Saturday, August 23, 2008

All Is Not Lost

Abby lost the election. I'm sad, she's sad, everyone who loves her is sad. She would have made an excellent class president and would have received the title with humility and grace. But it didn't happen. Put bluntly, she lost.

But all is not lost. Abby admits freely that she made some new friends this week. She put herself out on a limb for a noble cause and I imagine she will stay out on that limb. She's still on the Student Council (no small feat in itself - you have to go through an extensive application process and few are chosen) and I know she will make a great contribution to her school through her part on that council. She'll also continue to make new friends, offer leadership where it is needed, and share a positive attitude in everything she participates in. Abby has learned the mechanics of campaigning, the agony of losing, and the grace needed to lose well. She shed a few tears and said a few demeaning things about herself, but she is fine today. She has other irons in the fire and she is moving on to tending them well.

Abby's family is so very proud of her. Her dad and I, her big brother, her grandparents, and many friends were rooting her on. We share her grief, but we're still rooting her on. We'll always believe in Abby whether others recognize her greatness or not. We're her fans. And one day when she sits in Los Angeles, California, waiting to hear her name called for an Oscar, we'll still be rooting her on. And whether she wins that night or not, we'll think she deserves it.

Abby lost an election, but she's really quite a winner. She has so many people who love her and believe in her, she has great potential and talent, and she has a winning attitude - even about losing. Indeed little has been lost and a great deal has been gained.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Going for Top Dog

Watch out Obama. Move over McCain. Abby is running for president! President of her Freshman class, that is. That's right, Abby came home Friday announcing her candidacy. Why should this shock me? She seems to know no bounds and isn't that the way I've tried to raise her anyhow?

We created bookmarks for her to pass out at school and posters to hang in the halls, all announcing, "Be Happy! Vote Abby!...Vote Abby Harms for Freshman Class President." We stuck a bright yellow smiley face right in the middle. They look mighty fine. Unfortunately, Abby doesn't look so fine herself. She's sick with either a bad cold or allergy problems. We don't know which because we've assumed it's just allergy problems, but all four of us have "caught" the same allergy bam, bam, bam, bam, four in a row. Coincidence or bad cold? We don't know. At any rate, Abby left for school this morning armed with posters, bookmarks, bottled water (to get the sinuses moving), and the will power to win this election. She'll campaign all week and the students vote Thursday and Friday.

That is, all 900+ students will vote. Yes, Abby's freshman class has over 900 students. This election should be a breeze since she knows about 25 of them. In my attempt to soften the blow in the event of defeat, I've tried to assure Abigail that she shouldn't take a loss personally. If she doesn't win it won't be because people don't like her; it will be because they don't have a clue who she is. Of course her opponent can't know more than about half of the kids herself. So who knows. Maybe a little anonymity will even play in Abigail's favor. She'll be the mysterious girl with the cute smiley face posters and the happy name. Just in case, I think she might better pass out candy later this week.

Well, I'm preparing for a grand celebration. Whether Abby wins the election or not, I'm proud of her for trying. It takes a lot of guts to run for president of a class of 900+, especially when you don't know 875 of them. And if anyone can beat such odds, Abby can. If you read this (and you are, evidently), please say a little prayer for Abigail. Pray that she feels a lot better as the week goes on. Pray that she'll effectively campaign and in the process meet lots of new friends. Pray that she'll either win gracefully or lose just as gracefully, but preferably win. And pray that God protects her sweet heart regardless of the results.

And if you know any 9th graders in her class, tell them to be happy and vote Abby!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Today I've had to make lots of phone calls. Guess what? I can't stand making phone calls! Really. I have this thing about making phone calls.

It's not that I don't like talking to people. I love talking to people. But I much prefer talking with people face to face. In fact, if you want to get right down to it, I especially like talking face to faces. In other words, I like talking to large groups of people even more than I like talking to one or two people. I guess, in my thinking, there's safety in numbers. Often, when I'm talking to just one or two people, I stammer and stumble over my words. But when I'm talking to a group of people, I feel relaxed and happy. No better way to say it - relaxed and happy!

But back to the phone thing. Some people, like my parents and husband and kids, would probably have a hard time believing that I don't really like talking on the phone. According to them I am on the phone all the time. But that's because it is true that I do enjoy talking on the phone to a few people that I feel very comfortable with, like a few girl friends and family members. But other than that, talking on the phone makes me very nervous. I'm always afraid that the person on the other end of the line is smirking at me, rolling their eyes, yawning, or putting me on the speaker phone while they clean out their purse. When I dial the number and listen to the other person's phone ring, I'm imagining them looking at their caller id and thinking, "Oh it's Kay. What does she want?" (By this point you're probably thinking I've got major self-esteem issues! But hang with me!) The whole time I'm hoping they won't answer and I can just leave a message. I do about as well with message machines as I do with large groups of people, so I guess face to faces works for me and voice to machine works pretty well for me too.

I've had this phone phobia most of my life. Once again, as my parents remember how much I dominated the phone as a teenager they're probably laughing out loud, but if they'll think a little harder they'll remember how hard it has always been for me to call and ask a simple question to a completely non-threatening person. I don't like to call and make my six month appointments for the dentist, my yearly check up with the doctor, or even a hair appointment with my very friendly hairdresser. I don't like to call the women on my Women's Ministry Team to schedule a meeting or my child's school to report an absence. I don't like to call to RSVP for a party, to make reservations for dinner, to buy an airline ticket, to get directions to a friend's house, or to find out what time a movie starts. I am especially thrilled when I make such a call and I get a machine or an automated service instead. I know. I'm a freak.

For those of you out there who consider yourselves my friends and family (I hope I still have a few left at this point!), please don't be offended and don't stop calling me! I actually love for people to call me! I just don't like doing the dialing myself. And don't stop answering when you see my number on your caller id. Instead, please consider how hard it was for me to dial that number to begin with and answer quickly! Seriously, this is a phobia that I acknowledge, but I try not to let it rule my life. I still make phone calls every day and every time I survive. Because of course if people are rolling their eyes at me, yawning or even cleaning out their purses while I talk with them, at least I never know it. In fact, I find most of my telephone calls go just fine. And so I try to remember that each time I have to pick up the phone and make an appointment or cancel an appointment or place an order or ask a question. Still, when I get off the phone I feel a major sense of accomplishment. Phone calls are big deals on my to-do list, you see. They get like double credit. Writing magazine queries, buying groceries, doing my income taxes - those are small potatoes. But calling the vet to schedule shots for my dog - that's a major accomplishment and I check that baby off my list and treat myself to a Diet Coke!

Ok. I've confessed my quirky eccentricity. I bet you have a few too. Fortunately, mine isn't debilitating or harmful to others and hopefully yours aren't either. If you have a chance, tell me about yours in a comment. It'd make me feel so much better. Meanwhile, I've got to find my to-do list so I can check off those phone calls I made today. They were doozies and I deserve a nap now!

Monday, August 4, 2008

They're Just Shoes - Aren't They?

Big boo boo! I cleaned my son's Converse All Star high tops this morning! Now I didn't put them in the washer or anything. We learned that lesson the hard way about a year ago. The pair we ran through the washer and dryer never were the same again. So I wouldn't repeat that mistake again to save my life. But I just cleaned the shoes up a little. It occurred to me that if that little Mr. Clean bar that we use on our walls get scuff marks off walls so well, it would certainly remove the same scuff marks from the toes of his sneakers and the white trim around the edges of the shoes. I didn't touch the black high top canvas fabric. And guess what? That little magic square does a pretty good job of removing the black marks from the rubber parts of the shoe. By the time I had finished with them, those shoes looked mighty fine.

But I found out I'd made a huge mistake when I told my son, nonchalantly, that I had cleaned up his shoes for him. (He was having some portraits made in which his shoes just might show, so I had tidied them up for him.) Suddenly he turned into the Incredible Hulk. His eyes grew large and intense, the muscles all over his body tensed up and doubled in size and I think he even turned a little green. Now this Incredible Hulk didn't throw anything or lunge at me, fortunately, but he did growl! To skip over the dramatics that I experienced for the next 30 minutes and get straight to the point, suffice it to say that Daniel was greatly disappointed in me for cleaning his shoes.

Turns out, Daniel likes for his shoes to be dirty, scuffed up. And somehow those scuff marks, according to Daniel, are directly linked to his persona, his identity, his history, and, in short, his essence. Go figure. I had no idea. Just so you can better understand how traumatic an event this was for Daniel, let me give you a play by play of a snippet of the conversation.

Daniel: It'll take weeks to get those scuff marks back! I can't believe they're gone. I hiked mountains, worked at Target, and walked the halls of Buena to get those marks. They're a part of me!

Kay: Daniel, I'm sure you'll have them scuffed up again in a couple of days. Just take the shoes and wipe the bottom of one across the toes of the other!

Daniel: I can't believe you'd even say that! You're trivializing those marks!

Kay: I just thought you'd want them cleaned up for the you'll look nice.

Daniel: That's it! You don't want a picture of the real me; you want one of me with shoes that aren't even mine! You don't even like me.

Kay: (pause to figure out how we got here...) Daniel, I love you and thought I was doing you a favor. I just wanted you to be wearing clean shoes, so I thought that rather than make you wear some other shoes, I'd clean up your favorites so you could wear them. I promise you my intentions were good.

Well, I won't give you all the details of this crazy conversation. But you can surely see that we were talking from two completely different perspectives. I thought I had done a good deed and Daniel thought I was assaulted his essence!

Here's the thing I learned. By the way, my son probably doesn't think I learned anything from this. To hear him talk, I'm just the mean mama who looks for ways to ruin his day. But honestly, oh well, you've heard my side already...

Here's the thing I learned. (I'll try not to get sidetracked this time!) It's amazing the things we tie our identity to. For my son, his shoes speak volumes about him. He wears Converse high tops because he likes the old-fashioned style of them. But he also wants them to look lived in. That's important to him. For me, my jewelry is something that I think kind of identifies me. I want only silver and I like it to be kind of big and chunky. My silver charm bracelet is like the story of my life in miniatures. If someone were to try to "help me out" by turning all of my silver jewelry into more costly gold, I'd freak out too. I know gold is more valuable, but I don't want gold. I want silver. It's who I am.

Turns out, for most of us I think, the little things in our lives say a lot about us, or so we'd like to think they do. We like certain colors, textures, logos, and styles and we choose to wear, drive, carry, and live in them because we want the world at large to know who we are. We feel that in some small way even the perfume we put on or the color of our nails reveals something about the person within. And maybe it does.

At any rate, whether you can identify with this theory or not, I know my son can. And right now that is all that matters. I'm proud of who my son is - bright, witty, caring, godly, and full of unbridled potential. His Converse All Stars may not say all that, but I know that's who he is. While I'm still his mama and will continue to insist on cleanliness, order, and good manners, if he wants to keep his sneakers scuffed up, so be it. After all, they're just shoes. Right?
Daniel and his beloved Converse All Stars gathering scuff marks on the trail.