Sunday, December 30, 2012

Make It Count

     Over the course of the past week, I've been doing a lot of thinking.  Here is what I've concluded:

LIFE IS PRECIOUS...And I must live it accordingly.
  • I will work at my relationships.
  • I will make time for the people that I care about.
  • I will be grateful for hellos and careful with goodbyes.
  • I will not sweat the small stuff.
  • I will be quicker to agree to disagree.
  • I will love fiercely and leave no room for regret.
  • If I have something nice to say: I will say it.
  • I will forgive those in need of forgiving.
  • I will apologize when I've behaved inappropriately.
  • I will live with the intention of loving whatever life has to offer.
  • I will search for silver linings during less than desirable circumstances.
  • I will appreciate the little things that often bring the greatest amount of joy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Necessary Release

  • I snapped at Craig today...which means I'm not writing.
  • The messy house is driving me crazy...which means I'm not writing.
  • I'm on edge even after a workout...which means I'm not writing.
  • I'm craving chips and dip...which means I'm not writing.
  • I am struggling to find motivation...which means I'm not writing.

You see, I possess 3 guaranteed releases in life:
1.) Exercise: Already tried.
2.) The Unmentionable: The kids are home and Craig is not = not an option.
3.) Writing...So here I am.

And I'm already starting to feel better.  I just exhaled a deep, calming breath.

  • I realize how silly I must have sounded to Craig during my rant this morning.  No wonder he smiled.  I hate it when he does that.  Because then I smile too, before I'm done being frustrated.  Clever man.
  • I accept that the house will be messier for the next few weeks while the kids are home.  It is what it is.  And I'd rather have them 'home and messy' than 'not home and clean.'
  • At least I worked out.  I'd feel much worse if I hadn't.
  • I'll save the chips and dip for later when my salt-junkie-of-a-friend can join me.  Then I'll really enjoy my guilty pleasure.
  • I'm ready to roll now.  I took time for me.  I looked inside from the outside.  And if that's all I have to complain about?  Well, then I'm one lucky lady.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Star Strikes

     We took the kids to a charity bowling event yesterday supported by the NBA.  Usually I'm a horrible bowler.  But yesterday I was on a hot streak.  I bowled two strikes and a spare early on.  
     The attractive black man in the lane next to ours was impressed.  "Shoot!  I'm gonna have you throw my ball for me!" he said.
     I laughed.  " don't want me!  This is the best I've ever bowled!" I admitted.  
     He didn't believe me.  "Are you a hustler?" he teased.  
     "Sshhh!!!  Don't tell!" I joked back and winked at him.

     A little while later, Gabe said to me, "Mommy!  I can't believe I got to bowl with Chris Paul today!"
     "Who's Chris Paul?"  I asked.
     "MOMMY!!" he addressed me with frustration.  "How can you not know who Chris Paul is?!"
      "I don't know."  I shrugged my shoulders.  "Who is he?" I asked.
      "He's practically the best player in the entire NBA!" he professed with excitement.
     "Good for you, buddy!  Did you talk to him?" I asked.
     "Oh my gosh, Mommy!" Gabe giggled and rolled his eyes.  "Yes, I talked to him!  And so did you!" he focused on my ignorance.
     "I did?" I asked.  "Who was he?"
     "Mommy!  He was the guy that asked you to bowl for him!" he pointed out.
     "Oh!  Really?" I asked.
     "Yes!" Gabe shook his head in defeat.
     "Well, then it's a good thing I was bowling strikes today!" I said with exaggerated relief.
     "Mommy...You don't even care that it was Chris Paul?" he asked me.
     "Honey, I don't even know who Chris Paul is.  But I do know that the guy that bowled beside us today was nice and happy to be here.  And for those reasons: I like him," I told him honestly.
     "So when he's on TV blowing up the court, you're going to cheer for him because he's 'nice and happy?'" Gabe challenged with macho sarcasm.
     "Well, that and the fact that he thinks I'm cool," I nudged him playfully.
     Gabe sighed.  He knew he wasn't going to get anywhere with his dorky old mom.  
     "Well," he confessed, "I guess that's a good reason to cheer, too."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Momma Bear

     I loved being a parent today.  I got to chaperone my eight year-old twin daughters’ second grade field trip.  It was a morning full of laughter and fun.  I got to know the girls’ classmates in a relaxed atmosphere; what a great group of kids.  Their innocence made me laugh as they participated in casual conversation.  One boy told me he wanted to be a cartoonist when he grew up, even though I think he was born to be a comedian.  Another boy declared with conviction that he wanted to be an elbow doctor.  Sydney and Taylor snuck in spontaneous hugs and snuggles all morning long.  Their youthful spirit, camaraderie and light-heartedness was contagious.  My heart burst with grateful joy for this time spent with my daughters and their classmates.
     AND THEN...
     Then I heard the news of the school shooting.  
     I was crushed by the undeniable presence of evil in this world.  Tears formed in my eyes as I read the latest death toll.  I shivered with confused disgust as I imagined the horrific acts of violence committed against the innocent and unsuspecting victims.  I was flooded with panicked empathy as I tried to imagine the terror of the unknown as parents raced to the school to find out if their children were dead or alive.  I was depressed for those children and adults who will be tainted by the trauma of this one day for the rest of their lives.
     Then my compassion turned into anger.  How could anyone be so cruel?  So heartless.  So evil.  What demons could possibly possess anyone to make the choice to murder an entire Kindergarten class, among others?  I just don’t get it.
     My mind won’t stop spinning.  My heart won’t stop aching. 
     I will hug my babies tighter tonight.  I will pray for those families who can no longer do so.  And I will continue to keep a vigilant eye on the safety of my kids, no matter how paranoid I may seem.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Call Me, Baby

     Female conversation has proven that most men behave like babies when they're sick.  They expect to be doted upon and nurtured.  They shed the titles of husband and father.  They think nothing of lying in bed until they feel better.  I used to be annoyed by this.  But then one day while I was taking care of my own sick little boy it hit me: Women, we are our own worst enemies.  
     Gabe had a bad case of the flu.  Between feverish naps, he asked for chocolate milk.  Before I could answer, he rose sluggishly from the couch and started toward the refrigerator.
     "Where are you going, honey?" I asked.
     "I'm getting the milk and the chocolate for you," he volunteered.  Any other day this would have been normal.  It's what we did:  He got the ingredients.  I made the chocolate milk.  He put away the ingredients. 
     And yet I heard myself say, "Sweetie...don't get up.  I'll get you your milk.  You feel too yucky today."
     As the words came out of my mouth, I knew I was creating a monster.  But every maternal instinct I possessed would not allow him to help that day. I temporarily erased all expectations for my son because he was sick.
     Gabe was seven at the time.  His sense of responsibility, despite being ill, was still there.  But I put a dent in it that day, and have continued to erode it further every day he's spent sick since. 
     So who can blame a man that spent every cold and flu season until he was eighteen being spoiled by his mommy?  I am grooming Gabriel to drive his wife crazy because it's impossible for me not to take care of him when he's sick.  Can I make up for it by teaching him to make his bed in the morning?  If not, I apologize to the future Mrs. Gabriel Myers. Because it feels too good to be needed by my little boy every now and again.
     So...The next time I'm ready to kill Craig when he complains about a sniffle in baby-talk, I will refer to this blog.  I will try to be sympathetic when he comes home from work and tells me he feels like crap, even though he's managed to interact with clients all day.  I will try to be more patient with him and keep the kids out of his hair while he rests.   I will remind myself that his mother's love conditioned him to behave this way.  I will remember that it's not really his fault.
     The next time he's sick...I'm handing him the phone and telling him to call his mom.
     And the next time I'm sick...I think I'll call mine, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Me, Myself & Mine

     When considering my web design today, I learned something new.  I work very hard to maintain ME while being married with three children.  But when creating a visual representation of MYSELF, I did not feel balanced until my children were represented.  I realized that it is impossible to separate myself from my kids because they are extensions of me.    
     Without them, I would not be the most current version of ME.  My children are reflections of me at my best when they are fun-loving, free-spirted, affectionate, and kind.  These are strengths of mine that I greatly appreciate.  But they are also reflections of me at my worst when a temper flares, a foul mood persists, or aggravated impatience is exhibited.  These are weakness of mine that I must accept and improve upon.  Their behavior teaches me about my behavior, and together we work to better ourselves.
     This morning was a bad morning.  I had a Mommy-Meltdown.  I lost my cool.  I used inappropriate language.  I set a horrible example.  This will all have to be undone, if that's even possible.  
     I will start with an apology for my behavior.  I will not offer excuses.  They already know how they contributed to the problem.  Believe me, I made that very clear.  Ugh.  
     I will look them in the eye and admit that I am not perfect.  I will tell them that I lost control of my emotions.  I will make a commitment to correct my behavior in the future.  And I will mean it. 
     I will demonstrate what an apology should look like.  I will demonstrate what an apology should sound like.  Most importantly, I will demonstrate what an apology should feel like.
     Hopefully we will all grow from our shared experience.  Because I am me.  And they are me.  We must work together to create the four best versions of ourselves possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Push Play

     Tonight is a pep talk kind of a night.  One of those nights that I would love nothing more than to doze off on the couch by the warm fire.
      I am stuck in relax mode.  I have failed on several counts to revert to mom mode.  I was quick to let the girls rent The Grinch because I knew it would keep them quietly occupied.  I ordered pizza for dinner so that I didn't have to cook.  I have enjoyed the easy distraction of my computer.
     But my leisure must come to an end.  I can't put off reality any longer.    There are things that need to be done.   Two little girls need help finishing their book reports.  The dogs need to be fed.  Laundry needs to be folded.  The mud-room floor needs to be found.  The dishwasher needs to be unloaded.  The rest of the mundane list isn't worth mentioning.  Nevertheless, it must be done.
     Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.  I know once I start, it won't be as bad as what I have premised in my mind.  Or maybe it will.  Either way, I'll feel better once I'm done.  So back to mom mode I go.  But it's gonna take some good music to keep me there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessed Friends

     Do you notice that it's harder to make friends as you get older?  I do.  There seems to be more barriers.  More walls. More obstacles.  It takes longer for the ice to break.  Trust has to be earned, rather than granted. 
     Over the weekend we attended a white elephant Christmas Party.  It was simple and fun.  Light-hearted and jovial.  Silly and comfortable.  I woke up the next morning feeling happy.  
     I was thankful for the easy dynamic of the evening.  There were no barriers as impromptu yoga poses were being struck on the couch.  The only wall to scale was the one we attempted to climb in pyramid form to capture the perfect picture.  Tipsy stilettos proved to be the most dangerous obstacles.  And the ice that needed breaking was to enhance the already glorious Rum Chata.
     There were no judgements to be made, only fun to be had.  The general acceptance of the group made me feel like a kid again.  Now that I'm older, I feel lucky to have found new friends such as these.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big Questions

Two summers ago, Gabriel asked innocently, "Mommy, what are the gays?"
I sat him down on our porch and had a compassionate conversation about what it meant to be a heterosexual versus a homosexual.  Most boys have crushes on girls, but some boys have crushes on boys (and vice versa.)  They don't choose for this to happen.  That's just the way God made them.  He understood this because he knows God makes us all of us special.  Being gay doesn't define a person, so the label of "the gays" (as he heard on television) could hurt someone's feelings.  I assured him I would love him the same if he was gay, and he should support any friends of his that he might later discover are gay.  
He walked away more grown up and tolerant, and it made me happy. 

Last summer, Gabriel asked, "Mommy, how do babies really get made?"

I sat him down in our kitchen and had an informative conversation about sex and reproduction.  We covered it all in great detail.  He understood when I told him that God made men and women fit together like puzzle pieces.  We talked about the icky words that made him squirm.  Erection.  Penis.  Vagina.  Sperm.  
     "Why would anyone want to do that Mommy?!" he asked, appalled. 
     "Well, buddy, because when you love someone, and you treat them with respect, and you're careful with their feelings: Sex feels good.  It feels like love.  The kind that makes your heart so happy that you can't help but smile." 
     I warned him sex could hurt people, too.  I compared it to driving a car.  When we treat a car with respect and drive safely, we arrive to our destination excited for the fun to begin.  But if we drive recklessly and don't have respect for the car, accidents happen, people can be hurt, and lives can change forever.
He walked away more grown up and informed, and it made me happy.  

Recently, Gabriel asked, "Mommy, is Santa Claus real?"

     I snuggled him in close to me like I did when he was a baby.  I told him that was a decision he had to make on his own.  It was his choice whether or not to believe in Santa.  I admitted truthfully that I still believe in the magic of Santa.  The anticipation of Santa creates joy and festiveness for kids and grown-ups alike.  The spirit of Santa encourages people to be kinder and more generous.  The tradition of Santa makes memories that will last a lifetime.  All of which are very real and very important. 
     "But does Santa put the presents under the tree or do you and Daddy?" he asked, still not satisfied. 
     "Well, honey, that answer depends on whether or not you choose to believe in Santa," I answered.
     He sat quietly.  He didn't push the issue.  He hugged me and went off to play.
He walked away more grown up and confused, and it made me sad. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Like Melons

     Not too long ago, Gabriel was having trouble with a kid at school (whom I shall refer to as Johnny.)  Johnny was repeatedly saying mean things to Gabe so that Gabe would feel bad in front of his peers.  For a few days, Gabe didn't mention it to me.  This wasn't the first time he's had trouble with this kid, and he probably suspected I would say what I always say, "If he's not being nice to you, then just ignore him and walk away."
     Finally, though, he'd had enough.  The kids and I were at Panera eating.  Gabe opened the conversation.
     "'s happening again."
     I could tell by the tone of his voice exactly what and whom he was talking about.
     "Have you asked your teacher for help?" I asked him.
     "No, and I don't want to," he said.  "Johnny only does it when we're all hanging out.  He doesn't like it when I get attention.  If I tell, my friends will know I'm a tattle-tail.  I really want to handle it myself, but I don't know how."
     "Have you tried to talk to him when you're getting along instead of when you're mad at him?"  I asked.
     "No," Gabe admitted.  "I could try that I guess."
     "I have an idea!" Taylor interjected.
     "What?" Gabe asked, willing to consider all possibilities.
     "Say something mean to me," Taylor instructed Gabe to role-play.
     "Taylor, you smell!  I wish you would brush your teeth!" Gabe dramatized.
     Taylor smiled with content, as though what Gabe had just said delighted her.  Then she breathed a deep sigh of relief and fondly declared, "Ahhhh...I like melons!"
     The table fell quiet.  Taylor continued to smile.  My mind raced to catch up with hers.  I shot Gabe a raised-eyebrow look of confusion.  He reciprocated the lack of understanding.  Taylor started to giggle.  That's when we got it: Taylor diverted our mean focus by thinking happy thoughts.
     The whole dynamic of our conversation changed.  Heavy became light-hearted, and we all laughed until our bellies hurt.  Her tactic was genius, and we all knew it.
     Gabe looked forward to the next run-in with Johnny.  He couldn't wait to use his little sister's off-the-wall strategy to see if it worked.  But something unexpected happened: Johnny didn't do it again.  Maybe it was coincidental.  Or maybe Gabe returned to school that day with a renewed sense of confidence.  Maybe he appeared stronger to Johnny, and Johnny chose not to mess with him.
     If it does happen again, Gabriel is armed with a tactic that will make him smile instead of frown.  Even if the diversion doesn't work, we'll have something relatable to talk about over dinner.  A dinner in which we will welcome the advice of his little sisters.  Because they see the world differently through their innocent little eyes.  And when I listen close enough, even I am able shed my jaded lens.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Choose to Smile

I work hard at living because I like to feel happy.  These practices leave me feeling the most content:
  • I follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way I would like to be treated.
  • I dwell on what is right instead of what is wrong, because we all have struggles.
  • I distance myself from negativity because it is contagious.
  • I behave the way I expect my children to behave.
  • I care for the feelings of others, because the world does not revolve around me.
  • I deliver my opinions carefully to those that I trust are open to receiving my ideas.  
  • I understand my perspective is not the only perspective.
  • I remember that two wrongs only make me just as wrong.
  • I recognize I am part of the problem when I am involved in a problem.
  • I apologize when I'm wrong, and I make it a point to learn from my mistakes.
  • I forgive, and then I make the difficult choice to forget.
  • I revisit the list above when I'm not happy and fix what's broken.  Woe is not me.
  • I apply all of the above to social networking websites.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Daddy-Daughter Dance

     I just returned from visiting my brother.  He has two sweet little girls that are five and seven.  Last spring, he and his wife of eight years separated.  It was horrible.  I've never heard a grown man's heart break like his did on a daily basis.  The thought of disappointing his daughters nearly killed him.  I mean it.  There were moments when I called just to make sure he was still alive.  I worried about him constantly.  If he called, I answered.  Whether it was while walking on the beach during our family vacation in California or shopping at Kroger alone with the kids, I took his call.
     Then spring turned into summer, summer turned into fall, and fall has turned to winter.  Divorce proceedings are underway, custody is still being decided, and he just underwent major back surgery; all as he continues to run a successful business.  His stress load has multiplied exponentially.  Yet he's standing taller and stronger than I've ever seen him.
     I watch him with his daughters and I am amazed.  He cares about their feelings.  He listens to what they have to say.  When he's made a mistake he gets down on one knee, looks them in the eye, offers them a sincere hug and says, "I'm sorry."  That's it.  I'm sorry.  No but to follow, no lesson to be learned, no excuse to be made.
     I look in his oldest daughter's room and I can tell how much she loves him.  Of all the girly chapter books on her shelf, an antique copy of Chip Hilton sits on her bedside table.  This is her current independent book of choice.  It sits next to the Cleveland Browns helmet they got at the last game together, and one of his old weathered footballs from high school.  He didn't tell her how to decorate her room.  She made these sentimental decisions on her own.
     I watch as his youngest daughter stands behind him on the couch and drapes her arms around his neck.  He grimaces in pain, but doesn't say a word.  "Be careful with your daddy's back," I say.  He shoots me an annoyed glare that tells me he's okay.  Then I hear him whisper in her ear that she is fine just where she is.  She smiles from ear to ear and kisses him on the cheek.
     I am impressed when he gets up to go sit at the kids' table at Denny's.  I know he hasn't slept well, and his daughters are perfectly content sitting with their cousins.  But their eyes light up when they see him approach, and they readily scoot over in the booth to make room for him.  Time with his daughters is precious now, and he is sure to make every minute count.
     I am touched as I listen to the three of them laugh together while telling us about their most recent adventures.  Just last week, he and his oldest were in a stall together in a women's public restroom.  Usually he stands outside the bathroom door and waits for her.  But she asked him to come in, because she missed him.  It was empty at the time, so he happily agreed.  However it filled up quickly, so they were forced to exit with apologies and embarrassed giggles.  The other women weren't offended.  They thought it was sweet.
     Even though my brother's current situation is less than ideal, I am so proud of him for making the most of it.  He is teaching his girls that quality is just as important as quantity.  He is teaching them to find all kinds of reasons to smile, instead of dwelling on the frown.  He is demonstrating the virtue of patience as they all work towards more time together.  He is setting an example of what it means to be a bigger person without having to say a word.  And when it's all said and done, his daughters will thrive because he spent time at rock bottom.