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33 Life Lessons


Birthdays have a way of making us reflect on our lives – our highs and our lows, our triumphs and our failures.  I don’t know why, but this particular birthday has my reminiscent brain in overdrive.  And so, I’ve decided to share with you 33 of the life lessons I’ve learned in my long short 33 years.

1. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  I learned this when my granddaddy passed away a couple years ago.  I was devastated.  He was supposed to live forever.   

2. Good credit is important.  Really, people – Trust me.  I learned this the hard way, after poor decisions when I was a teenager and after a bad divorce.

3. Say “I love you” every time you think it.  Everyone needs to hear it.

4. Kids really do grow up way too fast.  My hubby has to remind me that our youngest is almost ten already and that I’m not 20 anymore.

5. Kiss your kids while they still let you.  Trust me – there will come a day – far too soon – when they won’t want to be anywhere remotely near you.  It’s heartbreaking, really.

6. Your life doesn’t revolve around your children.  I’ve learned – and am still learning – that we actually have lives beyond our children.  We can’t hide behind them forever.

7. Be careful what you say.  Words can’t be taken back.  Neither can the pain they cause.

8. Keep your word.  Doing what you say you’ll do is important.  It shows our integrity.

9. Our real character is who we are when no one is looking.  If you have to look around to see who may be watching, you probably shouldn’t do it.

10. God is real.  I’d rather live as if there is a God and find out there isn’t than live as if there isn’t and find out later that there is.

11. Stand up for what you believe.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs.  Just be respectful in doing so.

12. Love.  Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with someone, love him anyway.  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:13

13. Speak with your actions.  The old phrase, “Actions speak louder than words” is true.  I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter what we say if our actions don’t match it.

14. Girls will always need their moms.  There’s still no one who can make me feel better when I’m sick than my mom.  There’s nothing like having my head in her lap while she plays with my hair.

15. Your spouse should be your best friend.  Remember how your friendship was way back when you fell in love.  Don’t let anyone else have that role.

16. Love yourself.  There will never be any human who can love you enough to make you love yourself.  You’re worth it.

17. Junk food is good every once in a while.  Don’t starve yourself.  A few brownies won’t kill you.  And they may keep you from killing someone else…

18. Don’t be so hard on yourself.  I guarantee that no one else has noticed that extra pound you gained.  Or that zit on your chin.

19. Beauty on the inside is what matters.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gorgeous on the outside if your heart doesn’t match.  God don’t like ugly.  And neither does the average person.

20. Patience really is a virtue.  It’s also what keeps our blood pressure down.  I’m still working on this one, but I’m getting better.

21. It’s hard work to look good.  All of the shoes that make our legs look the best are the ones that make our feet feel like they’re going to fall off.

22. Dance like no one’s watching.  There’s no stress reliever as good as belting out your favorite song and letting loose in your car when you’re stuck in traffic!

23. Hold hands.  Your significant other will know you love him/her without your ever having to say a word.

24. Mail cards.  There’s nothing like receiving a good old-fashioned handwritten greeting card in the mailbox.

25.  Learn the Electric Slide.  Every party or event you will ever attend will play that song at least once.  And you certainly don’t want to be the only one watching from the sidelines.

26. Memorize a few corny jokes.  Everyone loves a good “bad” joke every now and then!  ~How did the hamburger introduce his girlfriend? – – – Meet Patty!~  [Ba-dum ching!]

27. Stay in touch with your friends.  Good and real friends are hard to come by.  Even in spite of our busy and hectic lives, it’s so important to send a text or card every now and then.

28. Say “please” and “thank you.”  Common courtesies are becoming more and more rare.  Don’t be a jerk.

29. Read books.  Nothing opens the gateways to our imaginations like a good book.

30. Keep a list of the movies you’ve watched.  It really sucks when you’re halfway through a movie before you realize you’ve already seen it.

31. We are all equal.  God loves us all so much more than we can wrap our minds around.  If He does, then who are we to treat someone as inferior?

32. Hug.  Nothing says, “Everything is going to be okay” quite like a good hug does.

33. Laugh.  It really is the best medicine.

*Bonus: Forgive.  Do it for yourself, if for no other reason.  It’s liberating.  I know from experience.

Are there any life lessons you’ve learned as you’ve gotten older?  Any advice for others?

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“Yeah, I love being famous. It’s almost like being white, y’know?” ~Chris Rock


So, at this point you’ve all seen enough pictures of my kids to know they’re biracial.  And beautiful.  I don’t like to brag, but I do have two of the most beautiful boys on the planet.  I’m just sayin’…

 Something you may not yet know about me from reading my blog, though, is that I don’t see color.  (Well, other than the fact that white boys just cannot dance, of course…)  I honestly just don’t notice it.  I hate love all people.

Source: imgfave.com

Source: imgfave.com

So when someone makes a comment that can be construed as quasi-racist, it always surprises me and catches me off guard.  (Minus the dancing observation, of course…)  A few Fridays ago, two of my favorite girlfriends and I went to happy hour after work.  [Side note: One of those girls has an amazing blog that you should totally check out here.]  We were having a blast just unwinding from a hellacious week at work and had no worries at the moment.  That’s when I run into another friend there who wants to introduce me to the dude he was there with:

Other Friend:  “Alicia, this is so-and-so.  So-and-So, this is Alicia.”

Other Friend’s Friend:  “Nice to meet you, Alicia.  Do you have any kids?”

Me:  “Nice to meet you too, So-and-So. Yes, I have two boys.  What about you?”

Other Friend’s Friend:  “Oh, that’s neat – I have two girls!”

Me:  “Cool!  Here’s a picture of my boys.”

Other Friend’s Friend:  “Oh… Wow.”

Me:  “Wow what?” [Thinking it’s because I look much too young to have children that old.]

Other Friend’s Friend:  “Uh, they’re black!”

Me:  “What?!  Did you really just say that?!  Did that seriously just come out of your mouth?!”

Other Friend’s Friend:  “Um, no, uh, that’s not what I meant.  Uh…um…”

Me:  “No need to explain.” [Turning to Other Friend…] “Dude, your friend is a son-of-a-!@#$%, and you really need to make some new friends.”

Wonderful end to that conversation.  And it was at that moment that I remembered why it was that I went out with my girlfriends in the first place: Because I don’t like anyone else.

Do people STILL really think like So-and-So does?!  Helloooo!!!  It’s 2013!!!  I forgot when I chose to have children that they may actually have to deal with jackasses growing up who still haven’t figured out that we all bleed the same color.  And it breaks my heart for them.  They’re so innocent, and yet they have to deal with people obviously so insecure with themselves that they take it out on others.

In fact, when Gerald’s best friend’s mom heard about Gerald from her son for the first time, she actually said, “Oh, his name is Gerald?  Well that’s not a black name…”  Are you kidding me?!  So I didn’t name my kids Bon Qui Qui AND they’re well-spoken and well-mannered… Whaaaat?!  It’s really very sad that when they go to college, it’ll benefit them to be “black” and when they submit their resumes, it’ll benefit them to be “white.”  Is this really the world we live in in the 21st century?  I’m afraid so.  [Shake my head…]

Source: lunapic_135698468820535_2

Source: lunapic_135698468820535_2

My challenge for you today if you have this secret problem:  Go talk to someone who’s different than you.  Start a conversation with him.  Shoot, hug him even.  You might be surprised and realize you’re actually very similar.  Hmm, imagine that…

Source: epicdemotivational.com

Source: epicdemotivational.com


“I felt my mouth go dry, my throat constrict…” ~ Jennifer Paynter


Okay, so last night was one of those crazy nights – two baseball games on opposite sides of town.  The endless driving-like-a-maniac back and forth between fields already caused my blood pressure to go nuts.  On top of that, our last game didn’t end until after 10 – on a school night – which led to us eating a wonderful [insert sarcasm] dinner of McDonald’s at 10:30.  Ugh.  So we’re sitting at the dinner table eating scarfing down our food when the following conversation causes me to have a full-blown panic attack:

Ronald: Mom, what’s ‘jacking off’ mean? A kid in my class said that today.

Me: [Completely and utterly choking on my french fries] Um, excuse me, what?

Ronald: What’s ‘jacking off’ mean?

Me: Uh, maybe you should ask your brother about that.

Brother: Uh, maybe you should ask your father figure about that.

Me: Uh, uh, uh… Hold on – I’ll be right back! [Frantically dialing “father figure’s” phone number]

Me (upon reaching “father figure”): I need your help. ASAP. [Hand phone to Ronald like it’s a hot potato searing my fingers]

Ronald (to “father figure”): What’s ‘jacking off’ mean?

Father Figure: [Without missing a beat] Well, it’s basically playing with your own winkie dinkie.

Ronald: Eww! Gross!!!

Father Figure: Yep. So next time your classmate talks about jacking off, tell him you don’t want to hear about him playing with his own winkie dinkie. But don’t say jacking off… you’ll get in trouble by your teacher for that.

Ronald: Oh. Okay. Thank you – goodnight. [Still as cool as a cucumber]

Me: [Still hyperventilating] Okay.Timeforbed.Iloveyou.Goodnight. [I then proceed to crawl in my bed, curl up in a ball, and continue to remind myself to breath in and out. In and out.]

Before I had kids, people told me that kids were expensive.  I thought that only referred to diapers and stuff like that.  I had no idea that it meant room and board for the loony bin I’d end up in from the endless panic attacks they would give me.  Am I really cut out for raising two boys?  [Sigh.]

 


“Despite being what would now be called a deprived child in a one parent family, I did not grow up with an urge to smash windows or to bash old ladies over the head in order to steal handbags.” ~Eva Hart


Photo by Alicia Benton

Photo by Alicia Benton

Single parenting is H-A-R-D work!!!  I mean, parenting with a partner is tough, but single parenting is the hardest job on the face of the planet.  There are days when I don’t know if I can even get out of the bed for fear of bursting into tears the moment someone speaks to me.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t want a pity party, and I’m not looking for sympathy.  I’m just amazed by every single parent I meet.  Seriously.  I think that single parents are secretly superheroes in disguise.

Superheroes:

Are Strong:  Have you ever carried in 100 bags of groceries (50 on each arm) by yourself while the kids are pushing you over to try to find the one with the Cheez-Its in it?  A single parent has.

Are Brave:  Have you ever had to get out of the bed to kill a giant, man-eating spider by yourself [what?!] because the kids are already asleep?  A single parent has.  (And let me tell you… that’s brave.)

Are Intelligent:  Have you ever had to remember what x equals if a is three, b is five, and c is purple over fifteen years after learning it the first time?  A single parent has.

Have Special Powers:  Do you have eyes in the back of your head and super-sensitive hearing that help you divert crayon-all-over-the-walls disasters before they happen?  A single parent does.

Wear Costumes:  Have you ever had to go out in public in a bathrobe and one slipper, with fruit snacks in your hair in order to get the cupcakes your kid promised the teacher he’d bring to school this morning but just told you about ten minutes ago?  A single parent has.

Earn Respect:  Have you ever been grocery shopping and have people look at you in amazement because you can unload the cart, pay, pick up the fifty packs of gum that just “fell for no reason,” and not manage to lose the kids all at the same time?  A single parent has.

Are Athletic:  Can you carry a kid on one hip, a baseball bag on the other, have a good hold on another kid’s hand, all while running full-speed through the parking lot so they’re not late for practice?  A single parent can.

Have a Sidekick:  Do you constantly have someone on your heels at all times, sticking their little fingers under the bathroom door while you’re trying to enjoy three seconds in peace and quiet pee?  A single parent does.

Are Role Models:  Do you have impressionable little people watching your every move and listening to every word that comes out of your mouth, just waiting with bated breath for the second they get to do exactly what you just did?  A single parent does.

Have a Weakness:  Do you risk the chance of acquiring the world’s largest ulcer because you’re constantly worried sick about who your kid is becoming, who they’re talking to, hanging out with, what they’re learning about from the hoodlums they go to school with, whether they’re safe, etc., etc. (you get the drift)?  A single parent does.

Use Gadgets:  Have you ever had the joy of sitting on the floor until your knees no longer work, putting 10,000 Lego pieces together, only to have your masterpiece smashed to smithereens thirty minutes later?  A single parent has.

Have an Arch Enemy:  Have you ever had to explain your every move and pure motive to an “ex,” who is dying for you fail and will never ever admit that you’re actually doing a pretty good job raising kids?  A single parent has.

Have a Hideout:  Have you ever pretended having to poop just so you could sit in the bathroom by yourself for an extra ten minutes in peace and quiet?  A single parent has.

Have an Alter Ego:  Have you ever been referred to as “Mom,” “Hey Mom,” “Mommy,” “Mom,” “Ma,” “Hey Mom” (or “Dad,” “Hey Dad,” “Daddy,” “Dad,” “Hey Dad”)  more times in a day than you have by your real first name?  A single parent has.

Have a Love Interest:  Have you ever felt a love so whole and complete you couldn’t imagine your life without the ones who filled you with that love or remember your life before it?  A single parent has.

Have a Cool Ride:  Do you drive a vehicle that can fit twice as much cargo and old french fries in it as the manual in the glove compartment says it can?  A single parent does.

Have a Goal:  Have you ever dreamed about the night you may actually get to go out with fellow adults and have adult beverages and adult conversations without worrying that your kids are going to go bat-poop-crazy on each other while you’re gone?  A single parent has.

To all single parents – You are my superheroes.  I hope your kids grow up to be as resilient and tough as you are.


“Suppose you were the last one left? Suppose you did that to yourself?” ~Cormac McCarthy


Okay, so today’s post is going to be a little different than my usual ones.  You can thank some of my coworkers for that.  So I come in to work this morning, unusually bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a Monday morning (an early Monday morning, at that), and [obviously] the very first thing I do is go to the kitchen for coffee.  I mean, how else am I supposed to make it to lunchtime without chewing someone’s head off?  Well, I get within 50 feet of the kitchen, and I can already smell someone’s breakfast.  I’m sure right now you’re thinking, “What did you smell, Alicia?  Delicious bacon, maybe?  Or some warm oatmeal?”  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Nope, it wasn’t bacon or oatmeal… IT WAS FISH!!!  Yep, that’s right.  You heard me correctly.  FISH.  Now, it’s your prerogative if you want to eat disgusting, microwaved, salmon for breakfast in your own home, but WHY on God’s green earth would you subject me to smelling that at 8:00 on a Monday morning?  WHY, I ask?  WHY???  Fishy smells aren’t really that pleasant any time of day; however, rest assured – They’re even more disgusting first thing in the morning.  Take my word for it, if you’ve never experienced it.  The entire kitchen oozed raunchy, foul fish.  How can that even be appetizing to someone?  Clearly, whoever heated up their fish must be suffering from a [very] stuffy nose this morning.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t.  What’s worse is that yesterday, while recovering from the weekend and trying to prepare the boys for school today, I cleaned out my car, and Gerald had forgotten to take his lunch box out of it.  I brought it inside and emptied out its contents so he could make his lunch for today.  Guess what I found in there?  Nope, not just Fruit Roll-Up wrappers and sticky pudding spoons… I found one of my Tupperware bowls in there.  Well, what’s the big deal with that, you’re wondering, right?  Well, the big deal is that there was still macaroni and cheese in said bowl.  And it was 80 degrees here all weekend, making it more like 100 degrees in my car.  My first mistake was trying to save my bowl.  I knew when I made that decision that I was making the wrong one.  I should have just tossed the whole thing.  But… I love Tupperware, and I didn’t want to part with my favorite bowl with the cool vented lid.  Oh.  Em.  Gee.  BIG MISTAKE, PEOPLE.  Big mistake.  It reeked of sour, rotten milk.  And Gerald, of all people, had the nerve to gag!  Any of you who know me that I have a very sensitive gag reflex (sorry, TMI).  The mere sound of him gagging, coupled with the curdled milk smell, was enough to make me have to hold in the very mess that was forming in my throat.  Needless to say, I had finally recovered from that this morning when I walk in to fish hell.  I don’t know what I did to tick someone off, but someone must be trying to get sweet revenge.  Hmphh…


“It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.” ~Dylan Thomas


Do your kids ever fight?  Well, mine give sibling rivalry a whole new meaning.  You haven’t seen fighting until you’ve spent five minutes with Gerald and Ronald.  Seriously.  Five minutes.  That’s all it takes.  So, today I thought we would be golden and fight-free… Ronald had a field trip all day, so he didn’t have to do any work.  When we got back to the school, I signed him out early.  Then I let Gerald walk from school with his two best friends so he didn’t have to ride the bus.  Neither of them had baseball practice today, so they got to play the Xbox all afternoon.  That should be Heaven for an 11- and 13-year-old, right, and guarantee me at least one day of no fighting?  Well, not for MY kids.  Nooooo… that would be asking too much.  That would be like me asking for snow in July.  It can’t happen.  From the second Gerald walked in the door from school, here’s what I’ve heard [verbatim]:

“Mooooom, my brother’s blinking at me.”

“Mooooom, my brother farted next to me.”

“Mooooom, my brother won’t let me have a turn playing the game.”

“Mooooom, my brother ate the last piece of cornbread.”

“Mooooom, my brother pooped right before it was my turn in the shower.” 

“Mooooom, my brother is breathing too hard.”

“Mooooom, my brother called me ugly.”

“Mooooom, my brother’s chewing too loud.”

“Mooooom, my brother just tried to touch my butt.”

“Mooooom, my brother’s pretending to stab my eye out with his knife.”

As usual, when dealing with these two, I learned a few valuable lessons today.

1. Don’t make steak (or anything else that requires a knife) for dinner.

2. Ignoring them does not help.  They only yell louder.

3. I should change my name.  Now.

4. Pretending to be invisible doesn’t work.  They know I’m still here, and they keep finding me.

Please, someone… HELP.  Get me out of here!!!


“The good thing about being old is not being young.” ~Stephen Richards


Okay, so I thought that making the transition from my 20s to my 30s is what would officially mean I was “old.”  I was wrong.  The true sign of my senior status (in my kids’ eyes, at least) happened this morning.  As Gerald and I were sitting in the car together, wasting time before he had to go into school, the following conversation took place.  [Please note that in addition to the actual words that were spoken, I am also going to throw in those thoughts that were never actually spoken out loud…]  Our conversation went as follows:

Gerald:  Hey Mom, who is Robert De Niro?

Me:  [Are you kidding me?]  Robert De Niro?  [Am I that old – geez?]  Only one of the best actors of all time.

Gerald:  Really?  Oh.  Is he black?

Me:  What?!  No!!!  [You’ve got to be kidding me!]

Gerald:  Hmm.  Well, what is he in?

Me:  The Godfather, man!  And Goodfellas!  [Are you freaking kidding me?!]

Gerald:  I’ve never heard of those.  Are you sure he’s really popular, Mom?

Me:  [Omg.  You’re kidding…]  Yep, I’m sure.  He’s one of the best, honey.

Gerald:  Oh.  Well maybe only old people know who he is then.

Me:  [Swinging blindly into the back seat where Gerald’s sitting.  Come here, you little rat..!]  No, I don’t think so.  He was in Meet the Fockers.  That’s not that old. 

Gerald:  Ooohhhh!  Why didn’t you say that one first, Mom?  Now I know who he is!  I love that movie – maybe Ronald and I will watch it again this weekend!

Me:  Oh, good.  [Enjoy it, you little focker.  It may be the last movie you ever watch.]

Lesson I learned this morning:  I’m officially a failure as a parent.  My kids don’t even know who The Godfather is.  Guess what we’re really watching this weekend?


“Dark circles under my eyes sink deeper and deeper into my skull, in contrast to my pale skin there is an undeniable resemblance to a fresh corpse.” ~Dee Remy


The two things I’m sure of in life are as follows:  1. I am EXHAUSTED.  2. My kids are freaking awesome.  Seriously, I have no idea how they do everything that they do.  I understand that kids have more energy than those of us from the “olden days,” as the boys so affectionately call it, but I don’t ever remember having even close to the amount of energy that they have.  We always tell our kids that they have it easy because they’re still kids.  WRONG!   I mean, yes it’s true that they don’t have to have jobs or pay bills, but they still work their little butts off every day!  Think about it… the average adult works an 8-hour day, right?  Well, my kids, like many others, work 7 hours a day at school and then after that, work another 2 to 3 at whatever sport’s practice ’tis the season for.  They wake up at the butt crack of

Photo by Alicia Benton

Photo by Alicia Benton

dawn, and go to school, where they don’t just sit and daydream all day.  (They’re terrified of suffering my wrath if they bring home a bad report card.)  They work hard, listen well, and study hard.  And on top of that, they have to deal with the awful pressures of middle school… the bullying, the labeling, and the constant attempt at fitting in somewhere.  [I HATED middle school and would never ever ever go back.]  Then after being in school all day, they come home, do their homework, and rush off to sport’s practice.  Keep in mind, my kids play a sport every season.  They get about a three-week break in the summer, but the rest of their year is spent playing football, baseball, basketball, or wrestling.  Any of you who’ve played a sport before know that it takes hard-work and dedication to succeed.  And RUNNING!  Tons of RUNNING!!!  They remind me of Forrest Gump they run so much.  By the time practice is over, I’M exhausted.  I know that they must be.  And then, what amazes me, is that the next morning, they wake up and do it all over again (without getting a paycheck every two weeks).  They are ah-maze-ing.  This time change has thoroughly kicked my butt.  And this morning?  Forget it.  It was dark and rainy.  It’s a miracle that I even got myself out of bed, much less the boys too.  I look like death and can’t even function before my first cup of coffee.  And Lord knows, don’t ever try to have a conversation with me before that glorious liquid crack kicks in.  I came to work this morning, complaining incessantly that I was exhausted.  Then I had to stop, shut up, and remind myself that Gerald and Ronald are really the ones who should be complaining of exhaustion.  (Please don’t give them any ideas…)  They work their little butts off constantly and don’t even get to drink coffee!  Next time I feel like whining about how tired I am, all I need to do is look, with pure awe, at my two little men.  They make me so proud, and I’m constantly amazed by them and their resilience and commitment.  I, of all people, have no right to complain about being tired.  My desk job doesn’t look so bad after all…  


“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~Ian Wallace


20121031_172630I don’t understand what all the hype is about fitting in with some overrated clique.  For me personally, I don’t want to be where I don’t feel like I’m not wanted for who I am.  Am I crazy?  When I watch Gerald and Ronald, I’m amazed at the differences between them when it comes to belonging.  Gerald is my child whom I can always count on to come home with a crazy, albeit urgent, request for the latest fad.  You know those necklaces that baseball players wear?  Well he has every team.  Elite socks?  He has every color.  My poor child would have had a Justin Bieber haircut at one point in his life if his quasi-afro would’ve cooperated.  Every time he comes to me with a new request, and I ask him why he has to have this latest “thing,” he tells me (with no shame) that “all of his friends have it.”  Ronald, on the other hand, loves being different.  His full-blown afro is the biggest I’ve ever seen… and he just asked me if I can dye it purple!  No kidding…  He never [ever] matches when he goes to school in the morning, and when Gerald tells him that, his response is always, “I don’t care.”  Now, being my overly controlling self, I used to have a terrible time letting him walk out of the house wearing orange shorts, a green shirt, and sneakers without shoelaces, but I finally came to the conclusion that if that’s what makes him happy, then I’ll learn to pick my battles.  Believe me when I tell you, there are countless more battles waiting for me every day with these two!  They’re pretty much even when it comes to friends and popularity, so what’s the difference with one conforming and the other paving his own way?  They’re both happy children (except when I’m the worst mom ever and they’re not getting their own way), and they’re loved by their family, friends, and teachers.  I have to admit:  They’re teaching me some crazy valuable life lessons.  It’s okay to be different.  And it’s okay to be the same, too.  We should all do what makes us comfortable, regardless of what everyone else thinks about it.  Thanks boys.


Tiffany Kleiman ~ Author

“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as s/he finishes the book.” ~ Roald Dahl, WD

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