The other morning before work, I stopped by the gas station to get a fountain drink. Yep. It’s 2022 and I still have a slight addiction. However, giving up my coke/coke zero mixed drink wasn’t on my list of resolutions, so I’m not overcome with guilt about this small vice.
I honestly had an excuse for the need of extra caffeine. On that particular morning, I was extra tired. I went to bed early the night before because I had an exhausting Monday, having to double-up on classroom lessons, as well as individual counseling since we didn’t have school the previous Monday.
I went to bed early, so I awakened earlier than usual. It’s like a hamster spinning on a wheel. A never-ending cycle. Apparently at my age, I only need (get) a certain amount of sleep.
While lying in bed at this extremely early hour, I began trying to solve all the world’s problems. Often, when I can’t sleep, I get up and read, watch TV, or try to do something productive. I decided against this and hoped that maybe I would fall back asleep before I had to get up to do my morning workout (a resolution I have stuck to. Yea, me!)
Three hours and no sleep later, I reset my alarm, deciding that I would get on the treadmill after work, and hoped that I might catch forty-five minutes of sleep before I had to get up to begin the day.
And it worked!
Until 10 minutes later when I was startled out of my slumber by a sharp pain above my eye.
This is no cause for concern. Sadly, it’s happened before. And the cause/culprit of this jarring episode is my cat, Scout, the bane of my existence, my nemesis, and the pet I long to have love me.
Scout came to us as a two-week-old kitten. The mother of a kindergarten student at my school had taken in a stray cat who decided to have her three kittens in the family’s garage. Sadly, the cat mother was run over, and the kindergarten mother was desperate to find homes for the kittens because she was pregnant herself and would be induced in the next few days, leaving no one at home to take care of (bottle feed) these orphaned kittens.
It so happened that my cat, Socks, had disappeared around this same time. I had mentioned to one of my little neighbors, an elementary student at my school, that my cat was missing, and asked her to be on the look-out for him. The very next weekend, she and another friend, hopped on their bikes and searched the entire neighborhood for Socks. They came by my house and shared this information and reported that he was nowhere to be found.
It was such a sweet and adorable gesture, and exemplified kindness in action, something we talked about every day during our morning Jump Start time (program I led every morning in the cafeteria with all K-5 students). The following Monday, I printed certificates and asked the young ladies to come on stage, as I shared about their selfless service.
Little did I know, this would inspire the sweet kindergartner to go home and report to her mom that my cat ran away. Yep. By now you’ve put it together. The mother showed up after school with three tiny kittens for me to choose from. How could I say no to this???
My youngest son came by after school, and I let him select the cat (even though I encouraged him to choose Scout, because she was the most active, feistiest, and definitely the leader of the pack).
Without consulting my husband, because it all happened so fast, Charles and one of his friends took Scout to PetSmart to get all the kitten supplies we needed. It was the end of the school year, and my oldest son was home from college, and he shook his head and stated, “Dad doesn’t want another cat.” I assured Chris that Charles and I would take full responsibility for the cat…
When Brian arrived home, I could tell he wasn’t all-in on adopting this orphaned cat. But then it happened. The kitten climbed up on him, nestled herself under his neck, and began to purr. The rest is history. He was instantly the favorite, and I was in the role of first runner-up.
And that’s the way it has gone…
I saved the cat. Gave her a home. Bottle fed her. Nurtured her. And she has NEVER, EVER liked me. In no time at all, she assumed the position of Alpha female of the house, and it became my duty to serve at her pleasure. And whenever I don’t comply, she lets me know.
Knowing that I didn’t get up at the expected time, Scout slapped me into my morning routine. Of course, she didn’t strike me in order to remind me to get up and workout, which I did—–she wanted to be fed. (Before you contact Animal Control, please know Scout doesn’t usually draw blood. Most of the time it’s a tap).
Now you have a much-too-long explanation about how I was traumatized out of my ten-minute sleep and ended up at the gas station on a not-so-ordinary Tuesday morning…
Feeling like I needed an extra pick-me-up, I entered the Cefco. I sauntered across the store, and as I reached for the Styrofoam cup, I opted to shake things up, and instead of the extra-large size, I selected the large.
I set the drink on the counter, and the lady at the register said in a surprised tone, “You got a different size today.”
Wow! If that didn’t speak volumes about how serious this fountain-drink-problem might actually be! And to make matters worse, when I pulled the change out of my pocket, I didn’t have the right amount (I was five cents short). I was so embarrassed, and I said, “Hang on, while I run out to the car and get a nickel.”
To this, the lady at the counter replied, “It’s no problem. I know you’ll be back.”
YIKES!!!! Am I really that predictable? (addicted???)
This incident reminded me of something I wrote in my book, A Southern Girl Re-Belles:
“I realized I was a little too close to fitting-in at the local gas station that was frequented by people who needed to quickly buy beer, bait, ammo, condoms, and scratch-off lottery tickets, all the things that held hopes of changing lives in a moment’s worth of luck, either good or bad.”
I’m not judging anyone. Please know this is tongue-in-cheek, but the predictability and expectations that were revealed during my interaction with the clerk, definitely inspired this week’s blog.
Several weeks back, I wrote a blog about “being in the middle.” I stand behind every word I wrote, but I do want to take this notion to the next level.
Our existence is like books on a shelf: the books and the chapters are our lives, while birth and death are the bookends. In this example, the “middle” is the time we spend living—what we do while we’re here on earth.
As much as I love “the middle,”—-my life, my family, my friends—I know that when it comes to how we live our lives, we shouldn’t stay in the middle. In that sense, the middle represents remaining in the same place; stagnation; indecisiveness; the inability to make a decision or take a stand; fear of making a change.
With any habit or situation we desire to change, we have to make a move. To summarize John C. Maxwell, if you want to change your life, the secret lies in changing what you do daily. The secret is in your daily routine.
Some changes are easier than others. I’ve found that the changes that affect only me are easier to make than those that affect others—after all, you might be changing their expectations when you move in a different direction. Sadly, some people fear personal growth in others because it might shine a spotlight on their own deficiencies.
I have learned throughout my life, that I am in constant need of reassessing my life: my habits, my choices, my hopes, my dreams. While I have had seasons of stagnation, or laziness, or depression, or defeat, I know that I, alone, am responsible for the choices I have made or will make.
Do you know what I’ve discovered is the greatest part of making choices, and changes, and moving out of the middle? Knowing that the people who care for you, and love you, and want the best for you are by your side, cheering you on
While it has to be your decision to make improvements and change the negatives in your life, you don’t have to do it alone. Ask for support. Let others be a part of it. And embrace those who stick with you through the hard times.
When you find these people, the ones who will ride with you on the bus, you’ve found your tribe. And just like Scout, they may give you a kick in the pants when you need to get going. For that, you should be grateful. Stay away from people who don’t want you to change. Those who expect you to behave in a certain way. They will hold you back, and bring you down because of their own fears, shortcomings, and low-esteem issues.
Lately, I’ve learned a lot about people and life. I’ve had to make decisions about my books, particularly Mockingbird Moments. (there will be more to come about this in a future blog).
While I’m in a time of transition with how I will proceed as a writer, and I’ve made some tough decisions (that left me wondering if they were right), at the end of the day, I feel good about where I am.
I’m not staying in the middle. I’m moving forward, but not in the way I once envisioned. I’m focusing on this blog, and the things I’ve already written, and hoping to help others with my words.
If I’ve learned anything in 2022, it’s this:
While God is with us during the chaos of our lives, you will never, ever, feel chaotic when a prayer is answered. If you ask, and then listen to His response, you will have peace in whatever you decide.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
As we get back in the routine of a new year, I wish you the best. If you are trying to change something and move from your position in the middle, I encourage you to take others on the ride with you. Yes, the first step is yours, but you will need a cheerleader, and supporter, and encourager to get to where you’re going.
Even if it’s a cat who taps (claws) you awake. Or an unknowing store clerk, who innocently reminds you that you might need to cut back on your fountain drink addiction.
Or maybe it’s words from a friend. Words encouraging you to continue writing. Thanking you for saying things they needed to hear. Or reminding them of funny stories and shared times.
As the Hemingway quote at the beginning of the blog states:
“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
My words might not be the stuff of Pulitzers or bestsellers, but they are real, and from the heart. And every day, I am fortunate to know and meet interesting people who inspire me in the smallest of ways. I’m thankful for the simplicity in which God uses others to bless me.
Grand gestures aren’t necessary. Who needs a limo when you can share a ride with your friends on the bus?…