Just Like That

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It’s that time of year again, graduation season. I don’t have a graduation in my house this year, but several of my friends’ children are about to graduate from either high school or college. I admit, I’m relieved I’m not expected to attend any of the ceremonies this year. Because honestly, unless one of the speakers includes a couple of my speech suggestions from 2017 (click here to check them out https://wordpress.com/posts/shannonrbrown.com?s=graduation), I would rather nap at home. 

Whether I have a graduate in my own home or not, this season is full of reminders that time passes quickly. I remember when my kids were babies being approached by many a middle-aged woman imploring me to make the most of my time with my kids because, “just like that” they’d be all grown up. I usually smiled politely and returned to trying to keep my eldest from hiding things in the shopping cart, and my youngest from running off to meet the next stranger that glanced in his direction, thinking to myself, “Is she nuts? I can’t wait until they can wipe their own fannies.” Now, three graduations (2 high school, 1 college) later, I’ve become the crazy lady in the grocery store admonishing young mothers to enjoy their kids. I take their side eye with a grain of salt secure in the knowledge, “just like that,” they’ll understand that I’m right. (And not long after that they’ll be the lady in the grocery store.)

While it’s definitely good to embrace where you are in life and make the most of every moment with the people you love, it’s also very easy to get wrapped up in longing for things you lost “just like that.” I truly believe that every cloud has a silver lining, and that with each thing we lose, we gain another. To encourage myself, and hopefully at least one other person, I present to you a list of a few things that you gain, “just like that,” as your kids grow up.

Just Like That:

  • You don’t have to change dirty diapers.
  • You don’t have to spend three hours looking for a lost sippy cup full of milk.
  • You get to use the bathroom without little eyes peeping through the keyhole or fingers wiggling at you from the bottom of the bathroom door.
  • You get to eat a hot meal.
  • You don’t have to constantly remind people not to pick their noses in public.
  • You don’t have to sign anymore folders, try to relearn math, or run up to a school to pick up a vomiting kid.
  • You don’t have to do anyone’s dishes but your own, unless you’re married…
  • You only have to go to the animated movies YOU want to see.
  • You don’t have to try not to gag when eating a food you hate in your quest to raise healthy eaters.
  • You can eat cake for breakfast in plain sight, no hiding in the pantry required.
  • You learn that it’s okay to be the square peg in a round peg world.
  • You get to constantly remind your husband that if he’s going to walk around the house naked, he needs to at least close the blinds. (Or is that just me?)

There are so many benefits we experience with each trip around the sun we’re gifted with. I hope that we can all learn to look back fondly on the past, but spend more time looking forward to the adventures that await us. Master this attitude, and “just like that,” life gets a lot more gooder.

I Forgot

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I forgot a kid today. I guess technically, I just had the wrong time in my brain, but still – I forgot to get a kid to an appointment that I had made. The office had to call me to see if we were coming. I’m certain the receptionist could hear my cheeks reddening as we talked. To make matters worse, it wasn’t even my kid. Why is it worse to forget someone else’s kid? I’m not really sure, but for some reason it’s a whole lot more understandable to me if it had been my own kid. (Thankfully the kid’s mom is one of my closest friends and instead of chastising me, laughed with me.)

I wish I could say this is the only time it’s happened, but then I would be lying. I’ve done it before. And I’m certain I’ll do it again. Because sometimes it happens. We forget appointments. We forget to roll the trash cans out. We forget to start the dishwasher before we go to bed. We forget to feed ourselves. We forget to feed the dogs. And some of us, even forget to feed our kids every once in a while. 

Why am I rattling on about being forgetful? Because I know sometimes I need a reminder that we, as humans, forget stuff. And that when someone forgets something I think should be unforgettable I need to be gracious. I need to shunt my desire to be angry, hurt, offended or any number of negative emotions and instead remember that I have done the same thing to someone else – and I was treated graciously. 

I have found that when I treat others with grace, I am less negative. Less negativity leads to less stress which begets greater happiness. I need more happiness in my life. Don’t we all?  Especially in our current culture, that seems quick to find offense and amplifies the negative at every turn. It’s exhausting to walk around upset all the time. I don’t have the energy for that.

From here on out, I pledge to do my best to quit jumping to outrage when I feel as if I have been forgotten and instead remember that I have forgotten others as well. I should be the last one to make someone feel bad for a little forgetfulness. After all, I sometimes forget to feed kids so…I’m definitely far from infallible. 

I hope you’ll join me in attempting to spread happiness through the extension of grace. Even just a few of us choosing a more positive attitude can make the world a better place. At the very least, we can make our own lives a little happier.

Think, Think, Think

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Just after the words left my mouth I knew I shouldn’t have said them. Not before; after. As soon as I realized what I had said, I wanted to rip out my vocal chords and never say another thing again. But then I couldn’t talk, and I kind of like to talk, so that wasn’t really an option. If only I had taken a moment to embrace my inner Pooh Bear and, “Think, think, think,” before opening my big fat mouth.” Why didn’t I? Because I’m human. And humans often suck.

The worst part of the whole thing is that I was speaking out of pride. Actually, that isn’t the worst part. The worst part is that I knew ahead of time I shouldn’t utter my comment because I prefaced the statement with, “I know it’s probably bad to say this but…” Ugh.  I could have just swallowed the words, but nope that’s not what I did. Instead I managed to rip the bandage off the wound of a person I dearly love. A wound that I know is fresh. Sadly, I was so wrapped up in myself I completely failed to realize my words would cause harm. Double ugh.

I know I didn’t cause the original wound, but I’m afraid I managed to make it worse with my carelessness. Looking into the eyes of my loved one I could feel the emotional wreckage she was wading through, and the devastation of feeling like she was back at square one. I managed to precipitate that with my words and in the process once again prove and old adage to be true: We hurt the ones we love. 

Now I’m left trying to figure out how to make things better. I can’t take it back. I can’t make the wound heal. I can’t just go Chuck Norris the person that caused the original wound, because it’s more difficult to kick your own butt than it should be. I really feel the need to fix this. But I can’t. I’m just not that powerful. Sadly, she has to fix what I broke. 

While I may not be able to repair her heart, I did, to the best of my ability, try to at least lessen the damage of my words. I apologized both sincerely and profusely. I took ownership of my headassery and pledged to be more sensitive in the future. And because she is a gracious person that loves me, I was immediately forgiven and assured that she understood I meant no harm. But now I’m faced with a far greater task – forgiving myself. 

I don’t know about you, but forgiving myself is incredibly difficult. I try to be quick to forgive others.  However, when it comes to myself, it’s much harder. Instead of cutting myself some slack, I  usually just add my latest transgression to my personal failures highlight reel. A reel that seems to be on a never-ending loop inside my head. Apparently I don’t need external critics as the most vicious one in my life stares back at me from the mirror every day. This is my truth. But I don’t want it to be. And I certainly don’t want it to be for anyone else. 

This episode reminded me that I, just like the rest of humanity, am a work in progress – not a completed one. I can still make changes to my truth. And today I’m committed to making two more revisions to my structure: 1.) Be more like Pooh Bear and “Think, think, think,” before I speak and 2.) Remember that self-forgiveness is just as important as forgiving others. It may not be a grand plan, but at least it’s a plan I have a chance of sticking to. 

My hope in sharing my struggle with self-forgiveness is both altruistic and selfish. I’ll go with altruism first. If even one person is helped by reading this I’ll consider it a win. And now to my selfish ambition. I’d love to hear other suggestions for how to handle both my lack of verbal filter and difficulty with self-forgiveness. If you, dear reader, have any tips on how to accomplish either of these goals, please share them with me. I promise to shut up and listen.

We All Have an Uncle Joe

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not have noticed all the ridiculousness going on in this country. It’s gotten so crazy that families have been fractured over politics. Not adultery, not money… politics. 

How did we get here? That’s a long, and possibly contentious, discussion for which I am in no mood. Instead, I thought I would ruminate on how we can all learn to get along a little better. My step by step, foolproof plan to returning just a tiny bit of civility to this world.

  1. Don’t be a Jackdonkey. 

Yep, that’s it. One step. Easy, right? If only it were! Thankfully, I do have a few examples of how to keep to this civility plan when faced with the temptation to foment division. 

  • You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, stopping to watch videos of kids falling down, cats playing piano, defrocked dad bods auditioning for the inevitable suburban set Magic Mike sequel, or whatever your “friends” have shared. When all of a sudden, there it is. A political rant. Uh oh, how in the world can you resist responding to this positively inflammatory, salacious post that is in direct opposition to your own views? Knowing that you must set this poster straight with a heartfelt treatise on how they are a horrible person for the views they hold, and are obviously your intellectual subordinate, your fingers fly over the keyboard. Before you know it you’ve written a thousand word diatribe and your pinky is poised over the enter key. What does a Jackdonkey do? A Jackdonkey pushes enter and then waits for the fireworks to start. But because you have decided you don’t want to be a Jackdonkey, what do you do? You float that pinky finger up to the delete key and erase your epistle. Now go to YouTube and watch some Vines. Because Vines make the world better, 7 seconds at a time.
  • The urge for coffee is strong, so you pack up your trusty electronic device and head to the local coffeeshop. It’s crowded, because coffee is life, so you know it will be difficult to find a seat. Coffee in hand, you begin the hunt for a table. Just when you think all hope is lost, a table for two opens up. You swoop in, place your backpack in one chair and slide your derrière into the other chair. Laptop out, headphones in hand, you’re ready to plug-in just as a person you have met once, at a social function, walks up and asks if they can sit with you. “Oh crap, you think to yourself. How do I get out of this one?” Well, the first question is, do you want to be a Jackdonkey? Because if you do, then tell the interloper that you’re waiting on someone. You can even check your watch to make it more convincing. But what it you DON’T want to be a Jackdonkey? Then you get on your feet, move your backpack to the floor, and offer the spare seat to your acquaintance. And then, here’s the tough part, you put your headphones back in your bag and strike up a conversation. Bonus props to you if you manage to talk about something other than the weather.
  • And now the tough one. It’s Thanksgiving. The whole family is seated around the table, plates filled to the point of gravy dripping onto the tablecloth, and the conversation is roaring. Just as it looks like this will be a harmonious occasion, Uncle Joe, itching for a fight, opens his big, fat mouth and utters an opinion he knows full well you find detestable. There’s a collective breath hold as the family prepares to take cover in anticipation of your inevitable, fiery response. But you’ve decided to not be a Jackdonkey, so instead of starting an argument that you know will end with mashed potatoes on the ceiling, your mother in the bathroom crying, and your Aunt Betty (Joe’s wife) pouring herself three fingers of scotch, you swallow your pride and remain silent. That’s right, you don’t say a word. You simply continue enjoying your turkey dinner, thus crowning Uncle Joe the sole Jackdonkey in the room. If you manage to do that successfully, I promise the fat, calories and cholesterol in that big meal won’t count. Not a single bit.

I truly believe this plan, if utilized by even just a few of us, can make the world a better place. I hope you’ll try it with me. And if that fails, thanks to the perpetual nature of the interwebz, we’ll always have Vines.

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