It All Started With Ree

I can’t for the life of me remember when I first happened on to the blog, thepioneerwoman.com. I’ve recently spent a few nights before bed trying to come up with how and why I initially found Ree Drummond’s award-winning blog. I don’t think I had heard of her before I found the website. Actually, I think I found it because I was looking up the word “pioneer” on Google for a school project for one of my sons, and it came up with all of the other stuff regarding “pioneers”. But what I do know is that night was the start of this infatuation I have for Ree and her blog – and Marlboro Man and their kids and their extended family and Ree’s sister and nephew and Ree’s brother and Ree’s best friend, Hyacinth and their hired help and Walter and the rest of their pets. I didn’t even know Ree’s blog was a “blog”.  I didn’t know what a blog was.  This was just a fantastic website put together by this obviously cool and talented woman and it looked good and professional and it had all these different pages describing different areas of her life with all these great pictures. And there were advertisements – from places like Macys!!!  Real ads!!  And then there was the story of Ree. Back then her book about the courtship of her and Ladd (yes, I know him well enough from the blog to call him by his first name) had not been published yet. So, I read the story on her blog in nearly one sitting, only stopping that first night because I HAD to get some sleep before it was time to wake the boys up for school the next morning. But as soon as I was back from the morning school run the next day, I sat back down and found the blog again and started reading and finished it that day. I lOVED reading about Ree and her family. And so began my fanship (like friendship only we’re not friends) with the Drummond’s.  They have absolutely no idea I even exist on this earth. But I know a lot about them because I read Ree’s blog every morning. I think one of the things that initially drew me to Ree so much (besides her amazing blog) was that even though I figured I was probably older than she, I knew I grew up in nearly the same time period as she did, because I completely identified with all the trends and fads she mentioned when talking about her youth. And I grew up laying out at the country club pool in our town. And I live in a neighboring state to Oklahoma, where my brother now lives and I was fairly familiar with where she lives now.  I spent those first few weeks of reading her column trying to figure out if she grew up in Enid or Edmond, OK (it was neither) and just where they lived now.  AND I loved her clothes and all the other stuff she put on her blog.  I even still think about something she wrote about what her maternal grandmother said about being a “lady”.  And then I started telling friends about this amazing woman, this cool woman about our age, who had this website telling all about her life on this cool ranch, and my friends would just stare at me for a minute, and then start talking about something else. And now when the blockbuster movie comes out about Ree and Ladd, probably starring Reese Witherspoon, all my friends will go and LOVE it and I will tell them I knew her FIRST!!!, and will remind them I TRIED to tell them about her over a year ago, and they will stare at me for a little while and start talking about something else or else they will tell me they don’t remember me ever telling them about her. But I love Ree, I watch Ree’s cooking show and Ree introduced me to blogs. Only she doesn’t know she did. And she’s helped turn me into a “great cook”, according to my sons. She doesn’t know that either.

But anyway, Ree introduced me to theletteredcottage.com, and then I learned about younghouselove.com and then I happened onto Flower Patch Farmgirl and so on and so on and now I spend a GOOD part of my morning reading a list of blogs that I have in my “favorites” and it’s one of my favorite parts of my day.  I could easily spend hours clicking from one blog to another, because there are SO many GOOD ones out there and I probably only know of a very very small fraction of all the good blogs out there!  I add a new one almost daily, on the recommendation of one I already read.  I have to limit myself to about an hour a day reading my blogs.  Dogs need to be walked, house needs to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done,  bills need to be paid.

The list of blogs I read are as diverse as my personality.  I’m an Aquarius and like a lot of different things.  I love bourbonand pearls and I love Miss Janice.  I love Home Joy by Frances Schultz (is she Charles Schultz’s widow?) and I love Momastery.  I love Monograms and Manicures and Maryland Pink and Green.  I love Back Down South and Collect 5.  I love Dixie Delights and I love An Inch of Gray and . . . . . It All Started with Paint, Non-Consumer Advocate, Southern Hospitality, At the Picket Fence, Beantown Prepster, And Now We Are Six, Pink Wallpaper, Chinioserie Chic, House of Fifty, Tenth Avenue South, Centsational Girl, Ten June, Diary of a Domestic Failure, Nat the Fat Rat, Pauline Wiles, Isabella and Max, The Mustard Ceiling, googiemomma, Better After, Windlost, PeaHen Pad, Thistlewood Farm, Beard and Pigtails, The Simply Luxurious Life, fourgenerationsoneroof, ourvintagehomelove.blogspot.com, Between Naps on the Porch, It’s Official, Unabashedly Prep, Never A Dull Day, Bible Love Notes, mynottinghill and Reggie Darling.  Yes, that many and there are actually more.

I love blogs because I love to read.  And I love to learn.  And I love to look at people’s homes for ideas on how to decorate.  And I love to hear advice on raising children.  And I like to read stories about people who are trying to make a difference.  And I like to hear from others who have struggles sometimes and read how they work through them.  And I like to hear about people who are trying to be better people.  And I like to see what clothes and jewelry and shoes people like.  And I like to see how to do stuff.  And I like book recommendations.  And I like family stories.  And I also share in grief with some people who have had major and tragic losses.

I also like to write, which is why I started this blog.  It may not end up getting a lot of “traffic”, and it will probably never have any fantastic, high-quality pictures of our life (because I only take regular pictures), but so far I like it and I have two fans who live with me.  I’m sure I won’t ever win any awards at blogging conventions and I probably will never have any publishing houses try to outbid each other for the rights to a possible book of my writings and I will never have a movie made about me starring Reese Witherspoon.  But I like being part of a group of people who have made me laugh, made me smile, made me cry, impressed me, amazed me, taught me and entertained me.  All on a daily basis and all from this chair I’m sitting in now.

And it all started with Ree.

Karma – And An Open Apology

There are some things that happen in this universe that cannot be explained. Strange coincidences, bad things happening to good people, and my sons’ overwhelming embarrassment of my mere presence in most situations. And their overwhelming acceptance and approval of their grandmother’s presence in any situation. Their grandmother who never embarrasses them is my mother.
Growing up, I remember being embarrassed by my mother many many times. In her defense, I was a pathologically insecure child who was embarrassed by even my own shadow. And in her defense, my close friends loved her and liked sitting around and chatting with her, and when we were at cheerleading camp one summer, one friend became homesick and announced she wished she was “at your house with your mom and the three of us sitting on the couch together watching a good movie with a big bowl of popcorn”. So, my embarrassment I felt for my mother had nothing really to do with her, and had a lot to do with me.  And before I go any further, I want to emphasize that no one else seemed to have a problem with my mother but me.  And I certainly wouldn’t want her to type up a piece on all the ways I mortified her when I was younger.
I wanted a mother who was sophisticated looking; trim, with gorgeous clothes, and I guess who never spoke. My mother was and is beautiful, but during those years of trying to raise four children, hold down a full-time job and deal with a husband who was becoming increasingly irresponsible, sophisticated and elegant she was not. She had gained some weight, she wore double-knit polyester, elasticized pants and sensible shoes and she cut her hair in a “practical” style.  She wasn’t a member of the group of mothers I considered the “in” group, she didn’t play golf, and every car she drove was a hand-me-down from the local funeral home that my dad worked for.  Each time the funeral home purchased a new “family car”, we got the old model for our family car.  She smoked, but not while lying around the country club pool in her bathing suit with a beer or cocktail in her hand like the sophisticated mothers.  She never had cool parties on weekends with her friends, serving alcohol and exotic snacks.  She put her bare feet up on the coffee table.  She cut my bangs too short.

If she caught me out in public with the cool crowd who had bad reputations, a crowd I would desperately try to impress, she thought nothing of roaring up in her big Cadillac with MY little grandmother in the seat next to her and  my siblings in the back, giving me a piece of her mind before ordering me to “get in”.   If we were marching with the school band or performing in some other school function, she would yell our names and wave and cheer to get our attention.  Once, when she picked me up from school in the middle of the day, as we drove off in front of the whole school in her old Cadillac, the muffler partially fell off right in front of the school, meaning one end of it remained attached to the undercarriage of the car and the other end fell off, and so it was drug as we drove and I can still hear the excruciatingly loud din of the sound of a metal muffler dragging and scraping against asphalt coupled with the even louder racket a car makes when it has no muffler.  I wanted us to crash and die, but it didn’t bother her in the least, and when I was forced, literally forced by her to return to school that day, people told me they could  hear us and the car from their classrooms blocks from the school as we drove home.

As I got older, I became even more immature.  I simply cringed when my mother even opened her mouth in public.  As I became even more introverted and self-conscious, my mother became more confident and outspoken.  Her every move mortified me.  And became exaggerated in my own mind.  Her opinions sounded boastful and arrogant.  Her table manners seemed crude.  When she popped her gum, it reverberated in my ears.  If she needed help or directions, she made no bones about hollering to get someone’s attention and assistance, whereas I would rather flounder for hours on end than ask for assistance.  I thought she talked too much.

I always vowed that if and when I had children, I would be the type of mother that my children would be proud of.  A cool mom.  A good-looking and thin mom.  A mom who had absolutely no traits that would be embarrassing to a child or teenager.  Then I had my sons.

Long story somewhat shorter.  I am not a loud person; I don’t say much out in public; I am slim and I love clothing and fashion and dress well.  But what goes around, comes around and it has come around to me.  My sons don’t want me saying even the slightest thing to anyone out in public.  They don’t want me to roll down the window after I let them out for school and say good-bye.  They don’t want me to get out of the car at school for anything.  They don’t want me asking waitresses for anything and they really don’t want me to complain in a restaurant even if I have good reason.  I said something very nice to a friend of theirs recently in a store and one of my sons stormed out of there, angry and humiliated.  They don’t want me saying anything to coaches and they want me to keep my mouth shut at parent-teacher conferences.  They don’t want me cheering them on from the sidelines during games or runs.  They mumble and when I ask them to repeat it, they get mad.

However, their grandmother can do no wrong.    She now goes everywhere with us and on her cane and walker, and it doesn’t bother them in the least.  She cheers them on loudly from the sidelines and waves her cane and they don’t mind.  She talks to their coaches and teachers, introduces herself and brags on them for minutes on end it seems and it doesn’t faze them.  If I try to discreetly ask her to bring something down a notch, they get irritated with me and tell me to leave her alone.  She talks to everyone and even becomes friends with waitresses by the time we leave a restaurant and they love it.  She talks loud because she is losing her hearing and they happily repeat what she doesn’t hear.  They hug and kiss her in public in front of everyone; friends and coaches.

So this is a public apology to my mother.  I am sorry for being so rude to you when I was younger and when I was older.  You weren’t doing anything wrong but trying to be a mom, and my own insecurities about myself were being taken out on you.    And few things amaze me more and make me happier than seeing how my sons delight in having you around – and in public and in front of everyone.

Karma is a b___ch.  And so was I.

Random Acts of Kindness – or Unexpected Gifts

When was the last time you received a gift that just completely threw you for a loop because it was so unexpected and because it made you feel so good at the moment you received it?  And when was the last time someone did something so kind to or for you, that you walked away so moved?

For me, the last time either of those things happened to me was yesterday.  At around noon.  In a supermarket parking lot.

Just as I was approaching the doors to the grocery store, a woman I know was coming out of the store.  I would call her a friend, but I don’t know if we’re even familiar with each other enough to call each other friends.  I know her because this is a small town we both live in, and even though there are people who live here I don’t know, it’s the kind of community where I do know a lot of the people who live here.  She is married to a man I used to babysit for when he was a boy; whose mother I used to know very well.  They used to be our neighbors when I still lived with my parents.  And when I moved back here ten years ago, after being gone for over twenty, the boy had grown into a man and he was now married with children and this woman, Lori, is his wife.  She has also cut my hair before, and she is now my mother’s hairdresser.  She has two daughters, one of which I know of because I have heard the nicest things about her from some other mothers.  I don’t even see Lori that often.  It even takes me a minute to recognize her the few times I do see her.

So yesterday, as I was approaching the doors to the store, Lori was coming out and we saw each other, and I realized it was Lori, and we greeted each other and she said she had just seen my mother and done her hair.  As we spoke, we each kept walking in opposite directions, and then . . . all of a sudden, Lori stopped walking the opposite way and took three steps in my direction and threw her free arm around me (the other one held her sack of groceries) and gave me the sweetest, snuggest hug.  She just squeezed me.  And then she stopped and we continued chatting for a minute as we each again started walking on our respective ways, and we said our goodbyes . . .and I was so touched I kind of forgot for a minute why I was at the store.

That random act of kindness was so unexpected and felt so good that I felt like my whole being was smiling.  And I’ve reflected on it many times since then.  It’s like it made my whole day, and cast a much happier light on things that maybe wasn’t there earlier.  I wasn’t having a bad day; I was getting things done and was in a good mood.  But the fact that Lori was moved to give me a hug at that moment brought me more joy than she will probably ever realize.  I think I mumbled “thank you” but I’m not sure because it happened so fast.

And now I feel like I know Lori just a little bit better.  I feel like she must be very nice, with a good heart, and is not afraid to open that heart up and spread the love.  Her gift didn’t cost anything, it probably wasn’t planned, and I had done absolutely nothing to deserve it.  Like Grace.  And it made me feel so so good.  About Lori, about myself and about life.

Thank you, Lori.

 

Raising Children

How do you raise your children to have a happy childhood full of good memories when yours was so awful?

Lately, as I watch my sons go through their teenage years, it brings back many memories, and that’s not a good thing.  As I watch and try to help my two sons try to navigate through the ups and downs of these confusing and uncertain days, it’ brings to mind my unhappy and chaotic childhood.  As I’m trying to help them make decisions that will build self-confidence, happiness, and self-respect, I’m trying to deal with my own recollections of myself at that age; a girl with absolutely no confidence, who was sorely depressed,  and someone who was utterly ashamed of her existence and family and wanted nothing more than to be someone else.  If I see even a glimpse of any of those feelings in either of my sons, it makes me panic to the point of an anxiety attack, because I wouldn’t wish on anyone the feelings I had about myself when I was that age.  And I don’t want my sons to go through these years that should be relaxed and happy, feeling like I did.  But as I’m trying to be a parent, and a single one at that, who is trying to raise sons to be happy and self-assured and youth who don’t feel like I did at that age, I feel like I’m sinking in my own memory bank of insecurities, shame and utter sadness.

I told a friend yesterday that each day after I let my sons off at their respective schools, I feel like I’m going to burst into tears.  And then I go home and I read the news, walk the dogs, do my Bible study and pray earnestly, do my household chores, eat lunch, plan dinner, and pick at least one of them up from school.  And then after they’re both home, as they tell me about their days, I try not to overanalyze everything they say for hints of self-induced feelings of failure or regret or embarrassment.  And I try hard not to transfer my own feelings of insecurity that spring up from my past, into their present.  And if need be, I calmly and hopefully assuredly try to advise in a rational manner if they need help or support in any given situation or if they do express feelings of embarrassment or unsuredness.  Then later I go to bed and sleep a while and then wake up and worry about how I handled everything and if I should have done it differently.

But I also try to tell myself occasionally, but not enough probably, that my sons are not growing up in a household with an alcoholic parent.  They can invite friends to our home, and not be afraid of what’s going to happen or if I’m going to be passed out on the living room floor in my underwear.  My sons don’t have to lead me out of business establishments in front of friends, because I am so drunk I cannot see.  My sons don’t have to witness me drunk out in public in front of their circle of friends and their parents, when I’m making a complete drunken spectacle of myself in front of everyone.  My sons won’t have other parents say disparaging remarks to them about me and my drinking.  My sons won’t get in a fist fight at school because their friends make mean remarks about me and my drinking.  They don’t have a home which is the scene of regular drunken fights with tears, cursing, throwing things and screaming.

Hopefully, I am teaching my sons coping skills, other than screaming and yelling and threatening to abandon them – or drinking. (Although I have done my share of screaming).  And I pray that my sons won’t feel so bad about themselves that they just give up on school work and drop out of school activities and gatherings.  I pray that my sons won’t start drinking at an early age, to the point that they black out before they’re even a junior in high school.  I pray that my sons only hang around with kids who are positive, are involved in school and activities, and who don’t do bad things.  I can control this to a degree and I do.  I pray that my sons forge lasting relationships with friends, and don’t feel like they cannot do this because they don’t want to let anyone know about their awful life.   I pray that my sons aren’t bullied, even tho one of them has experienced it already at a younger age and was ostracized for a couple of years because he spoke up about it and I tried to help.  And I pray that neither of my sons becomes romantically involved with another student, a supposed “athletic star”, who physically abuses him on a daily basis for more than a year, but he doesn’t speak up about it because he’s too embarrassed, shattered and besides, there are too many problems going on at home for anyone to want to deal with it.

It’s hard for a parent to raise successful children when they have felt like a failure for so much of their life.  I’ve made many mistakes still, since I’ve given birth to my sons, but I have tried to correct those mistakes, am very self-aware now and more confident.  I do not want to send them out in this world until I know they feel good about themselves, are fairly self-aware, and can make good decisions that promote self-respect, even in the face of peer pressure.  I see now that most of my mistakes in life were made by a person who had such a traumatic childhood that she was not equipped at all emotionally to be let loose in this world to fend for herself.  Even my college years were a disaster because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and so I did nothing or the wrong things and I went through a terrible terrible bullying episode that went on for years because again, I was too shattered and embarrassed to stand up for myself.

I don’t know if how I’m raising my sons will produce success.  Success, meaning well-adjusted, well-mannered productive citizens.  But at least in the end, my sons will know I tried with every ounce of my being to get it right.  And near my end also, I hope to finally be the person I was supposed to be in the beginning.  Happy, confident, powerful, content, and successful in something.  I will have many many regrets, but hopefully, the pattern of addictive behaviour brought on by raging insecurities will be broken in my family.  Or at least in this line of this family.

Don’t start a blog . . . . .

Okay; here’s some advice.  Don’t start a blog . ..

seven days before you leave on a week-long trip to Louisiana to see your nephew get married,

or two and a half weeks before you take the confirmation class your son’s enrolled in on their class field trip to KC, MO,

or three weeks before you leave for your church’s five-day annual state conference, which is also 4 days after you get home from LA and one day after you take your son’s confirmation class to KC, MO,

and a month before you have to set up and man and break down a water stand for your church at your town’s annual summer celebration AND at the same time come up with an idea for a float for the parade at said annual summer celebration and build the float and ride the float with other victims, kids and adults, you’ve begged to ride the float with you.

But the above trips, celebrations and projects were all well worth it and I wouldn’t have missed them for the world.  And I’m home now for the time being and am committing to “restarting” my blog and hopefully will continue to post my random thoughts and opinions on a daily basis.

Enjoy!