A Little Word about Grace

I like to make people smile with a good story.   I’m pretty good at leading a group in an activity.  

But if you really know me,

Like really know me…

you know I am a “let-me-show-you-with-my-actions” kind of girl.

So if I was given 15 minutes of your day, I would love to show a part of me that I am the proudest of…the part that extends grace.

Webster’s describes grace as unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

I describe grace as “showing kindness to all.”

I’ve wondered all my life, when I’ve heard the phrase, “Thank you for showing me grace.” what that really means. Could grace be something small, something itty bitty, or something that doesn’t require much from me other than a small favor?  Could this really be grace? You see, grace is often a word we throw around but struggle to define. We celebrate and extol it, but I also think we misunderstand it—especially when it comes to giving grace to others.

Seeing another teacher’s house after the first three weeks of a  school year…that’s extending grace.  Understanding that you are stressed to the maximum with three projects and you didn’t remember it was your best friend’s, dog’s birthday…extending grace.  Taking time to listen to a viewpoint that is totally against your core values, and frankly, is pretty rude and not judging them tomorrow…grace.

Kids ages 10-25 years old are lucky.  That generation is known for being accepting of others differences, a character trait of most people that age that I love, but extending grace to others is hard work and takes practice.  

Showing others kindness and love, no matter our differences and not expecting anything in return, takes even more practice.  

So we should practice it with the ones we love. We should practice it with strangers on the street and we should practice it with our children.

Hi, My name is Allyson and I am practicing grace.

Allyson

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What did you do this weekend?

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You know that Monday morning question?  The one that comes every.Monday.morning without fail? The one that no one really wants to know the answer to but feels obliged to ask?

 

A 5.6 second conversation that goes something like this:

“Good Morning”

“Good Morning”

“How was your weekend?”

 

“Good.”

“What did you do?”

And you answer, “Awe, nothing much.”

What I did over the weekend, well, really, who cares.  It’s over.  It’s in the past and probably doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in most people’s eyes.  Really, when someone presents me with that question, I start to panic and think really hard about what part of my weekend they would have liked. Not my favorite part.  Not my best moment or the thing I enjoyed the most. But instead, how my weekend would compare to their’s or the next person they ask?

Would they care that I went to Target with no list and bought 8 items I didn’t need?

Nope.

Would they care that I cried for the thousandth time about my “new normal” with a child away at college?

Nope. Too Sad

Would they like to know I sat with an 8 year old, told her how awesome her mommy was when she was in my second grade class 26 years ago and that I hoped she liked to read as much as her mommy did?

Nope. Too long to share.

So this morning when asked what I did over the weekend, I just said, “Awe, nothing much.” .

And then made a promise to myself that I would never ask people, adults or children, that question again.

Never.

E V E R

Instead, I’m going to ask something like;

How did you show kindness to others this weekend?

Who did you make smile this weekend?

Who did you help this weekend?

What did you do for someone else?

Here’s what I found out by asking the RIGHT question:

“Aunt Jenny was so surprised when we showed up at her door with a birthday cake.”

“The man mowing my yard smiled when I got him a bottle of water.”

“My dog has been sick but we bought him a new bed and I think he smiled.”

“I needed a night with my oldest child, alone, just me and him. We had fun.”

 

And I smiled…and said to myself, “Awe, that sounds a lot like my ‘nothing much’.”  images.jpg

Love ya!!  Allyson

 

 

Someday she’ll go to college

IMG_1046I would sit and rock her to sleep late at night when I had a million other things that I needed to do. My house needed to be picked up, the dishes needed to be loaded in the dishwasher and bills needed to be paid.   I would often sit and think about all of the moms that would brag about their 6-month-olds just laying down in their beds and going to sleep each night.  I dreamed about what that must be like to actually have time to myself, get some things done or have a deep conversation with her daddy.  But instead,  I would sit in my rocking chair, holding my baby for an hour each night and praying that she would remain asleep when I put her in her crib.  Sleepily, I would say, “I guess I should enjoy this because “someday” she will go to college.”

IMG_1045Sitting on the floor by her bed, rubbing her back and singing Amazing Grace for the thousandth time, I would often wonder what it would be like to say goodnight, turn off her light and walk downstairs to grade papers, watch my favorite show or sit next to her daddy on the couch.  Three-year-olds are “no joke” and she took a lot of my time.  She demanded that we play in the backyard each night, watch Lilo and Stitch and make up funny songs  (many times late at night).  I was too busy with her to get many things done so I would say, “I guess I should enjoy this because “someday” she will go to college.”

At 6, she became a ninja in the middle of the night, sneaking down into our bed.  We would wake up almost every morning to an extra tiny body between us.  She slept peacefully while her daddy and I dodged her feet, arms, and head.  She talked in her sleep and would often wake us up laughing.  She was asleep but we were definitely NOT.  I would awake to small hands patting my face, lips kissing me good morning and a tiny voice saying,  “I love you, Mommy.”  Exhausted from the night, I would beg her to stay in her bed the next night so Mommy could get some sleep.  But then I would say, “I guess I should enjoy this because “someday” she will go to college.”    

IMG_0349Balls bouncing around my head, money flying out of my billfold, boys, drama, late nights waiting up for her to come home,  the teenage years did not disappoint.  She was easy but she kept us busy.   She and her sister made quite a pair.  Laughter, painting, passing volleyballs, playing in the pool, staying up late, eating a lot of ice cream while enjoying life.  They did everything together and everything very loud.  Life was always on volume 10.  When I told them to quiet down, stop playing in the bed and go to sleep for the 15th time, I would shake my head and say, “I guess I should enjoy this because “someday” she will go to college.”

Well…”Someday”…

it arrived today… a lot sooner than I thought it would. 

And I am so thankful now for all the late night snuggles, the verses of Amazing Grace, crowded beds, and sister laughter,

because

without all of them,

I might not be sitting here tonight crying big.fat.ugly tears.    

Go be AMAZING sweet girl…your mommy will figure this “new normal” out and try to enjoy it

and

be just fine!!IMG_7491

Why I long to be Jane Goodall

I love you, Jane Goodall.  I really do.

I am filled with envy every time I think about you going off to Africa in the 60’s to watch baboons and chimpanzees and eat from the forest.  More than once I have said, “Why did God not choose me? I could have taken the silence, the nothingness, the moments of wondering what day it was.  Can you imagine?

Growing up, I would see pictures of Jane in National Geographic and actually dream about myself in khaki shorts, a faded button-up shirt, my hair pulled back in a ponytail and a journal. As a mom, I actually long to be her some days. 
Jane and Chimp.jpg

No Spanx, no need to wear wedges or shave my legs, no annoying vuvuzela blowing during the World Cup, no weeds to pull, no dentist appointments to make…just me and the silence and the chimps.

Sometimes I go for months without thinking about you, sweet Jane Goodall and your Chimps.  But about this time every year, I decide you took the easy way out.  You aren’t having to keep children entertained when it is 103 degrees outside or wondering how you will stretch a pound of hamburger meat into a meal for 6 or why you are the only one that knows how to replace empty toilet paper rolls.

But, let’s face it, I have a job.  A job that leaves me unsure of myself, frustrated and sometimes second-guessing God.  I question myself every day and think about what I should have done differently.  Being a mother is hard.  Should I have had the girls earlier?  Maybe we should have had two more? Have I loved them enough? Maybe we should have saved more, given more or asked more questions.

The best advice I got when the girls were younger was from an elderly man at the mall.  It was Christmas time.  The mall was packed and I needed that one item only the mall held.  The oldest was 4 and the youngest was 8 months old and both were hungry, tired and just over it.   I had already bribed, threatened and put myself in time out.  Having had enough, I went against my better judgment and bought a bag of processed, sugar covered,  gluten.  We were sitting in the middle aisle on a bench outside of Restoration Hardware.  As I was longing for the days when I would have nice things again, a man in his 80’s came and sat down next to us.  He smiled and I’m sure he could see the worn look on my face.   He asked what their ages were.  With a sigh, I told him 4 years and 8 months.  He then said something I have never forgotten.  He smiled, shook his head and said, “Oh that’s my favorite age.”  I looked at him like he had three eyes and honestly couldn’t even speak.  Then he said, “Always let the age your kids are at be your favorite.  Then you will never need to look back or ahead but can live in the moment.”

About this time, my oldest wiped her hands on the side of his pants and asked if he was as old as Moses.

Jane and the chimps flashed in my head again.

I have tried to live by his advice ever since.

 

Yes, I long to be Jane some days…but today, I’ll enjoy my favorite 19 and 16-year-olds.   I’m off to enjoy handing out money for gas, lunch and a cute new skirt at The Gap.

Allyson

Dog Days of Summer

Y’all…it’s hot here in Texas.  Hell hot!

So hot that you can’t go swimming unless you wear shoes all the way to the point of entry or you lose a layer of epidermis from the bottom of your feet.  crocs in pool.jpg

So hot that the squirrels are even trying to find a cool spot to lay down.college station squirrel

So hot that no one in Texas will wear gray because of the embarrassing sweat marks on your back, stomach, and pits, oh my.

We are in the “dog days” of summer. dog days.jpg 

What exactly does that mean?  I asked a few random people walking down the street in good ole McKinney, Texas.  Answer number 1: I always thought it meant that even dogs were too hot to move. Answer number 2: Dog days are when everyone sits around like a dog with their tongue hanging out.   Answer number 3: It has something to do with a star in the sky I think. Answer number 4: It’s a time when only “mad dogs” come out during the heat or people asking crazy questions on the street. (I think this last answer had to do with me, just thinking.)

The phrase “Dog Days” according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac is the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.  (Today, July 3rd, 2018, marks the day that I now know why the Sirius radio mascot is a dog! Good job Farmer’s Almanac!)Dog Star.jpg

The rising of Sirius does not affect the weather like some of the ancient Egyptians thought.  But it did bring about a natural phenomenon that they looked forward to each year, the flooding of the River Nile.  The star was a “watchdog”, hee hee, for that event.

The Greeks and Romans thought these days brought about a fever or even worse, madmen.  

Now, I don’t mind being hot or sweaty.  But as a mother, ugh, I see why the Greeks and Romans got a little cranky. Why are kids attracted to sweaty mommies?  Is it a scent we send out? Do the children think we look cooler and they should lay all over us? Do children instantly want to sit in our laps more? Be held? Need to lean on us more? ICK!  

And, my man, I really do feel sorry for him.  The thought of laying close to him, or hugging, or being squeezed up tight while we are waiting in line for ice cream…NOPE.  No wonder the Greeks and Romans became MAD. They needed loving Y’all.

Hoping you enjoy your first day of the “Dog Days” in the shade with an ice cold sweet tea! 

Allyson

 

College New Student Conference 1988 vs. 2018

Thirty years ago, my parents took me to college orientation. They dropped me off at the University of North Texas gym, handed me a $20 bill for lunch and dinner and told me they would be back to pick me up at 9:00 pm when it was over.  My eyes were the size of saucers. I was scared to death.

It was a one-day affair that resembled a day at Six Flags without the Pink Things.   pink thing
It was full of roller coaster emotions, sweating like a pig and standing in lines, lots and lots of lines.  We took a picture for our college ID, learned the school song, and were hurried into the dressing room to hear from our degree choice. Then we walked in a slow line over to the Union for lunch, hand-wrote my schedule on a piece of colored paper, and handed it to a lady that had worked at the college for 102 years.   They divided us up to play in a co-ed kickball game and ended the day with a cold hot dog for dinner. Momma arrived back at the gym at 8:58 pm, high fived me and we returned home.

This is NOT, let me repeat, NOT how they do New Student Orientation now. college parents

Wow, my man and I took our oldest down to Texas A&M this week.  It was a three-day affair. Traditions, ways to send money, calendars, ways to put money on an account, academic support, staying safe, sports passes, yell practice, maroon shirts to buy, and registration for classes.  

I started realizing as we sat and listened for three days that my children have lead very sheltered lives.  

They have never seen a whole chicken, created a casserole from scratch, or watched bread rise.  

I haven’t shared the ecstasy of pulling towels out of the drier and burying your face into them, the satisfaction of cleaning the lint filter or how to vacuum to get perfect lines in the carpet.  

But here are a few insights we have given her:

  1. Underwear should be kept private, changed and not shared.
  2. Students that talk to their parents weekly, get remembered in their will.
  3. Deposits should always, at all times, exceed the withdrawals.
  4. Pursue every roach as if it was female, pregnant and ready to make its permanent home in your pantry.
  5. You will not always get what you want and sometimes your basic needs can be met on $2.38.
  6. Maroon shirts need to be kept away from your whites.
  7. Introduce yourself to teachers and professors.  It goes a long way.
  8. Faith, love, and family are really all you need.
  9. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
  10. And if your bed is uncomfortable, you can always sleep between me and your daddy!still sleeping with your parents

As we were walking away, I could hear the Sound of Music playing in my head,   “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow till you find your dream.”  

Julie Andrews should have also sung about loans, financial aid, and scholarships. Mikayla New Student Conference

Tired but amazed!

Allyson

The Favorite Child

A mom was sitting with her grown children one night after a birthday party.  They were all sharing stories from childhood.  The youngest shared about a time they had taken a road trip and she was left at the gas station and no one noticed for 15 minutes.  The oldest made sure everyone knew he had it the hardest and all of the other siblings should be thankful that he paved the way for them.  There were stories of missed curfews, car accidents, and fishing trips with words that have yet to ever be spoken again.

Then the question was asked, same time, every time they all were together.

“Mom, which one of us was your favorite growing up?” Everyone laughed and knew exactly what their mom would say.  She had answered the same way all of their lives.  “I don’t have a favorite.  I love all of you equally.”  favorite child.jpg

But tonight she paused a little longer and looked at each of her children as they continued to laugh and argue that they were her favorite.

She cleared her throat and the whole room became silent.  And then she looked at each of her children and said, “Yes, you’re right.  One of you was my favorite.

My favorite was the one that was too sick to celebrate his 12th birthday, had chicken pox at Christmas and wore cast on his arm every year in April.

My favorite had a fever in the middle of the night, a nightmare every night straight for 6 weeks and she was the one in my arms in the emergency room.  My favorite child was the one I punished for lying, took the phone away because he was insensitivity to other people’s feelings and informed was a royal pain during Thanksgiving dinner.

My favorite child said dumb things for which there are no excuses.  He was selfish, immature, bad-tempered and self-centered.  She was lonely, unsure of what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, and needed to have “the talk” more than once.

The one I loved the most was the one that I watched struggle to read, struggle to find his way, and struggle to find the hangers in her closet.

So, yes, I did have a favorite and all of you were that child at one time or another. My favorite needed my love the most but deserved it the least.”

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Everyone sat silent.

And then their mom told everyone to stop looking around, grab their kids and go home so she could go to bed.

Go be amazing favorite children everywhere!  AND…call your mom and tell her you love her!

Allyson