Elvis has left the garage

Elvis costumeI remember going to an Elvis concert in Atlanta years ago. It was an experience I will never forget.

He looked quite spectacular in his tight, white silk bell bottom (now referred to as “boot cut”) pants, with the collar turned up on his matching white silk shirt. Of course, fringe ran all the way down the outside of his pants and the sleeves of the shirt and shimmered as he moved. The outfit was complete with gold chains layered around his neck, a wide belt with a flashy buckle, and big sunglasses that I’m sure he needed in order to see his captivated fans more clearly. He wore his signature Elvis cape and held a silk scarf that he wiped his brow with before he threw it into the audience. We were sitting so close to the stage that I just knew he looked right at me, wiggled those hips in true Elvis fashion, and smiled. Oh me, oh my…how I did sigh!

When Elvis left the stage, the traditional last words spoken in a deep voice from behind the curtain, said, “Elvis has l-e-f-t the building,” and then the lights went out. Sigh again…only the memory was left behind.

For years after that, anytime Bill and I went to a costume party, we always went as Elvis and Priscilla. Bill could not only imitate the Elvis mannerisms, but could sing in that same deep, charismatic voice. I, on the other hand, would be the swooning Priscilla, hanging on to every word in the song, and waiting for the scarf to be thrown to me. To add to our authenticity, friends had fun creating a real Elvis outfit from a resale store, polyester fabric for a cape and scarf, a black wig, oversized sunglasses, a huge macramé belt (formerly a wall hanging), and chains (that were used to hang plants) to wear around his neck. My black bell bottom pants and top, along with plastic jewelry, was also completed with a wig.

As the years went by, “Elvis” was packed away in a box, in our garage, with cherished memories of the fun and laughter Bill and I shared together.

Not long ago when cleaning out the garage, I came across the box marked, “Elvis”. I went through our costumes and recalled every crazy, wonderful memory they held. It was time to pass along the box to another couple who loved costume parties and would carry on the Elvis and Priscilla tradition in grand style.

Why am I telling you this story from the pages of my life? For this very reason:  Don’t miss the moment, my friends. Capture the memories of fun and laugher. Create traditions as a couple, or as a family. It’s never too soon, and it’s never too late, to make memories together. Start now.

One day, you’ll be like me when you’re going through an old box of memories. You’ll look back over the years and smile, and be ever so grateful the memories are left behind.

Susan Miller signature

Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

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Right Under Your Nose

mother and daughterWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say, “It’s right under your nose, Susan!” In our family that always meant, what you are looking for, or what you need to do, or say, is so obvious!

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. It was so obvious, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!” I acted on it immediately, and reaped the reward of being spontaneous and flexible with a dear friend.

So—what are some of the things that are “right under your nose” this year? Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change, or a new habit you want to cultivate. It could be a word you want to leave out, or perhaps add to, your vocabulary. You might want to write a note to someone encouraging them through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness. Is it something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make?

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places, and making all the wrong choices this past year—to fill a need, to avoid the obvious, to cloud your judgment, to distract you from what’s important, to keep you from doing the right thing—when it’s been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan Miller