Maggie’s obsession with carousels began six months ago when Nettie, her grandma, brought her a coloring book with sketches of horses. The cover featured an intricately adorned carousel in Tennessee. Maggie was hooked. She began begging to ride carousels and asked questions about them daily. I blamed Nettie for that.


Maggie’s first carousel ride was a little anticlimactic; the carousel, a rickety three-horse ride at Wal-Mart, wasn’t working properly. We deposited coins while she giggled and shouted with glee. And nothing happened.

Maggie kept riding, though. She pretended the horses were whinnying, kicking, and dancing. She sat atop that broken carousel for at least five minutes while we watched, amused.

A few months later, she rode an antique carousel at the zoo. I’ll never forget her face while the breeze caught her golden hair, her eyes closed and tiny teeth shining in the June light.

part0_13 (1)Nettie brought Maggie a toy carousel a few weeks later. The carousel’s status surpassed that of her “snowballs,” globes swirling with white plastic specks, sparkling glitter surrounding Baby Jesus and his mother.

I knew Maggie loved her carousel, but I barely noticed it. When she pushed a red button, the Christmas-themed figurine played electronic carols. I couldn’t make it through two of them without distracting her to play with something else or leaving the room to finish loading the dishwasher.

Until last night, I had never heard all the songs the carousel carries. We lay in bed together, the three of us, watching the mirrored column in the center of the ride scatter its green and red lights around her bedroom. She showed me which horse she loves most on the carousel and explained why. I hummed along to the tunes and held her soft, squishy hand and rubbed her warm, smooth back.

Six months had passed, and I’d never heard the music.

How much beauty in small places do I miss?

I often ask myself, “How important is it?” I typically prioritize big, urgent, prominent things. Work. Marketing. Chores. Meetings. Writing. Scheduled events.

Last night, I saw the world through Maggie’s eyes once again.

From now on, my response to that rhetorical question when presented with moments like this will be “Top priority.”


Mama said, part 7

“Starving kids in Africa would love that pork chop,” my mom stated, twirling her spaghetti around her fork.

My good little eater, Maggie

My good little eater, Maggie

I rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed. I fidgeted. I kicked the table leg.

“Then give me an envelope. They can have it,” I narrowed my eyes.

Bad move, Bethany.

In one fell swoop, my plate was removed from the table, I consumed a tablespoon of peanut butter, and my mom swatted my heinous hind end and sent me to bed a full hour before sunset.

And that’s the way it went on more than one occasion. My mom didn’t tolerate whining, and she didn’t put up with picky eaters. Sure, she let me eat my spaghetti sauce separate from my noodles. And she didn’t make me eat green beans very often since they were my absolute least favorite food on the planet. But by and large, my mom cooked, and we ate. Period.

The only other choice was to eat a big spoonful of peanut butter and head straight to bed. As an adventurous, fearless, and athletic girl, this option was usually more dreaded than downing canned spinach.

Despite its employment as a discipline tool, I grew to love peanut butter. My favorite sandwich is a fried peanut butter and marshmallow creme pile of goodness. My favorite snack is peanut butter and graham crackers. My favorite childhood snack is Cracker Jacks. My favorite dishes at most American-Chinese restaurants are pad thai and kung pao chicken.

Clearly, I’m nuts about peanuts.

My fabulous peanut butter cookies

My fabulous peanut butter cookies

But after having a severe allergic reaction on Monday, most likely to peanut butter, I’m grieving the loss of all that delicious stuff. It sounds silly, but I’m really going to miss peanut butter. Not a huge fan of meat, I literally ate peanut butter on a daily basis—partly for the protein, but mostly for the pure love of the stuff. I mourn the loss of the opportunity to bake the most amazing peanut butter cookies on the planet for my daughter someday. I will not be able to mimic the best discipline tool ever for picky eaters, employed many times by my mother—eat a spoonful of peanut butter and go to bed early. I won’t pleasure in the delightful combinations of peanut butter and caramel, peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and chocolate… alas.

After moping around for a few days, though, I decided to do myself a real solid and put my big girl panties on even though I honestly didn’t feel like it. I started reading labels on items in our pantry. We scoured the shelves of Wal-Mart for peanut butter alternatives and found a few substitutes. I vowed to look upon this situation as an opportunity to improve my diet and to shed the 10 stubborn pounds of baby weight that have perched themselves happily around my waist.

A wise woman I know once said, “Stop making mountains out of molehills. It’s like pole vaulting over mouse turds.” It’s just peanut butter, after all.

I don’t want to spend any more time missing what I can’t have. I’d rather enjoy what I can and be grateful for what I have.

Excuse me while I savor this almond butter, please.

The upward climb

I know, I know. 32 is technically NOT over the hill. Lately, though, I’ve become increasingly aware of how old I am. Or how old I feel, maybe.

It’s not all bad. For the most part, actually, I’m grateful to be who I am today versus who I was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago. However, there are a few negatives. As my boss pointed out the other day when taking her family Christmas pictures, when you get past 30, things start to go downhill. Even if no one else notices, YOU notice. Double chin-ness. Certain body parts just not quite as perky as they once were. Tiny wrinkles around the corners of the eyes. You know what I’m talking about!

Laughing at myself and at things that are not 100% pleasant often makes my life a little better, so I thought I’d share some of the signs that I’m over the hill–or at least climbing up it.

  1. My stance on leggings. Yes, leggings. I’m adamantly against leggings worn by any female who is not pre-pubescent. They look more appropriate if worn beneath an actual dress rather than a shirt, but still, come on. Who wants to see our crotches or our butt cracks perfectly outlined in a pair of leggings? Well, obviously there are some who want to see… but I don’t really want to show all my business to the world. Once you have hips, you shouldn’t be wearing leggings unless it’s as a joke, for working out, or for cleaning the house. Period.
  2. Constantly saying things like, “Oh! I taught her gymnastics when she was 5.” And now she’s 20. Or seeing marriage and birth announcements of children you taught in school or babysat. These moments have been increasing at an alarming rate. I cannot even stop myself from verbalizing how old I am by commenting on these things to people around me. Dear Lord…
  3. The realization that your ovaries have just a few good years left. Seriously. Statistically speaking, having a baby over 35 carries with it lots of increased health risks for both baby and mother. Can it be done and nothing go wrong? Absolutely. But yikes. I wouldn’t say that “my clock is ticking” in an emotional sense, but I’ve definitely become aware that I have to poop or get off the pot… so to speak.
  4. The discovery of gray hair. For years, I’ve dyed my hair because my hairstylist recommended it so that it’d be easier to fix since I have super thin, fine hair. It does damage it, and it makes it feel and look fuller. But a few months ago, James discovered a lone gray hair. So I’ve transitioned from “because I like it” to “because I am not ready to have gray hair (not even one!).”
  5. The consistent preference to stay home rather than go out. I’ve always been slightly introverted, so this is nothing totally new. But I find that I really have no desire most of the time to go to parties or functions involving a lot of shallow socializing opportunities. Don’t get me wrong–I love seeing my good friends and spending time with them. But going out for the sake of going out is just something I am way over.
  6. Body parts just don’t heal as quickly as they used to. I did a backbend a few weeks ago, and for two weeks, my lower back was killing me. Sure, I’m not in perfect shape, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad :). About a year and a half ago, I tore my quad running to second base in kickball, beer in hand the entire time. And it took two months to heal.
  7. Books over television. Most of the time, I’d rather read than watch–whether it be books, magazines, or newspapers. This hasn’t always been the case. I prefer quiet to noise at about a 8:1 ratio.
  8. Grumpiness toward other people’s children. I find myself less entertained and amused by the shenanigans of unruly or rude children and more and more irritated by them. You know the old saying, “Hey kids, get off my lawn?” Well, that’s pretty much me these days.
  9. The preference of comfort over fashion. I constantly find myself dressing for work and choosing a baggy sweater rather than a form-fitting one. I’ve never been super trendy or indiscreet in the way I dress, but I have definitely lost the desire to show off my body or care what people think about how cute I am. I know I’m attractive. It doesn’t matter if you agree :).
  10. Last but not least, I’m more focused on what matters and less focused on what doesn’t. I find that I’m more easy-going than I used to be because I am learning that when I ask myself, “how important is it?” I am choosing to answer honestly. It’s just not that important. And I can let it go. I want to spend my time wisely–thinking, learning, praying, loving, enjoying life. I don’t want to waste any more of it worrying or daydreaming about things I can’t change or control. I just want to live life right now. And it’s taken me 32 years to get to this point.

I guess it was worth the climb after all.