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Friday, February 26, 2016

20 Years

Dear Darlings,

20 years ago today was the scariest day of my life.

Let me set the stage...

Dun, dun, dun ~

A couple barrels into a hospital after racing through the pitch black streets of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The woman is in agony. She is swollen and puffy. Her belly is distended and writhing. She rushes for the bathroom, ready to empty the contents of her stomach into the waiting porcelain thrown. Nausea overwhelms her as wave after wave of pain tears through her body. Her husband stands by, not knowing how to help, waiting for instructions from the emergency room staff. A wheelchair arrives and she is gently lowered into seat as another wave of nausea and pain tear through her. The nurses whisk her back to a room that has been made ready not only for her arrival, but the arrival of a new little one. She thinks she is ready to enter the realm of motherhood, but reality will soon slap her in the face...

On February 25th, 1996, a precious little boy was born. His parents named him Zachary Paul. He was wanted, loved and cherished ~ to this day he is still is, but 20 years ago today was a scary, scary day in the life of his mama. I am his mama.

Just one day after giving birth to this baby boy, who was born five weeks early, both he and I were discharged from the hospital. A little life now depended on Stan and me for survival. And the hospital was not only letting us take this little creature home, they were evicting us...telling us it was time to leave. So, Stan and I did what ever parent since the dawn of time (well, at least since medical insurance decided that the delivery of a baby was only allowed a 24-hour stay), we loaded up our little jaundiced bundle of screaming, peeing, pooping, crying joy and headed home.

I had no idea what to do with a baby of my own. Sure, I had baby sat before, but I was always able to give the baby back to someone who knew what the heck they were doing! How on earth did a hospital full of responsible adults ever think it was a good idea to let me leave with this baby? How on earth was I supposed to stop him from crying? How was I supposed to change his diaper without him peeing all over me? How was I supposed to make sure he thrived and survived? What if I broke him?  Oh, gawd help us all!

In those first moments home with our baby, Stan and I looked at each other, each hoping the other knew what they were doing. Not so...we bumbled through the first days, weeks, months and probably even years trying to figure out how to make this parenthood-thing work.

In the 20 years since that day, I have to say I'm pretty sure Stan and I learned the ropes of parenthood. It took a ton of blood, sweat and tears, both ours and the kids. We learned each of us had strengths and weaknesses. It was trial by fire, but we figured out how to divide up parenting responsibilities to suit our strengths and dilute our weaknesses. For example, we realized it was not a good idea to put me in charge of blood and broken bones...so not my area! And although, it's  not my favorite, I did much better with sickness-related bodily functions. I took care of illnesses and Stan managed injuries.  In all of the figuring out, learning and diving of responsibilities, these years have flown by more quickly than I ever could have imagined.

Even though 20 years ago today was, without a doubt, the scariest day of my life, it was the best kind of scary. If I were given the opportunity I wouldn't hesitate to go back and do it all over again.

Oh, for the love of my children...

xo,
Mom





Friday, February 19, 2016

A Gentleman

Dear Darlings,

A few days ago I stumbled across an article written by Martha MacCallum. (In can you don't know who she is, she's a news anchor for Foxnews... but let's not get into the great Fauxnews v. Foxnews thing, let's just focus on the article she wrote). In her blog/opinion piece she told how she had read an article in the British version of Country Living on what it took to be a lady in our era. The British version, she said, was far too British for it to be applicable to our young women, so she decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and she wrote What makes someone a lady in 2016 ~ wondering even if our young women aspired to be lady-like. I had Claire read the article, and I passed it along to friends. It was spot on. Especially number 3. Read it. You'll enjoy it.

Her list got me to thinking...what about our boys? I think we need to usher in a new era of Gentlemanliness. You know...a Colin Firth type of gentleman who is a kinder, gentler version of the rough and tumble boys who grace our lives.

I've always believed a man should be a gentleman. I stopped dating a guy because he didn't open my car door for me when we went on dates. Superficial? Maybe. But that was a deal breaker for me at the start of any relationship. If he didn't care enough to try and impress me in the beginning, how was he going to treat me when things got comfortable? So I dumped him and moved on to greener pastures, and a sweet Jersey boy named Stan who stole my heart.

Anyway...I digress.

Let's get on with my list of what I think it takes to be a gentleman in 2016.

1. Opens doors for others, women, men, children. It doesn't matter who. It matters that he does it.

2. Helps a lady with her jacket.

3. Treats strangers with respect.

4. Treats his love with even more respect.

5. Knows his strength is to be used to keep the weaker ones safe and doesn't uses it to intimidate, belittle or harm those he is supposed to protect.

6. Knows that being weak is sometimes the strongest course.

7. Knows "I love you" isn't a pick up line.

8.Knows how to drink from a china teacup with a saucer.

9. Is always the first one to say, "After you."

10. Makes it a point to listen when someone else is talking.

11. Offers his seat when he's able.

12. Gives sincere compliments.

13. Can carry on a conversation with women, and not with neanderthalish grunts and groans.

14. Is punctual.

15. Showers regularly and uses deodorant.

16. Is not afraid to show his softer side.

17. Knows how important "Please" and "Thank You" are.

18. Can say, "I'm sorry" when he's wrong.

19. Knows how to cook at least three good meals. (When Stan and I first started dating, he invited me over to his apartment for dinner. He cooked stuffed shells for me. He told me much later he did it to impress me. It worked ~ that date was almost 25 years ago.)

20. Can dress to impress when he needs to...shirt tucked in, belt on, hair combed and smelly-good stuff is always welcome (as long as it's not over-powering and he doesn't smell like he bathed in his cologne).

21. Uses a tissue or a handkerchief. Farmers' blows and public nose pickings are gross.

So, my darlings, I wrote these for rules for gentlemanliness, and for the love of all of my children...

Do you think I missed any?

xo,
Mom







Monday, February 15, 2016

Mercy


Dear Darlings,

Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a blog called "He Forgot One." And almost a month ago, I wrote another one called Five Words. Three Sentences. How well they fit together. So well in fact, that I thought I would share "He forgot one" with you...

Yesterday I sat reading the paper and I stumbled across a small article about Pope Francis' advice for a long and happy marriage. I kind of skimmed over the article with a slight eye roll wondering how in the world an unmarried man could ever be someone whose advice about marriage I could take seriously. As you can probably tell I don't put too much stock in someone (even a Pope) who has never been married and hasn't ever experienced the day-to-day realities of married life. Let me go on to say I truly appreciate Pope Francis and all he has done for our Church, but I still question any never married person giving marital advice. So I flipped the page and started in on another article. But something kept niggling ant the back of my brain. I just had to check and see what he had to say.

I turned back to the article. And I was surprised by what I read. It's how Stan and I have tried to be with one another, in our marriage. I'm not saying we've always done things perfectly. In fact we've both failed each other a number of times and in various ways. But what I am saying is that we've tried to live by the advice Pope Francis gave...

Please. Thank You. And I'm sorry. They're basic manners. Human kindnesses. A way of validating one another to the world.

But who knew they were the key to a long and happy marriage? We teach our children these three sentences, but sometimes we, as married adults, don't make sure to keep them at the forefront of marriage. Stan and I do. It's the one thing we do often and with abandon. It's one of the things we do well.

Not only do Stan and I say Please, Thank You and I'm sorry to each other. We make sure those three sentences are in our children's vocabulary as well. All of our children know the importance of those three sentences.

But Pope Francis forgot one, and to me, it's almost more important than those three.

I forgive you.

That one sentence is what life is all about. We all fail sometimes. We all stumble occasionally. We all screw up fantastically. But what sets some people, marriages and families apart is the ability to forgive.

When our kids were little and they were mean and nasty to one another, as siblings can sometimes be, we would always make sure an apology was given and forgiveness granted. Sometimes it took a while for forgiveness to be granted. We never forced any of the kids to accept an apology if they didn't mean it. But they had to say, "I'm not ready to forgive you yet." They had to figure out how to forgive and truly forgive.

I've even had them say to me, "Mom, I'm not ready to forgive you, yet," on those occasions where I really hurt their feelings, their pride and their souls.

But in this house we have always granted forgiveness.

I'm kind of surprised Pope Francis forgot that one.  It's the basis of what he stands for. But that's OK. We all screw up, even Popes. So I'll forgive him and help to spread this one for him!

Oh, for the love of our children...

xo,
Mom

PS. Pope Francis really does have a handle on the whole forgiveness thing since he has declared this year to be the year of Mercy.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Badass


Dear Darlings,

Last week, high on my To Do list was to try something new. So I did. I stepped so far out of my comfort zone and tried something new and oh, so scary. I was beyond excited to try it, but at the same time my heart raced, my palms broke out in a sweaty mess and the fear of failing lumped like huge pit in the bottom of my stomach. I thought I would be the biggest failure in what I going to attempt. But I did it anyway! I signed up for a class to learn how to shoot a pistol (by the way, if you ever misspell pistol with an r at the end instead of an l, it autocorrects to pastor...which is not a good thing to learn how to shoot). It was an eight hour long course on the mechanics of a gun, how to clean it, what each part does, what to do in case of misfire or hang fire or squib fire, safety and last but not least how to aim and shoot. AND I had to pass a final in order to get my certificate....if I didn't pass I knew I'd feel like a total moron.

I didn't grow up around guns. We had two antique-y guns in the house, but no one used them. No one hunted. No one shot guns, cleaned guns or taught gun safety. It just wasn't the thing in our house.

Stan grew up around guns. His family had lots of guns in the house...serviceable, working, shootable guns. The boys go hunting. The boys shoot things (mostly ducks and geese, sometimes targets, never people). They clean guns, and Stan taught them gun safety. It's definitely a thing in our house. 

I wanted to learn, but I didn't want Stan to teach me. I wanted to learn in an environment where I wouldn't feel self-conscious, so I registered for a class taught by a woman and attended only by other women. I couldn't wait to go learn how to shoot, except for that pit in the bottom of my stomach that told me I was probably gonna suck at it. 

It was one of the the most empowering thing I have ever done for myself. 

I learned how to safely operate a gun. I can load, unload, clean and shoot a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. I know the difference between rimfire and center-fire ammo. I earned the right to call it ammo. I learned how to aim properly, and I didn't shoot anyone, myself included. Instead, I hit the target, repeatedly. And I felt like a total badass! 



Whether you believe in guns or not, isn't the point of this blog, although it might seem like it is. The point of this blog, my darlings, is to get you to see that trying something new and scary is empowering. It makes you feel like the biggest, best badass ever. And that's a very good thing. 

Oh, for the love of my children...

xo,
Mom
aka The Badass

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Perfect One

The athlete, the rule follower, the good student, the one who did everything right and nothing wrong, the firstborn...the perfect one. That's how Lucas and Claire refer to their big brother. "Zach is the perfect one,"they say.

So I'm here to set the record straight...

Dear Darlings,

Zach is not perfect. No one is. No one can be. Zach has done a wonderful job of growing into one helluva role model for you and for that I'm forever grateful.

But what I want each of you to understand is that it's not some unrealistic ideal of perfection that makes you appear perfect. It's the character inside you, the character of your heart and soul. It's what you give to the world.

I want to give each of you a gift. It's the gift of seeing yourselves the way I see you.

Zach, my sweet man-child, you started life off by screaming into the world and making your presence known. When you were little, you were loud and shy all at the same time - loud when you were with your family and "safe," but shy out in the world. The "man-child" nickname I bestowed upon you so many years ago fits you through and through, a goofy, silly, ginormous man-sized kid who loves nothing more than to laugh and have others laugh with him. Your soft brown eyes show others who you truly are...a sweet teddy bear who loves with his whole heart and lives with passion. You have had the opportunity to make mistakes but you have learned from each and every one of them and moved forward with grace. I couldn't be more proud of you and the path you have set for yourself. Success will be yours.

Lucas, you my darling blond boy, who isn't quite so blond anymore, have given our family so many reasons to laugh. Your dry sense of humor and quick wit never fails to put a smile on my face. The fact that you live your life for yourself, not worrying what others think of you, is nothing less than extraordinary. You are brave enough to not follow a trend, and smart enough to not lead others astray. Your sense of loyalty never fails to impress me. You stand up for your friends with a ferocity I've rarely seen in others. A heart of gold beats within your chest. Your kindness and generosity never fail to impress me. You have a vision for your life, and I can't wait to see what golden opportunities will be yours.

Ah sweet, baby Claire. Like your oldest brother, you came screaming into this world and never stopped. People know and love you for the sunshine you emit with your beaming smile and love of life. Never shy with a hug, a loving word, or a smile, you make sure the world sees a young woman who embraces life with a self-assurance some grown women will never possess. Drama gets kicked to the curb by you on a daily basis. You don't have time for teenage turmoil, or for others to bring you down. You are too busy making sure the world hears you roar, in the most positive way. The trail you are blazing for yourself is nothing short of amazing.

I am beyond blessed to have other darlings in my life, and I want you to know I see the perfection that lies within you too, the character of your soul shines bright for all the world. I see your future success, your drive, your determination. You all are nothing short of amazing, and I love it when you share your stories with me. I love cheering you on. I love being here for you when you need someone to listen. You all are perfect, even though you might not see it yet. I can tell you that I see it.

My pride sometimes threatens to swallow me when I think about you all. You are an amazing bunch. It's been nothing short of breathtaking to watch you grow and become who you are today. You will go forth and set the world on fire ~ each and everyone of you. Your perfection will demand nothing less of you. The gifts you have to give the world are awe-inspiring.

Oh for the love of all of my children...

xo,
Mom














Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Please

Dear Darlings,

Today I sit and type with a heavy heart, tears sting my eyes and a lump rests in my throat. One of Zach's high school friends is being laid to rest tomorrow. No parent should ever have to endure the pain of saying goodbye to their child. It's a cruelty not to be wished on any mother or father.

This young lady was a beautiful soul whose warmth radiated out to all who met her.  The first time I met her, I noticed her stunning smile and her eyes that sparkled with excitement as Zach and his group gathered at our house before heading out to concert on a warm, stormy night last summer. She was delightful ~ that's the best way to describe her...delightful. And now, she is gone.

Rumors swirl, but a certainty remains, a bright, shining light has been extinguished, and a family mourns the loss of their beautiful daughter. I ache for them, for their loss.

My heart breaks for all of her friends who surrounded her in life and will now walk forward without her. Zach and his friends now know grief in a way they may never have before. Tragedy leaves an ugly scar.

So, my darlings, in all of this loss, please know how much you are loved, how much you are cherished, how much your earthly presence means to this world and how bright and shining your light is. Please know it's okay to talk about sadness, grief and depression. Please, please, please, know when feelings of despair threaten to overwhelm you, it's more than okay talk about it. Talk to a priest, a counselor, your mom, your dad, or even me....know I'll always be here for you. I don't want to lose anymore young, brilliant lights in this world.

I love you with all of my heart.
xo,
Mom

Oh, for the love of all my children...