Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teachable Moments

When things go wrong in your life, do you try to hide them, brave them on your own, or make excuses for them? OR, do you see them as one more piece of your human journey that can be used to learn, gain support and to teach your children?

Whether it's an incident of teen drinking, a car crash on the news, or a challenging situation at work, I like to take a few moments to discuss it with my kids. I tell them the story, explain what I think about it, and then give them some ideas about proper responses to those situations.

I know they will still make mistakes, but I hope that some of the things I say will stick with them when they are faced with a choice. I'm grateful that we have choices in this country, but sometimes it makes parenting very challenging!! Every chance I get, I hope to provide some context and wisdom, from how to wash a load of clothes to how to handle sexual advances.

As children get older, we can't protect them from every heartbreak or wrong turn. But at least by talking regularly, we leave our door open to offer help when they ask. Boy oh boy, I hope they ask!!

By the way, if you want several ideas to a dilemma you are facing, I recommend a new book hot off the press. I was one of 35 contributors, and I must say it's a handy go-to resource when you're challenged with young children. Check it out! And blessings on your family!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Love at First Sight

“I can’t believe I’m holding him in my arms and he’s mine!”

I hear these words from my daughter and my heart stops for a beat. Something stirs from years ago when she was placed in my arms and I felt that same love at first sight.

She is only 10. Her first love is a kitten. She is already acting like a joyful new mom.

The instinct to love and protect is awesome. I feel it so intensely for my children that when they get the slightest hurt my whole body surges with electricity ready to fight off the danger for them. I know that if anyone or anything approached my daughters as a threat, I would take them down with super strength, my teeth clenched and fire in my brain. It’s just instinct.

Other relationships have been harder.

Even with my mother, the earliest intimate relationship of my life, there was a time when talking to her and seeing her was more stressful than joyful. She was my world for so many years. I sought her approval, her attention, her time. But in order to figure out who I was, we had to go our separate ways for a while. It took time to build an adult relationship, yet still appreciate the motherly nurturing of years past.

Then there is my father. Artistic. Quiet. Helpful in the way dads are with cars or moving to a new apartment. We picked our way through the messyness of adulthood back to each other. Our common ground is work, his grandchildren, travel and gardening. He buys a certain flowering plant every year in memory of his own mother. She died too soon and we both adored her, another thing in common.

I’ve had to learn over the years how to be a better daughter, sister, wife and friend. Mothering has come the easiest, maybe because the girls are literally part of me. I still struggle with the other relationships, sometimes opening my mouth like eldest kids often do — when no one asked my opinion. I get insecure, impatient, impractical, impossible. Like below-zero temps in February, I’m sometimes downright awful. Full of darkness.

Former parish minister and author Barbara Brown Taylor says, “I need darkness as much as I need light. I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again.”

I’m not sure I can embrace the darkness as just another part of me yet. I’ll have to read more of her book. Good mothers and wives and sisters and friends don’t act like jerks. They don’t act selfish and fatigued and triggered. They are supposed to be patient and focused on the comfort of others. They are supposed to wake up grateful for another chance to serve under God’s bright blue sky.

Then again, is that what I should demand of my daughters? That they’ll never fail? They will. Their lives will be messy. They will suffer for love. Animals and people will leave them one way or another. They will have to find their way back from the abyss, from whatever the world dishes out.

Darkness. Light. Pain. Love. Seeing my daughter with the little gray bundle she calls Toby, I ache from that smile on her face. It is love at first sight. Her love. Her life.

I only hope that when the darkness comes, she’ll know that her parents and sister and friends will help her figure it out…creating a new, stronger relationship from the hardships. Maybe that’s the true test of love, what we do after first sight.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Flu Shot and Other Truths I Hate to Admit

I have been sick for a month. And I'm sick of it.

A cold turned into the flu turned into a sinus infection that makes my teeth hurt.

This is what I get for believing the flu shot is a government conspiracy to collect copious amounts of human data.

The problem is, I rarely get sick, and this illness snobbery has made me feel quite superior...until now.

Can you imagine if I got more than the flu? I am already shuffling around in my slippers, exhaling in loud sighs, insisting on naps and absolute quiet, leaving dirty dishes in the sink and watching too much reality television on Bravo (what's up with that Millionaire Matchmaker anyway?). I am grouchier than a traffic cop in February...or any Minnesotan right now.

I feel like the ladies in the Prego commercials who realize they've been buying the wrong pasta sauce all along. ("If I can get sick for a month, what other questionable choices have I made?")

Ooh, my husband is going to love this...

Just off the top of my head:

I was wrong about pelicans in Minnesota. They do exist!
I was wrong to love Robert Downey Jr. (Narcissist...although great actor...ok I love him again.)
I did not believe that a season of marching band would kick my butt (consider it kicked).
I was wrong to buy Cheese Nips. They are NOT the same as Cheez-Its.
I was wrong to think that aging is graceful. I can't find my waist because my boobs are hiding it now.

This is a pretty short list. I guess it's because I'm right most of the time.

Well, the real truth is I can't write about everything I am wrong about in such a public forum. We'll leave that stuff for my tell-all memoir when everyone I care about is dead...if the flu (or the government conspiracies) don't kill me first.

Heavy...loud...sigh. I need a nap.

Matthew 6:34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Monday, January 13, 2014

A New Serenity

In our home, we eat a lot of meals at the breakfast bar because it’s easy to serve up the plates and get to it. The kids sit on stools on one side and I’ll stand in the kitchen, ready to grab salt and pepper or fill their water glasses. But one recent Sunday night I performed this ritual like always and something strange happened. My daughter picked up her plate and started leaving the kitchen.

“Oh!” I said. “Do you want to sit at the table tonight?”

She smiled and nodded.

We all sat at the kitchen table together and it reminded me of my theme for 2014: A New Serenity.

Here are a few examples of what “a new serenity” means to me. I hope it can help you dream up reasons for keeping calm and carrying on this year.

A New Serenity means:

• I can walk a few paces around my breakfast bar to the table, sit on my rear and let my growing children teach me something new, like making eye contact.

• On Friday afternoons, I can clock out of work and acknowledge all I accomplished since Monday. Dang, I’m good!

• Singing and playing an instrument, or public speaking, is fun instead of scary. Otherwise, why am I doing this???

• Sleep is an important to-do item that I like to accomplish every day.

• Laughing, especially at myself, reduces the seven visible signs of aging.

• Big, messy dogs make excellent exercise partners.

• I trust that the world can spin uncontrollably without me.

A new serenity doesn’t come from a bestselling book, a kale diet or shoes (and I like shoes). It comes from mind and heart in harmony with ordinary time. Not perfect. Not splashy. Just exciting the atoms in my monkey brain. But I have to recognize the beauty like a hummingbird…dipping into flowers one minute, zipping over my roof the next.

My point is, don’t miss it when it’s smacking your face. Smile and keep it in that mind pocket reserved for your best-ever kiss and the carnival pony ride when you were 4.

I’m not dumb. A new serenity doesn’t mean I’ll never experience pain. In fact, it’s the knowledge of that pain – past, present and what’s to come – that makes serenity so powerful. If I never get this zen moment again, why spend it worrying that I left the stove on?

Maybe all this talk of serenity is just a carbohydrate hangover. Then again, it’s the knowledge that even as I spent quiet time with family and friends during Christmas, there were others not so fortunate who were restless, angry, lonely or in grief. I’ve been there too, and moving through those painful times gives me a huge appreciation for what I’ve lost, let go and gained.

We can’t keep serenity like our favorite shoes. That’s why it’s so important. It's like no matter how much we’ve messed up, beat up, misstepped, mistaken and misbehaved, we are dearly loved to our split ends and unpolished toes. With nothing to lose and nothing to gain, life is a series of whispers to be you in every time.

Sit. Eat. Bliss.

To your serenity this year, friends.
Romans 12