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Monday, May 13, 2019

Things I Will Not Give My Children

Today is my younger son's birthday and there has been a lot of discussion about gift-giving. He's listed several things he wants and I've done my best to grant his requests within reason. However, there are some things that I decided long ago to not give my kids. They're intangible, but they carry with them a lot of weight and influence. I can't say that I will never give these things to my children. After all, it's difficult to break the chain of modeled behavior. But I will do my best to never impart these "gifts" upon my sons.

I will not give my children:

Destructive Criticism-
There is a HUGE difference in lovingly showing a child that they've erred and berating them for making a mistake. If they don't fold the towels properly or they spill their milk or break a knick-knack I want to keep my cool. There's no need for dramatic screaming or name-calling.

Speaking of name-calling...

I will not give my children:

Demeaning Names-
Pet names are cute (mostly). I often call my sons "Dude". I will not however, call them ugly names out of anger. There is never an acceptable reason to refer to a child as a "stupid little idiot" no matter what they've done.


I will not give my children:

Blame for My Bad Behavior-
"I'm sorry, but if you hadn't made me so mad I wouldn't have_____" is not an apology. It's just another way of saying "You deserve my abuse."

And while we're on that topic...

I will not give my children:

Emotional Manipulation-
My children DO NOT owe me anything. Yes, I gave birth to them. Yes, I raised them and provided for them. That is my duty and privilege. That does not entitle me to anything of theirs and does not make them beholden to me. They do not have to do anything to earn or retain my love. Repeat: They do not have to do anything to earn or retain my love. Period.

I will not give my children:

Disdain for Their Talents/Interests-
I will not mock my sons for "wasting paper" with their art or writing projects. I will not sneer at their creative endeavors. I will not dismiss their creations as worthless or frivolous. I will also not criticize them for what they enjoy. I may not understand their love of Dystopian Fiction or Five Nights at Freddy's, but I won't mock them for liking them or try to keep them from enjoying them.


I will not give my children:

The Brush-Off-
Yes, there are times when they want my attention when I happen to be very busy. I have to remember though, that every moment is precious. They pass and are quickly gone. I don't want to look back and regret not taking advantage of the moments when my children wanted to talk to me, sit next to me, cuddle with me. I want to try to set aside whatever I'm doing and give them my attention. I want to ask how their day went, how their projects are progressing, how they feel about this or that. Their thoughts and opinions matter to me and should be heard and acknowledged.

I will not give my children:

Comparison-
My sons are pretty much polar opposites. But their uniqueness is important to who they are. I don't want to ever make one feel like they are less than the other because they don't do ________ as well or they aren't good at _________. I don't want to compare them to other people's children either. I want them to own and be proud of who they are, quirks and all.


I will not give my children:

Pressure to Perform on Command-
My children's gifts and talents are their own. They are not a commodity for me to use to make a name for myself.

I will not give my children:

Reason to Doubt that I Love Them-
Oh sure, they may feel I'm mean when I discipline them, but they'll know deep down that I do it because I love them. Love is an action. It's not a thing that is bought and sold. Buying "stuff" is not an adequate expression of love. Love is being there when my children need me. Listening to their problems and worries without judgment. Supporting them on the sidelines or from the audience without calling attention to myself. Knowing their favorite color, their favorite song, their biggest fear. I want to show them that I love them in all the small, everyday ways that add up to a lifetime of confident knowledge that they are cherished beyond words.

I don't claim to be a perfect parent. I make mistakes every day. I don't want to be above openly apologizing to my kids when I mess up. "I was wrong. I should have handled that better. I'm sorry." I'm imperfect and so are my sons. But we love and respect each other and we encourage each other do better. That is family. That is Love. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Progression

In terms of music, a progression is a succession of chords which gives a piece of music its harmonic movement. In a chord progression, each chord moves to the next, propelling the music forward. Every chord is an important musical building block of the piece as a whole.


I am looking forward to the new year with the idea of progression at the forefront of my thoughts.  It is my wish that every day, every moment, every choice will be for the purpose of moving forward. Not in a mad rush, but in a steady succession of events and days and decisions. This, of course, means willfully releasing the past. I don't mean forgetting the past. I should always be aware and in touch with what has come before in order to learn and grow. However, I cannot let myself be so anchored to the events of the past that there is no forward motion. I should not live thinking back to what could have been and playing moments over and over in my head in an endless loop.

A piece of music can't be made up of one chord played over and over. Well, it can, but who would want to listen to that? Sometimes, all we can do is stop agonizing over the past and move on to the next thing. It should be simple, right?


There is often a danger of confusing contentment with complacency, but a person CAN be content without being complacent. One should always be moving forward in personal growth, always striving to be a little bit better. I never want to say to myself (or anyone else) "Well, this is as good as I get!" I don't want to get to a certain age and just stop. I don't need big, dramatic changes; even tiny steps upward and/or forward are positive motion. I don't want this kind of progression because I am discontented. I simply find joy in the process, in the growth and evolution of who I am.

And so the harmonic movement of my life is composed day by day and moment by moment. It doesn't always follow a steady andante, but again, an unchanging pace would be boring. There will be times of rapid movement when events shift and change from one measure to the next. There will also be gentle lulls when days slow and the movement is so subtle it's barely noted.

Now, at the great fermata of 2018 before the clock strikes midnight and a New Year begins, I think ahead (only slightly) and prepare myself. There's new music waiting to be written. The final strains of the preceding chords fade and I take a giant lung-bursting breath, ready to lift my voice in new notes and new ideas in a brand new shining year.

Happy New Year, everyone.

 Let's make some music.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tony and the Big Lie


Up until this point, I've been unable to write about the tragic passing of Anthony Bourdain. I have been too heartbroken, too confused and far too angry. I was furious at him for what I saw in my mind as "cowardly checking out." He had opted to not deal with his issues and instead leave a mess for his family and friends to muddle through.

Over the past few months I have done a lot of soul-searching and while I'm still upset, I've been able to let go of a lot of my anger. After all, I've been down that road and I know first-hand how treacherous it can be. There never seems to be a clear-cut answer and the circumstances never really make sense.

What I believe in my heart is this: Tony had no plans to die when he went into that hotel room. The method he used screams of absolute desperation. No one plans to die at the end of a hotel bathrobe belt.  Tony's choice was one made in a moment of intense pain and suffering that seemed at the time to have no end.

But why? Why didn't he seek out help? There were people around him that surely could have reached out.

That's the logical thing to assume, right? But here's the thing; depression does not follow a path of logic or rational thought. It is unreasonable and demanding. There is no Shakespearean soliloquy that can quiet it when it screams. And does it ever scream. It screams that you are worthless, useless and without hope. It commands you to shut the doors and windows to your soul and not let anyone in. It demands to be left alone to wallow in guilt and shame and regret.

While it seems logical for a person suffering such thoughts to seek out a friend or some source of Light, a lot of times the opposite is true. You just want to be left alone to feel miserable. There's even a bit of perverse pleasure in your misery. You want to relish it. To cherish it.

The people in Anthony Bourdain's life where well-acquainted with his moods. They knew he had times of depression and darkness. In their experiences, the best course of action was to leave him alone and let him deal in his own way. After a while, he would emerge as his old, snarky self ready to move on to the next project.

What made this time different is a big unknown factor. There were surely things going on in his life that most people didn't know about. Perhaps no one thought much of it when he went sour and needed to be away for a while. He'd done it in the past. It was what he did.

Shut off from friends and family in that hotel room, Tony fell victim to the Big Lie. Satan's favorite tool of destruction, the Big Lie is what is whispered when we're at our weakest. It tells us that life is meaningless, that we are meaningless. It tells us that if we died no one would even notice. It says that the world would be better off without us.

Most of the time, it's easy to see the Big Lie for what it is. But if we aren't careful, we can buy into it in a moment of weakness. Perhaps that's what Tony did. He went to that dark place intending only to wade out into its murky depths a little bit.  However, like a rip-current, it caught him up and carried him out further than he was able to swim back. Exhausted and defeated, he let himself slip away. In a moment of blind panic and desperation, he reached for whatever was close in order to end his pain.

As horrific as it is, this is how I have to see him. Not as a spoiled rock star choosing to have one last moment in the spotlight, but as a broken and desperate soul searching for solace. I can understand this person. I can empathize with this person. I can forgive this person.

Tony was not a religious person, and in all honesty, religion alone would not have been able to save him. Plenty of good Christian people have listened to the Big Lie and have ended their own lives. Satan doesn't care who you are or what your religious affiliation is. He doesn't care if you're the Pope or Billy Graham. He will try to use the Big Lie on you. He does it because the Big Lie causes you to doubt God. It calls into question everything God has said about Himself and His plans for you. Satan's Big Lie says that God makes mistakes and you're one of them. It says that you are wasted space that God has forgotten about. It says that God does not know or care about your pain.

Now, the point of everything I have shared so far is this:
The Big Lie is just that. Utter falsehood. Complete garbage. Do not believe a bit of it!

God does not make mistakes. He created each of us with a purpose. He loved us enough to give us life and to know our very hearts and minds and souls while we were still in our mother's womb.


Jeremiah 1:5 New International Version (NIV)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...


God knows our pain. He has felt everything we feel. He sent His Son Jesus, not just to die for us, but to live among us, experiencing everything we experience.

Hebrews 4:15 New International Version (NIV)

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

He knows the pain of rejection and loss. God's heart is moved with compassion when we hurt, and like a good Father, He wants us to bring our hurts to Him. We don't have to wallow in lonely misery. We can lay our burdens at His feet and cover ourselves with His mercy and grace.

God alone can silence the cries of the Big Lie. Just as Jesus calmed the waves by speaking "Peace, be still," He can quiet the storms of our hearts and minds with words of love and calm. We just have to choose to come to Him, to cry out to Him, to admit that we cannot do this thing called Life without Him.

There is an antidote to the Big Lie and it is the Hope of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:3-7 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

A Living Hope

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts there are numerous resources available to help you. 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255
There is also the Grace Helpline at 1-800-982-8032 and the National Prayer Line at 1-800-4-PRAYER
I am personally available to talk, listen and pray for you via Facebook Messenger at: 
Don't listen to the Big Lie. There is hope. There is always hope! 



Thursday, July 12, 2018

Not-So-Chunky White Duchess

I have been on a journey. It began last summer after I visited my sister and took this picture:
It's like a side-by-side after/before ad for Jenny Craig.

I was mortified by how I looked. However, it went far beyond looking fat. I felt sluggish and unwell. I couldn't do a lot of things that I wanted to because I just didn't have the energy or stamina. I decided to make a change. 

I was nervous about such an undertaking. I knew it would be challenging, but I could also see where I was headed if I did nothing. One side of my family tends to be overweight and I was told from an early age that I would likely follow the trend when I got older. I worried that maybe that was truth; maybe getting fat was unavoidable for me. Maybe I was fighting a losing battle. 

Fortunately, the other side of my family is stubborn tenacious. I was not going to Fatsville without a fight. I began simply. No fad diets. No pills. No supplements. Just careful calorie and activity tracking. I got a new Fitbit and started using the MyFitnessPal app. I really became more conscious about what I was taking in and how much activity I was doing on a daily basis. 

My job is largely sedentary, so I set my Fitbit to give me hourly reminders to get up and move. I started going to the gym regularly. At first I just walked on the treadmill or rode the bike. After a while I added in some classes: PiYo, some yoga and even kickboxing. I gradually added in some weight training as well. 

My diet has never been really terrible, but I did have a portion control problem as well as a penchant to snack a lot at night. I cut down my meal portions but added in regular healthy snacks during the day so I never feel overly hungry. I cut out late-night snacking by instituting a 10pm Unplug for myself. By 9:50pm all my electronic devices are turned off and I am in bed (away from the kitchen) with a good book.  

Since the end of the summer last year, I have gone from a size 12 with achy knees and ankles and some serious gut issues to a size 6 with knees that can hold up for a run and two back-to-back weeks of VBS. My energy is great and I feel better than I have in AGES. 

But this is the most important part: There is no end in sight. I'm not going to get to a certain weight or dress size and say, "Ok, I'm done. I can go back to what I was doing before."

This is a lifestyle change for me. This is the way I will be from now on. And I'm happy. I love going to the gym. I enjoy the foods that I eat. I allow myself a treat now and then, but I am not interested in letting this go. It's not that I'm just afraid of gaining the weight back. I love how I feel now. I didn't realize how bad I felt before. Even my anxiety issues have gotten better thanks to regular exercise and cutting a lot of the crap from my diet. 

I was almost 40 when I started. I had a lot of bad habits and a family history of weight issues. I could have said, "Well, everyone in my family is fat" and felt perfectly justified. But I want to be a good example for my children. I want to be healthy for myself now and for my future self. I want to be able  to hike Cinque Terre or climb the Tor at Glastonbury when I'm an older lady. I don't want to be a burden to my sons when I'm old because I didn't take care of myself. 

So there it is. My "Yay Me!" post. I won't apologize for it. I worked hard for it. I'm still working hard. 

But it feels amazing.


*I could not have done this without the awesome support of my husband. He's been on this journey with me and is such an inspiration to me. He looks amazing too!



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

My Big Fat Fabulous 40th Birthday

Most people view turning 40 as an occasion to be dreaded and greeted with black balloons and much sobbing. I am not most people. Oh sure, getting older is not always fun. I have more aches and pains and creaks and groans now. I also have more experience. I've done a lot and been through a lot and survived a lot in my 40 years on earth.

Over all, my life so far has been pretty charmed. When compared to a large percentage of the world's population, I am living the dream. Still, I've had my ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade any of it or wish it away. Not one moment. Each moment has brought me to right where I am, and to be honest, I like where I am headed.

I am cresting that proverbial hill, but I still see a lot of life ahead of me. I feel as if I am finally settling in to who I truly am and what I am called to do in this life. The puzzle pieces are at last coming together and I am beginning to see a clearer picture of myself.
And I look pretty darn good!

Since I'm 40, my kids are older and much more self-sufficient, so I have more time to devote to my passions. Lately, those passions have taken less of a hobby type role and more of an Oh-my-goodness-I-can-make-money-doing-this type role. Just a few years ago I never would have considered such a thing. I didn't see myself as a real artist because I didn't have the confidence to put myself out there and share what I created.  I began slowly and anonymously, but over time I have learned and tried and worked to hone my craft. 

I am grateful to the community of artists and kindred spirits who helped me find my way. I am also enormously grateful to my husband who has been so supportive of my journey. He has had a huge part in helping me get over my crippling fear of failure and gain my confidence. I spent such a long time feeling unworthy and useless and he helped me to at last feel as if I have a voice and a purpose.  

I look at turning 40 not as the end of my youth, but as a positive turn towards finding myself and my raison d'etre. There are so many things I want to be and do and see. This is not the beginning of the end; it's only the end of the beginning. 


I remember when my parents turned 40 and I thought they were ancient. I see now that 40 is not nearly as old as I thought it was when I was a teenager. And as much as everyone likes to joke about everything being "downhill from here," I just choose to view it differently. 

Standing here now, at the top of THE HILL, I have a clear view of what's ahead and do you know what I see? I see another hill. You see folks, Life is not a hill at all. It's a freakin' mountain chain. I choose now to move on from this hill to the next one and climb it like it's a jungle-gym. 

I may moan and groan at times about being old, but I really feel as if my best years are still to come. There's a lot of life left in this gal and I'm not going to let a number like 40 make me slow down. 

I am just getting started!



*A very special thank you to Leann Hill for the amazing photos. Check out her portfolio here.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pant Rant

Maybe it's the sinus meds making me stupid bold, but I just gotta say it...

I freakin' hate LuLaRoe.

I keep getting added (without my permission) to LuLaRoe Facebook groups and parties and it's making me crazy.

Y'all, I get it. Leggings are comfortable. Fine. Wear them, but wear size appropriate and AGE appropriate leggings please.

I am thoroughly confused by the number of women over 40 who are sporting "pants" that look like they were purchased at Justice or The Limited Too. Come on, ladies! Do we really need to wear neon leggings with ice cream scoops or puppy faces printed on them?

These are just plain pugly. *Ba-dum-bum!*

The ladies who sell these things shell out big bucks to purchase inventory and if they don't sell, then what? Do they get any of their investment back? Is anyone besides the LuLaRoe company making any money? The way some of these gals are aggressively pushing their "parties" I'm guessing the answer is no. Speaking of parties... there is usually wine there, right? I suppose after knocking back a few glasses of Pinot this stuff might look good. 

Lisa Frank got totally trashed and decided to make pants.


"But they're soooo buttery soft," all the SAHMs coo. That does not make up for the fact that they are butt ugly and should not be worn by any female older than 6. I have come to terms with the leggings-as-pants fad. However, these prints and styles are totally ridiculous outside of a Kindergarten classroom. 

These double as a play-mat if little Jimmy gets bored in church.

Ladies, I know comfort is key when juggling kids and work and life in general, but that shouldn't mean sacrificing style. LuLaRoe is laziness. Seriously, I can go pick out the same outfit in the Garanimals section at Walmart. Whatever happened to dressing with sophistication? 
Candy corn ain't sophisticated.

We Southern ladies have always been known for our class and elegant style. Why are we sinking to wearing stuff our daughters would find juvenile? Is it about fitting in? Is LuLaRoe the new cool thing? Just remember how you laughed when you looked at old photos of your mother from the 70s and 80s. Think ahead 10 or 15 years to your daughter howling at your many Outfit-of-the-Day pics and see if those banana print leggings are still appealing.
Get it? A-peeling? 

And we won't even go into this:
Holey obnoxious leggings, Batman!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Repairers of the Breach

We are 11 days into 2017 and I'm just now settling on my claim for the New Year. To be honest, I've spent the past week and a half just trying to catch up after the holidays. 2016 was such a looooong, disturbing year and I've needed a few extra days to "get over it."

So, here we are. 2017! I'm happy to have the past year behind me. It was so full of loss and heartbreak that  touched EVERYONE! Bowie seemed to be the catalyst, dying on this day one year ago and setting off 2016's year-long celebrity massacre.

I experienced loss in my personal life as well. My dearest aunt died quite suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving me and my family in shock. It was a tough blow to lose the woman who had been more than an aunt to me when I was a child. She had been a wish-giver, a secret play-mate and a source of love and laughter that I needed in those days.


On the day of my aunt's funeral I also said goodbye to my dear neighbor to whom I had grown very close, and who had become a motherly figure and mentor for me. Unable to live alone anymore. she moved hundreds of miles away to live with her daughter.

Just before Christmas I lost my former Sunday School teacher, fiercest prayer warrior and sweet confidant. She was a great lady who prayed me through my teenage years and taught me by example about how to live a godly life.

Now, as I'm a week and a half outside of that painful year, I have decided that 2017 is going to be the year of Redemption and Restoration. It's not really as serious and solemn as it sounds. If last year was a year of loss, this is the year that I will reclaim and restore what I can. Many things have already been set into motion and I eagerly await the chance to share them.
Return to Oz?

I will begin with myself. I want to restore my body and reclaim my long-dormant creativity. I want to exercise my body and mind. I miss the person I once was, full of energy and imagination. I will find her and reclaim her. I watched a video this morning about a man who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the midst of his pain and suffering, he began working on an old church, repainting and restoring it. Over the three years he worked on it, his body healed. His cancer went into remission. The restoration of the church brought restoration to his body and soul.

I'm tired of sitting around wishing I could do this or that. I want to reclaim my life and live it to the fullest. I have let my personal identity and dreams once again get buried beneath the day-to-day stuff. Responsibilities are important, but I have sacrificed a lot of who I am to things that won't really matter tomorrow. Sometimes I even use those responsibilities as an excuse and a place to hide, telling myself, "I can't write right now, I have to fold the towels."

No one will remember me for how neatly my towels were folded. If I want to make a difference in the world (and I certainly do) I need to stop hiding behind my "real job" and get out there and do things that matter. Not just for myself, but for society. I want to use my Art and creativity in ways that make things better. The world is hurting, and if I can create one moment of beauty out there somewhere, I will count myself a success.

So here's to 2017. Here's to hoping for a restoration of things lost, a healing of wounds and a reclaiming of peace. We've got a lot of work to do.
Isaiah 58:12