Thanks to the Dads

To all the dads I know: may your day be wonderful and full of the good stuff: laughter, and words that touch the heart, hugs, and the moments that become snapshots in memory. The years fly by, but the good stuff somehow lasts, photos of the mind that take us back, connecting through time and distance.

I have those mental snapshots of my grandfathers, my dad, father-in-law, my husband, brothers, uncles, son-in-law. Watching these men over the years as they fathered…some in more traditional ways, others more hands on and involved…I’ve seen a breadth of styles and relationships. Above all, I appreciate their commitment and integrity.  Just like me as a young mom, I’m quite sure they were making it up on the fly, figuring out how to be a dad in the midst of all the other demands life was throwing. Does anyone have the luxury of learning to parent at leisure?

There are a lot of words of wisdom that fly around on these days, and anyone can learn from the example of others. But words fall away in the face of actions. It is the actions of these men that I reflect on today. Watching them interact, sometimes at the high points of life, others in the valleys, I see men who were able to connect with their kids, be there when it counted, when the going was rough. I see men who have been quiet heroes to their families, not perfect, but trying. I see men who stayed, fathers who lived up to the name.

I see dads, and I see kids…young ones, adults, and everything in between…who have relationships. And they’re good ones. Thank you to these men, the men of my family.

But more broadly, thanks to the men everywhere who are fathers, and who make a difference, not just in the lives of their children, but in the lives of all of us. Fathers doing a good job make all of us stronger, and better, and healthier.

Enjoy your day, and celebrate the good stuff. And feel proud: you’re doing your job, you’re making a difference. And we love you for it.

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PB and Riley

 

 

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Good things come

A couple of years ago I wrote this:

I struggle to patiently await the unfolding of events. I have a lot of ability to be patient with people, but not with circumstances. It is especially difficult to wait through something that seems to be holding up my life…like selling a house…have I mentioned that I have a house on the market? Just a few times?

While I am waiting, I think about one of my favorite phrases. I remind myself that many things happen “not at once, but at last.” Often I see this at work in life circumstances. Other times it defines a personal journey. I am not able to understand something at once, but at last, I get it. I am not able to forgive something at once, but at last, I am able to find that spirit in my heart.

I need soak time, time to mull things over, time to absorb. I don’t know if that makes me a slow thinker, or a deliberate one. Maybe it comes to the same thing. But I do know that when I’m faced with choice, conflict, decisions, I need time to reach a conclusion. And that’s frequently the way life is, at least in matters I would like to be quickly resolved. There is a process, or a chain of events, or a natural unfolding of the story that must be accommodated, must be honored. To try to rush an answer, in my experience, generally leads to a bad outcome. Or a different outcome than I want.

And so I wait. I wait for life to sort itself out, for forces to align. While I’m waiting, I’m doing what I can to make myself ready. And while I’m waiting, I see things happening that give me hope, bolster my faith, help me to know that when the time is right, I’ll have the answers I need. Not at once. But at last.

No, I haven’t sold my house, and it isn’t even listed right now. That story is still in the making.

But there’s another story unfolding, another example of “not at once, but at last.”

My son is going to college. He’s planning to get a degree.

He’s almost 27, spent five years in the army, has worked the last three years. He has a commercial driver’s license, and has supported himself with driving the last couple of years. He’s doing well and advancing in his job. But finally, finally, he wants to pursue education.

It’s been a long time coming. When he was in high school we expected him to go straight to college, and he almost did. But ultimately he chose the army instead. That was an education in itself, and a decision he’s proud of, one we supported. After five years, he finished his army contract, and we talked school again.

No, that’s not correct.

I badgered him to go to school, and he dug in his heels. He just wasn’t interested, and nothing I said made a difference.

Last week, out of the blue, he told me he’s going to enroll this fall. He wants to get a degree in engineering. He got bored, and he’s ready for a change.

Let’s just say I was…surprised. And then I remembered my line.

Not at once. But at last.

Tonight he called to tell me he’s rearranging his work to accommodate a new schedule. He’s going to use the GI Bill. He’s working out the details, with no prompting from me, no coaching. I know he’s just in the early stage, and there’s a long road between the first semester of a degree program and the last. And I know he might not get there. He might get derailed. I know all that. But it’s a beginning, and he’s taking the initiative.

I also know that a degree is no guarantee of success. Life can be rewarding and wonderful without higher education; a degree is only worth something if it leads somewhere. I know people who went to college, but didn’t really benefit from the experience. Somehow though, I don’t think that will be the story here. I want this for him so he can discover his potential, and that’s really what education is about.

So again I absorb the lesson life has to teach. Be patient. Let the story unfold, let it write itself. Don’t assume you know how it will end because you’ve seen the beginning.

This time the lesson is sweet. It’s very sweet. Not at once. But at last.

To Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who mother. This day is about honoring the first relationship human beings experience through the process of birth. Rightly so. But giving birth is only one element of mothering, and many women reach out to nurture, encourage, protect, and sacrifice for those they love…for those they mother.

Motherhood is a pay it forward business and not for the faint of heart. But worth it. So worth it!

I thank the women who have inspired me to be a better mom, who challenge me to continue to grow and mature in this role. First to my mom, and then to other women in my life who demonstrate unfailing love and commitment, thank you. Bless you.

“Of all the rights of women,
the greatest is to be a mother.”

In the thick of it

I sit between two rug rats (Rob’s term of endearment): a 2 3/4 year-old, and the two-month-old infant, in the back seat of my daughter’s SUV. Two car seats with me in between. I’m holding a bottle for the baby, and searching for the sippy cup for the toddler with my other hand. As we drive, Riley, the two year old, is getting grumpier. She’s mercurial, sometimes fun and sunny, but in typical toddler fashion, when tired, pretty awful. At this moment, she’s awful. Rob is in the front with Stephanie. Did I mention I’m in the back, between two car seats?

We’re trying to change the mood. Pep up the two-year-old. Rob begins to be a two-year-old; now he’s on her level. He’s distracting her, making her smile as he mimics her words, her grumpiness. Slowly she’s coming around. Stephanie hears the change in her voice, and she begins to ask Riley…”did you crack?” She means her smile, which Riley’s trying to hide. She wants to smile, but she wants to maintain her mood…impossible to do both. Before she knows it, she’s charmed right out of herself.

Sad Riley

Sad Riley

Bribery and a little clever humor work wonders. She’s laughing, and peace is restored, at least for the moment. We don’t kid ourselves that it will be lasting. The most we’re hoping for is the garage. Just pull in with no crying, no screaming. Just unload and begin to comfort, change diapers, find snacks, distract. That’s the job of the parent, or parent-stand-in, sometimes known as a grandparent.

I watch Stephanie and Matt, trying to hold their own against the needs and demands of the two small people they birthed. They’ll never make it, any more than we did. It’s a losing battle. A small human can overwhelm an adult with hands tied…not even a fair contest! The best you can hope for is survival, and growth. They do grow, and part of the process is they grow on you. As much as survival, the other key is falling in love. You get so caught by the spell these little beings weave that you become a willing prisoner to their smiles, their moods, their needs. And by the time you realize it, their work is done, and you’re hooked, body and soul. Well, maybe it has to be that way. Who would sign up for the craziness if they understood the commitment up front?

Jack

Jack

 

Stephanie sees me smiling at the scene after dinner, a little crazy, a little chaotic. She says I’m laughing at them, and I say no, just laughing. Not at them…just appreciating the scene, in all its joy, at this very moment in time.

This is just the age-old ah-ha that all parents experience. Only now, I’m experiencing from the second row of seats. Let me tell you, the view is pretty good from where I sit. I’m close enough to lean down and be in the game, but just far enough that most of the sticky bits miss me.

“We never give up wanting things for ourselves, but there comes a day when what we want for ourselves is someone else’s happiness.” ~ Robert Brault

My mom

I’m not going to be with my mom tomorrow, although we’ll have a chance to celebrate a belated Mother’s Day together in a couple of weeks. It would be nice to be with her on the day. But often we make do with phone calls to mark special events, the price of living many states apart.

While I won’t be with her in person, she knows my heart. In many ways, we are very different people, yet we share a strong bond that has stood the test of time and distance.

My mom is a passionate person, and cares deeply about family, faith, and country. She loves to cook big meals and have a crowd around her table. One of her favorite things to do is to plan treats for the little ones in the group. She has a play area set up for the small fry, and over the years the grandchildren and nieces and nephews have all had their turn among the toys. They’ve had their special cakes and tea parties, and they know she keeps kid food on hand at all times. “Goodie bags” and little “unbirthday” presents have marked many a visit to her house.

She’s a great one for family photos, and is always on a mission to gather the group to get an updated shot for her wall. You can see the changes over the years…the babies who are now teens, or worse, the young adults who are now grey adults.

She and my dad were married more than 50 years, and though he left us in 2008, he is still in her thoughts, a close companion throughout the days. She remains married, even in her widowed state.

She’s a strong woman, healthy, energetic, and motivated. She always has more to do than she can do in a day. She is creative, and when she was younger, channeled creativity into sewing, cooking, yard work, painting, and mothering. She made my wedding dress, sewed special things for my children, made drapes for the house. She’s an artist who painted in oils, and a gardener who loves flowers. She is a legendary cook, and has created memorable feasts over the years. She’s famous for her yeast rolls, her fried rice, and her Italian Cream cake, a few of her many specialties.

She’s enthusiastic about her work, continuing the commitment to Christian missions that she shared with my dad. She’s a writer and publisher, a traveler and a speaker. She is tireless in her efforts to share her heart, and her faith in God.

She is a prolific author and an amazing correspondent. Computer savvy, she emails and Facebooks friends and co-workers across the country and around the world. No slouch, my mom. She often works late into the night keeping up with her commitments.

She has been a support throughout my life, listening, listening, listening. She has heard my sorrows and my joys, and has made soothing noises at the right moments, rejoiced in the good things, and resisted opportunities to throw out the occasional “I told you so,” even when it has been warranted. She is ever hopeful for me and mine.

My mom is generous in her caring, ferocious in her concern, and sympathetic to a fault. I rarely catch her in a down mood. She’s carried along by the tide of her hopes and plans, and by the memories: so many good memories through the years.

My mom has been fortunate in many ways. Though not a rich woman by monetary standards, she has had love and family and calling to fill her life. Though the family picture has changed through the years, and some dear ones are not in more recent photos, she finds joy in those around her. And she looks toward the future, to accomplishing her goals, finishing her mission, and watching the grandchildren, and great grandchildren, grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Betty Burton Choate: my example, my encourager, my friend, a charming woman with a charmed life, and a full life. Long may she live it!

Mothering

My favorite quotes about the privilege of motherhood:

“Making the decision to have a child – its momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” Jill Churchill

To mothers everywhere: enjoy your special day on Sunday. And keep up the good work. It’s a hard battle to bring up children; maybe it always has been. But worth it. Oh, so worth it.

I’m an empty-nester now. In addition to living with me, my heart lives in Arizona, and in Tennessee. If you are a mother, where does your heart live?


Do you know “Flylady?”

I can already hear my family, and maybe even a few of my friends, begin to groan: not “Flylady” again! I first became acquainted with this site several years ago when I saw an article in a Denver paper profiling “Flylady” and her mission.

Let me explain: this is a site designed to help people who are challenged with self-organization in every way. If your home is cluttered, Flylady is for you! If you have difficulty getting your bills paid on time, Flylady is for you! If you are looking for exercise or encouragement to eat more healthy meals , Flylady is for you! This is a site that offers gentle and positive messages to people who need help overcoming self-defeating behaviors.

One of the nicest things about all of this encouragement is that it is free. There are various products that the site offers for sale, but there is no requirement to purchase to be an email subscriber. I don’t follow all the recommendations offered, but I have picked up some great ideas, and I love the positive attitudes of the people who host the site, as well as the enthusiastic subscriber comments. It’s a great virtual support group and members have the ability to be passive observers or as active as they choose.

Flylady is very family oriented and incorporates ideas for children as well as adults. The tools and suggestions work for everyone:  married, single, young, old, empty nester, or in the thick of child rearing.

One of my favorite phrases from the site is “Progress, not perfection.” There is an anti-perfection message at the heart of the Flylady system that emphasizes the crippling nature of that spirit. The goal is to recognize that doing your best is doing enough, to respect and value what is being accomplished rather than to focus on what may yet need to be done. This is the positive, hope-filled, and an empowering message of the site. Look beyond the graphics (a bit corny for my taste) and let me know what you think.

Happy Birthday Stephanie!

Today is my daughter’s 27th birthday. This has been an exciting year for her. She finished her master’s degree, became a full-fledged teacher, she and her husband bought their first house, and, most importantly, she became a mom to Riley. Some years just seem to hold more than others, to be more meaningful than others. And now she is marking her first birthday since these events occurred…all grown up and part of the adult world now! No doubt about it!

This year I’m not doing my ususal lament…where does the time go? How could she be 27? I’m just happy that she is well, productive, and experiencing the joys of her own little family. What more could I ask for her? And the fact that we are able to talk frequently, to share our lives, is icing on the cake.

We’ll be together at Thanksgiving and at Christmas…good opportunities to catch up on baby time! But also, I’m excited to continue to have a part in Stephanie’s life. The little person that came into my life has blossomed into a beautiful, capable and humorous woman. I don’t want to miss the unfolding story before me as I watch in awe the child/woman I gave birth to, now continuing the cycle with her own daughter, and still teaching me about life through this new chapter.