It’s the first day of summer vacation and I am behind. My kids are slowly rolling out of bed, lazily slurping their way up onto the couch and zoning like zombies in front of the TV. It’s Day One and we’re turning into a family of sloths.
This is tough news for a person like me who is a bit of a do-er. I like a routine. I find comfort in a schedule. I am especially stimulated by a routine that includes a schedule.
It’s the first Monday of summer, there is laundry waiting to be folded in the middle of the living room floor, and I have yet to lay out any specific plans of growth or enrichment for my kids. Tiny voices are screaming in head right now. I’m not exactly sure what they’re saying, because they’re all screaming at the same time, but I think it’s something to do with how I was a much better parent last summer.
Last summer I was a parent with breast cancer. I was diagnosed in May, so when school let out, the worry and unease were quite acute. I was determined to keep my mind and my children’s minds busy every moment of every day. I decided to teach the almost-kindergartner to read, introduce the middle child to the elusive art of cursive, and set the oldest one on fire for the future with math facts.
Basically, we did school in the summer. We also got out of town as often as possible in an effort to out-run cancer. It was a great summer, if you don’t count the cancer.
This summer, I’m recovering from reconstructive surgery. I won’t be able to lift a bike into the back of the minivan or pitch a ball for another 4 weeks. My body needs to heal and I think my brain does too.
So this summer, I’m not going to try and be a superhero mom. I’m going to be a mom who tries to get a meal on the table once in a while, who reminds her kids to take a bath when they start smelling stinky, and who occasionally reads a book in front of her children so they don’t forget what one looks like. That’s it.
Oh wait. One more thing. Gratitude journals. We’ve started filling out tiny notebooks with 5 things we’re thankful for each day. Only we’ve been forgetting to do them most nights. So that’s going back on the list, because gratitude is important.
Oh yeah- I’m also going to make my kids separate that laundry on the floor. Not sure it’ll make their gratitude lists, but I’m certain it’ll make mine.
I hope you can let go of the should-dos and have-tos and just relax into a long lazy summer with the people you love. Remember, you’re as good of a parent when you have all your ducks in a row as when they’re sprawled all over the living room couch.
The same guy who has photographed the Dalai Lama, Jimmy Fallon and about a gazillion other famous people came over to my house last night to photograph my daughter. I’m not even kidding.
And it’s all because of you.
Remember last fall when my 11 year old was selling “Cozies for the Cure” in anticipation of the first ever Athens Race for the Cure? Remember how I posted a few times on Facebook about how for $5 she would make you a coffee cup cozie and donate the money to Komen Columbus?
Her goal was something like $300. She ended up raising more than $5000.
You did that for her. You did that for me.
It was such an incredible outpouring of love and kindness and support for our family when we were going through such a difficult time. My baby girl felt helpless. She felt like there was nothing she could do to fix her momma’s breast cancer. And she was right — we had to leave that to God and the doctors. But Jordan was determined to help other mommas fight breast cancer by raising money to give to the organization that funds early detection programs in our area. That was her dream, not yours, but you all stepped up and said, I will help you, Jordan.
When a community comes together like that, other communities take notice. In this case, Dallas took notice, specifically the part of Dallas that houses the national headquarters for the Susan G. Komen foundation. They sent a crew to our house to shoot photos and videos of Jordan at her sewing machine to use for an upcoming campaign.
The fire in Jordan’s belly to raise money for the breast cancer cause is hotter than ever. I can tell when she’s hard at work because I can hear the hum of the sewing machine coming from the ceiling above me. At some point she’ll be taking over my social media accounts again and asking you to consider donating in exchange for a hand-made coffee cup holder.
Not now though. I told her she has to go be a kid for the summer first.
It was so cool to have these incredibly creative, talented people from all over the country in our house… Miriam, Patti, Sho and Steven. Check out Steven’s super amazing photos on his website.
My husband, some hotshot. Saul got to speak the other night at the Athens High School Senior Athletic Banquet. The speech itself was good, but I got the benefit of hearing all of the rough drafts. Most of them were takes off of Chris Farley’s Saturday Night Live character who talks about living in a van down by the river. Let’s just say, Saul (and the audience in attendance last night) is lucky to have me. Only a wife can tell her husband that he absolutely, positively cannot say certain things in public to a group of high schoolers.
As Saul was preparing for the speech, we began reminiscing about our high school careers. Saul was one of Reedsburg, Wisconsin’s star football and basketball players. A starter in everything he did and Homecoming King to boot, it was a pretty incredible way to saunter through high school.
Two hours away, at about the same time, I was onstage singing my little heart out in the leading role as the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I still have the entire soundtrack memorized. It was a highlight of my high school career.
I remember a teacher proudly saying to my father and me after one of the shows, “Nicole, this is going to be the greatest experience of your entire life!” My dad leaned close to my ear and whispered, “I sure hope not.” He knew I couldn’t live my life looking in the rear-view mirror.
That stroll down memory lane became the crux of Saul’s speech to this athletic class of 2016: Don’t let whatever you’ve accomplished in the last four years be the biggest thing you’ve ever done.
I’m sure you’ve done some pretty great things in your past, had some banner moments, made yourself and a few other people awfully proud. As adults, it can feel like we’ve lost our momentum, that what we do doesn’t really matter all that much, because instead of having people constantly cheering for us, we’re all just busy doing life. The shining moments are smaller, more private, but let me assure you, they are also infinitely more powerful.
Because now, instead of making the game-winning shot or bowing for a standing ovation, we are shaping the lives of the people around us. Instead of sucking in the encouragement of others, we are doling it out. If we’re doing our jobs as productive members of society and God’s own children, we are handing out kindness like candy, helping others feel confident enough to try something new and perhaps even healing old wounds.
We each have the opportunity today to breathe life into another person. Sadly, we don’t know for certain what that person is going through, so if we don’t do it, if we don’t slow down and build someone else up, it’s possible no one will. That makes us invaluable– at any age, at any stage, in our lives.
Your best moment isn’t behind you. It’s right in front of you. It’s today.