Original post appeared in my Finding Thin blog.Thursday, January 29, 2009...
I've made a new habit to steer clear of dangerous food items when I shop for groceries every week. I've trained myself fairly well to avoid those temptations that lurk around every corner. But what happened yesterday can only be described as an ambush. I was caught off guard- amazed at the gall of some manufacturers. I was visibly shaken that they have chosen to make even a trip down the personal hygiene aisle, a dieters nightmare.
Yeah, I was minding my own business. Pushing the cart. Humming some old Eagles tune. Checking my list to see that I needed body wash, deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste. Should have been easy, right?
What business does Chocolate Pie body wash have amid the soap selections? Or Fruit and Yogurt, Cherry Jubilee, or Lemon Meringue? It's soap, for God's sake! I'm not eating it- I'm washing with it!
I drooled just a bit as I examined the entire array of choices in everything from soap to mouthwash.
Vanilla Sugar Scrub, Honey Almond Body Butter, Tantalizing Tapioca, and Macadamia Body Mousse. There was Pumpkin- scented- Coconut -encrusted- Strawberry- infused body delights that sounded too good to be wasted in the bath. (Unless, of course, your skin absorbed the goodness.)
I weakly wheeled my cart past personal deodorants with names like: Southern Peach, Vanilla Sparkle, Tropical Treat, and Island Cocoa.
Even toothpaste gets in on the ambush with cinnamon, bubblegum, and vanilla mint.
I quickly made my selections, pulling out of the strange hold those bath and body aisles had upon me.
So, last night I took a soaking bath with my Chocolate Cake Body Wash. I was tempted to eat the bubbles, but I wasn't sure of the calorie count. I really did smell good as I got dressed for bed.
"What's that smell?" my husband asked as we lay in the darkness.
"Silky Chocolate wafers?" I teased, "Velvety smooth cocoa mousse?
"No...not that.." he told me, as I realized he was searching for answers."I know what it is, but I can't quite put my finger on it."
"A thin mint? A chocolaty whipped kiss? I suggested, as I wrapped my arms tighter around him.
"No..no...Oh! I've got it!! he exclaimed, practically jumping out of bed,"A Chunky!"
So, my advice to you all is -don't be ambushed. Even those foods or food fragrances you think are marvelous -are bound to disappoint in the long run. Purging, binging, or throwing caution to the wind are simply self-destructive. We must always be cautious- acutely aware that an ambush could be waiting at the next family dinner, night out, or birthday celebration.
Some say there is a place called Limbo.
A vague, almost mystic spot in time that exists between Heaven and Hell.
It's a state of transition, of temporary confinement- of quiet oblivion.
I have always thought that August was a sort of earthly limbo.
A calm, almost floating space of days that exists between summer and fall.
Some use the term, "August at its peak".
I can see that invisible peak now.
August is like a roller coaster that you board in the summer - ride its curves and bends- rise with its peak-
and emerge at the other end, deeply aware of autumn's coming.
Your soul is suddenly seeped in the unseen ghosts of a new season that has not yet arrived.
August has always been a month of reflection for me.
A time of looking back, but yet, looking forward.
Of remembering special summer moments, but at the same time, anticipating events that will shape themselves in the days to come.
From my front porch, I watch August as it unfolds...
Soon the school bus will roar down the dusty summer roads.
Each year I watch as its yellow face appears around the curve, dancing with bouncing children.
If I blur my eyes just right, I can almost see my children there, smiling and waving back at me from the windows.
Remembering how I sent them off to school, my heart full of love and concern- but with an emptiness only a mother can know.
The world is quiet today.
August pulls the life from the grass and trees, leaving curled clover beneath my bare feet as I walk to the garden.
The surface of the pond pops occasionally with a hungry fish- its murky surface showing a cloudless sky with ripples of mid-day heat.
There were fun days here.
Days when the kids squealed as night crawlers were baited on their hooks-
their little, sweaty heads glistening in the sunlight as they patiently waited for the big fish to arrive.
They used to walk with me here, all three of them in tow, scouting for blackberries and wildflowers and yellow-spotted garden spiders.
We always had a ritual of leaving a trail of milkweed silk floating on the air behind us - making secret wishes as we freed the seeds from their spiky, dried cocoons.
I stop for a moment.
If I tune my ears just right, I can almost hear them laughing and splashing again-
their sweet voices like an infectious happiness that can never be replaced.
I miss those times and I miss my children.
But I accept the fact that their lives were long ago pulled away by duties of the world- by their young wings fluttering away to an obscure freedom-
like the milkweed silk.
And today, I know for certain that I am in a rare type of limbo.
That I am in the intricate space between being a mother
and being an aging parent.
I go to the edge of the pond and look into the water.
If I blur my eyes just right, I can almost see the reflection of a young woman.
But then she quietly begins to weep-
knowing that August leads her up the hill...
and then further down the road.
Sometimes I almost envy the kids that are going back to school. Sometimes I go down the craft isle at Wal-Mart, just to smell the Elmer's glue and the Crayola Crayons and the woody aroma of fresh pencils. Sometimes I fantasize about owning a giant 5-Star college-ruled notebook again- a colorful array of file folders, and black fine-tipped ball point pens that glide across the page as gracefully as an Olympic skater. Sometimes I miss the feel of text books in the crook of my arm- the strict regimen of schedules and dealines and assignments. Sometimes I think about school desks and the stiff, upright chairs- their graffiti measled surfaces and their cheap Formica tops. I sometimes dream about my locker- the ca-chunk as it opened and the smack as it slammed and the smell of polished hallways and disinfected restrooms and potatoes and peas cooking in the cafeteria. I can still hear the squeak of swing sets and the thump of basketballs and the whir of a merry-go-round gone wild. I sometimes miss the anticipation of Christmas break, the fear of semester exams, and the kindness of a good teacher. I miss new school clothes and new socks and new shoes that gave me blisters. I sometimes miss the hum of the film projector, slobbering on my desk during an impromptu nap, and raising my hand because I was certain I knew the answer. I miss doodling in the margins, highlighting notes in dogeared books, and listening to the band practice outside near the football field. I miss the giggles and the gossip, the friends and the festivities, the satisfaction of good grades and a job well done. I sometimes miss solar systems and patchwork globes and formaldehyde in Biology lab. I miss art canvas and potter's wheels and tempera paints with bundles of brushes. I miss yearbook day and pep assemblies and field trips. I miss being young- innocent- full of hope for my future, and never doubtful of my abilities. Sometimes I miss school days. But now I simply watch the yellow bus kick up dust on the country road- and pretend it is stopping at my house next.
Everyone is pretty excited about it-
I did a little interview with him this morning,
just to get his take on this important holiday.
We are seated in a grass nest-
far above the jungle floor-
the monkey and bird sounds
but I manage to have a conversation
with Mr. Tarzan-
whom many consider "the King".
Q. It's National Underwear Day.
Do you feel that it may finally be time
to give up your loincloth?
In fact, many civilized people might consider
your style a bit unsanitary.
A." Listen, Sweetie- I'll have you knowthat
I changed my loincloth at leastthree times today.
Once after my daily swimacross
the alligator infested river-
A second time for my dinner date,
and a few hours agowhen
that lion came up behind me
and scared the crap out of me!"
Q. Many historians have credited you
as the designer of the first pair of underwear.
A. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.If it hadn't been for the giant leeches,monstrous mosquitoes,and a particular man-eating plant-I might still be sitting herecompletely naked.Like they say-necessity is the mother of inventionand jungle rot isn't somethingthat antifungal cream will soothe.
Q. There are so many options out there
for today's man.
Would you ever consider boxers, briefs,
A. "Well, Missy- as a matter of fact,I have given all those a try.I found the boxers to be a bitconstricting when I sprint acrossmassive pools of quick sand.The briefs make me look likea chimpanzee,and once, when wearing a thong-I was mistaken for a baboon in heat."
Q. What does Jane think of your
And by the way-
how is your family?
A. "Boy ran off and joined the Boy Scouts,and Cheetah fell in love with some gorilla thug. And if you must know, Jane is no longerliving with me here in the jungle.Once upon a time she depended on mefor food, shelter and protection.But since I bought her that GPS,the Hummer, and that Visa Card for Christmas, she just doesn't need me anymore."
Q. Would you accept my invitation
to return with me to the states
and celebrate National Underwear Day
in New York City?
A." Sorry, Babe. The local cannibalshave invited me to some big barbecueor something they're having later.Thought I'd check it out.Rain check?"
Q. Ugh...Not likely now, but thanks.
Any last words?
No matter how you decide
to celebrate National Underwear Day-
at least start with a fresh pair.
The fireflies twinkle out over the damp fields
and the smell of freshly mowed grass
permeates the air.
There is a perfume here
that smells of childhood.
Of humid nights playing shadow tag-
moonlit evenings of primitive camp outs-
of lonely whippoorwills and
and eyes that saw the world with
innocence and amazement.
Sometimes I like to pretend
that I'm a little girl again.
That I could really climb that tree
and wade that creek
and catch those lightning bugs
by the dozen.
I like to think the moon is watching me
like a giant angel in the sky-
that the sun follows me like
a magnificent umbrella-
and that the stars
that are yet to come true.
I like to think
that I'm not completely grown up.
That God still molds me to his will
and sees promise where
sometimes I cannot.
I like to think I am still
changing, improving, learning.
But I also like to think that
no matter how old I get-
I will always admire nature.
That little frogs
and wild flowers
and the smell of hay
will always fascinate me.
That a sunburned nose
and muddy feet
and wind tossed hair
will always be welcomed.
I like to think that these days
are truly lived-
that not a precious moment is wasted.
That not a single memory
is taken for granted.
That I will never forget
the little girl I once was.
Or the woman that
God has made of me.
I still delight in
butterflies and dandelions-
smooth river rocks
and giant oaks-
and shiny bugs
and timid yellow birds.
I still love
the smell of lilacs,
the feel of a rain storm,
the night dew on my toes.
I hope I never lose the gift
I hope I always remember to
And every once in awhile take the time-
to be a little girl again....
There is something about this time of year that makes me want to clean and decorate my home. Maybe it's just a nesting instinct- that urge to fluff pillows and smooth bedsheets and clean windows till they sparkle. Somehow there is a great satisfaction of changing the door wreath or the kitchen tablecloth or the garden flag. It might just be that we all need a change. Although I do dread winter, I anticipate autumn. Summer has given us too many hot days, too many weeds in the garden and too much yard to mow. Autumn comes and puts an end to outdoor slavery. It's a time to relax- to plan and to reflect- before the two biggest holidays unfold and the snow shovels appear. Decorating is part of the welcoming process- a hint to friends and family to come on in- have a mug of cocoa - wrap yourself up in the warmth of scented candles, baking cookies and just relax. We all develop a certain attachment to our homes. Sometimes it may not seem that way, but they become a special part of us- the heart of our lives. Several years ago my family and I moved from our home in the country to a temporary place in town. Looking back, it was a traumatic experience for me. This is the journal entry that I made at the time: "It is just after midnight and I write by the light of the Christmas tree. For the first time in eleven years we aren't at our house- the comfort of our home. How many beautiful trees did we have there? How many memories? And why, oh why, does everything that was ever said or done in that house seems magnified into huge glorious days and nights that break my heart?In all honesty, I am homesick. Nothing seems right, feels right, tastes right. I suddenly envy people in their little houses with their perfect little lives with concrete driveways and door wreaths and mailboxes and cute little flowers and mailboxes and bird baths and clotheslines and waving "hello" as I pass.Now I see evening lights glowing at dinner over dining room tables. I see their little trees all lit in the windows and they're all happy and singing songs and snuggled into warm, familiar beds, and they are HOME..." I truly feel sorry for homeless people and even those people who never seem to form an emotional attachment to their homes. People who are too busy working and traveling to ever make a soft dent in the sofa cushions, that never know the colors of the sunset from the kitchen window, never grow familiar with the family of wrens in the rafters, fail to enjoy the scent of the nearby lilac tree- never memorize the hum of the refrigerator at 3 a.m.- or neglect to know the pesky mouse that skitters about in the garage on occasion. I also feel sorry for those people who live in perfect, plastic homes- those strict people who have never had jelly on their drapes, finger paints on their dining room table, ants in their pantry or a racoon in their garden. The same people that would never take a chance at painting their walls orange or eggplant or find a yard sale treasure that fits wonderfully in the living room. I have a home and I am proud that it's not perfect. Some of my furniture is as old as I am. There is a mouse hole in the laundry room. I decorate with flea market finds and rummage sale castoffs- and not because I have to- but because I want to. Because in some strange way, I am making a home for these homeless things in my home. Right before we found the house that we live in now, I made this entry in my journal: "I want a house with a yard. That's where I'd be right now. With the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and spring- like a flower- blooming in my heart. God has plans for us. A real home. So I wait. And know with utter faith and belief that it is well worth waiting for..." And it has been.
"A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad. " ~John Andrew Holmes
*****I never really worried about having an empty nest. Knowing that my kids were going to grow up and leave someday was possibly music to my ears at times. No more fighting over clothes, curfews, MTV blaring, exorbitant grocery bills, lights left on in every room, and the day to day struggles to keep them all on the straight and narrow.
And, most importantly, I knew that my heart would never be empty. I had peace knowing that I gave birth to these children and their lives would always touch mine.
They might have left the nest, but we're all still roosting in the same family tree.
"Your children vividly remember every unkind thing you ever did to them, plus a few you really didn't." ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966
*****Recently, my kids starting talking about the memories of their childhood. Warm thoughts about special holidays, fond keepsakes, family vacations and sweet bedtime stories.
I smiled continuously while I listened- nodding in satisfaction, and basking in a pride that swelled my head enormously.
"Do you remember how Mom used to yell at us?" the middle child asked.
"Oh...all the time,"my son agreed.
"Like a mean witch," the oldest chimed in.
"What???" I choked, practically falling out of my chair,"Are you kids delusional?
I was a good mother.
"We know that. You were a great mother," one of them said with a smirky smile, "But you used to tell us that if we didn't do something, you would beat us to a bloody pulp."
Isn't it funny what kids remember?
A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do.
I have been blessed with grandchildren. And one goal for 2010 is to spend more time with them. One on one time. When they visit as a team, they veg out in front of cartoons, eat continuously or compete for my attention. I would love to be able to treat each one to their own special day. One child loves to paint, one loves reading, they both enjoy walks around the pond.
I think it would be great to be able to spend the afternoon playing with them. Curling up in a big soft chair with potato chips and Dr. Pepper- a giant story book- and no deadlines. No schedules.
...Or spread newspapers out all over the dining room table with tons of paints and brushes and canvas. To just let them swirl and dab and create- not worrying if they dip the black into the yellow or their fingers into the blue. No rules. No restraints. Just pure fun.
I want them to remember those times. Times with NaNa. Soft, inspirational, unforgettable days when they bloomed into being.
They will look back on it someday and realize how much I loved them.
Even if I may have, once upon a time, threatened to beat their mother to a bloody pulp.
"Most grandmas have a touch of the scalawag." ~Helen Thomson
Becoming a grandparent is like falling in love. You never really understand until it happens to you.
For years, my older sister drove me crazy with the photographs and stories of her darling grand kids. I secretly rolled my eyes - thinking how in the world could it be so glorious and perfect?
Well, now that I am a grandma, I am sure there are people who avoid me. Who detour behind the soda display or the shoe racks when they spy me coming.
It doesn't help that I practically have a rolling suitcase in hand- full of pictures and drawings and video-
ready to whip out at a moments notice.
"Oh- you have grandchildren?" someone will say.
And after an hour of cooing and giggling and smiling insanely over the pile of mementos, I realize that no one is really listening. No one really cares. They are secretly rolling their eyes.
And, in fact, they are ready to beat me to a bloody pulp.
"My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle." ~Henry Youngman
My grandmas were always very stern looking. Wore dresses. Hosiery. Rarely carried on conversations. Never took photographs. Never tucked us in or read us books.
I like to think my grand kids consider me fun. And funny. And easy to talk to.
I do wear jeans, utilize my camera at ever available chance, and read bedtime stories. I like to cuddle on the couch with them, watch Sponge Bob Squarepants, and share M&M's. I like to encourage them, compliment them and challenge them. All the while, having them gain respect, adoration and affection for me.
"If I had my child to raise all over again,I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.I would do less correcting and more connecting.I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.I'd do more hugging and less tugging."~Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"
Despite their distorted memories, I know that I have raised some wonderful children. And that their children are being raised in good homes- with good values.
Even at my age, I am still trying to be a better mom. It doesn't stop when they turn nineteen, or leave home, or have kids of their own.
Being a mom is a lifetime process.
It means having your heart broken a hundred times, but finding it can always be mended.
It means changing with the times, even if it's uncomfortable or ridiculous.
It means giving them space when all you want to do is cradle them.
It means letting go when you can't see where they're going.
It means letting them build their own nest, hoping it is secure and warm and won't fall out of the tree.
It means letting them remember things that you never really said-
and forgiving them if they insist that you did.
***** "It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. " ~Joyce Maynard
I am hoping that the new year is a year of family time. Of renewed spirit. Of immense sharing and growth. Of reaching out and knowing my children and grandchildren for the people that they are. To learn their hearts, their dreams, and their hopes for the future.
All I can do is be here. To listen. To laugh, To occasionally give advice.
And to beat them to a bloody pulp if they disobey...
I'm still laughing about it kids!
You warped little spoiled brats! lol
"Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting. "~Author Unknown