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Kindness

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A wish, on my 35th birthday

November 3, 2017

This week I turn 35.

35.

What can I say about 35 … I’m halfway through my 30s and barreling toward 40 like a greasy sled in an avalanche. I call 20-somethings “kids” and they call me “ma’am”. My hairdresser (friend) found my first grays. I’ve decided to name them Salt, Peppa and Spinderella. My underwear is as big as my fitted sheet, but I have a few Stitch Fix pieces the young gals at work think are dope. I’m straddling the numerical divide, just a pant pleat away from middle age.

There’s something about birthdays, much like the turning of the calendar year, that tickles the reflective parts of my brain. I mean, more aggressively than they’re normally tickled, if you can imagine. I always come back to the romantic, unrealistic visions past. The ones where I imagined where I’d be by 35. I think about what this age looked like to me 20, 15, 10 or 5 years ago. Am I there? Am I even close to there?

I probably thought I’d be married at 35. And a mom, with three kids. CHECK.

I probably thought I’d be a moderately successful writer living in a semi-intimidating metropolis exposing all that’s beautiful and ugly and hilarious and ironic in the world. That I’d have a tailored capsule wardrobe curated by someone who knew how to hide these hips. That I would have something bound and boldly placed out into the universe for others to read and dissect at book clubs where expensive red wine flows like soda pop in the south.

I probably thought I’d be my best self physically. My child-bearing years behind me, I’d have a sculpted physique I chiseled in the wee hours of the morning when all the doers are already doing, while the want-to-doers are fast asleep.

That’s probably what I thought.

Now, I’m not mad at where I am. No sir. As I sit here listening to my baby chuckle at her dad in the next room, I declare myself a proud, card-carrying member of the suburban working mothers’ guild. I feel blessed that my most critical struggles are teetering on the high end of my recommended BMI and disciplining a 6-year-old who I’m certain is smarter than I am. That is God’s gift to me. A life rich in blessings and poor in complexities. A life where I can toil over the simple glory of being present and connected, rather than where I’ll put my babes to sleep at night or how I’ll fill their little tummies. I count my blessings every morning and twice each night, knowing none of this is guaranteed and nothing separates me from those heavy hearts but a little bad luck and a wrong turn or two.

Whether this stop was on my roadmap or not, it’s where I live. It’s where the branches on my tree first sprouted, and where they’ll continue to grow. This is exactly where I should be, and where you’ll likely find me at 40 … and 45. So, if I’m not planning on going anywhere, perhaps it’s time to form a new vision for my future. And I know exactly what it is.

Guys … I want to be a hero.

I had the chance to hear motivational speaker Kevin Brown a few weeks back, and he was phenomenal. I was buying everything he was selling. The masterful storyteller stood on the stage and reflected on many things, including the times he pretended to be Superman as a child. He started jumping off the couch. Then the table. Then, eventually, he decided to jump off the roof of his garage. He was young, invincible, and he believed he could soar. Of course, he didn’t. He got hurt. And that was likely the beginning of the end of such bold attempts. He says now, “I would love to go back and ask that little boy, ‘When did you forget you could fly?’”

When did I forget I could fly? When did you?

We’ve all heard people say that heroes are ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. But Kevin believes that heroes are the people who choose not to be ordinary at all. Ever. To never buy into it. The fact that we are here – that we swam faster than the others and our mother carried us for nine months and we made it into the world – is extraordinary. We’re created in an image of excellence, and we arrive with a unique set of talents and thoughts and gifts. But somewhere along the line, slowly, gradually, we start to believe that good enough is good enough. That if we do the bare minimum, we can coast along. We can blend and dissolve into the sea of other ordinary people doing ordinary things. We can fly under the radar, which isn’t really flying at all.

And in the end, if this is your choice, that’s all you get.

Kevin called it “terminally corporate”. We’re chained to a string of mundane tasks, mundane accomplishments, mundane days, leaving nothing of note to live on in others when we go. A lackluster job that doesn’t quite fit, or a loveless marriage, or the loss of something or someone becomes an excuse to go numb. And letting that mentality take over seeps out into every interaction. Every moment, every memory. It becomes the script you live by.

We think that the only choices are, we’re either backpacking across Ireland or we’re sitting on the couch eating Chili Cheese Fritos, bingeing the whole first season of Ozark. But what if there was something else you could use to measure?

Enter Kevin’s definition of heroism.

Heroes change lives. They seize every opportunity, big and small, to impact others. Heroes make every person feel seen and valued and important. They do things from a place of sincere respect and genuine compassion, two things they award to all people, who’v earned them by simply being human. Heroes recognize the value of the space they occupy while they occupy it. It’s not about dwelling on what happened yesterday, or dreaming about what may come and what you’ll do if and when it does. It’s about taking the moment you’re standing in, right now, and making it count, both for you and for the other people standing in that space with you.

Have you ever passed someone who looked disheartened and thought, “Man, I should have stopped. I should have said something”? Well, heroes do. Heroes are boldly and unapologetically empathetic. Heroes ask the tough questions with the hope they can impact the answers.

Being a hero means somebody else’s life is better because you showed up.

So, that’s the vision for 35 … and 36. And all the days, weeks, months and years I’m gifted after that. To become a hero, by Kevin Brown’s definition, to the people I love and the people I will love but haven’t met yet. What I do is what I do. It’s not who I am. If I write something truly profound (Lord willing) and it catches fire, that’s great. But it’s not what will define me. The way I make people feel will be what defines me.

It will be my cape. It will help me soar.

If I can pour a little positivity into every person I pass each day, that’s the stuff of legacies. That’s the flame of the torch. Accomplishments matter, sure. I want to be healthy, fulfilled, successful. But I want to really see people, hear people, impact the people standing right in front of me much, much more than that.

I want to be a hero, and I want you to be one, too.

[blows out candles.]

Tune in Today

Try that with Matt No. 1: Random Acts of Kindness

August 23, 2016

Try that with Matt

My brother is a strong presence – in my life, in other people’s lives, in his work life, with his friends, with his kids, with my kids – he’s a big dude with a big heart and a loud voice. As I’ve grown older, and he’s gotten older, and major changes have rolled ashore and back out into the great big ocean again, our relationship has evolved. At some point my memories of him as the broad behemoth who wrapped blankets over my head and farted on me as I struggled and screamed under the smothering conditions, eroded a bit and I actually started seeing him as more of a friend. Being grownups isn’t necessarily the most comfortable hat for either of us to wear, and I think there’s a comfort in keeping someone so close who reminds you of your more-distant-than-you’d-like past as a dumb kid, but also supports you as an adult.

Siblings

Anyway, after our stint on the Appalachian Trail back in April, and the series of blog posts that followed, I think a passion for this platform began sprouting deep inside my big brother. He was more interested in the topics (this post in particular) and we started chatting a lot about adulting topics like happiness and contentment and satisfying the urge to explore and stretch yourself.

From these conversations, an idea was born. We would choose one challenge every month and try something we’d never tried before. We would dwell in the enticing space outside of our comfort zones at least once every 30 days. Some of our ideas are physically demanding, others are mentally demanding, but all are new to us in some capacity.

MeMatt1

August was the inaugural month for the “Try that with Matt” series, and we agreed to kick things off with something that had been on both of our minds: positivity. We challenged each other to pull off 10 random acts of kindness (RAOK) in 10 days. There were no hard and fast rules. Just two handfuls of happiness distributed as we saw fit.

If you didn’t see this video, you should. She inspired us. My friend Kelly has done my hair for years. She never tells me what I owe her and I always give her what I think is fair, and she thinks is too much. One day she told me she took the money from my last hair appointment and donated it, anonymously, to a mother in need from “two mothers who wanted to help”. THAT inspired me. That same friend took her two children a few times every week throughout the summer to a local facility to be peers for a severely autistic classmate of her son. Now THAT is what you teach your kids. THAT is the example you set. THAT inspires me. So many people are sheepishly, quietly trying to change this world, or at least make it a little happier, one day and one deed at a time. It isn’t all bad. It isn’t all violence and loss. We wanted to be a part of that movement.

Here’s how it shaped up …

MATT
*Written by Matt.

BOUQUET 2

Act No. 1. Special delivery.
The kids and I took flowers out to my mom. They were super pumped. My daughter picked them out, in Gram’s favorite color, of course. Mom was so surprised and happy we stopped out. I swear, the kids were just as excited as she was. It made me feel good, like I was doing something right, seeing them so hype about making someone else’s day. They helped with most of my acts of kindness.

Act No. 2. Bought fundraiser tickets.
Young guy, little older than my son, was out selling fundraiser tickets for his traveling soccer team. I had watched him and noticed the little guy hadn’t been very successful. He was a shy kid, so we made conversation and purchased some tickets and wished him luck on the season.

Act No. 3. Stopped to help.
A guy ran out of gas right by our neighborhood. Amazing how many people went around him and didn’t think twice. I jumped out of my truck, offered to push his car to the closest parking lot or run down and get gas for him. He assured me he was fine, his wife was in route to save the day. (Perhaps some other superwoman …) I think a lot of times we assume help is coming for people, but we should all be inclined to at least check and make sure.

Act No. 4. Moved mattresses.
I helped a friend pick up some mattresses. They didn’t have access to a truck and needed a hand so I tossed my hat in the ring and said I would take care of it. Life is busy for everyone, especially if you have young active kids. If you have the resources and someone else doesn’t, it never hurts to give a bit of your time. In this case, someone needed a box truck and I just so happen to have one, albeit one that tried to kill me years ago on a trip back from Iowa, but we’ve worked out the kinks and it was nice to help a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.

Act No. 5. Treated a stranger.
Kids and I went for a frozen treat one Friday night and we decided to pay for the person behind us. As the gentlemen drove past with I will assume his wife and kid, he gave us a thumbs up out the window as we patiently waited to destroy a few milkshakes ourselves. We gave a wave and a thumbs up in return and I said hopefully that made his day and he does something nice for someone else. Kids thought he probably would because he was happy.

Act No. 6. Cashed in a good deed.
Back to school shopping was in full swing and I had already taken a day and tackled Kohl’s with the kids and cashed in some Kohl’s cash (free money, what!?) Well, a few days after we crushed it a coworker was heading out with her two princesses and Kohls was one of their stops. I had a 30 percent coupon and, like a boss, active Kohl’s cash burning a hole in my wallet. I passed them on so she could tear it up with her girls. We all know kids are costly and every little bit counts. This person kills it as a coworker and always does stuff for others. It felt good to put a smile on her face.

Act No. 7. Went for a wash.
Took the car through the carwash and paid for the person behind us (or to the side, or God knows where because the place was stupid packed). The kid that took my card was all about it though and you like to think that when you do a RAOK like this the people caught in the middle get some enjoyment as well and makes them think of doing something nice.

Act No. 8. Turned over the keys.
Kid was selling a car and couldn’t get rid of it and I like to buy and sell some things, so I gave him some green for his beater and the plan was to get it flipped. Later that day I was talking to another buddy and told him about my latest purchase and he was telling me about a guy that he knew that was having a run of bad luck and trying to get on his feet. The guy had a couple of kids, he was a hard worker, made mistakes as a kid that had cost him a good stretch of his freedom … I agreed to sell my buddy the car for what I paid and he was going to surprise this guy and give it to him so he had wheels for he and his kids. That was a no brainier and shows you there is so much good in the world; good, loving people. But all we focus on as humans is negative bullshit. The news is crap. Why not report 28 minutes on all of the positive stuff that happens daily and save the last 2 minutes for the sad, selfish bullshit instead of vice versa.

Act No. 9. Dogwatch.
Took care of Desperately Seeking Superwoman’s dog for the weekend. Yeah, I counted it. Made me feel good for a minute until I went to let the dog out and they had no chips in the pantry. Stay stocked up Biscuits!

Act No. 10. Meal on me.
Picked up a tab at dinner for a random patron and asked the waiter to have them pay it forward. He was all about it and the kids just sat and smiled. It just feels good to do something for someone that isn’t expecting it and you don’t get to see the reaction. You just hope they in turn do something good for someone else.

****

COURTNEY

LoveLetter

Act No. 1. Love letter.
I’m obsessed with the site,The World Needs More Love Letters. I logged on, picked the story that tugged the most violently at my heartstrings (a 13-year-old boy who was wondering why God chose for him to live through a tough illness in this case) and pulled out stationery. Stationery. When was the last time you used stationery to write words to pick up another soul? I did on that day. And I put an actual stamp on it and put it in the actual mailbox.

Act No. 2. Donuts for all.
Let’s be real. For men and women in the workforce, donuts on Friday are like a sitz bath after a 32-hour labor and delivery. Candy after a trip to the dentist. I like to sit them somewhere and see how long it takes for someone to find them. Who will open the brown box? Who will be most excited? Great social experiment all around.

Act No. 3. Sympathetic ear.
I stumbled upon a coworker in the midst of an emotional meltdown. I’d never met this particular coworker in person before, but it became very clear, very quickly, that this woman was in need of a good cry. Do you know why it was so easy for me to recognize this scenario? Because I have been in that seat, fighting those tiny burning needles behind my eyelids and sensing a trail of tear-induced snot marching it’s way out of my nasal canal. I have been there! Who hasn’t? Sometimes the shit hits the fan and you can’t get a win to save your life and you just need someone to give you permission to open up the dam and let it out. I don’t think it was an accident I ended up in her office.

Act No. 3. Garden goodie.
My niece loves zucchini bread. I baked up two loaves for her to enjoy. It took no more than an hour to do and I even threw in an extra loaf for my crew.

Act No. 4. Passed along some pages.
I have a girlfriend who I adore to no end. She’s been working through some major life stuff for a few months now. I logged on and had a copy of Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein sent to her doorstep with a note, “A bit of inspiration for a girl who inspires me.” A great book is best shared with those who really need it.

Act No. 5. Blog crush kudos.
I understand, as a writer, how humbling a creative profession can be at times. You put things out into the world and sometimes get tough criticism back or, worse yet, hear nothing at all. It’s brutal and totally self-inflicted. So, I took some time to email a few of my favorite bloggers, who I don’t think have a huge following just yet, to let them know how much their words mean to me.

Act No. 6. Spread good luck.
Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. You’ve heard it. I took two handfuls of pennies and flung them about in high-traffic areas.

Act No. 7. Pat on the back.
One of my favorite people on the planet is my college roommate Ashlie. She recently adopted two children and, I tell ya, watching her parent them brings more joy than watching myself masterfully manipulate my own little turkeys into doing something good. She’s good at it. Like really, crazy, stupid good at it. So I told her she was. I don’t praise my mommy friends enough from the trenches.

Act No. 8. Lunch for the lady.
Hank’s folks stopped by around dinner time so I packed up some leftovers for his mom to take for lunch the next day. She’s been a nurse for more than 30 years and gives so much of herself to strangers. Caregivers often focus so much on others they neglect themselves. It made me feel good knowing she had one less thing to worry about the next day.

Act No. 9. Make the hole.
This was likely the girls’ favorite good deed. On Thursday nights, the main road to our neighborhood is a traffic jam due due to food truck event that takes place at a popular intersection. As it started to break loose a bit and we were going to get moving, a firetruck, parked in the station, flipped it’s lights on. I slammed on my brakes to let them out right in front of us. The girls cheered in celebration of this one. I told them it was an honor to help heroes.

Act No. 10. Take a timeout.
I have a buddy at the gym. He’s likely in his late 70s and a bit difficult to understand some times. He knows my workout schedule. On Mondays I stay home and do yoga. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I run. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I do weights. He knows this. If I’m missing one day, he checks in with me the next. I always humor him with brief chatter. But during this challenge, I planted my feet, looked him in the eyes and spent a good 10 minutes working through children and grandchildren, recent vacations and his work life. We pass by hundreds of people every day. How many do we really see? That day I saw him.

We learned that it is possible to be competitive over good deeds; as we would occasionally compare our handy work. We also confirmed something that wasn’t exactly surprising. I like to plan things, while Matt is more of a freestyler. I had sat down and brainstormed a few things I really wanted to do over the 10 days. They were things I’d already had in mind and this was the perfect excuse to pull the trigger. Also, I would defer to emotional expressions of love and respect, while Matt’s go-to was lessening someone else’s burden in some way. There was no wrong, it was all right.

It crosses all of our minds more times than we realize to do good – to take something from someone’s full hands, or pick up the check or stop and listen … really listen. What woke me up was just how easy it was to actually do it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or plan ahead. Just allow the time to comfort someone in need. Be human when someone needs it most. Be the hugger. Be the listener. Be the voice of compassion. Join the army of men, women and children spreading love in this world. Random or otherwise, let’s make kindness routine.

Kids

Everything I need to know, I learned from JoJo going to kindergarten

June 2, 2016

Last Friday my oldest chick closed the book on her first year of elementary school and, as quickly as it came, kindergarten was over. She walked away with fewer teeth, a broader vocabulary and a whole new set of social skills. More times than I can count, as we sat conversing around our dinner table, JoJo would offer some emotional nugget that, if I really thought about it, correlated to some grownup social dilemma in my circle. See if you draw the same comparisons …

LastDayKindergarten

Be resourceful (and when deemed necessary, game the system).
About 3 months into the school year I got a call from the school nurse. “Hi there. I have JoJo here in my office and she is not feeling well. She doesn’t have a fever and we’re giving her a bit of Gatorade and letting her close her eyes.” She then cupped her mouth and drew the phone closer to say, “I really think somebody’s just not having a good day. This is the second time she’s been down here in 2 days.” As the year pressed on, there were more casual mentions of the nurse’s office. She had a hang sesh with her cousin there, she had her bud walk her down during art class, she went there for an ice pack because her knees hurt from running so much … I realized that something I’d been taught in my leadership classes might apply here – I was not asking the right questions. Once I began my subtle interrogation, I learned that, not only did the nurse have Gatorade, she also had Sprite, crackers and a sweet dose of one-on-one TLC. It’s like a 5-star luxury resort compared to, say, gym class. I couldn’t fault the girl for wanting an afternoon spritzer and siesta. If anything, I was impressed.

This was not the first or the last time my baby would go scamming for groceries. We get alerts when her lunch money funds are dwindling. “That’s odd,” Hank said, after I relayed that I’d received a low balance email from the school. “I just loaded like 50 bucks onto that thing a few weeks ago.” Turns out, you can log in and see your child’s spending history. Turns out, JoJo likes to add on a cookie, like every single day. Turns out, Doritos are just a little bit extra. Turns out, a cheese stick makes a great side. We were looking at page after page of incriminating purchases, accumulating 25 cents at a time. When I asked her about her a la carte selections, she informed me that you just ask the woman at the cash register to throw one on your tray and you’re good to go. She had no clue she was getting charged, and no clue we’d ever find out. Hank smiled that smile he smiles when one of his girls does something he finds endearing and just said, “I love it. I hope she always just goes for what she wants.”

Drama is relative.
At my age, a scandal typically involves inappropriate behavior, maybe some rage and always a few really bad decisions. For JoJo, the biggest scandal of the 2016-2017 school year came when she climbed to the top of the playdome, got yelled at by another kindergarten teacher and – wait for it – was sentenced to 5 minutes on the wall. I walked onto the playground to pick her up and straight onto OJ’s side of the courtroom. There were 3 criminals in the lineup, each more eager than the next to argue their innocence. We went to the car for a recess. “She’s just so interested in me and she doesn’t need to be interested about me!” she screeched with a blotchy red face. I’d never seen her so heated. “Listen, babe, regardless of what you think of her, she’s a teacher and she deserves your respect. You were probably doing something you knew you weren’t supposed to do, right?” “Maybe, but –” “And you can’t get in trouble if you’re always doing the right thing, right?” “Yes, but–” “OK, then let’s move past it.” But she couldn’t. It rocked her world like an old boyfriend showing up as a contestant on The Bachelorette or a late-in-life baby surprise would rock mine, and I gotta respect that.

Sleep is underrated.

The adjustment to full-time student had its hiccups, but perhaps the biggest was how much it wore our little bug out. One night at dinner, JoJo told us that she fell asleep in class and her teacher just let her sleep because she knew, “she really needed that nap.” Let’s face it, there are days (like every Tuesday) when you just want to put your head down on your desk and droll all over the TPS reports. I love that her teacher let that little snooze slide.

It’s who you know.
There are three battle grounds for grade school children: The cafeteria, the playground and the bus. I can still remember that first day I sat in my car and watched my delicate, dainty 6 year old take that first steep step up into the yellow tunnel of terror on wheels. She looked so petite grabbing the railing to hoist her tiny cakes up, only to slide quickly into the very front seat. That August evening I asked her who she sat with. “Nobody,” she replied. “I don’t know any of the older kids and they’re so loud.” But by the end of the second week, my girl was running that joint. What changed? Her two older cousins started hitching a ride a few times a week. To make matters even better, they were at her after-school program as well. Before I knew it she was regurgitating all of the fourth grade gossip and telling me fifth graders, “had her back.” Had her back from what, I don’t know that I want to know, but I certainly appreciated the support. #squadgoals

Stress and pain both pass eventually.
Do you ever watch your kids experience something and it brings back every distinct smell, thought and feeling you experienced at that age? For me, one of those things is this loose tooth nonsense. I detested the tooth-losing process. The initial wiggle, the tireless tongue prodding, the mental turmoil of committing to pull the little bastard out and then the sight of that alien formation with bloody points that just detached from part of your body. Those meager little calcium nuggets revealed every Fruit Roll-up, every Swiss Cake Roll, every Milk Dud, and left behind only a slight crater to take over the madness. Now I’m reliving the oral horror with JoJo. I feel her anxiety about the process transferring to me. We’ve gone through this 3 – one hard apple shy of 4 – times now and it’s always the same. She recognizes the wiggle that sent the baby tooth past the point of no return (typically because there is blood). This sends her down an emotional spiral of will-it or won’t-it hysteria. It comes out and she screams over a pain that she perceives in her mind and then instantly begins smiling at the realization that said pain actually never existed and the entire process is over. Thus, our heart rates can decline, the Tooth Fairy can make her triumphant appearance and we can all live to experience the roller coaster ride another day.

Compassion always counts.
Of all my aspirations for them, two of the characteristics I so badly want to instill in my chicks are compassion and empathy. The world is so fast and so careless. It’s important to me that they really see people and go out of their way to help when it matters (and it always matters). On our star chart we have a row for “Did something kind,” and I ask the girls what they did to help someone that day. If I feel satisfied with their answer, they get a magnetic star. Spike typically says things like, “I told Johnny that he was not a butt face.” But I always looked forward to JoJo’s answers once she started school. There are so many opportunities to extend grace at that age. She would say things like, “Taylor is getting a new baby sister and I gave her a hug,” or “Sonya was sitting alone at library, so I moved to her table” But my favorite was when she told me she escorted Anthony down the hall after he puked in gym. Because sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and take you to the nurse after you blow chunks in front of a room full of people. With no judgment.

Embarrassment is temporary (but brutal).
I can still remember, when I was in fifth grade, I thought it would be “cool” if I opened my bedroom window and sat in it. I cranked it out, removed the pesky screen and let the tips of my toes meet the steep shingles below. My on-again off-again “boyfriend”‘s dad, who lived directly behind us, came bursting through his back door and screamed, “Get outa the window, kid! What the hell are you thinking?!” To this day when I see him I picture him shouting at me from his deck. I was so scared he was going to tell my parents, or my little boyfriend. But more than all that, I was so, so embarrassed. I didn’t know what I was doing was dangerous. Hell, that was where all the heroines in the movies went to look at the stars and sort through their thoughts.

So, as we parents often do, I made sure to hand down the same humiliation to my JoJo. On an evening bike ride she turned right in front of a car. Without thinking, I did what any model mother would do. I verbally assassinated her precious spirit in the center of the cul-de-sac. In front of anyone within earshot. I certainly wasn’t mad at her. I was frightened out of my mind and the words just sprinted up my trachea and exploded out of my mouth. She was quiet the entire ride home. When we walked through the door she collapsed in the entryway, with her knees up by her ears and her elbows crossed over top to hold her head. “What’s wrong, honey?” I inquired, ignorant to the fact that, although the pedals between the incident and our driveway had erased the confrontation for me, she was entirely mortified. “I’m embarrassed!” she sobbed as she lifted her head. And I went right back to my window ledge. I knew exactly how she felt. “I’m sorry,” I offered. “But you are the most important thing to me and it terrifies Mommy when I think you might get hurt. I shouldn’t have yelled like that.” As disconcerted as you might be, this, too, shall pass, little bird.

We all just want to be accepted.
It always feels better to be included than excluded. And, gosh dang it, when 8 girls are playing ninjas and there’s no room for 9, or they tell you swinging is stupid, it feels like someone kicked your puppy. I don’t know a single parent who hasn’t wanted to throw a stranger’s kid’s sucker in the dirt for ignoring or belittling their child on the playground.

Kidsbeach

No one likes an empty bucket.
There are occasions when children  say things far more profound than the most educated, enlightened adults. One evening, as I was whipping up a 4-course Taco Tuesday extravaganza, JoJo and Spike started fighting, which is crazy, because that never happens. (That italics indicates major sarcasm.) Anyway, after I launched into my typical retorts – “Guys, knock it off!” “Do you feel better after you hit her?” etc. – with little effect, the oldest chick stepped back a bit and put her hands up defensively. “Listen Spike, I don’t need you taking out of my bucket.” [Silence and inquisitive stares.] “When you say mean things, you take out of people’s buckets. And when you say or do nice things, you fill them up. I’m not going to empty your bucket, so stop emptying mine!” And that, my friends, is what you call an effective after-school lesson. [mic drop]

Feeling special is good for the soul.
Remember how cool it was when your parents or, even better, your pets came into visit you at school? In fourth grade my folks trailered in one of our horses for my Star Day and let me tell you, when that mare shit on the front lawn of my elementary school, I knew I’d climbed 4 rungs up the social ladder. As a working mother I more often than not have guilt about my inability to be a room mother, or a reading pal or a field trip chaperone. There’s always some activity designed to make me feel completely inadequate as an emotional support for my child. But when it counts, wild [pooping] mustangs couldn’t keep me away. Case in point, JoJo’s Valentine’s Day party. We stayed up late cutting pineapples into mangled hearts and shed our own blood skewering those F’ers onto bamboo sticks. We made a party snack mix that I won’t reveal here because I’m thinking about marketing it for profit it was so good, and portioned it out into 22 individual baggies. And when I walked in with those fruit kabobs and bomb-ass mix, my little lady lit up like the Eiffle Tower on New Year’s. I’m not one for praising your child every time they take a tinkle, but I am a big believer in the power of showing up when it counts and letting your girl get her day.

So there you have it. Follow the bold points, throw in a few servings of veggies and commit to move a bit every time Netflix prompts you with, “Are you still watching?” and you have a success plan for a healthy, happy, kind life. And you have JoJo and her tales of the kindergarten somethings to thank for it.