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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rainbow Moments

I did snap a photo before it disappeared!
The other morning I went for a walk and spotted a rainbow! It was brilliant and fascinating–as rainbows tend to be. My mind drifted to consider the sequence of colors and if I ever colored them correctly as a child. Blue purple red? Or yellow orange green? When I looked up again, it was gone.

Last week my fortune cookie said, "Don't rush through life. Pause and enjoy it." Easier said than done. This would entail ridding myself of incessant worry. Am I making a difference at work? Have I spent enough time with my parents? Did I get that uniform washed? Should I continue to write? Can I pray just once without other thoughts invading my mind? Am I being a good mom? Could I be a better wife? Ha ha. Just kidding on the last one. I could not be a better wife. (That should get me some feedback.)

Living fully in the present. It seems to be a challenge in this world of bazillion obligations. After putting much thought into this topic, I have concluded that observing children can help. Alex used to drive me up the wall when she was little. Wherever we went, she had to touch and study anything that caught her attention. Colorful candy bar wrappers were a favorite. Instead of scolding her, maybe I should've taken her lead and learned to linger. Linger therapy. Maybe I'll market that.

Perhaps the key is to engage in those activities with so much sensory stimulation, the brain doesn't have room to process anything else. These activities can actually come in the sneaky form of responsibility. A mentoring trip to the zoo. A soccer game. A vocal concert. Even stargazing while taking the dog out for his nightly duty. There really are ways one can be fully present....even with a to-do list tapping at your brain.

Tonight I noticed the lilacs on my tree beginning to wilt. Rather than rushing into the house to feed my laundry machine, I sat in my flower bed picking at weeds–and breathed in the fragrance of my lilacs. I did this until I felt the storm rolling in. And you know what? I didn't even feel anxious about my undone chores. Not one bit.

Maybe I'm starting to get this living in the present concept. And it really does seem to be a gift.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Injury. Adversity. Life.

In the past year, Cole has suffered a concussion, a sprained ankle, a sprained shoulder, and a lower back stress fracture.

I don't think I've been a very good parent through these injuries. Obviously I was concerned–especially about the concussion. But for the others, I didn't want to believe he was hurt. There were games to play. Soccer. Football. Basketball. Soccer. Except for the concussion, it took a few doctor visits (and an x-ray or two)  to convince me my son was really injured. Why would I question my kid's pain when I know very well he loves to play sports and absolutely hates to sit out?

Because I'm a crazy parent. Like so many of us who love to watch their kid play or perform. Once our child displays a smattering of talent in anything (sports, music, chess), we begin to think big. Maybe he could play in college! Maybe she will become the next American Idol! If American Idol was still a thing, that is.

While I was a book and music nerd in my youth (unlike now), my husband was an athlete. He loved sports–still does. But he seems to have a healthier outlook about kids and sports. I.e., he's not a crazy dad. He doesn't believe that sports should be a venue for parents to flash their pride or expand their social network–although those are nice aspects. He believes the purpose is to allow our kids to experience the rewards of being on a team. And teach a little discipline along the way. Most of all, it should be fun.

But it isn't always fun. There are injuries. There are times when your kid doesn't get picked. There are times when other kids are jerks. Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like life.

As Cole was weathering these injuries, he became more frustrated than I've ever seen him. He couldn't shake the pain. He couldn't play. He actually told his coach that he wondered if he should stay in sports. My typically happy son was distraught. I wondered what to do. I had always subscribed to a certain philosophy: work hard, keep positive, and good things will happen. But after all of his injuries, I was beginning to wonder if this advice was setting Cole up for disappointment.

Cole's coach suggested a massage therapist. If it didn't work, Cole would probably give up sports. And I would be the parent who would help him find the bright side and carry on. And I would have to accept that my mom pins would languish in a drawer.

just like the pros...ha!
But the story has a happy ending, with the bonus of having a lesson learned. After months of back pain, the massage therapist employed the "cupping" method to heal muscles. And.... now? He's pain free! He feels great. He can enjoy his favorite sport again. And gratitude is flowing. The past year has been challenging, but our family has realized how adversity can give you perspective–trumping any concern about your kid playing sports. Health. A safe home. A loving family. A pantry full of food. Usually. Usually food in the pantry.

I came across the following article. Every parent should read it. While we moms and dads want success and happiness for our kids, we also need to make them understand the journey isn't always filled with cream puffs. And sometimes to get to the cream puffs, you need to eat your vegetables. Sometimes oatmeal.

Sprained ankle? Your dad's got you, Bud.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


When was the last time you felt lonely? If your life is anything like mine, it might have been awhile. But there are very few of us who haven't experienced that feeling one time or another. As an only child, I vividly remember setting up the monopoly board and playing both the thimble and the iron. Sometimes the wheelbarrow. I laugh now at the memory, but admittedly it's not my fondest childhood memory. Being lonely sucks.

A few weekends ago my hubby asked if I wanted to accompany him as he checked cattle. I said no. Obviously! I had things to accomplish on my hectic Saturday morning. Laundry, vacuuming, Pioneer Woman...Then he said something that struck me. "Come on. I'm by myself all week." An aha moment came over me.

I don't want one of my favorite people in the world to feel lonely! So I went. And it was fun and good.

Today CBS Sunday Morning featured a story about a high school in Boca Raton whose students started a program called "We Dine Together." To see kids with this much spirit made my heart soar. And, more importantly, it reminded me how much impact a small gesture can have. So I challenge you! Reach out to a kid at lunch. Say hello to someone sitting alone at a restaurant. Smile at the elderly person in the grocery store. Maybe you already do all of this stuff. That's awesome. But I bet we could all do a little more.

Need some inspiration? Watch this video:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Busy as a...Bitch?

Have you ever counted how many times in a day something is requested of you? It doesn't matter what you have going on, you just–

·         Do it. It’s your kid and someone needs to wash their sheets.
·         Do it. It’s your husband. It will be easier than teaching him how to call the dentist.
·         Do it. It’s your job and they pay you.
·         Do it. It’s a good thing for your community and you want to make it a great place to live.

But there are times you don't do it, even if you want going out with a girlfriend or playing a game with your family. And why not? We're too darn busy. And we need to prove it.
I read an article in the WSJ by Elizabeth Bernstein called You're Not Busy, You're Just Rude. Undoubtedly we’re all buried under a mound of too many obligations–self-imposed for sure. We tend to wear our “busy-ness” like a badge. It never occurred to me how off-putting this can be—to our friends who are also busy and to the people we care about it. Talk of hectic schedules tends to dominate conversation, but what are we trying to communicate?  "I'm so busy I'm not even sure why I'm taking the time to visit with you! Now get outta here."

I'm not saying we need to put a halt to being active. Being busy equates to productivity. But the next time I start rationalizing why I'm saying no, I’m going to try to shift my perspective about my responsibilities. And be honest.

Like when my husband asks me to sit down and watch something with him. I won't let out a huge sigh and tell him I’m too busy. I’ll ask him to help me with laundry so someone can have socks in the morning. And we can interact instead of stare at a screen.

Or like when a friend invites me to have a drink, I won’t say I’m too busy. I’ll say I’m concerned about becoming an alcoholic. And having beer breath at a soccer game. Then I'll ask her to lunch instead.

Or like when my kids want to talk about their days, and my mind begins to create to-do lists for them to ensure they are productive citizens. Really, I need to stop that right now. I will empty my mind and listen to their every word. I'm definitely never too busy for them. No matter how many meetings I boast about attending.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#momconversation with Joan Gubbels: straight talk on depression

One of the great rewards of being employed for a family-focused organization in a tight-knit community are the friendships developed on the job. I work in the Finance/Operations area of the Shelby County State Bank with Joan Gubbels who happens to be a double cousin of my husband–like I said, a tight-knit community! We work closely together on many projects and it’s sometimes eerily similar to working with my husband–if he would have any affinity for accounting, that is. Needless to say, Joan and I have plenty of laughs together almost on a daily basis. 

Last summer Joan experienced a personal crisis. She had a nervous breakdown which shocked everyone who knows the cheery and fun-loving person that she is. Joan has been very open about her struggles with depressions with the intention of helping others. By making more people aware of the affliction, she hopes to erase the stigma of the disease.

Here's Joan.

Quick bio (family, current job, where from):  Wife and mother.  Husband – Joe Kids, Jack – 19 Jace – 12 almost 13.  Cashier at SCSB.  Originally from outside Portsmouth but currently live on an acreage near Harlan.
Favorite family tradition:  Going to the lake to boat, wave run, fish, camp and make TONS of food.  As well as spending time with our lake family in Lake View.
Funniest kid story of late:  When my son was about 5-6 years old, I walked in to his room.  He kept knocking his private thing down.  I asked him what was wrong and he said. ‘IT WON’T STAY DOWN!’  I could hardly keep my laughter in and I said to quit doing that and it would quit standing up.  Then I left his bedroom and laughed a long time.
Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:  IT is very hard to understand them and you HAVE to pick your battles about what is REALLY important.
Opinion on work/life Balance:  I really like my job and the people I work with but my family has always come first. Luckily I have a hubby that is understanding and helpful now.  When the kids were little it wasn’t quite that way. 
Guilty pleasure:  Candy Crush – having drinks with friends.
Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Best family tradition:  Going to Adventureland with my parents and neighbors.  Going to Lake View with my kids and great family friends.
Favorite or most-used app:  Candy crush or Facebook

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  There are quite a few but two are older like Sam Elliot, Sean Connery in his younger years, Also, Ashton Kutcher, Matthew McConaughey

What’s your go-to movie? Anything drama like Fast and the Furious or and any love story (kind of sappy).
What advice would you give to new parents:  PICK your battles at all times.  Things you might think are important at the time is actually very minor.  Spend time with your kids and GO to their activities but don’t push them into doing them unless they want to.
How do you recharge?  Exercising or playing games on my phone.  It helps clear my mind and NOT think about things that are bothering me.

Jace, Jack, Perriann, Joan and Joe
You have communicated your struggles with depression. What would you like to say to others who also struggle? I’ve been going to counseling for years, on and off, more off than on (dumb).  I was hospitalized in my early 20s for depression and now at 46 had a major breakdown in July and was hospitalized for 2 days.  (There’s kind of a funny story about being it’s funny anyway.)  None of it was fun and I wanted to give up with everything.  I seriously wanted my life to be over, on Monday, July 18th officially, to take the pain AWAY!  Luckily I kept thinking of my awesome kids, hubby, sisters, brothers, friends and awesome co-workers (my work family.)   The reason I am writing this is I want to remind teenagers and adults as well that life is hard!  Please don’t give up though!!  Each year gets better one way or another but then you might hit 46 and it’s all still not perfect, but if you look back at the awesome kids you’ve created with awesome talents, the awesome husband you need to rely on more and love dearly with amazing talents and cares so much, 10 brothers and sisters that would drop anything to help you along with their kids, my nieces and nephews, as well as awesome in and out laws that always make me feel welcome and would love to help too.  I also have a workplace to go every day that feels or actually is your second family.  Some really GREAT friends, which are WAY too numerous to mention.  I am truly blessed.  I also have an amazing future to look forward to such as  daughter in laws, grandkids, etc.  I don’t have a deathly illness and a lot hasn’t gone my way throughout my life BUT I still try to keep looking forward.  My final and most important point is… suicide isn’t the answer… remember what you have and if you don’t have what you want, find it or fight for it. I keep trying every day.  One other point that I have to make is KEEP going to counseling even when you don’t think you need it anymore. If you have depression – you have depression!!!

Thanks Joan for sharing that very personal story. It's so important to recognize the need to get help in counseling and medication. Like Joan said, "life is hard," but it can also great. Taking care of oneself is the first step in creating a purposeful and rewarding existence.

Monday, February 13, 2017

the evolution of a parent

Right now my oldest child is three hours away at college, fighting influenza A.  I'm texting her instructions to hydrate and alternate between ibuprofen and Tylenol. My instinct is to hop in the car so her mother
Wish I could send her a cat for comfort...
can lay a cold rag on her head and provide comfort. But she has told me to stay put. So I will.

The dynamic of parenting changes throughout the years, but the mysteries and challenges remain. By the time you no longer wake up in the middle of the night to a crying child, you're laying in your bed watching the clock and calculating what time they should walk through the door. Or in the case of a college student, you might  be analyzing the last Snapchat story and hoping she wasn't trying to send you an encrypted cry for help on a photo that merely appears to be the setting of a party.

Anyway, I happened to ask my budding investigative journalist to give me some thoughts on how to be a good parent to a college kid. (I asked last weekend, before she came down with the flu.) Her responses were not only enlightening, but profound. Here's what she said:

  • Answer any questions we have for you guys. It's our first time on our own, and this may sound like a given but half the time we're making shit up as we go. We realize how much our parents actually have it together when we have to stumble through the weird, legal lingo of our first lease...
  • Care packages go a long way. It doesn't have to be anything big, it could even just be a letter or a picture of the family. Especially in the dorms, getting mail is always a strange pick-me-up. Maybe it's because someone knows where you are when you're in a new place? I don't know, that's a question for a psyche major.
  • If you're able, come visit but not too often. I know plenty of friends whose parents can't get away to see their kids and it wears on them (I'm guessing both sides, but I'm not a parent so just guessing). It's comforting to see the people who have your back regardless, but if it's too often, the excitement wears away and independence is lost. It's like training a college kid off of dependence. You can't go cold turkey and throw them in, but you can't coddle them either because then you have a Failure to Launch situation. I think you guys have a good balance despite the fact you email me every other day ;)
  • If you do get to visit, BUY THEM GROCERIES. This is the biggest stress relief, seriously.
  • Talk to them without judgement. A lot of times we need advice but it's hard to cross over into that world where your parents aren't disciplining you anymore, but you still feel like if you're totally honest you'll get in trouble. Tons of weird situations arise in college that need to be talked about. Idk just be a good parent and help them out so they will talk to you. You feel like a quasi-adult now so you don't want to be dodging/lying to your parents anymore, that's just added unnecessary stress. And it's tiring, you just got through 4 years of it, and college is about moving on.
  • Tell them stories about when you were in college, or when you were that age. That's always fun to hear that your parents messed up like you did ;) Evens the playing field. Don't overdo it though.
  • From a liberal arts perspective, talk to them about assignments or projects they're proud of. You don't really get any recognition for doing well on specific things anymore but a lot of the work we do is important to us now, more so than high school. It is always the biggest confidence boost to have someone dote on your work for a minute, even if it's your mother and she's incredibly biased.

She signed off by saying:

That's all I've got right now, sorry if that wasn't helpful and please clean it up as much as you feel, I was just spit-balling as this is the first I've looked at my email this weekend lol

Pretty decent spit-balling. I've read this three times already–partly to make myself a list of "do's" and partly because I admire the wisdom of my daughter. Maybe her parents are doing some things right.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

teach your children well...and don't judge

After a dose of winter precipitation one evening, I asked our teenage son how he had managed driving on the roads. My ice-induced maternal anxiety had subsided since he had made it home safely. I acted all chill as he responded with a story that made me wonder, "What else doesn't my kid know?"

Here's the scoop.

“Guess what?" Cole said with wide-eyed excitement. 

Oh no. Something happened. 

Then he said, "I have this thing where water comes up on my windshield. It's so cool.”

It's called wiper fluid, kid.

He went on to explain how he and a buddy were driving to the school when they met a semi who mucked up the windshield as semis tend to do. Cole panicked when his friend Conner told him just to use the wiper fluid. 

"Conner!" Cole emphatically replied. "My car is old! It doesn't have that.” 

Cole drives a 2010 Ford Fusion—a real junker with heated seats and a sunroof. Conner reached over and pushed the wiper fluid lever muttering something affectionate like, "You’re an idiot.”

Thanks to Conner's ingenuity and knowledge of basic car features, he saved the day by providing a clear view of the road. But I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit of a parental failure after hearing that story. What else doesn't Cole know?

A few days later, I told Conner’s dad the story because I thought it was amusing. He chuckled and said, “Well you know what? Conner just learned about windshield wiper fluid two weeks ago.”

Aha. They're still learning. It's easy to roll your eyes and judge your kid by what he or she doesn't know. But I think it's important to take a step back and consider how much there is to learn about this world. There's a lot to know! Heck, I just am now understanding a little bit about Watergate.

So when another windshield wiper moment occurs, ask your kid to give you a lesson in Snapchat. It'll remind you that perhaps you don't know everything either.

Just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.