22 May 2010

The Tire Story

I have an annoying character trait. I am a bit of a “know-it-all”. If a plan is to be implemented, my plan is the best (or that is my opinion). I have looked at all the angles, plotted out all the foreseeable possibilities and therefore, my plan is the one that should be followed. Add to that a certain level of impatience and you will see the humor in the following story.

I was driving home from work last night and was almost home when I hit something in the road. I thought it was just a pothole and kept on driving, but soon I heard a noise from the rear of the car that didn’t sound just right, and the car started dragging a little. Ok, when it comes to automotive mechanics, I will make the following sexist statement: I am a girl. I don’t know nothing about no cars, despite the good willed intentions of ex-boyfriends, my uncles and brother. I know how to put gas in, check the oil and transmission fluids, put air in the tires, and that may be about it. Otherwise, that is why I pay my AAA club membership every year, so they can help a sista in vehicle distress out.

So, I am only about a mile from home, it’s late, it’s raining, I’m on a dark, deserted, two lane road – I decide to just keep driving. It is only as I am pulling into my subdivision that it clicks that I probably have a flat tire. (Hey, the noise was more like a humming, not a thump-thump, so it took me a minute to put it all together). Sure enough, I pull into my garage, get out the car, walk around it – tire FLAT. Great. Just great. Now my concern is “I hope I didn’t mess up the rim driving on a tire this flat – just what I need – another major car repair expense”. I come inside, tell my mom what happened and we begin discussing what we are going to do when day breaks to get this fixed. I go to bed and just figure I’ll deal with it in the morning. I mean, I was thinking of a plan of attack, but truly, my brain was fried and I was tired. So I went to bed.

Now, if you know my mother, you know “taking charge of a situation” is not her forte. She is more of a “stand back and let Krissy handle it” partner in our relationship. So imagine my surprise when I woke up a few hours later to “handle” things to discover the car missing from the garage. A call to my mother’s cell phone revealed that she’d been up all night figuring out a plan: She called AAA, they came to the house, changed the tire and told her that apparently whatever I hit popped the air valve off the tire causing it to go flat, and that she should go by a tire repair shop to see if the tire could be fixed (as opposed to buying a new tire). Mom knew exactly where to go since we’d had to have a tire repaired for another car a few years ago. She drove over to the shop, they fixed the valve and for $15, the problem was resolved. GO, MOM!

All that to say: that was not the way I was planning to attack the problem. My way would have worked, but so did my mother’s. And by her implementing her plan, (and it being successful), I found out that by always “taking charge”, I have been handicapping her. She was so proud of herself, and deservedly so. I am proud of her too.

“I know the plans that I have for you, saith the Lord”…my favorite Bible text. The lesson learned this time: sometimes MY plan is not God’s plan, but He is working it all out for my good – even when I’m asleep. And praise God for a $15 solution to the problem as opposed to whatever the cost of a new tire would have been. (I keep telling y’all, I’m His Favorite Child!!)

So, as you move through whatever challenge you may face in the days ahead, here’s a piece of advice: Turn your plans over to Jesus – let Him work them out for you – or use your momma if He needs to. Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, May 21, 2010

09 May 2010

Happy Mother’s Day

It happens every second Sunday in May – Mother’s Day. Now, don’t take the following -note in the wrong way: Mothers are wonderful – none of us would be here without one, but there must be some special lobbyist organization for the Mother’s Day celebration and if you are a woman of a certain age who, for whatever reason, has not given birth…let me tell you, Mother’s Day is BRUTAL. It is probably unintentional, but people are cruel if you are not a mother. It’s the pause when you wish someone “Happy Mother’s Day” and they start to say “Same to you” and then realize, “oh yeah, she doesn’t have a kid, now what do I do?” (It ain’t that deep, just say, “Same to you” and keep it moving – just a suggestion)

It happens every year. Our church passes out flowers to the mothers on the Sabbath before Mother’s Day. You come through the door and the hostess greets you with a smile and starts to hand you a rose or carnation or whatever the flower of the day is – only to draw it back and say, “Oh, I’m sorry – these are only for our mothers.” Or worse, after all the “real mothers” have been given flowers, the hostess says to you, “well, we have extras, I guess you can have one now.” Uh, no, thank you. I’ll pass.

I mean, excuse the heck out of me. I am a “mother”, even if I have not had the “pleasure” of enduring hours of excruciating labor to push forth a child from my womb. See, there are women who “mother” who have never given birth. We are the women who step in and take care of our aging parents – or to care for the children our siblings are unable to raise or unable to raise alone. We are the women who foster the children who have been abandoned by their natural mothers, either by choice or circumstance. We are the godmothers who support and cherish the children of our friends. We are the women who support the children in our lives in immeasurable ways – praying for them, encouraging them, providing wisdom when they need to speak to someone other than their parents. We are the women who send birthday cards, sometimes with cash enclosed, each and every year. We are the women who are flooded with invitations every time there is a graduation or a birth or a wedding because somewhere along the way, we made a difference. And yet, on Mother’s Day, we are ignored, undervalued and pushed aside. Where are our Mother’s Day cards and roses?

And what about the men who have to step up to the plate? Men, who because of divorce or death or other circumstances, have to be “moms”? They learn how to do hair, tie hairbows, buy training bras and horror of horrors, deal with menstrual cycles and failed loves. What about them? Where are their roses on the second Sunday in May?

I try my best to honor my “non-traditional” moms. While I have been blessed with a phenomenal mother, there are other women in my life who have helped to shape me and mold me into the woman I have become. I thank my godmother, Annie Ruth Thomas, who is always a sounding board when life gets crazy. I thank women like Dolores Kelsey and Leah Merrifield, who were co-workers that mothered me when my mother was hundreds of miles away. I thank all my aunts: Patricia, Inola, Dolores, Ramona, Sible, Sharlyn, Glenda and Essie, who each, in their own way, fed into my life. And I thank my numerous friends who are “mothers” (traditional and non-traditional) who show me every day what it means to be a woman.

Happy Mothers Day to them all. And Happy Mothers Day to me too. Maybe next year, I’ll get a card or a flower at church. Maybe.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Sunday, May 09, 2010

04 May 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

It was 68 years ago today that the union of Hector and Thelma was blessed with their fifth child and second daughter, Rachel Ruth Elise. This child grew up to be my mother, whom I reluctantly share with my brother, Kevin. Just as I did a tribute to my father on his birthday, I must do a tribute to my mother. And just as I did not tell his story, I won’t tell her full story, but I would like to share some of what this amazing woman means to me.

My mom was very sickly as a child and that, unfortunately, has followed her throughout her life. Asthma and bronchitis plagued her childhood, so her brothers and sister always protected and fawned over her. Delicate and “girly-girl” all her life, she grew up kind of spoiled. That followed her into adulthood. (She’s still spoiled – this time, I’m the culprit behind the carnage.) Before she was 30 years, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although benign, this tumor sat on her optic nerve and for years was misdiagnosed. It was 1970 when all this happened – before laser surgery and MRI imagining. My mother went through this surgery in a semi-awake stage. When the tumor was finally removed, it was the size of a small grapefruit – or my father’s balled up fist. As a child, I was fascinated by the scar that ran from the middle of her head to the nape of her neck – and several times, used the picture of the tumor (yes, we have a picture of it) as my “show and tell” piece at school. It has been decades since I’ve asked to see the scar, and it has been a while since I pulled out the picture to look at the miracle God wrought in her life. My parents divorced shortly after that. They were young (I never realized HOW young until I turned the age they were when they divorced) – maybe going through such a traumatic event was too much – I don’t know. (Again, that’s their story, not mine). My mom, who’d always been a “stay at home” mom, suddenly had to go to work. It was dramatic for all of us, but she did it and Kevin and I survived. She remarried – it wasn’t a good marriage, so she eventually divorced again. In 1989, seven years after I left New York for college, my mom followed me back home to Atlanta. Thirteen years ago, I bought a house, Mom moved in and we have been “roommates” ever since. It has been an interesting journey as mother and daughter. But here we are.

I am NOTHING like my mother. I have never been married. I don’t have children. I finished college, where she dropped out of nursing school to get married and have kids. I have bounced around a few times in my career. My mom held three jobs her entire working career. Once she got a job, she stayed there until she moved away from the city where she was employed. I am adventurous with my food choices – my mom could eat the same three or four meals every week and be happy. I will venture to foreign countries armed with my Fodor’s travel guide and a map – my mom rarely goes to the grocery story by herself (although, since her retirement a few years ago, she’s gotten better). My mother has a love of family and a commitment to all who are related to her that amazes me. I tend to love people, including my family, with a long-handled spoon approach. I don’t really allow a lot of people to get too close to me. My mom is a hugger and very “touchy feely”. I am not – long-handled spoon syndrome. I am more of an extrovert who never meets a stranger, whereas my mom sits back and waits for people to approach her. Yeah, I am NOTHING like my mother.

I am EVERYTHING like my mother. We look alike. We walk alike. We both LOOOOOVE shoes, although I just grew into (and admitted) my shoe fetish a few years ago – and our tastes in shoes are vastly different. We both have freckles. We both love the color green. We both can cook meals that will make you slap your momma. We both are loyal friends, even when the friendship doesn’t necessarily deserve the loyalty shown. We both love older people and the wisdom they impart. We both have a talent for singing that we are hiding under a bushel. We have the same deep abiding love of God (although I claim to be His “favorite” and she just laughs when I say it). We both set a goal to read through the Bible this year – she is on track, I’ve fallen a little behind. We both want to be ready to meet Jesus when He returns. Yeah, I am EVERYTHING like my mother.

Right before my mother went into her brain surgery that long ago day in 1970, after the elders from the church anointed her, she prayed a prayer. In that prayer, she asked the Lord to heal her IF she was the person He wanted to raise her two children. If someone else could do a better job, she would trust Him to see about their care. God saw fit to spare her life and almost 46 years later, I have to say she did a marvelous job. We don’t always see eye to eye – we are more different than we are alike, but I have never had a more supportive or loving cheerleader, and the woman that I am today is because of her. Thank you Mom and happy happy birthday.