A Word to the Wise: Prioritize

Those first golden moments of the day Рyou know, right after you wake up and the possibilities are endless.  God has just granted you a fresh start.  Now, what to do with those early morning hours!

It used to seem so simple.  What I remember most about my early childhood mornings was crawling out of bed and making my way to the hub of our home: the kitchen.  Curiosity was what got me going.  I wanted to see what was going on in the world and everyone in my world was in the kitchen.  I can remember lying in bed trying to eavesdrop on conversations already taking place and then, padding bare feet across linoleum floors to get to the heart of it all.

As I grew old enough to attend public school, my morning routines changed. ¬†Instead of being woken by my inner stirrings, I was blasted out of dreamland by my father’s version of Reveille. ¬†The bedroom door would bust open and if you opened your eyes quick enough, you would see his eyes twinkle with mischief as he sang, “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up this mornin’‚Ķ‚ĶYou better get up, you better get up, you better get up right now‚Ķ..!” ¬†Then, he would raise his fake bugle to his lips (his hand) and play the melody in his best, most irritating, bugle voice until we waved the white flag and tumbled out from under the covers.

Then, ahhh, my teen years! ¬†I was growing up and I was all modern because my brother, Brady had gotten me a flip alarm clock for Christmas. ¬†In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a clock that has little plastic numbers on a rotating rod. ¬†Each minute would “flip” the number to reveal the next highest number. ¬†It made a nice whirring sound as well as the sequential flipping of plastic plates. ¬†The slumbering soul would hear that final heavy click that signaled the pre-set alarm to sound. ¬†I would slap the button; stare at the ceiling wishing I could finish that dream; and then head down the stairs to find Daddy sitting alone at the table drinking his coffee.

“Why do you get up so early, Daddy?” ¬†I would ask.

“It’s my alone time. ¬†I like to sit here and drink my coffee while everything is quiet.” ¬†He would say.

I wondered what was so great about that?¬†¬†I would rather be dreaming about that boy at school! ¬†I didn’t say that to him, though. ¬†I just went to the cabinet and poured myself a bowl of cereal before joining him at our round kitchen table. (In case you are wondering where my mother was, by this time in my life, she had learned to stay in bed as long as Daddy would let her. ¬†We were old enough to fend for ourselves.)

We make it to my senior year: ¬†the year I actually started caring how I looked. ¬†It took all these years to persuade my tomboy self that boys don’t appreciate you for being able to throw a football or ride a horse. ¬†Before the sun could even start flushing the sky, my alarm would sound and I went straight to the bathroom to plug in my hot curlers. ¬†Then, I descended the stairs, ate breakfast, went back up, put in the curlers, took a shower, dressed, put on make-up, and finally took out the cooled curlers and fixed my hair.

I married right out of high school. (I guess the hot curlers did their job!) ¬†Ten months later, I had my first child. ¬†A year and a half later, my second. ¬†My third, after about the same span. ¬†My morning routines changed along with my fast-expanding family. ¬†This is when I discovered the magic of coffee. ¬†This is when I began to understand my father’s ritual. ¬†Alone time, I learned, was something precious, something stolen if needed. ¬†The golden hours swung between getting children fed and dressed; wiping chubby cheeks; and brushing out tangled, tousled hair. ¬†My attire didn’t seem to matter. ¬†My own hair could be pulled back in a ponytail or hang in a mangled mess until time permitted a better arrangement.

Looking back, mornings may have been busy, but they were simple.  Now, these hours are riddled with decisions and guilt over whether or not I am making the right decision.  I blame a lot of this on Pinterest.  Ever since this app was introduced to me, I feel like Martha Stuart has invaded my every morning insisting that I am not making the best use of my time!

Want to lose weight? ¬†You should get straight out of bed and do 20 push-ups, 50 jumping jacks, 20 crunches, 20 mountain climbers, and a 30 second plank. ¬†Excuse me! ¬†Is this before or after I have had my first-thing-in-the-morning glass of hot lemon water? ¬†Or, wait, was I supposed to drink that full bottle of water that I’m supposed to leave on my night stand?

Do you want to be a writer? ¬†You should get up while you are still in your “dream state” and get all that good creative juice on some paper!

Want to be more spiritual?  Spend this quiet time reflecting on how grateful you are for all the good things in your life.  Try to sit in a cross-legged position (oh, sure!) with your spine straight, eyes closed, and hands on knees while you keep your mind quiet.  Try not to think.  (This, my people, is near impossible if you are in pain from sitting in this position!)

I¬†did¬†read a book once that told how a lady got up straight out of bed and fell to her knees, thanking the Lord for letting her wake up. ¬†The older I get, this seems like the best way to start the day for each day is a blessing. ¬†Maybe, that’s why I feel such guilt. ¬†I’m scared I’ll be like the servant Jesus talked about that wasted his talents, or the virgins that didn’t have oil for their lamps. ¬†I seem to wake up so torn and confused. ¬†By the time I’ve finished my coffee, I’m jumpy from nerves and caffeine. ¬†My list is long, but half my morning may be gone before I’ve got my plan in place. ¬†I think to myself that I should have done this before I went to bed, then I would have already known what to do. ¬†Or, maybe I should have slept in my workout clothes so I would have been ready to workout like that article suggested. ¬†Or‚Ķ.maybe‚Ķ.I’ll just roll over and go back to sleep!

It seems that in order to know the best way to start your day, it is imperative that you prioritize what is most important to you.  If doing it first, instead of putting it off, is what makes you successful in that endeavor, then you need to know what you want; because it is a fact of life that if you procrastinate and say to yourself that you will do it later, chances are that fate will hand you something else to fill your time.

So, sweet dreams or productive mornings, whatever you choose, I hope those golden hours are blessed.

“I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses,‚Ķ” IN THE GARDEN by C. Austin Miles

The Art of Being Alone

 

The strings of the bow stroke the strings of the violin until their cry soothes the plucking vibrations of the Spanish guitar.  Smooth.  Sounds of another world Рa fantasy life Рbouncing off cream-colored walls.

Candles flicker and dance in appreciation to my music and give off romantic scents and dreams of their own.

I participate in this world by adding the beat of heavy jeans in the drum of my dryer; the swish of sheets rotating in my washer.

I am proficient in the art of being alone.

 

On cloudy, rainy days such as today, my defense against the gloom is the flipping on of too many light switches. ¬†I pick a surface to scrub, knowing I am the only one who will notice my effort. ¬†I comfort myself by sinking my hands in hot, soapy water. ¬†I ignore the dust in the corner that keeps the spider company as she expands her web. ¬†Today, I’m tired of fighting with both of them.

I will sink further into myself and put pen to page.

I will extend my world by scanning the lives of others displayed in full color on a bright computer screen.

I will read the works of other writers, amazed at their skill in saying what is in their heart.

I’ll formulate lists, assemble supplies, cook a meal, and wait.

Later, someone will ask what I did today.  I will struggle for an answer.  Busy?  Yes.  Although, does anyone really want to hear about a day like mine?

My heart is constantly dreaming. ¬†I get tired just from thinking of all it plans; wondering how much this middle-aged woman can accomplish in what time she has left. ¬†“Follow your heart‚Ķ”, they say. ¬†I would, but my heart is filled with wanderlust and can’t seem to make up its mind!

So‚Ķanother day of alone; another day dancing like no one is watching‚Ķbecause no one is; of singing loud because no one is listening; of talking to myself while dreaming of conversations I hope to have later with someone else and in those dreams, I won’t stutter or cast down my eyes like I do in real life…a result of spending too many years perfecting the art of being alone.

Big Sister

Saturday evening.  I receive a text from my one and only sister, my older sister by four years, Tina.

“I was thinking about you. ¬†There are 2 little sisters that live down the street and they were running around the yard with their panties on their head just laughing their heads off!!”

I text her back that I love her‚Ķbecause I do. ¬†I love that she takes the time to share something like that with me. ¬†She keeps us connected. ¬†Our relationship is safe in her hands. ¬†She knows what a loner I am and reaches out to keep us going like she has done for as long as I can remember. ¬†I can’t imagine what my childhood, my life, would have been like without her.

Tina was the “big sister”. ¬†She was more than that to me. ¬†She was my entertainment chairman, my teacher, my second mom, my guide, my chauffeur, my own personal comedian, my partner in crime, and my best friend. ¬†Her imagination knew no bounds, nor did her energy. ¬†She came up with things for us to do and saw to it that I did them. ¬†There were no questions between us; only telling and obeying. ¬†I don’t ever think it even occurred to me that I had any choice. ¬†I was happy to have someone who knew how to create the perfect childhood activity; to guide me from one blissful day to the next. ¬†I looked up to her and wanted to be everything I believed she was, everything that I was not.

On our swing set.

Memories…

*Tina stands on the see-saw, gliding back and forth, seeming to rock the skies back and forth as well.  I ask for my turn.  She was there first and I will just have to wait until she is through.  I watch her nimble body and just know that she is having the best time ever!!!  Finally, she tires of it and heads into the house.  I jump aboard like there is someone else that could take my turn even though I am now the only one outside.  I attempt the same rocking motion, applying pressure to one foot and then, the other.  Awkwardly, the swinging begins and the hornets that had built their nest in the top of the swing set decide they have just had enough!!!  Barely started in my coveted activity,  I am forced to jump and run while countless stingers are being injected in my tender skin.

*My sister and I share the same bed. ¬†Her legs and arms are long and skinny and demand a good portion of the mattress. ¬†Tina’s energy is not quite played out and so she shows me how to make a good “fart” noise on the fleshy part of my upper arm. ¬†We both practice and laugh hysterically at our expertise in this finer art. ¬†Ha! ¬†The art of fart!!! ¬†We are laughing so hard that tears are coming from our eyes and suddenly I am thirsty. ¬†I stick my head out into the living room where Daddy is watching television before heading to the kitchen. ¬†“What are you two doing in there?”, he laughs. ¬†“Farting‚Ķ” I giggle.

*We are camping at Lake Texhoma. ¬†It is early evening and Tina decides it is time to teach me how to look for grapevines. ¬†“We are going to smoke them,” she informs me. ¬†How she knows these things, I don’t think to ask. ¬†We find some because she knows what she is looking for and we take a section back to the campsite. ¬†She hands it over to Daddy and he shows us how to break it, light it, and then, laughs while we choke on the smoke. ¬†I don’t quite understand how burning the back of your throat and coughing is supposed to be fun, but what do I know?

*We are playing in the garage, which has become storage for all of the things our family doesn’t know what else to do with. ¬†It is hot because it is summer time. ¬†There is my old drum set in the corner that my brother, Brady has beat the tops out of with old soda bottles that Mama is saving for a rainy day to be cashed in for the deposit money. ¬†Tina has a brain storm. ¬†We are going to have our own haunted house right there in our garage. ¬†She orchestrates our respective jobs. ¬†I watch in awe as she takes one of our old baby dolls with its ratty hair, dirty plastic body, and bitten-off fingers and begins pouring ketchup all over it. ¬†“It’s blood,” she informs me as she ties a rope around baby’s neck and ties it from the garage door hardware.

*Some of Tina’s friends have come to our house to visit. ¬†Of course, I am hanging around because that is my job and I’m waiting for further instruction. ¬†Tina’s eyes light up and I know she has just had the best idea¬†ever! ¬†“Holly, we really need a D.J. ¬† Why don’t you take this walkie-talkie (which happened to be¬†my¬†walkie-talkie) and we will keep this one. ¬†You can play records for us on the record player and we can listen to them out here in the yard. ¬†You will be a good disc jockey!” ¬†Praise. ¬†She picks her weapon well. ¬†I go into our bedroom, joyful. ¬†I will be the best disc jockey! ¬†I professionally announce each tune before I carefully set the needle on the precious vinyl. ¬†I hold a death’s grip on the transmitor button as the table spins and the tunes play. ¬†Eventually, I decide to look out and see how the girls are enjoying my efforts. ¬†They are gone! ¬†I’ve been duped!!! ¬†Duped and dumped!

* Momma’s crabapple trees have produced a bumper crop. ¬†Tina has turned into entrepreneur. ¬†We are instructed to gather, wash, and mash the hard fruit. ¬†Tina then takes one of Momma’s Kool-aid pitchers and mixes the bruised fruit with sugar and water. ¬†She tastes it from the mixing spoon and then, hands her efforts over for me to taste. ¬†“Mmm‚Ķgood!” I lie. ¬†Out come the crayons and paper. ¬†She makes signs. ¬†She and the neighbor girl, Kim will stand there by the Crabapple Water Stand she has set up. ¬†I will go up and down the street, advertising our new “product” by singing at the top of my voice this song that she has come up with as our advertising promotion. ¬†“Crabapple Water‚Ķgood for the tummy!!! ¬†Crabapple Water‚Ķyummy, yummy, yummy!!!!” ¬†I learn the song quickly because I’m just that good and strut off with my very important sign, singing in my very best voice the tune that my clever sister has devised. ¬†I walk; I sing; I turn; up and down our middle class street. ¬†I return, wore out and thirsty, to find that our business has been shut down due to unhealthy sales. ¬†No one bothers to let me in on our failure.

I could go on and on, for the memories are stacked deep in my mind where I can take them out and treasure them. ¬†I feel sorry for any child who didn’t have an older sister or brother to “boss” them around. ¬†They miss out on so much!

I recently told Tina that I was thinking of doing a story about having her as a big sister and all the creative things she came up for us to do.  She laughed, pleased,  and began telling me the stories I should tell.  Some things never change!

We’ve been through so much together. ¬†We were both baptized on the same evening. ¬†We laid in our joint bed that night, wishing that God would take us as we slept, while we were fresh and clean. ¬†We cooked and cleaned our house together. ¬†We swam. ¬†We dreamed of boys‚Ķthe men that would carry us off and marry us. ¬†I studied the way she dressed; the way she danced; the way she told a joke. ¬†I wanted to be just like her. ¬†Today, we shop and forage for treasures in antique shops. ¬†We pray for each other’s children.

The day that I received divorce papers in the mail from my first husband, I called Tina.  I heard the tears in her voice as she announced she would be there with me as soon as she could get there.  She came and held me while both our bodies racked with sorrow and grief.  She spent the night, making sure I would not be alone.

A sister is a forever friend. ¬†I’ve read this somewhere and it is true.

I love you, Tina!

 

Me, Momma, and Tina~propbably photographed by my father, Richard Crowell