The Little Things We Sometimes Take for Granted

In light of the tragedy in OK, or should I say, due to the recent tragedies in this nation, I often like to remind myself of not taking things for granted. It is easy in the busyness of our day to day lives that we tend to overlook the little thing, or take them for granted. Like, kissing your husband or wife goodbye when they or you leave for work in the morning. There are times when we are so rushed that we forget that little thing. Especially if you have had a fight the night before or even that morning, we may tend to shy away from showing our affection. But it is always good to remember that this may be the very last kiss that you give to each other. Or hug. Or tell them that you love them. Just a few short words but ones that hold a lot of power. It would be terrible to not say those words and find out later that the one that you loved was now gone. If only I had more time. If only I would have said I love you one last time. If only. If only.

Making time to spend with our children, especially when they are younger and they want to play dress up, or house, or school. Or they want you to read them that story just one more time. Even though they know it by heart, and you do to. But take that time out of your day. In recent months we see how our children can be taken from us suddenly, painfully. Look at that picture they drew or colored for you. Hug them when they ask for one. Never say, “Later.” You may not have a ‘later’ with them. Tell your child/children every day how much you love and appreciate them. How proud you are of them. And keep that up into the teen-age years when they start to drift away from us, hanging with their friends or spending hours at a time playing video games in their bedroom with their door closed. I’m talking to you, Joshua. Let them know that there are limits and restrictions on what they can and can’t do. You are the parent, always, not them. And yes, we know that teenagers will fight us on that tooth and nail. For you see, they are SO much wiser than we are, or were at their age (of course!) Yes. Love them anyway. Set boundaries and be firm.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to watch the sunrise or set. Especially beautiful over a body of water. I’ve seen it rise over Lake Michigan in Chicago, and it is breathtaking. Or watch for the rainbow after a good rain. Or even going outside after a good, cleansing rain, and just breath in the freshness of the earth around you. Or flower blooming; especially lilacs. Well, at least in my case. A smile from a stranger or a kindness shown you, like a door held for you as you enter a store. Revel in children’s laughter, because we all know that their laughter is of the contagious variety. And yes, even we as adults need to laugh more. Be freer, and not so harsh on ourselves. Love your life. Do not take it for granted. Again, life is short. Sometimes shorter than we hope for. Or the lives of our loved ones. None of us know how many days we have remaining. Not to be morose, but it’s true. That’s why we need to look at each new day as a gift given to us. Beautifully wrapped up in warmth and sunshine, with birds singing outside your window.

Love your pets and don’t take them for granted either. They are a blessing to us also. Mine like to lay at my feet or at least be near me when I’m sitting. He sleeps on our bed, which isn’t always pleasant when you have an 80 pound dog on a Queen-size bed with two people already sleeping on it. But he is so full of unconditional love. Those big brown eyes melt even the hardest heart, at least I believe that they can. And last but not least, again, be good to yourself. Take care of your health because we all know that you are the only you that you’ve got. Eat as healthily as you possibly can. Yes. Splurge once in a while. Ice cream or pizza works for me. But find an exercise routine that works for you and try to do it at least three times a week. I’ve finally discovered the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and it is good. Watch some good comedy and LAUGH. It does a body good. Journal if you must to help stave off the feelings of frustration and anger and bouts of hopelessness. Life is not hopeless. We are all here for a purpose. Don’t be dismayed if you haven’t discovered it yet. You have one, trust me on this.

Each day has 24 hours in it. Make the most out of that time to be the best you that you can be. Love and be loved. Don’t spend a lot of time wallowing in depression. Set a time and then be done with it. Think, it will get better. This too shall pass. Life is not bleak. There is a light, a beautiful light, at the end of this all. Be blessed, dear friends, and be happy.

Being Thankful

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, I wanted to be more thankful for the things that I have.  I am so very thankful for my loving and supportive husband.  We have been together for 25 years now and it has only gotten better.  Hopefully for him too.  But I can’t speak for him.  He has made me a better person.  He makes me laugh when I have wanted to cry.  He does amazing voices that make me laugh.(Anyone need a good voice-over actor?)  He urges me to follow my dream to become a published writer.  I am so blessed and thankful for my two sons.  They are healthy, well-educated, and compassionate(well, as compassionate as two teenage boys can be).  I have a roof over my head, a functioning car, work that keeps me happy, and good health.

Now some people may not agree with me on these next ones, but that’s okay.  We all have different opinions, and well we should, but here goes.  I am thankful to all those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.  It’s not something they all wanted to do, I’m sure, but they did their tour of duty, or are currently in it.  I am thankful for those families who give their sons and daughters to protect this nation.  I am sure it can’t  be easy being away from their loved ones for that long.  My brother was in the army, during peace times, thankfully; and I saw first hand how difficult it was for my mother.  She was constantly worried that a war would break out and take her beloved and only son away from her.  And she gained a lot of weight due to the stress. Also, she had lost a brother to war and her father when she was still a child.

I am also thankful to all those who are firefighters and police officers.  Being constantly on call has got to be very trying on their emotional well-being and upon their families as well.  Especially with the fact that their lives are on the line whenever they are on duty.  I could never do that job.  Wondering if you’d make it back safely to your family thar night, has got to be beyond stressful.

I am grateful to my mom and dad who raised and loved me.  I saw them as overbearing many times during my teen years, but looking back I understand that they did it out of love and care.  I can now see how tough a job parenting actually is.  And it is a lifetime commitment.  It does not get any easier the older the kids get.  I repeat, it does NOT get any easier.  All you parents out there know what I mean.  But they provided me with clothing, food, shelter, schooling, all the necessities of life.

I am thankful to the few teachers in my life that I believed truly cared about the students and about teaching.  My high school English teacher, Mr. Anderson.  Thank you for taking the time to teach a rowdy bunch of fifteen and sixteen year olds.  It couldn’t have been easy.  He was a fantastic teacher.  I learned.  I advanced.  Thank you to Herr Taylor who made German class fun and a pleasure to come to.  I learned a lot and had a good time all at the same time.

Thank you to my older brother and sister for tormenting me as a child and probably making me a stronger person because of it.  Telling me that the government took out my birthday month, so now I no longer could celebrate my birthday, how cruel.  See what I had to put up with, people?  Older siblings can be so harsh.  Yes.  I love them still and I know that they love me too, their little baby sister.  Though my brother told the doctor a few weeks after I was born that he wanted to send me back because I was no longer wanted.  Imagine, a five year old not wanting his sweet, adorable little sister?  Never mind that I was a pooping, crying, hardly-sleeping, burping machine.  But, hey, I was cute!

So, let’s remember to be thankful, always, to those who love us, and for those who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  What are you thankful for?

Letting Go

If you are a parent, especially a parent of a teenager, you will understand.  I have two sons, one who is nineteen and one who is sixteen.  And though one is an official adult and the other almost an adult, I still cannot cut those apron strings.  Why?  Because it is hard to let go.  The love a mother has for her children, especially if they are sons, is deeply rooted and unending.  No matter how old they get, or how far away they will move, I will always worry and wonder what they are up to.

Life as a parent is funny that way.  Never a dull moment when they are with you, and never a moment of peace when they are not.  I am especially having a difficult time of letting my younger son go.  When he was younger, we used to do many things together.  I enjoyed his company, and still do.  Just don’t tell him that.  I might cause unending bouts of embarrassment for him.  Being sixteen and all, you know.

But he is, a very independent young man.  When he was only eight or nine he had wanted to be off on his own already.  I laughed then, but worry now as he is approaching the age when he can legally leave and be off on his own.  I’d miss him deeply.  I’m not sure how far away he wants to go, but he has stated that when he turns eighteen that he is leaving home.  And that hurts me.  Because I love him and don’t want him to go.

Is it wrong for a parent not to want her children to leave the nest?  Oh I know that is part of our job as parents to get them to eventually leave the nest and be independent of us.  But it is so hard to do.  I’ll miss his laugh, his smile, the times we sit and talk, and yes, even his stubbornness.  My eyes well up with tears when I imagine that heart-wrenching goodbye when he packs his things up and heads out the front door for the last time.  My son, my heart, my life.

When you are carrying them in your womb, you imagine a lot what the child will be like.  When my younger son was little, I tried picturing him what he would be like as a teenager.  And he did not disappoint!  But I love him unconditionally, though at times when he is fighting with his older brother I want to smack them both!  Why is it so hard for siblings to get along?

Okay, enough of my rant.  Children are a gift.  Each one with their own unique personalities and looks.  So different in many ways yet so similar when part of a family.  I love my sons.  I hope that they know that.  I hope that I’ve always shown it.  And I hope that when they are out there in this big, intimidating world that they will remember that they have a mother at home that will always worry for them, always love them, and will always cherish her precious memories of her two young men.  I hope they know, too, of how proud I am of them.  Mom loves you both.  Stay safe.

Parenthood – The real oldest profession in the world

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.  It is not a job to be taken on lightly.  It is a lifetime commitment – there’s never any time-card to punch out at the end of the day.  Face it, you are on-duty 24/7, like it or not.  Parenting can be a mind-numbing, insomnia-producing, hand-wringing job.  Always worrying if you are doing something wrong.  Does my child’s fever warrant a doctor’s visit?  Why are they crying, fussing, sleeping too much, or not enough?  Why is my little angel projectile vomiting, and me waiting for the head to start spinning around?  And how does such a tiny, fragile creature create so much poop?

And once the child become fully locomotive, forget about ever relaxing again.  And showering?  Well, just get used to spritzing on quite a bit of body spray.  I’m sure that no one will notice.  (Why are those people moving away from me?)  And don’t forget the constant changing of diapers, washing tiny outfits that your little one quickly outgrows, and need to purchase bigger sizes.  And someone please tell me how such tiny outfits and shoes cost so much money?

But the rewards are there.  Your child’s first toothless grin, how their eyes light up whenever you enter the room, and those tiny arms wrapped snugly around your neck, and their first “I-love-you”‘s.  Ah, that is worth the price of admission alone.  And let’s face it, the making of the child was the easy part, and quite honestly the most enjoyable part.  After that it’s all work and no play(well, at least for dad anyway).  But don’t worry men, it gets better for you too.

Then come the school years:  instruments yearning to be played, parent-teacher conferences, holiday concerts, plays, class parties, teacher gifts, and the projects that need to be handed in TOMORROW.  And oh let’s not forget those memorable teen years.  First date, first job, first car.  Endless arguments over curfews, when to go to bed, when to wake up in the morning, when to do homework.  And don’t even count how many “I-hate-you”‘s you get in one day.  Suddenly, you are the mean one, strict one, uncool one, not-understanding one:  it seems like such a thankless time during those years.  But hang in there, mom and dad, it does get better.

And yes, I would do it all over again.  Why, you may ask?  Because I’m crazy…about my children.  They are my life, my love, my pride and joy, and though there isn’t any monetary payment, I am thankful for the opportunity to raise my children.  Each day is an adventure, whatever stage of life they are in.  One more thing, don’t get me started on teaching them how to drive….that’s another story in itself!

A Mother’s Heart

My heart aches for my older son, Malachi.  He is the one who has Asperger’s, the high-functioning form of autism.  The thing that he wants to do for a living is giving him a horrible time.  See, what he wants to do is fix cars.  His job currently is to fix his dad’s car’s brakes.  And it’s not going too well.  And now, the Asperger part of him is resurfacing again –  he cannot get the job done and he is in tears.  That’s how I know that my son has something different about him that other eighteen year old males probably do not deal with.  The emotional side of the disorder.

I sometimes still get frustrated with him for being so overly emotional.  He is so upset that he cannot fix the car the way it should be, and he’s afraid of disappointing his dad.  It’s never easy when you have a child with some disorder because one side(the rational) of you wants to yell at him to grow up, and the other more sensitive, motherly side wants to hug him and tell him not to be so upset.  That it’ll all work out.  Perhaps he needs better tools.  Perhaps he just needs more time to succeed at it. 

But again it is the emotional outbursts that give him away.  His sensitivity to loud sounds or bright lights.  Malachi is not very patient when it come to doing something mechanical.  Even though he’s loved cars all his life, he still finds it difficult to get the job done right.  And as his mother I need to remember that though he is eighteen, six-feet tall, and his voice is as deep as his father’s, he still has trouble dealing with problems when life throws him a curveball. 

I’ll explain to him again that it just takes time.  Time to get the job done right and to be patient with himself.  He’ll get there in due time.  Sometimes it just takes him a bit longer to understand how things work.  To take a step back and think what to do next.  He’ll get it eventually, I know.  I’m his Mom and I’m on his side – always.

The ‘Perfect’ Child

Today I want to share with you something personal about my family.  My older son, who recently turned eighteen, has Asperger’s Syndrome.  For those who do not know what this is, it is a form of autism; a high-functioning autism.  I always knew that Malachi was different.  Even at birth he would not latch on to nurse, and for days afterwards would not take in much formula or breast milk.  I was in tears.  Being a new mom, I was petrified.  What if I dropped him?  What if he would never latch on?  I felt like such a failure as a mom and became preoccupied with thoughts of suicide.  If I was dead, I reasoned in my depressed mind, my husband could marry someone else and get a better mother for my son. 

But through dealing with postpartum depression for months afterward I can plead with those who are struggling with feelings of depression, and are having suicidal tendencies, to get help.  Talk to someone.  It does get better.  I got better.  I came to realize that I WAS the best mother for MY son.  I had started meeting with a lovely older lady named Hertha from our church who came weekly to my home to discuss how I was feeling and share scripture with me.  Again, life does get easier.  But it does take time.  Do not keep those feelings inside.  Talk to someone.  Share what you are going through.

As Malachi developed, or should I say through his lack of development, I began to discover deep in my ‘mother’s intuition’ state that there was something different about my son.  He was not reaching those milestones that all the baby magazines pointed to.  The rolling over, the crawling, the walking.  I had even brought my concerns to the family doctor who told me not to worry; that every child progresses at their own pace.  But still I wasn’t convinced.

In our church’s preschool, they discovered that he was ‘developmentally delayed’.  My heart sank.  What did I do wrong as a parent when he was developing within me?  I felt a lot of guilt wondering what I could’ve done differently.  He went to special education classes at the local elementary schools back in Berwyn where we used to live.  It wasn’t until we moved out to the Northwest suburbs when he was ten that he finally got the help, and we the diagnosis we needed.  He had something called, ‘Aspergers’. 

I will continue this journey with you tomorrow.  Until then, love your children no matter how imperfect they may seem at times.  They are a blessing and a gift from God.

 

ANOTHER YEAR OLDER

Happy Birthday to me!  Ah yes, another year older but perhaps not much wiser.  Looking back over these forty eight years, I can honestly say that I have been blessed beyond my teenage yearnings.  I never thought that I’d find someone to marry.  I definitely didn’t think I’d become a mom.  When I was younger, I didn’t even want to have children.  I thought that I couldn’t bear the pain of childbirth.  But yet I did, twice.

Now I can’t say that life has always been an easy ride.  No.  It has not.  But probably a lot easier than many others.  I’ve always felt a twinge of guilt for having such a wonderful upbringing.  Loving parents, a warm home, great siblings(except for the occassional bickerings); but I have been blessed.  I have had my struggles in my past with addictions and with marital issues, but I survived them.  And they have made me even stronger.

But birthdays at my age don’t impress me as much anymore.  We really don’t do anything special, and that’s okay.  Now all that matters is being around my sons and my husband, spending time with them.  Perhaps that sounds a bit corny or old-fashioned, but that is what brings true joy to my heart now.  All the presents in the world cannot compete with spending time with my family.

So, what am I going to do for my birthday today?  My husband is home today so we will go out shopping together.  I had to work earlier and again this evening.  But again it’s okay.  I have a good long weekend together with them.  Pizza tomorrow because it’s too hot today to bake in the oven.  No cake.  Too fattening.  But there will be ice cream.  Probably Chocolate Chip-Cookie Dough, my favorite.  And I’ll probably eat the whole container too!  Ah, the joys of a birthday.  Now all I have to endure today, and for the next three weeks until my dear husband turns the same age, is “Boy are you old.  What does it feel like to be that old?”

So, another year older.  I think I’ll enjoy it however I decide to spend the day.  For I have been truly and richly blessed.    And Happy Birthday to everyone else celebrating a birthday today.  Remember your blessings and take time to enjoy yourself, whatever you decide to do.