Expectations

Expectations: (pl.noun) A strong belief that something will happen; a belief that someone should achieve something

I feel two sizes smaller the second I open the mailbox. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it’s not completely unexpected. Living “out” as they put it, my mailbox is down the road. It’s not a bad deal, though, because watching the cows in the field across the way is so peaceful. As I drive home, the discontent begins to stir. “I hate feeling this way,” I think . “Just when I think I’ve gotten past all the insecurities, it seems like I get reminders…literally in the form of mail.” The doubts keep coming at me like darts.

As I place the mail on the counter, I look at the addresses on the Christmas cards. Yep. I’m not surprised. The senders always have their acts together. Sure enough, the envelopes from the two different families contain festive Christmas cards with professional poses and meaningful Bible verses in beautiful fonts. My heart sinks. I tried. I did. Our college son was home during Thanksgiving. A relative took our family picture with her phone. She did fine, but either there was a shadow on our faces from the trees or the sun was in our eyes. I chose not to use a professional photographer because my husband was still not back at work after having surgery. Oh, well… maybe next year.

My mother-in-law comes over later to watch the baby so I can attend a work Christmas party. As I drive up to my co-worker’s house, I see her wreaths and lights outside. My wreath still isn’t up yet and we don’t normally put lights outside because we live “out” (as I said before). Goodness… I wish my porch was more festive. As we all visit, I’m struck by how outgoing everyone is and many of my co-workers have lots in common. They live fairly close to each other. Many attend the same church. Several have daughters that take dance together, as well. I try to make conversation without feeling like I’m intruding. However, I’m afraid if I’m too quiet I will seem aloof….. “Boy, can’t I do anything right?”

After the evening routine of baths and goodnight hugs, I lie in bed feeling the typical exhaustion that comes with being both a momma and teacher this time of year. This is my time to think every night. Everyone else is asleep. It’s about the only quiet time of day. I think of a word that God has put in my heart this week.

Expectation. Christmas is definitely a time of expectation. As Christians, the expectation during this season is palpable as we light Advent candles and sing Christmas hymns. As parents, we see the expectations in our children as they await Christmas morning and its many surprises. Sometimes the word has a negative connotation as the expectations we set on ourselves far exceeds what we can or should do this time of year.

What are my expectations of myself? Of others? Of this Advent season? My Christmas cards didn’t get made because I’m blessed to have a son attending a college where he can get a first-rate education and live his dream of playing college ball. He’s not always home to take a picture. Also, I was trying to be responsible with our finances. My wreath isn’t on the door because the door is too tall for me to hang it. My husband went back to work and hasn’t had time to hang the wreath, but he is providing well for our family. I have wonderful co-workers who just so happen to be outgoing. God made us all unique, and that includes my propensity for being more introverted.

When we don’t even realize it, our blessings far exceed any expectations we may have of ourselves, of others, and of our Creator. I will finish my decorating, my true friends will like me for who I am, and my Heavenly Father will provide. And that far exceeds any expectations I could ever have.

Fine

Artwork: Becca Presley

Christmas ads have literally taken over Facebook, Instagram, and my television. Am I getting old? Is it just me? It’s almost as if the whole holiday season is being shoved down my throat. Easter has always been my favorite holiday. No pressure. No scrambling around.

As a Christian, I won’t/can’t separate myself from the Christmas season. However, it occurred to me that this isn’t always a “holly jolly” time of year for everyone. Can we be joyful about our Savior’s birth and struggle simultaneously? Absolutely.

There are people who are very sick.

There are people who just lost a loved one or facing the prospect of losing a loved one.

There are people struggling financially to provide much less meet society’s expectations of a Christmas morning filled with gifts.

There are people with fractured relationships who are grieving a broken family.

There are people grappling with their faith.

There are people, although close to family, who are physically separated by many miles this season.

There are people with emotional struggles that you will never see.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine. And yourself?”

“Can’t complain.”

It’s a lie. It’s a lie we tell others to save face. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to make it through the day . From an early age, we are taught to grin and bear it. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Boys are taught to “man up.” Deal with it.

My daughter and I saw a girl the other day. I said, “How are you?” She said, “Fine.” My daughter mentioned that she knows the girl and the minute she said this, I actually realized who the girl is. I mentioned to her that she needed to be extra kind to this young lady. Her mom is very sick. “Goodness,” I said to my daughter. “This girl is so brave. Always be kind. You don’t know what people are facing in their lives.”

During this season of Black Friday sales, too much food, piles of presents, parties, and all that comes with it, it’s easy to forget what the season it about It’s easy to focus on ourselves. I know because I’m guilty.. Please remember to be kind. Not everyone you meet is fine.

You’re Never Alone… Seriously, Moms. Never

Husband:”Put him to bed later. I mean, it’s Friday night. Maybe he’ll sleep late in the morning.” Personally, I’m calling his bluff. By 5:50 Saturday morning, I’d been drooled on, slapped accidentally, and coerced into counting to five 400 times per the directions of a forty-three pound toddler. Listen up, new moms. I’m not a spring chicken. I’ve been around the block two times before. We ” started over” so it’s all new again. Your tiny newborn with the sweet baby breath is going to be a rambunctious toddler with a mouthful of teeth and sinus drainage breathing right in your face. Yep. It’s happening.

The conversation was as follows (in my bed at 5:50 am):

“Go back to bed, little man.”

“Uh-uh.”

“Santa brings toys to big boys who stay in their beds.”

(Hysterical laughter)

“Then be still and go to sleep with me.”

“I love you, Mommy.”

Well, one can’t argue with that, right?

Need a side gig to pay for all that plastic under the tree this Christmas? I’m going to start charging a cover charge to come in the bathroom. I’m not kidding. Last night, I was trying to take a simple 10 minute shower. That’s usually the only time I can be alone. My daughter came into the bathroom (it was legit because I needed to ask her something). Next, the toddler. Finally, the husband came in looking for the toddler. By this time. I was hoping someone had brought chips and dip.

Fast-forward to this morning. I tried to sneak to the bathroom and got caught red-handed. “”Momma? You potty?” ”

“Yes, baby. Can you go see daddy?”

“No. I stay with you.”

“Of course you do, Dear. Mommies are never alone.”

All joking aside, it is the highest honor to be called “mommy” by my three blessings. We moms get tired, frustrated, and question our parenting at times. When I hear, “I love you, Mommy.” it’s like God is saying to me, “See? You’re doing what you’re called to do.”

Eat Your Wheaties

This isn’t alcohol. It’s a vitamin-packed drink. Mamas… eat your Wheaties. It’s a long ride.

One day I’m going to sound eloquent. Today’s not the day. I made an attempt last week, and someone responded with a MUCH more eloquent response to my blog. Then I read a couple of other “mom-type” blogs and the writers need to win a Pulitzer for goodness sake. That’s okay. My hero, Erma Bombeck, started out writing obituaries. I have an excuse. It’s lack of decent sleep (that’s also my excuse for forgetting things). Last night was no exception.

I’m a good person. Really, I am. I even taught preschool during the fair and Halloween. It can’t be that hard? I give you 3.5 seconds. Tops. I just know I’m being punished for something. Whatever I did must have been really bad. Oh, yeah. Maybe it was the word I muttered to myself at the traffic light on Airport Boulevard. There ought to be a law.

3:20pm: Rush home from work; husband puts baby in car (he’s sick)

4:00pm: Doctor’s office

4:45pm: Mobile, Alabama, traffic. All red lights. All last two minutes and forty-five seconds.

5:00pm: Chick-Fil-A. Ain’t nobody cooking after Halloween week.

5:25pm: Satan’s playground (I mean, Mobile traffic).

5:50pm: Safely arrive in the sleepy hamlet of Grand Bay, Alabama. Get baby’s medicine at CVS. She knows his name, his ailment, and my underwear size. I love small towns.

7:30: Put baby to bed after bathing him and reading 500 books. Yep. It’s time to relax.

12:00am: Screaming and gnashing of teeth. Get baby up. Give Tylenol, juice, a snack, and produce a documentary.

1:30am: Husband and daughter return from ballgame. Baby still awake. Rock baby… but not before he dances around the den. Put baby to bed. Whew! Time to sleep!

1:45am: Tell my husband about the camel video on Facebook. “Cry-laugh” trying to tell husband about the camel video on Facebook. Toss and turn. Mentally make Christmas lists for my three children and everyone else’s.

5:45am: Screaming and gnashing of teeth, Part Deaux. Put baby in bed with us. Fun times.

6:00am: Husband’s phone rings. Memaw Katie has panic attack. It’s the college child telling husband he is at a hunting camp.

6:45am: FINALLY get up after a great night’s sleep. Give baby breakfast. Decide Ninxia Red should contain an alcohol component.

Please enjoy this video of the baby at Ungodlythirty last night. This morning? I don’t know anymore.🤦🏼‍♀️

These Days

Shout out to Jerry Lee’s grocery store in Pascagoula, Mississippi. This apple crisp is angelic.

My teenagers are both at friends’ houses tonight. Our oldest is home for a visit and our middle child is having fun at the fair. We spent time at home with our little one today and I told my husband that even though we still have two children at home, I still feel like an empty-nester….. I don’t like it.

It is what it is, but it got me thinking about the crazy schedules we’ve had since our older two were younger. School, football, cheerleading (both school and competition), two full-time jobs, a masters degree while working, and then a third blessing to our family have made the years fly by quickly… not without challenges or tears. As I was making some apple crisp tonight (a fall favorite), I thought about my day.

This morning, the youngest got into the bed with us and snuggled. We watched cartoons and then I got up to make muffins and coffee. After buying some Halloween treats and other items at Walmart, I went to pick up my husband’s birthday cake. The little man and I got in the swing and hunted for fall leaves. I made coffee again. My father-in-law took him to feed the cows and then it was tacos for supper… apple crisp for dessert.

The day is almost at an end, and there’s nothing I would change, except to do it again. On the hard days, I’m grateful for these memories. Don’t take the small moments for granted because small moments make these days.

Pass the Salt

If you can’t cook, don’t tell someone their food needs more salt.”

Unknown

When my older two were little, we had a standing rule about food. If we were eating out, eating at someone’s house, or eating something another person had made (besides me), they couldn’t voice their opinion about the food if they didn’t like it. I simply taught them to TRY it and move on to something else on their plates… politely.

Last December, I decided to start writing a blog. My hope was that others could relate to the life experiences of a middle-aged working mom . Some people paint, go for a walk, draw, or choose negative ways like drinking or drugs to deal with life. I write (and pray). However, people started telling me how much they could relate to my stories and experiences….especially women. Writing is like air to me. It’s necessary.

My first blog was about perspective. Basically I said that someone’s life can look perfect (i.e. on social media), but we all have struggles. Since then, I have written about the history of the YMBC Ball, getting stuck in clothes and Mardi Gras dresses in various dressing rooms, going to said balls, lessons my children teach me about God and life, being middle-aged, various aches and pains, not comparing yourself to others, weird clothes at Target, the inconvenience of paying bills, babies getting up at night, baseball, children going to college, and I even mentioned a partridge in a pear tree. Oh, that was a Facebook post. Sorry!

Imagine my surprise the other day when someone told me I write about the SAME two things ALL the time (see paragraph above for proof that I don’t 😂). So does John Grisham (crime), Fannie Flagg (Southern humor and life), Rick Bragg (Pulitzer Prize winner… several books about his impoverished childhood ), and well-known bloggers such as Sean Dietrich, Amy Weatherly, and Susanna Lewis. I once heard a children’s author whose initial writings had been rejected say the best advice she’d heard was to write what you know. She is now an award-winning author. The advantage of reading is that one can choose not to read something he/she doesn’t like.

In the eighth grade, I began to write poems and short stories. My English teacher, Mrs. Moody, kept one and my heart soared because she made me feel as if I could write anything. I was the weirdo in college that enjoyed researching and writing papers. Professor McCollum at Hinds Community College also encouraged my love of writing by pushing me to go out of my comfort zone. So I will continue to write and write what I know… raising children, working, laughing, struggling, getting stuck in dresses…..

If you don’t like it, go get some salt.

Home

This is the view that my children will call home. I pray my children will ALWAYS want to come home.

If I had a dollar for every eighteen year old that says, “I can’t wait to move out and do whatever I want!” we could pay off the National Deficit. I probably said this, too, but the joke was on me as I lived at home in college. My first experience “away” from home was the day I got married when I was twenty-two. I’m serious. The poor husband had to listen to sobs of agony and defeat as I proclaimed my undying devotion to a house somewhere in Terry, Mississippi, for several months. Bless his heart. Since that time, my parents have lived in Fondren (a neighborhood of Jackson, MS) and now they live in Madison. After 23 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I only get homesick when the moon is full on a Tuesday. Just kidding, but it does happen on occasion.

Our eldest child came home from college last night and arrived at one in the morning. Yes, I waited up for him. Just as I drive a typical mom tank, I also did the typical college child is home prepping. Homemade goodies. Check. Clean bathroom and sheets. Check. Porch light on… you get the picture. I would be fine with him coming home EVERY weekend, but he’d played baseball all day and the timing was concerning for me. “Please call me if you get sleepy.” I said. Why would he want to make an almost four hour drive this time of night? Something must be wrong.

All week I had beat myself up for not going several hours away to see his game. With two other children and a job, it just wasn’t possible. As teens sometimes do, he wouldn’t text me back after I would text him just to check on him, see if he needed anything, or say I was sorry that I can’t make all the games. Clark is a very thoughtful young man, but my emotions get the best of me, and I thought surely he didn’t need me anymore. Was he upset at me?

As he walked in the door, he put down his blue IKEA bag…. a sure sign of laundry. As I turned to walk inside the kitchen, he stopped me with a bear hug. “I’m so glad you’re home.” I said. “Are you okay?” “Yes, ma’am. I just needed to come home.” “Is something wrong, Clark?” “No. Just needed to come home. That’s all.” Home. Treats, clean sheets, and unconditional love…. not a grade on a paper or a statistic on the ballfield.

Welcome home, son.

Every Game

Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, “I wish I had,” or “I’m glad I did.”

Zig Ziglar

I missed my son’s first pitching experience in a college baseball game. I missed my son’s first pitching experience in a college baseball game. My husband was there. I wasn’t. I’m devastated.

I’ve been to many college baseball games. My husband played college baseball and my boyfriend before him. They were on the same team. It’s cool. I promise. Our older son plays college baseball now, and I watched his first game today. His college isn’t quite four hours away, but the game was 30 minutes east of us in Mobile, Alabama. Have you ever been in the middle of an experience and just know in your heart that it’s life-changing? It’s almost as if you are trying to remember every detail and soaking the whole experience in… and wishing it would never end. That was me today.

The first game was fun. I got to hug my son and watch his wonderful team. My mother-in-law watched little man at home. We didn’t think our son would pitch today. She kept little man last night so I could watch my daughter cheer at a football game. I felt like asking her to stay for the second baseball game today was selfish on my part. No good deed goes unpunished, and he was put on the mound pitching as I was opening popsicles and making ham sandwiches at home.

To say I’m grateful to see my son play baseball is an understatement. To say I’m grateful to watch my daughter cheer at football games is an understatement. There was recently a link (article) on Facebook about the importance of parents attending EVERY game their children play. Every game, huh? Here, mama bear needs to unload.

Do you work like I do? Great. You “prolly gone” miss some games.

Have a small child? I absolutely understand. Small children can’t necessarily tolerate a full day of sports. Again, you’re going to miss some games.

Game is four hours away? Yep. Can’t make that trip, huh? It’s understandable. Sometimes you’re going to miss that away game.

What’s that? Yep. Your OTHER child has a game the same stinking night? It happens. You’re going to miss one of their games to be at the other. Sucks deviled eggs, doesn’t it?

Let me tell you about being at every game.

When I was sick my whole pregnancy and on the couch with contractions, my heart was at every game.

When I miss a game because I don’t have childcare, my heart is at every game.

When a game is away and I can’t make it due to work, my heart is at every game.

And if you love your children an ounce as much as I do, your heart and your prayers are with them. Everywhere, all the time…. at every game.

This Home

I’ve learned that home isn’t a place. It’s a feeling.

Cecelia Ahern

As much as I’m looking forward to fall and even the holidays, I tend to “stress out” over my house this time of year. Images in magazines, online, and social media show beautifully appointed porches with an assortment of pumpkins, mums, and various other decorations. We live “out” where not too many people see our house. Also, I’m trying to be financially wise as my husband isn’t back at work yet due to back surgery. I don’t naturally have a decorator’s eye, but I do know what I like. There’s also the challenge of time. It takes time and energy to make a house look like a Pinterest board.

I got sick this week. On Tuesday, I started getting a scratchy throat. In my line of work, that’s never a good sign. Wednesday was about the same… by Friday I was having trouble talking. Saturday I thought a train had hit me. Break out the antibiotic. I had full intentions of decorating for fall, but between feeling awful and the weather still imitating summer, none of the decorating commenced.

My eldest came home from college Friday night to hugs and a partially redecorated (and clean) room. I missed him so much, and was more than happy to have him and a friend of his come with him. Our middle child spent time at the movies and decorating for homecoming with classmates. She and a friend decided last minute to go to homecoming. Really, sweetheart? Last year we spent four hours in one place. Tears, weeping, and gnashing of teeth were included in the harrowing “errand.” Not this year. “Mommy’s sick. You have 20 minutes flat to pick one,” I said. Y’all. She found one in 15 minutes! We came home (by this time I had chills) and I got in bed.

We missed church Sunday because I’m not a fan of sharing my germs with nice people. Seriously. Azithromycin is like gold, but it takes awhile to start working. I was able to spend a little time with the caboose baby. He’s precious, y’all. We played puzzles, walked around outside (later when it wasn’t hot), and read before bedtime. He pointed to the mommy in the book and asked quizzically, “Dat’s da mommy?” “Yes, precious.” I said. “That’s Elmo’s mommy.” “You MY mommy.” He stated emphatically. Goodness, he’s sweet.

As I get in bed early, still feeling drained from my cold, I look around and my mind begins to race. There is a bowl beside the bed of leftover soup, there are clean clothes in the laundry room, and more clothes to wash. I need to look up ideas for an apple theme (I teach preschool). “What have I done this weekend?” I think to myself.

My eldest went back to college with clean clothes and homemade goodies because I stayed up late to be a blessing to him.

My daughter experienced the excitement of a last-minute homecoming find because I took the time to take her (even though I didn’t feel the best).

My baby got to snuggle and spend time with his momma because I made time for him (who wouldn’t… he’s a doll).

And I made a decision. My family comes before this house. I like a clean house. I really like a decorated house. But houses are made to be lived in, so I will do my best. I will decorate for fall…eventually. Because this isn’t just a house. We love, live, and, yes, make memories and messes here.

This house is a home.

Second Verse, Same as First

So the mom jeans on the left (1990’s… my era) have returned. However, I’m a midlife girl living in a VSCO world.

Y’all. It happened again. I got stuck in a dress. You’ll recall our heroine (I mean me…sorry) going to an upscale resale shop in Mobile, Alabama, to try her luck at finding the perfect Mardi Gras gown. She duly gets stuck in said gown neither being able to slip off the binding garment, nor being able to pull it over her big head. A millionairess comes to her aid, and, thus, her journey to Dilliard’s department store begins . She finds her perfect dress and lives happily ever after for three solid hours. The end.

This latest episode took place in a local boutique. I won’t say where. They probably prefer advertising from someone who’s never used eye cream or has the road map of Highway 90 on her spider veins. I’m two for two. Touché. Anyway, there was a beautiful, sleeveless black dress that had a tasteful black lace overlay and high, jewel neckline. I knew it had to be gorgeous because I was wearing my progressive lenses.

Being that I shop for myself only when the moon aligns with Jupiter, I was excited. Well, as you already know, I got stuck in the dress. Technically, I never quite got the dress all the way on my body. Who makes a dress with a zipper that stops three fourths of the way down the side? My guess is either a man or someone shaped like a spaghetti noodle. As I proceeded to try on five other items that were too tight, too short, too young….. I began to reminisce.

Picture it. The mid-1990’s. There’s a girl with teased hair, mom jeans, a scrunchie, and a choker necklace. She has it easy in the makeup department as the ONLY acceptable skin care for a proper young lady is Clinique’s three-step program. She has her pick of five Cover Girl foundations from which to choose. The Limited is the bomb diggity, and those duck shoes come in handy on a rainy day. Turn up the Nirvana, please. “Let’s take a picture, y’all!” It will be ready in three days and if it’s REALLY good, we will put it……. somewhere.

Some of the 1990’s trends have come back around. Mom jeans, scrunchies, and chokers… oh my! On the other hand, today’s girls have it tough! Social media is cruel. We just wrote notes and had actual conversations. The horror. I was thinking about all the filters on these phones nowadays. How are the poor fellows going to know what these girls actually look like? It’s got to be disappointing when you finally meet in real life and Suzy Q.’s tan was computerized. I mean, we didn’t have filters. “You get what you get and you don’t fuss a bit” has always been my motto with the guys. I forgot eyeliner one time and three people asked me if I had the flu.

The latest label is that of the VSCO girl. We didn’t have a label (I don’t think). Allie oop, okey dokey, beanie weenie, sksksk. Not really sure about the VSCO lingo… sounds like a teenage red rover game or something. These poor girls have to choose from 5000 brands of makeup, spend too much money on some water bottle thingy, AND save the turtles by stacking up string bracelets. Girls, I’m talking to you. This, too, shall pass. In the not so distant future, you will look upon your youth with a wistful feeling as you are changing a poopy diaper while discussing your hemorrhoids with your husband. Get ready. However, with age comes wisdom, and you’ll realize that all these trends will come back in style. So chin up, you’ll have your chance to wear these clothes again…along with your progressive lenses.