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Day 30: Making Outreach Part of Your Family Life

My neighbor Joyce needs supplemental oxygen  just to breathe. She cannot go anywhere without it. She sits on her couch with her thin oxygen tubes connected through her nose and with this heat; it’s been especially hard on her.

https://web.mail.comcast.net/service/home/~/?auth=co&loc=en_US&id=798701&part=4 Today, she left me a voice mail that the postman had delivered one of our packages to her home. So when I got home from all my doctor appointments at OHSU, I told my 12-year-old that we had to go to Joyce’s to get a package.

“Maybe it’s the saxophone,” he lit up. He’d been waiting for it for sometime. With monthly rental prices in the 40 dollars per month range, buying one pays for itself after about six months.

As we walked next door to pick up the package, I suggested to my son that he get Joyce’s mail to help her out.

“Bill usually gets it after he gets home from work,” my son said. I conceded that he was right, but that I am sure Joyce would appreciate seeing her mail before her husband got home later that evening.

Then I added, “Augustin, it’s a way to reach out to our neighbor, to let her know we are thinking of her.” “It’s a way of serving right here where we are, in our neighborhood.”

My son got Joyce’s mail and she was so thankful to him as she thumbed through her mail. And Missy the dog was thrilled to see Augustin because Missy gets a doggy snack from Gus.

We sat and talked to Joyce for a bit. It makes her day when we visit her and it makes our day as well.

DSC_0289_7544  Providing opportunities for our kids to reach out to others, to serve, to make a difference in the lives of others beyond themselves is so important. And, to serve alongside them, just as important.

When my daughter was in high school we got involved with a ministry to Somalian refugees, helping with afterschool art classes in Beaverton. Through that outreach, we heard about some Sudan refugees who were sleeping on the floors of a tiny apartment in northeast Portland.

Would we like to help?

Yes. We met the family of eight, which included a mom and a dad, and six kids under the age of 14 sleeping in a cramped apartment with no furniture. We put out a call to our then-community group members at our church and were able to get them couches and mattresses.

And, it was close to Christmas time so our family brought them a Christmas tree and decorated it with them. That year, we invited the family of eight over for Christmas with my entire side of the family. All told, we had about 25 kids in our home around that Christmas tree.

DSCN3756_11217  The Sudan refugees became our friends. They’d take the bus over from North Portland to spend the weekend with us. They’d come camping with us; we’d take them to the beach for the first time. We celebrated Easter and thanksgiving together. It was a natural way to reach out as a family until they moved to Alaska four years ago.

I am praying about other opportunities to serve as a family. I’ve been on mission trips with my older two children, and I’ve helped with food banks and other outreaches through our church with our younger three. But, I’m looking for more opportunities. More regular opportunities to serve together.

I’m inspired by my friend and fellow writer mom friend Andee Zomerman who helps connect families with serving opportunities.

God will show us where to serve as we pray and look to opportunities out there.

And, sometimes kids need to see the opportunities right here in their own backyard. Next door. With wonderful people like Joyce.

[Previous in the series: Day 29: Find Mentors for your Kids]

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Day 29: Find Mentors for your Kids

It was about midnight when I knocked on my son Mickael Josef’s door to say goodnight to him. He was about 13 at the time. After he said it was okay to come in, I opened the door and looked toward his bed.

And there my son was, lying on his stomach, reading the Bible by the light of a small lamp that is perched on the bottom bunk where he sleeps. His twin brother Wes used to sleep on the top bunk in that room, but has since moved to the bedroom next door, after older brother Ryan moved away.

DSC_0540 I was so thrilled to see my Mickael Josef reading God’s word, especially at midnight.

Heck, I don’t read my bible at midnight! As I sat down next to Mickael Josef, I asked him what passage he was reading through.

Then, I told him how neat it was that he was reading God’s Word, and I also asked what made him think of reading the Bible at midnight.

“My youth pastor Tyler,” he said.

“That’s great,” I said and added, “He’s a neat person.” Micki’s twin brother Wesley does the same thing, reading God’s word late into the evening.

Over the years of parenting our five children, my husband and I have talked to our kids a lot about reading their Bibles and praying every day during a set-aside “quiet time,” something we try to practice as well. And, during our bedtime routines with our kids over the years, I’ve always said to them, “Read your Bible, say your prayers.”

And, now to have this message that we have verbalized in a variety of ways over the years reinforced by my kids’ youth group leader is so reassuring.

It’s so funny how you can say something to your kids day after day, week after week, month after month, and you never know if your words are going anywhere. Oh, sure you know somehow, someway, they will make a difference, but sometimes you still wonder.

DSC_0754  But then, after another person comes alongside your kid and says the same thing you’ve been saying all along, and suddenly it is something new and different and unique, and your kid begins doing that action.

I say, Amen. That’s awesome.

It’s important to surround our children with positive role models beyond ourselves, people who can speak truth into their lives, people that will get to know our kids and love them and will spend time with them doing life, just hanging out. Other families you admire, church and spiritual youth group leaders, mentors, older siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles.

Other recent mentors in the lives of my twins include their  AP teacher Mr. Jones, their Young Life leader Mark McKinley, and their sister Rachel and her husband. And, I think about Keenan, my older son Ryan’s mentor from church. Keenan was Ryan’s small group Bible study leader during high school, and he kept in touch with the kids beyond high school and into the college years and beyond. Such great memories with Keenan, who attended my son’s wedding two years ago.

And, I’ve made it a point to thank Mark and Mr. Jones and Tyler and Keenan (and my daughter and son-in-law in Germany).

Mentors change lives for eternity. Find them for your kids. And, if you are not sure where to look, pray that the Lord would bring the right one along.

Day 28: Toss out your Parenting Books

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Day 28: Throw out your Parenting Books

526045563  Toss out your parenting books.

Okay, okay, there are a few good ones out there but in the end, each child is unique and different and born with a personality and born with a temperament and we cannot find one perfect formula with a guarantee to turn out perfect kids. Each child is different. Trust me. I have identical twin sons and they are as different as night and day. As peanut butter and jelly. Sorry, clichés, I hate them but I just couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I was just thinking. There are some parenting books out there that are so legalistic and there is advice out there from therapists and parenting experts and doctors and counselors and people who do research, and many of them miss the heart of godly, Spirit-led parenting.

Which I believe is: Read God’s word. Love God. Love others.

Period.

I recently had a conversation with my good friend Andee, and she said that when she had her first child she had followed the advice of a certain parenting book, that emphasized rules and legalism and set time limits on when to comfort her child. Later, she felt terrible about the situation. When Andee had her second child, she changed everything, and regrets that she listened to that very legalistic parenting book while raising her first child.

I believe instead we need to listen to the Holy Spirit when we parent our children.

I am a mentoring mom at a monthly ministry to young mothers at church, and during one of our monthly meetings, there was a panel of IMG_6525experts who   talked about a variety of approaches to different parenting issues. The experts on this particular panel were psychologists and counselors and PhD’s and such. As I listened to the answers to most of the questions they were fine, but there was one idea/approach to a parenting situation that did not bode well for me.

It just didn’t sit well with my spirit. In fact, I got a knot in my stomach about it.

After the panel members shared their thoughts, the mentoring moms were charged with helping lead a conversation about the topics at our particular table of young moms.

At the table where I was facilitating a conversation at my table, I began reflecting on my own thoughts on parenting to the younger moms, and I noted that we all have different approaches and that is fine and that is good and the most important thing is that we follow the Holy Spirit in our lives and that we consider each of our children’s personality and individuality and family situation and what God would have us do.

Our conversation went great that meeting. And what was especially neat the next day, I received an email from one of the younger moms at my table. And she said to me something that inspired me and reminded me of my parenting philosophy, and what I want to inspire other moms with:

DSC_1174 “Thank you for allowing us, for reminding us, that it is the Holy Spirit that guides our parenting.”

Indeed. In the end, no one has the exact answers as to what we should do with our kids in particular circumstances, but we can take principles from others and apply them to our parenting our kids.

There are so many laws in the Bible but Jesus boiled them down to:

Love God. Love others.

So simple. So real. So doable.

There is no formula, no one-book-legalistic method.

That’s the next parenting book I am writing.

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Day 27: Help our kids find their gifts

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Day 27: Help our kids find their gifts

I was on a walk at a local park the other day and saw another mom of a middle schooler. She knew exactly who I was and who my son Augustin was. “My daughter Kendall thinks Augustin is really smart and she talks about him being smart and really into technology,” this mom said to me.

IMG_0067  That of course made me feel really proud of my youngest child, that she would recognize this fact.

It’s important to help our kids see what they are gifted in and to build up those areas.

Kendall is right. Augustin is indeed quite gifted when it comes to gadgets and figuring out how to make gadgets work and how to fix gadgets and most technology questions in general and in specific.

He just has fun with technology and how things work and making things work. For example, his friend Daniel was over and they decided to put playing cards in the spokes of a bicycle wheel, to make the wheels click click click each turn. Silly enough, but oh so creative.

When I see an obstacle in making an APP on my phone work, he says, “Here, let me see.” When I find my computer operating slowly, he says, “Mom, let me look to see how many programs you have running.” When I can’t get the live streaming of a movie working, he fidgets with the wires, a little here, a little there, and it is working again.

I had a four-year-old Apple computer that was not working due to past water damage. Augustin saw it as an opportunity to get his own laptop. So, while I was visiting my daughter in Germany last fall for her graduation from the University of Mainz, he spent two full days doing testing and calling the Apple tech center and researching and googling until he figured out how to fix it. He was 11-years-old. Now he has his very own, fairly new, Apple computer.

IMG_0052  For boys, there is a lot of pressure to be the stars of their football and basketball and baseball teams, and I grew up in an athletic family so I get that. My sister, brother and I all excelled at sports.

But not every kid will be a star athlete. It is a hard road and very few get to that status. And, not everyone has to be a star to be an athlete.

However, it is important to help our kids find their niche, their gifting, their talent, their skill, their place where they can shine. Or at least, an area in life where they feel they can contribute.

One way to find the areas that your kids are gifted in is noticing their natural abilities and aptitudes while doing everyday life. Do they run to or from technical problems on everyday gadgets? Do they seem to connect really well socially? Do they hike more quickly than others their age? Do they memorize songs by heart? Do they have a tender spot for spiritual matters? Do they excel in a certain sport? Take note and point them out to your kids, and give them chances to nurture that gift.

I remember my husband’s  mom telling that she was worried that her son was not reading a lot when he was in third grade. But then she’d see him reading owner’s manuals, you know the documents that I usually avoid! She stopped worrying. My husband is now an design engineer. He found his area where he excels. We just cannot compare our child to other children.

Besides using everyday life as a way to find our kids’ natural talents, it is important to expose our kids to a wide variety of activities that will show where they shine. Soccer and baseball start as early as preschool. But as I said, not every kid will excel in sports. And, one thing to remember here, is that sometimes kids excel in sports when they are older, rather than in the younger years, so don’t give up there either.

But sports are not the end all. Kids can take music lessons, join the science club; there’s Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and youth group and fencing and karate and computer classes. Providing opportunities to try a wide variety of activities helps our kids find something they are good at, a place of belonging and community with other kids. And, it seems obvious to add, but social skills are developed along the way here as well.

Today’s thought on parenting: Help our kids find their gifts

Day 26: Set Limits on Technology]

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Elowah Falls-Summer 2015 Outdoor Adventure with Kids-No. 3

DSC_2220Meandering up the path we saw the sign that said, 0.8 miles to Elowah Falls. I knew DSC_2198just by the number that was less than a mile, my 12-year-old son Gus and his friend Justin would be fine with the length of the hike to the top to see what I had read was a well-kept secret worth the experience.

It hit 100 degrees in Portland, Oregon today so it was a perfect idea for this summer’s third Outdoor Adventure with kids — beat the heat by an ice-cold waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area.

My family has been to many of the waterfalls in the Gorge, but Elowah Falls was new to us.

With my weekly summer outdoor adventures with kids, I am looking for new experiences so this one intrigued me. All the Internet sites noting Elowah Falls said it was an  ideal spot to cool off and it was also a destination that was not as touristy as other water falls in the Columbia River Gorge. Plus the fact that it was not very far to hike to was appealing, especially with my 12-year-old son. I want these experiences to be something he enjoys.

It was great inviting my 12-year-old’s friend and his mom Kristin to join us on this adventure. Kristin was thrilled to come along. “It’ll be a neat opportunity to do something with my son this summer,” she said.

I had Kristin navigate alongside me on the drive to get us to Elowah Falls. We exited from I-84 to the Historic Columbia River Highway. (Note: several of the websites said to take the Scenic Columbia River Highway, but we only found signs for the Historic Columbia River Highway.)

While on the Historic Columbia River Highway heading towards Elowah Falls, we saw what looked like a cave ahead with many cars parked there. DSC_2151    The caves intrigued the boys, and after I suggested stopping, Justin immediately said yes. Having a friend along helps with motivation for sure. Adding a stop to our planned adventure is part of the adventure sometimes.

We got out and the boys climbed to the top of the cave, which was really just a tunnel underneath the large rock boulders, part of the Gorge. It was fun to see them express wonder as they wandered up the side of the cave to get to the top.

“It’s scary up here,” I heard them say. They were not going anywhere near the edge but they felt like they were on top of the world anyway.

After they came back down, we continued through the short cave-tunnel and found a creek bed that we walked down to; we felt the temperature decrease about 10 degrees. We DSC_2143 wobbled over the rocks that led across the creek.

My friend Kristin bumped into a family whose little girl she had helped in the Neo-natal unit at the hospital where she is a nurse, so that was really neat. “It’s a God-thing that we added this stop to our adventure,” I said to her

We got back in the car to continue about 3 more miles to Elowah Falls, despite my Gus wanting to be done for the day.

Parking was at John B. Yeon State Park and that is where we saw the sign to Elowah Falls, 0.8 miles. We got our water bottles into our packs, and the boys dashed ahead of us, one egging the other forward. Got to love competition.

The hike to the falls was gradual and very doable for kids. About 2/3 of the way into the 0.8 miles uphill to the falls, it began to go downhill toward the actual falls, with the terrain turning a bit rocky. Careful footing for me with my balance issues since the accident.

Before we finally made it to the falls, the boys began calling out to us, wondering what was taking us so long. They had already gotten cooled off by the spray of Elowah Falls. The view of the falls was breathtaking; it tilted a bit to the side with the wind.

DSC_2188We only saw two other groups of people near the falls in the half hour or so that we hung out to get cooled off.

As we made our way back through the woods on the rocky and wet-at-times trail, the boys once again shot ahead of us, waiting patiently by the car.

I called them back for my traditional photo by the sign.

During parts of the walk, I talked to Kristin regarding why I like to do these outdoor adventures with my kids each week.

“As the kids get older, they get busier and they spend more time with their friends and they get into their electronics and so this outdoor adventure, seeing something new each week, gives me a chance to connect with my kids, experiencing something outdoors in nature, together, someplace new, something away from technology, someplace that is a God-created wonder, someplace that makes us in Ah of the Lord.”

DSC_2204Experiencing nature. Outdoors. Together. To connect.

Summer of 2015 Outdoor Adventure with Kids Number 3 was a hit.

Info: Elowah Falls-Columbia River Gorge waterfall hike

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Summer 2015 – Outdoor Adventure No. 2- Cooper Mountain Nature Park

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Day 25: Make Family a Priority

IMG_0965 It’s important to make immediate and extended family a priority. To make the time to allow cousins to get to know one another. There is something about roots and family history and having blood relatives in our lives that enriches us. who will be with us through it all. Family are those 131_3150people whom we know will stick with us through thick and thin. That is what family should be.

You choose your friends while you are given your family. Friends come and go but your family will always be there.

Family should be comfort and healing and a safe place for our kids. A place where they are always accepted. Always valued. Always important. A place where they belong. Like home.

My parents both grew up in Germany and so my extended family lived across the ocean so I did not get the chance to see them very often. But, I still learned the value of the importance of family. My parents made it a priority to give us the gift of traveling to Europe. We may have had minimal Christmases but we got to go to Germany to see our familyDigital StillCamera and to get to know our cousins.

IMG_9921 My mom was an only child so it was her mom that I mostly got to know on her side of the family, along with my second cousin Helga. My dad was one of five children and all of his siblings had kids, who were my cousins, whom I got to spend time with when we traveled to Germany. To this day, we are connected with our cousins in Germany; and my daughter who lives in Germany with her husband gets to see our extended family on a regular basis.

Now that all of us kids are married with kids as are my husband’s siblings, we have the chance to make sure that our kids get to know their cousins. Life gets busy and it is not always easy to make sure it happens. You have to be intentional about it.

My kids see some of their cousins more than others and I want to continue to work on having my kids see their other cousins more often. Like the other day, cousins june 2015we called up my sister and asked if we could bring bagels and cream cheese by for their family. It was spontaneous. The summer is off and running and Ive been trying to find a way to get the cousins together for a day outing, but it hasn’t happened. So, we made it an hour and a half get together. Just taking the time to connect. I loved seeing the cousins interacting and connecting.

And, within my own large family, I work at always making sure we make family a priority. With two of our kids married and living out of the house, I try to invite them over as often as possible, to help nurture closeness.

I remember going to my husband’s parents’ house each week for dinner when my husband and I were newly married, and I try to duplicate that idea in our family.

NEW-CONTRAST-WATERFALLDSC_0159_8531  And it is my hope and prayer that my kids would see the priority we give to our family and that they would follow that value as they go on to have families of their own.

Today’s thought on parenting: Make family a priority

[Day 24: Hang on Loosely and Don’t Let Go]

 

 

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Day 24: Hang on loosely and don’t let go

My 17-year-old son started going swimming every day at our local private pool at 7 a.m. to get in shape for the upcoming fall swim season. He has a workout that his swim team coach Leanne gave to him.

IMG_0204  I thought, I could join him at 7 a.m. to swim with him. Bonding time. Time together. I was on swim team my junior and senior years of high school at Cleveland High. Plus, just thinking, it’d be neat to do together in the summers.

I’ve been thinking of that for a while, going swimming at our private pool where we are members and where Gus goes pretty much every day of the summer.

When my daughter was home during college years for two summers, I woke up at 6 a.m. with her to ride my bicycle alongside her on her way to work in Oregon City at the Clackamas County public works department. It was six miles away each way and we’d stop by Coffee Rush for mochas and conversation and it was our time.

I so need to connect with my kids and so I wanted to do this with my 17-year-old son, who is one year away from college. I love finding ways to spend one on one time with my kids.

So, I said to him, “Hey, I’ve thought of swimming in the mornings at our pool. Mrs. wainwright did it last couple of years in the mornings and I’ve been thinking about it since then. I was on swim team in high school, like you are, and I know my doctor said swimming would be good for me. Perhaps, I could I join you tomorrow morning?”

My son said to me: “It’s kind of my time, my meditation time.”

Translated: I was not invited.

Oh okay. What should I do, I wondered.

Push? Ask again? Ask in a different way?

Nope, that just didn’t feel right. My spirit did not set well with that idea.

Road Trip twins friends 7-1-15Navigating motherhood and parenting twins and teens.

I talked to my husband about the situation. He agreed that I should just let him have his time. He said, boys need to grow and figure out who they are alone.

“Hand on loosely but don’t let go.”

So, I decided to get up with him early and see him when he goes off to swim, but then say goodbye as he goes off, alone, to mediate. And swim.

Boys — and girls — as they get to their teen years will begin pushing away from their parents as they try to figure out who they are. They still love us parents. They just need to test their wings.

Hand out. Be there for them. Let them go, explore, adventure alone, with their friends.

Like today, my twins and six of their friends left for a two-day camping trip. Alone. They want to strike out alone. Ride motorcycles and ride boats. Sans parents.

In this case, it was definitely not to mediate and be alone. But the idea is the same.

Thought on parenting (teens): Hang on loosely but don’t let go.

They will cherish us now, but we may not see if for a few years.

 

Day 23: Nourishing Nurturing in your kids

 

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Day 22: We are so desperate for God

IMG_9567  I was at church today and I seemed to cry during every song and then during parts of the service. God was at work in my heart as I prayed and worshiped and asked Him to show me direction.  I feel so confused and frustrated and overwhelmed right now. I get this way at the start of most summers as I try to navigate my family and home and creative life. Especially since the accident, I have not been able to focus very well. The song today by Matt Maher just did me in:

“Lord, I Need You”

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

I am so desperate for God. I’ve been realizing that more and more each year of my life, and even more so this year. And, that reality is something as a parent we need to communicate to our children.

I hear people Pray, “Dear Lord, please show up today,” but He already is there. Instead I pray, “Help me to realize you are there, help me to sense your presence, help me to feel your hope and know your grace. And help my kids to sense your presence, your Spirit, your hope.”

DSC_0074  I remember about six years ago, I was going through a really hard time. My oldest child, my daughter was in Germany going to school and my oldest son was away at his first year of college at George Fox University, where I had filled in the semester before but did not get a permanent position. My Real-Life Mom column at The Oregonian had just been terminated and my other work at the paper was changing.

I felt lonely and down and purposeless and without direction.

Okay, I had three kids at home, ages 6, 11, and 11, but my creative life, where I found some of my identity and fulfillment– my writing and teaching –was in transition.

During that time six years ago, I woke up every morning and dropping to my knees by my bed and crying out to the Lord:

“Lord, please show me what you would have for me, for my family, for my writing, for my teaching, for my ministry, for my work.”

And during the day, I wept and cried and asked the Lord what He wanted from me.

And at night, I dropped to my knees by my bed again and prayed the same prayer, “Lord, here I am. Show me what you would have for me, for my family life, for my ministry, for my creative life, for my work.”

I felt so desperate for The Lord to reveal to me His will, His direction, his hope, his grace.

And, He did. He opened up the doors for me to teach at Multnomah University and to start a writers conference and to substitute teach in the public school system and to speak to mom groups about the adventure of motherhood and life.

Last January after our accident, I once again felt so desperate for God in my life. I had no place else to go. My life was truly totally in God’s hand.

DSC_0288  What I have come to realize is that we are always desperate for God, even when we do not think about it or name it. Sometimes it takes a hard time, a transition, a tragedy, to make us realize just how desperate we are for Jesus in our lives.

My hope and prayer is that I would always be desperate for God and that my kids would be as well, even during good times, that they would acknowledge Him in their lives.

To know that they are desperate for God, to feel that they are desperate for Him, to be dependent on Him, to think of Him, to be filled with His Spirit.

Lord, we need you, oh, we need you, every hour we need you. . .

Without You we fall apart
You’re the One that guides our heart.
[Day 21: Be the Best Mom (or Dad) Ever]

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Day 21: Be the “Best Mom (or Dad) Ever”

My twins are both lifeguards this summer. Last summer, just Micki was but this summer they both have the same jobs at our local pool. And if you live in the Portland, Oregon area, you know how hot it has been.

IMG_0274  Yesterday was a scorcher — 99 degrees. As I was on my way home exhausted, I knew that one of my twins was at the pool still working and it was the hottest part of the day; so I decided to stop and get him a Slurpee. I thought it’d be good to get the other lifeguards at the pool one as well, but I wasn’t sure how many kids were working at that time. To be safe, I got four Slurpees.

While walking out of the 7-11 store, I saw Billy, the 25-year-old son of one of my friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while; after a short greeting and exchanging pleasantries, I explained what I was doing with all the Slurpees.

“Just bringing some refreshment up to the pool where my twins work. It’s so hot and this will help cool them down during their upcoming break.”

Then Billy said to me with a huge grin on his face:

“Best mom, ever.”

He just made my day, I thought as I drove up to the Hidden Springs Pool, four Slurpees in a cardboard carrier next to me.

When I arrived at the pool with the treats for Micki and his co-workers, I said:

IMG_0275  “Surprise!” as I handed him and his co-worker their treats. There were only two at the time.

Micki had this huge smile on his face as he grabbed his drink.

“Thanks so much Mom! So perfect.”

And to his co-worker he said: “We can have one now and one later.”

Surprise your kids! It was a small thing, it was a simple thing, it was a way to let my kid know I was thinking of him on this very hot day.

Some may call you the best Mom (or Dad) ever for it!

[Day 20: Pray for Your Children]

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Day 20: Pray for your kids and let them know

DSC_0059 I prayed for my children before they were born. I prayed for them when they were babies and as they grew, during various stages of their lives. I prayed that they would come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior and walk with Him all of their days and find direction and hope from God.  I pray and continue to pray that they would love life and adventure and learning and reading and nature and I pray that they would be protected and safe and make great friends and that they would be kind and humble and passionate and thankful and giving and compassionate and caring and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I prayed (and continue to pray for my younger three children) that they would find someone to share life with and that find their calling and mission in life.

I pray for little and big things for my kids — calling and direction and life long things, and I pray for individual situations and issues and lessons learned along the way.

I pray that my children would have hope and grace and mercy and love and a feeling of purpose and mission and the Love of the Lord Jesus in their lives. I pray that my kids will read their Bibles all the days of their lives and that they would pray all their days. I pray that my kids will love their family and feel close to their family and reach out to their family and be connected.

And, I tell my kids that I am praying for them. That’s important. Tell them. Before they leave for school in the morning, I tell them I am praying for them. Before big and small situations, I tell them I am praying for guidance. At night, I pray out loud for them and encourage them to pray.

DSC_0496_2    And, you know what’s really neat. My sweet Rachel, who is 25 years old and lives in Germany with her husband, sends her younger brothers birthday cards and says to them that she is praying for them.

Something about knowing that your family is praying for you gives you a sense of hope and peace that everything will be okay.

Pray for your kids. And tell them you are praying for them.

1 Sam 1:26-28 “I am the woman who stood here …praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

[Day 19: Tell your kids when others compliment them]

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Day 19: Tell your kids when others say nice things about them

Today I was dropping off Malibu Camp permission forms for my twins at the Young Life House in West Linn, and a fellow substitute teacher from Athey Creek stopped by at the same time.

She told me that she met one of my twins last week at a Young Life meeting.

IMG_9689She said to me: “I thought your son was a former student of mine, and after he said he was not, he went on to introduce himself to me. He reached out his hand to shake mine and said, ‘My name’s Micki, nice to meet you.”

Cornelia, I was so impressed with how friendly your son was, how outgoing, how he looked me in the eyes and introduced himself to me.”

She told me she is a Young Life leader who will be attending the Malibu camp where my twins will be in July.

When I saw my son later in the evening, I told him about my conversation with this lady, and he remembered meeting her.

“The lady I saw today at the Young Life house said you were really nice and very friendly and warm. She said, that you were a great kid.”

My son lit up when I told him what this lady said about him.

IMG_6058Similarly, one of my 12-year-old son, Augustin’s, best friends, Aleks, has the cutest younger brother named Lachlan who’s 5, and he just adores my son and my son adores him. Aleks’ mom Visjna tells me how much her son likes my Gus.

“Lachlan loves it when we have Augustin over. Augustin always pays attention to Lachlan and includes him when the older boys are hanging out,” she says to me.

Then the other day, Visjna was picking up her son at our house with the younger brother in tow.

And Lachlan says to me, “Augustin’s my best friend.”

This mother’s heart is smiling.

Later I reminded Augustin what five-year-old Lachlan had said about him.

I said to my son: “Augustin, that is pretty sweet, that Lachlan calls you his best friend, and he’s only five. That shows how nice you are to him. You’re a neat person.”

He lit up. Then he told me that every time he gets in their car and Lachlan is in there as well, Lachlan says to him: “Augustin, you’re my best friend.”

Sometimes it feels like I am scolding my kids one too many times during the day, so, when I can, I try to find positive things to say to my kids. Ways to affirm them, ways to compliment them.

Parenting Thought for today: Find reasons to build up your children. Tell them how amazing they are and tell them when others say nice things about them. Compliment them. Validate them.

[Day 18 in A Thought a Day on Parenting, for 31 Days: Feed Them]

 

 

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Day 18: Feed them

I believe that food is a ministry. I love to invite people over for desserts and appetizers and dinners and barbeques and crepes and snacks and mochas and tea and a glass of wine. Sometimes it’s planned and sometimes it’s spontaneous. Often it’s spontaneous. There’s something about feeding people that ministers to stomachs and souls and hearts and keeps them coming back.

As a mom, I like to keep my fridge stocked. For my kids and when my kids have friends over. I get a kick out of when my twins’ friend Tyler comes over and opens the fridge to see what’s in there. Then there’s my twins’ friend Ryan who does the same.

They both call me mom.

IMG_0168  My twins’ teenage friends  walk into our home and meet in the kitchen which is bordered by a large island with comfy bar stools and they plop themselves down while I grab various snacks and sustenance from the fridge and cabinets. Simple items. Cheese and crackers or queso and tortilla chips; or ice cream from the fridge. In my past, it’s been home baked chocolate chip cookies, but lately I DSC_1911haven’t had the energy to bake much; if they’ve spent the night, I try to whip up easy-as-pie-but-oh-so-good crepes with Nutella and whipping cream and lemon and powdered sugar. I place the food on the counter in front of the kids and watch them devour the food. If they are downstairs playing X-Box, I sometimes remind them of the food in our house. It’s nothing fancy.

Though my mom is not big on entertaining much these days, I do recall an evening when I was in an  undergraduate at the University of Portland that I invited all my Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU) friends over to my parents house to play the UNgame. My mom made homemade donuts for us as a refreshment, and all my college friends were so impressed and filled, and this young man there, whose name was Chris, made sure to thank my mom for making homemade donuts for us all and for inviting us all over. I would later marry that young man, and my mom, to this day, talks about that time.

And I thank her for making us homemade donuts.

In the Bible, Jesus often talks about feeding people. Such a simple thing. I love that passage in Luke 9: 10-17 about the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds away. But He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.'”  (Verse 13). His disciples saw an obstacle (not enough food), but Jesus saw an opportunity (miraculously feeding 5,000 folks from five loaves of bread and two fish).

Then there’s the passage about doing unto the least of these simple tasks, like giving them something to eat and drink (Matthew 25:35).

IMG_0171  And one of my favorite passages is when Jesus was having dinner “at Matthew’s house, and many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” (Matt. 9:10-11). Jesus saw an opportunity to minister to hungry people via such a simple thing as feeding them while the Pharisees focused on the letter of the law.

Getting to eat — and fill our stomachs — is a blessing. What a great ministry to have our homes associated with that goodness.

Food. Eating together. Meals. Snacks. Sustenance. Smiles.

On being a parent: Stock the fridge and feed them.

[Previous in my A Thought a Day on Parenting, for 31 Days series: Day 17: Get to know their friends]

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Clackamas River Trail- Summer 2015 Outdoor Adventure with kids – No. 1

This summer’s Outdoor Adventure with Kids begins at where the DSC_1925Clackamas River Trail  begins in Oregon City. It’s a walking and biking trail along the Clackamas River and Clackamette Cove areas.

We parked at Clackamette Park in Oregon City, and walked along the road to get to the start of the Clackamas River Trail. For this first outdoor adventure, we needed something close as my 12-year-old was meeting his friends at the pool. Though Micki had to work last minute, I still wanted to get out with my two who were home for the day. DSC_1959

As we walked along the river on this hot first Monday of summer, I shared the story with my boys of how their sister, my Rachel, used to bike along this trail to get to work at the Clackamas County Water Treatment Center in Oregon City in 2010 and 2011, and I added that I’d join her on many mornings during those two summers she worked there.  Rising at 6 am each day, we’d go out to coffee on the way at Coffee Rush.

DSC_1927DSC_1944I love finding new areas close by to introduce myself and my kids to. It’s been a neat tradition these last few years. Sometimes my kids are excited and sometimes they are not. I try to end the outing with food. That seems to do the trick. Today, we went to the new yogurt shop in Oregon City.

DSC_1929Here’s to a great summer getting my kids and me outdoors in nature together.

 

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Day 17: Get to know their friends

One of my best friends during my late teen years and into 20’s and 30’s was named Juli. We met at Cleveland High School in A Cappella Choir and became fast friends, sharing a love for God’s word and a relationship with Christ. And when I was married, Juli was one of my bridesmaids, and a few months later, I served as the matron-of-honor in her wedding ceremony.

One of the things that stands out to me in being part of Juli’s family over the years is how her dad Jim reached out to me, as the best friend of his daughter. Jim was a professor of theology at Western Seminary as well as a pastor.

IMG_3754  Whenever I visited Juli at her home in the southeast Portland neighborhood where we lived, Jim was always really welcoming to me. He was friendly and warm to me, and he’d ask me questions about my life and how my parents were doing and how school was going; and he’d ask me about church and spiritual things.

Just by asking questions of me and taking an interest in my life, I felt validated and accepted and important in their lives.

On several occasions he even thanked me for being such a great friend to his daughter. And, during my rehearsal dinner gathering the night before my wedding many years ago, Jim even got to know the other bridesmaids who stood alongside his daughter as my bridal party attendants. I clearly remember him saying to my college friends Nancy and Meri, “Thanks for being such a great friend to Cornelia.”

As a parent myself now for over 25 years, I have remembered fondly those days when my friend’s dad took the time to get to know me. I now try to do the same with my kids’ friends. When we reach out to our children’s friends, it communicates to them that they matter and that they are important. Because, they are.

IMG_0162  There are so many ways to get to know our kids’ friends. When you see them at school events, say hello. When you bump into them at the local grocery store, greet them by name and ask them how they are doing. Invite them along when you go on outings. And, of course, one of the best ways for us parents to get to know our kids’ friends is to invite them into our homes. I penned my Day 10  post in this 31 Day A Thought a Day on Parenting series on the importance of showing hospitality and making kids feel welcome. And, as we invite others into our homes, we will discover qualities about their families, their interests, their hobbies, their neighborhoods, their values, their thoughts on life. And, we will see them live those beliefs out in their attitudes on issues.

As our children get into their tweens and teens — the ages of my children at home– they will naturally begin wanting to spend more time with their friends. If we get to know the friends of our kids — what motivates them and what their attitudes are about life — we will feel more comfortable when our children spend time with them. We will feel more a part of their lives. And, we will be able to dialogue later with our kids regarding their friends.

Chances are, decades later, our kids’ friends will remember us, the parents, just as I did my friend Juli’s parents.

Thought for today: Get to know your kids’ friends.

[Previous in the Thought a Day on Parenting series: Day 16: Let Your Kids Chill]

 

 

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Day 16: Let your kids “chill”

I want our home to be a place where our kids can relax. And not have to work, and not have to be doing anything and not have to be “on.” A place where they can relax.

DSC_2131 And, for them that often means playing games on their smart phones or watching You-Tube videos on their I-pods or playing x-box on the flat screen or playing mindcraft on their computers.

It may not be how I like to relax and it may not be my ideal thing; yeah, I’d rather that they be reading classic novels and writing letters, and yet, “it is what it is,” as my brother says about reality sometimes.

My boys find electronics and technology and computers are a way that they like to relax.

Or “chill,” as they call it.

As my 12-year-old son’s friend Daniel says to me tonight, when I asked him what I should write about in this blog series:

“Sometimes kids need a break from work.”

IMG_0163  As I look back on my growing up years, I often didn’t feel like I could relax when my parents were home. I’m not sure why exactly exactly, but I want something different for my home. But, I have to catch myself as a parent. When I come home and see my kids playing X-box in the living room, I need to just let them be. And, when I see them lounging on the couch looking at You-Tube videos on their phones or I-pods, I try to remind myself to just smile and maybe ask to see the video, but definitely not get on their case about it.

But, I’ve messed up plenty of times. I’ve caught myself nagging my kids about being on their phones or other electronic devices during evening hours, only to regret it later, especially when I’ll then notice that my kids are hanging out more their bedrooms than in our living room area.

Today’s thought on parenting: Let your kids chill.

(Previous in Series: A thought a Day on Parenting, Day 15: Celebrate Fathers and Mothers Day)

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Day 15: Celebrate Father’s and Mother’s Day

DSC_2127  When I was growing up my dad would always make a big deal about Mother’s Day. He’d bring us to the store to have us buy little presents or flowers for my mom and he’d remind us to write cards that showed our thanks to our mom for being there for us.

We’d have a nice breakfast or dinner together when we’d give my mom her gifts and cards. My mom had us do the same for our dad for Father’s Day. And birthdays and Christmas

When my husband and I started having children, we would do the same for our kids, teaching them the value of thanking their mom and dad.

Some may say, it’s just a Hallmark Holiday and others may say, it’s not my responsibility to remember these days, and while that may all be true, it’s important for parents to help kids honor their mom and dad. It’s a yearly opportunity to do something good.

With yesterday being Father’s Day, I encouraged each of my children to make cards for their dad and to think about a gift they could make him or purchase for him. I made sure they helped with our Father’s Day brunch and that we made it a big deal. DSC_2066

Later we invited my dad (and mom) and my husband’s dad (and mom) over to honor them as well for a Father’s Day ribeye and T-bone steak dinner.

And, last month, all my children gathered in our home for an amazing fresh strawberry crepe and whipping cream brunch that my husband made for me and my mom.

DSC_2123  Parents do so much for their kids. They sacrifice for their children, they teach their kids skills, they give their children experiences, they provide for their kids, they love their kids, they nurture their children, and they give of themselves to their children.

And so much of what parents do for their children cannot be listed in a short blog post.

Sure, kids should be reminded to thank their parents all year long, every day, throughout the day; yet on special days — like yesterday’s Father’s Day — they should be taught to do something more to honor their parents. Make them breakfast, write them a thank you card, buy them a gift.

And, when (if) you become a parent yourself one day, you will realize how wonderful it feels to be honored by your children.

“Honor your father and mother.”- Exodus 20:12

(Previous in the seriesDay 14: We take care of our own)

 

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Day 13: Teach them to work

When I was growing up, we had a family friend named Brent and he used to say about my very German family: “In your house, you are only worth what you work.”

IMG_0014  For me, that would not have made me worth very much since, compared with my sister, I was not the industrious one. Take going berry picking as an example.

Every summer, starting in fourth grade, we got up at 4:30 am to eat breakfast, walk 3/4 of a mile to catch a rickety old yellow school bus that took us out to Estacada or Hillsboro to pick berries for money.

I love strawberries and for every strawberry that made it into my flat, two would go into my mouth.  In the end, I’d have one flat for every two flats my sister picked, so needless to say, she’d end up with a lot more money than I would.

But, it taught us the value of work. At home, we’d have to do dishes and set the table and sweep the floor and clean our rooms and water plants, and of course doing well in school and sports was an expected given.

While, I am careful not to associate worth with work, I am grateful that my parents taught us the value of working hard.

Which, we try to do with our kids as well.

IMG_0001Teach your children to work.

And, the best and only way to teach them to work is to begin early. When they are young, work is fun. Cleaning their room can be a game and unloading the silverware a puzzle-solving task and vacuuming is using a tool.

We emphasize that we are a family and every member of our family is important. Regular chores like doing dishes, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming are part of life. But, as they get older, we like to pay my kids to do certain household tasks that are over and above the usual, like washing windows and power washing the deck.

When kids learn the art of work, they realize that they are a valued part of your family, and that they are capable people. They gain self-esteem and a strong work ethic; later in life, when they are employed outside of the home, employers will notice.

Work. It’s not what they are worth, but it is worth it to teach our kids the importance of work.

 

 

Day 12: Go on outdoor adventures with your kids

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Day 12: Go on outdoor adventures with your kids

Today is the fourth full day of summer vacation with our kids home from school. It is always a juggle to get into a rhythm with our summer days. Following in the footsteps of my friend Andee, I am giving my kids a week to just “chill” (as my twins call it). I’ll get into planning reading time and German and home projects in a bit. But, I did want to dive right into something I am passionate about: Summer Outdoor Adventure with Kids. While I say summer outdoor adventure with kids, I of course believe in getting outdoors all year round with my kids. Since the accident, I have not been able to do all I want to do with my children, yet I still need this time. I’ll call it modified time. I am grateful for every day.

DSC_2035 - Version 2So, while it was the fourth day of summer vacation with the kids, it was actually only the first day with all of my kids home (the twins both work now as lifeguards). (Note, when I say “all of my kids” I mean the three who are still living at home).

I told them to not make any plans with friends today, as we are kicking off our summer together going on an outing to a new park, something in nature, an outdoor adventure, something hike-like. We needed something close by due to commitments later in the evening; I found the place where we ended up– Cooper Mountain Nature Park — by googling nature parks in the Portland area. It was about a 30 minute drive out in Beaverton. Because the entire week has been filled with other kids, which I love too, I wanted to connect with just my boys, in nature, on a walk, on an adventure. If you’ve read my blog in the past, I’ve been doing summer adventures with my kids for the past several years and blogging about it. This year, all is different. But, it’s the fact that we are getting out. Trying. Making the effort.

DSC_2009This post really doesn’t need a lot of words. The pictures will speak for themselves.

So, my Day 12 Thought on Parenting is something I am passionate about: Go on outdoor adventures with your kids

[Previous in the series: Day 11: Talk to Your Kids About God]

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Day 11: Talk about God

We were glued to the TV during the NBA finals these last weeks. I am a basketball fan and loved the adrenaline rush of this NBA finals series where Golden State and Cleveland duked it out.   Then, after the heart racing series, it was of course the Golden State Warriors that took home the top NBA prize, beating the Cavaliers four games to two. And, maybe just as exciting for me was listening to the after-game interview when finals MVP Andre Iguodala, of the Golden State Warriors, say:

IGUODALA alone“First of all I want to say, God is great, God is great. I want to thank all the chaplains across the NBA, helping us out every single night.”Andre Iguodala Interview

It was so refreshing, in a world where we champion the individual feats and strength and skill of amazing world-class athletes, that the Most Valuable Player would honor God in such a direct, verbal way. It seemed so natural for Andre. IMG_2755

 As a parent, it is important to try to talk about God to our children. All day. In a natural way, in an honoring way, in a way that reminds our kids, our community, those around us, that we are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus in our lives.

Talk about God. All daylong. In small ways and large. Notice sunsets created by God. Point out rainbows to our children and remind them children of what they mean. Notice people who are loving, filled with the Spirit of God. Read God’s Word, alone and with your children. Pray.

I think of that awesome passage in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, which I have written in German on a pottery dish displayed in our dining room: Deut 6 Talk about God

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

(Previous Post: Day 10: Show Hospitality)

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Day 10: Show hospitality

The Other day, I came home too late from a meeting and my teenage twins were still up and one of their friends was over and they were playing x-box in our living room and it was really late and I was really tired and after my standard greeting of “Hello, how are you doing, good to see you, Will,” I commented on how late it was and wondered what were they still doing up.

Great greeting huh?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Why were those critical thoughts some of the first words out of my mouth? I felt so badly after this. I do not want to do this as a parent. I want to be a good mom, a mom who welcomes people into our home. My teenage twins love it when they have friends over and I love it when they have friends over. I want our house to be the house where friends congregate. I want our home to be the place where kids are always welcome and where kids always feel like they belong and where kids can go to my fridge and open it up and know that it is okay. It’s that familiar.

My friend Jeanie’s mom’s house, Barb and Bob Higinbotham modeled that gift of the welcome. The art of hospitality.

Mrs. Higinbotham was a warm presence and thinking of her brings fond memories for me of my days in Corvallis as a first, second and third grader at Garfield School in Corvallis during the years when my dad taught at Oregon State University. When I visited Jeanie’s house after school, her mom had warm butter cookies waiting for us. I loved how Mrs. Higs would greet us at the door when we walked into her house and she offered us those cookies on the plate on the little family room table right next to the kitchen.

“But, first, please go wash your hands,” she would say to us.

And after we washed our hands, we would return and see two small plates next to the large plate of butter cookies and those small plates were for us to put our individual cookies onto. And, Mrs. Higs would sit next to us and ask us about our day. I felt like Mrs. Higs had all the time in the world for me.

Twins and friends eating hospitality  I want my home like that. Like Mr. and Mrs. Higinbotham’s house. Where you never felt like you outstayed your welcome, where you always knew you were not bothering them, where they took you in and were relaxed when you were there.

Today was on of those days. To show hospitality. Where I literally got nothing else done but feed my high school kids and their friends’ crepes with whipping cream and Nutella and fresh berries and lemons and powder sugar for breakfast, and then later my junior high kid and three friends and a mom crepes with the same toppings. And ask them questions on my deck, to see how their summer is going and to let them know I care.

And then clean up between both sets of folks in our home.

And, I loved every minute of it. When I am not thinking about all I have to get done. But, heck, since I’m off Facebook (except posting these daily blog posts), I’m saving 81 minutes a day.

But, really, when it comes to hospitality, you don’t count minutes, but instead you count moments and smiles and life long memories. And what really matters.

 Nancy VB and jh kids People.

And making them feel like they matter.

Just as Mrs. Higinbotham lived out.

Fellow Moms and Dads, dear friends, invite kids into your home. Make them feel welcome. Show Hospitality.

—————————————————-  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

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Day 9: Say, “I am sorry”

DSC_0049  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”- 1 Peter 5:5

I messed up. Again. I overreacted toward my 17–year-old son the other day. I raised my voice. I made something a bigger deal than it was.

After I did this, I felt so badly. I am a terrible mother, I thought. Why did I overreact?

My son ended up going to his room to get ready for bed. I found him in the bathroom brushing his teeth.

I approached him and said, “I’m so sorry, Wes, man, I just overreacted just now. I should not have raised my voice over such a small thing. It was not a big deal.”

He quickly brushed it off and said, “mom, don’t worry, it was not a big deal.”

“Yes it was to me, and it is. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”

IMG_8853  He told me, “Yeah, mom, it’s fine. Good night.”

I just wanted to hug him and hold him and say I was sorry again 10 times over, but I knew it was just time for bed, and it was time for me to also forgive myself as a parent.

Growing up, my mom used to tell me that her parents rarely said they were sorry when they messed up. And, she remembered that all these years later; and when she became a parent, she made a vow to herself, that she would make it a practice to say she was sorry to her children.

And she did. My mom is the first to admit she was not a perfect mom but I do remember while growing up, that she was humble and she was able to say she was sorry for times when she overreacted.

Ask your children for forgiveness when you mess up. Say, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?” to your kids.

You’ll be modeling something that your children need to learn along the way. That it’s okay to admit you are not perfect. Trust me, everyone knows it, so might as well admit it. When we acknowledge our shortcomings, admitting we are human, it allows for others to do the same.

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Previous in the “A Thought a Day on Parenting, for 31 Days” series: Day 8: Support Your Family

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“If it’s not on Facebook. . .” and other reasons I’m cutting back this summer

facebook_logo  Did you know that on average (according to one study I found); women spend 81 minutes per day on Facebook? Mashable Facebook story  And, men  about 64 minutes. For women, that’s 567 minutes a week, which is about 9 and a half hours a week. Originally I signed up to post my stories and show my daughter who lives in Germany photos of her family, but I confess, I waste too much time here. With summer here, I am going to spend less time here; just posting my summer parenting and adventure blogs and maybe a few important issues and events, but only once a day.

Heck, 81 minutes extra for writing and being fully present with my family! So, forgive me if I don’t “like” or comment on your posts as often as I’ve done in the past. I want to be present with my family and my creativity, which FB sucks the life out of for me sometimes. I know that Facebook is not the problem; it is just my addiction to it.

DSC_0077  There, I said it. Social media is addictive and I get sucked in. It is my own fault. It is not the fault of Facebook. I know many people on Facebook who do not have an issue with addiction to Facebook, like my daughter uses it only once in a while to post issues she is passionate about and to add photos as a backup.

I love her quote: “If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.”

Wow, such truth from my prophetic daughter.

In fact, because of her, I stopped posting as often. I didn’t post every time I got together with a friend or went to my kids’ concert or had a special event. It was so freeing.

And, with my accident last January, I was ordered off of the computer for a couple of months and a couple of months off of social media felt so freeing. I

For me, though, it has become addictive. Maybe it is a self esteem thing, which I am embarrassed to admit it but I try to be real and honest.

Initially as a way to help this Facebook addiction I took Facebook off of my phone and that helped for a little while. But, now I just check more often on my computer.

FACEBOOk thumbsupFrankly, I check Facebook way too often: How many likes did I get on a post, who made a comment on my pictures, what is everybody doing. And, then there is feeling like I need to comment on other people’s posts and like other people’s post and feeling bad when I don’t because I want people to know I care. And then there’s feeling badly when I didn’t see someone else’s posts and them assuming you saw their posts and it feel like so much pressure.

Of course, Facebook is such a great tool for keeping in touch with people and discovering updates on issues beyond our suburban life. And, you find out about personal health situations of people you are connected with and connection is such a huge thing for me. I am grateful to my friends on Facebook for letting people know about my accident back in January. It was because of Facebook my friend Jenni set up our Meal train, which was filled up in less than an hour, and my friend Kelly was going to quit Facebook about the time of our accident but then she stayed on Facebook and is glad she did because that is how she found out about our accident.

DSC_0940  My friend Jenni and many others I know “deactivated” their Facebook accounts during the Lent season and I get that “fast” during the holy season. I had thought about deactivation, but I decided against it as I am a week plus into a 31-day “Thought a Day on Parenting” series, and I want to continue to post links to those blog posts, as well as a few other important connections. And, so I thought I’d pen this post and update my status on Facebook to say that I am going to limit my time on Facebook to be more present with my family and to do more writing.

So, here are three things I’d like as I cut back on Facebook this summer:

1. Post my blog articles once a day on Facebook, then check private messages once a day. No secretively checking Facebook during the day. Once a day checking. That’s it.

2. Not feel as if I have to like or comment on other posts. People can read this and know why.

3. Write more on my blog and be more present with my family. Enjoy summer

Hey, that’s almost 81 minutes a day or (9 + hours a week) will be freed up. To write, be more connected, and be present with my family to catch all the sunsets.

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Day 7: Be present with your kids

DSC_1747  When I was a youth director at the church my husband were married in, I would visit different members of the youth group when they were hurt or had surgery. Pretty typical church-leadership-pastoral type of ministry.

At the time, I was a newly married, 20-something with no-kids, and that was way before cell phones and the modern technology we have at our fingertips today.

I remember distinctly visiting a particular youth group member once who had had her tonsils out. It was a Friday evening. After her dad let my husband and me in for our visit, we walked into the living room of this girl’s house where she was watching a DVD with her mom.

And, what I remember most about that visit was that the mother of this teen was not only watching the movie with her daughter but she was also apparently paying bills.

Something about that scene has stuck with me to this day, dozens of years later. I am not judging this mom, and who knows if it was just a one-time situation, and who knew what kind of a parent I would be in the future, but nonetheless, the scene has stayed with me all these years later.

I know nowadays people are doing a lot more than paying bills while watching a movie with their kids. Think texting and watching live videos and candy crush. But, I still remember that scene as significant in my future life as a parent.

From the start, I knew I wanted to be a present parent in my future as a mom. And when you are multi-tasking, aka, paying bills while watching a movie with your kids, you just cannot be fully present with your family.

IMG_9245We were at my son’s high school band concert a week ago and there was a lady — I cannot make this up — who had brought her laptop into the auditorium, and she was working on her computer during the concert. She was sitting right next to my daughter-in-law and me, to our left, until we got the chance to move. Really? Could it not wait till later, dear mom?

My sixth grade son has said to me, when I am on my computer and he is in the same room: “You love your computer more than me.”

So, I have a new (sort-of) rule: Don’t’ be on my computer when my kids get home from school. Our kids care. That means the phone too.

My Day 7 thought on parenting: Be present with your kids.

And that means, be careful of multi-tasking when your kids are present. They notice. They really do.

[Previous in the series: Day 6: Find Reasons to Celebrate with Your Children]

 

 

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Day 6: Find reasons to Celebrate with your Children

It’s the last day of school, time to celebrate.

Twins at starbucks last day of school 2015  I took my 17–year-old twin sons out to Starbucks to celebrate this morning.

At first one of my twins said, “No, it’s okay, we don’t have to go.”

But I countered, “Oh, Wes, I’d really like to take you and Micki out to coffee with to celebrate the end of the school year and the ring in the start of summer.”

Micki was already game.

Because they had to borrow a car for their after school life-guarding commitment, we had to drive separately to Starbucks.

I didn’t care. I just wanted that time with them. To celebrate.

And because they had to get to the school property early to get a coveted parking spot, they couldn’t stay at Starbucks to sip their 5 dollar Frappuccino with me, but instead had to leave.

I didn’t care. I just wanted that time with them. To celebrate.

And, I told them that a couple of times, that we are celebrating, this moment, this milestone, this end of the year.

Gus starbucks last day of school 15An hour later when my 12-year-old was getting ready for his last day of sixth grade, I told him I’d like to go out to Starbucks. And, that he could have something to eat and drink — To celebrate. The last day of school and the beginning of summer.

We did. Hey, I got two caffeinated drinks out of the deal.

And, I reminded my kids in the process:

Celebrate every moment  As a parent it is important to celebrate life. Everyday. Ordinary. Small and large Milestones.

And, I am not talking (only) about graduations and weddings and those big days everyone celebrates. Nope, I am talking about: Band concerts, the last day of school, the first day of summer, getting good grades, getting braces on.

Find Reasons to Celebrate with your children.

Do it now. Celebrate.

Every gorgeous moment.

[Previous in the series: http://www.corneliaseigneur.com/day-5-allow-yourself-to-relax/]

 

 

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Planning for the Summer with kids 2015

IMG_9210  It’s almost summer. Some moms I am reading, like my friend Kelly, are so looking forward to unstructured time with their kids. Times when they will not have to get up early and make lunches or stay up late to help with the homework or deal with after school plans and after school sports or during school issues.

They are imagining leisurely days with their kids sleeping in then long breakfasts and peaceful afternoons at the pool or park and later in the day summer concerts and family barbeques.

Yet, there are some friends who are posting that they are wondering how to spend those long summer days with kids home, trying to juggle their own work lives with entertaining their children.

I love summers home with my kids and slide back and forth on that scale of feeling. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of summer with your kids, I wanted to share some ideas of things I have done and hope to do this year, the summer of 2015. Because of my accident in January, I am limited in what I am able to do, but as always, I am grateful for another day, another breath, another moment, another summer with my beautiful children.

And, in thinking of the summer of 2015 with my three children at home, I want to mix it u p with spontaneous, whatever comes up kind of days like my kids prefer, with planned, deliberate kind of days.

At the beginning of summer, I sit with my kids on our deck and talk about what they would like to do in the summer, what they already have planned and what they hope to do. Then, I share things I’d like to have happen.

I’m thinking of the passage in Luke 2:52 that says: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” And, based upon that passage, we thought of different ways that Jesus grew: mentally (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (in favor with God) and socially (in favor with man).

How can we apply that passage to our own lives and the lives of our kids to be intentional about this summer while at the same time being flexible and spontaneous, without big schedules and “have-to” lists.

IMG_5715  Here are some ideas of things to do with your family in the summer of 2015, based upon four areas of growth in our children:

Wisdom (Mentally)-Keeping the mind sharp. We all hear the statistics about kids losing so much over the three summer months. My 12 year old reminded me that there are like 82 days of summer. That’s a lot of days to let the mind go limp. There are many things to do over the summer that are at the same time fun but keep the mind sharp.

1. Reading. Most public libraries have reading programs that encourage kids to make goals of numbers of books they can read and incentives for when they reach those goals. Encourage your kids to read different genres, fiction and non-fiction. Libraries have lists of classic books. I try to encourage my kids to read at least one “classic” a summer and I like to read it with them. Here is a list of different potential books by age: Summer Reading List by ages. Libraries also offer programs once a week with authors, magicians and other entertainers who bring help get kids into the library. Here is a link to Clackamas County libraries reading programs. Clackamas County Library Summer 2015. I love how libraries don’t leave the teens out of their radar. West Linn Public Library for example offers young teen and teen programs along with their children’s events in the summer. Reach them here : West Linn Public Library.

2. Learning a language is another idea for growing in wisdom over the summer. There is so much free information online. My family is from Germany and I’ve tried to teach them German since they were little. They resisted as they got older but I think they have the basics. I invested in Rosetta Stone last summer and we will continue with that this summer. You can do a five-payment plan over the course of five months, which makes it really affordable. Of course, libraries offer a lot in that department as well. Some free language courses that have a variety of games for kids and adults to help language learning, including Learn a Language

3. Keeping your kids writing over the summer is vital and can also be a lot of fun. I have my kids keep summer journals, where they write what they are doing. When we go on road trips, I have them keep a vacation journal, writing in there where we are going and some fun things we are doing. WE buy postcards along the way, which they can paste in there along with photos when we get back. 4.

4. Learn local history. Summer is a great time to check out the history of your own city as well as nearby areas. We live in West Linn, which is rich in history centered on the Willamette Falls. A website covers other areas around Oregon, A to Z style, listing famous Oregonians and information about early Oregon days on the Oregon Trail. V

http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/oregon.html Of course, visiting the Oregon Historical Society is always fun, and if you sign up for their newsletter, you get buy one get one free pass. Consider a trip to the Oregon capitol or taking a walking tour of various cities. Find out by googling a particular city. West Linn’s walking tour info is here; http://westlinnoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/willamette/page/8181/walking_tour_of_willamette_neighborhood_brochure.pdf

And speaking of interesting historical facts, why not visit the World’s smallest park, Mill End Park, as found in the Guinness Book of World records. Info is here: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?&propertyid=265&action=ViewPark

5. Another way to grow in wisdom is to do cultural activities with kids. What about a movie tour of different locations around Portland and beyond where movies were filmed. You probably heard that parts of the movie Wild, based upon the Cheryl Strayed book, were filmed in Oregon. And, parts of Goonies were filmed in Astoria. And, I just discovered that parts of the Twilight movie were filmed at the Stonecliff Restaurant on the Clackamas River. http://www.stonecliffinn.com/ Following is a list of movies with Oregon connections, which is a lot of fun for kids to learn. http://traveloregon.com/see-do/attractions/movies-filmed-in-oregon-places/ Other ways to grow in wisdom would be to attend outdoor theater in the parks.

IMG_7946  Stature – Growing physically.

  1. 1. Take your kids to All-Comers track meets. This is a great way to have fun while staying in shape over the summer. I grew up on these and took my friends with our family. Foot Traffic for example sponsors these events at Grant High School in Portland starting June 16. Here is a link:   http://www.foottraffic.us/meets
  2. 2. Hikes are also an awesome way to stay in shape will getting your kids into nature. Saturday, June 13 is National Get Outdoors Day with many state and national parks offering free admission. http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org/ I am a big believer in getting kids into the great outdoors. A few years ago I started doing weekly “Adventures” with my kids, where we would explore a local park, wildlife refuge or nature area. I’ve loved this time and we often invite some of my kids’ friends along as well as other moms. Two favorites are: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/tualatinriver/visit.html and Jackson Bottom Wildlife Refuge  http://www.jacksonbottom.org/
  3. Geocaching is another way to keep kids active during the summer while also offering a bit of play for the kids–and adults.
  4. Swimming! Of course. Join a local pool or go to your public pools. I’ve had my kids in swim lessons since they were three years old. And, Portland Public Pools offer free swim lessons that first week of summer vacation. In person sign ups are Saturday, June. 13. Check your local IMG_9493pool for more information: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/38284
  5. Bicycle riding with your kids. Start from your house and go to local parks or out for ice cream nearby. We love having a destination in mind and then rewarding our kids with a treat at the end. Feed them, I say! One of our favorite bike rides is along the old Columbia River Highway, from Mosier to Hood River, where no cars are allowed.

Spiritually (In Favor with God).

  1. Have family devotions in the evenings, outside, in your yard. Take turns asking kids to share a passage in the bible. There are a variety of devotional books that kids can use. My friend Jenni’s family does this every night with all of their children.
  2. Encourage your children to start daily Five Minutes with God. Kids can begin to have quiet times with God from a young age. I have boys and this is hard, but I say try it, without getting legalistic about it. Buy a devotional book for them.
  3. Take your kids to Vacation Bible Schools at the various churches around your area. If you Google it, there are several churches that come up, like Lake Bible church in Lake Oswego, a VBS program my kids attended for years, http://www.lakebiblechurch.com/children/vacation-bible-school (July 20-24) and Tigard United Methodist Church in August. http://www.tigardumc.com/ There are also family camps where parents are encouraged to stay and be a part of the experience. Rolling Hills for example does a family camp where parents are invited to hang out with their kids. http://www.rollinghills.org/family-camp/15804123 And when your kids get too old to participate, like in sixth grade, have them serve as a leader. It’s a great way to grow spiritually.
  4. Outreach is another great way for your kids (and you) to grow. There are many programs through churches, soup kitchens, homeless shelters that offer families a chance to give back. And, being part of your own neighborhood is a message I emphasize a lot in my life. Is there an elderly person on your street that your kids to visit once a week? Is there a person that has a hard time getting around that your child could bring the mail in for? Right here, right now is my message.

Socially (In Favor with Man) – The social part of a kid’s summer is usually the easiest to be intentional about. In both of the areas above, the social aspect is easily seen. Many of the activities above are spent with other people. But, I’d like to write about a few intentional ways for kids to grow socially this summer:

1. Invite families over. Your house does not have to be perfect, your house does not have to be big, and your house does not have to be fancy. Invite families with kids over to enjoy barbeques and pool parties and fireworks on the Fourth of July. I look back on my childhood and remember fondly when we’d have families over. Those families are still important in my life today.

2. This was mentioned in the area above, as a way to grow spiritually, but outreach is also an important social area to grow in. Some kids are shy, but that is okay. Have them write letters to people. Find shut-in to help. Have your kids offer to mow the lawn of a neighbor where you see it is overgrown.

3. Go to Farmer’s Markets, festivals, fairs where there are people. If your kids see people they know, be sure to discuss (later, not in front of their friends) how to introduce you to folks they know.

4. Have your kids invite their friends over. Make your home the place where kids want to congregate. Make your home welcoming. I love when my high school twin sons have their friends over. I bake them cookies and always have food in the house. One of my twins’ friends, Tyler, calls me Mom. There is nothing better than that.

So, that’s my deliberate list of things to do to grow in four areas of our kids’ lives. Most important thing is to have fun with your kids.

I also wanted to provide a list of specific ideas of things to do with kids this summer, and add links for more information. I’ve added info on when something is free or reduced price. Some of these ideas would fit into the above categories of ways to “grow.” But for now, just a list. Enjoy your summer with kids!

** 4 T’s- Tram, Trail, Trolley, Train: http://library.oregonmetro.gov/files/trailtramtrolleytrain.pdf

** Oregon Zoo – offers the second Tuesday of the month is 4 dollars

** Cities offer various activities for kids during the summer. For example, West Linn offers a “passport” where you can visit every park in the city this summer. To make if fun for kids, they have a printable “passport.” I plan to do this with my 12 year old this summer. Check it out here: http://westlinnoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/parks_and_recreation/page/9638/parks_passport2.pdf

**  The Children’s Museum offers the first Friday of the month for free, from 4 to 8 pm http://www.portlandcm.org/

** For cultural ideas and to see various other museums in Portland, visit: http://www.wccls.org/lending_library/cultural_pass

** Travel Oregon has great summer ideas on its website over at: http://traveloregon.com/seasons/summer/; For example, find out about Hood River Valley’s Cider Scene or explore the “land of Lava.”

** And, speaking of traveling in Oregon, Travel Oregon has listed “Oregon’s Seven Wonders”:

Mt Hood; The Coast; The Columbia River Gorge; Painted Hills; Smith Rock; The Wallowa’s; Crater Lake

(Find out info here: http://traveloregon.com/7wonders/)

** A photographer and a dad has published “Things to do in Portland with children” on his website here: www.thingstodoinportland.org

** And “A Summer of Fun” is published each year by Metro Parent here: http://www.metro-parent.com/summer-of-fun-jun15/

** Oh, then there’s also Travel Portland’s list of ideas for kids, from festivals to places to eat to museums to freebies: http://www.travelportland.com/collection/portland-with-kids/

**  Consider the “Tree to Tree Adventure Park on the coast area, but expect to pay. There are coupons on line. http://tree2treeadventurepark.com/

** Festivals and Farmers markets are great in the summer, and special one that celebrates Oregon’s huckleberries is July 25: The Huckleberry festival – July 25- in north powder Oregon (http://traveloregon.com/see-do/events/fairs-festivals/oregon-food-trips-events/north-powder-huckleberry-festival-3/)

** And, when the summer is almost over, consider the Oregon Symphony Neighborhood Concert Sept. 3- http://www.orsymphony.org/edu/comm_neigh.aspx

Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite thing to do this summer.

Happy Summer 2015 and thanks for reading!

 

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Day 4: Let them stretch their borders

DSC_1611The other day, my 12 year old said to me, “Mom, can you take Karver and me to the river? We want to float our rafts to the island at Cedaroak boat ramp.”

I had been gone that day for a while and I was tired and needed to rest, but I yearn for time with my son and I was excited for his oh-so-grown-up-ish out of the box idea, so I said yes, as long as it was okay with his friend’s dad.

Karver texted his dad Darren and asked if he was okay with this idea.

Darren texted me back, thanking me for taking the boys. He also added:

“I tried to get them to fill up a backpack with water balloons and go to their usual spot, the local park near by whereby, but they would not have it.”

I know, I texted back, wild, huh?

That’s why I said yes, that’s why I took them, despite being tired and needing to rest.

As a parent, I believe it is important to allow our children, as they get older, to stretch the borders of their lives, their worlds, slowly, little by little, to have their own adventures, outdoors, beyond the local manicured parks. And, to allow them to come up with the ideas of what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.

DSC_1587  A bit of independence and adventure and challenge.

Indeed. It was neat to see the boys find our life jackets and floats and paddles and pump to pump up the floats; they got their towels and their snacks and their sunscreen.

“Mom, we are ready to go,” Gus says to me.

I asked if he had their lifejackets included in all of the items, and he answered affirmatively.

I finished packing my own bag, with a towel and a book and my journal and my sunglasses.

I had different plans for the Cedaroak Boat Ramp area. The horizontal sandy beach was calling me.

But first, watching the boys paddle to the Cedaroak Island. The way they felt so good about being able to plan this little trip, the determination on their faces as they hit the water on their floats and the delight once they made it.

Let them explore, beyond the borders.

[Past in the Thoughts on Parenting, 31 Days posts: Day 3: Give them experiences not material goods}

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Day 3: Give them experiences, not material goods

We have begun thinking about where we can go as a family this summer.

DSC_0295  We love road trips, with fishing and boating on cool lakes and camping in rugged campgrounds and savoring orange and red sunsets then roasting marshmallows at toasty campfires.

The summer can get so booked up when you have tweens and teens at home; they get so busy. Between the twins’ work schedule and camps and concerts and time with their friends, and our middle schooler’s various activities and camps, you just need to begin talking about it sooner rather than later. We are later this year.

The twins are both working at the pool as lifeguards this summer and their June and early July were already booked up, and I got a bit worried, so we made sure to sit down with them to talk about a time when we could go later in the summer.

In between all the end of the school year activities, we made sure that our family conversations these past days have centered on what we are doing as a family, together, something we have tried to make a priority.

In the midst of some of these conversations, our youngest son, Gus, who is 12 and finishing up his sixth grade year, says to me:

Flatscreen TV x-box  “Can we buy a flat screen TV instead of going on vacation?”

Okay people, where did I go wrong? Smile, laugh, and chuckle. Keeping it real here.

I know my son is kidding just a little bit while he is also serious just a little bit. He’s wanted a flat screen TV for our family room downstairs for some time now. You cannot play the XBOX on the “regular” TV that is downstairs. So, when we are watching a movie upstairs and he has to be downstairs with his friends, he is bummed.

Yeah, first world problems, right?

We are balancing our funds right now while definitely keeping a downstairs flat screen TV for the family room on our purchasing radar. But, not right now.

Yet, a bigger lesson that I try to emphasize with our children is the importance of experiencing adventure together. Vacations are a time of adventure for families.

P1000565  While I was growing up in my German family, our parents took us to Germany to see family, which gave me a love for traveling. Our Christmases were never big but we got to go to Germany as a family. I learned an important lesson from my parents, a lesson that I try to always emphasize with my kids by living it out.

In family life, experience is always more important than material goods.  Get out and explore and adventure together. Emphasize experiences more than material goods in family life.

Now, to get my kid to understand.

And, to be fair, Gus always loves our family road trip vacations; he just also likes his X-Box. Maybe, he’s dreaming of both this summer.

(Previous in A Thought a Day on Parenting, for 31 Days: Day 2: Kids Want Danger)

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Day 2: Kids want danger

danger day 2 parenting blog  My twins planned this overnight camping trip with seven friends of theirs. They call themselves the “Bros.”     

I love how they did this all on their own.

Only trouble is they are all 17-years-old and and you have to be 18 to reserve a camping spot. So, the “Bros” asked my husband and me if we wanted to go camping. I guess we are good for something.

We had company here from out of town that I need to see on that weekend so I was unable to go but my husband Chris rearranged his schedule so he could go.

It was great fun to hear the stories of their 24 hours away. The “bro” cutoff jean shorts, the white t-shirts, the campfire, the s’mores, the jumping off a ledge into the sand, the sleeping all seven in a great big tent.

They showed me photos as did my husband. And, there was one video that I got to see, a video that gave me pause.

It was a slow-motion video of a tire that they set on fire and let roll down this sand dune hill.

As I watched the kids chasing the flaming tire rolling down the hill and as I listened to the laughing and commenting and hilarity, I said to my husband, “It looks like they are having a lot of fun and it’s great to see this video and their reaction and their laughing.

Danger day 2 jumping parenting blog 2015  “But isn’t it dangerous?” I hesitated.

My husband said, “Yeah, it was.

“Boys want danger.”

All kids need it a little bit, not just boys of course. So much of growing up for kids in this country’s suburbia is filled with pre-planned and perfectly arranged and organized “play-dates” and  youth sports and parents in control. Yet, as kids get older, they need to get out of the playpens of suburban life and experience life outside the borders, with a dash of danger. My husband said, “The trick is to give the allusion of great danger and unusual adventure, yet have a reasonable risk level.”

 (To clarify the the “flaming” tire, my husband showed me a photo and explained where the actual fire was – a piece of paper was burning on the inside of the tire, while the rubber part (the outside) of the tire was not on fire. Hence, his tire burning explainwords, “the allusion of great danger.”)

I have framed art card in my office that says:

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”

Let the kids live on a edge a bit. (Curious to see the video? Click Here:  burning tire)

 

 

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A thought a day on Parenting, for 31 days

Digital StillCamera

 Though I have never been a “regular” blogger, I have recently wanted to step up that game. So, I’m challenging myself to write something about parenting for 31 days in a row. And what better place to begin than the beginning of a new month. That happens also to be my birthday month.

Well, now it is June 8. Where did a week go? Why celebrating my June 2nd birthday, of course. I did begin collecting possible posts to publish, which I do several times a day.

During conversations in “real-life” I tell my kids and friends often, “Oh, that would make a great blog post.”

Sometimes when I think of blogging, I think of writing newspaper articles. As a freelance journalist since 1996, I think of how long it takes me to pen one article. The research, the interviews, the fact checking, the draft after draft. I have also written columns for the newspaper, most consistently my “On The Home Front” and” Writer Mom” column for the West Linn Tidings and my “Real-Life Mom” column for The Oregonian, each of them taking me so long to write. Can you say, “perfectionist?”

I need to rethink, reprogram myself in the blogging arena. Blogging is different than journalism. It’s more like a conversation.

Several blogger friends of mine have done a 31-day challenge for their blogging and they’ve talked about how hard it is and I’ve tried and it just didn’t seem to work for me.

So, I’ve thought, what if I penned something short, daily, like Seth Godin does, something poignant, on only one quick subject, maybe triggered by a piece of news or a conversation or a story. Like a conversation, a thought on an idea. I have lots of conversations every day.

Okay, here goes. My goal is to do post each day, a nugget on parenting, one quick thought on being a mom, like I am having a conversation with someone.

So, I begin this today. A week later than I thought I would. Maybe it will become a habit. Daily. Like blogging is for some. A conversation.

Day 1: A Thought a Day on Parenting

Day 2: Kids want danger

Day 3: Give them experiences, not material goods

 

 

 

 

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What if there’s Everything?

DSC_0435  We went to see the new Disney movie Tomorrowland tomorrowland filmon the opening of Memorial Day weekend.

It’s been a bit of a tradition to go to the movies on the start of a long three-day weekend. Our married son Ryan and his wife Larissa joined us as well.

The movie was one of those films that appeals to all ages, and featured none other than George Clooney. There were two other actors who played equally important roles. I was ready for the adventure and what I thought would be just a typical action, science fiction fantasy film that my boys would like.

And, they did like it, especially our  youngest son, who’s and his friend Aleks, who was also along with us.

But, what surprised me is how much I liked it.

In fact, I liked the movie so much that I stayed after while the credits were rolling, as I wanted to write down some of the things that stood out from the movie.

The celebration of dreamers. The viewing of life through such a hopeful lens, the never-giving up feel, the going after your dreams.

It was not your typical sci-fi fantasy based in the dark dreary future film.

Sure it had futuristic robots and flying machines and a futuristic space like look at times, but it had heart and feeling and relationships and a story and people and emotions.

DSC_0010 - Version 2  And, it had Dreamers.

Tomorrowland centers around the characters of Frank and Casey and Athena, who are bound together by their experience of, and belief in, this wonderful place called Tomorrowland. They all have had a taste of this utopia.

“What if there was a place where nothing was impossible, a place where you could actually change the world…?”

“Do you want to go?”

Yes, and yes.

I was especially inspired by the bright-eyed haunting Athena, who’s 12-years-old and an old soul, and she finds Frank and Casey, and all three of them are wanting to get to this amazing place,  Tomorrowland. Athena’s eyes pierce yours. She is so real and intense and sweet and tender and her spirit would not give up. I teared up toward the end that she is not going to live. I didn’t’ believe she was a robot.

At a point in the film that gives the backstory of Casey, she shares a dream of wanting to go into outerspace one day, but there are the skeptics and the doubters and the unbelievers. Space is far away and it is risky and what do we know about space anyway.

DSC_0814“What if there is nothing?” the skeptics ask.

Casey counters: “What if there is everything?”

I love that. Casey is hopeful and positive and caring and passionate and humbly confident. She’s a dreamer.

In another scene Casey reminds her frustrated dad-scientist about the legend of the two different wolves. It is a story about a Cherokee who told his grandson a story which illustrates life. It is a story about an internal struggle that happens inside all of us.

The fight inside is between two wolves. One is evil, one is good. One is anger, one is peace. One is darkness and regret and self-pity and despair. The other one is love and hope and kindness and truth and faith.

The legend has it that each person must choose between the two wolves.

When the grandson asks which wolf wins, the elder says, “The one that you feed.”

Powerful. Wow. Love it.

My mom and dad always have such great attitudes in life.

I grew up in a German household where there was no room for complaining about life.                                                                                                             DSC_0396 - Version 2        Mama would often say, “Kopf Hoch,” which meant “Head up.” We were not allowed to wallow in self pity. We were told to look at the sunny side of life and to make the best of each situation and to keep trying and to never give up.

Feed the right wolf. The one filled with peace and compassion and faith and generosity and benevolence and humility and kindness.

I love the message in Tomorrrowland: “Find the dreamers.”

Dreamers need to find one another, just as Frank and Casey and Athena found one another. It gets lonely out there.

Dreamers stick together. Just like Athena, I too am looking for fellow dreamers. Are you?

Those who know there is a place where nothing is impossible, a place where you can actually change the world.

DSC_0343 - Version 2  Do I want to go? Do I believe? Am I going to live my life as if I believe.

Yes.

Find the dreamers.

Those who believe there is a place where nothing is impossible.

Those who will feed the right wolf.

And those who think:

What if there is everything?

 

Posted in Adventure, Attitude, Being present, Dream, Writing.

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A place to start — right here, right now

(Thank you for your patience as I re-work my website.)
My heart breaks. For the children. For the moms. For the dads.

The statistics. You read them. First it’s 1000 dead. Then 2,000. Then we hear it’s going to be 5,000.   The numbers as of today, May 11, are over 8,000 dead from the Nepal earthquake.

Nepal earthquake: Eight million people affected, UN says - BBC News (BBC)

We say each of these numbers, 1000, 2000, 5000, 9,000 like they are just a number.

But they are not.

It’s 1000 God-created souls and lives. 2,000 little souls and lives, 5000 lives.

9,000 once-living breathing people, with hopes and dreams and real lives, real passions and personalities, gone from this earth. Moms and dads and teenagers and toddlers with families and loved ones.

Each day, I’ve been turning on the nightly national news to see what updates there are in Nepal. And, I have my children watch the news with me.

And we hope and pray and we plead for survivors, but time began to move forward after the explosive April 25 earthquake that rocked the region around Nepal and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest.

We’ve hope and prayed for a glimmer of hope, and then we’ve rejoiced when there is one.

Like the 18-year-old pulled from the rubble, five days after the earthquake. I have 17-year-old twins. It hits home.

And, a 5-month-old baby, who was found alive after 22 hours in the rubble.  The baby became a symbol of hope in Nepal.

While reading Emily Wierenga’s blog post reflecting on Nepal and how her pastor was weeping over the devastated lives, I to0 just began weeping. Again. The thousands dead, the thousands more injured and displaced and homeless and hopeless. I felt it so closely. And, as Emily pointed out in her post, we know Jesus feels our pain so dearly.

DSC_0443  I want my kids to feel, to know about the pain and heartache in this world, to feel compassion, to care about the hurts of others.

I make sure they are watching the nightly news with me, to see what is going on in the world. Yet, sometimes it feels like “just statistics.” How do you get kids to put a name, a face, a real live person to a statistic. How many kids are part of that number dead, in that statistic?

How do I get myself to feel, to see beyond the number?

Today, I weep.

I think of Justin Zoradi’s non-profit, These Numbers Have Faces, which reminds us that “figures and data are important tools to measuring complex social issues…but when we see those numbers as real people, we find a purpose that compels us to action.”

With the Nepal earthquake, then the recent aftershocks, and the tornadoes in the Midwest that are causing so much devastation in the lives of so many people, we can get so overwhelmed.

What can we do? Where can we help? Is there a way to make a difference?

News reports have surfaced sharing how organizations and individuals are traveling to Nepal to help victims of the earthquake; and people in the region are giving up hours and days and their own comfort to help these hurting individuals; and then of course there are others who are assisting those devastated by the Midwest spring storms.

And, when people cannot actually “go” to help in another country or region far from home, they assist by giving money and praying or funding others to go, which I am sure you have done as I have; yet it always feel like it’s not enough. Or that more can be done. So you weep and pray and ask God to show you.

IMG_8743  And sometimes there is pain right here in our own backyard, and that is also a place to start.

A place to start right now, right here.

After our accident in January, so many people did just that, reaching out to our family in so many tangible, right here ways, bringing meals, sending cards, delivering flowers, and those people who have reached out to us have made all the difference in the world.

And, it’s made me realize — maybe reaffirm — that I want to be more deliberate about reaching out in situations when someone needs help. Right here, right now, where we are.

A week ago, my daughter-in-law Larissa and I were driving home from the bridal shower for my niece Gretchen. And just before we were about to turn onto our street, we saw flashing lights down the street, lights that looked like emergency vehicles of some kind.

IMG_6719  The location of these flashing lights looked just beyond where my husband and my accident was last January. So I suggested to Larissa that we drive down to see what was going on. Deep down, for a moment, I wondered if it was a pedestrian struck by a car. I suppose I will always think that way.

As we got closer to the flashing light, sure enough, it was an accident — this time a bicycle rider was struck by a car.

My twins happened to be driving by the accident scene as well and later they told me that they thought that the victim was an old pal of theirs, Merlyn, from Boy Scouts, but they were not sure.

Later, thanks to Facebook, I found out that the victim was indeed Merlyn, so I called his guardian (his grandma) to talk to her about what happened; she shared with me that Merlyn was struck by a car while riding his bicycle to get ice cream. I was shocked.

He ended up at the emergency room and was released the same day. He is going to be okay, but he was shook up. Talk about scary.

The next day, I told my kids that I think we should reach out to Merlyn, to bring him a card and maybe a balloon and some ice cream.  To let him know that we are thinking of him and that we care.

We did and it meant the world to him.

It was important to bring my kids with me for this outreach and it was something we could do right now, right here, in our neighborhood. Sometimes, we look for opportunities far away, and we should, but remember right here too, in our neighborhoods. Like for us, there’s also Joyce, my next door neighbor, who is limited with her breathing disability and she is unable to go anywhere during the day. She is right here, right now, next door. It doesn’t have to be fancy or take forever or be that creative. It can be a phone call, a card, a visit, a “how are you today?”

right here I always want to think of times in the midst of everyday ordinary life, as opportunities to reach out, to let someone know that someone cares, that we care and that people in our lives matter. And, we do that by being present and active in the lives of others.

It’s real life. It’s here, locally. It’s not glamorous. It won’t make the evening news. It’s just living, in the moment, being a neighbor, a community member, a family member, a friend, a believer, where you live.

Yes, send money to Nepal, yes, go to Nepal, yes, sponsor someone going to Nepal, yes, weep for Nepal. And, for tornado victims and others devastated by big disasters.

And, also see what is right in front of you. Right here. Right now.

 

 

 

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Outreach, Parenting, Teaching Moments, West Linn, Writing.

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Be the Mom

You’ve heard the story by now. Toya Graham, a Baltimore mother, was videotaped smacking her 16-year-old son while loudly yelling at him for his involvement in the violent riots against police officers.

The riots of course were in response to the recent police disturbance that ended in the death of Freddy Gray while in police custody. The Baltimore mom, after seeing her son participating in the mob riot, quite forcefully pulled him out of that situation, yelling at him and smacking him over and over again.

Some are hailing Toya as the mom of the year. On the cover of the New York Post the headline read: “Forget the National Guard. Send in the moms to tame the riots.” Since that video went viral, Toya has been on talk shows where newscasters praised her actions, which she explained:

“To see my son come across the street with a rock in his hand, I think at that point, I just lost it,” Toya Graham said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”

Toya was quoted: “I was pretty much just telling him, ‘How dare you do this.'”

At the end of the day, as my writing friend Kelly Greer says, her intention was to bring her son to safety.

“He has been in trouble before, and he knows right from wrong. He’s just like the other teenagers that don’t have the perfect relationship with the police officers in Baltimore City, but you will not be throwing rocks and stones at police officers. . .Two wrongs don’t make a right, and at the end of the day I just wanted to make sure I had gotten my son home.”

With the video of Toya smacking her son going viral, social media has blown up, generating discussions centered around the worthiness of her actions. Generally, public opinion has been favorable toward her.

Yet, you’ve also seen discussion surfacing that this incident brings into question corporal punishment (spanking) or that it perpetuates the notion that violence against people, in this case African American youth, is okay in certain settings, as my other writer friend Sam Greengard notes.

I will acknowledge, as Toya herself did, that she overreacted in her response toward her son. She said, “Oh my God, my pastor is going to have a fit.’ That’s it.”

Indeed, Toya’s continual smacking of her son is hard to watch; yet, I think public opinion is favorable toward her because people felt her intention was for her son’s good. Motive and role are important here; Toya is the boy’s mother, not some outside force, hitting the kid.  And, it was an emergency situation. If your kid is about to run across a busy highway, you don’t whisper, “Honey, careful, you’re about to get mowed over.”

Toya’s not a perfect person or parent, just as we are not. We would want the benefit of the doubt. In this case, this mother was pulling her son out of a dangerous situation and sending a clear (be it physical) message that what he was doing was not okay.

You sure cannot whisper in this situation. It was life or death. Should she have continued smacking her son in anger? No. But, the message was clear; and that the boy’s friends defended her, tells you something as well.

I think what was refreshing for me as a parent is to see a mom take such a strong stance about what is right and wrong in a specific situation. Parents need to do this more. And, in the end, in this case, Toya probably saved her son’s life.

She was being the Mom.

The message I feel that is important is clear: Be the mom. Be the dad. Be the parent.

With so many websites and blogs and social media posts by parents saying they don’t know what they are doing as parents and they don’t have a clue and they don’t have their own lives together, much less how to guide their kid. I get humility and honesty and being real. I penned a column for The Oregonian that I called “Real-Life Mom” for that very reason. Humility is something that all parents — and people around the world — should have.

DSC_0805  But, there is a right and a wrong, and as parents, we need to teach our kids etiquette and safety and courtesy and what’s appropriate and respect and honor.

  I was at my high school son’s band concert recently, and there was a middle school-aged girl there with her parents also watching the concert.

Yet, during the entire concert, the middle school-aged girl was on her I-phone. At first I thought the tween was posting photos of the concert on Instagram or Facebook, but then I could see that she was just interacting with others about who knows what.  My own middle school son who was with me confirmed that. It was so distracting. And, the mom of this girl looked over at her child and saw what she was doing, and still ignored her actions.

DSC_0797  I want to say: Be the parent. Please. Be the mom. Be the dad.

You are here to teach your children right from wrong and what is appropriate conduct and what is etiquette in social settings.

In big situations — like Toya Graham regarding throwing rocks at police — and in social settings, such as how to behave at a concert, you are there to guide your kid. That is your job, that is your role, that is your God-given purpose as a parent

We have 18 years, maybe a few more, to instill values and etiquette and manners into our children’s heart and lives by using life situations to teach lessons.

There is no formula or textbook for this. We have God’s word and prayer and select parenting books and the wisdom of others. But in the end, much of parenting is dealing with individual situations using our instincts and the Holy Spirit.

Parents, you are your child’s living textbook, for guidance and direction.

So, that is why I stand with Toya. Was she perfect? No. She should have stopped with the smacking and just continued the instruction, in a firm way.

But, she was involved. Where were the other parents of all the other children who were throwing rocks and bricks at police?

Absent. For sure. Uninvolved. Perhaps. Unaware. Maybe. Or possibly, even condoning the violent actions.

I say, say something to your child. Do something. Take a stand. Be it band concert or riot.

It can be a matter of life or death.

 

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising twins, Writing.

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When one of my Twins is missing from “his couch”

My identical twin boys, now 17, have always each had their own couch to study on.

If I am on “their” couch when they get home from school they say to me, hey, mom, you are on my couch and I politely leave.

IMG_8214  Since my Accident I have been on “their couches” quite a bit. Basically, when I get up in the morning and see the kids off to school, I head to one of “their” couches to read my bible, write in my journal and pray. In the afternoon, I end up on the same couches, as that is where the sun streams into our living room. When the twins get home from school, they politely ask me for their couches back and I always happily oblige.

It makes me so happy to see them studying across from each other, on parallel couches. It feels so safe and cozy and home-like and permanent; it’s been something that has been a routine for so long that I cannot remember a time when they haven’t done homework on their couches.

My older son Ryan, now 23, married and working as an engineer, always studied in his bedroom when he was growing up, while Rachel would study in the living room sometimes. On our couches.

I love having my kids in the living room nearby. It gives our house a feeling of home and being lived in and shared community. We have chosen to live in a smaller house so that we see each other and are in each other’s presence and it feels like family closeness.

I’ve heard of some homes that have so many rooms in them, so many places to congregate, so many different spaces in them, that family members do not see one another except maybe for meals, but that is also a question mark.

I love having my twins upstairs on their parallel couches. They curl up with their favorite blanket that is made in Germany and the couch pillows hold up their books. And I see them spread out their math book or their AP Government handouts from Mr. Jones, while they take notes or they read their novels from their AP English composition class with Mr. West.

It’s fun to watch my twins bounce questions off one another, in between studying.

“What answer did you get on problem 2 B?” Wesley would ask Micki.

“Did you see the physics lab is now due on Friday,” Micki would ask Wesley.

“Did Tyler text you about getting together next weekend?” Wesley would ask Micki.

“What did Mr. Jones say about the law project that’s due tomorrow,” Micki would ask Wesley.

HANDS1  They are identical twins and they are so dependent on one another and it is a beautiful thing and it’s a mysterious thing and it’s a magical thing.

As they are well into the last half of their junior year and as they begin to think about college next year, I get teary eyed. They are so close as twins and brothers and I love that closeness and I treasure that closeness. They began life in the womb together for nine months and shared a placenta and they have the same DNA and they shared a stroller and a room and they went to preschool together and kindergarten together. They’ve shared soccer teams and friendships and basketball and football for a couple of weeks until one of the twins got injured and they both ended up quitting. And they’ve both been on track and cross-country together. I love the word, “together.”

And, when they are a part and when one walks in the door, they immediately ask, “Where’s –.”

I’ve heard some people say that they think twins should be separated for activities and classrooms and the growing up years, so they can develop their own personalities; but I say, there will be time for that, as they get older. We did separate them during the grade school years, placing them with different teachers, out of necessity, but then in middle school and high school they’ve been back in classes together. They are best friends and I celebrate that twin-ness and that uniqueness of being a twin. They will have their entire lives to be a part, but for now they are nearby.

IMG_8213  I think that being a twin is part of their identity and not something they need to be weaned from. It is who they are. A twin. An identical twin.

As they begin to think about college, I so want them to go to the same school. The thought of them being a part kills me.

As I think of those two couches where they have studied across from each other since middle school, I don’t want it to ever end.

Yet, the last few weeks, one of the couches has been empty. Only one couch is filled these days with one of my twins.

That’s because, one of my twins, Wesley, has been studying in his bedroom and not on “his couch.”

Why? I think it might have to do with the girlfriend.

At first it was just a few nights that he was not on “his couch,” and I didn’t notice it right away. But then, it became a habit and I started to go to Wesley’s room and ask him what is going on. He said he can study more quietly in his bedroom. And yes, he was Skyping with his girlfriend a few times when I walked into his room.

I felt sad, not regarding the Skyping with his girlfriend part, but the fact that Wesley was not studying across from his twin Mickael Josef. Mickael Josef has been alone on “his couch” night after night lately.

IMG_8563  It feels symbolic; this studying apart, these evenings of my twins being apart, and it makes me sad.

As a mom, you want things to be the same. You want your kids to always be close. You want your kids to always be best friends, to rely on each other, to want to be with each other. Cause, you know that you as a parent will not always be there and you want your kids to always know family will be there.

The other day, Wesley was working on something on “his couch,” and Micki was on the couch across from him, and I smiled inside. It had been a while since Wesley was on “his couch.”

I’m savoring every moment, when there are one or two kids on the couches studying.

With the twins in their junior years of high school, I know in a year and a half, neither of them will be studying on the couches, as they will be off to explore their post-high-school plans.

For now, I’ll savor seeing the boys, together, in our home, on the couches or anywhere, together.

Posted in Children, Kids growing up, Parenting, Raising boys, Raising Teens, Raising twins, Real LIfe, Twins, Writing.

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“Mom, why don’t you want to be old?”

Last night while my youngest son, Augustin, age 12, was brushing his teeth, we were talking about life and what happened during the day and other random thoughts as we often do while getting ready for bed, and something came up about the age of a doctor.

DSC_0850I mentioned something about being leery of hiring someone who is too old. I know that is so biased, but there seems to be a balance between finding a professional who is seasoned and knows what he is doing and one who is beyond his time, and not up to date.

And it is not just with health care professionals that I have felt this, if I am honest here. It is with anyone in their working life. I’ve had some experiences over the years with doctors and teachers and professionals in other fields who were not keeping up with their craft or they seemed rusty or cranky or unfit and it was like you just wanted to say, “Maybe it’s time to retire.”

The theme that my son focused on seemed to be the word “old.”

And, here I am no spring chicken myself, as my former OBGyn said so brutally honest to me once, and I yet, I am showing bias against age.

And my ever-wise-thought-provoking 12 year old says to me:

“Mom, why don’t you want to be old?”

So often, I can write a blog post on just one of kids’ questions.

Oh, my, goodness.

As a society, we do discriminate against age. We like hip and young and youthful and keeping up with what is new and youthful and trendy. We dislike and disrespect old and aged and even the term “young at heart” makes us think we are really hiding the fact that the person is “old.”

Why don’t I want to be old, my son asks me? Hmm. First off, is that true?

I think I may talk about age and getting old because once you hit a certain age; society just looks at you that way. The age of “senior citizen” as defined by the AARP is 50. Ask most of my 50-something friends and they will say, they don’t feel old at all.

Some will proudly hold their AARP card and get the discount at stores as a “senior citizen,” while others want nothing to do with it.

It’s like the person who is limited with a handicap and even has a handicapped parking tag but does not use the handicap parking. It’s a label they want to avoid because of the associations that come with it.

I attended a graduation ceremony of my good friend’s daughter last weekend and one of the professors who was introducing a group of graduates messed up and said, “Congratulations to the class of 2005.” She of course caught herself right away and corrected it to say, “The class of 2015.” But, it was hard not to make an initial judgment on this professor’s potential age, as happened to have a tousle of gray hair protruding from her professor cap and gown.

Age and respect, go hand in hand. While many people dye their hair to hide their true aging color, the reality is people do judge you based upon your age.

takes long time to become young picasso  It’s like they will look for some reason, any reason, to figure out why you made that mistake.

So, why don’t I want to be old?

As I think of my son’s question, I think it has to do with wanting to always be relevant. To feel that I matter, that my opinion is important and that my voice is being heard. In short, that I am making a difference in the world.

There’s nothing worse than being forgotten.

I discovered this movie on amazon prime that tells the story of a man whose job it is to connect with the families of people who die alone. This man goes to funerals where there is no one there save the pastor or priest performing the memorial service, if there is a memorial service at all. It’s so sad.

I remember going to a funeral of a homeless man and wrote a blog post about it, musing on who attends the funeral of a homeless person?

How to stay relevant and young and up to date is the question, without trying too hard to act younger than you are.

It can be so overwhelming, especially when it comes to technology. Man, just when you feel you have the newest and latest, they tell you at the Apple store, “Oh, your computer is old,” and I’m like, It’s nine months old.

I think everyone wants to matter, to leave a mark, to make a difference in the lives of others. To know that their story matters and that their lives are impacting others. To have a “young, youthful outlook,” if you will.

And, I think just the fact that we are asking that question, musing on how we are living our lives, means maybe, just maybe, we are doing something right.

how to live life leo tolstoy  Reflecting on our lives is good, and asking, what kind of a mindset do I portray to others? Is it a tired one, a worn-out one, a cranky one, a “set in my ways” “old” one? Maybe, that is how old people got their reputation. I know we’ve all met our share of “older” people like that. But, there are younger people like that as well.

So, I say, that as we grow older — and that can be at age 25 or 40 or 50 or 70– we should always be willing to learn and grow and learn from our mistakes and try new things, as younger people are stereotyped to do.

If youth are known for daring and risking and being challenged and adventuring, I’m all about that. And if growing old is the opposite of that, I’m not wanting to go there.

Hey, why not redefine the age you are at? When I was looking for my birthday dress for my 40th birthday, the sales lady said to me, “You don’t look 40.”

And I thought, and penned a blog titled, “What’s 40 supposed to look like?”

Over the years, I’ve attended the birthdays of different friends of mine who were a couple of decades older than I am. And, I remember thinking, they don’t “seem that old,” and I remember saying to one of my friends, “You redefine 50,” and “you redefine 60,” and even “you redefine 70.”

I think that at any and every age you are at, you should live life to its fullest.

But first, examine how you are living it, and see if there are any changes needed.

I love this quote by Leo Tolstoy:

“As soon as a person asks the question, ‘How do I live my life the best way?’ then all other questions are answered.”

 

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Attitude, Life, Live the Questions, Writing, Youth.

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It was one big party of people “finding their people”

IMG_8387  I’ve gone through an entire bottle of Nyquil Severe cold this past week. And as I’m digging myself out of my sick hole and finally seeing the light today, I was hearing that there were, what I would call, some glimpses of heaven being written about people’s experiences at our Faith & Culture Writers Conference.

Oh, I snuck online a couple of times between coughs and popping another sugar coated Hales cough drop and plugging my nose to swallow another gulp of the red-dyed, sugary thickness.

The tweets and posts about the conference have lifted my tired-out, still recovering from my accident, and then getting sick body.

The words that I am hearing over and over again are “I found my people,” “these are my people,” and “I discovered I belong.”

I could not be happier. That is one of the goals of Faith & Culture Writing Community. When Tony and I met with our emcee, Velynn, to talk about what we wanted people to feel while being at the conference, the word “belonging” kept coming back to me, and is something I communicated with the leadership team.

So, when I began hearing things after the conference, statements like, “I found my community” and “these are my people” and “I belong,” I am one happy conference director.

Not just because that was our goal, but because of my personal heart behind the goal.

I deal with worry about acceptance on a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment basis. I fear somehow deep down that I will get forgotten or left out or not fit in or not have a place at the table. In a word: not belong.

There is nothing worse in life than to feel like you do not matter or that you are irrelevant.

So, in everything I do, when I gather people, my goal, my mission, my vision, is to make people feel like they matter, like they are important, like they are part of something. I do that with my family, always accepting my kids and making them feel valued. I do that with my friends and people who come into my life. I just try to live that way.

Hospitality is an art and it is huge for me.

In a social setting, it can be a simple hello, making eye contact, using someone’s first name, asking how they are doing or where they are from. Some kind of opening, introductory question that swings opens the door to conversation, trying to find some personal connection. We try to convey that message to each of our speakers and agents and editors and leadership team as well, that everyone is at the conference for a reason and that we are all together in this story and in the end, the story is about faith and God and finding His calling in our lives.

I am also the kind of person who likes to go deeper.

IMG_8366  And, in the case of the conference — and as the director of the event that brings in hundreds of people — I cannot unfortunately meet every single person or get into a lot of deep conversations with a lot of people during the actual weekend. And, especially since my accident, I’ve had to pull back and hold back and back out of what my normal social self could do in the past.

And, it’s hard on me. Whenever I plan a party, I feel so responsible for everyone that is invited. I want to make sure they feel like they fit in, and are part of the event. That they matter.

The Faith & Culture Writers conference was like a party we were planning. A very large party.

I wanted everyone to find someone to eat with and I want everyone to find someone to connect with and I want everyone to find someone to go downtown with and I want everyone to find someone to get a drink with and I want everyone to find folks to hang out with in the evening and I want everyone to find a friend to go deep with.

I’ve been to many conferences and I’ve felt out of it. Like I did not fit in. Like I knew no one. Like everyone was better than me and more polished than me and more connected than me and more published than me and more everything than me. Many conferences feel like they are about comparisons.

IMG_8294  So, when I heard the opposite coming from the stories of attendees of this year’s conference, my heart just sang. When I saw tweets that linked to blog posts about people finding their place at the conference and folks connecting during and after the conference with others and people finding community and deep conversations and saying they found “their people,” I felt so good. Even though I could not be part of many of these conversations, it was so good to know they were happening.

And, as I continue to receive links to blog posts and comments about what a difference the Faith & Culture Writers Conference made in the lives of both attendees and presenters, I am filled up.

It sure is satisfying seeing glimpses of beauty and light when you are finding your way out of the dark.

 

 

Posted in 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference, Author/Speaking Events, Authors, Church, Community, Faith & Culture Writers Conference, Hospitality, Writing.

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On my son turning 12 and me spreading the Nutella correctly

My youngest son Augustin Heinz Martin turned 12 a couple of days ago.

Can we just slow life down for a while. It’s moving too fast.

DSC_0501  But, Gus was ready. His birthdays are a big deal for him and they are a big deal to me as well. It’s his last year as a “tween.” Sixth grade is magical.

Gus’s birthday falls during spring break so our tradition has been to go to the Oregon beach, Cannon Beach specifically, to celebrate as a family. His sister, my oldest child and only daughter, Rachel Marianne, came home last year from Germany where she lives, to celebrate his 11th birthday.

Gus loves Cannon Beach. It has been “his days” at the beach for his birthday over the past several years. He has not even asked for a “friends” party in a while because this family time at the beach has meant so much to him, and it is just so sweet how he calls the beach his time.

We have rented this same condo each trip to the Cannon Beach area, and my Gus talks about it months in advance and we bring our kites and our sand toys and we build sand castles and go on long walks on the windy beach and we ride our bicycles in the sand to the rocky area and we look for sea salt creatures. And we make trips to town to go to the candy store and the toy store, the one that has toys that my now-12-year-old has outgrown, but that he still has an affinity for, and I celebrate that in him. He’s such a kid, such a playful kid. And, Gus likes to eat at Mo’s when we go to the beach, it’s a tradition. Even if it is not for his birthday dinner, he likes to go there, the one in Tolovana. IMG_7804_2

And, if I suggest going to a different beach besides Cannon Beach-Tolovana area during spring break, Gus insists that is just not a possibility. He wants to continue the tradition that we started years ago for spring break. And, since Gus has to share a birthday with spring break, we have honored this time.

This year, though, Gus wanted to do something different. He asked to have a friends party and he wanted it at an amusement like place, and we settled on Bullwinkles in Wilsonville. Think neon flashing lights, bright lights, and loud, with slot machines and video games and bumper boats. Perfect for kids, insane for parents.

Gus has very specific ideas of what he likes and he always has. It is something that you love as a mom but also something that drives you crazy.

When, as an example, I do not put my cell phone on “sleep mode” properly, while it is not in use, my Gus says, “Mom, sleep” as he stares at my phone in disbelief at how impossibly crazy it is that I forget.

“Mom your battery, you are ruining your battery.”

And when tucking him in at night in his bedroom, we have to get all of the corners of his sheets under the mattress tightly so no air gets through, and then the next blanket needs to be pulled to match the sheets and then the blue and green plaid comforter on the top of all of this warm cozy must be pulled to the exact corners, perfectly up to his ears and his shoulders, covering his arms up to a certain spot and then not overdone too far. blue and green comforter

And, then the way I make his lunches. Talk about exact science.

Nutella Knife “Mom, you are not spreading the Nutella all the way to the corners right.”

“Mom, it’s too clumpy in the middle.”

“Mom, that’s too much Nutella.”

“Mom, you have to go all the way to the end of the bread, and you have to spread it really thinly on the bread and you have to wipe off the extra Nutella when there is too much on it.”

Some people may say that Gus needs to lighten up and get over it and not make such a big deal out of the way I spread his Nutella on his bread; and some people may think that he needs to just take it down a notch regarding how blankets are tucked in and whether my phone is on sleep mode properly.

That may be true because it sometimes drives me crazy and I just want to say, relax, it will be okay.

But at the same time, I so love that about him. Gus is particular, he has great ideas, he has opinions,and he sees things that I do not see.

I want to celebrate what makes him unique.

When I was a kid, I was particular about food myself. I remember when I was at my dad’s parents’ house in Germany, when I was about 11-years-old, about the age of my youngest child. My “Oma” was putting out different lunchmeats on a plate, salami’s and thin sliced hams and other kinds of German meats for the adults; these were the expensive kinds of meats, the kind with less fat and better cuts, more lean.

Then there was the lunch plate with salamis and thin sliced hams and other kinds of meat that was for the kids, and my Oma brought that plate out for us to top our bread with.

I think Oma thought we would not know the difference. I did.

I quietly took my mom aside and told her that I did not like the meats on that “children’s plate” and I asked her if I could have a couple of slices of the meats from the “adult” plate.

My mom has always been picky about food as well. I’d hear her talking about meat that had too much fat on it and how she could not eat it, and I’d hear her mention that certain lunch meat, especially the cheaper kind, was not good to eat. My mom would rather give us less food but good food.

So, she understood my request. She snuck a few pieces of meat from the adult plate and placed them onto a plate for me.

When my Oma saw this she asked my mom about it, and my mom explained the situation.

My Oma did not understand. “Cornelia has to learn to eat the other kind of meat. You’ll spoil her.”

My mom, with all due respect, said to her mother-in-law, that while she understood her point, she still wanted to give me the kind of meat that I could stomach, the “adult meat.” And, she even offered to give some of her items to me from her plate.

DSC_0281  I remember as a kid what that meant to me, as an 11-year-old, to be respected like that. To feel that my opinion and tastes mattered.

I think if we respect our kids’ ideas and likes and preferences and ideas we will have an excellent chance to develop a great relationship with them and we will see them become confident young adults whose ideas matter to the world. Young adults who have opinions and ideas about things.

The opinions and ideas of kids are important, and I want my kids to know that I respect and value them. As for imagining my youngest  as a young adult, not so fast right now. I want to slow the world down for a while. And savor this age of 12. It’s so magical.

Posted in Children, Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Tweens, Real-Life Mom column, Tradition, Transitions, Tweens.

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What fills in The Dashes of our Lives?

I attended the memorial service of Gene Jackson today. He was 84. Gene was the father of my friends Allyn and Bethany Jackson.

I had never met Gene and wanted to go to support my friends. Bethany and Allyn had spoken of Gene’s faith in the Lord, his servant’s heart, and his warm character.

IMG_7464  When I walked into the sanctuary of the Tigard Christian Church for the  service, I saw (and heard) Allyn playing hymns on his saxophone.

How Great Thou Art.

One Day He is Coming.

When we all get to heaven.

Just steps in front of Allyn was a little memorial table that the family had set up. The table had a large framed photo of Gene, a baseball cap, a hat, an Oregon State University runner, a Peace plant, and a small red wooden car.

Pastor Matt led the memorial service. He offered favorite scripture verses that Gene liked. Job 19 and I Corinthians 11:1.

And Lamentations 3:22-23

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

The pastor also noted that the hymns being sung and played during the memorial service were picked out by Gene in advance of his passing.

I’ve done the same, picked out the songs I want at my memorial service.

The pastor continued his talk, mentioning the headstone of a deceased person’s grave. He reflected on how you have the deceased person’s name on the top of the headstone, and under their name you find their date of birth, and on the bottom of the headstone, you find the day that the person died.

Man and girl by tombstone stock-photo-35810854-father-and-daughter-visiting-gravestone-of-deceased-mother  And in between you have the Dash.

The words, the  sentence, the  quote, that comes between the dashes, that summarizes a person. The epitaph.

The epitaph on your tombstone that summarizes who you are in a breath. A thought. A moment.

What filled in between the dashes of Gene’s life? The stories, the memories that stand out about what was truly important to him?

So many noted the word “Servant” to describe Gene’s life.

Gene was born in 1930, the oldest of five children. Gene and his wife later had five kids themselves, and my friend Allyn was the oldest of those five kids. Several of Gene’s kids got up to speak during the service.

When Allyn got up to share, he reflected on the character of his father. And, a little memory got to him. That small red wooden car up front on that memorial table.

“He helped me build it when I was a kid,” said Allyn, choking up.

IMG_7467Gene was an engineer by day and also worked the evening shift at Fred Meyer Home Improvement Center for 35 years to help make ends meet. He and his wife Carolyn sought to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, and it was evident at the memorial service by the words and stories people shared that he did this.

One man remembered Gene as his Sunday School teacher, and he also recalled seeing Gene working at Fred Meyer when he’d shop there.

“Why do we remember certain stories about certain people?”

He added, “If I could think of one word to describe Gene, it would be ‘faithful.’”

Pastor Matt shared a memory of when Gene contacted him about being a leader on a youth group missions trip to Mexico that he was overseeing. Gene was over 70 years old at the time.

Pastor Matt was initially unsure how the 70-year-old would fare on this trip, but it turned out the seven-decades old grandfather was one of the hardest workers on the trip.

Another person noted how Gene helped struggling students through the Start Making a Reader Today program. His kids also talked about how he would help his kids, even when they were grown, when they got into car troubles. Gene’s servant heart was part of what filled in between the dashes of his life.

Gene’s family also spoke of how he took each of his grandkids to Disneyland when they turned 10 years of age. It was a tradition. He loved Disneyland. There was some chuckling when one of his five kids said, “But he didn’t take his kids to Disneyland when they were 10, just his grandkids.”

His granddaughter Kimberly got up and shared about her years with her grandfather. I met her after the service and encouraged her to write down the stories of her granddad.

The message of Granpa & Dad Gene’s life seemed to be simple:  “I’m just following Jesus. would you follow Him too?”

blank -gravestone-ready-for-an-inscriptionAs I think about the pastor’s words regarding what filled between the dashes of Gene’s life,  I had to ask myself:

What would fill in the dashes of my own life?

It’s a good question for all of us to ponder and one I have thought about a lot since the Accident.

How are we filling in the dashes of our lives? 

What is important to us, what do we value, what and whom do we love? Do we love God? How do we show that love for Him? Do we love people and how do they know it? Do we love our family? Are we present for our family, our friends, our neighbors, our community, our world. Do we love those less fortunate, do we give, do we forgive? Do we read God’s word, do we pray, do we choose Life, do we choose compassion? Are we just following Jesus and wanting others to follow Him too? . . .  I wonder. . .  How would we fill in the dashes of our lives?

Posted in Being present, Christianity, Faith and Culture, Integrity, Life, Motherhood, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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Do they feel we love our work more than them?

Maya-Quote-Nice photo 225bafc03802a9cf4e89924cb19cda88          I grew up in a household where it was a joke to say that you were worth what you worked.  Our family friend Brent used to say this about us, and it became something that we laughed about and responded with a “ha ha ha”  and acted like we were just kidding about, but somewhere deep down we believed it.

 It is something I still struggle with to this day.

 I remember one time when my sister’s friend Betsy came over when I was in college. Betsy’s smile and personality and presence were warm and deep and genuine and spirited and she exuded positive and fun. We were all students and college professors’ kids, and we were blessed to be among the few to get to attend the private catholic school for free. Can you say “tuition remission.”

Betsy and my sister were seniors when I was a freshman at UP, and Betsy seemed to “get” my German-Work-Ethic Mom. I remember this one time when Betsy came over to our house in southeast Portland, my mom offered Betsy a chair to sit on in the family room while my mom scurried away to clean up the kitchen; but instead of sitting down, Betsy followed my mom around.Betsy- schendel 10980736_10153044636359831_7020010309332323983_n

  My mom didn’t know what to do, so she said, “Betsy, feel free to have a seat,” and my mom went on to the dining room to do something else, but Betsy did not sit down. She followed my mom into the other room.

 My mom chuckled, not quite sure what to think. “Betsy, feel free to have a seat,” and Betsy said, “I can help you do what you need to do,” but my mom scurried away to finish picking up papers.

 And Betsy followed my mom with that beaming smile and warm presence.

 “Betsy, really, you can sit down, I have a few things I need to do first,” but Betsy smiled some more and said, “I can help you do what you need to do, and I will sit down when you are done.”

 “I came here to talk to you, and when you are ready, we can sit down.”

 It’s funny how I remember that from so many years ago, but it stood out as I have been reflecting a lot since the Accident on getting (or not getting) things done and the feeling of a time crunch and the obsession with accomplishments and our never being able to sit still in our lives.  

Why are we rushing around so much, to get more things done, to get more accomplished, to cross things off of our list, while IMG_0694ignoring people in our lives.

When I think about my childhood and what mattered and who mattered and then into my adulthood, what and who mattered, the people that come to mind are people who made — and make — time for me. People that were not rushing around or acting like they had so much to do, people that sat and talked and valued the art of being, the art of presence, those are the people who stand out in my mind and heart and made a difference.

IMG_0810  I think of my friend Jeanie’s mom, Mrs. Higinbotham, from Corvallis. Time stood still at Mr. and Mrs. Higs’ house on Arthur Circle and later on Harmon Lane where they moved.

 Whenever I went over to Jeanie’s house as a child to play after school at Garfield Elementary, Jeanie’s mom was there. When Jeanie and I walked the half-mile to her home on those neighborhood streets, we could see the ranch style home of the Higinbotham family from a distance, and as we got closer, we could see Mrs. Higinbotham standing in the kitchen window that overlooked the street, and we could see her smile at us as if she had all the time in the world.

 And when Jeanie and I walked into the Higinbotham home, there Mrs. Higinbotham greeted us with “Well, hello girls, how was school today?”

And we’d say that it went well.

And Mrs. Higinbotham would then say, “That’s wonderful. After washing your hands, I have some sugar cookies for you.”

And Mrs. Higinbotham placed her homemade warm sugar cookies on a plate for us on the kitchen table, and after we washed our hands, we sat down to eat those buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies, and she sat down too with us, and just talked to us.

She had time. She was not in a rush. She was not in a hurry. She did not have an agenda.

Did she have things to do? Of course. Did she have a to-do list? Absolutely. Was her house perfect? Of course it was to me, because I did not care about a perfect house. Or a house picked up perfectly, or decorated in matching colors.

As a child, I remember the warmth of the home, the non-chaotic, non-rushed, caring feeling that I got every time I went over to the Higinbotham’s home. That feeling was created by the presence of the people who lived there, who took the time to just be fully present.

What mattered there was not how much you worked, but the time you had for people.

My 11-year-old son came into the dining room area a while back and started asking me a question. I was working on my computer at the  IMG_6245 time, and looked up briefly while I finished another email or tweet and social media message or article or blog post.

 “Just a minute, I’m almost done,” I said to him barely looking up.

Kids don’t always have a minute.

What he said next was brutally honest, but it was how he felt at the time.

“Mom, you love your computer more than me.”

Ouch.

I know some people might think, “Well your kid needs to learn patience,” and “Your kid was manipulating you,” and “Your kid needs to know you work and have a life beyond him,” which all may be true.

But nonetheless, I think our best lessons are learned through our kids. 

In the end, it’s how they “feel,” we made them feel. IMG_6073

I put my computer away and I looked my kid in those big brown eyes and pulled him toward me.

He melted into my arms as I said I was so sorry, and that I love him so much and that he means the world to me and that I love him way more than my empty computer.

And, my son looked at me and smiled and grinned and I hope he truly felt it inside his little heart.

That is what I try to do as a mom, to send the message to my five beautiful children, that they are my world, that they mean everything to me, and I hope that they feel it too. They know the difference between when we are distracted and when we are there with our hearts and souls. And, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister, as a mentor, as a person, I try to send a message to people, that they matter, that I have time for them, that people mean more than an agenda.

DSC_0230

 There is no substitute for un-rushed, un-interrupted, un-hurried, un-harried time with someone. To be present.  

 So many people I know are that way. My daughter who lives in Germany gets it and she shows that unhurried, unharried, I care about you feeling toward her family when she is home on holidays. That love and value for people.

 I want to show that value for people, that unhurried, fully-present spirit, a person who has no other agenda but to love people. And not only on vacation and holidays, but always.

 We need to make a deliberate effort to be fully present with our children, with our families, with the the people in our lives. To put away the i-phone and computer and the to-do list and agenda, and just be there for people.

To sit with them, to look at them, to be present with them. To make them feel like they matter, and that they are important. It’s the only thing that matters to them.

 Just ask Betsy. Or Mrs. Higinbotham. Or my kids.

————————————————————————————

Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment?

Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions.

I must trust that a little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits,

here in this world and in the life to come. — Henri Nouwen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Attitude, Being present, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Technology Free, The Extraordinary Ordinary, work, working moms, Writing.

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It’s like you’re living the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”Angel Clarence

When my friend Jenni set up the meal train for us after our Accident, there was a note that went out, to remind people of their commitment. One section of the note said that meals could be dropped off between 4 and 6 p.m., and that there would be a cooler on the porch, but the note added, “Please feel free to ring DSC_0150the doorbell or knock on the door if they are home.”

It’s been seven and half weeks since we have been home and I’ve never had a cooler out front. It felt funny. It felt too impersonal. It was just not me.

It’s important to me to get to see and interact with the wonderful people — friends and family and community members and church family and Boy Scouts and neighbors DSC_0757 —  who graciously signed up to bring us a meal during this most difficult time in our lives.

 If I had left a cooler out, it would be like a signal to folks, that they could just leave the meal without knocking. Many of the people who have come over have never been to our home before and many of the people are folks from the community who I do not know very well, but realize I’d like to get to know.

And, some of the people are folks who I’ve talked about getting together with for years and have not done so — until now.

It’s so wild that an almost tragic situation has been a way to connect people, to ground me, to remind me in bright colors about what matters.

It’s always about the people and God, is it not?

During these weeks when people have been bringing meals over to help our family, I’ve had the chance to invite them into our home, to sit down IMG_7210to talk, to encourage them to write in my visitor journal, to share stories, to ask questions, to find out about each others’ lives.

 The conversation naturally starts out with people asking about the Accident, people wondering what we remember from the    incident, and how it’s been going since that fateful Friday evening, January 9, 2015; and they tell me where they were or what they were doing when the accident occurred, and how they found out about it.

 I began writing down a  few notes from these conversations in my visitor journal and as I re-read the words, either theirs directly or my notes, I weep.

“I got home from dinner with some friends and saw a note on my email,” Suzanne, a Boy Scout mom and fellow writer, told me through tears during our visit after she brought over pasta, salad and brownies. “I was coming up that street and it was blocked with ambulance and fire trucks and police cars so I had to use the McDonalds parking lot to drive through that. I had no idea it was you. I felt badly that I did not know. You’ve impacted our community, our family so much.” Wild, because we’ve not spent a ton of time together and yet, these heart-felt sentiments.

Gracie, the baker’s daughter who grew up with my kids, came over several times to help, and she shared how she heard about the accident from her mom. Their family bakery, Sourdough Willy’s, is across the street from the accident scene. “My mom looked over and could see something going on from the bakery. There were ambulances and fire trucks and police cars and people and traffic slowed to a crawl. Then the next day, when Ryan and Larissa stopped by for goodies for the hospital, they told my mom about the accident and she called me. I just cried.”

“You’re like family to me.”

So  many others, Andee and Bethany and Lynn and Claire and Jodene, shared such affirming words of friendship and community and connection. They are sweet words that encourage me deeply.

DSC_0002  And my writing friend Brooke said that God has clearly called me to writing and that I need to share the story;

 My friend Suzy, who I used to carpool to our kids’ preschool with, said to me, after dropping off items from  Costco: “God spared you, He has more to do through you. God be glorified.

I wonder what you are going to write about this.”

 Then Ginger, a church and writing friend as well as a Boy Scout mom, said, “You have a testimony, of the blog post that you wrote wrote before your accident.”

And my friend Helen, a Boy Scout mom and pal from the community pool who was delivering our meal for another Boy Scout family, reminded me: “Remember what you told me back in December, what you wanted to do regarding gathering parents together for a conference, to encourage them in their parenting journey. Well, God saved you to do this.”

And, my two-decades old friend Kristi told me through tears, “Maybe God saved you to reach one person for Christ when you are 85,” yet she’s the one DSC_0823 who’s constantly talking about God to people.

I keep soaking in all of these beautiful words and thoughts.

And, and I keep thinking about how so many of these wonderful people have impacted me, rather than the other way around. Not just by their acts of kindnesses since the accident but in the past. And, I tell them that, and it is all good and needed and wonderful. 

As I listen to these affirmations, these encouragements, these thought-provoking statements, these reminders of past promises I have made, I weep. I am humbled and I cry and I do not deserve any of it as I usually feel like a failure, like I do not measure up. The words and stories are such great reminders of God’s plan and our interconnectedness in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our communities, in the layers of our lives. These words and thoughts and stories that people share minister to me like sunshine to my sometimes-soggy soul.

Words mean the world to me.

My friend Bea said to me, “It’s like you are living the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There are so many people. In life, you just don’t know how many  IMG_7146 people you have touched. You don’t even know when you touch people.”  

As in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we do not know how far our lives reach. And sometimes it is while we are in the down and out, we are reminded, as George was by his guardian Angel Clarence, of how our lives are intertwined and made richer because of one another.

Is that not true for all of us? We just do not know how we impact people in our worlds. A word of affirmation, an act of kindness, a child we help, a stranger we assist, a student we mentor, a mom we lift up, a person we encourage, a story we share. Just as people have been coming to my home after our Accident, sharing a meal and a word of affirmation with me, I return the words of affirmation to them, pointing out the ways they have impacted me.

DSC_0127It is indeed the stories and the words that mean the world to me.

As people day after day, week after week, have been knocking on my door and walking in with bags of food and pots of soup and casseroles of comfort food and trays of brownies, and as I ask them to please sit down for a moment, to talk, to visit, not only do we talk about the accident and offer mutual words of affirmation, but I have the privilege of asking them questions and hearing their story.

Because of the accident and the meal train, I found out that the Kageys go to Imago Dei Church when I didn’t even know about their faith journey to begin with. And, I had never talked to Christy before, but she told me that she had begun reading my blog before the accident and that she is doing a triathlon and she is dreaming big and going after each day with passion. You never know where your words are going out to and whom they will impact.

I learned that Beth’s kids are adopted and she is now helping with her daughter’s birth mother’s other daughter. And Beth’s brother died at age 47 moments after finishing a long bicycle race, and the PIR has a memorial race in his honor every year.

IMG_7253And, I discovered the Pizza deliveryman’s story because my son’s friend’s family, the Brooks, signed up to get us pizza on the meal train; the deliveryman said that he too survived an accident and he should not have lived but he did; and I mentioned to him that perhaps someone was watching over him, to save him and he smiled.

As I said to the pizza deliveryman, I keep asking the Lord of my own life, “Show me why you saved me.”

Today I was reading in Psalms 106:8- “He saved them for the sake of His Name, that He might make His power known.”

I will try, in God’s Spirit.

My college friend Nancy, whom I just do not see enough but now vow to see more, said to me in a conversation over the bagels she brought over two weeks after the accident,  “Now for the rest of your life, it clearly goes to God.”  

It should not take an accident to bring people together to share, to interact, to converse, to affirm, but sometimes it does.DSC_0755

Many of the people who have walked through my doors to bring us some cheer in the form of a meal or a bag of groceries or flowers have never stepped foot in my home before nor have we shared a conversation beyond “in passing,” despite good intentions. There are people I adore and have not gotten together with before, or it’s been years since we’ve sat down to talk, and I’ve known it’s been too long.  I would keep thinking, I need to get together with so-and-so, or call so-and-so, but then we get busy.

My friend Linda from church wrote in my Accident journal, “How sad that it takes your Accident for us to sit and have a nice visit.” DSC_0117

And, Cynthia, after dropping off a meal, said “God must have big plans for you.”

My friend Kelly said the same thing.

Sometimes it takes a hardship, a catastrophe, or an Accident to make us look to God, to make us realize that all along, every day is a miracle, if we would just see it that way, and we need to seize upon life’s moments that way.

And, sometimes it takes an accident to make you realize that you need to follow-up on coffee plans that have been years in the works.

Take my friend Kelly for one. Whenever we see each other at community or school events for our kids, we connect so marvelously on life and kids and beliefs; and we would always say, “Let’s go on a walk or out for coffee or Happy Hour, soon.”  DSC_0796

But we never seem to make it happen.

After our accident, she signed up to bring us a meal; and when she brought the dinner over, we had our standard amazing conversation, this time over three hours of connecting and sharing and conversing and encouraging one another.

And, we vowed to get together for that coffee we’ve talked about for years.

It’s scheduled for tomorrow.

May we all make every moment a Wonderful Life.

“Words they are my dearest friend.” — Emily Dickinson

“My friends are my estate.”  — Emily Dickinson

 

 

Posted in Accident, Attitude, Being present, Extraordinary Ordinary, Gratitude, Hospitality, Kids, Life, Moms, Teaching Moments, The Extraordinary Ordinary, Writing.

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When we cannot “do,” we have to just “be”

“If we are not doing something, we feel guilty, and we keep on doing as a way of avoiding thinking.” –Frederick Buechner

Each day since the accident, with the exception of Thursdays, someone shows up at our house with a meal for our family.

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Homemade lasagna. Papa Murphy’s pizza. Enchilada casserole. Chicken noodle soup. Costco lasagna. Pulled pork. Rotisserie chicken. Pasta. Salads. Desserts. And often flowers and cards to accompany the meal.   On the evening that I arrived home from the hospital, Sunday, January 11, 2015, there were three different families here with meals.

Others showed up throughout the evening. Family, friends, church friends, Scout friends, friends I have not seen in a while and community members and neighbors and acquaintances and people I had never met before and people who were struggling physically themselves, so many lovely people signed up to bring our family a meal via an online meal train that my friend Jenni set up. DSC_0084

Jenni had piggy-backed off of a private Facebook message train that my daughter Rachie who lives in Germany had set up for family and a few close friends whom she knew. Rachie and her husband Stefan had just returned to Germany the day before the accident. It was so incredibly hard for her to be so far away.

Imagine, you fly to another country leaving your family behind and you are up for 24 hours and you are sleeping after jet lag to get awakened by a phone call saying your mom and dad were hit by an a SUV while walking and were thrown 30 feet and they were rushed to the hospital; and your mom was unconscious for two hours and half her ear was flattened to a thin pancake, and your dad had bleeding on the brain and his pelvis is fractured his pelvis. My sweet daughter from far away wanted to be here but could not, so she did what she could, sending flowers and a balloon to OHSU and calling us and praying and starting this Facebook private message to keep people informed of how we were doing.

And I felt so helpless in the hospital. I wanted to hold all of my kids, to talk to them, to see them, to have them near and close by, to make sure they knew I loved them. I was so drugged at the hospital and I felt so disjointed and I was totally dependent on others and it was hard and continues to be hard. I felt — and still feel — so inadequate. The West Linn Tidings newspaper wrote a story on our family a few weeks after the accident, and at the end of the story the reporter quoted me as saying that, I want to spend the rest of my life trying to find out the reason why God saved my husband and me, when the odds were very much against us.

What does God want me to do, I wondered? DSC_0136

As family and friends came by with meals and flowers and cards and dessert.

And, as they sat with me for visits, they told me that they had read the newspaper article.

And as we talked about my follow up blog post, about the angels padding the sidewalk and me wondering what I was to do next now that I survived, several of my dear friends also said to me, that maybe this is also a time also to just be, to not have to do.

To perhaps reflect and evaluate and muse on everything, and especially to just soak up the love from others that ultimately reflects the love of God. IMG_7025

Maybe it is not that God wants you to “do” anything right now. Maybe he wants you to focus on just being,” my friend Ashley said during her visit.                            

“May you relish what God is pouring out to you, his

beautiful beloved. You are such a treasure.”

And maybe as my friend Judi said, this is a time to re-evaluate all that I am doing, to see maybe if there is something I can give up doing. DSC_0179

And, as my friend Janice wrote in my visitor journal, “What you do or don’t do is not what defines you.                                                                                                                

Your Father in heaven is who defines you.”

And my friend Diane is always reminding me of this, that I need to rest in grace.

That’s hard in my reality, in my world, where I am accustomed to doing and accomplishing and giving back and pouring out. In my German culture that I grew up in, where I feel I am worth what I work and what I complete and what I finish and what I accomplish and how many items I check off my To-Do list. Right now, my to-do list only consists of:

  1. Going slow.
  2. Resting my brain.
  3. Taking 15-30 minute walks
  4. Listening to the creek.
  5. Attending doctor appointments
  6. Going to physical therapy appointments
  7. Going to speech therapy appointments
  8. Going to Counseling for PTSD
  9. Sleeping enough
  10. Reading and writing a little bit.
  11. Trying to be here for my family

Not exactly a to-do list that will win Pulitzer prizes or draw a paycheck.  

But, that is all okay now. So many people have helped our family, with meals and flowers and gifts and home made cherry pies and cookies and brownies and cupcakes and calls and carpools and messages and plants and cards and helping with cleaning and folding clothes and rides for the kids and trips to the doctors and grocery store runs. Doing for me. For us.DSC_0174 And, I sob and I cry and I keep thinking I need to show my thanks and do something for them and give back and earn the gift and make sure people know we appreciate the outpouring and I need to do, do, do.  I want people to know that I want to return the favor and I want people them to know I take nothing for granted and I want them to think I am a good person and I want them to like me. 

Yet I do not have the ability right now and I am just trying to take each day at a time and to be here for my kids while just needing to get better.

And when I tell people how I feel, they remind me that people do not expect anything in return, but instead, people just want to help. Period. And even though I know no one expects anything from me right now,  I still put these expectations on myself. Because I based my worth on what I do.

And I know I need to stop. I need to just rest in this love, this outpouring, this gift. And to enjoy all the gifts.  And to not feel like I have to perform or earn it.

That these acts of kindness, these meals and visits, are a gift. Period. Nothing expected in return. Sounds like Grace, sounds like God’s grace.

I know I want to see that my worth comes from God. Alone. I know I can never measure up to try to make everyone happy in this world by what I do and how hard I work and how many things I accomplish, as hard as I may try. I know I will always disappoint someone, somewhere.

And right now, is a perfect time to just let go.

And to savor and relish the gifts from God given by others. IMG_7088

To just be.

“Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me.”  – Henri J.M. Nouwen.

“Peace is first of all the art of being.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

Posted in Accident, Being present, Faith, Life, Writing.

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On the Accident and Angels and the Rest of my Life

When she walked through the door of our home, her eyes immediately welled up in tears, as she looked at me sprawled out on the couch. jenni and sue visit at home 1484558_10205871299124712_6478859361226003974_nYou should be dead. You should be dead. Your kids would’ve been orphans. They should’ve been planning your funeral.

Cornelia and surgeon IMG_20150109_231047704I cannot believe you survived this. 

Firm warm has-known-me-forever Kristi Hug. DSC_0169
Not letting go.
Smiles through tears.

I am so glad you are here, I am so glad you were spared. You are my dear friend.

Angels reached down, and held you, while letting you hit your head and knocking you unconscious for 35 minutes. And you lost half your ear, but even that. Look at you. That ear, you can still wear your hair down. And, No broken bones.

How. Why. It’s not possible. But. Your. Life. Was. Saved.

“In God’s infinite power, he spared you. He prevented you from dying. Maybe you’ll realize how much you are loved. You’ve always said that life is precious; you should be in a morgue. . . When you get hit by a car, you die. But, look at you, no broken bones, only bruises, and that ear. 

Angels
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Angels were padding that cement, holding you for that landing.

———————————————————–

Angels. I’ve never been an angel person. I’d hear people talking about their guardian angel protecting them and I’d smile, or I’d listen to stories of how someone literally saw an angel rescue another person from a bad situation and I’d just say, “Oh, wow,” but deep down, I did not really understand. Or believe.

So, when my friend Kristi said these things to me about angels padding the sidewalk, and when others said things like my guardian angel was working IMG_3886 overtime, it just didn’t impact that much.

The, Dead part did.
The You could 6 feet under part did.
The, Your kids could be orphans part did.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The, You could be in a morgue part did.
The, Your kids could’ve been planning my funeral part did.

But angels? Never been a huge believer.

——————————– 

Tears, overwhelming tears.

Pain at just the thought of how so easily, in the blinking of an eye — at a cross-walk that we’ve crossed hundreds of times over the past 25 years — those things — that I could be dead could have so easily been reality for us when you consider what happened to us. I could have been gone from this earth and my kids orphans. DSC_0612I have the five most beautiful children in the world and the thought of them being without me crushes me. I think of my 11-year-old Augustin in magical sixth  grade, his deep brown eyes, IMG_6583his energy and enthusiasm and love and drive, his charm, his hugs, his warmth, the way he is Mr. social and Mr. Tech-guy and all wrapped into one over-the-top tween. And my twinIMG_8109 Wesley and Mickael Josef, age 17, identical boys, growing and changing and driving and find their areas they enjoy and dating a bit, and thinking of life beyond high school and their future callings, and I love how motivated they are and I picture them hugging their sister and engaging with their friends.

DSC_0419And I think of my fabulous two older children who are married– my sunshine wildflower girl Rachel in Germany, her beauty, her love for her family, her spark, her shine, her warmth, and her awesome husband; they were so far away when the accident happened, but my Rachel still communicated with my family and close friends, keeping them informed of how her mom and dad were doing;                      and my awesome son Ryan the engineer and his wife the nurse who took care of me and my family from the moment I was in the Emergency Room ICU to when I was  home for a week; and when they went shopping for us at the local Safeway, people approached them, people that they did not even IMG_6517know, people who said they had heard about the accident and that they were praying for us.  IMG_6588

I want to be there for my kids, to experience life and moments and love and the extraordinary ordinary and holy conversations and every day joys, big and little. To share the Love of God and helping others.

Yes, we could’ve been gone, yes, we got hit by an SUV and yes, these kinds of accidents happen to other people, but this time it happened to us. And we are here and I am so grateful to God to be able to be here — I love the truth of that cliché!  

And, I am here trying to write about it. I need to write about it. To tell the story.                                                                                                                                                                                           

This, my first blog post since my Last Blog Post, which was written an hour before the accident, that moment in our lives that changed everything, Friday, January 9, 2015. That post that I felt compelled to write, despite my house being a mess, despite me being a less-than-even-a-weekly-blogger, despite having so much else I should’ve been doing, despite the laundry that needed to be folded. My daughter had just returned to Germany the day before and that Friday was my catch-up day. But, since I did not have to substitute teach, I had promised myself that I would write. My house would always be there.

I needed to write and reflect on my daughter’s visit, about what a holy, beautiful, time we had while she and her husband were home for Christmas. I needed to write about my beliefs and feelings and philosophy of life; in the blog post, I reflected on the importance of making time for one another and DSCN0178savoring the moment and being there together as a family, spending time with one another, and spending time with extended family and close friends, as we do when my daughter is home.

My last statement in that January 9 blog post was: “May I be Mary to all people, knowing that time together, just being present, is what matters. May I treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time. Because, maybe they are.

“Maybe I am. Just as I know my daughter is.”

I titled the post, “Having a Mary mindset in a Martha World,” and I posted it on my Facebook wall on Friday, January 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm.

Fifty minutes later, while my husband and I were walking to happy hour at Linn City Pub, navigating the crosswalk at Walling Circle and Highway 43, we  IMG_6880 were struck by an SUV  Yukon, and I was thrown 30 feet landing on the right side of my body; my ear was severed and I was knocked unconscious for 35 minutes, suffering a severe concussion. My husband sustained a fractured pelvis, bleeding on the brain and a slight concussion. Emergency vehicles surrounded the intersection for hours while we were rushed to OHSU in separate ambulances. West Linn Tidings Article on Accident “Walk On”

My first memory was waking up in the ER and looking up and seeing Ryan, my engineering son. He said to me, “Mom, you were in an accident.” 

My last memory before that was walking past the Starbucks, 100 yards before the intersection at Walling and 43 where we were struck.

Our family and friends started visiting us at the hospital and people kept — and keep — telling us, “We cannot believe you survived. When you Google pedestrians struck, the stories that pop up are: pedestrians struck by car are dead at scene. Or pedestrians struck by vehicle die at hospital.”

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It just gives me the chills, hearing those stats. Thinking back on the reality of our Friday Jan. 9, 2015 5:40 pm accident haunts me. At night, especially, when I am all alone, I ponder and weep and muse. I pray, Why did you spare us, God?  How did you spare us God?

 Angels.

———————————————————————————

While I was in the hospital, surrounded by nurses and doctors and family and friends and church members and specialists and flowers and  prayersIMG_6568 and calls and gifts, I felt such love and care from so many people. IMG_6522     I wept  seeing my kids IMG_6585and my IMG_6545parents and my husband and my in-laws, and I just wanted to hug them all and tell them I love them, and my daughter-in-law  and my friend Jenni and other friends took  lots of photos and more people came and there were folks who came who I didn’t even get to see, but heard later that they had come and all of these people were Kee and Rylike anIMG_6629gels really to me. Then more doctors stopped by and they did Cat scans and MRI’s and x-rays and tests and all of this made me realize that this was a big deal that had happened to us, that this was huge. I was in so much shock that first day,IMG_6557that it all did not hit me until later. When it would be quiet, at night, when the lights were dim and my family and friends had gone home and it was just  Martin-FINAL- lori 10352935_10152835568924652_4614894603208179415_nme and occasional nurses checking vitals, I would weep and pray. And I kept trying to think about the accident, what happened, how it happened, the events leading up to the accident. I prayed a lot and cried a lot. 

And, I kept thinking of a certain verse in the Bible. Especially, certain ones in  Psalm 91. In my college years with CRU, I used to memorize scripture as a way to help me trust the Lord, and I had verses one and two of Psalm 91 memorized, but now, not surprisingly after suffering a severe concussion, I could not recall those first two verses. I knew they were powerful though. I wanted to recall them.

There was a lot going on of course at the hospital, like getting my blood-saturated hair washed by the team of nurses and having my severed ear looked at then repaired by plastic surgeons and speaking with another team of doctors related to my concussion and getting to see so many of my family members and friends who were able to stop by and see me. Brooke visits hospitalIMG_6534

But, for some reason, I kept thinking of Psalm 91. Why would that passage not leave my head and heart?

Though I was supposed to have no screen time to rest my brain from the concussion, my doctor gave me the green light to read for 10 minutes at a time when I finally got home. I felt led again to Psalm 91. I turned there and read verses 1 and 2, to remember those past-memorized verses:

 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
 will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “You are my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

The poetry of those two verses flooded back to my memory. And then, thinking about how the doctor said I could read some more, I decided to continue in that same passage in Psalm 91:

“…Under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day. A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you….”

IMG_7038 Then, as I read toward the end of Psalm 91, verses 11 and 12, I began weeping.  

For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;  they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Angels. I sobbed. Angels lifting me up with their hands, so that you will “not strike your foot” — for “foot,” I  thought “body— for “stone,” I thought “pavement.”

 Sobbing. I’m listening, God.

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

The next day, our family friends from church, the Hoovers, came to visit at the hospital, and they brought me journal  for friends sign. In the front of the journal Shannon had written a scripture passage:  Journal and flowers hospital

Psalm 91, verses 1-4

1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Wheel chair All kids with meAfter a couple of days in the hospital, I was released much too early to go home while my husband was sent to the Pearl Rehab Center to heal his pelvis. While he was there, friends from church and the community and Scouts came to visit him. One of the Scouts families brought him a gift, a hand made quilt. The quilt was crafted by a non-profit organization that ministers to hurt people. On the tag of that quilt was a gift card on which was a passage of scripture. Guess where it was from? I cannot make this up: Psalm 91: 10-11.

 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways. . .”

  I ponder my friend’s words:

“You can talk all you want about how everyday is a gift but you know, just think, you could be in a morgue right now; you could’ve been 6 feet under. Oh, I’m so glad you are here. God saved you for a reason.”

Oh, friend, I am a believer now. This Angel idea, God’s Presence and signature, have been so real to me, to us, to our family during this time.  I know I will never ever be the same. We will be different. We are changed, with a new normal.

And, I am making a promise, a vow. I want to journey and live the adventure of the rest of my life finding out why He saved me, and look for that purpose, that reason. I pray, Here I am. Every day. Every extraordinary ordinary day. For now, celebrating each new breath, each new moment, each new Day, which is made by God. I’ll embrace that cliche. Because it is truth. I claim it, and I am not ashamed of it.                                                                 

Here I am, Lord, as Isaiah said.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

IMG_3419Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. O Thou. Thou who didst call us this morning

out of sleep and death.

I come, we all of us come, down through the litter and the letters of the day.

On broken legs.

Sweet Christ, forgive and mend.

Of they finally unspeakable grace, grant to each in his own dark room valor and an unnatural virtue.”- Frederick Buechner

Amen.

Posted in Accident, Adventure, Attitude, Being present, Extraordinary Ordinary, Faith, Family Life, Gratitude, Grown children, Holidays, Home, Kids, Life, Live the Questions, Moms, Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Slowing Down, Teaching Moments, Teens, The Extraordinary Ordinary, Tradition, Tweens, West Linn, West Linn news, Writing.

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Having a Mary mindset in a Martha World

My daughter left yesterdayIMG_5758

You’d think I’d get used to it. I don’t.

DSC_0558When my daughter visits from across the ocean, we stop the busy-to-do-lifestyle life.

We go to indie coffee shops and on long walks in the neighborhood and make sure we meet with friends.

We bake cookies and craft meals together from scratch and make a mess in the kitchen and clean it up together. We don’t mind.

DSC_0234DSC_0052We play LIFE and YAHTZEE and start movies at 11 p.m.

 We turn off the Internet and the X-box and the phone, at least we try to.

We talk and we laugh and we hug and we share stories and we look at photos and we watch old home videos.

And laugh some more and reminisce and recall and recollect and remember.

 

DSC_0533 - Version 2We go to the beach, to the mountains, to the Gorge, to the forest, to the park. We take long strolls through the sand, we cross- country ski, we hike.

IMG_6226We look at old photographs and take new photographs and smile for the photographer.

We invite friends and family and grandparents and cousins and extended family over for dinner and coffee DSC_0031and neighborhood walks and long talks. We go out to lunch and we go to the movies and we go to the mall to photobomb with Santa IMG_5848.

We sit around the dining room table way longer than usual and watch the youngest brother blowing out candles then lighting them again and we tell him not to but he does it anyway.

The brothers still fight and argue and complain sometimes but it is all okay when my daughter, their sister, is home.

I am not sure why, but it just is.

When my daughter is home, I watch her plop herself down next to her brothers and put her arms around them, and I see her brothers melt into her arms and they put their arms around their sister, randomly, out of the blue. They hug her and bear hug her IMG_5786and smile a big smile around her and when they do this I smile a big smile. It is good. DSC_0419

DSC_0410We slow down, we hug, we embrace, we realize that the ordinary is the extraordinary and we make each moment, a monument.

Because it is.

We celebrate conversation and savor stories and go on special outings and take time to talk and walk and just to be.

We take the time for slowing and sipping and relaxing and baking and cooking and being.

My daughter asks each of her brothers’ questions and listens to their stories and asks follow up questions and makes follow up comments. My daughter takes each of her brothers out on individual outings to talk with them and find out their dreams and gives them ideas and suggestions IMG_6189without preaching at them.

My daughter pops in on her brothers’ rooms when they are hanging out or putting clothes away or playing x-box and somehow she gets them to hang with her. When they are on the couches doing their homework, she nestles in next to them and they let her.

My daughter tells her brothers she loves them and that they are special and that they mean a lot to her and that they are the IMG_6074world to her and that family is the most important thing and that God loves them. My daughter comes home for Christmas break for them; she comes home on their special birthdays for them. She spends thousands of Euros that she does not have for plane tickets to visit them. She buys them birthday presents and Christmas presents with specific thoughts as to what they would like and she makes them presents and photo calendars that are so special to her middle school brother that he puts it on his wall. He never puts anything on his wall, except maybe that poster of that car.

DSC_0232DSC_0075We slow down when my daughter is home. We hang out. We just plop down on the couch and talk and laugh and share and watch movies. We just “are.”

Because we know that my daughter will only be home for a short period of time. We know that our time with my daughter, my sons’ sister is limited. We know that the time with her will come to an end and we will have to say good-bye. For now.

And what gets us through is knowing we will see her again soon.

 

We are Mary around my daughter when she is home. We do not even know who Martha is in our family when my daughter is home. (Luke 10: 38-42)

I know that I have to be Martha sometime again, but not while my daughter is home. I never ever want to forget who Mary is, even when my daughter is not home.

To have time for my kids, to make time for my kids, and for others. There is no such thing as hurried time. Or rushed time. Or drive-through time. Kids know it, your family knows it, your friends know it, you know it.

May I be Mary to all people, knowing that time together, just being present, is what matters. May I treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time. Because, maybe they are. Maybe I am. DSCN0178DSCN0221 - Version 2

 Just as I know my daughter is.

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Accident, Being present, Children, Extraordinary Ordinary, Faith, Faith and Culture, Family Life, Gratitude, Grown children, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Writing.

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It’s hard, it gets better, keep on keeping on – On parenting

After the recent winter concert of my sixth grade son at his middle school, we went out for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins with about a dozen other families from the community who, like us, were celebrating the wonderful holiday musical event. It was my youngest son Gus’s first concert in middle school, which was true for several of the other families there. DSC_0847

B AND R KIDS  DEC 2014 GUS IMG_5434While the kids were slurping on their ice cream cones and I was downing my one-scoop chocolate chip with hot fudge sundae, I got into a conversation with a couple, who were also parents of a sixth grader. We did our usual after-concert conversation, how great it is that the kids are in band, how wonderful the music program is in West Linn, and how amazing our middle school band director, Mr. Lagrone, is.

I shared with this mom and dad, that my older three sons also had Mr. Lagrone as a band teacher, and how much we already liked him back then. Some people do not know that we have older children who are graduated from college, working, and even married.

When this mom asked me more about my older children, I elaborated on my oldest son Ryan and how he graduated from George Fox University and now works as a mechanical engineer at Hyster; I also said that Ryan married his college sweetheart, who’s now a nurse. 

After I shared this info, the mom whom I was talking to said to me:

“You must be very proud of your son.”

I know this mom meant it as a compliment, but by her tone and facial expression, I also thought that perhaps she was hinting that I was bragging just a bit too much about my now grown son.

Although I replied saying, I was indeed proud of my son Ryan, something told me I needed to share more, to tell the backstory of my oldest son; I knew that this couple have had their ups and downs with their tween son, as many of us have had. I thought that perhaps adding a bit of the backstory about my oldest son as well as my high school twins, who are currently juniors, would encourage this couple.

It gets better, kids do change, do not give up, keep on keeping on. 

Yep. It has not always been the way it is now, with my older kids, and we, as parents need to share all experiences with others. To be vulnerable. To be honest. To be real.

DSC_0931For example, with my twins, I like to joke that they were sent to the principal’s office on many occasions; they got into fights with one another and with other kids. And, when school administrators were deciding what first grade class to place kindergartners in at the end of the school year, my twins were on the top of the list to be sure they were not around certain other kids.

But, we did not give up. We refused to let our kids get stereotyped. We worked on their friendship circles, helping them weed out certain unhealthy ones; we helped them form good study habits, we worked on manners with them, we encouraged them to join sports teams, Scouts, youth group, band. We got them involved in leadership at church and Scouts as they got older.

They are now honor students in high school, have great manners, have great friends, and they are active in youth group and Young Life. People tell us all the time what great kids they are.

As with our twins, the backstory of our older, now-an-engineer son is that he also had his issues growing up, both academically and socially. He was on the younger side in school — an August baby — and that is hard on a kid, especially a boy. Our Ryan was shy and emotionally on the young side. He would burst out sometimes and we found out he was taken out of class in kindergarten to work on some emotional issues. Then, as he grew up, he struggled in school and even got a few “DNM” for a few classes, which means, “Does not meet.”  

He had that engineering brain and could be rough around the edges at times, with bottled up energy that many boys have. I appreciate it, but for outsiders — especially moms of girls only — it can be hard. There were certain friends that we saw who were not the best fit for our son friendship-wise, so we helped steer him toward other friends. We got him involved with sports, band, Boy Scouts and youth group.  

In high school, his struggle began to diminish toward the middle of his sophomore year. Though naturally shy, we worked on helping him reach out to others, to be kind and say please and thank you and to look people in the eyes. We tried to be available to help him with his homework and make our home a place where he could bring his friends. We wanted to just be here for him, to make him feel accepted and loved while at the same time helping him to grow.          

GROUP B AND R - DEC 2014 IMG_5436And, we did a lot of praying for him — and for all of our kids. Praying for his character and that he would love the Lord and that he would find good friends at church, at school and in the community. We prayed for him to do well at school, to find that place where he could excel and discover his life’s vocation. He joined the ski team in high school, and caught on to how to study and navigate the corridors of school hallways and classrooms and studying on weekends and during late night evenings. He did not date and he was fine with that and we never said anything that would make him feel any differently. He had great friends in school, both guys and gals.    

But, when he was applying to college, we knew with his innate shy personality that a large school might not be a good fit, though he did apply to Oregon State University, a large public university. We were just praying that he would find a place where he could grow and shine. That led him to George Fox University, where he got a scholarship, and with loans he took out, we were able to bring the sticker shock down to state school prices.

In college, Ryan thrived. My husband said to him when we dropped him off at school: “Ryan, you can be who you want to be here.”

Indeed, he found who he was. He blossomed in college. He joined the track team and became a Resident Assistant. He did great in school as an engineering major and he met the love of his life, whom he married after graduating. And, he got his said dream job at Hyster.

So, yes, I am proud of my son, but that is not to say it was an easy road.   As I spoke with this couple at Baskin-Robbins, they talked about how parenting is hard and they are still on one side of it and I am on that side of it as well with our youngest, age 11. DSC_0874

But, because I have been on the other side of it as well, I know that it makes a difference to continue to teach our kids manners and to help them work diligently in school and to assist in shaping character qualities, even when other parents are not. And, even when times are hard with our kids and all of the work does not seem be paying off right at the moment, keep on keeping on. Because, it does get better. Kids grow up and kids change and we need to allow them to change.

I know. I’ve been there. And I’m there now. Keeping on, keeping on.

Posted in Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Teaching Moments, Teens, Transitions, Tweens, Twins, West Linn, Writing.

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On not hiding my name tag anymore

 Today after checking in for my substitute-teaching job at West Linn High School, I had to move my car to a different location, and decided to grab that much needed cup of Joe at the local Starbucks.

 When I pulled up into the parking lot of the coffee shop, I realized that my “substitute teacher” name tag was very SUB CLOSE UP IMG_5492visible around my neck. My mind began racing with how I felt about myself with that title so closely associated with me.

“Just a sub.”

 “Outsider.”

“Don’t belong.”

“Not a part of the real group.”

 Something inside me just made me uncomfortable with people at the coffee shop seeing that label on me.

 Sub farther away IMG_5490So, I decided to take off my substitute teacher lanyard and I laid it upside down in the back seat of my car, just in case someone looked in my back seat.

 I’ve thought about this since then. Why was I ashamed for that moment about my title of substitute teacher, I wondered.

 I think part of it has to do with something I have struggled with for much of my life — the feeling of being an outsider, of not belonging, of not fitting in.

And I think a lot of other people feel the same way, for a variety of reasons.

For me it can be jobs, friendship circles, church, and citizenship. Yep, that’s right; I was born in Germany, so while growing up, I was very aware that I was an “alien.” Indeed, I was a “resident alien” with a “green card” which means I was a foreigner in this country, until I decided to become a United States citizen almost 20 years ago. green- NEW CARD80991107

And, now as an adult, some of my job titles are “outsider type of jobs”: substitute teacher, freelance writer, and freelance editor. In the past, I’ve also been an adjunct professor. For each of these work positions, I am not on staff, not part of the everyday, regular folks who make these places of employment function.

We all want to fit in and belong. We all want to feel like we contribute and are an important part of the whole. We want to feel connected to a community rather than one looking in, from the outside.

 I started thinking later that throughout the Bible, you see the theme of outsider, with many references noting that the people of God are “aliens, sojourners, not-of-this world.”                                                                                         And, Jesus was the ultimate outsider, someone who did not fit in. And, He asks us to join him, to follow him, to identify with him, even when no one else does. To celebrate that IMG_5373calling, that place, that narrow path.

I know that the most important thing is attitude. The way we approach life and our circumstances is what matters.

So, when I muse upon my work positions, I remind myself, okay, this is what I do, this is my vocation right now, these are my jobs, so embrace it. Be the best freelance writer I can be, be the best freelance editor I can be, and be the best substitute teacher I can be.

I know I’ve never thought of myself as “just a sub,” though I’ve heard that term before from students; some people may look at the role in that light. The stereotypes regarding substitute teachers may be in my head, but they are there; a “sub” can be seen as someone who is just getting by, someone who is not a “real” teacher, someone who cannot actually get a full-time teaching job, someone maybe that does not know the subject as well, or someone who is a glorified baby-sitter, and so on.  

But, I know those stereotypes are not true for many substitute teachers, and I surely approach the work much differently than those descriptions. In fact, I started thinking, why not redefine stereotypes of the position I have. IMG_9090

I actually really enjoy substitute teaching. Hey, I get to hang out with wonderful kids and then go home after eight hours and not have to prep for the next day nor grade hundreds of papers into the wee hours of the night. I’ve done that in my past.

So, I made up my mind up. I’ve made a deliberate choice to embrace my job of substitute teacher, as I try to embrace all aspects of my life. It’s all an adventure. For subbing, in fact, I made it Facebook official. (As people joke, it’s not real or it did not happen unless you post it on Facebook!) Before subbing one day this year, I posted that I was looking forward to subbing that day and that I was going to tryto inspire students and make them feel valued.

For that Facebook status, I got mostly “you go girl” type of comments, but one of my old high school friends, who’s also a teacher (but not a sub) said, “That’s ambitious, for a sub.” I know my friend was just being sarcastic, but I do think that is the stereotype. How can someone make a difference in a day as a “sub”?

But, I wrote back on my comment stream, that I do believe a sub can make a difference, even if it is just for a day or a moment,  or 10 minutes or an hour. I approach all of life that way.

IMG_5412My goal as a sub — I say “replacement teacher” — is to try to inspire students to love school and to make them feel like they are important and valued individuals. I try to do this in a variety of ways. I try to be enthusiastic about the subject matter at hand, sharing what I love about it personally; I smile at kids who are passing me in the hallways; I ask how a kid who might be sitting alone at lunch how he is doing? During classes, I introduce myself and talk about my love for literature and learning and writing. I also remind students how blessed they are to be in school in the first place, when so many children in third world countries are out working the fields to put rice on their tables. In addition, I ask kids to tell me something about themselves, how their day is going, and so on.

My role as substitute is temporary and I may only reach a few kids and some kids may not relate to me, but I can try. You just never know.

In fact, I’ve been at coffee shops and orthodontist appointments with my kids or the grocery store, and I will see past students, from schools where I have been a sub, and they will say hello to me, by name.

“Hi, Mrs. Seigneur,” I hear quite a bit. Then, I’ll also hear the students, as they are walking away, tell the parent they are with, “That was my substitute teacher yesterday.”

Wow, they remember.

So, I’m reminded, we will be remembered. Why not be remembered for good?

Why not approach life, our jobs, our words, and our roles, no matter how glamorous or small or unimportant in society’s eyes, as if we matter to others. Because we do.

Even, if you are “just a sub.”

Posted in Adventure, Attitude, Kids, Life, Outreach, Teaching, Teaching Moments, vocation, Writing.

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About that new double three-ring zipper binder

The other day, during a break at school where I was working as a substitute teacher, I got a call from my sixth grade son Gus, who was home from school as he had had three teeth removed. My husband took him as I had to work, and I was feeling really badly that I had not been able to take him.

DSC_0366“Hi mom,” he said in his sweet, innocent, determined, serious, sincere voice.

“Hi sweetheart,” I said, and asked him how his mouth was feeling. “Good,” he said with his standard answer. He does not like to complain no matter what.

My son is not one to “just call” to say hello, and I had a feeling this call was not just for fun.

“So, what’s going on?” I ask.

IMG_3095“I want to go get my new double three-ring zipper binder today. I found it at Office Depot and Office Max. They have two in stock at the Tualatin Office Depot and three at the Milwaukie one and three at the Happy Valley Office Max.

The closest store of the ones he listed was about 15 to 20 minutes away, during rush hour traffic. On a day when I had a commitment later in the evening.

And, my husband literally works within minutes of that Office Max store, I thought to myself, and practically speaking we could have called him to ask him to pick up the notebook. That made the most logical sense.

That would have saved gas.

That would have saved money.

That would have saved the environment.

That would have saved time.

That would have saved me stress.

But, the experience would have been missing.

When I got home, my son had not forgotten the double three-ring zipper binder with extra folder. So, I asked him to call the store in advance to see if they had the exact notebook he was looking for. I wanted to at least be somewhat practical. IMG_3092

They did.

Maybe I was feeling badly because I had to work while he had his three teeth removed that day, or maybe it was just so endearing to see how important this three-ring-double-zipped binder was to him.

I just felt such a prompting to go. Forget the schedule. Forget what I had to do later. Forget the time.

So, I said to my 11-year-old, “Hey, get your stuff, put on your shoes, grab your jacket. We are going to Office Max to get your three-ring-double-zipper binder

You just cannot believe how excited my sixth grader was to go.

In the car he said, “Mom, it has an extra pocket on the outside. And mom, it has two sets of those three rings for notebook paper. And Mom, it has an extra zipper area for different subjects. And Mom, it comes in blue and red and black. I like the blue but I will decide when we get there on what color I want.”

You’d think it was Christmas.

We walked into Office Max and meandered toward the aisle with the notebooks and binders. He scurried ahead of me and found where the goods were. You’d think he had won the lottery when he found them.

“Here they are, Mom. They have three colors, blue, red, black,” he tells me as he picks each of them up and turns them over. His eyes focus on the blue one as he begins to unzip it to see all the bells and whistles this notebook has.IMG_3091

“Look, see the extra three rings for paper. My other zipper binder has only one section. And, look here’s another compartment on the other side of the binder,” he carefully demonstrates as he turns the binder over.

After we purchased the binder and got home, we told my husband, Gus’s dad, where we were and that we got the binder.

And, my husband’s natural, practical response was, “But, I work minutes from that Office Max and I could have picked it up for you.”

Gus responds quite confidently, “But, I wanted to go myself.” 

And, I thought, and later told my husband, that it is about the experience for the kid.

And for me.

The time that Gus and I had together, the sharing of something so small, purchasing a three-ring-zippered binder, but something that meant so much to my little one. On a day that he had three teeth removed.

I believe we need to as parents to value and treasure the experience more than just the practicality of everything. It’s not always the most time-efficient, practical path that makes the most sense that matters.

It’s about the experience. And, there is no way to measure that.

I remember hearing a couple of moms share with me that they get their family’s yearly Christmas trees sans kids. They drive to a tree lot while their kids are at school or at sports, and purchase the tree. Another mom told me that she decorates her family’s Christmas tree alone, while they kids are at friends’ houses or other places.

“It’s just easier,” the moms have told me. Or they’ve said, “The kids are so busy and they tell me that they do not care anyway. It’s a lot less hassle this way anyway.”

And, I wonder to myself, what about the experience? For our family, it is about the experience of getting our tree as a family. Then decorating it together while listening to Christmas music.

The other day at the grocery store, a lady was in the aisle with her twins in her cart. The twins were about 3-years-old. As a mom of twins myself, I just smiled to myself thinking how I remember those years shopping with my kids.

This mom at the grocery store was walking down each aisle and before I even saw this mom with her twins, I heard this mom with her twins. The twins were so inquisitive about everything. They asked questions, they pointed, they squealed in delight when they saw something they wanted. “Captain Crunch, Mommy. Look it’s Captain Crunch,” one of the 3-year-olds exclaimed loudly.

“Mommy, there are the Gold Fish. Mommy, can we get Gold Fishes?  “And, Mommy, look, pop tarts, mom Gushers. I love Gushers. Mommy, can we get some Gushers. They had gushers at preschool.”

The mom was so patient in responding to her active twins as the sound level increased with each new item her kids wanted to purchase.

She finally said at one point, very patiently I might add, “Shh, not so loud, okay.”

In fact, she said this about the time I was heading down the same aisle she was in. Perhaps her comment was to show consideration of other people in the store at the time.

I wanted to acknowledge her, to somehow make her feel that it was okay. That her kids were okay. That she was okay.

“So, are they twins?” I ask, trying to start a conversation with what was of course the obvious.

The mom replied to me, yes, as we both looked at her kids who were scanning the next items they were going to ask their mom about.

I say, oh, they are so cute. And then I tell her I have twins and that they are 17-years-old now, and that having twins is so much fun and so crazy and wild and so amazing.

And then I tell her that I did the same thing, bring my twins to the grocery store with me.

And, that even though some people told me I should not bring my young kids to the grocery store, that it would be easier for them to stay home with their dad or with a friend, I did it anyway. Because I wanted them to have the experience with me, to see things we were buying and to help decide what items we needed. And, I as a parent wanted to watch my kids’ reaction to things and I wanted to see what interested them and what intrigued them and what gave them pause.

The mom wasn’t so sure at that exact moment but thanked me for that comment as I moved on to the next aisle.

Sure, it can be easier to leave the kids at home and it can be easier to just do things for our kids, but there are no short cuts to experiencing life.

No matter how big or small.

 

 

Posted in Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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The art of breakfast- It’s what they remember

I love making breakfast for my kids during the summer and on Saturdays off during the school year, and when their friends have spent the night. Crepes are my specialty; crepes smothered in whipping cream and Nutella IMG_9356or sprinkled with lemon and powered sugar or in the summer, topped with fresh Oregon strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. IMG_9392

I love gathering with my children, with the table nicely set with my good German porcelain and the pretty containers for the lemon juice and the Nutella and whipping cream and strawberries and plenty of napkins. And we say a prayer to thank God for our meal, and it is pure joy. It’s a great way to start our day together before everyone goes his or her own direction. We have grounded ourselves together. IMG_9389

When my kids write me Mother’s day cards and birthday cards, they thank me for making me crepes for them. They remember the crepes. Of all the things I do for them, they talk about the food I craft for them. From scratch. Wild. And my kids friends talk about eating crepes at my house and the my tell their friends  when they are spending the night that their mom makes crepes and their friends want to eat breakfast in the morning with our family. And while I am making them, the house is filled with the aroma of butter and fresh thin pancakes frying on the stove top and that is what they wake up to. And it makes me feel good, if I do nothing else I day long, if I’ve made homemade breakfast for my kids.

But crepes are a mess to make. My kitchen turns to shambles and greasy butter flies everywhere and the batter splashes in nooks and crannies of the stovetop and my kids eat the crepes in minutes then dash off to do other things for hours and there is still the mess.

IMG_9382But it’s oh so worth it.

My husband on weekends when he is home used to never join us for breakfast. He’d eat his granola with cold milk and take off into the yard or to the garage to get his work done.

“Takes too much time. I have too much to do,” he’d say to me about eating breakfast with us as he meandered off.

But I said to him, this is an important part of life, taking the time to have this breakfast together; it’s so simple, yet so profound. This art, making breakfast for my kids; it reaches the kids in ways that I cannot explain but it just does. Crafting crepes is an art. It cannot be measured with the word “Accomplishment” and “check it off your list of things done today.” Art is not a check-off list. Yet, like good art, it’s what matters in the end. It’s one of the things that our kids remember.

Sounds so simple. It is.

My kids once in a while get to go to their grandparents’ house, which is about 15 minutes from our house. Their grandpa makes a mean pancake and they say, “Grandpa makes the best pancakes,” and when I make pancakes, they tell me they are not as good as grandpa’s. That is what they remember about grandpa and it is fabulous. And we tell grandpa this and it makes him feel good. He has a secret recipe and he’s proud of it.IMG_9358

My husband is starting to recognize the importance of our weekend and days off morning breakfasts together. One day recently, it just hit him. He began sitting down with us to join us eating breakfasts together. And, he also began making pancakes as well. And bacon and buying good syrup to smother on top of the pancakes. It takes him away from his weekend projects for a few hours in the mornings and it is a mess and he only has so much time off and I totally understand that.

But, he realizes now that it is important to share that time with our kids.

Now, we argue over who gets to make the breakfast on a Saturday morning.

 

 

Posted in Art, Family Life, Home, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Summer, Writing.

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