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.

So Long 2018!

FB_IMG_1546282269949Hi! I know it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. Thought I’d let you know I’m still alive. I unexpectedly had surgery a couple of months ago and it’s taken a while to get back into the swing of things. Despite that, I couldn’t let this year end without one last post. 🙂

Scrolling through my various social media feeds the past few days I have noticed a trend. Most people felt like 2018 was a dumpster fire of a year. I may be in the minority here, but I’d say 2018 was pretty much a good year for me. Yes, there are parts of it I’d like to forget –  I’m looking at you anemia & uterine eviction surgery; parts that were bittersweet – two graduations and one kid’s move to Utah;  however, there were plenty of parts that were amazing – adventures with several people I love, successful surgeries for a few of us, a new doorway opened, and too many others to count. While I will agree that it’s time to put 2018 behind us, for me it was a year full of change, challenge, AND blessing.

A few years ago I started adopting a word for each year. 2018 ’s word is Finish. I have a tendency to begin things with great gusto, only to lose steam part way through, usually leaving a mess in the wake of my endeavors. I’d love to blame it all on my ADD, but I need to own my choices, so I won’t. (I’ve heard this is called adulting which I can confirm is a highly overrated.) Honestly, if I allowed myself that excuse for my laziness I’d never get anything done! 

2018’s word has been challenging, to say the least. And I must admit that there are many unfinished things I’m taking into the new year with me, but there is one thing I finished that I am particularly proud of. My co-author and I finished the first draft of our book. Done. Finito. (Except for the editing, querying, book proposaling, etc. That’s what 2019 is for, right?) This was a huge accomplishment and a leap forward in pursuit of a long held dream. On the merits of this alone I’m calling 2018 a win for me. I finished a freaking book! Following the checking off of that box, I’m ready to embrace a new word, and whatever it brings with it. 

I pulled the picture at the top of this blog from a friend’s Facebook feed. It felt like a great way to look at tomorrow and the new year ahead. 2019 is the beginning of a brand new chapter in the book of our lives. I am choosing to embrace the fresh start. I hope you’ll join me.

As we finish the last page of 2018, there are a few things I’d like to make sure I include in my conclusion:

  • If I have hurt you in any way, I apologize and seek your forgiveness. I will do my best not to repeat my actions.
  • If you have hurt me in any way, I forgive you. I will do my best not to hold it against you. 
  • Finally, I am grateful for each and every one of you that takes the time to read, like, share, comment on, etc., my musings. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.

Onward to 2019!

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.

Dear Mr. Sun

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Dear Mr. Sun,

I saw you peeking out of the clouds this morning, so I know you’re still up there. It’s been so long since you graced us with your presence that I’ve begun to worry about you. Your tears have fallen for weeks now and are collecting everywhere I turn. Some of them have even made their way into my house. It seems like you’re very sad, is there something I can do to help? 

Depression is not to be taken lightly. If that’s what’s going on with you I’m here to offer you an ear, and a referral if need be. I also have a Costco size load of Kleenex if that would be of assistance. My yard is already a mud pit and it would appreciate a little break from being your absorbent material of choice. 

If the bucketloads of water falling to the ground are actually tears of joy, think you could spread it around a little? With the overabundance of clouds and lack of your bright rays we’ve all begun to feel a little morose. Even those with the sunniest (pun definitely intended) of dispositions is ready to blow their top. Not to mention the frustration of my dogs, and the weariness of my junk towels that sit in a muddy mound by the backdoor. 

Whatever the reason for your continued withdrawal from my world, I beg of you to address the underlying issue and come back to me.The sunflowers need. you. I need you. My fellow Texans need you. And if this behavior is a manifestation of your frustration with my frequent complaints about your seeming ever-present heat, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize. I’m sorry for blaming you for my late summer crankiness. It’s not you, it’s me. I will attempt to refrain from blaming you for my issues. I promise to do better.

No matter the reason for your disappearance, we can get you through this. There’s no need to continue hiding behind the clouds. It will all be okay. You just need to come back. I’m begging you. On my knees. In the mud. Please, please, please come back!

With all of my heart,

Shannon

Being the Yes

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I’m at the age where grandchildren are most likely in the not too distant future. I know the thought of being called “Grandma” makes some women feel old. Not me. I’m filled with joy at the prospect. I am more than ready to move from being the “No” that motherhood requires and becoming the “Yes” that is the hallmark of grandparenthood.

In anticipation of my hoped for change in status I decided to start planning a few things and determining some guidelines. As it’s often helpful to solicit ideas from others, I thought I’d share a few of my ideas and ask you for some as well. For the kids out there, you should consider this a version of “What to Expect: Grandparent Edition.”

  • Saturday morning breakfast will be eaten directly out of the ice cream container.
  • Bedtime may be suspended at any time for any reason.
  • Jumping on the bed is encouraged.
  • There is never a bad time for a new toy.
  • Totally Chocolate Dinner constitutes a viable meal option.
  • Pajamas are acceptable daywear, regardless of the day’s plans.
  • Mismatched socks are preferable.
  • You can never have too many stuffed animals.
  • Baths filled with toys are to be expected.
  • Nap? Only if I feel like taking one.
  • Mud puddles are for stomping in.
  • Rarely is there a difference between a want and a need.
  • Payment for household chores done at Grandma’s is to be expected.
  • Overpayment for tasks is also to be expected.
  • Everyday is a good day to bake cookies.

I reserve the right to amend this list at any time. In fact, I’m hoping y’all have some suggestions for additions. I figure if I managed to raise kids to adulthood, I’ve earned the right to start saying “Yes.” And so have you.

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.

Shameless Plug

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Full disclosure, this is really hard for me. Really hard. But I have to ask all of you for a BIG favor. If you’re enjoying my blog, would you please, Like, Share, Follow via WordPress and/or email, etc.? So essentially all the stuffz? I really need to increase my platform and I don’t know how else to do that other than to ask all of you for help.

Why do I need to increase my reach? Because, I can’t believe I’m actually able to say this, but I have a book to sell. And I need a larger platform to help convince a publisher that they should buy the book.

A little backstory: Last year my dear professor friend asked me to help her write a textbook for her course on Family Conflict. Needless to say I was flabbergasted that she would trust me to help her on such a big project. You see, what she didn’t know was that I have always wanted to write a book, but was afraid to do it. Afraid of what? Failure. Yeah, I know, that’s a really stupid reason not to try something. Alas, that was exactly the choice I had made. But thankfully, I was capable of making a different choice and with a lot of encouragement, I did.

Fast forward 14 months and we now have the first draft completed. It’s still a ways from being ready to send to a publisher, but I need to start working on the ancillary stuff, like a digital platform, before we submit our first book proposal. And that’s why I’m coming to you, asking for your help. To make it as easy as possible, I’ve complied a handy dandy list for you, several with links attached.

How You Too Can Shamelessly Plug Me

I truly appreciate all of you and all the support you have given me since I began this endeavor. I promise not to spam your inbox or give any of your info away. It’s just between us.

Thank you for allowing, and helping, me to shamelessly plug myself. 

 

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.

Beauty from Ashes

pexels-photo-592667Ever had a day where you felt like you failed at everything? From the moment your feet hit the ground, you made not one, single, solitary, good decision? Yeah, me too. In fact, today feels a little bit like that. Although, I did make a few good choices early on, so I guess it’s not quite that bad, but still, not my best day.

It’s really easy on days like this to spend the evening hours beating yourself up. And trust me, I’ve spent a little bit of time doing just that. But then I realized that of all the days in the year to have a bad day, this is the best one. It’s Easter.

To me Easter is more than just a day for egg hunts and stuffing my face with a ridiculous amount of chocolate. Easter is about a promise. A promise made centuries ago and still being fulfilled today. A man, fully human, and fully God was nailed to a cross, laid in a tomb and three days later, He rose again. He bore my sin and my shame so I don’t have to. Even on my worst day, His grace is sufficient. And the best part is – it’s free. All I had to do was ask for it. I don’t deserve it, but because He loves me so much, it’s mine for the asking. That’s it.

One of my very favorite verses is in the book of Isaiah. It reminds me that no matter how big of a mess I make, He can redeem it. Even if I manage to burn it all down, He can create beauty from the ashes.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

If you don’t know the Author of All Creation on a personal level, you’re missing out. There’s truly no better coping mechanism for a bad day; and He makes it so easy. All you have to do is invite Him in. It’s just that simple.

I’m ready for the clean slate I get tomorrow. I’m hoping I make better use of it than I did today’s, but I know that even if I don’t, He still loves me. Because at the end of the day, I am His – signed, sealed and delivered.

 

 

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