A Quick Look Back

This originally appeared in 2012 but all of it still applies today, although my children are older and succeeding in very different ways. My oldest is living in his first post college apartment and is engaged. My middle is beginning his first college co-op job and my youngest is getting ready to drive my life is still blessed, the blog has been reborn and I’m truly looking forward to the blessings of 2017  

A Quick Look Back at 2012

There’s nothing like New Year’s Eve to inspire you to wax nostalgic over the past year’s events, and this year has been a doozy. For me, this has been a year of great change, great perspective shift and great blessings. I’ve weathered some of the changes better than others, but all in all, it’s been one heck of a good year.
The biggest change this year was in the area of motherhood for me. My oldest child graduated from high school and left to go away to college. Although he wouldn’t want me to say it, he reminds me a lot of myself at that age. He is doing well at college and finding his way to adulthood with little to no drama. He likes who he is and that is no small feat for a teenage male. My youngest child also entered junior high, so my days of parenting elementary aged children is over. I watch my nieces and nephews in the throes of raising infants, toddlers and elementary aged children and know it will be over quicker than they imagine. I enjoyed those days, and I look back with very few regrets, and that is a beautiful thing. The other big change for me was starting this blog. I was inspired by the father of a classmate of my oldest son who began a blog as he discovered he had cancer. He only lived a few months after his diagnosis, but his impact on my life is ever lasting. I began writing again, not just for myself, but for the public to read, and the joy I get from writing and sharing and learning is something I will continue to thank him for the rest of my life.
My change in perspective was the result of a dedication to spiritual growth this year. The process has been interesting, and for the first time in my life, I understand wisdom. I’ve always been a person who prized knowledge, and I still do, but now I understand that wisdom is so much more important than knowledge and when you have both, the result is pure bliss. I live and love better because of wisdom and I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and can teach because of this journey. The biggest shift was realizing that the life I have, although it’s far from perfect, is perfect for me.
Then there are the blessings. They are too many to count but there are a few worth sharing. We found out that our youngest child is one of the healthiest children in the city who has his life threatening medical condition. The term his doctor used was “rock star”. Who could ask for more than that? We were given a wonderful gift from a friend that blessed each of us. The friend wishes for the gift and the giver to remain anonymous, and I respect that, but I feel the need to publicly acknowledge that kindness because it was life altering and affirmed the goodness of humankind for us all. We are paying it forward in every way we can. There is also one more blessing that may sound strange to some, but it has been such a force for me that I have to talk about it and that is the internet. Because of the internet, I can share my thoughts and connect through this blog. Because of the internet and Facebook, I have connected with friends from my past and family across the country, and I’ve “met” people from around the world who care about and support each other in ways I never thought possible. Because of the internet, I have found positive and inspirational sites that have inspired me to become a better person. I know there is a lot of ugly and destructive material out there, but for me, the internet is a connection to what is best in this world, and I am blessed every day by its existence. There are many more people, events and things that have blessed my life this year, but there aren’t enough words to cover them all. Let’s just say, “My cup runneth over.”
I know that the “cup” is usually a metaphor, but in our home, we actually have blessing cups that my children made as part of their religious education. They made them just before they made their first communion. They are a symbol in the Catholic religion of the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ. Many children make them and never think about them again. In our home, we get them out a couple of times per year and fill them with chocolate milk, juice or water. We take turns going around the table to count our blessings. We also pray for blessings for others in our lives who may be struggling. It’s a small way to give back that gives us great pleasure.
So as we wind down the year and look to the next, I am grateful that the spirit and the internet have brought us into each other’s lives. I am grateful for words and the talent I’ve been given to use them. I’m grateful for my family, my friends and my life, and my wish for you is that your cup runneth over like mine so that we can bless others with our overflow. And if you’re lifting a glass at midnight tonight, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to not only be thankful for your own blessings, but also to pass a few on to those who need it. It’s a great way to end and begin a year. Thanks for being you and have a great 

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Thirty Days of Thanks – Election Edition

Every year I spend the month of November sharing what I am thankful for on social media like many others do.  Instead of writing about the traditional things many are grateful for, though, I try to look for more obscure things to appreciate and share in hopes that someone who lives a different life from me will find themselves being a bit more grateful as well.  This year has been a challenge some days.  If you watch the news, it seems the US is coming apart at the seams.  In the election, many feel as if everything that is wrong with our culture won.  Many others feel that the election results are a victory over corruption.

I am currently sitting in the home of two gay men I love dearly in a city that is still feeling the effects of a massacre of that very population by a Muslim extremist.  It was a hate crime that didn’t change my views of gay people or Muslims.  This week I listened to people passionately debate against one candidate or another.  I never really heard anyone lobby for a particular candidate, rather it was a plea not to let the more abhorrent one win.  Some people are quite relieved by the outcome. Some are enraged.  I am neither, which some would say is because I am white and straight, but I would have felt the same way had the outcome been in favor of the other candidate.  You see, I am the same person I was the day before and the day of the election.  I am a human being who refuses to hate.  I love my friends and family, including those of other races, other cultures, other sexual orientations and other religious or non religious beliefs.  I love my family and friends who are part of law enforcement, and I love my family and friends of color.  I refuse to let the outcome of this election change me because I decided long ago that I would be the change I want to see in this world, and the thing I want to see more of is love.

What that has done for me is to make it easier to disagree with people and still love them.  I have learned that no matter what I say, some people will be offended, even when everything I say comes from a place of love.  Do you want to know why?  It’s because I cannot change how people see themselves in the world.  If people are afraid, I cannot change that except to tell them I love them.  Do I struggle to accept some attitudes and behaviors?  Of course I do, and I have spoken up when people are abusive to others.  I’ve been viewed as a traitor because I speak my truth and because I refuse to vilify others.  It hurts, but I continue to do it.  Those who know me sometimes find me hard to understand because I strive to see both sides of a situation, and I rarely fall on one side or another on controversial issues.  For example, I know some extremely responsible gun owners who have used their prowess with firearms to feed their family in times of financial difficulty, and I know people who have conceal carry licenses who scare the daylights out of me.  Taking away everyone’s guns does not seem to be the answer, but our current vetting process is lacking as well, and before anyone brings it up,  automatic weapons are already illegal in this country, and yet they exist.  I don’t have the answers, but until we are willing to have the conversation instead of insisting on a blanket solution, we aren’t helping the situation at all.

I am also the mother of three white males and the wife of a white male, the group that everyone seems to want to blame for all the ills of our country right now.  The men in my immediate family have never committed a crime.  They have friends and significant others of different races, religions and creeds.  My husband is the most decent man I have ever met, and my sons are lucky to have him as their role model.  They understand the plight of those who are different and accept those differences sometimes better than I do, but they also understand that as much as I might struggle with acceptance, that struggle does not come from judgment.  It comes from a lack of understanding, which is why I can be incredibly annoying with the number of questions I ask.  I don’t ask to judge.  I ask to understand, and today I have realized that my gratitude for this day is just that; I am grateful for my willingness and wanting to understand.  I am grateful that I have taken the time to talk with others about why they intended to vote as they did.  I understand the fear that both sides have that someone is trying to destroy them, and it makes me sad for both.  My prayer, my hope and my continued mission will be to understand and share what I learn along the way.  It may not solve a single thing, but it is the best way I can move forward. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.   

Who I Am Raising My Sons to Be

Last night we had the same struggle we’ve been having for fourteen years in my house; the drama of garbage night.  Collecting the trash, taking it and the recyclables to the large wheeled containers and taking it to the curb has always been a job for one or more of my three boys.  For some reason, they hate it and have spent countless hours avoiding it and having me fuss and sometimes yell at them because of it.  It seems stupid to them that they have to do it.  It seems stupid to me that they will spend hours avoiding a task that takes less than ten minutes out of their week to accomplish, and it has happened with all of my boys, not just one or two.

 

This week it happened again.  My youngest son is only a week post-surgery and is supposed to avoid lifting anything heavy, so I didn’t want him to haul the cans to the curb.  At 10pm I reminded him to collect everything and take it to the cans and to tell his brother to take the cans to the curb.  At 11pm it still wasn’t done and I told him to get to it immediately, so he gathered the trash and piled everything by the back door, where it stayed until I got fed up at midnight and took care of it myself, and I got angry.  I knew my neighbor was already in bed so she could go to work early in the morning as I rattled down the driveway, passed her bedroom window.  I was aggravated because this stupid scenario has played out negatively so many times in my home and in others I know too.  I felt put out because of all of the mom martyrdom that bubbles up when moms end up doing a task we’ve asked our children to do, sometimes more times than we care to count.  I thought about the endless loads of laundry, meals and hours of cleaning I’ve provided, and I got angrier.  I made the 16 year old turn off the computer and get ready for bed.  I let the 19 year old, who swore he had just been informed that he was supposed to take the cans to the curb, that I was not happy with having to do this one task that is relegated to my sons and is not my job.  I told them I loved them, but I was angry and reminded my 16 year old especially that he owed me an apology, and I went to bed.

 

I’m typing this the morning after, and I admit there are still some residual resentments.  I have spent much of the morning mulling over why this bothers me so, and I finally figured it out.  These are not the men I am raising them to be.  I am raising them to be better than this, so why is it so damned difficult to get them to comply?  They just don’t see the significance.  They don’t understand that taking out the trash is the beginning of teaching them how to become men who take care of their home and their family.  They don’t understand that this is the beginning of taking them into a manhood they can be proud of.  They don’t see that this trivial task that they only have to do once per week is designed to teach them about self-discipline.  It’s such a small thing, and yet it isn’t.  Now, I understand that taking out the trash regularly won’t determine who my children become.  They can become wonderful men never taking out the trash.  They can become awful human beings after taking the trash out every week, but in our family, the beginning of responsibility and manhood begins with the trash, and I owe it to them to tell them that.  I owe it to them to let them know that everything I do, especially now, is to help them to have the best adulthood possible.

 

Years ago when I was only the mother of two preschoolers I heard the quote by Stephen Covey to begin with the end in mind.  It was a revelation to think that I should parent these little boys, not to manage their day to day behavior, but to help them be the great men I believed they could be.  I also had a preschool teacher tell me that my job as a parent was to fill my child’s bucket of self-esteem so full that the world could not poke enough holes in it to drain it dry.  This was not how I was raised or how anyone I knew was raised, but it changed my perspective.  It made me realize that I was in this parenting thing for the long haul, and that it was my job to raise good men rather than good kids.  At some point, I also realized that I was raising husbands as much as I was raising sons, and my parenting changed.  When you can look at the big picture, the little things don’t matter anymore.  You can let go of the little hurts, the tantrums (yours and theirs) and the irritations of everyday life.  You still address the issues.  You just don’t let those molehills become mountains anymore.  This is where my husband comes in.  My husband seemed to understand that from the beginning.  Very few things get him flustered.  Most days, it is one of the things I admire most about him, unless I’m fuming about something and he won’t join in, but that’s a story for another day.  I’ve learned so much from his way of approaching problems, and it has been incredibly helpful in our parenting.

 

So, why did this garbage thing bug me so much last night?  It was a combination of things.  I have approximately 82 days until my next book launch if this blog entry posts on July 14, 2016 as I intend for it to post.  I am being challenged to be incredibly self-disciplined to make this launch even more successful than the past two so when I see a lack of self-discipline in those around me, it is magnified.  That’s on me.  I took my boys out for lunch and some shopping yesterday and thanks to Pokemon Go, they were happy to tag along as I purchased items for myself and even for them.  I think I may have felt a sense of entitlement that they owed me to do their task without my constant attention to get it done.  That is on both of us; me for my sense of entitlement and them for procrastinating.  Finally, the following question popped into my head this morning, “Don’t they see that this is just a part of life and the sooner they learn that the better?” and I realized that the answer to that is no.  They don’t know the motivation behind the task.  They don’t know that I believe in them to not only take care of this task, but to grow into the incredible young men I know they can be.  They only hear me moaning and groaning about too much screen time, when what I really want to tell them is that they have other skills that impress me so much more than their ability to play a game, and I know in my heart that developing those woodworking, clock fixing and drawing skills will take them just as far in life as their game playing skills.  So, as I sit here typing and thinking about all that they can become, I’m hoping to share this with the world, but have no idea if I will.  I will give my boys the power to decide whether I share this with other parents who may need to read it.  I hope they will understand better why their dad and I do what we do and insist on certain things.  I know they won’t understand fully until they hold their first child and feel the enormity of the next 18 plus years to guide their own child to be someone amazing, but perhaps we can move on from here and have a better day and a better rest of the summer.  Perhaps they will understand the “why” of the stupid garbage, and maybe, just maybe, that will be the last time we have the great garbage struggle in Bemmesland.  A mom can dream, can’t she?

 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read what I share, and most importantly, thank for being you.  Have a great day everyone!

 

Postscript:  My boys read the blog post and gave the ok to share it, but reminded me that their computers are often how they connect with friends all over the world.  Just as many in my generation used to hang on the phone until our parents made us hang up, so my children hang on the computer.  It gave me some additional perspective and a laugh that they had no disagreement with anything else.