Sink or Swim

In my parents’ time, there was one way to learn to swim: someone threw you in over your head and yelled, “Sink or swim!” Unfortunately, life can be full of sink or swim moments, and you usually find yourself in the deep end with not much, if any, prior warning and no life jacket within reach.

We face those moments when we feel in over our head at the customary turning points in our lives. That moment when a teenager walks across the stage at graduation and realizes that the world is his for the asking, if only he can decide what to ask for. Sink or swim. The perfect man asks you to marry him, but still you wonder, “Is he the perfect man for me?” Sink or swim. A new job, a move to another state, a baby on the way, a terminal diagnosis? Sink or swim moments for sure.

We also face those moments in our everyday lives. Making any of the hundreds of daily decisions that determine how the next few minutes, the next few hours, the next few days, or even the next few months will ebb or flow can frequently make you feel like you are barely treading water. Facing down a cranky toddler when you are sleep deprived and hungry and anxious yourself?  Butting heads with your strong-willed teenager when you really just want to say, “Because I said so…” and hope it’s enough.  Contemplating writing a scathing email to that coworker who just lied to your boss and managed to make you look bad and increase your work load? Sure, you’ll feel better in the short-term, but will mouthing off at a coworker ultimately hurt or help your career? Wondering if you should have the cheesecake? What about that five pounds you just lost? Putting on your jogging shoes while simultaneously praying it’s raining? Sink or swim.

Sink or swim moments are coming. You will be hurled into the bottomless depths with no life preserver. The question is not whether you will dog paddle or execute a perfect butterfly stroke. Either will get you to safer waters.  The question simply is will you sink or will you swim.

 

 

 

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Kindness Does Not Equal Weakness

Do not mistake my kindness for weakness.

It used to bewilder me when I, as a high school teacher, would be kind to my students and they would respond by trying to take advantage of me. You see, I was reared to treat others the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31).

You have probably heard or seen variations of the antithesis of the Golden Rule on bumper stickers and t-shirts: “Do unto others before they do unto you” or “Do unto others and then split.” Unfortunately, we also have borne witness to the devastating effects of those who practice these principles in real life.

I suppose I am a slow learner. I am still amazed when I try to be kind to people who then think they can (as Mamaw Ruby would say) “run all over me.” I may look like sweet, filigreed wrought iron, all swirls and delicate curlicues, but make no mistake. Beneath the surface of the lacy design beats a heart of iron, forged through a refiner’s fire (Zechariah 13:9).

Do not mistake my kindness for weakness.

Push to Start

“Push to Start” is written on the button below the steering wheel of my new car. There’s no ignition switch. I was suspicious of this device when we first looked at the car, and I’m still suspicious even after almost a month of ownership. How can you run a car without putting the key in the switch?

I did not plan to buy a new car. I planned to buy used so that some other sucker would have already paid to breathe in the “new car smell” and wear the new off it. I planned to swoop in and practically steal a used car with low miles, low car payments, and maybe even a year or so left on the warranty. That did not happen.

The brand of car I bought holds its value very well, and a new car of the same make and model costs not much more than a used one if you can find a used one. Evidently, people like them so well that there aren’t many used ones to be found. I won’t name the brand because this is the first time in over thirty years of car ownership that I haven’t bought “Amurican.” And, yes, I do still feel a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t buy Amurican this time, but I’m over fifty and I had to give in to better service records, better safety features, and better gas mileage.

Once I realized I was not going to get a steal of a deal on a used un-Amurican car, I thought I should at least test drive a new one. Our salesman was very accommodating and suggested I try the one with the sun roof and leather seats. Yep, that’s how they get you. You think you have all the used car salesman’s tricks memorized and you have stored up the antidote to the sales pitch poison, but they get you even so. Still. That key-less switch bothered me.

Then I remembered that my 1968 Nova had once been a “Push to Start” model also. Not by design of course, but out of necessity when the battery died. I often had to park on a hill, put the key in the ignition, move the gear shift to neutral, and run alongside that old ’68 to get it started on cold mornings when the engine wouldn’t turn over. I’d push on the frame of the open door and hang onto the steering wheel with my other hand as we (the Nova and I) gained speed down the hill. At just the right moment, I would jump in the rolling car, throw it back in gear, and pop the clutch; if I was very lucky the car would start the first time.

I related this story to the salesman, who was much too young to remember Novas or manual transmissions probably, and he laughed dutifully as young folks do when they are trying to be respectful or make a sale. That, a handshake, and 0.9 percent financing sealed the deal.

Change isn’t always bad. I’m sure I’ll eventually get used to the “Push to Start” button. I already really like the sun roof and leather seats.

Kids These Days…

At every family gathering where old folks linger, the inevitable “Kids these days…” statement begins woeful tales of the ever widening generation gap and the head-wagging that follows. Just so we all know in which generation I belong, I admit that I’ve caught myself uttering this same phrase lately.

In the past two months, we’ve had two weddings in our family. Very different in structure and very different timelines for each. My oldest son announced his engagement and completed his non-traditional civil ceremony within a matter of weeks. I barely had time to cry! Forget planning and fretting. My brother’s middle daughter got married this month in a beautiful beach ceremony that had been months in the planning. My sister-in-law and brother had plenty of time to fret and plan, and the ceremony and festivities proceeded as smoothly as the flowing waters of the tidal creek upon which we celebrated into the night.

I wasn’t ready for my son to get married, but who is ever ready for their children to grow up and become independent. I dare say my brother and his wife were not quite ready to let my niece fly into the great unknown of married life either. I’m reminded of when my son started kindergarten, and I declared to my husband, “Just when I got him trained and fun to be around, they take him away.” I felt much the same when I watched him take his first steps into manhood and the sanctity of marriage.

Some kids these days are getting married younger than their parents did but probably not younger than their grandparents.  Some kids these days remain single long into young adulthood. Kids these days take different paths to the altar of marriage, some traditional, some not. As one of my friends observed, “In our day, a wedding was perhaps more about the parents and their values, inviting the family and all the right friends. Nowadays, kids seem to make the wedding more about themselves and what they want it to be.” Whose approach is the correct one? Can anyone decide that better than the bride and groom?

Trying to remind myself that I, too, was married when I was my son’s age, I reflect on the reason we work so hard as parents: to help our children grow into productive and independent adults. While they are doing it sooner than we thought and maybe earlier than we had hoped, my son and niece are making their own way in the world. They have chosen their life partners and are forging their own trails. Success as  a parent never tasted so bittersweet.

 

 

Part-Time Writer, Part-Time Business Owner, Full-Time Mama, Full-Time Crazy

Part-Time Writer, Part-Time Business Owner, Full-Time Mama, Full-Time Crazy

As I was thinking about starting this blog, I wondered, “How many part-time jobs can you hold before you consider yourself full-time employed?” I’m not sure. However, I am sure how many part-time titles I can have before I become full-time crazy. Here are just a few I currently hold:

Part-Time Writer

I’m one of those writers who wakes up with the thought, “I just have to write this down,” and I do, and then I might not write again for weeks. Actually, I’m not even sure that qualifies me as part-time. I am constantly writing in my head; it’s the putting it down on paper that doesn’t happen that often.

Part-Time Business Owner

I don’t even know if it’s possible to be a part-time business owner, but I like to trick myself into believing I’m part-time. I work with my husband who is a chiropractor. He does the chiropractor thing. I do the office manager, bill paying, supply ordering, filling in as chiropractic assistant, marketing, organizing, pretty-much-everything-else thing. I don’t mean I do everything, but I do a lot of the peripheral “stuff” that either no one else wants to do or never gets around to doing. While I work part-time hours in the office, the worry of owning your own business and having all your eggs in one basket is pretty much full-time.

Full-Time Mama

First of all, you should know that my children are no longer children. I am not thirty-something. As a matter of fact, my kids are closer to thirty now than I am. My three adult children range in age from 20-23. Yep, I did have three kids in four years, which should tell you something about why I’m coming to this writing thing so late in life. While they are semi-grown and one is even now newly married, they still know I am a phone call or text away from dropping everything to come help out. Helping out includes but is not limited to furniture scavenging and delivery for the newlyweds, picking up a stranded young man after his car has broken down again, and last minute runs to the dollar store for project supplies for the youngest who’s still in college.

Full-Time Crazy

Most people will tell you that women try to do it all, and it’s true. The amazing thing is how we try to do it all and still expect to be sane, normal, nice, and fun to be around. After decades of chasing normal and sane, I’ve just decided to admit my craziness and go with it. I’ve always tried to appear as serene as the duck gliding across a glassy pond as the first rays of sunshine break over the pines of the eastern shore. Now, I’m letting you see my little duck legs paddling furiously under water just trying to keep this whole crazy life afloat.