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It’s Cold In Kentucky and I’ll Be Okay

It’s cold in Kentucky. It’s cold all over this half of the country, but Kentucky is where I live and so I’m mostly pissed that it’s cold in Kentucky. Everything is frozen, even pipes.  Also, house breaking a new puppy while the ice coated grass crunches beneath my feet as I wait on this animal to poop in my yard makes me question my sanity.  I sit at my desk in my freezing office and work, wrapped in a thickly knitted turtleneck sweater that my husband describes as “not my favorite look on you.”  Every time a client says, “just email that to me,” instead of “see you in my office for that meeting tomorrow” I rejoice because it allows me a little more time to remain indoors rather than facing the artic reality of walking through a parking lot in heels.  Oh, and my children adore frost bite apparently by their aversion to wearing a coat.

“You have no choice. You are wearing a coat to school today. I swear if either of you come home without that coat on your body you will be grounded.” Things I never pictured myself needing to say to a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old on their way out the door on a 6-degree January day.

However, as much as it pains me to admit, winter is a necessary evil in nature. There is a whole lot going on under the soil, biologically. In fact, if a winter is too warm, it will negatively impact the crops and what we see at the produce stands come summer time. The deep freeze kills many insects and pathogens. For instance, there is a beetle that feeds on corn. A winter that’s not cold enough to kill them will almost certainly mean smaller harvests and frustrated farmers in the warmer months that follow. The frigid temperatures also bring a cycle of dormancy. The plants fall into a deep winter nap and reserve their energy, storing it up for new growth in the spring.

Winter is necessary for me too. It holds me indoors and forces me to focus on the people who live in my house. I cook more in the winter, which equates to more time around the table together. The entertainment options are limited to board games (which I detest, but will agree to play as long as it’s not Monopoly) and relaxing on the couch with some hot chocolate and a movie on Netflix. When we host company in our house, our friends are all together, corralled into one smallish space. Some fun times happen in those moments. I get in the mood to deep clean, which never happens on a warm June day, I can assure you. I do a giant purge that is cleaning out closets. I donate clothes to the needy. I get caught up on reading that book I got for my birthday in July, but never made time to sit still enough to finish. Winter slows me down. It slows me down physically and it slows me down emotionally. I reflect more. I sleep more. Just like the crops, the cycle of dormancy that winter brings me reserves my energy and prepares me for new growth. Also, like the crops by the end of February I’m bursting at the seams longing for the spring. My stored-up energy can only be satisfied by some warm breezes, a front porch swing and vitamin D. I confess, the last half of February is the worst part of the year. The good thing about the last part of February is that it’s the last part. Newness is coming. The sunshine is around the corner.

Winter isn’t my favorite, but it’s necessary.

However, if the air decided to turn a few ticks warmer, even if just for a day, I would not be mad about it.

For Non-Perfect Family Thanksgiving Dinners:

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner most years, since we’ve been married, for my husband’s side of the family.

I normally begin drinking around 11am when the turkey goes in the oven.  By the time 5pm rolls around we are both baked.    (Relax mom, kidding)

I wouldn’t need to do this if they would just act like the people in the commercials do at the holidays.

All I really want is for them to show up, laughing and holding warm pies when I open the door to greet them.  I dream of everyone sitting around one big table, with matching chairs and silver serving dishes, eating and not being able to think of a single complaint to discuss.  I’d love for my dog to curl up on the rug and wag his tail at our feet while we eat.  Is it really too much to ask for my husband to gingerly slice the turkey with one of those long knifes and shiny fork looking things, into thin even slices while I gaze at him seemingly unbothered at all that he did nothing to prepare for the dinner yet is now getting the glory for the perfectly roasted turkey?  The warm and fuzzy feeling melting all over me is what I fantasize about.

But guess what?

In the many years I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve noticed a trend:  The way our family has always acted is likely exactly how they will act again this year.

There will likely be a couple people who aren’t speaking to each other.  There will be some arguing as they enter the front door.  Kids will be hyper.  Their parents will get angry when a family member tells their little snowflake to stop throwing rolls.  My dog will bark excessively and jump all over everyone.  He may even pee in the floor from the excitement.  We will use a sharpie to write our names on white styrofoam cups.  There are approximately 14 chairs in my house and will be roughly 40 people trying to snag one.  Over dinner someone will certainly bring up their firm opinions on why being on, or being off the Trump Train is what Jesus would do.  It’s guaranteed that something will spill, someone will cry and someone will leave mad.

That’s what REAL families look like.

I’m guessing there are some Thanksgiving commercial quality families out there somewhere, but I’ve never met them.  I probably would have to drink even more if I were to spend the day with them.  Not being real is exhausting after a while.

My Thanksgiving wish for you, for me, for all of us is to just embrace it.  Love the people God gave you.  Invite someone to your dinner who is lonely.  Welcome the new boyfriend/girlfriend that your cousin will bring.  Don’t use this day to try and change people.  Speak kindly to each other, even to the ones you don’t really like.  They feel just as uptight as you do, promise.  Tell funny stories of the loved ones who have passed and are no longer with us.  Let go of all the expectations and enjoy the best you can manage.

Be Thankful.

It will all be over soon.

 

Dear 29 Year Old Me

Dear 29 year old me,

You’re here! You didn’t think you’d live long enough to see 40, but unless something unforeseeable happens in the next few months you will be celebrating the big 4-0 this summer. You aren’t even bothered by it that much like you think you will be now. You are counting down the days until your girl’s trip to the beach to celebrate with other friends who are also celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

You aren’t white haired and on a cane. It makes me laugh to think how old 40 seems to you at 29, but now that you are 39 and knocking on the 40 year old door you’ll discover that you don’t feel as old as you thought you would at this age.

That time you were adding up how old the kids would be when you turned 40 and you couldn’t visualize them being teenagers. Well, they are teenagering quite well so don’t worry.

Your daughter who is in preschool now is almost 15. She finally outgrew that embarrassing thing where she thinks she’s a cat and meows all the time. You will even look back on how she use to meow in response to the waiter at a restaurant asking for her drink order and laugh instead of being worried that she would meow like a cat forever. She also doesn’t demand that a high chair be brought to our table to put her baby doll in anymore either. In fact, I’m not even sure where that baby doll is now. I think it’s packed away in a plastic tub with her huge collection of zoo animals and Polly Pockets.

Oh, and your 3 year old son is 13 now and did finally start sleeping in his own bed, but not until he was about 10 years old. Sorry to disappoint. Just try not to overthink it too much for now. I know it’s annoying to always be cramped and not get a good night’s sleep unless you can con his sister into letting him sleep with her every now and then. But trust me, you will look back at all the cute things he said during those quiet nights he was wrapped in your arms and you wouldn’t change anything. Also, at 13 he will still gladly sleep with you in your bed when his dad is out of town on business so don’t listen to what people tell you about how boys close off emotionally as teenagers. It doesn’t happen to your baby, or at least not yet. But the bad news is that he didn’t outgrow being a messy eater. We are still working on that one.

I’m mostly writing to let you know that you are doing a good job. You should let up on yourself some.

All the PTA meetings you’re about to be knee deep in and Saturday birthday parties at the inflatable jump house places are exhausting and not how you want to spend your time exactly, but you did a fine job juggling all that while also working full time. Stop being so hard on yourself when you forget a dentist appointment. Don’t get so stressed out when you have to reschedule a meeting because the kid who was perfectly fine when you left them an hour ago is now vomiting and running a fever. You won’t even remember what meeting you had to reschedule or how frazzled you seemed doing an ill prepared presentation because of it the next week. You will, however, remember sitting in the rocking chair with your sick little girl who wouldn’t allow anyone but you to tend to her and didn’t want you to leave her side because she feels like she “has to fro up”.

In the words of a future Disney movie that will make you thankful you don’t have toddlers anymore, just “Let it go.”

As frustrating as family can be, make more time to be with them. You won’t have everyone that you love right now with you when you get here at 39. By the time you get here you won’t have any grandparents. Make sure to visit them and tell them you love them often. Make sure to write down your Mamaw’s recipe for fried cornbread because she’s the only one who knows it. It hurts me to tell you this, but you won’t have 2 parents with you anymore once you get here. You will be missing one and it will leave a giant hole in your heart. It’s hard to fathom that right now and actually I’d rather you not try to. I’m only telling you because I want you to use this time wisely and soak up all the time you get to spend with those you love. It will be the memories from those days that will carry you through the bad times once their gone.

Take lots of pictures. Record lots of video.

Oh, and just to prepare you, there is going to be a birthday in your son’s life that’s coming up soon where you will go all out and hire a magician to do magic tricks and make the party as perfect as you possibly can. You will give your husband one job. One. Job. His only responsibility that day will be to record the magical birthday party on a ridiculously large camcorder. He will give the illusion he is doing this, but after the party you will discover that he never pushed the record button and so there is no video documentation of the event whatsoever. I only have three words of advice for you. Let. It. Go.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you to stop worrying about the ending of your 20s. You think that the 20s are the peak of your life, but sitting here on the back side of the third decade I can tell you that you are about to start your peak time. So stop spending so much time worrying about getting old. Take this new decade you are about to enter and hold your head high. Stop worrying about every detail of your appearance. You will look back at pictures of yourself at work parties, at holidays and on vacations and think “damn, I looked good.” As you turn 30 know that you will reflect back on this decade and be proud of your accomplishments. Stop being so hard on yourself and just enjoy. You’re winning!

I hope this was helpful to you. I’d send you a picture of 39 year old you, but I don’t want to give you more to think about….and try to prevent.

So congratulations. You survived your 20s. You navigated through getting married, moving away, coming back home, having kids, messing up and making up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that any day now a letter from the future 49 year old me will show up and give me some pearls of wisdom.

This decade is about to be a crazy ride and I’m excited for you.

See ya in 10 years. Good Luck!

Sincerely,

39 Year Old Me

Rehomed

My husband use to travel a lot. This meant I was often the solo adult in charge of keeping the children alive. My safety never crossed my mind whenever he was home. I’m not sure what I thought he’d do if anyone tried to break in, but I’m certain he would have taken care of it. By ‘taken care of it’ I mean that I know he would kill someone with his bare hands, if necessary. However, in his absence I realized I needed backup.

This is why we got a security system and surveillance cameras installed at the house. I took some self-defense classes and read up on gun safety. The No Trespassing signs were discreetly placed on the front and back doors in effort to detour any prospective intruder or Jehovah Witness. We also decided we would get a big black dog. That should do it. Any more than that and the neighbors may have thought I was paranoid. (Not all of this statement is true. I can’t tell you which part is and which part isn’t. It shouldn’t concern you. PS The security alarm part is true. And the part about the dog. )

It needed to be a big dog, scary bark, but also one that didn’t shed, poop too often or bother me in any way.

Enter Margaux. She was the calmest, most chill would-be killer dog of the litter. This adorable wavy haired pup quickly turned into a balls crazy, ADHD, spawn of Satan dog within a matter of weeks.

I had a vision of my big fury protector walking calmly beside me, watching side to side like a secret service agent, always ready to spring into action if needed. What I got was a dog that required more patience of me than either of my kids had ever required.  We had Margaux for all of 8 months before we rehomed her.

(Rehome is a new word which is a nice way of saying that we couldn’t deal anymore so we gave her away.)

During the short time we had her we: replaced the garage door (twice), replaced the garage door opener mechanism (twice), replaced multiple bushes from the landscaping, backfilled many holes in the back yard, apologized to neighbors who she chased while they were on a neighborhood stroll, too many chewed up shoes to count, etc. During that 8 months, separate from vet costs and food expense, we spent more than $3,000 in home repairs.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven times.”

Folks, I didn’t say it. That came out of Jesus’ mouth. That totals up to the fact that we are on the hook to forgive someone at least 490 times before we can say to hell with them.

Statistically, Margaux would have hit 490 around a year or so, but I’m not Jesus and decided to move on a little sooner than that.

There are times when I have to prayerfully consider what is worth fighting for and what needs to be moved on from. Margaux needed to be moved on from, for both our sakes.

We were toxic for each other. I didn’t appreciate her skill sets of digging, chewing or making me chase her down the street. She couldn’t peacefully live with the fact that I demanded she only gnaw on her chew toys and not the couch legs.

We tried, we really wanted it to work. We got her private obedience lessons and everything. It just wasn’t happening. We weren’t meant to be, her and me.

There are approximately 7.13 billion people in this world. I only know a few of them. Every once in a while life seems to allow a person, or in this case, dog, to be in my life for a season of time then pass on by. Every once in a while that pass on part comes with heartache and disappointment, but occasionally the pass on part comes with relief.  Either way, there are certainly times when pass on is necessary.  In their absence I can usually see how they made a beautiful mark on my life, but mostly the mark is better appreciated after they’re gone.

I always learn something from the ones I had to rehome. Thankfully rehoming doesn’t happen too often. After quite a few years on this planet I finally have come to grips with the fact that I can’t be friends with everyone, whether human or canine. There are some who are flat out toxic and need to be, not given up on, but moved on from.

Dogs are a lot like our human relationships in that they are flawed and imperfect creatures. They fall short. I fall short. We both require a lot of love and forgiveness and require patience.

However, sometimes even after trying everything I know to try it still just doesn’t work. The boundaries I have to set which allows me to be a sane and content individual get crossed. Some relationships steal joy and at some point become necessary to be rehomed.

There comes a time in certain relationships when I have to walk away.

Before you deem me a complete loser for rehoming our dog I do want to mention that we also have an 11 year old, tiny, white dog named Piper. He’s the kind of dog you see Paris Hilton carry in her purse. He’s part of the family. My kids don’t remember life without him. He’s a great dog now. As a puppy he peed on everything. It doesn’t seem as bad now because years have passed and we were younger then, but at the time we were house training him I remember wanting to throw him away on certain days.

We didn’t rehome Piper because despite his challenges we still were able to maintain a sense of joy and peace while co-existing with him.

Margaux presented challenges that were relentless and never ending. She was worthy of love, but made us chronically miserable. She’s happier now with someone better suited for her personality. And so are we.

Her 490 ticker can start new with them. Maybe that’s what she needed, what we all at times need, a fresh slate.

It turns out that Piper, despite his size is a great guard dog. He will bark when the wind blows. Nothing is happening in this house without him to alert us of it. Margaux left her mark in our hearts as well as on several walls and baseboards. She will never be forgotten, but we all concur that life is more pleasurable without her.

It’s important to note that it’s still not wise to attempt to break into my house as our tiny little Piper dog can hold his own. He’s never met an ankle he was scared of yet.

Unfriended

Dear Teenage Daughter Of Mine,

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that we can’t be friends.

It’s not me. It’s you.

You help me understand why some animals eat their young.

When you were born you were exceptionally adorable, far surpassing the adorableness of the other babies born that day. I’m sure the other mothers looked at their newborns that day with great disappointment. You were such a good baby. You took long naps so that I could get a break, you slept all night in your own bed. You ate anything, which made me feel superior to the other moms complaining about their picky eaters. You were independent and had a desire to do things on your own. You took crap from no one, even as a toddler. When the sweet old man from church would touch your hand and smile at you, you would respond by pulling your hand back and throwing a ‘go to hell, go straight to hell’ look at him. You were so cute though that he would just laugh and try again next week. You were pretty perfect, actually. I had high hopes for you.

Now you are a teenager and at only 14 years old, you are equipped with a super model body and killer eye lashes. You draw attention of older boys because you don’t look a day younger than 17. This is not fair to me, being that I’m a full 7 inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier than you. You are still very strong willed, smart, creative and totally hilarious. You still will on occasion shoot a death glare at anyone talking to you whom you are not fond of (it’s something we are working on). However, none of this is why we can’t be friends.

You have turned from a sweet wide eyed little girl who loved zoo animals and American Girl dolls into a hormonal, irrational, emotional teenager. I have to strategize how I’m going to approach you about topics I fear may set you off, like trying to tell you that the wait at Olive Garden is too long and we are going to have to find a plan b restaurant to eat. When you are hungry you are especially scary. Full disclosure, you get that honestly. You may have inherited that trait. You bounce back and forth from being a child to being a fun loving, energetic teenager to being an immature adult. This is why we can’t be friends. People have warned me about this teenager thing, but I didn’t believe them….not my baby. Turns out they were on to something.

We can’t be friends because you need my help to survive your teen years and become an adult who people don’t avoid at parties.

Right now you don’t really need the other half of my BFF heart necklace. You need a mom.

When we argue because you have decided to wear your new fall outfit that includes an adorbs boho top layered with a long cardigan and skinny jeans with ankle boots on a day in early September when the weather forecast calls for a humid 92 degrees I am reminded that while you may not like me, you need me. Literally, need me to save you from heat stroke on the bus.

When you roll your eyes at me and mumble something hateful under your breath as you walk out of the room because I won’t allow you to ride in a car with the 16 year old boy you are crushing on I can see your innocence and how short sighted you are right now. You don’t see all the life altering consequences that can come from it, but I can so I’m willing to let you treat me like I’m the one being unrealistic in the matter.

When we are on a paradise beach vacation where everything seems perfect, yet when one little thing doesn’t go your way you curl up those long legs into a ball so that you can get in my lap and nuzzle into my chest to cry I’m yet again reminded that even though you are getting closer to being grown, you are still a child. You need me.

Let’s be honest. You have friends. I have friends. We don’t need to be each other’s friend right now. I make you insane with all my dumb rules and frankly you aren’t always a peach to live with either.

Never mistake my determination that we can’t be friends as a lack of love. I’ve prayed for you since the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Every day. My prayers have shifted as life has shifted. I used to pray that you would sleep well at night in your crib. I prayed that your diaper rash would clear up. I prayed that you wouldn’t get too hysterical over the shots you were going to get at the doctor’s office. I prayed for your self-esteem as you went through that awkward phase of snaggled teeth and crooked glasses. I prayed that your 1st day of high school this year would go great. Daily, I pray for your health, your safety, that you will make wise decisions and that you won’t get involved with the wrong crowd. I pray that as you edge closer to those dating years that you will know a douche bag when you see one. I pray that you will find a balance between confidence and humility.

It’s hard for you to understand and I don’t expect that you will ever fully understand until you have children of your own how deep my love is for you. You are the best part of me and your dad. You and your brother are the beat in our hearts. When you hurt, we hurt. It’s our job to raise you to be an adult who is kind, responsible, respects herself and shows respect to others. We want to send you out into the world as ready as you can be for what life will throw at you. We want you to be fierce and strong.

As it turns out, to fulfill that mission, this love I have for you is not well received all the time. It sucks and I wish it wasn’t that way, but I have hope it won’t last forever. It’s okay that you don’t always like me or think I’m cool.

So when you yell at me to come into your room to curl your hair in the mornings, complain about how it looks afterwards, ask me to iron your shirt, make you some breakfast then on the way to school remind me of a 3 page form I need to complete before I drop you off at school or you won’t be able to attend the field trip I knew nothing about, I will take a deep breath and do it.

Because I love you.

Also because I have been praying to God that you will have a daughter exactly like you one day. That, in itself, will be the reward I need to make this all worth it.

I hope you understand. Don’t take it personally.

Love,

Mom