Happy Mother’s Day

Struggling to make sense of your relationship with your mother is a tale almost as old as time itself, isn’t it?

I have good news for those of you who are still in the midst of the struggle: there may come a time when you don’t.

I know it’s possible.

My mother and I have a mutual respect and a deeper love for each other, now, than I ever thought possible.

She means more to me than I could ever have imagined she would.  Much more.

That, in and of itself, is a gift of epic proportions.

So, to my mama…

Mama, I know that Ahab often gets the credit for instilling a love of The Ocean in us kids. But, I give a lot of that credit to you, too. It was you who packed us up, religiously, each and every Saturday, to head to the beach for the day. You, along with the three other mothers in our Beach Family, and enough cold tuna noodle casserole, Cheezits, and Crystal Light Iced Tea to feed an entire classroom full of children, would herd us 8 children into vans and onto the hot sand with promises of hours of unfettered free time.

I felt the most free when we were at the beach each Saturday.  You allowed me to run and swim and play and eat Cheezits until you thought I’d turn into one. And, although I now understand (OH, how I understand!) that in doing so, you also were getting some much needed breathing room yourself, I never felt more loved on than when you would allow me to just be me at the beach.  There were no comments of being ladylike, eating less, or being more like so-and-so. No. None of that. You packed us up and took us to the place where we could all get out and blow the stink off.  And you showed your love in that one act.

I am so grateful for your willingness to take us out there for fresh air and sunshine.

Grilled cheese sandwiches, with the cheese blackened on the top, are still a favorite of mine to this day.  Those and the chicken noodle soup that always accompanied it, were the only things I really remember about the times I was sick. And, I remember you lovingly (and maybe with more than a hint of frustration on the tenth and twentieth times) putting the socks back on my hands, to keep me from scratching at the chicken pox that covered my body when I was six.

I am so grateful for your tender loving care.

And I also look back on all of your attempts to take us on mother-daughter trips with a softer perspective. You desperately wanted me to want to go – shopping, out to lunch, to a movie. I can see, now, that you really just wanted us to have opportunities to do things together.

And, I’m so grateful that you tried.

I love you mama.  It took me an awful long time to realize that I am, indeed, blessed to call you “Mom”. And I want you to know how much I look forward to every new memory we carve out together in the future.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Advertisements

When There Are Weeds

Gardening isn’t something that I’ve ever enjoyed.  I blame Sundays.

Growing up, I could count on the following four things happening every. single. Sunday.

First, church.  Next, change into swimsuits as soon as you get home and head outside to begin an hour or two of grueling yard work in the sizzling balmy South Florida sun. Thirdly, end the agony by jumping into the swimming pool; and finally, follow it all up with soup and sandwiches on the patio.

Every Sunday.

Like clockwork.

Only, yard-work.

As you can imagine, I learned a few lessons.

The first one left scars.

If we didn’t get out there and start all the weeding and what-not before the scorching Florida sunshine was fully ablaze, we’d find ourselves turning into crispy critters.  And I did – on far too many occasions. As my handful of burnt off pre-melanomas proclaim. Putting sunscreen on, before heading out, always seemed like such a waste of time.

I’ll tell you what was wasted – my youth!  Ol’ Georgie Bernard Shaw had it right.

I also learned that Sandwiches taste better after hard work. That was an easy one.

But, the lesson that has really grown a life of its own, has to do with weeds.

If you’ve ever pulled weeds, you can probably agree that weeding is not for the weak.  There are some that require more than a short quick yank, to remove. Some weeds require a full-on excavation! They’ve got to be worked over with a spade, cajoled and wiggled,  and maybe even wrung out with an extra pair of hands.

Sometimes, though, when time is tight and hands are scarce, those weeds start growing like crazy cakes. I say things like, “Oh, I’ll get to them next week,” and “Two weeks off isn’t gonna hurt much.” As long as those weeds aren’t eye-level and I can tamp them down with each footfall toward what I’d rather be doing, it’s no problem. Excuses pile up and before I know it, the weeds take over.

There are weeds in my life that have grown far too tall for me not to notice anymore.  And some of them have become downright thorny!

weeds_missindeedy

Self-discipline may indeed be a Spirit that we’re promised to be given, but I was starting to wonder if a little less was sprinkled on me.  Maybe the Self-discipline dispensary was near to empty?  I don’t know.

What I do know, is that sometimes, I really have to dig deep to force myself to do things that I know I should be doing. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that I need to call on that self-discipline that I’ve been promised.

Exercise. Wiggle, cajole.

Ordering the egg-white wrap instead of the donut. Extra pair of lips to talk me down.

Spending daily time, quietly meditating on God’s Word – or even just thinking on all that I have to be thankful for! Get that spade – I need to dig!

Looking back, I think Ahab had it exactly right. Put God first, family time next (even if it was in the form of torture yard work), and play to follow.  I’m even thinking that the eating had its proper place right there at the end, too.

So, if you’ll excuse me, there is some weeding that must be done around here.

But first, please pass the sunscreen?

Always More Grace

Raise your hand if you knew what you wanted to do when you headed into college.

(Admit it.  Some of you started to raise your hand.)

I wasn’t among you lucky ducks that had it all figured out.  In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to figure it out, at all.  I just knew that there were parties to attend “in college” where there was no curfew, and no one would be waiting for you to get home to make sure you hadn’t broken any rules.

I never did, of course.

Except that one time.

And I never looked at wine coolers the same way again.

Ahab had a way of exacting discipline that involved no hands and no harsh words at all.  Just a lesson.

And you learned it!

Oh, yes you did.

In fact, the wine cooler lesson was a doozy.  At a ripe age, below the legal drinking one, I decided to imbibe.  It was a Friday night and I always followed the rules.  But, not this time! Oh no! I was gonna cut loose and live it up.

Except, I forgot that Ahab and I had planned a special father-daugher reef dive for that following Saturday morning.

And, if you’ve ever read any Ahab stories, you already know that means we were to be up and attem’ at an ungodly early hour.

Also, that you stick to a plan, come hell or high water.  And sometimes, it was only the high water that kept us from keeping it.

So, as I unlocked the door an hour later than curfew, clearly smelling of rule-breaking-behavior, he had only one question.

“Is your alarm set?”

I’m fairly certain that his eyes had a twinkle in them as he asked.

“I’m not sure I’ll be up for getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning, Dad,” I warned him.

“Oh, you’ll be up,” he promised.

And that’s how it rolled.

As well as my stomach.

Every foot of boat chop that we pounded across that morning, on the way out to our dive spot, my stomach railed at me for the previous night’s activity. And he knew it.

I survived.

Barely.

But I can assure you – the lesson sank in.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.  I remember hearing that once or a thousand times.

And God parents me much the same way that Ahab did.  He loves me despite.  He disciplines me even when it’s going to hurt him to see me in pain far more than it will hurt me to be disciplined.

And He gives.

Knowing that I can never give back as much. And that sometimes, I won’t even remember to give thanks.

Today, though, I find myself grateful.

Grateful for the grace galore that He heaps on me.

Grateful for another day to get up and breathe deeply and commit my way to Him.

And grateful for the opportunity to love my children the way He loves me.

Knowing, of course, that when I fail – because, I will – there will always be more grace waiting for me.

 Creationswap_Matt_Gruber_Grace_Abounds

Basically, Fish Tacos

One year, while Sweetman and I were visiting Captain Ahab and The Nana down in Florida (before children – Sweetman calls them The Ignorance Is Bliss Years), we went out for dinner.  We all agreed we were in the mood to hit our favorite Mexican joint.

As we went around the table giving our orders to the waiter, there was a surprise order. Nana’s. She ordered “Fish Tacos”.  I choked on my Margarita. Sweetman spewed his beer.  We both looked at each other in horror. Ahab just shook his head sadly.

Now, I grew up in sunny South Florida.  I ate fish here, there, and everywhere.  I did not, however, grow up eating fish in my tacos. This order took me so completely by surprise that I didn’t even know how to process it.

“When did you start eating fish tacos, mom?” And, more importantly, WHY?”

“People change, dear. I really like them. You should try them.”

We agreed to disagree.

By having more margaritas.

Later that night, Sweetman and I awoke to the gentle soothing sounds of The Nana hurling. All Night Long, as Lionel Richie would say.

“It was that Margarita, I tell you!”, she kept insisting.

“Mom, I had the Margarita, too.”, I tried to remind her.

No matter. She wasn’t having it. It just could not be her beloved fish tacos.

That night held many lessons for us all.

The Nana is a horrible liar.

Sweetman and I would never be interested in “trying” fish tacos.

Ever.

Margaritas are evil.

Take your pick.

So I found it surprising to be having this conversation with Sweetman last night:

“Honey, what do you think about trying… now keep an open mind here… black bean and salmon tostadas, one night?”

And just when I I thought the recipe couldn’t get any worse, he started rattling off the list of ingredients, prefacing almost each new one with “Now, we don’t have to add that one.”, or “That one might not be a good addition.”.  He mentioned words like “cabbage” and “pickled jalapenos” and some other things.  I think I tuned out after “salmon tostada”, to be honest.

But this is how it goes around here between he, who cooks, and me, who… well… doesn’t.

If he thinks that being adventurous is adding cabbage to a perfectly good tostada, who am I to judge?

Engineers do those sorts of things.

“So, basically, you’re asking me to eat fish tacos?”, I challenged.

“Yeah.”, he admitted.

“Only if you serve it with Margaritas.”, I demanded. “Then, I’ll have a culprit.”

“Deal.”

I guess people do change.

And, once again, my mother is right.

Yes indeedy.

*And, though my stomach turns even as I write this, if this is your cup of tea, Sweetman found the recipe for these “Black Bean Salmon Tostadas” here. You’re welcome.  Or… I’m sorry.*

How To Be a Stellar Procrastinator

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around our house. We’ve had strep throat rip through the house twice.  Good times. And just prior to that, we sent The Nana and Ahab home with colds and ear infections.

We like to send people off with parting gifts.

On another note, being stuck in bed allowed me to get the majority of my Christmas shopping done early.  I felt pretty great about that until I dropped the kidlets off this morning and came home to a room full of boxes that now needed to be opened, the contents wrapped, and All Of The Boxes broken down and taken to the recycling center.  That just makes me six kinds of tired typing about it.  I think I’ll tackle that one tomorrow.

Or not.

I still have seven more days until they absolutely HAVE to be wrapped.  I am nothing if not a Stellar Procrastinator.  Oh, yes I am!

In the midst of all this mess, I borrowed Sparkles’ vacuum cleaner… and broke it.  You wouldn’t believe how if I told you (but it involves finally having a vacuum cleaner with enough power to say… clean the house, and being so ecstatic about it that I went into a very uncareful cleaning frenzy. Or something along those lines.)

The vacuum cleaner was so awesome, in fact, (and cheap enough that Sweetman agreed to it), that when I bought Sparkles a replacement, I bought one for myself, too.

I’ve been a vacuuming fool ever since.

Seriously.

A fool.

Because there are approximately 10 family members’ worth of gifts to be unboxed and wrapped.

But I don’t think I really need to vacuum in there today.

That Turkey Would Have Kissed Me

Thanksgiving_Creationswap

As we gear up to celebrate Thanksgiving and show our deep gratitude for all that God gives to us, does with us, and holds back from us, I wanted to share a different kind of story with you. I’m in the mood to reminisce, as I’ve got The Nana and Ahab under my roof for the first time in close to ten years, this Thanksgiving.

The Captain loves to tell this story. And, although he felt no small amount of frustration when it happened thirty years ago, he can look back and laugh about it now. Time is gracious that way.

This old dog used to hunt.  Yes indeedy. She surely did.

To be fair, I should say that I did the best I could with what I had at the time; which was a skill-set that, as it turns out, doesn’t work well with the skill-set required for successful turkey hunting. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Once upon a time, The Captain decided to take me Turkey hunting with him and my brother.  As a tween with a bit of a tomboy streak, I was thrilled to score an invite to the annual Turkey Hunt and to hang out with my father in his favorite environment (the great outdoors). I was also going to get the chance to show off my newly acquired skills with the twenty-gauge shotgun.

Now, these skills were hard-won with a couple of bruises to my shoulder (kick-back hurts!) and plenty of ribbing from my brother on my inability to come within a good foot of the actual targets during practices.  Persistence paid off, though, as I finally proved my ability. This also earned me the coveted invitation.

Under normal circumstances, I’m sure the men in my family would have had no problem tuning me out.  The thing is, we were in the middle of the Everglades on a hunting camp attempting to lure turkeys with no other noise than the sounds of our turkey calls.

If you know me at all, you can already see where this is headed…

We were in full camouflage and completely concealed by the Palmetto and myrtle bushes that we had cut to blend in with our surroundings.

And we were quiet.

The mission we were on required silence.

Silence is hard for me now, as an adult.  You can imagine how hard it was for me as a tween!

And so, as the turkey calls ended and the wait began, it quickly turned into a much-too-long and much-too-quiet wait for me.

I got chatty.

And when a hoped for turkey finally did approach, I couldn’t contain my excitement – so I whisper-shouted it’s arrival.

I do believe that turkey looked at me that day and saw an angel. We could almost hear him say, “Praise the Lord! He sent me a human! That talks!” And Ahab swears that if that turkey had been able to, he’d have blown me a kiss as he hightailed it out of there.

You see, that turkey knew that he had received a stay of execution, because of me.

I can make all sorts of parallels to my life in Christ, here.  I could tell you how God adores time with me, how He loves to see me put the gifts He’s given me to good use, or about the time that He commuted my own life sentence with one final cry of “It is finished!”. 

But, what I want you to know, is that I am thankful for the time He’s given me with my family here on earth, too.  I am grateful, this Thanksgiving Day, for the days He’s numbered for me and for the opportunities He’s given me to love on them and be loved on by them.

And, as for turkey hunting? You’ve probably already guessed that my mouth and I were never invited on another turkey hunt again. 

The Captain also likes to add that since The President releases a Turkey each Thanksgiving, he did too.

Just… not intentionally.

Happy Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  I’m praying that you are surrounded by friends and/or family that you hold dear.  (And by lots and lots of pie!).

Because I Can

Dear Sweet Children,

I know that you are a little sad that Daddy had to leave Florida to go back home to work.

I am too.

But, that’s what happens when you become an adult.  You have to stop All The Playing to do some work, too.

Don’t you stop playing though.

Play lots.

No. TONS.

Get real tired, okay?

And I know that you are a little nervous because I am going away for a few days.

But, you are going to have So Much Fun with The Nana and Captain Ahab – because they love you so.

And you will be going on such a grand adventure with them before we meet up in a few days.

I need you to know, though, that I will miss you both to smithereens.

And, do you know why?

Because I can.

You need to know all of this, sweet children.

Because, I’ll be calling to tell you that, “I Love You So Stinkin’ Much”, really soon.

Because I can.

And I do.

So…

Eat your strawberries.

Stay hydrated.

Be polite.

Go potty FOR THE LOVE.

Say your prayers.

Give The Nana a few extra snuggles (I think she’s going to need them because she’ll be missing me).

And remember that I Love you BOATLOADS and God loves you even more!

Until I See You Again,

Mama

P.S.  Ahab is going to try to get you to go to sleep without your noise machines.  Humor him, okay?  He’ll catch on after that first night.  Promise.