Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On A Day Like Today

On a day like today I can't imagine having more than 3 children, husband, Mac the Labradoodle, and a blind cocker spaniel who follows irritatingly behind every step I take.

This morning I added 'travel agent' to my long and continually growing job description. The entire morning had been spent making several plane and bus travel arrangements for my West Point cadet's summer schedule.

Turns out his new debit card was declined, so that added a few steps to the process including wondering why it had been declined and juggling money from one bank account to another.

We just got unlimited texting so my usually short-and-to-the-point boys have all become quite chatty...I love it...usually. But, on a day like today when I haven't washed my hair in 3 days...not so much.

"Mom..." texted son who was at a final exam study session at school ,which is 20 minutes away, "Can you come to pick me up now?'

I knew that if I hurried, I would be able to squeeze in a hair washing before having to rush out the door to pick up studying son.

Slightly detouring, I stopped by the bank...where everyone knows my name...not because I have a lot of money, just because they are resolve the debit card issue.
Turns out West Point guy had forgotten to activate his new card.

"I'm pretty sure it is working now, but we can't have our West Point boy traveling without his debit card. Have him buy a candy bar or something to see if that new card is working right."

"Mom," calls my son from after graduation practice, "if I buy lunch at Wendy's, will you pay me back?"

"Bev, what is your social security number?" calls husband.

So, I get to the school and retrieve final exam study boy plus neighbor girl. I'm wondering how many days it has been since I have eaten lunch before 3:00.

"Mom," says West Point guy, "I need to know my PIN number."

"I'll call you with the number when I get home."

"Mom," an urgent-sounding graduation practice son begins,"I just pulled onto a road that is bumper- to- bumper traffic, and I am almost out of gas. I'm exiting now, come quickly with a gas can!"

I think I will refer this call to Dad who, hopefully by now, will have finished with his appointment and might be driving in graduation practice boy's vicinity. "I'll handle it," husband assures me.

I'm dialing West Point guy to give him the PIN when I am interrupted by "Is 6:45 good for dinner ," the person with whom we are to meet tonight calls to ask.

"Mom," says West Point guy, "I bought a stamp, and the card worked fine." (A stamp? My cheapskate son bought a stamp with his debit card...not a candy bar...a stamp.)

On a day like today...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thankful Days

A Good Day to be Thankful
Morning on the Porch

Clayton Baby Pic

Today is the best weather Arkansas has to offer. Knowing how brutal the summers can be around here, we know when it's essential to capture the fleeting moments...and today is one.

Fresh Air
I will throw open the doors (because Hillcrest Cottage's 86 year old windows are mostly painted shut) and I'll not be concerned about the flies that may enter. I'll let the outside come in, and I will take the inside out.

Porch Time
I have a very long extension cord for my laptop, so I am on my porch listening to the birds celebrate the day.
Dining today will most definitely be alfresco.

Mac Knows
Mac the Labradoodle knows what an awesome day it is. Her snoot is held high taking in all the smells of spring.

Clayton's Birthday
Another reason to celebrate is that my Clayton turns 20 today. When I held this child for the first time, I could never have predicted where he would be today.
Sadly, this is first of many birthdays he will spend away from home. We will see him in June and have already made plans to celebrate then.
This son of mine would not allow any cake or food to celebrate..."Mom, it can get crazy, people come in and leave crumbs all over the floor" (Hello, Me).

Graduation Week at West Point
For now, he is safe and secure behind the gray stone walls of West Point getting up at 4 a.m. to begin "Graduation Week". It's a week full of ceremony, parades, and, on Saturday, hats tossed in the air. (West Point began the tradition of tossing hats after the graduation ceremony. The cadets write notes inside their hats and attach money. Children run onto the field gathering them afterward.)

May 18, 1989
The morning of May 18, 1989 was a very different setting. I was a very different person, certainly not the 'mom-type'. People used to laugh at the thought of me holding a baby.

Child birth class was an interesting experience as I remember filling out a form which on the top read: Mother's Name.
Turning to my husband I said, "Why do they want my mother's name?"

Oh...I'm the mother now.

Loooooong Labor
My first labor pain began in a YWCA board meeting; others followed which kept me up through the night and continued into the next day. I was told in the class that, with my first, I could stay home as long as I could endure the pain.
I wonder if they knew how tough I was?
Twenty four hours later, we decided to check into the hospital. Proud to say he was delivered drug-free...not something I recommend, just something I had wanted to accomplish.

Meet Clayton
A large crowd gathered that evening and 30 hours later at 9:00 p.m. Jeffery Clayton Kinley appeared.

I laugh because we have waited on Clayton ever since.
It's the one quality I am hoping the military will change in him.

My Reward
Twenty years later, I am amazed at the quality of my son... the man. He is so much more than I had ever expected him to be...and we have always dreamed big for this guy we called 'Special Boy' throughout his childhood.
It is so amazing to reap the 'harvest' of many years of plowin', plantin', and waterin'. A child like Clayton is a true reward.

Clayton...if you read this...I love you, buddy. Happy 20th birthday!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thankless Days

On a thankless day like today I would like to run away to a mountaintop cabin, raise hogs and chickens, milk my own cow, grow my own veggies, and sit for many hours on a porch overlooking the peaceful valley below.

Mac the Labradoodle would nap quietly at my feet.

The sound of wind blowing through the leaves and the cawing of crows would fill my ears.

I would ride into civilization only for coffee beans, dental floss, art supplies, M&Ms, and regularly scheduled dental visits.

I would forget about changing the world or being involved in any one's life but my own.

On thankless days, I wonder why I have to care about anyone beyond myself. I wonder why I have to shoulder all the stupid problems and tangled messes that everyone else creates for themselves. Why do I have to listen...

and even more...

why do I have to care?

Why is my son training to be an Army officer... to serve a people who live self-consumed lives... who would drive over the grave of his mangled body in their expensive cars drinking their lattes-to-go...and never... even... notice...

much less, care.

"I wonder who will be the next American Idol?" is the deepest pondering of their day.

Serving people is a crappy (oooo...I did use that word), thankless way to live.

I'm turning 50 soon, and the world-changing idealism of youth is no longer burning brightly.

There are days when it is dark...and lonely...and...


On these thankless days I wonder why I can't be lonely and thankless on my mountain cabin porch, instead of here in the middle of people making stupid choices, people knocking on my door late at night after a tiring day...

people driving their expensive cars over my grave.

"Is this the part of the movie where we die?"

I guess if you are reading this, and you have never had these thoughts...then you may be the one mindlessly riding and latte-drinking and consuming...

and forgetting to say "thanks" to those who mountain cabin-lessly serve you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Report

This is a Post-Mother's Day News Alert from the very testosterone-filled Hillcrest Cottage and is dedicated to all the moms who did not receive dinner served by candlelight, roses, or a promise by kids to clean their rooms.

My Gifts
From my West Point cadet deep in the trenches of Term End Exams with Chemistry covering two semesters greeting him early this morning, I received a Mother's Day greeting in my Facebook inbox complete with a promise to call tonight. From my high school senior, I got a combo text message which was part "I'm on my way home" (from a midnight movie), part sincere Mother's Day tribute. From my youngest (who's soccer team won the state championship on Saturday...go Warriors!), a huge bear hug was my gift.

I am Blessed
This is what living in a house filled with guys is like. However, a mother who has the love of her children every day of the year is blessed, and I have that.

Regular life may now resume.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blank Journal and Strong Will

To Stuart, Who Encourages Me to Not Live in the Past...
This Post is For You

I have a new journal, and it makes me happy. A blank journal is full of hope, wishes, promise, and dreams for the future.

The blankness calls to me," Write your destiny. Make your life count."

Psalm 90
I echo what Moses prayed in Psalm 90:

Teach us to number our days,
that we may present to You a heart
of wisdom...
And let the favor of the Lord our God
be upon us:
And do confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

My life is changing. During one year's course, I will have sent two sons to college and one father to heaven. I will have become 50 years young... which alone brings changes enough.

My Will
I am making a conscious choice to face the future with a "positive will powered by the Holy Spirit." I own my will. God allows me to make choices. I believe my will is the greatest thing God has given to me. I have a will of iron, and it can not be broken. When my will is bent, it only becomes stronger.

In the DNA
I get this from my dad.

Two of my sons have inherited "the will" and, maybe the third also, but, because of how #2 is wired, his will has yet to be fully tested.
Lots about son #2 is unknown. He is a mystery package slowly unwrapping, like a Christmas gift revealing new amazement and joy as each layer peels away. The unknown in Stuart is uniquely special. He keeps us tuned in: watching and waiting and wondering about the awesomeness that maturity will reveal.

All 3 are Different
Clayton has been on a clear, straight (many would say predictable) path since the 9th grade. People look at him and say,"You are exactly where and who you should be." His will focuses intently ahead, and he does not waver.

With Stuart, we will watch expectantly to see what he'll pull out of his hat. I know it's not gonna be a rabbit... rabbits are assumed. I know it will be incredible because he is incredible.

The will of #3...oh my... "no" may be the same in many languages...but not his. He has taught me about persistence and goal setting. He lives by the motto: It never hurts to ask.
I can't believe what he gets because he is not afraid.

Never Hurts to Ask
Once, when walking past the mall food court, where Davis had always received a free slushy sample, he asked,
"Could I please have a slushy sample?"
"We don't give out samples any more, kid," was the curt reply.
We continued through the mall, but had to walk past the same food vendor upon leaving.
Davis approached the vendor again with a question possessing genius beyond his age,
"How much are your free samples?"
"Why nothing...they are free," the pretzel-making teen replied, not realizing he had been duped by a 10 year old.
"In that case, may I have one, please?"
With slushy in hand, my son left the mall.

I Embrace It
So...I have this will which can not be broken. When I am told "no", I usually ask, "Why not?" and my follow-up resolve is, "I will." When I am told it can not be done, I begin to count the ways that it can be done. This is just how God made me.
A few years back, I decided to rejoice in what some may label as 'stubbornness', and I asked the Holy Spirit to empower me as I embrace this strong will of mine.

Cluttering my path today are more potential obstacles than I have ever faced in all my life. Because our family has chosen Robert Frost's 'road less traveled by', the challenges are great.

Today I am inspired by Clayton who plods steadily toward his goals. I think of Davis who can not be stopped by "no". I remember my father who never quit in all his 84 years and would not allow me to even speak the words,"I can't." I rejoice in the mystery which Stuart has taught me to embrace as something which gives fun and excitement to every day like...

The Holy Spirit Will
I know the more a person tries to do, the more they are likely to fail. But, to never try is also to never win. As I face this day, I ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen my will to focus on one step at a time, not on mountains that seemingly block my way.
I will be encouraged by Paul's words in Philippians:
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Today is young and blank and full of hope.
I am wondering who might be encouraged or inspired by even just...
the reading of this post.

As I'm numbering my days, I'm wondering:
How will my life count this day?

What is Your Greatest Strength?
How Will You Overcome your Obstacles?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time Turned Backward


I have learned that: Childhood happens but once; there is but one magical season. The rest of life is spent in attempts to recapture its essence or in ignorance of its memory. One time only. There is never a "do-over".

Italic My favorite childhood classics are A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" and "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie. One story celebrates the ordinary, every day life of a boy; the other book, one who refuses to grow up and the adults who have forgotten the beauty of the childhood experience.

With my second son's high school graduation upon me, I am reflecting upon my child's youth and my role in it. I have learned (Musings of a Housewife): there is no substitute for being there. By making such a bold, simple statement, I am not implying something negative about the situation of any other parent. At the same time I am not diminishing my experience by not saying it. When I say to one son "You are very smart, and I am so pleased at how hard you to work in school." I want to say something about that boy. It means what it means. It does not mean I am saying to the other two, " Y'all are stupid and a lazy bums that never do your homework." Comprende?

I have learned: A mom's life is a life without thanks. so sometimes I have to pat myself on the ole back.I have sacrificed lots in my life, including the putting of my own dreams on hold, the living of life on much less financially, and the literal giving of my entire being to the cause of being always available for my children. Now, as I am sending the second of three away to college soon, I can confidently say this: I have no regrets.

I have learned to put others before myself: I have changed every diaper. I have put the magical band-aid on every 'boo-boo'. I have been present through rollerblading, bicycle, and driving lessons. I've seen every tooth pulled and delivered every tooth fairy surprise. I have read stories, helped with reading and homework and projects, called out spelling words and listened to speeches. I have been on field trips, missions trips, and, now letting go as I send another one on a senior trip.
I have learned many roles: I've been a nanny, cook, housekeeper, laundry mistress, doctor, baker,teacher, cheerleader, coach, taxi driver, social director and party planner, inspirational speaker, drill sargent, Bible teacher and preacher and discipler, mentor, tutor, speed trainer, seamstress and costume -maker, videographer and photographer, exercise instructor, homework taskmaster, alarm clock, towne crier, pyscologist, Dr. Phil.

I've been a mom for almost 20 years, so I didn't learn all these things this week, but on the other hand, I re-learn them all the time.

What other roles have you 'played' as a mom?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last School Lunch

Lots of 'lasts' will be appearing from now until August when Stuart packs his black Volvo to leave for college. I don't know why, but making the last school lunch is tons more sad than the graduation ceremony will be.

Maybe because it is a quiet, ordinary thing that could easily slip away unnoticed without fanfare. Graduation comes with music and speeches and diplomas. The last school lunch is packed quietly in its brown paper bag, gets quickly snatched from the counter, shoved into the back pack, and whisked out the door in the every day rush to school.

Every day.
Sadness comes when 'every day' becomes 'yesterday'.

Not being a fan of sentiment, Stuart would try to encourage me by saying, "Oh, Mom, quit living in the past."

My Stu
Stuart views the world from a very unique lens. He is not distracted by life's 'noise' and 'static', so he is free to see things the way they truly are. This is the quality that makes him really good at solving computer problems. It's also the quality that makes him the funniest person I know. Stuart is an avid people-watcher, and when every one else is distracted, Stuart notices the stuff no one else sees. His commentaries can make me laugh for days.

When he was in early grade school, Stuart wondered all Labor Day why Labor Day would be a holiday. The two ideas did not seem to match. I didn't know either, but I remember it was a fun day of being in our back yard. The boys climbed trees and caught a frog. That night, Stuart said, "I still don't know why they call it Labor Day, but it was a really good day."

This same guy is truly puzzled by people screaming for their sports teams while watching games on TV.
He wonders,"Why do you yell? They can't hear you."
He's right...but I still yell anyway.

After Stuart's first day of school, I inquired, "How was it?"
"It was okay. I think I liked it," was his little freckled face reply.

When I picked Stuart up from his second day of school, again I asked, "How was it?"
"Mom, it was okay," was his simple reply, " And you don't have to ask me that every day. It was okay. If anything changes, I'll let you know."

Things are changing. This morning I made my senior's last school lunch...

and it was not okay.

What 'lasts' have made you sad?

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Yearbooks are Here!!!

I was a hard working member of my high school yearbook staff. Under the guise of journalism, I enjoyed putting my own photo on as many pages as possible. That was the 'name of the game' and a great motivation for the many long hours it took until we received the long-awaited call of "The yearbooks are here!!!" For the staff that meant a night of unloading boxes and implementing the next day's distribution plan. It was also a cause for great celebration.

Yearbooks Are Still Cool
My two high schoolers brought their yearbooks home yesterday. With all the things that have changed, with all the things that are passing into obscurity, I am glad the tradition of high school yearbooks carries the same excitement for my two boys as it did for me 'in the day'.

Who Would Sell Their Yearbook?
I am always sad to see yearbooks at flea markets. I would never part with mine. I use them to prod my memory and especially love going through them with a group of old high school friends where, "Oh my gosh, where is he now?" and "Do you know she is a (whatever) now?" and "He still looks the same." are the catch phrases of the gathering. As the years roll by it becomes, "His son looks more like I remember him than he does." Yikes...happens to us all.

Sign My Yearbook
What was written in our yearbooks was extremely critical for us girls. We spent weeks doing so, lugging our yearbooks to signing parties and to our senior trip. We didn't just say "BFF", we wrote novels. Those writings are priceless to me today. I know boys are different, but I lament my youngest son's decision, "I'm not doing the writing-thing this year...too much trouble."

Yearbook Pics Become Reunion Name Tags
Nowadays, it is popular...even critical the older one gets...for the yearbook pics to be used as name tags during reunions. "Oh...great..." some might say as they struggle to shirk their high school persona. Seriously, at my last reunion (30???) I had trouble recognizing people and the picture name tags got me through without sticking my foot in my mouth. Let me tell you, too, as the charwoman of the reunion (why I did this I'll never know...still tired just mentioning it) I made name tags for every single person in our class because I didn't know who might show up at the last minute. Killed me that so many name tags went unused. Killed me that so many came for whom there was no name tag pre-made.

More Work for Me
"Did you have your senior picture taken that year?" I would ask politely.
"Sure I did, " was always their reply.
"I wonder why it wasn't in the yearbook?" I would asked quizzically.
Fortunately, I had brought all year's annuals and was able, on the spot, to capture their pic from other years. I spent the whole first half of the party running back to the hotel office's copier, copying their image from the other books and making new name tags... for which I am not so certain people really appreciated.
As the night and my patience wore on, I started saying, "Here's a blank name tag, draw your pic here."

Reminder of Time Passing
So the yearbooks are here and another school year is done. Always a sober reminder to this mom that more time with my boys is forever gone. I am facing another May filled with 'lasts'. I don't know why, but the last school lunch is a heartbreaker. And, then, graduation.

Do you get sad at the school year's end?
Would you ever allow your yearbooks to end up at a flea market?