August 26

Long Day

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You can feel the air getting a bit crisper, as it gains the edge of chill. Soon, the leaves will turn vibrant shades of orange before coming to lay delicate and brown on the ground. Autumn is settling in after a long, hot, summer.

A little boy clutches a sippy cup. His fingers rest firmly in his mouth, and though countless times a day he is asked to remove them, he can’t seem to shake the comfort of sucking on his tiny digits. His slightly older brother tolerates his presence, although an annoyed look flashes over the brother’s face as he scoots closer and closer until finally resting his head on his older sibling’s shoulder.

There is a gentle calm over the house. Parent’s describe days as ‘long’ because they are too mentally exhausted to search their brains for more descriptive words. My head rings out like the popular christmas song, ‘On The First Day Of Christmas’. Except, in my version, there are no turtle doves or partridges in pear trees. I tally the tantrums, messes and fights that have made me roll my eyes so hard a tiny voice rings in the back of my head.

“You keep rollin’ your eyes and they are gonna get stuck back there.”

Yes, messes of chicken fingers and tantrums over trains. Beautiful Jackson Pollack-esque murals of ketchup cover plates, tables and floors. I know if I dared lift a couch cushion, I would find soggy Cheerios from a morning of spilt cereal.

I will leave them for another day. Today has been long.

But, in this moment, it isn’t the Thomas the Tank Engine tucked in the cupboard captivating my thoughts. Even though the very same engine spawned two fights and a twenty-minute stream of tears. No, there is a brief moment, where a baby brother is allowed to rest his head on his older brother’s shoulder.

On the heels of change of season are new beginnings. In five days, the little boy clutching the sippy cup will stand at the door as his older brothers step onto a big yellow bus and into the great unknown that is preschool.

I don’t dwell too much on the impending school year. Wasting too many thoughts on it leaves me a mess of worry and anxiety. As with most things I fear might consume me with panic, I just let it go and let be.

It isn’t time to worry about first days and new friends.

No, right now I watch a brother’s face relax of it’s annoyance, as his head too comes down to rest on his baby brother’s head. I think about how moments like this are almost priceless and impossible to catch. I am an outsider looking into a beautiful moment between siblings; I dare not disturb it.

Heavy eyes beget heavy breathing, as each child slips into an easy sleep. They cuddle up close to each other without fighting over whether the other is touching their blanket.

A calm quiet has settled in. The open window welcomes cool air in, forcing the children closer together. The air kisses my skin, a welcome feeling after a summer filled with humidity and clothes sticking to skin.

There is a change in the air.

The sleeping children don’t know it. They are busy cuddled up and sleeping.

After all, it was a long day.

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August 16

Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool

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Mama didn’t raise no fool.

We sat in a diner, down Baseline, preparing for breakfast. My Mother told me what she wanted and I silently recited it to myself again and again until the waitress came. As I rattled off both my and my mother’s order, the waitress looked surprise at how such a young boy would know how to order for a woman. But that is what a gentleman did and Mama didn’t raise no fool.

In the eight years I spent with my Mother, there were countless life lessons she taught me. How to get up early and dig for worms so you could go fishing. How to open the door for people. To always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, no matter how redundant you end up sounding.

You see, mama didn’t raise no fool.

What my Mom never taught me, was how to deal with the special days piling up since she passed away. Maybe it isn’t a lesson often passed down from parent to child but, then again, maybe it should be.

I think about my Mama on the day she died.

I think about my Mama on Mother’s Day.

I think about my Mama on my twins’ birthday.

I think about my Mama on my birthday.

I think about my Mama on my youngest son’s birthday.

I think about my Mama on every special holiday.

Oh, and I think about my Mama today, when we would have been celebrating her birthday.

My Mother taught me to always approach life with a certain amount of optimism. An understanding that good times and bad times they all roll through and you just try your best to roll with them.

She taught me to sing my heart out and be myself. A lesson I forgot until I realized I needed to impress it on my own children.

She taught me how to love reading books. From fairy tales to Goosebumps, she created an insatiable desire that has me unable to put down a good book until I am finished with it.

My Mother taught me sometimes the best thing to do in life is forgive people. And forgive yourself.

My mama didn’t raise no fool.

I order my wife’s chocolate chip pancakes, with whipped cream, at the little diner. I tell my waitress ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every time she stops by the table, beginning to sound redundant. I hold the door open as we exit into the early morning.

Maybe it is a bit old-fashioned, but that’s what Mama taught me.

And Mama didn’t raise no fool.

I don’t know how to celebrate the birthday of my mother. Today she would have been, but she isn’t. On today, and all the other special days that pile up in a year, I find myself somewhat lost. But, I get through them by remembering my stuffed tortoise that played These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things. I remember cowboy hats and boots. I remember a What Would Jesus Do bracelet and a dreamcatcher.

I remember the passion she lit in me for storytelling.

I try to remember everything she taught me over our years together. All the lessons I forgot and remembered. The compassion she instilled. The forgiveness she reminded me everyone, including her, needed. Cursive letters and long distance phone calls.

I look at my family and my life. Where I have been and where I am going.

I remember.

Mama didn’t raise no fool.

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August 12

#Littlethings

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I’ve been focusing on the little things lately. A concentrated effort to spend five minutes a day highlighting life’s little blessings. A pair of new shoes, a sleeping child, general goofiness of wild hair. Things I might, if not actively seeking them out, miss in my day to day.

You know, the little things.

This week will mark what feels like the hundredth consecutive fifty hour work week. My schedule goes a bit like this:

Head into work at about 9:30 at night

Work until my boss releases me around 7:15 in the morning.

Spend 7:20 to 9:00 trying to decide whether I want breakfast or dinner. It might be the morning but I have just worked a nine and a half hour shift.

Sleep anywhere between four to five hours, waking up at 2:00 in the afternoon when the sun is too high for my internal clock to allow me to sleep.

Spend 2:00 to 3:00 wondering if I want breakfast or lunch, I just got up from sleeping. 

From 3:00 to 3:40 I listen to how my kids have been for the day, before my wife heads off to work. 

4:00 to 8:30, I try not to snap at my kids, because it isn’t their fault I work full time and hardly sleep. 

8:30 to 9:00 I pick up the house, before clutching my coffee mug and making a fresh pot of coffee to drink while I wait for the babysitter to arrive. 

My days blur together. I fall asleep on July 1st and wake up in August. Wake me up when September ends. (I couldn’t help myself)

So, I decided to keep track of my days. My schedule doesn’t leave as much writing time as it used to. It does, however, leave little moments to slow down and appreciate what hard work has given me.

A lovely family.

A big yard.

A pen for a bodybuilder named Chocolate Thunder.

I have a hard time spotting the joys of life naturally. They are something I have to actively seek out in a life that seems too busy for one person to maintain. I need to take a spouse challenge or a little things challenge or one of the millions of challenges on Facebook that force you to take five minutes out of your day to highlight what makes you happy.

These sort of challenges get a lot of shit. I can openly admit to teasing and mocking the challenges. They seem, at face value, to be trivial. Stupid little ways to show your stupid little life is better than mine. I want real. Life is good and bad, these posts are fake.

Right?

Their point isn’t to purport perfection. They aren’t there to convince people you have everything together.  These searches to find moments of good in a constant up and down of life are practice. They are reminders that even on the worst of days; we can actively seek out the good.

My days aren’t perfect. If you think citing an old picture or remembering a moment in time where pure joy was experienced makes a life perfect, maybe you’re missing the point of these sort of things.

When my body aches.

When my children only seem to remember how to fight and scream.

When I am not sure what type of meal to eat because of my odd hours.

When I am feeling lost.

Or sad.

Or angry.

Or any of the less than sunny emotions I find myself feeling every day.

So, today, I celebrate the little things. Tomorrow I celebrate the little things.

Everyday, I challenge you to try and celebrate the little things.

Like your spouse. Or your family. Or your dog.

I celebrated making a funny list. My little thing that makes me happy today is an underused blog, connected to a Facebook page vibrant with a beautiful community of people I have been lucky enough to connect with all over the world.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
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