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Zac’s Birthday

I swear his birthdays, and mine, come faster every year.

My youngest of three children will be 14 years old on the 12th of September.  He is certainly growing up.  Sometimes, he gets ahead of himself.  I know he’s responsible and very mature for his age, even wiser than his years, but… well, I wish he’d just slow down a bit.  He’s got his whole life to be an adult.  He only has a very short window to be a “kid”.  I want him to enjoy it.

I love that he laughs and is silly.  He’s always had a great sense of humor.  I love that when he’s unsure of something, he asks about it.  He eagerly learns all he can in any given conversation.  I love that he is so active and athletic.  He’s not afraid of getting hurt and always gives 100% of himself.  I love that he feels things so deeply.  He’s always been a very compassionate person and takes things very much to heart.

He’s a great son, friend, brother, grandson, student, and teammate.  He’s respectful, polite, generous, thoughtful, outgoing, intelligent, energetic, and determined.  He’s also funny, goofy, and loves to make people smile and laugh.  He has dreams.  Not just dreams, but goals.  Real goals.  He has a plan to attain those goals.  And, I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition.

He’s smart enough to surround himself with good friends that are caring, supportive, and encouraging.  It’s so wonderful seeing the closeness they share.

Zac has never had any sort of disciplinary problems at home or at school.  He’s so modest and humble that he doesn’t consider himself to be “smart”, yet he makes honor roll in a schedule of all honors classes.  Honestly, the worst this kid does is sometimes lolly gag when he’s told to clean his room or do homework.  He never talks back or refuses to do what he’s told… even if it does take him a bit to get it done.  (A LOT longer than I’d like, even.)

I’m grateful that he feels safe enough to discuss any subject with me.  I know that’s not easy for a teenager, especially a boy.  It’s certainly not always easy for me to hear what he has to tell me, but I’m ever so thankful that he does share it with me.  I pray that I give him the advice he needs to hear and that he’s strong enough to follow it.  I hope he understands that even when I’m upset, disappointed, hurt, or angry that I still love him more than any words could ever express.  And, I’m ever so appreciative of him being open and honest with me, even if it’s something that might embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable… or… might make me mad.

I want him to know how proud of him I am.  I need him to know how loved he is.

I know it’s important for him to make his own mistakes in order to learn life lessons and to help shape him as a person.  But, as a parent, one of the hardest things to do is watch your child make a mistake and not be able to fix it for him.  It’s heart wrenching to see him hurt because of poorly chosen words and actions, either by himself or someone else.  It’s my job to protect him, yet I know that if I shelter him too much, he won’t be able to grow into the amazing man I know he’ll become.

So, I’ll just continue to hope and pray that I’ll have the right words when he needs them… … and, have faith that he’ll be strong enough and brave enough to make the wiser choices.

He really is a great kid.  I’m blessed beyond belief.

I know in my heart that he’ll do just fine.

 

How Do We See Each Other?

A friend of mine in a group I belong to has been posting daily tips and exercises for self-esteem.  In trying some of these exercises, I’ve learned some new things about myself.  In fact, I believe I may have learned something about most of us.

In some of these exercises, we’re asked to look at certain situations or people and see them in a non-judgmental way.  Some of them include strangers, others involve taking a very close look at someone more intimate.  And, then… there are the ones that involve looking at yourself.  YOU.  Yeah, you’re supposed to look at yourself in a non-judgmental way.  You’re supposed to see YOU without JUDGMENT.  Yikes.  That’s much, much harder than it sounds.  Maybe it shouldn’t be that difficult a task, but there it is… and, it’s a biggie.

The first thing I realized is that I don’t look at myself the way that I look at others.

It’s much easier for me to forgive others’ shortcomings.  It’s easier to give them the benefit of the doubt.  It’s easier for me to see their side of the story.  It’s easier to understand their mistakes as learning experiences.  It’s easier to see the good in them and know that they’re doing the best they can.  It’s easier to see the beauty inside and out and know that even in hard times, their hearts are in the right place.  It’s easier to see their worth and value.  It’s easier to respect their differing views and beliefs.

So… why is it so hard to see any of that in myself.  I KNOW I’m a good person.  I KNOW I am intelligent.  I KNOW that I always try to do the right thing.  I KNOW that I love deeply and fiercely.  I KNOW that I am strong and that I am a survivor and fighter.

Yet, I never give myself credit for any of those things.  Even when I say that I know these things, do I believe it?  Sometimes, maybe I do.  Most often, I don’t think so, though.  I just don’t SEE it.  Why?  Why would I not put the same value in looking at myself that I do when looking at others?

The second thing I realized is that I don’t see myself the way that others see me.

When others tell me that I’m strong, or beautiful, or smart… or, anything good, I don’t see it myself.  When a friend encourages me and tells me how much they believe in me, I don’t have the same faith in myself.  Why?  Why can I not see what they see?  Do I just think they’re being kind and don’t really mean it?  I mean it when I say it to them.  Why would there be a reason to not believe they mean it when they say it to me?

Does everyone do that?

Do we all look at ourselves with such harshness?  Do we always have to be our own worst critics?

Here’s what I’m going to TRY to do.  I’m going to TRY to look at myself the way I look at others.  I’m going to TRY to not be so hard on myself.  I’m going to TRY to step back and see myself as though I’m looking at someone else.  What will I see?  Will I see that I’m a good friend?  I hope so.  Will I see that I’m a good person doing the best I can?  I’ll try.  Will I see that even with making dumb mistakes, I’ve tried to turn them around and make the best of things?  Maybe.

Are you able to see your worth?  Are you able to look at others and see their true value?

If we’re spending so much time judging each other, and ourselves, then when do we have time to just appreciate one another?  When do we have time to work together to be become better people?  How can we help each other be the best we can be if we’re so busy judging the negative?

We can’t.

But, we can work on it… together.

Will you try?

A Teenager? When Did This Happen?

September 12th is my baby boy’s birthday.

I call him my “baby boy” even though he towers over me at 5’8″ and almost 200 lbs.

I call him my “baby boy” even though he is in Middle School.

I call him my “baby boy” even though he is as tough as they come as an athlete and student and musician… and, as sweet as can be with a heart of gold.

I call him my “baby boy” even though he is much more mature and responsible than his 13 years would indicate.

Wait.

What?

13?

*sigh*

My “baby boy” is a teenager.

When did this happen?

He has had a rough year since his last birthday.  He has had to deal with things that he should not have.  He has faced it all with strength and dignity that I could not be prouder of.  He has dealt with anger for people that he loves with compassion.  He has coped with uncertainty with courage and faith that enlighten me.

He has gone through all of this while maintaining the best of grades and being put into all Honors classes… remained a faithful friend… persisted to be an All-Star athlete… and, exhibiting a sense of class and style that make me an extremely proud mom.

My “baby boy’s” laugh can still bring a smile to my face on even the darkest of days.  He can warm my heart with his smile and he still gives the best hugs that I’ve ever known.

He is growing into the finest of young men.  His continued success throughout this past year is a true inspiration.  He excels in all that he attempts.  It is exhilarating to watch him thrive with such grace.  He always works hard to reach his goals and remains humble with his achievements.

During a particularly difficult event recently, several people close to him wrote letters expressing their views of what an uplifting, intelligent, fun, mature, and respectful person he is.  I can’t tell you how much it fills my heart with pride and honor that so many others see how delightful this young man really is.

His dream is to obtain a scholarship to attend college and someday play for the NFL.  I have no doubts, whatsoever, that this boy can make it happen.  I’ve seen him reach for, and attain, every goal he has set for himself so far.

I’m confident that even as his teen years may come with all the normal difficulties that they do, he will not only overcome them with ease and style, but also exceed everyone’s expectations.

I’m certain that even as the years may bring setbacks or heartbreaks, he will not only handle them bravely, but also with decorum.

My wish for my youngest son is that he continue on his path knowing that I am always right here beside him… his biggest fan… his friend… his cheerleader… his protector… his mother.  Loving him.  Being proud of him.  And, ALWAYS believing in him.

Zac, I love you.

Always & Forever.

I Call Bullsh*t

I’m sick and tired of all the racism!!!

But, before you join my cause, there are many of you that should definitely read further.

What I’m sick of is everything that happens between someone of different races being called racist!  People of all ethnic backgrounds are jerks, criminals, blah, blah, blah.  Yet, anything done against a non-white person is racism.  Really?  C’mon, people.  I honestly don’t give two flying figs what color your skin is.  If you do something wrong, there are consequences. Plain and simple.  Cut and dry.

I’m seeing information all over the place about the Trayvon Martin hearing and how Zimmerman was a racist for his actions.  I’m also seeing where a white woman who was 6 months pregnant was beaten by at least half a dozen African-Americans with no public outcry for “justice” and no “racism” being called into factor.  Why?

Why can’t we see crime as crime?

Why does everything have to involve race, religion, or sexuality?

Do I believe that someone is guilty or innocent based on the race of the victim?  Good God, NO!  Do I believe that anyone deserves to be harmed or killed because of their ethnic background?  NEVER!

What I believe is that a person’s ACTIONS are the only thing to be taken into consideration when evaluating that person’s character.  And, if it involves a criminal case, then the law allows for only FACTS.  How you feel about the alleged victim’s race CANNOT be taken into account when deciding the alleged perpetrator’s guilt or innocence.

It sickens me that there are celebrities, and others, calling for rioting should Zimmerman be acquitted.  Was rioting called for when OJ was acquitted for killing 2 white people?  Crime is crime.  Bad is bad.  Racism is STUPID.  Reverse racism is just as STUPID!!!

If I don’t agree with someone of a different ethnic background, then I’m called a “racist”.  I’m here to tell you that if I don’t agree with you on something it has absolutely NOTHING to do with your skin color.  It has EVERYTHING to do with our obvious difference of opinion.

I see you as a PERSON…

a HUMAN BEING.

Apparently, I’m in the MINORITY.

Father’s Day…

Happy Father’s Day to all the daddy’s out there… and, to all the men who step in when needed.

My father, stepfather, and grandfather have all passed and I miss them dearly.  In remembrance of them, I’d like to share with you a little bit about them.

I never knew my dad’s father, so when I speak of my grandfather, I always mean my mom’s father.  William C. Mulling, Sr. is forever known to me as “Papa”.  Born in Georgia, he was from a family of farmers and up to the day he died, could grow anything anywhere.  He was a tall man who towered over me and spoke with a stern and thunderous voice.  Many people thought of him to be too harsh, much too critical, and cold.  I, on the other hand, found him to be a man with a tender and gentle side who could be warm and loving in non-conventional ways.  He was very critical at times, but even though his words sounded hard, I believe he meant for them to be helpful… at least, sometimes.  He was very dedicated to his family, even though he always seemed to have the toughest time verbally expressing or showing his emotions.  Yet, I always remember him saying “I love you, too” in response to me when I said, “I love you” to him.

He was extremely patriotic and was always proud to exclaim that he had fought in WWII and The Korean War with the Army.  He was raised in a time where men didn’t cry… it was wrong for men to be anything but the breadwinner and protector of the family… if anyone was in need, you helped in whatever way you could… you worked hard, paid your bills, and if you wanted something, you saved up for it and paid cash.  He was also VERY intelligent.  And, I mean VERY BRIGHT.  You’d never in a million years have guessed that he never attended school higher than the 7th grade.

Papa could be quite frugal with his money.  But, I remember as a very little girl being in the grocery store with him and seeing a baby lamb stuffed toy that I just absolutely fell in love with.  I stood and stared at it hanging above me in the aisle while he shopped.  He’d call me to him, but I just stood and stared.  I wanted that little lamb sooooooooo bad!!!  I had stood there the entire time we were in the store and when he called for me to leave with him, he had a smile on his face and held the grocery bag down for me to see inside of it.  There was a little baby lamb that he had gotten for me without me even seeing… probably because I was too fixated on the one right above me in the aisle I was standing in.  I grabbed the baby lamb and hugged his neck so tightly that I thought my arms would snap in two.  On our way home, as he walked beside me, I merrily skipped holding his hand in mine and holding my new baby lamb tightly to my chest.

When Papa came home from work each evening, he clearly was ready for supper and then watching the news and game shows.  Yet, if I was there, he would happily invite me to stand in his recliner behind him as he sat with the TV on… letting me “do” his hair.  I would get my grandmother’s comb and curlers and somehow get those curlers to stay in his very, very short, slick hair.  He would let me do this for hours on end.  Looking back, I’m sure he must have wanted to just relax after a long day at work without me messing with his hair and digging my feet into his back.  But, if I disturbed him, he certainly never let me see it.  And, today it seems even sweeter for him to not be bothered in the least that pink curlers were tightly wound in his hair.

Papa would tell me over and over how it was such a waste of time to have to go back over something you had already done.  He said, “If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right the first time.”  (And, I believe that may be where some of my obsession for perfection comes into play.)

My dad, James Durell Dennis, Sr. was, in some ways, the opposite of my grandfather.  Dad was much more openly affectionate than Papa.  He was born in southern Alabama.  Dad was also much quicker with a joke or prank.  While Papa’s humor was dry and disguised, Dad’s sense of humor ranged from silly nonsense to vulgar.  He almost always found a way to make people laugh… even when it was more of a groan than a chuckle.

Dad fought for his country in the Vietnam War as a sailor.  I often wondered just what his part was as a Navy man, but he would NEVER discuss it.  He felt that his service entitled him to a certain degree of respect for doing what was asked of him, yet did not feel the need to share it in any way.

He would tell me stories of how his mother (GrannyBell) all but raised him and his 7 brothers and 2 sisters on her own.  As the baby of his family, he had a special closeness to his mother… and, she turned that affection to my baby brother when he was born… the baby boy of her baby boy.  He would tell me how she would make them cut their own switches from a tree if they needed to be disciplined.  And, I imagine with 9 children, there was a lot of discipline needed.  Dad would always end up telling me how if he had a tummy ache, she would mix a spoonful of gasoline and sugar for him to swallow.  Eeewwww.  He said it helped, though.  So glad he didn’t use that remedy on me.  Whew.

Dad was a very smart man.  Book smart.  And, street smart.  He probably had more common sense than anyone I know. He was great at logic problems and math.  Riddles were a favorite of his to share.  I can’t think of anything that he couldn’t figure out on his own.

We were always sharing things with each other… especially candy.  As a little girl, I remember receiving a gift of some sort that was a bowl of little soaps shaped as roses.  I ran to Dad where he was napping on the couch and woke him up to see the cute little soaps that looked like flowers.  Except, when I handed one to him, in his sleepy stupor, he thought I was handing him a piece of candy.  Needless to say, he was NOT pleased when he bit into that soap!  Until that moment, I don’t believe I understood just how fast that man could move as he jumped up off that couch.  Somewhere, I still have that little bowl of soaps shaped like roses… one, with his teeth marks still clearly visible.

My dad loved to sing and write songs.  I found a notebook of his one day when I was in my teens.  It contained songs and poems he’d written.  I was so excited to see that notebook because it meant I could share with him my own notebook of poetry and songs.  We sang together a lot.  A lot!  He had a great voice and was not shy about it at all.  I guess he passed that musical talent to my brother and I… more to my brother than me.  As a very young child, I remember him singing to me whenever I’d get upset or sad.  The words I remember him singing the most when I was little is…

“Listen…  Do you want to know a secret?  Do you promise not to tell?  Whoa-ohhh-oh, closer.  Let me whisper in your ear.  Say the words you long to hear… I’m in love with you.  Oooo-oooo-oo.”

I’m no Beatles fan by any stretch, but to this day, I still love that song!  And, it still puts me at ease.

I remember being at parties with my parents and watching my mom and dad dance together.  They always had so much fun.  And, they were both REALLY good at it.  I always wanted to dance the way they did.  I still do.

When my dad was still in the Navy, he was stationed in Long Beach, CA, and we lived in the Navy Apartments there.  I was crying one day when my dad came home and when he asked me why, I told him that some boy had been hitting me and picking on me.  He asked if I had hit him back and when I said no, he marched me right over to that boy’s apartment .  When the mother answered the door, at first she refused to have her son come outside.  However, when my dad suggested that either I could handle this with her son or my dad could handle it with her husband, she had the boy come to the door.  My father promptly explained to me that if I did not whoop his butt for hitting me, he would take me home and whoop mine.  It didn’t matter how little I was, I knew that my dad’s whoopin’ would hurt a whole lot more than anything that boy could do to me.  I slugged him as hard as I could.  He ran into his apartment crying.  My father then told me that if anyone ever hit me again, I’d BETTER beat their butt.  He said to not EVER throw the first punch, but if I was defending myself, I’d better ALWAYS be throwing the last one.

Oh, and that boy?  He never picked on me again.  In fact, he was quite nice to me from then on.  (Is it bad that I just snickered?)

Dad probably gave me the best advice ever when he said to me, “Everything you do has a consequence.  ALWAYS think about the consequence.  If you don’t think you can handle the consequence, then DON’T DO IT!”  Those words have made me think things through more thoroughly.  Obviously, I sometimes thought I could handle consequences that I evidently couldn’t… or, didn’t want to.  But, I hope it’s helped me to make better choices.  I know it’s kept me out of a whole lot of trouble that looked like a whole lot of fun at the time.

My stepfather, George Prentice Bussey, III, was my mother’s second husband.  He was undoubtedly the most educated man I’ve ever known.  He was a Navy veteran like my dad.  George was born in Georgia and worked his way through Georgetown University.  He was a southern man who could talk circles around the best of the city businessmen.

He owned and/or managed night clubs, restaurants, hotels, and private membership clubs.  I took all business and accounting courses in high school primarily because of him.  He had me start working with him as a young teenager doing typing, layouts of brochures, pamphlets, menus, and management outlines.

Being much older than my mother, his children were all grown and had families of their own.  He was grounded.  He was solid.  And, even when sick with cancer, he still found a little time to pass the football with my brother.  I think I loved him more for that than anything.  As I pull into the driveway sometimes, I still hear him say, “Home again.  Home again.  Jiggity jig.”

George had traveled and seen places of the world that I’ll probably only ever dream of.  He was aware of his own mortality, yet chose to live his life – especially in his younger years – to the absolute fullest.

I learned more while working with him and watching him interact with people… employees, customers, contractors, and vendors… than from anyone else.  He would always walk through his dining rooms to greet customers as they were dining.  George made a point of stopping to speak with everyone he could to ask them how their meal or service was and would immediately rectify even the smallest of concerns.  He frequently gave out his business card with a handwritten note for a free meal to various customers even though very few ever had any complaints.  He believed that giving the customer a quality product at a reasonable price with outstanding personal attention was the key to success.  And, he made a believer out of me.

None of these men were perfect.  All of them had their shortcomings.

But…

They were all perfect in their own way.

And, they were all loved by me.

Mondays

For many people, Mondays are a source of stress, anxiety, and a full-blown case of the doldrums.  Mondays usually mark the beginning of the work or school week.  They signal the end of the weekend… family time, relax time, or party time.  People are less patient on Mondays, and often much more grumpy than any other day of the week.

Mondays mostly, in a word, SUCK.

But, what if we look at it from a different view?

What if we choose to see it as a new beginning each week?  A fresh start?

It’s the first day to a brand new week.

We can use it as a clean slate to repair or redo all the things that we should have done differently last week.  We can see it as a chance to make ever greater memories… do a better job at school… get more done at work… spend more time with family… reach out to our friends more… have more time to ourselves…  The options are endless.

So what if it’s our attitudes about Mondays that SUCK?  Maybe Mondays are really meant to be the best day of the week.  Okay, that’s stretching it a bit.  Mondays will never be as fun as Fridays.  But, if we choose to see it in a better light, maybe Mondays won’t be so hard on us.

Rainy Days And Mondays (Don’t’) Always (Have To) Get Me Down.

Politics… ugh

Okay, let’s get this straight.  I’m a registered Republican.  Does that make me a “conservative”?  I don’t think so.  There are plenty of Democratic views that I completely agree with.  Does that make me a “liberal”?  I don’t think so.  It doesn’t make me anything but ME.  I can think for myself.  I pride myself in seeing both sides to just about any given issue.  I am an AMERICAN citizen.  Sometimes, I agree with our government… sometimes, I don’t.

I’ve become sickened by the hatred spewed among people simply because of a difference in political view!  And, I mean SICKENED.  This has gotten so far out of hand that people are finding ways to turn the silliest of postings or comments into a political bashing session.  When did we become so hateful?  When did everything have to be about which political views you subscribe to?

Don’t like Bush?  I don’t care.  Don’t like Obama?  I don’t care.  There are things that BOTH have done during their terms of Presidency that I don’t feel were in the best interest of the people of this nation.  Has there EVER been a President that everyone agreed with?  No, of course not.  And, there never will be.  So get over it, already.  Make your voice be heard at election time.

Until then, if you have a difference of opinion, voice it intelligently.  When name calling and personal bashing come in to play, we act like spoiled, misbehaved children.  No one is saying that you have to keep quiet, or that you MUST agree with everything put in front of you.  Just be adult about your disagreements.  Speak your mind, but remember that you are speaking to a fellow human being who is JUST as entitled to their opinion as you are yours.  There is no need for such venomous vitriol.  We may have some differences, but we will always be more alike than some will ever care to admit.

I have friends from all walks of life.  We have a great deal of different opinions and beliefs.  I’m perfectly okay with that.  I don’t divide my friends into political parties.  And, I believe that I would be missing out on so very much if I were only friends with those who only shared my views.

A friend mentioned that it might have something to do with our moral codes being overridden.  I have to agree… in more ways than one.  So many simply do not adhere to common courtesy, common sense, or common scruples.  Have we lost the ability to let our conscience decide our actions and speech?  Do some of us no longer listen to our conscience?  Are we so hell-bent on pointing fingers and placing blame that we’re willing to allow for such hateful discourse?  Are we really going to sit back and let our country become so divided that we are forced into some sort of civil war?

We are the UNITED States of America!  

But, for how much longer?

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