The Practice of Compassion…

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Late last night I was going through my feed on Facebook and was struck by one individual post that had been shared. Here was a story of a young family that is facing the fact that they only have days with their young son who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Days… not weeks or months but days. I can’t imagine being strong enough as a mother to go through watching my child weaken and ultimately pass on. I know that the promise of a better life will be granted for this kiddo, but what about those left behind.
It is easy to understand as we go through life that there will always be losses otherwise there would be no cliché statements like: “there is a reason for everything”. I am not always sure that there is a given reason for everything but it makes it easier to create a positive outlook. That may be selfish by using this sometimes trite comment and it may get me slapped someday. However, we all have to find our own way to become compassionate. Compassionate is a word that is tough to understand and provide the actions for. Becoming compassionate is easier said than done. To be compassionate you must be sympathetic, which is the easy part… the harder part is trying to understand what the person must be going through because chances are we have never experienced their level of pain. However, in the end compassion is wanting to show concern, sympathy and honestly wanting to help them.
Just as “everything happens for a reason”, we live in a beautiful world where for whatever reason it is there is suffering. Each individual that is suffering has their own ‘worth’. What I may view as suffering is going to be far different to another. It all depends on what we are going through. It is through the suffering that we are given compassion. Everyone suffers, so everyone has a chance to be compassionate and everyone is worthy of compassion. Herein lies the problem, there is no way to measure someone else’s pain, and we are not able to judge what we can’t measure. Thus, leaving us with nothing to do but show compassion.
There are differing ways of showing compassion. I am not an expert in this area but I do know a bit about how to demonstrate compassion. Listening is a way to show compassion. I know in my own life there are times where I wish someone would truly listen to what I have to say. Understanding that each unique individual person needs is difficult but it is important to listen. I would venture to guess that most grieving individuals don’t want anything else but a listener; a lot of people don’t want to hear advice, opinions or their own stories, at least not at first. Of course, no wants to be judged. From experience, people simply want to talk because they have emotions that are welling up inside of them and they need to come out in a safe and comfortable place so they can have any hope of feeling healthy or whole again.
The gift of time is another way of showing compassion. This gives you a better idea of what the individual needs and what comfort they are longing for. If they are not ready to go out in public, offer to go and get what they need to get by and do errands for them. If there is a need to help with housework, pick up a little. Bring over a casserole. Offer to watch their kiddos or pets for them. Or maybe it is as simple as sitting down with them a watching a movie or going out for a walk.
There is no time frame for grief, even those in the midst of grief have no idea how long it will take to become healthy again. Don’t give them a set time for them to get over it. Understand that if you are a compassionate person you are going to have to be patient. Don’t give up on them and leave them alone, that is not what they need.
In conclusion, compassion takes time, patience and strength due to the emotions that are involved. It will not be easy to listen to a grieving person because grief is raw and people will say things they never thought it would be possible for them to say. We end up looking within ourselves when we are compassionate and sad memories will surface and yet we must stay strong for the one who is grieving. The need for compassion is universal…. We give it to others, we need it from others and we must also remember to take care of ourselves.

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Aren’t we all Family, Friends or at least Neighbors?

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There have been a couple of things that have been swarming around in my head enough at night to cause me to do some deep thinking. I do most of my creative thinking when I can’t sleep or have had a bad day and just want it to end but can’t find the path to making the change. I have to say that I have had some people on my mind lately and wanting to find a way to help them feel better about the situation they are in or just how I can prevent something that they are going through from happening to other people. Since I have moved to Small Town, Iowa I feel that I have been given a pretty rotten reputation but the strange thing is that it doesn’t bother me because I think I have been a pretty decent person since being here. I guess it is all in the way you look at it.
I have changed a great deal as a person over the years and I give a great deal of credit to my husband who always keeps me from going that step to far. In the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about how people treat one another and then I get start to get furious. Does anyone stop and think before making their cut? I am so tired of seeing people post such inspirational messages on Facebook and yet they don’t back them up. One of them that is particularly annoying to me is “be kind to people, you don’t know the battle they are fighting”. Why is this annoying you ask? Well, it is simple, we all are fighting battles and I will agree that some are worse than others but I have yet to meet a person that wasn’t having some type of issue they were working with.
The problem is, in a small town we know those people who are struggling. Some of them are screaming for help but yet we walk right on by them because we might have problems of our own. I am guilty of it. However, I am not stupid to the fact that I need to be aware of a great many things. One thing right now is the fact that depression is one of the strongest factors of living in a small town especially if you have things working against you at the time. One of the strongest quotes I have heard in a long time is simple but profound: “Many people die at 25, but aren’t buried until they are 75”.
We live in a community of roughly 750 people and yet we can’t save someone. That is a sad thought. 750 is too great a number to hold anyone accountable and too small of a number to not notice what is happening amongst us. There are people struggling with addiction, alcoholism, financial need, abusive relationships, devastating health conditions, traumatic events and suicidal thoughts. At the end of the day, Small Town, Iowa has the same short list of support that can be found in any large city… neighbors, friends, co-workers and most important of all immediate family.
I think we are in a world where we think to help someone there is a price tag attached to it. However, reality is that driving through our small town there are a great many things that we could be doing to show someone that we actually care for them. I know families that have much larger family trees than what are small town consists of in population so why not treat them as if they are a part of your family. I know we all remember Charles and Caroline Ingalls of Walnut Grove, Minnesota… why can’t we incorporate “prairie” values in our lives. I don’t remember a great deal of things that couldn’t be resolved by neighbors coming together and showing genuine concern for each other. I realize that these things don’t resolve themselves within an hour time span like the series demonstrated but… come on, we are still made of the same core values.
I don’t believe we have come so far from the times when showing genuine concern and respect for your fellow human being was not thought of as some heroic undertaking but instead was just how you went about treating people. If this were the way we worked together, we would be reveling in success stories instead of commiserating over our losses.

It is all in the Middle…

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There are some strange things that can happen within a time span of 60 seconds and after doing a little research there are things that will amaze you. Every time the second hand of the clock makes its way back around to the 12… here are just some of the things that happen. The average American household makes about a dime; 250 babies are born with 113 of them being born into poverty and 15 of them having birth defects. Oprah Winfrey will make $523 in that minute. The average person in the world will make only a penny. Three violent crimes are committed in the United States, two auto thefts are committed in the United States; 55,757 barrels of oil are used. Lightning will strike the Earth 360 times within that minute. There will be five earthquakes, 120,673 pounds of edible food will be thrown away of the 950,186 pounds of trash that is thrown away in the United States. There are nine new AIDS/HIV infections; 107 deaths every 60 seconds and of that number 18 are from starvation and just a raw and bitter statistic of one suicide happens every 40 seconds.

So initially let us focus on life’s firsts… you are born and what a miracle that moment is. But you have to realize that things only become more complicated after that. This leads to your first word… although as parents we love to hear things like “mama” and “dada” or even the ever-so-popular “no”. Think about the first time you used a BIG word like “defenestrate”. Doesn’t that sound smarter? Just so you know that means that you throw a thing or a person out of a window.

The first taste of real food. I am thinking of a mushed up banana but then it evolves into something that is much greater like a Snickers bar or homemade lasagna. Your first steps, after many attempts to get things going… it is there and most likely you will have hit your head several times on the corner of the coffee table… but don’t give up, it does come easier. Of course, as a parent we can’t forget your first tooth. The slobbering and aching gums last for weeks before it arrives and there is no way to covey just how much agony you are in… but suck it up. It will break through and you will need that tooth for the rest of your life.

The first play date-this will most likely be somewhere that you can socialize with other small, dirty, whiney, germ filled heathens who will scream at you “gimme”. You will be forced to color, play fake musical instruments, and bang blocks with small hammers. It may sound stupid, but enjoy it because this just might be the most fun you have for the next 80 to 90 years. This will be followed by the first day of school, so you better be prepared to cling on to your mother’s leg. You are not going to want to let go but it won’t matter because the teacher will drag you down the hall by your arm as your sweet mom jumps into her car and speeds away. Once she is gone, you will have the time of your life as you are forced to sit in a circle with about 20 other kids that are your age and will sing songs, play silly games and eat a snack. Eventually… you will surrender.

The first time that you tie your shoe. Of course you will be taught the “bunny hole” rhyme. It may sound creepy but it will work. “Bunny ears, bunny ears, playing by a tree.   Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me. Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole, popped out the other side, beautiful and bold.” Years later you will laugh at how stupid that this sounded. Move on to the first time making your own lunch… peanut butter and jelly and leave the mess to mom.

Moving on to school days, the first “A” on a test. If you want this to happen, you will actually study for it. Praying won’t do a damn bit of good. God wants you to be responsible. Now you will work your way to first celebrity crush. Back Street Boys… don’t waste your time, it will be a waste of brain space.

Your first dance- hands on hips/shoulders, robot around in circles, and try to ignore the fact that your partner smells like body odor. You just might too. It is true that you will learn how to clean yourselves better as you make your way through the awkward teenage years. Okay, and if all the things come together… your first kiss-it will be very mechanical and sterile. It is possible to bump heads and even connect braces. Either way it is going to be embarrassing.

The first day of high school-you are going to be nervous, but relax, it will be fine. With any luck, none of the senior class will dump anything on you in the cafeteria at lunch or even pull down your pants in the hall when you aren’t looking.

Now we will look at your first REAL kiss- hopefully you won’t be drunk for this one. Enjoy the tenderness and the full on lip and tongue contact. Use your hands to explore your partner’s body- feeling someone up is all a part of the experience, just remember to stay outside of their clothing or you will risk getting a huge slap in the face or knee to the groin. This only happens if you are a guy kissing a girl. If it is the other way around, girls… do whatever you want. Guys will take whatever they can get.

Your first job-be prepared for a very low wage and very crappy hours. It is a way that society will break you in with working for minimum wage on the evening and weekends.   Unless, your parents have connections and can get you a job at the golf course.

First time having sex- this will be much like the first kiss, this will probably be very sterile – in/out, in/out, in/out… it won’t last long and you won’t know what the big deal is.

First love- now this might happen early in your life or later in your life, it is really hard to tell. Some people wait a lifetime for it and it never happens. You’ll know it has happened when you are willing to move in with someone that has two gaming chairs and a bean bag and friends that stay until 2 in the morning.

First car- There is a 99.99% chance that it WON’T be a BMW. You will be lucky if it doesn’t light on fire within the first year of you owning it. If you have expectations of a Grand Am… Envision it because it won’t get much better than that.

Frist day of college- It is important that you remember that anything lower than a 50% will get you kicked out of school and you will be packing to go back home. Think about this in a month from now after you have been out partying for the last month, and you haven’t gone to class yet.

First time failing an exam- Don’t be surprised.

First time getting married- It will be sweet. Stressful but sweet. You will have visions of it being a huge celebrations with all of your friends and family so you can declare your love for your partner-whom you will plan to be with for the rest of your life-in front of the entire world. Just remember that the part about being with them for the rest of your life may not transpire. You have about a 50/50 chance of making it. Just consider yourself as being warned. In fact, you may want to consider having your parent’s give you a check instead and make it a heck of a honeymoon because the second wedding is on you. Also… take note: Just because you hate someone’s guts one day…. Does not mean you will hate their guts the next day.

First time giving birth- Ohhhh boy… that isn’t easy. It will be worse than what you could ever imagine. You will think you are going to die. Don’t worry though, you’ll probably survive. And after, you will forget about ever having a good night’s rest. Subsequent births won’t get any easier. They usually happen faster and the babies are always bigger.

Now you have to worry about the first time being a parent- Again, this won’t be easy. It will be one of the worst times that you will go through in life. You’ll be tired and cranky most of the time. Don’t be lulled into the bliss of the first three months of them sleeping all of the time and think it is time to procreate again. Reality is there is going to be mounds of dirty diapers and a lot of barf. As the years go by, you will become more and more thrilled with the relationship you have built with your little mini you. However, it is important to give yourself and your spouse time for yourselves. There is joy in becoming a parent and at times it can be difficult to see… but remember you can find a needle in a haystack. When you find it though, it is simply a feeling like none other. Reminder: Never let your child go to bed angry or go to school angry. It simply isn’t worth it.

First time being cheated on- You will be so angry and hurt when you discover this. Hopefully, you will be able to see people for who they are and avoid those who you know have cheated before. Leopards never change their spots… or rarely.

First time your spouse sleeps on the couch- DO NOT GO SUCKING UP TO THEM! The best advice is: Never go to bed angry. Keep a cross above your bed and make it your sanctuary. DO NOT FIGHT IN BED or IN YOUR BEDROOM. If they don’t come back to bed, let it happen.

First time getting a divorce- If you fail at marriage, it is okay. There are beautiful things called “step families” these days. You CAN get a replacement life. Life is too short to be abused or mistreated. Don’t give up if there is a fix, but know when the patch doesn’t work… abandon ship before the hole gets too big, and you know you are aboard the Titanic.

First time getting a mammogram or prostrate check- NEVER NEVER NEVER fun, but it can be well worth it. Just have a couple of beers or a bottle of wine before going in and it might even be somewhat enjoyable… most likely not. Don’t flirt with the doctor or technician, they won’t be able to respond anyway because it is against their code of ethics.

First grandchild- So much better than having your own kiddo. You can enjoy them to the fullest, feed them chocolate, and popsicles with blue dye and send them home with those children of yours that gave you such a hard time through their teenage years.

First heart attack- Hopefully you can prolong this for many many years if you don’t eat a lot of red meat or ice cream. If you chain-smoke, and never exercise it might come sooner. Depends on how you want to live. Do you want to have fun, or do you want to prolong your life using some better choices. It is up to you.

Death- It’s over and there is no repeats, do overs, or waiting 25 minutes to get another try at reaching another level. Hopefully your life will be full of love, joy and laughter and once you are buried, you will be visited. Remember, there is something much greater that you are moving on to so don’t be scared but rather welcome your heavenly adventure.

Now that we have visited all of those firsts, we have to remember to each first there also is a last. But the real point of this blog today is what we choose to do in the middle of the first and lasts and that is life.

From the first breath to the last breath it is all about how you treat people because things happen within a matter of a minute. Life to Death, Bachelorhood to Marriage, Newlyweds to Parents, Marriage to Divorce… it is all in the middle. The way we handle our 60 seconds is up to us. We are the ones who make the decisions on how we manage the time we have and we also have to learn to be responsible for it. How do we leave people? Do we do our jobs as parents and spouses to build our families up so that everyone feels they are special and needed? Do we treat them as if it might be the last time we see them or do we take for granted those moments and leave them in silence? Do we storm out of the house angry and use cutting words that we may never be able to take back? Do we challenge them to better their odds and reach for the stars or do we leave them with a so-so evaluation? We are the middle, we are responsible for the middle. If we don’t see the lasts coming maybe we should start the realization that to every first-there has to be a last.

Those are the so called 60 seconds.

Family Matters…

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Well, here we are on several countdowns. Some we have already passed as accomplishments in this last month that have been significant. Daughter’s 18th Birthday… Daughter’s Prom…. Son’s 17th Birthday… Son’s Prom. Seems very daunting to me to think we could possibly have more in store for us… but we do. There are a great deal of “LASTS” that my daughter is experiencing with her high school career that make me reminisce about all of the “FIRSTS”. Last day of school vs. the first day of school. So on and so forth. However, that is not what this post is about.

Family matters to us. That seems easy for most people to say… and some it may matter the same amount as it does to us and to them… Kudos! You get saluted! When I say family matters, I mean… this weekend my son celebrated his 17th birthday and I have to say he had several different reasons to feel kind of down. As much as we had tried to pin him down on what he wanted for his birthday… he really couldn’t come up with anything. Yep, that is right… 17 and couldn’t really think of anything that he REALLY wanted or needed. (I know… I am blessed). However, in a situation like that as a parent you are bound to lose. We have always hated to give him money for his birthday because he always finds someone else to spend it on and this year was not going to be that way. So after a two week pressure hold on him about what he really wanted, this is what I got: “I want a ‘bad-ass’ zombie cake”. That was the first request. Check… I can do that. Second request: “I want us to go to the zoo”. Double Check!

What he had asked was for a family day. That is pretty rare anymore for us; not because we don’t enjoy or want them… but rather there are always more people to consider when making plans. However, Sunday… May 4th, 2014 marked a beautiful day filled with family. Our family has different sizes depending on the situation. There are days where family is considered the extreme outreaches of our family boundaries to the core unit of four. We had a rare moment that was with the core unit. I had almost forgot what it felt like to just be the four of us hanging out together and what fun we create when it is just us. We had these moments on grand scale when we were on the East Coast and even when we lived in Nebraska because we made the time for them. We hadn’t been nurturing our core family lately.

Now, going to the zoo may sound childish but it was just what our family needed. We needed the car ride up to Omaha “jamming” to our favorite songs…. Making sure to include everyone’s favorites. We needed to make the decision of a family pass or just going for the day option to make it real that our lives are changing. Our family is ever changing but I am not sure that we are done. I don’t want to think of it as our ‘last’ anything.

As we went through the zoo exhibits, our two grown teenagers were having FUN! They were taking all of the zoo qualities and experiencing them. I guess the best way to describe it is… I watched parents hustling around chasing toddlers (who really didn’t care where they were) and remembered that feeling. The feeling after the trip of saying… “whose trip was that for anyway?” It must have been for me to get pictures of to capture those moments where I could revel in the fact that I took my kids to the zoo. I must be a good parent. But heck… I remember being exhausted by pulling around a wagon and constantly being attentive to every whim the kids had which was more focused on the juice pouches and snacks that were packed for them.

Yesterday was different, yesterday we had an incredible day. We had two grown teenagers intrigued by animals and their habitats. We visited different areas throughout the day and I watched my son smile more than he had in months. He took in all of the small exhibits that we never had time for (or the patience for). We looked at snakes… yuck. We looked at birds… we looked at shrews and lizards. We smiled. I watched the kiddos enjoy the gorilla valley and want the gorillas to give them something to watch. I heard my kids talk about different animals and what they liked or didn’t like about them. It was amazing. They went to the petting zoo which I could never get them into as smaller children because they were scared. This time… my daughter let a goat chew on her hand. This was not a normal day. This was a day that God gave me to put things into perspective. All of the things that I had always wanted my kids to take part in… they were the active ones trying to make sure that we were active in. Remember the days where when you went to the zoo, you had to have a picture of your kids sitting on the Mutual of Omaha… Lion statue as you entered or exited the zoo to show how much your child had grown since the last visit? Well, we did one better… something new to judge the growth of our children… now it was sitting on the back of the great gorilla statue. Yep, the big silverback gorilla held our two children. That is growth.

The smiles we had yesterday was something that will far outweigh the drama that we have had in the past few months. Our day together didn’t end there either, we just recharged. We headed out to find a few things that our son could call his own for his birthday. Even when we were doing this, he was family oriented. He wanted lacrosse sticks. Not a lacrosse stick…but two so that his sister could play with him. The kids became familiar with lacrosse on the East Coast. It is a wicked game, definitely not a spectator sport. There are major injuries that come along with this game. However, we now have two sticks and the balls and last night our two grown teenagers were having the time of their lives playing it together. Not screaming at each other… but playing together.

Our family day was filled with laughter and smiles. No complaining or whining. And just when their dad and I thought they were done for the day, they came back with one more. “Can we have family movie night?” Yep… start until finish… we all sat and watched a movie together. What a day. What a marvelous and wonderful day. This was a much needed breath of life to us.

Now, to close… when I say family matters… I mean it. To me, I live Lilo and Stitch’s motto: “Ohana, which means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”. So, when our daughter told us that she would rather have a family vacation than to have a graduation party… I jumped on it. The money that we would have put into a graduation party will now be redistributed to the family vacation. The four of us staying in a beach front condo. Yep… that is family because even better yet, we are going to see our family. These were all ideas that our children came up with. I guess they are clinging on to the moments just as we are.

The Hair Fairy… (true story)

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I am not sure if our Hair Fairy will ever read this but it is much too important to not write about. Last night was our daughter’s senior prom (everything went wonderfully); however, yesterday there were some very tough moments that our daughter faced. Everything was going splendidly and everyone in the family was doing their part to make our daughter’s day just a little bit brighter and a very special occasion.

As she came home from school at around 11:00 am to prepare for a day of being pampered like a princess, it turned into many pieces, frazzled with frenzy. Now you must remember that I had spent the past Wednesday getting nails done and finalizing the finishing touches of her day to remember. The call came in that her dress was finished being altered and all was well. A smile of relief had crossed our faces possibly one too many times. As a mother, I was just relieved as I knew the rest was just sit back and coast. Her hair appointment at 11:30 and make up to be done at 3:45pm. Line up for the promenade 5:00 pm, what could go wrong……

Well, it started with the hair appointment, after two hours in the chair…and a hefty bill… We walked out of the parlor and my daughter looked at me and started to steam… “I hate it”… “I didn’t want it this way”….”did you see how she did my bangs?” Well, I had and I have to say that although the daughter stressed what she wanted; she did not get what she asked for. For a girl with naturally curly hair to ask to have the front straightened… it just didn’t happen. Layers upon layers of product was applied and I can’t fault the hairdresser as she asked the daughter several times…. “What do you think?” Only to be reassured by the daughter. However, the soft side of the little girl in her didn’t have the heart to tell her after she had already said she wanted the bangs straighter and the request fell on deaf ears… all that could come out was: “it looks fine”.

Fast forward back out to the car and on the way home… plans were set to wash it out and start over letting her do her own hair. Still on the time schedule but… not giving her much room to spare. The washing process… conditioning process… drying process and now to the potential ringlet spirals she had planned on. Well, there was the key…. “Planned on”… they didn’t work out. Her hair was too clean and there was no way to get those darned curls to hold. DARN IT!!!!!

Now the frenzy starts… “What am I going to do?” Stay calm… we can figure something out. Let’s call out to where her makeup was to be done and see if the hairdresser had just a little more time to work on her hair while her makeup was being done. Good idea, right? That is what we thought. Call placed. No answer… answering machine. Panic!

From many years ago, I had this beautician… I now call her our Hair Fairy. This beautician is right across the street and one house down. In desperation, I didn’t even take time to look up her phone number. At this point I would have taken any helpful hints as to what to do. She did so many steps better. After she asked the questions to assess the situation, she said these magic words: “you are in luck”.  That was amazing… simply amazing. By the time I had come back home… the return call from the other hairdresser with the make-up artist had called back. Knowing, something would have to give because time was getting short. The hairdresser with the make-up artist had no room in her busy schedule of teenage estrogen to fit the daughter in. At this point, the make-up appointment had to go. Oh boy… two of her planned calming events were no longer on the table.

Our Hair Fairy had told me that I was in luck… she could work with the daughter for about 45 minutes if we could stay on schedule and stay on schedule we did. The HF (Hair Fairy) worked her magic through the trestles of hair. With her smiling face a positive attitude the HF could barely get the daughter to smile she was so stressed out but that HF just kept on doing her magic.

Within a 30 minute timespan a transformation had been made. The daughter’s hair was securely nestled upon her head and she hustled home to do her own make up as there was no time for a trip to have the make-up artist do her magic. Bless the hearts of those who had set up the artist, they refunded the money that would have been used for her facial transformation. One thing our girl is very good at is doing make-up and although she was stressed for time, the Hair Fairy hand saved our day. And although, I feel that the sweet fairy wasn’t treated exactly as she should have been by the daughter, as at that point, nothing was going her way… the HF didn’t let it affect the outcome. A beautiful updo.

The transformation did occur; our daughter was a fairy princess last night. She looked beautiful from head to toe. Not a hair out of place… dress altering was perfect (by the Queen of Altering)… another story altogether and the daughter shined.

That solemn face soon had smiles replacing the doubt of the day and she walked in with the confidence of a queen.

So… to those of you who don’t know the Hair Fairy… I do not have permission to use her name in this but I will tell you this… she has two wonderful daughters whom I have had the opportunity to see grow up to be adults… she has been in business out of her home for as long as I can remember… and that is a long time. She has the patience of a saint and a heart of gold.

My Wish for You….

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Today, yet another rite of passage is made for our oldest child. She will be attending her senior prom. The porcelain baby doll will be draped in sequins and rhinestones and being escorted by her boyfriend and not her parents. Ouch… Where did all this time go? I look around and all of the tween age décor is gone and replaced by a more sophisticated touch of a chandelier and sound solid colors.

Prom is very different here than what we have experienced anywhere else. In fact, in Virginia…. Girls went to Walmart to pick up a dress. There were so many people that attended, it simply wasn’t a big deal. So, the junior year of our daughter’s high school career she opted out of going to the prom. That made this year all the more special for her.

I am very excited for her day. It is an amazing experience to go to your senior prom. Her day is filled with appointments and deadlines. It is almost like I am getting a first-hand experience of what is to come on her wedding day. Of course, I have told her that we aren’t doing all of this again until her wedding day so that is where I get to that milestone. I pray we have several years until we hit that rite of passage.

Once she finishes her last class for the day, she is off to have her hair done. Accessories with rhinestones will be added to our beautiful daughter’s locks of curls. Those crazy unruly locks of curls from her toddler days will be all adorned with glimmer and glitz. Then off to have her make up done professionally. This makes me smile, she spends a great deal of time on her hair and makeup every day to continue her flawless face and hair… but today she gets pampered. She gets to sit back and let someone else take care of her.

When finished with all of this, it is off to get ready… the beautiful dress and the sparkling shoes. No this is not one of those times when she was playing dress up and getting into my heels or putting on three layers of clothes like when she was five. Those red ruby slippers from her Wizard of Oz Halloween costume will be nowhere to be found.

Each little bit of her day I will be haunted by the past. The cuteness of her putting on her own make up when she was little and the lipstick shade of bright red. The dancing around in the living room in her Rugrat pajamas will be replaced with a ball gown and a promenade.   I am one of those fortunate parents who have all of those memories documented by pictures to reflect upon. Just as I will have many pictures from today that I will do the same with as the time goes by and it is time for her next rite of passage that I need to be reminded that she was young and carefree on this day in 2014.

I feel at times that I have placed my second child in a secure spot where he simply cannot grow up. I just won’t let him, and then I have to face reality and realize that he too is stepping into an adult role in our family also. He will be attending his junior prom with his girlfriend. Although, it seems as though it can’t be true and maybe because I don’t want it to be his time yet… it is.

He will be trading in his batman gear from his early youth to look a little more like the dapper Bruce Wayne. His tuxedo which transforms him from a little boy to a young man is terribly hard to watch as I know I am clinging on to him as being our baby. He will be doing his own hair… (laughing out loud) and does not need make up so I think his day will not have such a tight schedule and I have one more day to prepare for his big day.

My dreams of having the two of them in a formal picture together just might come true. I so look forward to these two days of our children’s… oops….young adults’ lives. To them it is a special day filled with friends and laughter… but later those memories will be replaced with how youthful they really were and how many great dreams they had. Looking back at prom pictures is such a fun thing to do. Silly hairstyles and some pretty fluffy dresses were in the past. I am sure that those same feelings will be handed down to this generation as they look back 20 years from now.

Yesterday, as I was sorting through some of the kids things I came across a laminated envelope with the words: “To my future self” written across it. I remember my daughter doing this when she was in early elementary in Lincoln, Nebraska. I probably stared at it for a good five minutes before putting it down. During that time, I wondered to myself… when is the appropriate time to give her this? When will it make the most impact of what she wanted to tell herself that day in the early 2000’s that she would want to remind herself of in today’s world. I praise teacher’s that take that extra initiative to have kids do projects like that. Things that don’t make a great deal of sense to the kiddos at the time but later may have a huge impact on what they remembered and how much they have grown into their roles as adults.

So here is my prayer for the Proms everywhere: “Dear Heavenly Father, please be with our children as they embark on this rite of passage. Please be with them as decisions that they have to make are made with a good sound mind. Let them enjoy each moment of their special day and evening making memories that they can reflect upon for years to come. May You be their passenger for the evening and bring them safely to and from the events that are planned for them. Lord, we pray for your goodness and mercy to fall onto all of us as parents too, to allow our children to grow into the roles that you have set out for them. I ask this in Your Holy Name, Amen”

Who are you? Reserve Judgment until you know who I am

know me

Have you noticed all of the quizzes you can take these days on just about any medium from Cosmo to Facebook? I have. I actually enjoy them and I don’t take one of them to heart. Just because I should have married Aladdin and I am actually a Disney Princess Snow White and on and on and on who does that tell me that I am? I am pretty sure I know who I am and I am pretty comfortable in my own skin. I wake up every morning with a personal goal, which is my secret but it isn’t to be a rebel rouser.

I am a pretty simple person and have pretty simple taste. I am a mother and until you are a mother or are faced with the same challenges I have been, I challenge you not to judge. I am intelligent and I don’t take the simple things for granted. I know what makes me happy and I don’t need to be invited to parties to make myself feel good. That is pretty simple.

I have made enough quizzes that I know when a good result is had and I also know people have problems taking tests. I have been forced to face myself in the mirror for many years and the bottom line is I have always gone to work for the underdogs. But… you don’t know me if you didn’t know that I worked with juvenile delinquents and also developmentally disabled. You don’t know me if you think I would turn my back on someone in need or someone that I love.

My life doesn’t look the same as yours and that is fine with me…. But is it alright with you? I wonder what you would say if you looked at my life and wondered how I made it through all the rough spots, but that is only for me to wonder. I have raised two pretty terrific kiddos and I don’t take that job too lightly. I am not their best friend but there is a level of respect and I know that they understand that they are loved. They have a strong base for their faith and that makes me proud, but it also says volumes for where we have been.

I don’t view myself as a pessimist; I do view myself as a realist. I know that I have the power to offend people with words and I try not to but at times it is going to happen. I am a true believer in do unto others as they do unto you. When I see a punch thrown, it is awfully hard for me not to go for a sucker punch. But I do have a challenge for all you naysayers, if you have a problem with me… come to me. I appreciate it. I can handle it. I do the same with those I have a problem with. There are no secrets. I have shared my issues and you seem to easily judge me. There have been no “aha” moments shared here.

So here goes:

Here is the new quiz.

Have you gone out of your way to make someone smile today?

Have you gone out of your way to make someone smile that you haven’t spoken to before today?

Have you apologized even if you know it wasn’t your fault today?

Have you apologized today?

Have you took an extra moment to share in a brief conversation with someone who may have needed a raise in their spirits?

Have you took an extra moment to share in a brief conversation with someone today?

Do you know what is going on in someone’s life and pray for them?

Do you know what is going on in someone’s life and just talk about them?

Do you just guess what is going on in someone’s life?

Do you simply have no time to know anything about anyone and keep to yourself?

Now, here is how to judge your own answers: Look at your life and if you are completely satisfied with it then you aced the test. If you are like most of us, you didn’t come out with flying colors.

Middle America

small town

 

Having recently moved back to this small town Iowa, I think I have it figured out. What I used to think was just snubbiness from several may be viewed differently. Firstly of all, we had several problems with the school that doesn’t see problems.   The townspeople here are happy to have a school of their own and not be pulled into a consolidation effort to cut costs. So, me being a Master’s level teacher and seeing the problems with curriculum isn’t noticed if you see it every day. If the average kiddo sails through school with no problems and can do all the extracurricular events, life is pretty sweet. It just wasn’t for us.

Where I see problems, they see community. The same few people step up and do the same things every year…. Just like clockwork but there is never anyone else to do those things once that person steps down because they are doomed to fail without given the proper information to do the job in the first place? It is a control factor.

The local events don’t give you much room to grow into the town. If you have one problem with something, you can easily be considered a trouble maker. Friends you had in first grade no longer speak to you. You wave to your neighbor and she keeps walking doing her own thing. For months this has had me stumped. However, I have figured it out. I brought chaos into their world. I had moved away and loved my time away. I loved the city and its offerings and never had a problem with any school. And here…. I was in the school on a bi-weekly basis. And believe you me…. Putting on a pair of cowboy boots doesn’t make you country, just like putting on a ball gown doesn’t make Cinderella. There was no fitting in.

In the end I have one child that will graduate from my hometown…. Because she adapted and I have another child that will graduate from a neighboring city. We pulled him out of school due to bullying and lack of class offerings. But… I have to brag… when my son brought home his ACT composite score of 33 in Math. I knew I had done the right thing. That was the highest… others were 27ish. Do I think that the small town missed the boat on helping this child achieve greatness? You betcha. As a teacher, he would have been a dream student and as a writer of curriculum I applaud his past teachers for preparing him in such a manner.

However, through it all, we made mistakes. We were quick to tell that we wouldn’t be living here forever. We told people straight up that the reason we were here was to let the kids graduate from a small school since they had been in classes that one school would graduate 700-1000 students and there might have been five to seven of the high schools in the town.

We are not the only ones who have had trouble being accepted in a small town. We were a mystery so it was very fun to see how we would survive. We were being stared at but it seemed weird to stare back. I still love my memories of my hometown.   I still remember the people that I ‘hung’ out with and how much fun we had. I just don’t think they want to go back there and I did.

Finding a job here hasn’t been the easiest thing to do either. I have already upset the school. I am a teacher. I applied to the town daycare and have grant writing experience and started a school before, but didn’t even get a call. I got a message via Facebook that they went with someone internally. Even after, I congratulated the person and offered my assistance in grant writing and some ideas for getting new equipment but I never heard back.

My husband is semi-retired and only picks up a few cases here and there. He does so at a fourth of the cost of a regular attorney and that scares people too. Too cheap… must not be good. Well, he was a prosecutor and only had one loss and he was damned upset about that. I guess this is where people mistake kindness for ignorance.

I hate it that our daughter is known for not being able to keep a dog. We have had a few flops that haven’t fit into our lifestyle and our boxer passed away a month ago, so when I found out that the kids make fun about her not being able to keep a dog… well, I think it very sad and I began to cry. I miss my Boxer that passed… I can’t help that nothing seems to take the place of her. I have a new pup coming and I pray every night that she fits with us.

So yes, I know I have made my mistakes here in this town. There is no one to ask forgiveness to. I just keep plugging away and as my husband says…. We can do one more year standing on our heads… because we are strong together. For whatever sins I have transgressed… I am sorry. This is a lonely place to be. Even my parent’s social life is so much more fulfilling than my own. However, they stayed. I left.

Oh well, I refuse to hang at the bar to make new friends. I simply don’t fit in there. And there is part of me that is reserved too. I know I am on a countdown. One more year and I get the opportunity to move. Yes, I will miss my family….. But I live in the same town and rarely see them now. They all belong to clubs and teams and I am never asked to join or even become a part of. I worked with the women’s professional volleyball team and I am not even asked to join an intermural. It is okay though, I don’t want this to be a sob story. I know what I did wrong. I said I wasn’t staying and that I am ready for a new chapter.

However, to those friends from first grade through high school graduation. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your kids and their accomplishments. I also am proud of what you do. You are the back bone of this town and without you…it would simply not be. So stand proud.   I still remember what this town was and my love for it. I know it has changed but…. Don’t think I don’t remember the fun times I had here. Don’t think I am too good for that. I reminisce with my hubby and kids on a daily occasion of some of the crazy things we thought up. So to my prior best friends…. Patti, Mary, Amy, Dee, Kim … class of 87, 88 and 89. Cheers! No matter what you did, someone always thought you would.

What is Easter to you?

Easter

There are so many holidays… it is hard to decide which would be my favorite. I guess I have always said St. Patrick’s Day was my fav… Guinness, Corn Beef and Cabbage, and all things GREEN. Maybe it is because I love Dr. Seuss and I think of the Grinch on that day. But when speaking of religion, I know that my favorite holiday is Easter. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong, but it is so commercialized. Christmas time has become a very hectic time for most people and they simply forget the reason for the season.

However, let’s take Easter… it is simple. God made it simple for us for a reason, so we could celebrate without all of the gifts and frills. Easter is … Redemption. White. Pure. Refreshed and new. Simple as that. No hoopla over too many Easter’s to fit in. It is about family and understanding that Jesus rose from his grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father. How can that not make you just want to scream out with joy. This was no magic trick… God gave his Son to save us from ourselves and we still mess up but because of this wondrous gift we have been given we are saved.

It is almost amazing… we don’t give gifts on Easter but we should offer forgiveness to those who have possibly wronged us. The gift that we have gotten was far greater and we are not required to bring a “white elephant” gift to exchange with anyone. I believe that Easter is just the way it is supposed to be. People can throw in a bunny or chick…. A basket of candy but there is no worry… stress… it is just a time to be with family and be with them without an agenda.

If you think about Easter in today’s time, who would take the hit for you to be saved? It is a pretty fair question. You would do it for family but how could you ever take a hit so large as to be nailed to a cross, humiliated by your people taunting you and you still take the hit for them. Nope, it just isn’t possible. Those who don’t believe in something bigger… I think you just need to step back and just think about a couple of things…

  • Have you heard a small voice in your head telling you right from wrong?  (I am not saying it made you act on it… but have you heard it)
  • Have you thought things will never get better… and a bit later… things change?
  • Have you ever just wanted to end it… and something gets the better of you and makes you realize how special and important you are?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you just don’t think financially you will ever make it, but somehow… something works out for you?
  • Have you ever wondered why there are so many bumps in the road for you?  Could it be that God knows you are handling it and is working on a special plan for just for you?
  • Have you been in a near death situation and made it through by the grace of God?

You see, I believe. I believe that there is a plan and I may have made some wrong turns but God is working it out for me. He is fair and just God but he is going to have me work for my glory. I don’t even know what my glory is yet.

So please… give thanks this Easter. Whether you are with a huge family gathering or it is just you, remember to ask for forgiveness. Remember that we have to confess our sins and be right with the Lord even when it hurts. Easter is simply miracles through the hand of God.

Our dear merciful Father, thank you for giving us your son. Thank you Jesus for accepting the fate and doing it for us. You carried the cross so that I can wear one around my neck to remind me of your sacrifice and know that I am saved.

Corkey Canvas Review….

corkey canvas

 

What bonds a team? What is competitive? I will tell you one thing it is going to a place called the Corkey Canvas. Finding a group to go isn’t difficult and the art lesson and supplies are reasonably priced at $35 dollars a night. What makes it fun is that there is a wine/alcohol bar right as you come in. So let’s say you aren’t Picasso or Bob Ross, you might leave with a master piece or a hangover. We had a group of four which was really fun. Not too much of the spirits because we wanted to come home with a picture that resembled something like the instructors model.

The group we had was a fun, kind of sarcastic group but everyone was into it. I say sarcastic because, I know I am and I have a hard time not bringing it out in others. Although there wasn’t a great deal that we all had in common, the one thing that stood out was our love for our Lord. Who couldn’t want that to be the center of all friendships? Those are the type of friends I have decided are the lifelong ones. I had never met one of the girls in the group which even made it more enjoyable because I found a new friend.

When you first get their all of your favorite 80’s and 90’s pop classics are playing so it is like a sing-a-long. Madonna, Journey, Elton John… you know the songs. Our instructor was Ashton, she wore clothes that reminded me of the style bohemian chic. Small framed girl that looked no older than twenty. Either she was blessed with amazing youthfulness or simply blessed with an artistic talent that could be capitalized on.

We were introduced to our brushes… big one, small one and baby one. Now on to phase one, the sky line. This was fun because now we are mixing colors. A purple haze would be what the skyline would be. The sky was ombre going from darker to lighter until it hit the horizon. This was fun and a good time to learn some steps with brush technique. Plenty of time was given with the music playing to finish what you needed to get done.

Next, we work on the establishing our river or stream… whichever you want it to be. You had to outline where you planned to place your water and paint it white… with a little purple reflection of your purple haze skyline. Back to music and…. Now it was time for “drink and dry”… a chance to get a beverage and to let your masterpiece dry.

Moving to our ground…. It was to be brown, but somehow mine had a very maroon value to it. I thought it looked just fine to me. I was the artist and that made it okay. Mixing colors again… not easy but really fun. After the ground was finished it was time for some touchups on our stream/river. Following that was the fun step of putting in the trees on the horizon. I learned a lot from that. Three shades of green and make sure the lightest was on the left side because that was where we were expecting the sun to be.

Finishing it off would be the trunks of the trees and their reflection onto the water in our stream or river. I had done it. I am not saying I did a masterpiece but I was able to paint a picture in one sitting, something I had never accomplished prior to this.

Our group had a good time and NO there wasn’t any failures, each of us left with a masterpiece. However I give the Corkey Canvas ~ five stars or two thumbs up. Thank you all involved for making it a fun and enjoyable evening. And please always remember to tip your bartenders…. 🙂