In Lieu of Orange Daisies

Even though we've lived in Georgia for nearly 12 years now, long enough to collect a basket full of tschotskes bearing various emblems of the state (I mean, have y'all ever seen the Big Chicken? It is, in fact, a sight to behold), and nearly 20 years since I last claimed Tennessee as my official residence ...

I just love the juxtaposition of the Georgia glass with the floral reminder that our blood still bleeds Orange.

Hope y'all are having a splendid summer!

XOXO ---

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No-Asterisk Living

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.31.45 PM
We've all heard the term "use your words." Usually aimed at a preschooler off-the-charts on the emotional scale and extremely low on the articulation scale. When I came to the unfortunate realization that it is quite likely the advice, life lessons, inspirational quotes and whatnot I pass along to my daughters was likely traveling in one ear and out the other, I decided to do what I love ... use my words and write stuff down. I'll have to pack a lot of punch into these little bursts, because let's face it ... if we want something to be memorable - no matter the audience - we better be quick. I'll address these directly to my kids so hopefully one day I can just say "boy problems? school problems? can't find anything to eat problems? Check blog post #102. It's your parent now!" Kidding, but I do hope this will become a sort of reference for them, and that maybe, just maybe, you'll find something interesting in here too. XO - Amy Mac


There are no asterisks in life.

That is to say, there's never a report card that says
*by the way, the teacher sucked

There's no adjusting the game score because
*the refs weren't fair

No one gets credit for an incomplete chore because
*I have an awful headache, I'm exhausted, I think I pulled a muscle, I'm allergic to clean things

Life is based on results. You get results because you figured out a way to work around the asterisks. You will have teachers that suck. You'll have refs that aren't fair. You will feel less than ideal anytime there's a task you'd like to procrastinate completing, especially if you allow yourself that empty luxury of a life built with asterisks.

Decide on the results you want (an A, a win, a clean room so I don't confiscate your phone because your room looks like several stores -- including but not limited to clothing boutiques, athletic supply stores, dirt factories, office supply centers and various food shops -- have exploded and the remnants have all settled like retail volcanic dust upon the floor in your room) ...

and decide to get those results no matter what it takes.

I find it helpful to write down the results for which I'm aiming. Because in your heart you'll know where those asterisks could have been, and the satisfaction of having succeeded anyways is sweet indeed.

Love, Mom*
*Saying "are you using an asterisk, Mom?" the next time I blame running late on the dogs could be hazardous to your health. Xoxo!
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I Think I May Be Related to Justin Timberlake

mason jar drink
We southerners love us some Mason jars. We pickle things in them, create delightful gelatinous sugary substances in them, and my grandmother used to "put up" fresh vegetables from her garden in them. Lots of us will drink iced tea in them, though I've never been a fan. Mostly because the ridged surface is an irritant to my lower lip, and no matter how many packages of straws I buy I can never locate one when I need it.

So I was already feeling all super-southern with my Mason jar sippy cup full of iced water enhanced with some fresh fruit, when my sister starts firing off texts about how we are related to our people. We come from a mighty big clan of folks from West Tennessee (The Williams' -- maybe y'all're related to us?!), so this situation gets confusing real quick.

Mim: Is Linsey Dean our first cousin once removed?
Me: Second cousin. Granny was dad and Kim's grandmother, and is ours and Lins' great-grandmother. 
Mim: What is Kim?
Me: Our first cousin once removed. 
Mim: Then why isn't Lins twice removed?
Me: Because we are the same generation. We can't be removed. 
Mim: So second gen = 2nd cuz? 
Me: Yes. And our kids and Linsey's will be third cousins, but Linsey and Mallory are second cousins once removed.
Mim: I'm trying to figure out Brent. His grandfather is the brother of our great-grandfather.

At this point I just called her. Because I know Brent and I are related, cousins of some nature (I mean I have known him since I was born, see him at least once a year at the family reunion), but beyond that precisely how it all works out is beyond my scope. Which means it's time to whip out a piece of paper.

(Also, I was starting to feel like I was reading the begats section in the Bible. You know, "Abraham begat Issac, and Issac begat Jacob ..." which is obviously important, yet confusing and perhaps not the most captivating reading. I hope I don't get struck by lightning later today.)

So we straightened out Brent's relationship to us (he's our second cousin, once removed. Because Tommy begat Linda Faye, and she begat Brent ....) and my sister said "you should totally teach a workshop on how to do this!"

Then we decided that sometimes, in the south, it's better to just stick with "yeah, I think we're fourth cousins or something." Because heaven only knows who you might have to claim as your people if you really start scrutinizing your family tree.

Just a guess, but I wonder if the term "ignorance is bliss" was coined around a situation where some Hilly Holbrook-type started poking around her family tree, only to discover General William Tecumseh Sherman was her third cousin twice removed.

On the other hand, Justin Timberlake is from Millington, which is really just a short drive from ... I'm just saying, it's not out of the realm of possibilities.

And yes, I promise that's just water in my sippy cup.

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Closing the Generation Gap, One Odd Odor at a Time

church camp
A conversation transcript from last evening with my 14-and-a-half-year-old daughter:

Setting: getting into the family SUV on a mild Southern spring evening, directly after a thunderstorm. 

In unison: "What's that smell?"

41 (that's me): "It's camp."

14 (the kid): "What?"

41: "It smells like camp. That mixture of sunscreen, bug spray and wet grass, with a faint whiff of damp wood and mildew."

14: "THAT'S SO WEIRD! I was just thinking it smelled like the church beach retreat!"

41: "Exactly. No matter what year, what country, whether the beach or mountains, a condo, a cabin or a tent ... whenever more than 5 people under the age of 25 gather away from home -- or really any place lacking a woman armed with bleach, hot water and a laundry room replete with a dryer with various settings -- this is the resulting smell."

14: "That's crazy! So your beach retreat smelled just like mine?!!"

41: "Yup."

14: "That doesn't explain why our car smells like camp."

41: "I was just thinking the same thing. Smelling camp on the way to Starbucks sorta ruins the experience."

14: "We have to stop this smell. How do we end this smell? Right now?!!!"

41: "Let's see if we can rustle up a woman with some hot water and bleach."

Per the usual, turns out that woman was me. I was able to isolate the various odors as follows:

Wet grass -- actual wet grass outside (see above: thunderstorm.) 
Sunscreen -- aerosol sunscreen accidentally sprayed independently while in my tennis bag, which was left in my car overnight. Good news is I have a can of tennis balls and various tennis accoutrements which are now completely safe from sunburn. 
Bug spray -- pretty sure that's a remnant from my husband's fishing trip this weekend. I'm just thankful it isn't the smell of dead and rotting fish. #blessed.
Mildew -- tiny leak in my sunroof. Cured with a pinch of aforementioned bleach.
Damp wood -- this one's a mystery. I suspect a popsicle stick or dowel rod from a science project is loose somewhere in my car. And it's apparently wet. 

If anyone needs a ride, y'all let me know. Because while my car now smells like a freshly scoured murder scene, it no longer smells like camp.

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If You've Hot-Glued Anything in the Name of Easter, Please Don't Read This Post

Easter Craft
This morning, while taking a break from catching up on the 976 things I didn't do while I was on Spring Break, I hopped (getting the Easter reference there?) onto Feedly to peruse some of my favorite blogs. I have an important takeaway to share:

In the blogosphere there is significant pressure to do a bunch of crafty, awesome stuff and then photograph it in soft lighting before posting with 18 simple steps so you, too, can do something crafty-awesome. 

Are these people for real?

Y'all, there are people right now making moss-covered eggs and attaching them to floral sprigs so their Sunday brunch will look appropriately spring-like and Easterish, and I'm just trying to decide if it's inappropriate to put concert tickets in my kids' baskets. (Last year we put bikinis in their baskets, so I'm not sure why I feel conflicted. I think once you've given lycra for Easter, you've passed the point of any respectable return.)

Don't get me wrong ... I love nicely arranged, tasty food. I love to sew, and enjoy whipping up throw pillows, or window treatments, and even occasionally a baby gift or some such. I have what could be considered a mildly obsessive connection to my label maker, and very much enjoy creating order from chaos in a closet or drawer, then gently bullying my family into following my newly labeled system for world domination. Or junk drawer domination. Whatever.

I'm just saying, if you're ever in a downhill spiral of "who the hell has time to DO all this cute crafty stuff?" and you're pressuring yourself to knit your dog a sweater because CHRISTMAS IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER I BETTER START FREEZING COOKIE MIX RIGHT NOW, I want you stop by right here at the Amy Mac blog where you can relax, knowing you may leave here confused ... but will never, ever leave feeling the need to organize anything, clean or paint anything. Or hot-glue moss to anything, heaven forbid.

So now the question becomes: if my daughters receive concert tickets for Easter, are they then required to wear bunny ears to said concert? I say yes, then I will post the photos here as my craft for the year 2014.

Whew -- I feel a sense of accomplishment already.

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If the Saying Were "The Early Bird Gets the Tory Burch Sandals," More People Would Actually Want to Wake Up Early

So I started one of those awful group texts this morning about getting kids hither-and-to, and it pinged around until finally someone said "this is an awful lot of planning before 8 a.m." and someone replied "the early bird catches the worm!" (For the record, I only started a text that early because I knew all parties involved were already awake. Unless, of course, they were sick or sleeping in, in which case I feel terrible and apologize.)

You would think the entire situation would have sent me back on my tangent about the evils of group texts and reply alls, but in fact it sent me down a completely different yet equally compelling path:

Why would anyone, ever, think "catching a worm" would incentivize human beings to wake up early? Yes, I understand the point is if you get the first crack at something because the normal folks are sleeping you're more likely to get what you want, especially if it's in limited supply. I also grasp it's a phrase from way-back-when (though I doubt even Englishmen in the 1600s were super-interested in consuming worms as a reward for awakening before dawn), but people today need better encouragement. Us modern-day earthlings have higher expectations. Let's blame that on electricity and Google for now, but in the meantime I have a few proposed alternatives. What if ...

  • "The early bird gets candy or cash -- user choice."
  • "The early bird gets a pedicure replete with lavender-scented salts."
  • "The early bird gets to eat nachos whenever they want with no weight gain whatsoever."
  • "The early bird gets their all their household laundry done by someone else."
  • "The early bird gets a cute pair of Tory Burch sandals" (see above: pedicure.)
  • "The early bird gets clear answers on what the hell happened to that Malaysian Airlines plane, because certain birds take issue with airplanes that vanish with 200+ people on board 'probably' over an ocean with a depth of 15,000 feet, give or take."
  • "The early bird gets a portable, personal PA system to holler at people doing stupid stuff on the roads/at various athletic events/from the den at family members when the bird is bored" (something I've been asking for for YEARS, yet never seem to get for my birthday. Or Christmas. Or Any Holiday. I feel under-appreciated.)
Per the usual, there is no moral to this story except to say in my mind early risers are weird and probably like eating worms, and until someone rewrites this little proverb with the end-user in mind ...

I'm sleeping in.

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Five Percent

I'm 100 percent certain that though this tree is only 5 percent of my yard, the blooms and the blue sky are excellent indicators spring is around the corner ... and that makes me 1000 percent happy.

You know how you have conversations that impart wisdom that sticks with you over time? A couple of years ago, one of my youngsters wanted to be moved down a level in one of her classes. She maintained the coursework was too difficult, I maintained she was capable and looking for a way to decrease homework time in order to increase social time. So I called in her teacher to act as a referee.

We shared our opposing viewpoints, the teacher agreed with me, therefore confirming I am always right. The end.

Kidding! No really, here's what he said:

"With just a tiny bit more effort, and I mean like 5 percent more, you can go from being a solid student to being the top student in all your classes."

{Sidebar: why is it educators tend to be so wise? Seriously, so many of the conversations that resonate with me come from teachers. Does having to wrangle a mass of children daily, plus deal with crazy parents, plus adhere to government-mandated educational standards put in place by non-educators make them smarter than the rest of us? Is it something they train them for in college, like "Educator Wisdom 101," or are they born with it?}

The reason this 5 percent more concept sticks with me is because so often we hear of a person's success as a result of doing something insane. You know, exercising for 12 hours a day while consuming only kale smoothies and BAM losing 30 pounds. Or of a former janitor becoming a best-selling author by getting up a 3 a.m. and writing every day before heading out to sweep floors. Or really anything where the vast majority of us would say "good for them, but that sounds like non-stop misery and I KNOW MY LIMITATIONS."

But 5 percent is tiny. It's doable. It's like half an hour or less per day. And statistically speaking, it's small changes made consistently that create a snowball effect for other, more significant changes. (If you haven't read the book The Power of Habit, I highly recommend it. It's where I found this tidbit of information, along with other fascinating insights on how habits -- good and bad -- impact our lives.)

Now whenever I catch myself checking my phone unnecessarily, or zoning out in front of the TV, or whining about being exhausted, I just think "5 percent." Because if I have to pick starting a big project at 8 p.m. or watching Downton Abbey, those crazy Crawleys win every time. But if I just need to spend 15 minutes on a task, I know the sense of accomplishment from disciplining myself to "do something" versus "watch something" will be huge. And that I will feel less guilty when I do finally sit down to see what's up with Lady Mary and the rest of that British bunch. (For those of you that watch, Bates is starting to really creep me out.)

Now, when one of my kids hits that wall -- whether it's with studying, practicing for their sport, or cleaning their room -- I try to remind them "c'mon -- 5 percent." Because it turns out doing 5 percent more is 100 percent rewarding.

Turns out the teacher is almost always right.

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