In celebration of my 47th birthday, I’ve made a list. Now, what you won’t find on this list are the greatest blessings of my life: my faith, my loved ones, my health, the health of my loved ones . . . . Of course I am more than grateful for these, plus lots, lots more than I have listed here. Still, here’s a list—a sampling—of 47 specific things (in no particular order) that I appreciate.
3. Portobello mushrooms
6. Yellow roses
7. Disney World
9. My mother’s homemade doughnuts
12. Fresh figs
13. Rosa Parks
14. Used book stores
17. Air conditioning
18. Office supplies
19. Clean water
23. Card Games
24. Ruby Bridges
27. Moosetracks Ice Cream
30. The Trinity
32. Denzel Washington
34. Just Dance
35. Clorox wipes
37. Carrot Cake
38. My Swiffer Wet Jet
39. Sandwich thins
40. Music education
44. Slow cookers
46. Digital photography
and #47: People who read my blog
Was trying to pin my blog on pinterest and it wouldn't pull a picture of me. Let's see if this works.
Another Guest Blogger: My own daughter Trellace. She made this speech for an awards ceremony; ACRHS does not recognize valedictorians at all at their graduation, so this was her pseudo-valedictory speech. It was awesome. And I'm not one bit biased.
During my Wake Forest interview this past summer, my interviewer asked me about the culture of my high school. “Well,” I told the woman, “we think we’re the best, and…we are the best.” Now, this might not have been the most humble or tactful way to tell an interviewer about the atmosphere of Reynolds, but I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty accurate. I went on to talk about our expectation for excellence in everything we do, whether it be in academics, athletics, or the arts. If you’re in our school and community, you are proud to call yourself a Reynolds Rocket.
Sure, from state championship rings, to award-winning publications, to widely-acclaimed musicals, we have a lot to be proud of. But more than our shiny resume, we should take pride in our fantastic teaching staff.
As I began to write this speech, I wondered how I could choose just one teacher to praise. All of mine have been amazing. Mrs. Love is fun and creative. Mrs. Kuster is dedicated and caring. Mr. Hutchinson is crazy and engaging. Ms. White is generous and kind.
But in particular, my AP teachers have shaped my education in profound ways.
My sophomore year, I took AP U.S. history with Coach Goode, where I learned that it is possible for someone to grade 200 essays in one night. In addition to speedy grading, Coach Goode demonstrated his passion for his students by working many late hours on History Day projects, amusing us with pick-up lines and the creative use of stuffed animals and other toys, distributing candy before the AP exam and encouraging us to touch the “staff of knowledge” for good luck. But we didn’t need any extra luck to help us succeed on the AP exam. Coach Goode had taught us well—we knew practically everything about America from 1700-present. He also gave us the tools to assess information analytically, laying the groundwork for the things that Marcia Hudzik would teach us in AP World the following year.
Through thesis-writing, short answers, document analysis, and class discussions, Mrs. Hudzik taught us a new way of thinking. When Mrs. Hudzik gets into a lecture, it is evident how passionate she is about her history. She loves her world history, and she loves her students. She has written many of our college recommendations and given us advice on everything from what we should get our parents for Christmas to how we should spend the next four years of our lives. In fact, it is not uncommon to find non-World or Civics students hanging out in her room before school, after school, or during lunch.
And though I love her dearly, I am not often one of Hudzik’s groupies, because I am spending many of my afternoons in the newspaper office with Ms. Cooper. If Ms. Cooper had a dollar for every extra hour she has spent at school with her newspaper editors, she could retire. As one of her editors this year, I know how thankful her staffs are for her unrelenting devotion to the school newspaper. She makes it possible for us to be proud of our successful publication. This year, Ms. Cooper has also served as my AP English teacher, where she has taught our class how to interpret and appreciate, if very rarely, the literary genius of Faulkner, Dunn, Keats, Dickens, and many others. Yes, we certainly respect the literature knowledge we have gained this year, but I think we enjoy more the pot of hot tea she keeps in her back office and the periodic breakfast treats she brings us.
And while those surprise breakfast mornings may be delightfully frequent, I have probably eaten just as much in Mrs. Wheeler’s class this year, between many food days and the bag of candy she gave us before our AP exam. Mrs. Wheeler, lover of fun and calculus, has given me a surprising appreciation for advanced mathematics. If you had asked me as a freshman about my senior schedule, it would not, over my dead and forlorn body, have included calculus. But after enjoying the teaching brilliance of Mrs. Wheeler in Pre-Cal, I decided that a year of calculus might not be too bad. In an engaging classroom setting, learning calculus has been almost enjoyable this year. Thanks to Mrs. Wheeler, I have realized that I should further my knowledge of math, and so in the fall I will be combining my love of the humanities and mathematics as an International Political Economy major.
As many of you know, I will be pursuing that major at Georgetown University. But let me tell you, I was not Georgetown material when I came to Reynolds as a freshman. I believe that it is the result of my teachers’ efforts, not any innate intelligence of mine, that has allowed me to enroll at a prestigious university like Georgetown. My teachers have shaped me into the well-informed scholar that I am today. Without their guidance and instruction, I would drown in the academic challenges that Georgetown presents its students. But thanks to the ways that my high school teachers have already pushed me, I know that I am ready to participate in analytical and intelligent conversations there. Now that I’ve completed hundreds of IDs, 40 minute speed essays, 15 minute free response questions, and hours and hours of late-night homework, I am so grateful for the energy that my teachers have put into my education. So, thank you, not only to my teachers, but to the entire Reynolds faculty, for making all of us the successful student we are today and will be in the future.
Trellace graduates in June 2012 and starts at Georgetown in the fall. She likes church, tennis, and Just Dance 3. We call her Queen.
She was just an “only.”
I made her “oldest.”
She loved me before I was born.
We wore matching Easter dresses and carried matching purses that Mama stitched up on her Singer™.
Brunette? That’s her. The blond one—that’s me.
We spoke our own language. No one else understood.
She loved me before I was born.
Old Maid, Monopoly, Careers.
Chrissy and Velvet. (Hair-growing dolls.)
Roller skates, not blades, and bicycles with banana seats and long handlebars that had windmills on them that spun wildly when we raced down the hill.
She just loved me—before I was even born.
She was always the teacher. I was always the student.
Except since we've grown up and life's grown up: now we take turns being the teacher, being the student.
White Lake. Yates’ Pond. And hotel pools.
She saved my life when I fell in.
That’s how much she loved me--ever since before I was born.
She had the top bunk; I had the bottom.
We fought our way through the teen years and clung to each other when college pulled us apart.
We held each other’s flowers through the “I do’s,”
Each other’s hearts through each nine months.
We loved each other’s. Before they were born.
When I need her,
When she needs me,
We are already there.
Because she loved me before I was born. And I’ve loved her right back.
*Knock, Knock, Knock: an action done by knocking three times on the headboard of either the top or bottom bunk that prompts the hearer to knock three times on a headboard in response. Most common meaning is "I love you/I love you too," but can also mean, "You awake?" with the response or lack thereof answering the question. During thunderstorms or troublesome times, could also mean, "Don't be scared/I won't if you won't."
I wish they had been unearthed sooner. After all, I’ve been coping with car line for nigh on 13 years. Still, once I learned of their existence, I just had to share. So behold, straight from the research division of Parents Together Against Overt Car line Discourtesy (PTA-OCD), the
Ten Commandments of Car Line Etiquette.
Feel free to distribute at will. And you're welcome.
*Zip (verb) [zĭp]—the practice of taking turns while in car line. When two lines of traffic enter the car line from opposing directions, one car enters from one line then another enters from the other line, thus creating a zipper of cars.
As in “Because I have good manners, I always allow the car across from me to zip into the car line before I enter the car line myself.”
"Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded." Proverbs 13:13
13 February 2012
Today she is 14, but 11 years ago, our third child celebrated her third birthday. Back then, she loved Minnie Mouse, so her hand-made invitations, her cake, even her dress, all featured her favorite Disney character. For the invitations, I wrote a cutesy poem all about her. I'll post it here; but a bit of explanation first.
Margaret was due February 2 (note today’s date) and even though I did not find out the gender of my baby, I just knew she was a girl. She came home to a lovey-bear we named Lynnette after the person who gave it to her and before long she had her favorite foods, including yogurt covered raisins which she dubbed “raisin eggs.” And when she was little we called her Meggie. (About the time she turned four, she informed us, "My name is Mawgwet, not Meddie." So then, Margaret it is.) The rest you’ll find self-explanatory. Enjoy!
Happiest birthday to our unrequested blessing, our Margaret--which just so happens to mean "pearl."
My phone buzzed. The text was from my mother—impressive in itself as she celebrated her 70th birthday more than three years ago.
Mother: I’m getting a piano!
Me: No way!
I shouldn’t have been surprised. My mother has dreamed of playing the piano as long as I can remember. As children, my sister and I took piano lessons for years (my sister plays still; I have other gifts). We even had a piano in our home. It was no cheapo either: piano tuners still rave about the quality of it. I can’t imagine what my parents sacrificed to pay for that piano and for our lessons. Daddy was a Baptist pastor and mother, a stay-at-home mom; we had enough, but seldom any extra.
Mother loved that we took piano, even though (or maybe especially because) she never had. She could play a little, even read music in her own way. We’re not sure how she did it, because she didn’t know the names of the notes or even where they were supposed to be on the keyboard. No matter, she’d open her Broadman Hymnal, study the page, then manage a pretty good version of the song before her. Who knows?
She still has that Broadman Hymnal, but I have her piano in my house now. My oldest daughter began taking piano eight years ago; Mother couldn’t wait for her granddaughter to play on her beautiful piano (it had stood silent for so long). It’s not silent now. Both my older children take piano and they actually practice. Turns out that helps you get better. Wish I’d known that.
I called Mother after getting her text.
“I feel bad that I have your piano, Mother! Don’t you want it back?”
“Absolutely not! It belongs to your children now. I’m getting a new one.”
See, my mother, well into her seventh decade, has never given up on her dream to play the piano. So when she was walking through the mall last summer and saw that the piano store was offering group lessons for adults, she marched herself right in there and signed up. She finished the first round of lessons, played in her first recital, and was all set to sign up for the next class when she decided she would go all in. She talked to the teacher, worked out private lessons, and then set about picking out her piano.
“They are delivering it tomorrow,” she told me, grinning through the phone, “And I’ve got the perfect place for it.”
"Good people, cheer God! Right-living people sound best when praising. Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs! Play his praise on a grand piano! Invent your own new song to him.” Portions of Psalm 33:1-3 (The Message)
"I believe in kibble and in rawhide which are brought home by my mommy and consumed by me. I believe in the suffering of squirrels, in the burying of bones, and that no canine should have to suffer the humiliation of baths or toenail clipping. I believe in naps--morning, noon, night and at all times in between--and in having nice fluffy beds in every room. I believe in treats, tummy rubs, long walks, digging in the dirt, barking really loudly, and in naps ever-lasting. Goodnight."
Published on: Jan 7, 2012
As parenting goes, I have always dreaded the day when I uttered these words: "THIS is worse than potty training." Since my kids are pretty close in age, I was potty training at least one of them for three straight years. I'm being self-aware not self-deprecating when I tell you: I'm not good at teaching toddlers the tricks of the toilet. I'm not. (And please don't leave me any tips here because really, I've heard them all and besides, they pretty well have it down by now.)
I said then, as I've said for the last decade or so, "I dread the day when I say, 'This is worse than potty training.'"
And I have not said it. I didn't say it when eight-year-old Trellace spent five days in the hospital because of a ruptured appendix, or when, at 16, she went to summer camp in Nairobi (of all places). I didn't say it when pneumonia bored a hole through Baker's lung in the fifth grade or when he got his first girlfriend. And I haven't said it despite Margaret's ongoing issues with migraines and asthma.
I guess in all of those situations, I felt like I had some control even if in reality, I didn't. I've had migraines all my life and I've studied asthma since Baker was diagnosed at 15 months old. We have great doctors in Asheville so my children have had excellent medical care. Baker has always chosen great friends, whether they were girls or boys, and Trellace was well prepared for her African adventure.
But this stage? THIS is worse than potty training.
You see, stitched into the very fiber of my being is a longing for all three of my children to have the desires of their hearts. Likewise, I want them to grow into adults, not to remain children. I want them to reach for the moon and I want to give them a boost to help them get there. I want them to move on to the next stage (the alternative is unthinkable), and to continue becoming all that God has created them to be.
I just don't want to let them go.
I want Trellace to go to the college of her dreams. I just want to go with her. And I want all of her friends to go with us too.
In truth, I think it's the friend thing that makes this whole stage nearly unbearable. See Trellace has really, really great friends. We have played together, laughed together, dreamed together. I feel like I'm not just letting go of my daughter, but also of a group of girls who have settled into my heart right along beside her. It's so hard.
It's worse than potty training. Worse, and just as inevitable: because I wouldn't have wanted to take my kids to kindergarten in diapers. And I wouldn't want my kids or their friends to grow old without growing up.
So it's time. It's time to celebrate the painful, beautiful, gut-wrenching, hope-filled transition from what has been to what will be. Ready or not: here it comes.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . " Ecclesiastes 3:1
All three of my children arrived late, but my Margaret was over 10 days late. Here's an article I wrote about what it is like to be 42 weeks pregnant.
“This baby could be here any day,” my doctor said. “We may even see you back here tonight!” At thirty-eight weeks pregnant, I welcomed the news.
He did not see me back that night. Or the next. Or the next.
My advice: Don’t listen to a word anyone says about when your baby will arrive. Unless you have scheduled a c-section or induction, no one on this side of heaven knows exactly when your labor will start. They think they do. They’ll spout about generations of accurate predictions as proof of their authority.
But they don’t know squat. (Please forgive the visual.)
Of course there are signs that labor is imminent. Some women have Braxton-Hicks contractions near the time of labor. Some don’t. You might experience a nesting instinct close to d-day. I didn’t. I kept hoping I would because my house could have used a good overhaul; still could. You might begin (gross-out warning here) to lose your mucus plug. Or, you might not. See, the thing about labor signs is that if they happen, then all they mean is that you’ll be going into labor either that day—or two to six weeks later.
It can be maddening.
Imagine you’ve planned a dinner party. The invitations have gone out and you know your guests are coming—either that day or in two to six weeks.
So you start cleaning. You get the house straight, but before you have everything spit-spot, the doorbell rings. Oh no. The meal is not ready; the table is not even set! When you go to the door and find no one there, you laugh a nervous, relieved sort of laugh, and get back to work.
When that day ends and your guests have not arrived, you don’t mind. After all, you needed to get those chores done anyway. A friend calls just before you turn in for the night, “Did your guests arrive?” You explain that they have not made it yet and she tells you not to worry—it won’t be long now. You know that, but thank her for her call.
A week later, though, your guests have still not made it to your doorstep. You hear the doorbell now and then, but no one has been on the other side of it yet. Friends and loved ones call, excited about your party, and they want you to know that you are in their thoughts.
“Oh well!” you reply, “They’ll get here as soon as they can, I’m sure.” And you decide to try a new dessert recipe. As it turns out, you have time to try it out on your family and to try it two more times. You are marveling at your perfect creation when, as luck would have it, you hear a knock at the door. You glance in the hall mirror and wipe stray hairs into place and then, with your company face in place, you throw open the door. Hmmm. No one. You step out on the porch. You look around. No one.
“Good thing the dessert will freeze,” you mutter to the non-guests, noticing as you go back inside that the hairs have strayed yet again.
You regroup. You look around at your fairly clean house and you realize, shocked you hadn’t noticed it before, that your walls really need a good scrubbing. Good thing the guests have been delayed. You hop to it.
A week later: no guests and the frozen dessert has been dethawed and devoured. You realize a little too late that you should have shared it with your family. You rationalize your indiscretion: surely you burned a lot of calories when you cleaned the refrigerator and freezer. Glancing at the dining room, all decked out in company finery, you think, “Well. If they don’t get here soon, I’m going to have to dust the dishes!” But your grimace fades slightly when you look over at your china cabinet and realize that you really should get all those dishes out and give them a good washing. Later, you answer the phone, admiring your gleaming dishes.
“No, not yet,” you reply, white-knuckling the cordless. “No, no sign of them.” You listen to the same question you answered on a different call just that morning, “Yes, I’ve eaten a bit of the party foods and yes, I know I’ll have to work off the extra calories after the party.” You switch hands, concerned about the well-being of the phone. The doorbell rings. You make a quick getaway from your caller without revealing your reason. If someone is really there, you’ll let your caller know later.
Opening the door with an expectant greeting on your lips, you are met with emptiness, yet again. “Fine.” You close the door a little harder than you should have, and you hear the china tremble in the cabinet.
You call it a night, sleeping fitfully until the phone awakens you the next morning.
“Hello?” It’s your guests. They’re lost.
You give them good directions, turning them around and heading them straight for your nice clean house. You jump up, hoping you will have time to get ready before they arrive.
It’s been an hour. What is wrong with these people? You try their cell phone. No signal. For heaven’s sake.
“I get it.” The light suddenly dawns. “They’re really not coming at all. This has all been a big joke.” Annoyed, you put away the china and the nice linens. “Well, at least I don’t have to wait on them any more!” You go to the movie store and rent some chick flicks, and stop by the ice cream shop on the way home.
“Cup or cone?” The perky attendant’s smile grates on what very well might be your last nerve.
“Both,” you decide. “And a gallon to go.”
Later, with your fuzzy slippers propped up on the coffee table, you sniffle to the last minutes of Sleepless in Seattle. The credits roll and you catch a glimpse of your reflection in your licked-clean spoon. Laughing at the spectacle, you say aloud, “I’m surely glad I’m not expecting company.”
“Honey?” your husband calls to you from the other room. His voice quakes as he lets you know, “Our guests are here.”
No meal. No table setting. No company face.
You are annoyed, but not for long. Realization sets in. It’s time. You’ve waited so long and it is finally time. Your pace quickens; you throw open the door. Nothing is the way you had imagined it would be. Yet it is better than you had ever dreamed it could be.
“Welcome!” you say, your joy spilling out in both laughter and tears. “You are right on time!”
And your little one will be too. Just wait and see. . .
For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1