This week I have had the life changing privilege of attending a conference in Chicago called Storyline. It is run by author Donald Miller and the premise is learning to live a better story so that your life counts for God. There are many reasons why I decided to come to the conference. I am not going to say all of the reasons today but the first reason is that I love Donald Miller. I have loved him from the very beginning of his career, from the first chapter I read out of Blue Like Jazz. I instantly related to this guy and his story that was edgy and gutsy and funny. Donald loves God, just not exactly like the American evangelical church tells him he should. And that is exactly why I love him so much. He is so interesting and I would love to get to know him as a person, but I will be happy for now just being a huge fan. He believes that we all have a story to tell and is spending his life helping others have the guts to tell their story. It is truly a beautiful act of love. As I packed for the conference I threw some things in my suitcase. I looked up the weather and Chicago was getting a cold front the Tuesday I was coming in and the temperature was supposed to drop though out the week. I went into the attic to pull out some of my winter clothes, which seemed odd because it was ninety degrees that day in Dallas, but whatever. As I packed, I put my most valuable jewelry in a small case and put it in the front pocket of my suitcase. I thought it was strange because I don’t always wear these pieces, and I certainly don’t ever travel with them, but I hurriedly put them in the bag and went on my way. At the airport, the flight was completely full and American announced at the gate that they would check the bags for free and I took them up on it because I was super shaky from my new asthma inhaler. (If you have never had to take an inhaler please be so grateful because they make your heart race and that makes you feel weird and shaky and it makes it very hard to do much, including hauling around luggage.) When I got on the plane I panicked because I realized I had checked my bag with my grandmother’s jewelry in it. I am oddly unattached to anything material and so it is a weird feeling for me to panic over the thought of losing something. I wondered why I brought it to begin with. So I distracted myself and soon forgot about my precious cargo that was hopefully safe beneath the plane and I was relieved to find my bag on the baggage claim belt when I arrived in Chicago. I quickly opened the pocket and felt the gold necklace and bracelet resting safe inside. Major sigh of relief. My amazing and dear friend Simone was there to pick me up from the airport shortly after that, and I quickly forgot about my jewelry between all of her kids asking me one hundred questions, and talking Halloween costumes and singing Frozen songs, and Simone and I trying to fit in a few adult conversations in between. I was so glad to be there and to be with Simone and ready for my adventure. I got up the next morning and got ready for the conference and put on my grandmother’s panther necklace and her gold chain bracelet and went on my way. As I walked into the conference I grabbed my necklace and I inhaled the fresh cool air and I thought about my grandmother. I immediately realized why I had packed her jewelry. Her necklace is a gold chain with a gold panther pendant. It was apparently given to her when she lived in Panther Valley. When she died we were each allowed to pick a small piece of her jewelry and I picked the gold panther necklace because I thought it was different and weird. As I walked into the conference I clutched the panther in my fingers and thought about why I was even here. My kids were hysterical when I left. One of their goodbyes was like a scene from a horror film. Was it worth it to leave? They hate it when I leave. But I think they would hate it more if I didn’t tell my story. I held the necklace tight and I thought about my grandmother. She lived and died without a story. Read it again. She lived and died without a story. How incredibly awful. More than I ever grieved her death I grieved her life. I have grieved over and over again that my grandmother’s life lacked meaning and was possibly harmful to her descendants because she lacked purpose. I know it sounds so harsh. I loved her. She was funny and feisty and I loved her. But her story was sad because it lacked content. I let go of the necklace and let it drop and rest on my neck and I thanked God that He had a plan for me, even in the detail of having me to pack my grandmother’s jewelry. I touch the necklace and am reminded to live a better story, to make my life count. Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with a song still in them.” I will not go to my grave with my story; I will sing my song and tell my story until the day I die.
Oh, Sunday mornings. This is how they look: we get up and eat a hot breakfast together and have a morning devotion, then we all get ready for church and the kids put on their pre-selected outfits with matching shoes and they brush their teeth and then I do their hair and put it up nicely and then put a bow in it. We calmly get in the car, all remembering our Bibles, and drive to church singing worship songs. We get there on time and like ducks in a row, move into the pew. Not one of my children fights about who they want to sit next to and the we sit calmly and quietly and worship the Lord.
You are so quick to catch on that I am being sarcastic here. This does not happen. I think maybe once we came close to this, but it was just luck. The truth is this, Jachin and I sleep until as late as possible. You can judge us all you want, the more sleep we get the better off we are. Jachin throws some cereal in bowls, tosses a pop tart to a kid or two, while I take a shower. Then I holler from the back that they need to get on some clothes and get ready. I realize that we all know that this might appear to be a mistake. A few years ago I would have viewed it as so. Letting the kids pick out their clothes for church! GASP! But the truth is I just really care a whole lot less. Sometimes they have to change, sometimes I suggest a different top, or different shoes, but my care level is so low, like it dropped off a cliff. And the best part is, I’m crazy secure about it. I don’t care what others think, because I am happier this way, and so is my family. So there!
So this past Sunday we did our usual routine, ran out the door, picked up some kids we take to church, got to church in two shifts, the kids fought over who sat next to who, etc. My kids were dressed, semi-decent, but the HAIR! Well Kaitlin is old enough, she brushes her hair, it is cut short right now, so it is fine. But Sadie and Morgan did not get their hair done that morning, and it was pretty obvious. Apparently they claim they could not find a brush. We sang some songs, listened to the passages shared, Morgan got up to go to the bathroom, one kid had fallen asleep and was snoring, and two kids kept switching places and giggling during prayer. We were up in the balcony and had my parents sitting behind us and some of our friends that we have gone to church with our whole lives, who are very good friends with my parents, sitting beside them, Mike and Betsy. They were very amused by the scene we had created.
Betsy is one in a million, I never want to be on this earth without her. She is funny and sarcastic, but also caring and kind. She changed my diapers when I was in the church nursery as a baby, and we have exchanged sarcastic comments ever since. Two sarcastic people have a very special bond. Not everyone gets it. Not everyone can do it without getting hurt feelings. But Betsy and I can banter back and forth until the sun goes down and it never gets old. Betsy’s daughter Gena was the only girl my age at our church growing up. Gena is amazing and I love this whole family dearly. They make me laugh until I cry. Which is the best kind of laughter.
The worship service ended and the kids ran off to Sunday school and my mom and Betsy started in about “what in the world, your kids look like they just rolled out of bed!” Well, they did. They gave me a hard time about the bed head situation going on with my children. “Where are the bows?” asked Betsy. “They used to wear bows with their hair done”, Betsy said. “I used to care more, now I don’t and I’m happier now.” I said assuredly. “Thier hair looks terrible” my mom and Betsy said. “Well, I need a few days off to regroup and then maybe I will be able to do their hair. I need somebody to take them Monday and somebody to take them Wednesday, Heather has them Tuesday.” They looked at me a minute to see if I was serious. I was, so I repeated myself. My mom said she would take them Wednesday and so I looked at Betsy and said, “well, I guess you get my kids tomorrow.” She stared at me, she had really gotten herself into a pickle now. I repeated to her that I needed a break and she could watch them for me on Monday. She stared at me, speechless. “You would rather give me $1,000 dollars than watch my kids, wouldn’t you Betsy,” I said. “Yes,” she replied. I take a small amount of joy in being a negotiator, so I said, “great, I’ll get a babysitter for Monday and you can pay for it.” Her eyes lit up. “Deal,” she said. “And in exchange I will bring them to church next week with their hair done with bows,” I offered. She agreed that this was part of the deal.
The babysitter came and took them to the pool all afternoon. It happened to be Betsy’s niece and she is AMAZING! Betsy, you owe me $40 for the babysitting. And they went to the neighborhood pool which cost $15 if you want to pay for that too! You’re the best Betsy!
Heather took them to the movies yesterday, and today my mom had them all day, which was perfect because I was sick. I think I am regrouping, or something like that.
I don’t have pictures from Sunday morning, but here our some of our bedhead examples. We are not ashamed!
There is something you might want to know about me. I love teenagers. I love to watch them, to talk to them, to be around them, to laugh with them, and to challenge them. Today I saw them, in droves, walking the streets, fresh out of school for the summer. The teenagers have taken over the streets! Here are some of my favorite things about the teenagers.
First thing, the lingo. I LOVE LOVE LOVE THE LINGO. Here is some new recent teenage lingo I have learned: That’s bae. “That’s bae” is a reference to your best friends, your girlfriend, your someone special, a term of endearment. Urban dictionary describes it as referring to your significant other in the ghetto when too lazy to say “babe”. Friends, I can’t make this stuff up. Urban dictionary said it! Not me! Okay, moving on, this is a good one and one I am still trying to use in the correct context: cupcaking. In simple terms, this is new lingo for “flirting”. I think. The teens are still trying to explain it to me and having a great time watching me struggle to put it in the correct context. I actually love this one. Let’s use it in a sentence: “Where is Abbey?”, “Oh, she is in the hall cupcaking with Steven”. Oh!!, Now I get it, okay, great.
Second thing, they are dramatic and hilarious. Some recent time spent with my teenagers that I adore, Abbey and Tamiah, the following things were said all in one day. “Can you write a blog about us?” Sure thing, I love y’all that much. Then, Tamiah was laying on my couch expressing her undying love for me. So she said, “Mindy, can I do some chores to help you, because you work so hard and do so much for me”, and before I could respond she yawned and said, “something I could do while lying down?” I laughed so hard I cried, then she realized how funny it was and she was laughing too. And then she fell asleep. You have to let the teenagers sleep. There is no point in reasoning with them on what are appropriate sleep hours. They will stay up until three watching vines videos and then come home from school and take a nap. I guess it’s fine, really. I woke Tamiah up a little later and told her and Abbey they needed to get some exercise and so we went on a walk. About half a block down, Tamiah dramatically exhaled and sighed and said that black people couldn’t walk in the daytime because their dark skin attracts heat and she was too hot. Awesome, this for sure made my day. We cracked up while she tried to remained straight faced and say over and over, “I’m serious, I’m serious!”. Okay, you are serious teenager. I try and take you all seriously. I love you all and your problems and your highs and your lows. But I don’t always love your Instagrams, I think you can do better sometimes.
To my adult friends, love a teenager this summer, you will be glad you did. Just so you know, I do have a few rules when hanging out with my favorite teens. No inappropriate language in front of my children, including using the Lord’s name in vain. No headphones on at my dinner table or in my car (the headphones are precious to them and like their own children, even if we don’t understand, we can accept this as true). If i have you in my car because you called me and asked me for a ride to work, I have the right to try and convince you not to have sex until you are married and to study harder to pass Chemistry,
Those are my thoughts on teenagers. Here are some pictures for you, enjoy!
*Tamiah stumbled into our house while we were eating dinner, she had walked here from work and felt that the floor was cooling her off. She laid there a long time.
*Abbey loves selfies, she takes a million on my phone, here she gets Morgan to play along.
*My camp teenagers, Anna, Kelly and Rachel. LOVE THEM
*Tamiah and Abbey making fun of my hats
To whom it may concern, this is my formal resignation from my title as a dance mom. I would like to say that there were many factors that went into this decision, but truth be told there was only one. One thing ended it all. One thing pushed me to a breaking point that I didn’t know was possible over something so relatively unimportant. The recital. It’s hard for me to even type out the word “recital” right now because I am still recovering from the anxiety attack I experienced. I realize that I am not cut out for this kind of pressure. But let me explain all that led me to my ultimate decision that this is the end of dancing for my girls, at least until my memory forgets how bad it was. Let me give you what I can remember of the recital prep checklist:
- pay for the recital fee
- pay second child’s recital fee
- pay for the recital costume
- pay for second child’s recital costume
- attend presentation in class over hair, makeup, and costume details
- attend presentation in class over hair, makeup and costume details for second child
- receive recital packet
- read packet
- forget to pre-order recital video at discounted price
- buy short Bobby pins
- buy long bobby pins
- buy clips
- buy spray gel
- buy hairnet
- buy red lip liner (not lipstick, it will smudge) (this is not their first rodeo, I mean recital)
- find/buy tights without holes in them then hide from children so they don’t put holes in them
- start a recital make-up bag
- sew extra pieces on Morgan’s costume
- thread corset on Sadie’s costume
- hang costumes upside down to keep the poof in the tutu
- practice buns
- pack outfits and accessories (almost lost a coordinating hair flower)
- pack snacks
- opt out of expensive professional pictures on recital day
Now let’s get to the day of the recital. There is a dress rehearsal first, around noon. Girls are to be in full costume and makeup and BUN! The dress rehearsal is where you are allowed to take video and pictures. You are not allowed to during the actual recital. So I ran into a small problem that I didn’t bring a real camera to the dress rehearsal. But it was fine, the iPhone to the rescue! Then there is an awkward break, get the girls out of costume, while still preserving the hair and makeup effort, and wait about an hour and a half, then head back to be there early, get them to there groups . . .
Than, wait for it. . . you have to get your seats. Us Texans, we are generally nice and smile big, and wave to strangers, etc. But at a dance recital, when your sweet daughter is about to have her debut stage moment, there are no niceties when the doors open to find seats. Running, throwing personal items on seats to reserve, I heard there was pushing, I did not see it.
Now we begin the actual recital. We smile at the other performances because they are certainly cute. Three year old’s trying to dance to a choreographed routine is hilarious for sure. I think many things can be told about their futures by the ones who watch the teacher to do it right, the ones who tell the other girls where to stand on stage, and the ones who break free and have their own personal twirling stage dream come true. This makes it worth it, literally each sweet little group has one dancing angel who gets distracted from the routine and just free dances until someone brings them back to reality. I personally think these girls have great lives ahead of them.
Then it’s one of our girls turns. My brother-in-law calls it 90 seconds of awesome when it’s your kid up there. I agree. I love every second of the entire 90 seconds. Deep deep joy, happiness, contentment fill each second. And then they prance, skip, and twirl off stage and their work is done.
JUST SPLENDID! IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!
At least for some people. Let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea. Are you thinking, “but it’s not about you, it’s about your precious little girl and her dreams of being a ballerina!” I will tell you that I told them to enjoy every second, to live it up, to dance their little hearts out. I will tell you that I have a low threshold for stress, and my kids are happiest when our lives do not involve recitals, or anything that puts me on edge. (On edge is not really being truthful, it puts me over the edge.) They were blissfully happy when I told them ballet was over for awhile and they would get to start gymnastics in the Fall.
Now for anyone who is still reading, I’m guessing just about 12% of those who started at the beginning, let me say that I fully understand that this is a privilege. And being a privilege to put my kids in any extracurricular, it is one that I can deny at any point. That is what make it a privilege, the freedom of choosing. My girls are adorable ballerinas, and they are adorable when we sit around and play UNO, or when they are riding their bikes. So for awhile, I am turning down the choice of Ballet, but my deep respect to the dance moms who pull it all off un-phased. Bless you!