A Letter to My Son on Your 16th Birthday

Concert

Dear Son,

It’s hard to believe you’re turning 16 today. Apparently, when I blinked, your little blond Mancub self, who used to spend hours catching grasshoppers and swimming and music has grown into a tall, kind smart teen who loves games and fixing and building things.

I know this journey hasn’t been easy.

I know your dad and I (especially I!) have made mistakes, but we have done our best. It’s not easy figuring out what should be said and done and those words that should remain unsaid and the actions that should remain undone. Because sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to stay back and let the lesson teach itself

There have been a couple of close calls–a few times I felt my heart in my throat. When you ran into the road as a toddler. When you got in a fight on the way home from school in the 6th grade. When you fell–no, flew–from a trampoline and broke your arm in one clean crunch–I heard the sound from inside the house and somehow knew that it wasn’t someone else’s kid, it was MY kid. Dad and I exchanged looks and he stepped out to check on you. The two of you came in, your arm hanging in a disturbing, unnatural manner–and you had to get surgery. They said it would take 20 minutes, and over an hour later we were still waiting.

The doctor said your growth plates were in danger; he had to operate right away.

So hard to believe there was once a time when we were worried about your growth rate.

Now, you stand 6’4 1/2 (size 16 shoe!) and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell you what I want you to know. Many times, we don’t see eye-to-eye. Sometimes, I don’t do well when I’m put on the spot. Sometimes (most times),  I do better in writing. So here goes.

I know you think you have it figured out. Life, I mean.

And in many ways, you do. You get good grades, you get along with your peers, you love music and your horn, you have a sweet girlfriend, you stand up for your faith. You feel things deeply, and injustice bothers you. These are all attributes that make me proud of you.

But please–never fail to listen when somebody older and wiser tries to give you advice. You don’t always have to take it (many times you shouldn’t!), but listen to those who care enough to try to help.

In just a few years, you’ll be going off to college–driving without me, making decisions on your own. I’m not worried about that. Well, I do worry a little, but I think you’ll be fine. Not that you won’t sometimes make mistakes–we all do. But your heart, your moral standards, will hold. I know it may sound cliché but I’m going to say it anyway–do follow your heart. Follow your conscience. It’s kept you kind and compassionate.

One thing I do worry about: I want you to make time for friends. I know you are introverted (I am too!) and it’s easier to stay by yourself but it’s not always the best. And you have so much to offer others: your sense of humor, your knowledge of current events, your wit. You’re so funny!

Please, don’t sell yourself short. Shoot for the stars! Set high goals. It’s okay to not always succeed — sometimes falling is part of the process. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Sometimes, you’ll get told “No.” Even though it stings, it’s not the end of the world. If it’s important to you, keep trying…don’t let one person (or opportunity) hold you back. Just don’t let YOU be the one to hold yourself back.

Remember that big goals are often composed of several steps. You didn’t make All-State band the first time you tried, and you didn’t make first chair the first time you tried. But you kept trying. You kept practicing, and it happened. Sometimes, success is trial and error. Sometimes, it’s just grit and determination and blood and sweat and getting mad and trying over and over and over until it finally works. Sometimes the ones who come out on top are only there because somebody else (or many somebody elses) gave in. It doesn’t make you less a winner.

When you do win, know you deserved it. Nobody can say you didn’t.

I’m your mom, and I love you–and I can’t wait to see how you’re going to shake up this world of ours.

It’s going to be beautiful.

Love,

Mom

‘I Would Prefer Not To’: The Origins of the White Collar Worker

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Nikil Saval | Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace | Doubleday | April 2014 | 31 minutes (8,529 words)

Below is an excerpt from the book Cubed, by Nikil Saval, as recommended by Longreads contributor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils…

—Theodore Roethke, “Dolor”

The torn coat sleeve to the table. The steel pen to the ink. Write! Write! Be it truth or fable. Words! Words! Clerks never think.

—Benjamin Browne Foster, Down East Diary (1849)

They labored in poorly lit, smoky single rooms, attached to merchants and lawyers, to insurance concerns and banks. They had sharp penmanship and bad eyes, extravagant clothes but shrunken, unused bodies, backs cramped from poor posture, fingers callused by constant writing. When they were not thin, angular, and sallow, they were ruddy and soft; their paunches sagged onto their thighs.

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How to Throw a Successful Book Signing

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You published a book, yay! Now what? Of course, the next step should be to put together a book signing. Book signings are different from book release parties, which are usually less formal. A book signing is imperative to getting your name out there into the public eye.

Read more on Freelancewriting.com:

http://goo.gl/y31dFW

Ode to Coffee: A Love Song

coffee in arkansas

Dear Coffee,

I don’t think you know the extent of my affections. Everything about you–your enticing scent as it fills the kitchen, the warmth on my hands as I cradle your dark goodness in my favorite mug, the bitter jolt of caffeine as I sip you, oh precious liquid!

The anticipation as the coffee/blood ratio becomes increasingly one-sided, transforming from scarlet to earthy brown.

Cut me: I bleed Gevalia.

Oh coffee, my love. Let me count the ways. You just keep being you, sweet thing, and we’ll keep this love affair going until the pour the beans into my coffin.

Miss! I’ll be needing a refill soon. Don’t make me wait–it’s not pretty.

Love,

Tina

Women of the Bible: Rebekah and a Servant’s Heart

Originally posted on Tina Bausinger:

“Drink my lord…I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking,” Rebekah, daughter of Laban

Abraham was an old man, far too old to go tromping around to find his precious son Isaac a wife, and he didn’t want Isaac to choose a woman from the hood (especially the Canaanites). So he sent Eliezer, his most trusted servant to do the job. He took with him ten camels loaded with gifts. In our day, we would expect perhaps some top quality Apple products, but they didn’t have those back then.

Eliezer sat next to a well and prayed that the Lord would guide him and send the perfect wife for Isaac. He even had a test in mind.

When Rebekah showed up, she was true to her name, which has been connected to “a hitching place” or one who ensnares–possibly by her looks (Rockyer 135). This…

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The Savior and the Heart of Women

16 CARRACCI WOMEN AT THE TOMB OF CHR

It makes sense, really, that the women took the spices and went to the tomb early, before the rest of their day began. Women often wake up early, adding responsibilities to their already full plate. But this task–it wasn’t  the ordinary chore, is it? I can’t even imagine the weight of their hearts, like so many heavy slicing daggers, cutting and slicing through the bone, through their marrow to their very souls any time they thought of what had just happened to the One they loved.

Yet, they went, because women are practical. We take care of business, even when our hearts are breaking. The weaker sex? Please. Just because tears blur our vision doesn’t mean we are weak. It’s pushing through the pain that makes us women. They didn’t wait until they felt better. They didn’t postpone this unpleasant task until the pain was bearable. They didn’t take a rest first, or wait for someone to ask them to do it. They took the responsibility as theirs. They owned it. There was no argument amongst them about whose turn it was, and they didn’t let the other go alone.

Each step leading to the tomb must have been harder than the last, yet they didn’t slow. Knowing that He was lying there, lifeless, pale and torn, bruised and stabbed–how it must have frightened them and rendered their already tender hearts.

But wait. The light–the angel–the message: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen, like he told you.”

And oh, the joy that flowed, even into the dark recesses of pain. The hope–the anticipation, the special favor bestowed upon them to be the first to know what gives us courage and delight, the bliss that engulfs us even today.

These women, they felt it. The Lord himself rewarded their tender hearts with the first knowledge of his promise fulfilled.

Who better to feel the first tender roots of the hope within us then the women?

Luke 24: 1-8

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

On Loving the South and the Southern Gothic

Originally posted on Tina Bausinger:

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O magnet-south! O glistening perfumed South! My South! — Walt Whitman

Loving the South doesn’t mean we don’t hold its injustices or secrets in a faraway place of denial.

To be Southern is to identify with its beauty–but at the same time naming our wrongs to others both past and present. Though the South may be indeed mired in the past, we enumerate our sins and attempt to learn from them. This makes us unique from the rest of the country, and indeed, the rest of the world.

It’s even more difficult to explain how it feels to be a Southern woman.

We have all experienced the “good old boys” network. We’ve all scratched and clawed our ways through antiquated ideas of male dominance, whether in the workplace, the family, or in the church. We’ve been taught that to be a lady means to not make a fuss.

Sometimes it’s…

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Don’t Be Such a Girl! Science, Gender and Social Expectations of Faking Emotion

noahandme

This guy always makes me smile.

In an interview for Wired magazine, Marianne LaFrance, an experimental psychologist at Yale University said,

“On average girls and women smile more. This appears to be a function of two things. Boys are encouraged not to smile very much. Expressivity is taken by some as sign of emotionality, of femininity, something many men wouldn’t be caught dead being associated with.”

It makes sense, really. We’re trained, as little girls, to make everyone feel better. We’re told to smile when things get stressful, to smile when we greet someone, in photos, to even smile at strangers we don’t even know. When we don’t, people get worried. “Are you ok?” they ask. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?” Socially, it’s expected. Girls are not really given the option to avoid smiling.

Men and boys, on the other hand, are not expected to smile on command (either spoken or unspoken). If a man never smiles, people call him focused, intense, serious. Alternately, if a man does happen to smile, it’s kind of like a bonus. He’s a nice guy, he’s friendly. But if he smiles too much? It’s just as isolating. He’s insecure; he’s fake.

If a woman rarely smiles, she’s labeled as moody, unhappy, stressed out. She takes herself too seriously.  She can’t handle pressure. If you don’t feel like smiling? Too bad. Fake it.

Adrian Furnham Ph.D.,  argues that Southerners smile more than other regions in the US. This also makes sense because we’re often taught (especially as Southern women) to be overly concerned with others and their comfort, and smiling indicates friendliness. To not smile is to be sullen, rude. Nobody likes rude little girls. Nobody likes rude women.

We even have rules about genuine smiles and fake smiles:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201410/the-surprising-psychology-smiling

I have a proposal.

I think we should teach our little girls to smile when they want to. Let’s try to not pressure them into fake happiness for the benefit of others. Let’s teach our little boys that’s it’s ok to smile if they feel like it. Let’s begin as early as possible, demonstrating to our kids that genuine feelings and the expression of feelings is appropriate and ok. That doesn’t mean they get a license to be brats, by any means. It just means they are allowed to be genuine. Is it too much to hope that social expectations might shift, just the slightest, to allow our sons and daughters to be able to express their true emotions without judgement? I’d like to think so.

It makes me smile just thinking about it.

5 Ways to Help Your Kid Get More Sleep

Originally posted on Tina Bausinger:

Mancub at age 10 sleeping on the way home from Arkansas. Mancub at age 10 sleeping on the way home from Arkansas.

Remember the good old days when all you had to do was say, “Ok kids! Bedtime!” and your kids would happily obey, their smiling faces hugging and kissing you goodnight? Me neither. This has never happened in the history of the WORLD. If you have the perfect family that is described in this scenario, I dare you to drive to Texas and tell me to my FACE.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but getting your teen to bed is sometimes just as hard as it was when he was little…and teens are way sneakier than their cute toddler counterparts.It’s time to get ready for school, and your Mancub is not cooperating. You knock gently, then louder, to only hear a muffled noise that resembles English but makes no sense. It’s happened again, hasn’t it? When our…

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