A New Year’s Post for Moms

As the end of 2011 came near, I had a sudden realization that blew my mind: I am a good mother. Perhaps my depression got in the way or my constant tendency to compare myself to others, but finally seeing myself as good for my children gave me a joy that I hadn’t yet experienced.

Previously, instead of focusing on what I did right, I would only see my faults. I began creating a pile of deficiencies, even lumping areas that were simply not my talents with all the areas that I could realistically improve.

I thought I was doing well as a mom to make a home-cooked meal from scratch most nights. That was, of course, until I knew there were moms out there who grind their own wheat and bake fresh bread for their family every morning. I don’t have a cow in the backyard to milk, so I can’t churn my own butter, and I don’t make candles with the beeswax from the insects that visit our home in the spring.

Your home-cooked meals are nothing with your store-bought flour and pasteurized milk! And you rarely even light a Yankee Candle. Failure!

I love reading to my children and thought I was giving them the gift of imagination and communication and enhanced vocabulary and all the wonderful skills that follow a love of literature. That was, of course, until I knew there were moms out there that read Cinderella and then made a castle with their girls from materials they gathered at their local recycling center. After visiting the recycling plant and creating their masterpiece, they decided to whip up some dresses for the ball with scraps from old clothes and their handy-dandy sewing machines. Crafty and green!

Your reading is nothing without a craft to follow! You can’t even cut in a straight line, your kids only like to cut their own hair, and you don’t even own a sewing machine. Failure!

And so I added to the pile that contained a short temper and anxious personality a lack of arts and crafts ability and ability to homestead. Every day I would throw more ‘deficiencies’ up onto the pile until I couldn’t see on the other side.

Until one day….

One day I simply walked up to that pile and pushed it over. Down fell ‘arts and crafts’ and ‘homesteading’ and ‘homeschooling’ and a bunch of other compound words that start with ‘home.’ I picked up ‘short temper’ and ‘anxiety’ and put them in their proper file folders–they were weaknesses, but they didn’t define me. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, My kids are lucky to have me for their mom.

As I write, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only mother who makes piles. We’re hard on ourselves, and, thanks to social media, we’re constantly reminded of a billion areas where we’re not as good as the next lady. We wonder how that mom has time to have a successful blog and raise four beautiful children and start her own company out of the home when we haven’t figured out how to write more than once a week and simply catch up on laundry with our two kids.

We find a thousand a different areas where we’re deficient, when the reality is that we’re not deficient–we’re just different.

And I have one more sneaking suspicion: You’re a good mom, too.

Maybe you make the best home-cooked meals and grind your own wheat, and one day your children will look back and think, “Wow. My mom loved me so much and cared so much about my health that she spent time going that extra mile just for me.”

Maybe you order pizza more nights than you’d like to admit, but you get down on the floor and roll around with your children like a big kid yourself. I, promise, your children will remember a mom who loved them so much that she took time to play.

Maybe you can’t cook to save your life, but you are that mom who can create things from what others would throw away. You come up with the most beautiful crafts, and your children will remember a mom who displayed for them creativity. They will forever be in awe of your industriousness and look back fondly on the time you spent with them creating and seeing treasure in others’ trash.

And maybe you are that mom who works full-time. You don’t have time for arts and crafts–getting dinner on the table is a challenge. However, you don’t let a day go by without sitting down with your children and really listening to them. You rub their heads at night and read them a bedtime story when you’d rather be sleeping yourself. Your children will remember. They will remember a mom who taught them the value of hard work, and they will remember a mom who showed them their value.

There is no perfect mother. We all have our flaws, but we all have our strengths, too. Maybe that strength is simply having the patience to let your two little girls dress you up for your wedding day to the prince with beads and hair accessories that you wouldn’t dare leave the house in for a minute–but you’d spend hours wearing them in your home for them.

This year I think that’s something worth celebrating.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Linking up with Mama Kat to share one of my New Year’s Resolutions. I want to hear from you–it’s time to brag. I give you permission! What about you is worth celebrating?

Christmas Lessons 2: The Nativity

I sighed as I took the nativity out of the box. A gift from my mother-in-law, the olive wood figurines from Jerusalem stood beautifully in their simplicity. I wanted to do the scene justice–display it in a setting of prominence, center-stage in our family room–yet I wanted to enjoy this nativity for more than one Christmas.

For the same reason the breakable nativity from my mother sets atop the T.V. cabinet, this nativity quietly hangs out on our electric piano: I fear my children.

I fear the two-year-old who ate all the candy out of the kids’ advent calendars by December 10th.

I fear the four-year-old who lost her one new pair of school shoes (how does one lose the shoes that one was wearing?)

I fear the five-year-old who discovered the razor I use on my legs can also shave off hair from his sister’s head.

I don’t want baby Jesus to go missing. I don’t want the shepherd to lose his staff. I don’t want Mary to break her face. And I don’t want the sheep to become part of a wild animal safari in the playroom.

I want them to remain sacred objects of our faith, a reminder of the beautiful Christmas story.

“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them”

The story of the king sent to reign over heaven and earth, the king who entered this world not on a golden chariot but instead through the blood, sweat, and tears of a young girl. The king for whom there was no room but instead a bed shared amidst foul-smelling animals and dust and hay.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”

The story of the God who chose to reveal himself first to a group of shepherds, the young and the elderly, those not valued by society but who caused disdain with the stench of sheep they carried. These were the first to meet the Savior of the World.

13 ‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace on whom his favor rests’

The story of a baby who made the angels sing. This baby, the Son of the holy God who loves His children so much that He sent His Son to bring us peace.

As my children retell this story with shining eyes anticipating Christ’s birthday, I see the nativity, no longer mere objects on my piano destined to be broken or misplaced at their hands. These objects that they caress with their fingers, the star that they turn as they sing of that silent night, holy night are living as the story takes root in their hearts.

And that story can’t break.

Linking up with Mama Kat in response to her prompt to describe my nativity scene. Come back tomorrow for another Christmas lesson, this time inspired by some of the Santa stories left by you!

*For the complete Christmas story, read Luke 2.



 


What Did You Just Say?!

My husband, Matt, and I have been blessed with kids who can communicate well. Well, blessed and cursed–smart kids who have an answer for everything can be very trying. Nonetheless, we’ve never had to mess with ‘baby talk,’ and we rarely witnessed the ‘terrible twos’ temper tantrums (how’s that for alliteration?) simply because our kids couldn’t communicate their frustrations. Oh, they know how to communicate their frustrations quite well!

As a result of our little blessings, I would venture to say that we tend to forget their ages when we are having a conversation. The other night, Matt was scolding our five-year-old son Caleb for dumping out the contents of his piggy bank, yet, again instead of getting ready for bed, but he may have been looking at Caleb as a member of his sales team instead of a little kid:

“Put [your piggy bank] away, or I am going to confiscate it.”

“I don’t know what that word means.”

“It means I am going to take it away.”

“WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT WORD?!  You can just say I’m going to take it away!”

And as any supportive wife would do, I laughed downstairs for about five minutes. Then I thought about the verse in the Bible that says, “4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I’m not sure whether or not teaching Caleb to clean up the money all over his bed counts as training of the Lord, but I’m fairly certain he was exasperated.

I thought for a minute how I might exasperate my children–perhaps, sometimes my expectations are a little high or I get frustrated before really understanding why they tried to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the playroom wall–but then my mind traveled back to the current moment.

And, Matt, that exasperating was all on you, buddy.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. How do you exasperate your children (or spouse or mother, etc)?


 

 

 

 

 

Paradox

Sometimes I hate parenting. Maybe parenting is too specific. Sometimes I hate this phase in my life as a stay-at-home mom.

I hate mopping the floor to have someone pee on it or spill milk five minutes later. I hate the mound of laundry that is alway taunting me, even if I just put away three loads. I hate the mess that I find upstairs right after I made the downstairs look perfect and vice versa.

It’s not that I hate mopping or doing laundry or straightening up or cleaning bathrooms (actually, I do hate cleaning bathrooms)–it’s the feeling that everything I’ve just done is for nothing.

Many days I look at the blue numbers on the stove as they near seven, and I just wish my husband worked a little closer, could come home a little earlier to help tame the three wild animals that come out when I’m making dinner. I wish there were someone here to help discipline when I feel mentally worn out by the end of the day. I hate feeling like I’m ineffective and out-witted by three little people whose combined years of education don’t even equal a third of mine.

And, yet, there are these moments….

The other day I stood in the laundry room taking clothes out of the dryer and getting together a new load for the wash, and I had this intense longing, yearning. With each shirt I folded, I couldn’t shake the feeling that our family wasn’t complete, and the desire for another child burned within me. The feeling grew stronger as I dwelled on my longing until I stopped myself: “What the–?” I thought. Here I was holding poopy underpants in my hand while desiring for another child in my heart.

I immediately recognized the irony but knew how it was possible. Even though I hate some of the feelings accompanied with this job, I love having three kids surround me on the couch as I read a story. I love watching my two-year-old shake her hips during our dance parties. And I love my kids on days when they are good and days when they are rotten simply because they are mine.

Parenting isn’t always logical. How I can love a job that I simultaneously hate doesn’t make sense, but that’s how a paradox works. And I find this one quite beautiful.

In what paradox do you find yourself? Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writers Workshop.


Mama’s Losin’ It

I’m Over It

I remember late-night talks on the couch, practically falling asleep in front of one another but not wanting to say ‘goodnight.’ Our fingertips danced in each others’ hands, and my cheeks ached from the genuine smile stretched across my face.

I remember the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach before he arrived and the passionate kisses that marked his departure. I look back at those early days and wish that, almost twelve years later, we could recapture a little bit of that newness, whatever made each encounter exciting.

But I wouldn’t want to recapture everything.

I remember one Saturday afternoon when we strategically planned our attendance at three different movie theaters. Yes, these ‘poor college students’ somehow found the money to see three movies in one day but not to eat something besides Ramen noodles. But we had our priorities straight–the next day was the Oscars, and we hadn’t seen every movie up for ‘Best Picture.’

Off to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then to see Chocolate (pr0nounced however French people say the word) and then we’d end the night with Traffic. Six-plus hours of movies together so that we could feel qualified to predict the winner.

I don’t remember if I picked the winner, nor do I remember watching those Oscars.

But I do remember the 83rd Academy Awards. The year we hadn’t seen at least half of the nominated movies. The year when the butterflies were dead for the moment as the drool collected in the corners of my mouth. The year when I opened my eyes and said, “Let me know the winner in the morning. I’m going to bed.”

Yeah, I guess you could say I’m over it.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Post inspired by Mama Kat’s prompt to write about something you did with your spouse when you dated but now you’re ‘over.’ What is something you’re over?

Hoarding’s Okay If I Do It

If my marriage ever has a downfall, it will be the garage. Every time I park the van outside its doors to walk through the space intended for two cars but, instead, is used for boxes upon boxes of only God knows what, I clench my jaw. I look at the shelves filled with electronics and think Why won’t he give that stuff away? I see crates full of papers and wonder what important documents might be looming beneath the stack. But, mostly, I see that the majority of that crap isn’t mine.

However, I was given a slight wake-up call when we attempted to move a year or so ago. We cleaned out closets and did our best to show that our home had great storage–no need to ever use the garage for that–and my husband spent many hours straightening up the garage (not throwing things away…aargh). In the process, I helped out in the garage a little, too, and after putting book after book in boxes, I realized that I might have a few items leading to the mess out there.

But they’re books, and books don’t really count.

A few months ago, I attended a writer’s workshop, and one of the presenters came and spoke to me during the break. I had mentioned that I was a former English teacher, and the conversation carried on from there. She spoke of how students don’t enjoy reading because we force them to read books to which they cannot relate. I nodded my head in agreement. She then went on to say, “Why do we make kids read The Catcher in the Rye? I hated that book. It is completely pointless.” At that point in the conversation, my chin hit the floor. She was bashing my favorite book, the book that is in my nightstand drawer, taped together and with pages full of underlined sentences. On and on she continued to go–I couldn’t even interrupt to tell her how much I love that book. Shut up, I thought. I really, really want to punch you in the face right now.

Perhaps my reaction was a little dramatic but it illuminates what reading means to me. When we decided to have three kids in three years, I always had a baby to nurse, which meant I was always up at really odd hours. And then of course, when I was finished nursing, I then had children learning to sleep (and escape) in toddler beds. I was the one not getting much sleep, so when I even attempted to read a book, I found myself instead drooling all over my pillow.

It wasn’t until recently when I started consistently reading again that I realized how important diving into a book is to me. I love finding myself in a novel and learning what makes me tick. While Jay Gatsby and I live very different lives, I know what it’s like to pursue a dream that wasn’t a good dream in the first place. I didn’t grown up in the ’60s, nor have I ever had consistent help, but I can analyze the complexities of my own relationships, acknowledge my prejudices, and understand the fact that we all have more in common than we think. When I read a book by Donald Miller, I laugh at his humor while struggling with the challenges he has given me to strengthen my faith. And when I travel to Afghanistan in A Thousand Splendid Suns, I experience for a moment what it would be like to grow up in a culture and faith very unlike my own.

I mean, I’m not really expected to give away one of those books, am I? Each book in a box or on a shelf represents a part of me–except for the books that I haven’t read, yet, but one day when I do, those books will become a part of me, too–and if I give away a book, it would be like giving away one of my arms. Yes, I guess I could give away those books that aren’t my favorites, but what if they would’ve become one of my children’s favorites someday? Okay, I admit it. I hoard books, but my question is why doesn’t everybody?

I walked through the garage this morning, clenched my jaw as I stepped around pool noodles and bikes, and looked at the shelf with a stack of hardcover books. Yeah, that garage is never getting cleaned.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Linking up today with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. Do you enjoy building your own private library, or do you prefer checking out books from a public one? If you don’t hoard books, what is one item that you do hoard?

The First Date

I knew him from church. I was 16; he was older, and one day he walked up to me and asked if I’d like to go to the laser show with him. I don’t remember why I had to drive (I think his mom didn’t feel comfortable with him driving me in their open-aired vehicle), but I remember pulling down his driveway and feeling a little nervous as he got into my car.

But off we went. We spread out a blanket on the lawn of Stone Mountain and had a picnic over easy conversation. And it was easy. In fact, I have never been on a first date where the conversation flowed so easily. We talked and laughed until the light of day faded away and the giant lasers could be see on the side of the dark mountain. I’m sure mosquitos had their fill on our skin during that hot Georgia evening, but I don’t remember minding.

After the show was over, we stopped for ice cream and managed to stretch our date a little longer until it was time to return to our parents who were checking their clocks on their nightstands. He gave me the cd of Garth Brooks he had brought along for the ride since I mentioned he was the only country singer I could tolerate. And then he smiled and said, “I had a really good time.” “I did, too” I answered.

And I did.

The nervousness returned as I silently prayed that he wouldn’t kiss me (and he didn’t), and then I drove home.

I had a lot of fun with this young man, and I had no complaints about the date–he was polite, he paid, and we had meaningful conversation in the midst of fun–but I knew right then and there that I did not want to date him.

I didn’t have any feelings for him beyond friendship, and I didn’t want to lead him to believe that I felt otherwise. So as my over-analytical self is apt to do, I instantly began worrying over how to turn him down for another date. I knew he would ask for another–we had had a great time–and how does one tell another I had a wonderful time, probably the best I’ve ever had on a date, but I don’t want to go out with you again. When I think about you kissing me, I feel weird.

Luckily, I got grounded. I went to see the USA baseball team in the Olympics with my friend and her family, and even though I was with her family the whole time, my dad didn’t like that we came home from the Olympics late. Even though the Olympics are a rare sporting event to visit one’s city. Even though I rode with my friend and her parents and couldn’t come home until they came home. But I digress.

So when he called and asked if I’d like to go to the Olympics with him, I answered a little too perky “I’m actually grounded because of them.” “You’re grounded because of the Olympics?” he asked, clearly questioning my story.

And I briefly explained how an ill-fated trip to see Olympic baseball had me grounded for the week. I didn’t act like I was upset. I didn’t offer an alternative date for once my punishment was lifted. I simply said I couldn’t, and that was the end of the conversation.

He was hurt, and I’m sure he didn’t understand because I didn’t really understand, and then his hurt turned to anger. He never spoke to me again until a chance meeting in a parking lot where he mentioned that he thought all Christians were hypocrites.

A few years went by; we had gone our separate ways to college and met once again at our home church. He apologized for what he had said previously, and I forgave him. No hard feelings. And then, once again, he gave it another try, contacting me at school.

I thought I had been upfront and honest. I told him I didn’t want to start dating, but he asked for one date, and I agreed. I can’t remember the details of the date, but I remember him driving me back to my dorm after a nice evening. I told him “thank you,” and then I ended the date. I couldn’t ask him up to my room–my roommate was in there sleeping, I was sure, and I thought that gesture would imply something I didn’t want to imply. I could’ve asked him into the lobby, but I guess I didn’t see the point. And he didn’t see the point in continuing a friendship since a friendship wasn’t what he wanted.

I don’t know why I wasn’t interested in a person with whom I always had a good time. I don’t know why I didn’t feel any attraction. It had nothing to do with looks, but he didn’t give me that tingle in my stomach when we were together.

He didn’t cause me to get giddy when I thought about him. He didn’t bring a smile to my face at the mere mention of his name. He didn’t inspire me to stay up until crazy hours of the night because I wanted to hold onto one more minute before we finally said ‘goodnight.’

But one man did.

I can rattle off a hundred reasons why I love this man, but I can’t explain why the attraction grew when it did. Some things are a mystery…

…but perhaps part of the mystery of attraction is that I instinctively knew with whom I wanted to weather my toughest storms. I knew the man with whom I wanted to share my ‘in sickness and in health.’ And I knew the man with whom I would create some gorgeous children.

Or maybe I didn’t.

But someone else looking out for us did.

Regardless of the reason for the attraction, I am thankful. Thankful for the man with whom I have spent nine years. Thankful to Him who guides us and for each additional day together He gives. And thankful that some dates didn’t go past the first.

Flowers Matt gave for our anniversary last week. He remembered I had stargazer lilies in my wedding bouquet.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

The Dark Corridor

“One need not be a chamber to be haunted, One need not be a house. The brain has corridors surpassing material place.” -Emily Dickinson

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I don’t know what made me think of him. I was getting ready in the bathroom, and the thought was suddenly there. We never had a relationship–it was 15 or 16 years since I had first met him–but the memory came in strong, and the guilt covered my mind like a dark fog.

We had spent numerous weekends driving around in this old real estate agent’s car. She probably wasn’t that old, but her shaky voice made her sound like she was at least 80. Up narrow, winding roads, looking for a home with the perfect view of the surrounding mountainous landscape. Down narrow, winding roads, never finding that home that made my parents’ hearts beat faster.

Until one weekend.

After seeing every mountain home in the area, Dad was frustrated. “We might need to go up to the next price range to get what you want.” The old real estate agent shook out the words. So my parents agreed. After all, they (or at least Dad) hoped to one day retire in this home.

So back up a narrow winding road we drove, and before we had even parked the car, I knew my parents would love this home. The view was breathtaking, and this simple, gray home was perfect. The main floor had one big room containing the kitchen, eating area, and den. Huge glass sliding doors leading to a porch all around the front allowed one to take in the mountains while cooking over the kitchen stove or relaxing on the couch in front of the T.V. And with the exception of the green-blue carpet covering most of this area, I could picture my family enjoying every inch of this space.

And so it was decided. My parents would buy this home. We went back to look at it one more time, and this time the owner, Mr. K__, was there. I don’t remember why he was moving–divorce? death?–but I remember his situation carrying a sorrowful story. He didn’t want to move but had to.

As I was standing on the porch, looking at the mountains, waiting for my parents, he came up to me.

“You’re stealing my dream!” He let the words escape as a desperate cry. Pain covered his face.

I was put off.

I wasn’t stealing anything. I merely accompanied my parents on their quest.

And I felt terribly uncomfortable and sad. How does one respond to such a statement? Why did he make it to me and not my sister, or better yet, my parents who were actually buying the house?

We drove home that day, and I took Mr. K__’s words with me down the gravel, winding road of the mountain. I never saw him again.

But my parents did.

Mr. K__ was dying of cancer, and my parents showing true goodness and God’s love as they always do, decided to visit him in his final days. They expressed their desire for me to come along.

“I just don’t want to go!” I exclaimed in the whiny way that only a teenager can. “I’m tired of being surrounded by death!” My drama classes had served me well. My parents didn’t protest but furrowed their brows and kind of shook their heads at a statement that they didn’t quite understand.

In the previous few years, I had experienced the deaths of both my grandparents and my aunt, but my reaction was rather extreme.

And I knew it.

The guilt hit immediately as my parents and sister backed down the driveway. I didn’t want to go, felt no obligation to this man with whom I had no relationship, this man who had accused me of stealing his dream, yet I knew I was wrong.

My parents were good people, showing kindness and mercy to a lonely man in his dying days. And I was selfish.

Mr. K__ died shortly thereafter.

But 16 years later, for no apparent reason, Mr. K__’s memory flooded my mind, full of life and reminders of a poor choice I had once made.

I don’t know what makes the memories I have ‘stick.’ I’ve lost so many along the way, good memories, beautiful memories of which my parents or sister or husband will remind me. But then sometimes, out of a dark corridor in the back of my mind, a memory which seems so small and insignificant will float its way to the front, illuminated in my mind’s eye, where I can fully see and remember.

Mr. K__ is there, stealing a place where I’d like to lay other dreams, desires, memories. This man whom I only knew for one day has taken a permanent residence, reminding me of who I was, hopefully much different than the woman I am now.

I don’t know what made me think of him, this man whom I had never really known, this man who made me feel bad for a decision that wasn’t mine, this man who died while I didn’t care and cared at the same time. I don’t know what made me think of him, but I know he resides in a dark corridor of my mind, beneath a dark fog.

Today’s post is inspired by the above writing prompt from Mama Kat. You can check out all of her prompts and others’ wonderful posts at her workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

What haunts you? Have you recently recalled a random event and have no idea why?

My Ice Cream-Cold Heart

I’ve heard this story so many times that I’m not sure if the storage rooms in my weak memory are holding the details of the actual event or my father’s retelling. Nevertheless, I can picture myself perfectly in that bubblegum-pink shirt behind the Baskin Robbins counter as my parents walked through the door.

My dad walked up with a smile for his daughter working her first job, but before he had a chance to say anything, I laid out the rules for this lover of vanilla ice cream:

“I can’t give you any breaks, Dad.”

He hadn’t asked for a break, nor would he, yet I felt the need to make the policy of the owners of that little Baskin Robbins in Georgia known from the get-go.

But what kind of daughter doesn’t give her father a break, rounding out that ice cream cone with an extra-large scoop of vanilla?

Perhaps it was the influence of the ice cream-drill sergeant-owners. After all, they did have a scale on the counter so that we could measure our scoops. They did have a separate rate for their employees for that first week of training that was below minimum wage (although, in fairness, I got minimum wage for catching on so quickly). They did give me a surprise written test after I had been an employee for at least a month to ensure I knew the difference between a ‘float’ and a ‘soda’ and could list the ingredients in a ‘freeze,’ even though, had I forgotten, there were ingredient cards on the back counter.

And they did discourage us from taking our two free scoops each shift with their measuring stick and pay incentive. Yes, they actually measured the amount of ice cream left in the buckets versus the number of sales. If our profit margin lay within a certain amount, we would get an extra nickel per hour added to our hourly pay. If it were within the next level, a dime, and the next level a whole quarter! Obviously this kind of money really adds up when one works, at most, a four-hour shift, two to three days a week.

I was obviously thinking of my co-workers. I didn’t want to be the one to ruin the pay incentive by taking my free scoops. I didn’t want to deprive them of extra money for college by rounding out my dad’s ice cream cone. Think–they could buy an extra pillow for their futon by the end of the summer!

So before my dad even ordered, I told him ‘no.’ No, there would be no extra ice cream for him.

What kind of daughter does that to her own father? A daughter with a heart as cold as the Rocky Road she scoops.

And, yet, I went home every night with my chocolate-stained, bubblegum-pink shirt, proud that I rarely took my free scoops, and when I put in my two week’s notice, my boss’s voice cracked as he begged me to stay. Sure he wanted me to stay–think of all the nickels I saved him!

Now, as I relive that moment in my mind, I have to shake my head. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I bring home a scoop of ice cream for my dad every shift I worked? Why didn’t I sit around the table with my mom while I told her about my day over a cup of ‘Quarterback Crunch’?

Because I was a rule-follower, an over-achiever, a goody-goody. Yet, I realize now that sometimes following the rules too closely is anything but good. When I look back over my life thus far, it’s not the rules that I broke that I regret the most.

It’s the ones that I didn’t.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Dad, you will get the biggest scoop of vanilla ice cream I can muster at Chloe’s birthday party this weekend.

What is a memory from your first job? Have you ever followed a rule that you wish you would have broken? Linking up with Mama Kat today. Come back with your own post for ‘Journeys’ tomorrow!

 

Lessons for Students

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I had a brief career as a high school English teacher. My love for literature and desire to do something meaningful with my life brought me to that profession, but after a few years, I pursued other avenues and am now home with my own children. I still think about many of my former students from time to time, however. My last year teaching, I was saddened by a general attitude that I saw among my students, and I wish I could go back and address them. If I could, these are the words I would tell my students:

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is pointless, and just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is stupid. If you don’t learn to push through these hard lessons in school by doing your best now, then you will have set yourself up for a pattern of quitting later. Working hard does matter, and you will not be rewarded now or later for mediocre work.

For some of you life is hard now. Some of you have crappy parents–I’ve met them–but don’t let anyone determine your destiny except for you. We don’t all start on a level playing field, and some of you will have to work a thousand times harder to start at the same point as one of your classmates–so work a thousand times harder. Life isn’t fair, and the sooner you get that idea out of your head the better. If you want to succeed, take the steps to make success happen.

Success is not measured by the amount of money you make. True success is living your life in a way that, at the end, you won’t be ashamed to stand before God. True success is finding that which brings your life joy and meaning, and giving your all to that cause.

Follow your dreams, but understand that all dreams come with sacrifice. Our society doesn’t like to talk about sacrifice, but it is a word you need to embrace. If you want to be a musician or actress, go for it! If you want to serve in the military, make us proud! If you want to become a doctor, wonderful! If you want to stay home with your children, do it! But understand that for any career choice, you will sacrifice something–money, family, holidays, personal freedom–the list is different for every choice. Decide ahead of time what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not, and stick to your convictions. Then work hard, and make your dreams happen.

You will not feel happy every day of your life, even if you’re going after your dream. Learn to persevere–persevere in marriage, persevere in your job, persevere raising your children. Do not believe the lies of Hollywood; there is no ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Achieving that ‘happily ever after’ takes hard work through many rough patches, but stick it out. Marriages worth something, careers worth something, families worth something all have time, sweat, and tears engrained in them.

Make good choices now; unfortunately, the choices you make now can and will affect you later. Wait to have sex. Even though our society is inundated with sexual images and has completely cheapened the act God gave us as a gift to share with our spouses, you don’t have to give in to the pressure. Any choice you make regarding an unwanted pregnancy will have lasting consequences. And while you should take the risk of pregnancy and STDs seriously, you should also take your emotional health seriously. Sex will bring you closer to the person with whom you’re sleeping. That person should be worthy of you–wait until you find that one person. Wait until you’re married. Sometimes old-fashioned ideas are actually good ideas.

If you want to buy something, save your money. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy the item. You do not have to have an iPhone or an iPad or designer clothes. Learn the difference between needs and wants now. Establishing a pattern of bad financial decisions now will limit your choices later.

Finally, figure out what you believe and why you believe it. Examine your faith. Your parents faith or lack thereof is not enough to get you by in life or an excuse for whether or not you believe, and these excuses will not count if you do stand before God one day. Of all the decisions you make, this decision is the most important. You will face many trials in life; to whom will you call out when they come? What is the purpose behind the decisions you make?

And if you make a decision to follow after God, then really follow! The world doesn’t need any more half-hearted disciples. The world needs more people who truly loves others, care for the poor and the underprivileged in society, and treat every human being with kindness and dignity.

And at this point, I would gently nudge my students awake, tell them to wipe the drool off their mouths, and remind them that I am always here to talk about any of these issues if they need me.

 

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop and Michelle for ‘Thought-provoking Thursday.’ Come back tomorrow and link up your own post for ‘Journeys.’ What life-journey are you currently taking?

Mama’s Losin’ It