydive over Ukraine. But, I’m always up for an adventure; so, off I went, all by myself, with Sweetgirl and her friend.

Ten minutes after our entrance to The Place, I realized the gravity of my mistake.

Just thirty minutes later, sweetgirl and her friend grew bored with their dozens of new friends and wanted me to navigate my way up a maze of ropes and bouncy nets to the dark black twisty slide. I may or may not have yelled, “You’ll never take me alive!”

After breaking up about 32 different “She doesn’t want to play with me” skirmishes and drinking the stiffest cup of coffee I could find on the premises, I checked my watch.  Surely, SURELY, it had to be close to time to wrap this up?!

Not even close.

We hadn’t even been there for a full hour yet.

I died.

Not too long after that, I’m pretty sure that I hallucinated my pillow dancing toward me and calling out for me. I spent the rest of the time trying to sit very still despite a serious eye twitch and feet itching to be out of socks and back into flip-flops.

Two agonizing hours later, I was experiencing that moment when you roll up to The Ice Cream Place to deliver on a promise made in the heat of the moment to two six-year-old girls who needed to be bribed to leave the 7th ring of hell indoor play place.

Thankfully, God saw fit to inspire the invention of the Ice Cream Drive Thru.

He is a good God that way.

“What flavor of ice cream would you like, sweetie,” I asked Sweetgirl’s friend as we pulled up to place our order.

“I’d like a Big One, please.”

“Oh, okay then. And, what flavor would you like your Big One to be,” I tried again.

“The Big One. You know, that looks like this,” she tried to show me with her hands.

She was trying to be helpful.

Only, not.

Not one bit helpful.

Sweetgirl, who always orders “Banilla” piped up at this point.  I was so ever-lovin-grateful, and was hoping she’d shed some light on what this other child meant.

“Mama, she wants the Big White One! Like the kinds I like. You know, mama,” she informed me, like I’d forgotten my ABC’s or something.

And I’ll bet you a dollar that you will not believe what came out of that sweet friend’s mouth next.

“Yeah, what she said.”

Oh. My. Stars.

Soothed by ice cream, I pulled up into the little friend’s driveway to deliver her to her parent. She had a ring of ice cream around her mouth and was fairly bouncing out of the car.

“Wow! You’re a brave one. You must be exhausted,” the kind mother attempted to encourage.

Yeah, what she said.

Watching Them Play

Four backs all turned to me, are sitting happily on the blacktop of the driveway. They are noticeably minus one.  That one is facing me. Facing the others, too.  It struck me afresh that “one of these kids is not like the other.”

Three siblings sit next to each other, enjoying the cool of the shade. My own two children are in the mix, too, but I can’t help but notice how different Sweetboy can look from other kids, just by his choice of seating position.

It’s in these moments that I feel lonely.

Watching him play.

Realizing that he always manages to find a way to separate himself from the crowd. Albeit unintentionally.

Even a crowd of well-loved friends.

I listen to chatter about water balloons, all spent and shriveled up in their burst state – a million little shards of latex balloon peppering the driveway.  Much like the shards of my heart in this moment.

Their conversation is like popcorn kernels exploding in the air.

“I so won that round!”

“My baby water balloon never popped. Look, I’ve still got it!”

“Maybe we can fill up more after we take a snack break?”

“That was fun!”

And then, his own comment. Different.

“Do you want to swing now?”

I forget sometimes. I forget that this child, this Sweetboy, he marches to the beat of his own drum. It is not the music that other kids his age often hear.

This melody is an awesome and awful tribute to how differently my child’s mind processes activities that he participates in. Conversations that he carries on with friends often reveal more about what he’s not into than what he is. It’s a stark reminder that the music he hears has strains running through it that others cannot.

I hear it, though.

In these moments, I do.

And I see it.

And I still, nine years after that first Autism diagnosis, I still rail against what I see. And, what I hear.

Until…

My heart reminds me that he does, indeed, have friends to have conversations with.  There are activities he participates in.

Until I listen a little longer to hear, “No, we still want to play with water balloons, Sweetboy.”

Until I get to hear him answer back, “Okay. They are fun!”

And I feel okay again.

Watching them play, watching him play, the music carries on. I feel sure that he’s going to be okay.

Yes indeedy.

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When to Act on What You Hear

Elvis had it right.

Or, he was definitely on the right track, when he admonished us to provide a “little less conversation, a little more action.”

Now, I know Elvis had his own ideas about what that meant, but I’ve always been a fan of the old adage that “actions speak louder than words.”

Growing up, I had a father that modeled getting out there and making his dreams a reality.  That’s part of my DNA, much like the ocean is.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I’ve always been inspired by this verse in the Bible:

Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. ”   James 1:22 (NCV)

Another version of this verse urges the reader to “Act on what your hear!” (The Message)

I love that!

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One word that friends often use to describe me, is “doer”. And, usually, it is an accurate depiction. Somehow, someway, I will get in there and just get. it. done.

Not lately.

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in my talking.

There’s too much of it!

I feel like I’m fast becoming a “hearer” only, and I don’t like it one bit! The label, alone, smacks of inaction. A quality that everything in me dislikes.

Busyness could be blamed.  So, too, could the season of life that I find myself in.

Whatever the reason for my recent lack of action, it grates at my heart.

That heart-irritation has led me down a dark path. I’ve traveled down this path once or twenty times, before. Questions about my abilities pepper my every thought like new leaves in June. “Can you really?”  “Will you ever?”  “What makes you think…”

I detest those questions.

And the Asker.

So, I’ve been spending some extra time in the presence of The One who knows the Truth of me.

The Answerer.

And He’s been telling me something that I’ve never been able to  hear before.

“Let MY actions speak through your words.”

And God’s actions will speak louder than any words I could think about uttering.

With that, He speaks Light into the darkness of my path.  He guides me in Truth and hurries me past those questions.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am.

I’m reminded, once again, that anything “I’ve” ever done is because He has provided what I needed to get it done! Anything that God has allowed me the honor of doing, for His glory, has come about because I’ve been able to hear Him.

Stepping lightly down the last of that dark path, I’ve finally burst into The Light.

It’s there that I’m able to see that my inaction wasn’t due to the foolishness of hearing only.

No.

I’ve been listening pretty intently, of late.

My inaction is more because God hasn’t finished talking to me about where He wants me to step next.

One small Word at a time, I will act on what I hear.

And, I’ll become a hearer and a doer.

Yes indeedy.

Shark Encounters of the Too Close Kind

I’ve been away.

Playing.

We stayed plenty busy down in Florida, with Ahab and The Nana for the last few weeks.

We did a lot of this:

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A little of that (I think it’s important for you to know that I only mostly win.):

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Some of this:

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And even a visit to my favorite South Florida barbeque joint. (The Georgia Pig, for those taking notes.)

But, the most exciting things to happen, by far, were my Close Encounters.

First, we had a lizard that decided that the car was a much more exciting place to hang out than the yard.  For 3 days! I mean, I thought, fer sure, this little bugger would “expire” in the heat of the car while we were at the beach, that first day.

I forgot one little fact. Floridian lizards live in the heat all the live long day.  The car was probably a respite.  The more I think about it, the car was probably like a spa visit.  Some air conditioning,  a few generously sprinkled cracker crumbs… he had himself a veritable spa weekend getaway!

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He really lived it up in there.  Until, I finally had enough of our “Where Will Larry the Lounge Lizard Be Today” game, every time we got into the car.  So, The Nana graciously, and bravely, got him to Sit! Stay! Jump on a pole!  And promptly took him out of the car.

HOORAY FOR THE NANA!

Said with no relief what-so-ever.

However, it was the close encounter that took place in the ocean, that caused the most excitement.

And, by “excitement”, I mean, cause for adding to the salt content of the ocean.

Ahab taught me two important things about snorkeling, growing up. One, stay aware of your surroundings. Two, objects in mask are smaller than they appear.

Easy peazy.

Sweetboy, my nephew, Ahab, and I were snorkeling around a reef area close to the beach one day. I swam in to drop Sweetboy off, up at the beach. He was tired, and I was using my old fins, one of which had a split on the top.  It made for lots of stopping to empty the sand out.

As I neared the shallow area where I could stand and shake out my fin, I noticed another type of finned thing off to my left.  A long sharky looking finned thing.

“Calm down, woman.  It’s not as big as you think.  Just carry on.”

So, I took off my fin, as planned. I was just about to put it back on when I noticed that my finned friend had come much much closer, and was most definitely longer than I was.

I’m not short.

I haven’t moved that fast since high school! I scrambled my way, fin in hand, up to the beach and out of that water so fast, I darn near ripped one of my fingernails off!

Ahab and my nephew tried to convince me to get back in and swim out to them.

Uh, no can do!

My family, of course, has ridden this for all it’s worth. From placing things like this in front of me, to ask if I recognized my “friend” from a lineup:

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to telling me that he “just wanted to get to know me better”, the gags have been nonstop.

He might have wanted to get to know me better, but I just wasn’t that into him.

We even sidled up to a car at the movies with this bumper sticker on it’s rear:

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Everyone in the car erupted in laughter.

Except for me.

That was an encounter of the too close kind, thank-you-very-much!

And finally, Sweetman and I were granted the opportunity to skip out one night for dinner.

Alone.

Did we do the Happy Dance all the way out the door? Why, yes. Yes, we did.

When we returned home, Sweetman practically swept me off my feet. But, not for the reason I’d have hoped.

“Is that one of those deadly poisonous snails”, he asked?

I’m just going to admit, right now, that between the darkness of night and my enjoyment of a beautiful bottle of Cab with that Sweetman of mine, I was in no shape to be differentiating between deadly and non-deadly snails.

When we had safely maneuvered into the house, we showed The Nana a picture, (Because, even if you’re near a deadly snail, you still have to stop and snap a pic. Am I right?), and asked if these were the Death Snails.

(By the way, she was totally waiting up for us – even though we are solidly in our 40′s!)

The Nana informed us that these African snails are indeed deadly, but that the bad ones are 4 or more inches across.

These, thank The Good Lord, were not.

We escaped death, once more.

Yes indeedy.

All said, I believe this trip was filled with enough adventure and close encounters to last me a good long while.

Or, at least until next year.

And Then, I Turned My Six Year Old Into a Go-Go’s Fan

I sing my children a lot of songs from the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s. I’m super cool that way.

Anything that can even remotely relate to our life experiences will be butchered sung. “Three Little Birds”,  “I’m Gonna Love You Forever”, “Vacation”, you name it! If it was first broadcast more than two decades ago, I’ve attempted to sing it for the entertainment of my Sweetkids. I’ve even purposefully switched up the words, on some songs, in an effort to help a child reach another developmental milestone.

And I butcher the tar out of every. single. one.

But, they don’t know that.

Or, they didn’t.

Recently, Sweetboy wanted to know if “Oh Mickey” was a real song. As if I could make up awesome lyrics like “You’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey!” all by myself…

So, of course, I had to show them.

On You Tube.

My poor deprived children know of The You Tube, but they haven’t had a lot of experience surfing around on it.

Plus, there’s that whole “what’s appropriate for little eyes” thing.

Suffice it to say, that once I fired up the first video of Toni Basil singing, “Oh Mickey”, and explained what a music video was, they were hooked.

Sweetboy lost interest around “I’m Gonna Love You Forever”, but Sweetgirl? Well, as soon as she caught sight of Belinda Carlisle singing “We got the beat”, she was a goner!

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That child sat through no less than 10 videos of the Go-Go’s singing all 4 of their greatest hits.  She watched various versions of each one, and about flipped out when we got to a later version where most of the band had cut their hair, short.

“WHY Mama?!?!”

Some questions, there are not answers for.

“I like them Go-Go’s”, she informed me. (We watched a few too many Country videos, before that. Apparently.)

I told her that I used to have That Exact Record right there, with the water-skiing cover.

“What’s a record, Mama?”

Some questions, I wish I weren’t old enough to answer.

Off to the side of the video we were watching, there were, of course, all of the other related videos. She recognized “Jane” and “Melinda” (I didn’t have the heart to correct her), and asked if we could watch one of those “new” ones.

But, as soon as she realized that these ladies were not with the band anymore, and I explained what going “solo” meant, another freak-out occurred.

WHY Mama?!?!”

Some questions…

“Let’s go back to the other ones where they sing together,” she asked me.

And just like that, another Go-Go’s fan was born.

With the touch of the “Play” button.

Yes indeedy!

Thank you You Tube.

Summer Lovin’

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Pretty soon…

I have a puppy named Roscoe P. Coltrain to hug.

There’s a nephew with x’s all over his face to mark the spot where my kisses will go.

There’s a Nana to shop with.

And, an Ahab to walk the beach with and talk to.

A brother to hug.

A sister-in-law to love.

Childhood friends to visit.

Sand to wiggle my toes in and sunrises to peek at.

Books are waiting to be devoured.

Oh. The. Books!

A lighthouse to ride over to.

There are snorkels calling our names.

Fins are flipping in anticipation.

Jetties are waiting to be hopped over and fished on.

Manatees are waiting to be spied.

I hear that even the Puffer fish are holding their breath for our arrival.

Summer lovin’ starts super soon around here!

What are your plans for the summer? And more importantly, what are you reading this summer?