Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Hate Pink Ribbons

I hate pink ribbons....

As I sit here at my screen, I am looking at a jar of hand cream.

It is an unassuming jar - nothing really that special about the cream itself. It's not imported or infused with oils, scents, or the latest antioxidants.  But still this jar of hand cream is catching me, and weighing heavy on my heart.  I don't move it because it is a connection I have to my sister.

I hate pink ribbons....

This jar of hand cream is the jar that my sister used during her battle with inflammatory breast cancer.  Her chemo and treatment were so harsh on her skin, that she had to bath her burning, itching, peeling skin during her 4 year and 9 month long life and death battle with a bitch, a demon, a monster of a disease.

I hate pink ribbons... 

As a family with a history of breast cancer, we were MORE than AWARE of breast cancer.  My sisters and I have had regular mammograms, done self-exams, and had clinical exams.  Some of us had them earlier than the "recommended" age. We looked for the symptoms that the happy, pinkified campaigns suggested. We always looked for the lump. We were aware. And we didn't know what we didn't know.

I hate pink ribbons...

Still, my sister had symptoms of breast cancer for months and didn't know.  She was diagnosed at stage IV of inflammatory breast cancer.  SHE HAD NO LUMP.  She had what she thought was a rash. She had some swelling that she attributed to being lopsided.  She had a dimply - orange peel like texture to her breast that she thought had to do with hormones or the rash.

I hate pink ribbons. 

None of what we were aware of ever told us to stop and take a good LOOK at our breasts. We weren't aware of the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. With as many pink ribbons as we saw, as many lumps we looked for, as "aware" as we were as a family, none of us knew about this type of breast cancer and these symptoms. We learned pretty damn quickly that this type of breast cancer leaves women with only a 35-40% 5 year survival prognosis. My sister died 4 years and 9 months after her diagnosis. We learned that it is a less common type of cancer but a very aggressive cancer that is diagnosed at a younger average age than other types of breast cancer. We learned very quickly that it often does not manifest in the form of a lump. We learned that there are visual changes that can accompany IBC, that we were not aware of. (For more information about IBC - inflammatory breast cancer visit The IBC Network, and see the sister check graphic above for possible visual cues. )

I hate pink ribbons...

So why do I hate pink ribbons? I hate them because they do not tell the whole story.  The pink ribbon has become the symbol of the "cause of awareness".  I hear slogans of "support awareness"- just what the hell does that mean? At this point in history, if you are not aware that there is something called breast cancer you have lived your life under a rock.  I hear of parents fighting for their kids right to wear a band with the word "boobies" on it as a matter of their right to free speech and belief.  I see retailers and businesses pushing pink in "support", but fail to mention if any of your purchase supports anything.  I see the pink ribbon associated with community, and happiness, and fun - which is not a bad thing, but that was not the ending of the story for my sister and our family.

I hate the pink ribbons because to me, they trivialize my sister's death.  To me, they don't support research, education, action, prevention, access to support for patients and families that are in the trenches of the war with cancer.  The pink ribbon doesn't show what families that have lost loved ones have gone through.  They don't show the grieving, the heartache, the life change that happens when a woman or a man dies as a result of breast cancer. I hate the pink ribbons because they leave out the what you don't want to hear about cancer. They are a symbol for awareness. We could have all the awareness in the world. But without action, education, research, support for patients and family, it means absolutely nothing.

I hate pink ribbons because they show the pretty side of the pink movement - cancer is anything but pretty.

Is this an angry writing? Yes. My writings about this used to be hopeful as she truly fought the good fight. She won a lot of battles. But in the end - cancer won the battle for her breath. My anger comes from losing my sister. It comes from grieving.  It comes from wishing there was a better prognosis for women who are affected by IBC. It comes from feeling like we were on top of awareness, and we weren't.

To be clear, I am not saying that you should not engage in any campaigns. MANY organizations do good.  I am simply saying to be aware that there is more that is needed than just awareness. Please - educate yourself.  In today's information age, you have access to search and learn about breast cancer. There are so many good resources out there.  Don't rely solely on a campaign or an awareness month to understand YOUR health.  Be a good steward of your life. Take action and accountability where you can - learn what you can.

Let me revisit a statement a few lines back.  In the end, cancer won the battle for my sister's breath. BUT, it did not win the battle for her spirit and her soul.  She is singing praises in heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that brings us peace. However, in our humanness, until we see her again, we will miss and grieve for her. No number of pink ribbons can change that.

As I sit here looking at this jar of hand cream, I think of my sister. And I think I HATE PINK RIBBONS.

Here's a challenge: Ask a business person who is pushing pink in support just how much they are donating toward a research cause, a patient support cause, a treatment cause, and education cause... if they are donating something, than great. If not, take what you would have spent on that item and donate it directly to an organization that supports beyond awareness. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Momma's Never Forget.... A Crafty Repurpose Dry Erase Project

Reclaimed Cupboard Door Dry Erase Boards

In a busy world, you sometimes need reminders to help keep you focused and on track.  Even the savviest of momma's need a reminder to not forget everything that is on their plate! Technology is a great tool for some. But for many, the tactile and visual experience of a written note is a better option to help them keep organized. Here’s an easy and inexpensive way to create a beautiful dry-erase board for those notes, using repurposed items.

You Will Need:

  • Reclaimed Cupboard Door* 
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Clear Contact Paper/Shelf Liner 
  • Masking Tape 
  • Sand paper 
  • Gentle Soap and a wash cloth 
  • Dry erase pens and eraser ** 

Directions:  (Check out the video link below for a demonstration)

1. Begin prepping the reclaimed cupboard door by wiping it down with a gentle soap and water solution and a wash cloth to remove any household residue. Once it is thoroughly dry, gently sand the center panel of the door with a fine sand paper. Wipe of any residue from the sanding.

2. Use masking tape (or any painter’s tape) to tape-off the area that will be painted.

3. Paint the taped off area with two coats, letting the first coat dry completely before painting the second. Let second coat dry completely before moving to the next step.

4. Measure the painted area and cut a piece of clear contact paper/shelf liner to the same dimension.

5. Pull back one edge of the contact paper far enough to match it up with the edge of painted surface. Apply the exposed (sticky) side to the edge of the painted surface. Slowly peel away paper backing while smoothing the surface side against the painted surface. When it is completely applied use your hands to smooth out any air bubbles. Note: If using dark colored paint, the surface will have a chalk board look to it.

Use the existing drill holes from the hardware as a guide for affixing wall hanging hooks to your finished board. Hang it up and write away! 

Check out this link for an on air segment demonstrating this fun craft!

*If a cupboard door is not available, any board with a flat surface can be used.

**If using dark paint, use bright or neon pens. If using a lighter paint, note that you may need to change out the contact paper on occasion to keep the board looking fresh. Terrycloth square can be used in place of an eraser if needed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

They're Watching...

I was at the climbing gym with my middle daughter. She shared with me that I inspired her to step just a bit more. When we climb, even when I am tired, I push myself to do just one more wall, even though I know it's going to be tough. She told me that example inspires her to step out with just a bit more effort than she THINKS she has. That moment showed me how important my example to my daughters is and how important it is for me to recognize my own determination.

My oldest daughter was making her first big move away for a job and was having some anxiety over the change.  We talked about all the wonderful things that it could bring, but also that if she didn't like it, that the changes she makes in life never have to be permanent. She went on to make the move and had a wonderful growing experience but realized she wanted to be closer to family. After about 18 months she moved back. She also updated her favorite quote on Facebook to read

 "Nothing ever has to be permanent. ~ My Mom"

That showed me how impacting and lasting my words to my daughters can be. 

My youngest daughter took her first summer job.  When she started we let her know that she was responsible for getting up on her own and too work on her own.  That's a challenge for any first job, but even more considering that she had to be at work at 7am every day, and that she does not yet drive.  We have always given them accountability over themselves- the level increased as they got older.  She took on her responsibility and did it all summer long without complaining.  That showed me the importance of teaching them life skill and responsibility.  It stays with them as the step off into the world.

All of these things were not overt lessons that happened in single conversations or commands barked- although conversations were had.  They were more of lessons by example, consistency, and perseverance.  My children watched me, listened to my words, and learned from the boundaries and responsibilities of our household.  

As parents, it's difficult to see the rewards and the progress of parenting in each day.  But, it does come.  As they step into the world the impact you have had shines directly back to you like your reflection in a mirror.  They have been absorbing  how to be in the world through their relationship with you.  Certainly social examples have an influence, but at the core of their foundation, what they have watched and learned from you is what steers them. It is a huge responsibility to be such a large part of their compass.  

The next decision you make, the next words you speak, the next time you handle anger or failure, the next crisis you navigate, the next triumph you have, the next goal you work towards, the next time you show compassion - keep in mind that it sets the narrative of who your children are and how they have learned to be in the world. They can be either empowered or encumbered by what they see.  Choose wisely and steward your life in the way that fills their understanding with useful tools. 

Remember - they're watching...

Monday, July 22, 2013

But I Like That About Me

My makeup settles in the lines around my eyes
But I like that about me.

My temples catch the light on glimmering gray,
But I like that about me.

My skin is no longer bronzed, taut and even,
But I like that about me.

My hands are calloused and my fingers are crooked,
But I like that about me.

My muscles are covered with fleshy softness,
But I like that about me.

My joints feel worked and sometimes ache,
But I like that about me.

My feet grow weary and weathered,
But I like that about me.

My movement is not as agile and swift,
But I like that about me.

My heart has broken into a million pieces- a thousand times,
But I like that about me.

My mind takes a bit longer to process things,
But I like that about me.

My eyes have seen the beauty of the world, squinted with the shine of the sun and crinkled in laughter.
And I like that about me.

The sun catches my locks, but reminds me that the silver on each strand is equal to the lining of the clouds that once seemed so dark.
And I like that about me.

Freckled and mottled, my skin has known the warmth of the sunshine, been stretched with the growing of babies, and chaffed but healed with the bumps of life.
And I like that about me.

These hands are no longer young, smooth and straight, but they have worked hard, are capable and creative, and have nurtured tenderly.
And I like that about me.

My body is not longer taut on the surface, but underneath lie muscles that have carried babies, moved households and carried the weight of the world.
And I like that about me.

Joints creek and moan, but they have climbed hills and mountains, and traveled hundreds of miles.
And I like that about me.

My feet are often weary, but they have stood strong and firm, run the race, and carried me across the finish line more times than can be counted.
And I like that about me.

Movement is slower these days, but I move with intentionality, with purpose and with commitment.
And I like that about me.

My broken heart has mended its million pieces a thousand times, each time bringing me greater understanding, compassion, and empathy.
And I like that about me.

My wit and response may be slower, but it is because I have absorbed more, gained wisdom, and learned to pause and think before acting and responding. 
And I like that about me.

Each line, ache, mark, break, and pause….each perceived imperfection is testament to the perfection of me; a carve in the clay of  great sculpture, a fine patina on the finest copper, or a light catching facet on a brilliant diamond.
I like that about me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Parenting My Reflection

 As much as I miss my kids being little, I will be honest, I am enjoying being on this side of parenthood.  It's not because I don't cherish and long for recapturing so many of the moments and memories that the younger years brought.  It's not that I was anxious to have my kids grown and independent.  It's not that I looked at parenting as a chore or a burden. It is  because of what parenting taught me about my children, and about me.

Of all of the parenting moments, the challenges taught me the most.

No one ever said parenting was easy. . Whether you are a first time parent or a parent of many children, there are things that challenge us as parents. The tantrums, the attitudes, the seemingly illogical objections to our "suggestions", the quirks and quandary inducing situations often leave us frustrated, confused, angry. The challenges also often leave us feeling like we are failing at parenting.

You should note that I didn't say our children challenge us as parents. There is a very good and important reason for that. It was something I realized when one my children was about 8 years old - and I was tired, confused, frustrated, and feeling like I was failing as a parent. I couldn't figure out what made her tick, what caused the friction, and why she wouldn't "be" the way I thought she should be. As I was standing in the middle of the kitchen trying to (ahem) manage one of her attitudes, it was as if God placed a full length mirror directly in front of me.  I had the immediate and very clear realization that I was parenting my reflection.  That was not easy.

As I stood there, I was humbled at seeing what I perceived as challenges about her transform into the realization that they were challenges in me. To clarify, it was not in actions or reaction - those manifestations in us were very different. The challenges were in what caused and the feelings in the actions and reactions.  The challenge was more pointedly in what cause ME to act or react to things. It was about the things that make me, me; and her... her.

When she would have a rough time with arguing and attitude as we were heading out the door for a last minute plan, I was parenting my own resistance to change.  As she would be frustrated to the point of tearing up a homework assignment that she didn't think was going well, I was parenting my own need for perfection.  When she would fall apart if her sisters interfered in her space, I was parenting my own need for some control over my personal bubble.  As she got worked up, wound up, and wired up when we were out and about, I was parenting my own need for some down time to recharge.  The challenges I saw in her were really the personality traits that I had, that she shared with me.  Eye opening.

This realization was key in helping me to parent her.  It allowed me to remove myself as part of the problem, and become part of the solution.  When I would react to her reaction, the way I was reacting, it became personality traits squared. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  But when I identified in me what was causing me to react, I could identify (for the most part) what she was reacting to.  Knowing how I successfully manage my own personality traits gave me more tools to help her manage her. It allowed me to see from her perspective and become a proactive part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. 

Was it easy or did it take any less effort? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, at the end of the effort and work, there was more peace, often resolution, and better understanding of her, and of me. It allowed me to foster and help guide those challenging things - that in reality were personality strengths, both in her AND in myself.  This may be a whole different post at some point, but control can be guided to responsibility, leadership, accountability; perfection can be guided to effort, persistence, passion; need for down time can be guided to self reflection, comfort in independence, and appreciation and understanding of boundaries - each challenge to us, is rooted in a positive personality trait.

The next time you are facing a parenting challenge, step back for a moment and imagine a mirror in front of you.  Look at your reflection and recognize if that challenge is a bigger challenge because of who you are and how you react.  When your children are young, they are not the challenge and never the enemy.  You are the grown up and you are solely responsible for how you act and react.  Parent reflectively and at the very least, you will have more parenting tools, and a better understanding of your child and of yourself and.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Independence Day and the Ghost of Betsy Ross!

From the archives, but a fun tradition!

Have you seen her?

She visits our family every year.....

If you are a lover of American History, you probably know that Besty Ross was born on New Years Day in 1752 in Philadelphia, PA. She is most well known for creating the banner that Americans pay respect and honor to (hopefully), our great Stars and Stripes, the great American Flag. If you are not a history buff, well, hopefully you can add this little piece of American history to your knowledge bank.

For me and my family, Betsy Ross has played an integral part of our celebration of Independence Day, the 4th of July. This particular holiday is the one time of year that my sisters and I, our families, and our parents are all together...all 15 of us. We spend it crammed into my parent's 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom mountain cabin. It is a cozy 7 days, but full of lots of celebration.

The Ghost of Betsy Ross as been a huge part of our festivities for the last 15 years when she first left a patriotic themed gift for each of the children after they each helped place an American flag in the yard of the cabin.(One of the kids speculated it was her she has returned every year since.) Each year the kids have looked forward to decorating the yard as patriotically as they can, and seeing if Betsy Ross will return again. Sure enough, from the morning after the flags go up to the morning of the 4th, she has left them mementos that help them display their love of country and respect of the flag.

I understand that this is not the most traditional way to celebrate, and may even draw some criticism from some for associating gifts with patriotism. But the way I see it is this:

America is a great country. It is far from perfect and like every other country on this planet can always improve. But, it also is a country that through the voice and hard work of the people and the guidance of great leaders, continually strives and is dedicated to overcoming injustice and ensuring equality of all people. In essence as Americans, we are given the gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a benefit of our patriotism - I say gifts because of the many women and men that gave their lives to ensure us these things. And what may be even more amazing, is that for those that live in this great country that are against what America is built upon...they are granted grace, and receive the same gifts.

I think that The Ghost of Betsy Ross has taught the children of the family a great appreciation for this Great Country. Untraditional as it may be, this way of celebrating has shown them the gift that they have by simply being able to call America home. Even as my children are venturing out into the world on their own - two are now adults, this tradition is close to their hearts and has deepened their appreciation for what it means to have the freedoms they have.

What Independence Day traditions do you have? 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Easy Coffee Can Dye Shirt

Easy Coffee Can Dye Shirt

Here is a fun and easy patriotic crafting project just in time for the 4th of July! With a few supplies and a few bits of time, you can create unique and fun designs to put some sparkle into your summer.

Here’s what you’ll need:

White cotton or cotton-blend tank
Red and Blue liquid dye
A coffee can
Rubber band
White acrylic paint
Fabric medium
Crystal or crystal look embellishments.

Here’s how you do it:

1.Wet the shirt and wring it out. Lay it flat and begin folding the shirt into a long rectangle, keeping in mind that the parts of the shirt that will take the most color on are the parts closest to the dye. Roll the rectangle into a log that narrow enough to fit into the coffee can with about an inch of room all the way around. Secure with a rubber band in the center of the log.

2.Mix the lighter (red) dye according to the package directions and fill the can about half way- keeping in mind the height of your rolled shirt. (The dye should reach up to about half of the height of the log when it is in the dye.)

3.Stand the log on end in the coffee can. The dye should reach about halfway up the shirt. Let it sit for about an hour. Go grab a cup of coffee, run an errand, catch up on your great summer read.

4.Carefully remove the shirt from the dye. Leaving the shirt rolled, run the log under hot water, letting the water run from the top of the un-dyed end through the bottom of the dyed end. Continue until the water runs pretty clear. Squeeze any excess water out and repeat steps 2-4 with the  darker (blue) dye.

5.Unrole the shirt and rinse in hot soapy water until water runs clear. Let it dry.  

6. Mix 2 parts white acrylic pain with 1 part fabric medium.

7. Lie shirt flat with a barrier layer between the front and back of the shirt. Stencil on stars in desired pattern.

8. Embellish tips of stars with crystals if desired. Enjoy!!

ALWAYS handwash this project separately. It may bleed to other fabrics if washed together.

The tighter the shirt is rolled, the lighter the interior of the roll will be. Looser it is rolled, the more colorful the interior. 

You may want to wear plastic gloves while doing this project. Dye may stain your hands.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Queendom For Some Sleep! (A Bit of Reflection and A SleepNumber M7 Review)

Do you remember being a kid and hating that you had to go to bed?  It seemed like such a punishment to have to leave the day, leave the action, leave what ever it was you were doing to have to go to  bed.

Do you remember being a teen and having your "bedtime" made later or even lifted? It seemed like such freedom to hang you in your room (of course reading or doing something productive...) till when ever you were tired enough to go to sleep.

Do you remember being a young adult and having the freedom and the fun of staying up or out all night?  Enjoying the nightlife with the after 10 crowd - that was appealing.  Living for the the late nights and the long weekends was the norm.

And then the day came when you could care less about the Night Owl lifestyle. Instead of craving time with friends and fun, instead of trading snoozing for the party scene, instead of trading dreamland for danceland, you'd trade your queendom for a good nights sleep.

When exactly does that transition happen?

Maybe it's the day that we realize that we are on our own and completely responsible for ourselves.  Or, maybe it's the day that we become parents and lose sleep not of our own accord, but because the little one in our house is not sleeping.  Perhaps, it is a certain age that our body just screams STOP and sleep.

I do know that for myself, I transitioned to that place long, long ago. But there was a crazy irony - as soon as I wanted sleep, I couldn't get it.  Work and worry, babies and body aches, traveling husband and teething toddlers, middle-schoolers and mood swings, teens and tumult, college age kids and college sized costs, did enough to keep me awake at night. I wanted and needed a soft place comfy place to lay my head down and slumber peacefully by Mr. Mom of Many Hats side.

But, alas, I found myself like the princess who had the pea under her mattress. Mr. MMH and I had very different ideas of what comfort was. While he slept like a rock, I would wake up feeling like I had slept on rocks.  The few short hours that I was getting each night rested my brain a bit, but not my body.  That comfy place of peaceful slumber passed me by.

SLEEP... I NEEDED SLEEP! And so did he.

Many years ago when we were trying to remedy the sleep inequality in our house, we came across the SleepNumber Brand.  We visited a showroom and tried out the pillow top and memory foam models.  We opted for the pillow top with dual air chambers.  This awesome bed allowed us to each set the perfect amount of firmness for our individual comfort.  Sleeping changed for me.  I was actually getting sleep (although I still should force myself to sleep more hours, but that's another post), and good sleep at that.  It was a Win/Win for both myself and my husband. 

When SleepNumber asked me to review the new P5 or M7 model of the SleepNumber bed, I was more M7 (Memory Foam Series) and see how well it worked for me and my sleep needs. 
Since I had preferred the "P" models years ago, I decided to try the "M" model. I was more than happy to take it for a test sleep!

I slept on the M7 for 7 nights in a row.  In that time, I did my normal daily routines that included all the stresses and strains of daily life and parenting, surviving in the AZ heat, and some pretty tough running, climbing and weight lifting workouts. With the exception of the first night (the newness of sleeping in a different bed), I slept through the night soundly and comfortably.  I had worried that the memory foam would trap heat and would keep me too warm. But the cooling gel technology conformed and supported me (without swallowing me up!) but kept me at a comfortable temp. I was particularly impressed on the third night's sleep when I had done a 4 mile run AND 2.5 hours of hard climbing at the gym.  I adjusted the bed (my sleep number) a bit higher for additional support and woke up with my joints feeling good.

I've recorded much of the process and review in the video below.

When it comes to sleep, we should all know that the CDC recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults.  We should also know that our bedding from case to mattress can affect how well we sleep.  Interestingly enough, Mayo Clinic shares the importance of comfort in its tips for a better nights sleep.  But for you and me, as moms or dads, parents or just tired adults, we may not always admit it, but we know we should manage our sleep.  Our queendoms and kingdoms run much smoother when we are well rested!

*Sleep Number (SelectComfort) provided the reviewer the M7 product in exchange for a review. The review is not to be considered a recommendation for you and your personal needs but rather it is an opinion based on the reviewer's observations and experience. Opinions reflected are those of the reviewer alone and are not influenced by the relationship to the provider of the product.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Be Still and Listen

If you have been a long time follower of AZ Mom of Many Hats Blog, you have probably noticed a bit of calm and quiet on the site. Much of life has been happening in the "Mom of Many Hats" household. There have been challenges, changes, and choices to be made.  Many of these things required a lot of reflection, introspection, emotional energy, and being still and listening.

Hence... A mom of few words....

But, this brings up a very important issue for moms (and dads) of many hats - the fact that we often refuse to let ourselves quiet and slow down and take the time to listen to life. It is so easy to be busy, to rush on to the next event or deadline, to pour energy into things that have no measurable value in our lives. We live in a world of distractions and busyness that allows us to be constantly in high gear. We choose to not downshift.  Let's be honest...often, we don't slow down so we don't have to listen to what life is shouting at us.

But why don't we want to be still and listen to what life is telling us?

It's Painful. When we stop and be still, there isn't as much action and white noise interfering with our thoughts and emotions.  We are faced with and forced to take a look at what is happening in our lives. Painful issues that we have been able to zip by may now become a place that we need to visit. When standing still, grief, fear, and frustration catch up to us.  We've slowed down the train, and they jump on.

It's humbling. At a standstill, the scenery and sounds are much clearer than when we are zooming by it at 100 mph.  Being still causes us to feel our size in the vastness of the universe, but at the same time, the enormity of the impact that we each can have in it.  We have the chance to step out of our own perceptions of what the world is to us (entitlement), and decide who we need to be to the world (obligation). It's a tough and humbling experience to realize just how inwardly you are living when you are not standing still and listening.

It's deafening. That old oxymoron - deafening silence, holds true here.  It is sort of like the few days in our recent history that no planes were flying in the air.  The absence of the white noise in the sky made the organic sounds of the world around us scream.  Standing still brings up organic sounds of life; the questions of calling and purpose, reassessing who we are, having to face issues of living and mortality, looking at our faith, questioning and preparing for the future.  When we are still and listening, these sounds can feel overwhelming.

Even though it can very difficult, there are reasons why we should stand still and listen.

It's eye opening. When we step back, be still, and listen, there is an opportunity to take stock of how we are living.  A moment of quiet shows where ways can be changed. Actions, heart, motivation, emotions, areas that need to be fixed or tweaked become clear to our site when there is a break in the busyness of existing.  Convictions and character can be solidified as a rock to stand on - and we can see the areas we would not change as well.

It's restorative. Because life is a work out, there needs to be rest. The work stretches, tears, and challenges our existence muscles.  Our physical bodies need rest when they have been challenged and worked.  It is the time where repair, restoration, and rejuvenation happens.  So it is with our minds, spirits, and wills as we walk through life.  Being still allows us to catch our breath, steady our steps, refuel, and move forward. It allows us to find perspective, hope, and reason that can get loss amongst the chaos that is often a part of day to day existence.

It's our obligations as good life stewards. Our life is something that we are called to steward - to manage with unselfish ownership and accountability. Part of that stewardship is stop, rest and listen.  If we are in perpetual motion and constant action, we are actually living an inwardly centered life.  Slowing down and reflecting allows us to "shut our mouths and open our ears" to truly see how we are impacting, and how the world is impacting us.  The key to life stewardship is recognizing the responsibility to take proactive assessments of how we are living and being in the world,  acting when acting is due, but also listening, resting, and being still when it is due. 

I confess, that there are times in my life that I keep busy so I don't have to hear what life and God are speaking into my heart.  It can hurt to be corrected, called out, and humbled by what you hear. It can be hard to hear and feel  emotions. It can also be scary to see the opportunities ahead that you can step into. But regardless of how much our minds and wills fight it, regardless of how much we don't want to be still and listen, it is a necessary and crucial step for us as people, as women, and as mothers.

Do you have a  hard time being still and listening? 
Do you do it willingly or does life have to force it upon you?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The ToolBox - Fill the Box Now, Be Their Friend Later

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” 
― Anne Frank

I would love it if I could give my kids everything they wanted...

But I can't. 

Even if I could, I wouldn't. My conscience, my judgement, my heart, and my parental responsibility would not let me. 

I would love to be my children's best friend...

But I can't.

Even if I could, I wouldn't. That is not my role. At least it's not my role while they are minor children, under my care, still maturing and growing to adulthood.  I guess I could have taken the role of friend instead of parent, but my conscience, my judgment, my heart, and my parental responsibility would not let me. 

I would have loved to make every path clear, every job easy, every relationship without trouble, every class fun, every game winnable, every action rewardable.... 

But I can't.

Even if I could, I wouldn't.  That may have been in some way possible, but not at all realistic or representative of what life is.  I could shelter them, fight every battle, and make their existence nothing but easy and fun, but my conscience, my judgment, my heart, and my parental responsibility would not let me. 

In the short term, eliminating any wants or obstacles in your children's lives may seem like an expression of love and caring.  It may seem to you that it is a way of taking care of and protecting them.  To make a path easy for them gets them further along the road.  Giving them what they want fulfills their desires for things.  Being a friend instead of holding then accountable and towing the line might feel like it's creating connection.  

The truth: That is the easy road for you. It also creates a tougher road for them when they are out in the world. 

Your job, my job, our job is to be parents and to ready them for the world.  A parent's job is to fill their child's toolbox with the tools they will need to be in it successfully. 

As a grown-up you know that the world is nothing like living at mom and dad's house with them taking care of the necessities of life.  It can be a great place, but it is not always an easy place.  It takes hard work, tenacity, willingness to stretch yourself, understanding and ability to cope with failures along with the successes, and knowing that things don't always go the way you want them to.  You have to problem solve, get along with people you don't always like, sometimes work in situations that are less than what you would like them to be, and earn your successes.  

As parent, it is your job to balance your care and protection with preparing your children for the world- a world that is not going to coddle them.  To do that, they need a toolbox stocked with the tools that will help them build a life in a world that looks very different from mom and dad's house. 

The world will hold them accountable and responsible for their actions. Give them this tool by holding them accountable and responsible for their actions and words. 

The world will not reward them for simply stepping into it.  They will fail at things in life as adults.  Prepare them with the tools for it by letting them fail at things sometimes. It is hard not to save them from it when you can, but the short term benefit of a better feeling in the moment becomes a long term obstacle when they don't know how to accept, learn from, and recover from it in the world. 

The world will not give the everything they want. Just like the rest of us, there will be some things that they get, some things they will have to work for, and some things that just never may come. Give them the tool of having joy with what's in front of them, and the ability to find happiness even when they don't have their every wish fulfilled. Don't grant every "want".  Give them everything they need, and some of what they want - but not everything. Give them the tool of knowing the difference between a need and a want by understanding the difference yourself. 

They will need to learn empathy, sympathy, the ability to feel joy and sadness, how to live a healthy lifestyle, and understanding of money and responsible use of it, self respect, respect for others, determination, tenacity, will, drive, how to rest, how to love... the list of tools goes on and on.  It is parent responsibility to send them into the world with a full tool box. 

It's not an easy job, but you are the best and most influential person for the job. When you are weary and feeling like the "bad guy", just recite this to yourself: Today I know that Parenting is a tiring job but a worthy one. Our duty is to give them the tools they need to be in the world. It is their job to open the tool box and use them.

Be their parent now.  Your reward of being their friend will come.