Sunday, September 28, 2008

My daughter bought a pumpkin yesterday. A very large pumpkin. She has taken over the holidays this past year and that's okay with me. As my interest in holiday and seasonal decorating wanes, her desire to do things on her own has increased.

This evening, she brought out the pumpkin and the boyfriend. He SAID he had no interest in carving the pumpkin. He SAID pumpkins stink. He SAID he hated the goo inside. But he decided to watch and joined us outside.

My daughter started out the process. He helped cut the top out. She dug out the innards. They decided on the type of jack-o-lantern face they would carve. He started carving the eyebrows. I drew the rest of the face. He began cutting out the eyes while she made suggestions.

I went in and starting transferring photos from my camera to my computer. A few minutes later my daughter came in and sat down with me.

"I would love to carve some of my pumpkin but Mr. I Hate Pumpkins is doing it all." I suggested she go back out and calmly negotiate for some carving time. They switched places for a while.

Pumpkin carving. Relationships. Some of the time, one of you does the yucky work and the other does the fun stuff. And other times you switch. They made it through this pumpkin just like they have passed the last year and a half. Giving up some of the control so the other one can have some fun too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clearly Full Of Drama

I have a friend. She is a very good friend. We have so much in common. Except for one thing . . . she attracts drama. I hate drama.

Every Monday (and sometimes during the week) she shares the drama from the weekend. It is always juicy. I enjoy hearing her tell the stories because she has a great sense of humor and it becomes quite funny. The drama never really involves her kids. They are great kids and she has a wonderful relationship with both of them. The drama involves
  • The much younger live-in boyfriend of 5 years
  • The much younger boyfriend's crazy ex-wife and young son
  • The much younger boyfriend's judgemental family
  • The much younger boyfriend's druggie cousin
  • Widowed mom who happens to be somewhat of a hypochondriac
  • Late father's crazy family and the dispute over her grandmother's estate
  • Ex-husband, father of her children, dead beat dad.
  • Other ex-husband, a momentary lapse in judgement who is financially in crisis
  • Trashy friend that is married but sleeping with her ex-husband and her co-worker
  • Other trashy friend that is also sleeping around but is also an alcoholic
If you just met my friend, you would never know that she had all this going on. She is funny, the life of the party, always joking and making sure people are having fun. She is NOT sad or tragic behind the scenes, she truly is happy. So why does she attract all this drama?

Because she is trusting and caring. She tries to help. She genuinely likes people and makes friends easily. But she is not terribly discerning about people. Where I tend to be cautious and have a few close friends, she dives right in and has tons of friends. And we joke that she must have a flashing "counselor" sign over her head. People seem to vomit their problems all over her. I know it's true because I do it too. When I am frustrated or crazy, I go to her.

I am honest with her when I listen to the stories. I tell her when she is being stupid. Nicely. She tells me too. I think at some point, I thought I was going to help her to remove herself from the drama. But now I think she just likes it there. It's her thing.

So I guess I will just listen. And learn.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Right Or Wrong Or Right

I have been listening to Oprah on XM again. Driving, listening, thinking. Oprah was talking to Reverend Ed Bacon, the rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. They were discussing reconciling your faith with the "new age" philosophies on spirituality, spirit, etc. It was a great discussion in which Rev. Bacon and Oprah talked about the attacks on Oprah for her focus on the book "The New Earth", her support of "A Course In Miracles", and the exploration of spirituality vs. traditional Christian doctrine. If you have not heard, there is a movement of extremists that are branding Oprah as The AntiChrist. You can catch up here.

I would love to attend any church that had Rev. Bacon as a leader. His words were so true and he seemed to understand the confusion of all who are questioning their belief systems. It doesn't mean they are losing their faith, only that they wish to understand further. I have always been a searcher. I think Oprah is too. My mother was a searcher. It doesn't mean you don't believe in God, Jesus, or the Bible. It sometimes means you do choose to believe something else but not always.

I dearly love my brother-in-law. He is one of the best guys I know. He loves my sister and their two boys and he searches for ways to be a better husband, better father, better person every day. But I cannot talk about religion with him. So I don't. But it is his favorite subject so sometimes it is unavoidable. Like a few months ago when he and my sister were coming through town and we met for lunch. It was the day after the Unitarian Church shooting, my church. So as we discussed the tragedy, he listened quietly. Then he hesitantly asked me "What exactly do Unitarians believe?"

I explained that there was no doctrine, that they were all on their own spiritual path, discovering together what they believed, learning from each other. I explained the history of the church, traditionally Christian, and that many of the founding fathers of our country were Unitarians. I shared that many Unitarians follow Christian traditions and believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Others believe that Jesus was an amazing man, a prophet that changed the world, but not of divine birth.

As I would share something, he would quote from the bible with a verse showing why that was wrong. He never said it was wrong, only what the bible said. He asked what I believed about heaven and hell and I said I didn't know and that it didn't really matter because none of us can truly know all the answers. He shared his belief and that he was absolutely certain that he was right. He quoted Bible verses to tell me why he was right. I told him I wish that I had his faith in what he believes but I don't.

I have immense respect for those that are completely sure of their beliefs. But I can not stand someone trying to "change" mine. I love to discuss religion and I love to learn. I take issue with people trying to convert me. Educate me please then allow me to make my own decision.

So as I listened to Oprah and Rev. Bacon, it came to me why my brother-in-law, so wonderful in every area of life, gets under my skin when it comes to religion.

He believes he is right and I am wrong. I believe I am right and so is he.

I somehow feel better now that I know this. I think I will handle these discussions with him better in the future. Or maybe I'll just continue to avoid it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moving On

This week held anniversaries. Anniversaries are simply a yearly reminder of an event that occurred on that day. Most are remembered because they are joyful - a birth, a wedding, a graduation - and we mark them with celebrations and parties. Occasionally anniversaries remind of tragedy or sadness and they are remembered quietly.

The anniversaries I acknowledged this week were not joyful. But as these anniversaries have occurred more than once, I have come to have accept the sadness that comes with the day but have learned to embrace joyful life that exists today in spite of the sadness.

September 10th came quietly this year. I wrote the date on a check and felt a tug in my stomach but didn't know why. I wrote it again on a form at work and pondered why I had that feeling again. Late in the day, one of my sisters called and asked if it was bad that the day had passed without her realizing that it was the 3rd anniversary of our mother's death. I admitted that I had done the same, knowing it was significant for some reason but not identifying why. We decided it was neither bad nor good. It just meant that it hurt less and we were making peace with Mom's passing.

September 11th came with significantly more notice. I hope that we never forget this day. There are children in elementary school now that will study this day in their history books and only know that it occurred before they born. They can never understand the terror and devastation that occurred that day. I hope they never have to understand. The details of the day will be reduced to bullet points. They will be tested on times of day that the planes hit the towers, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania, on the number of firefighters that died, on the number of employees at Cantor-Fitzgerald. They will not hear the personal stories of the families of those that were lost or of those who survived.

I have so many memories of that day.

I was getting off a plane in Atlanta at 8:50am and jumped on a conference call while waiting for my connection. As people came on the call, they were talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. While we were on the phone, the second plane hit. The Atlanta airport announced that all flights were canceled. Our boss told us to get off the phone. I got one of the last rental cars in Atlanta and drove home. My parents and my in-laws knew I was on a plane. They were frantically calling. My children were at school but they were watching the TV coverage. They knew I was on a plane. They knew I was on a plane at the time the planes were hitting buildings. My son went to the bathroom several times to use his cell phone to try to reach me. No one could get through. My husband had died 3 months before. They were panicked.

As I drove away from the city of Atlanta towards home, the calls started to come through. Nerves were calmed. I listened to the radio coverage. There was so much confusion and speculation. No one knew what was really going on. I went straight to my children's schools to pick them up. We huddled in our den and watched the TV coverage. I cried as the reporters clarified that the sounds we heard, which sounded like falling boulders on metal, were the sounds of people jumping from the building. The people covered with soot looked horrified. The twisted metal of the destroyed firetrucks brought memories of my husband's profession.

Everyone over the age of 10 has a memory or many memories of that day that will stay with them forever. How will we memorialize that day in the future? The names of the lost will be read for many years. There have been hunks of stone and steel placed already and there will be more to come that remind us of the lives lost and the heroic efforts of those involved. But I hope that everyone, everywhere, writes down their story. The survivors, the families of the lost, the observers. Everyone has a story. That is the way to help those that did not experience that day to understand that it is not just the facts they need to know. In each story lies the way September 11th, 2001 affected everyone in the country and the way it changed the way we live every day.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
-Emily Post

I was always frustrated by those who made an issue of which fork to use, what order should be used to introduce someone, and the formality of a receiving line. But I have always been an advocate of manners that protect one from infringing on the comfort and enjoyment of others. I have always encouraged my children to say please and thank you and to wait for others to go first.

I find that I am one of the few parents that feels this way. My children don't have too many rude friends. They don't tolerate rudeness. But I see a new generation in which common courtesy is sorely lacking.

I began noticing this in classrooms. I frequently have teachers that ask me to observe in their classroom to help with discipline issues, especially in classrooms of two year olds. I began to see a pattern. Discipline issues seemed to occur in classrooms where please and thank you were never encouraged. As I modeled for the teachers, the tone of the classroom changed. They were amazed that encouraging children to say please or thank you to their peers or teachers could make such a drastic change. They report later that it really makes a difference. Now, this is not the be all and end all of addressing discipline with children but it is certainly one of the basics that you have to have.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were shopping. She was looking for a birthday gift for a friend. We went to a new store called "Bath Junkie", a wonderful store where you blend your own scent to be added to a variety of bath products. The staff were very friendly and helpful. There was a two sided "blending station" in the center of the store with 4 stools where one can sit and experiment with different oils to make a personalized scent. There was a party going on at the time, a group of about 10 girls that seemed to be 9 or 10 years old. There were also a few parents with them. The girls were everywhere and loud which really didn't bother me or my daughter as we work around children every day. The staff member, Casey, apologized. We said it was okay.

Casey showed us around, explaining each of the products and helping us pick out a gift as well as to choose something for ourselves. "When you get ready to use the blending station, let me know and I will ask the girls to move around to one side." We chose some lotion and bath salts and headed for the blending station. Casey asked one of the girls to scoot over a little so I could sit down on one of the empty stools. I thanked the young lady and began experimentation. My daughter stood beside me to the side of the table.

The girls ran from side to side, reaching across my body to get to the oils on the opposite side. It was stressing my daughter OUT. She walked away. The girls then reached across from that side. One of the moms stood beside me. She reached her arm across my right side to pick up oils, talking loudly the whole time to her daughter. Like mother, like daughter. My daughter walked back over and said "Okay, can we go?" I was done. I went to Casey and asked her if we could come back in an hour. She apologized again and said she would hold our items until we returned. And we did return about 2 hours later. We had fun and love our new products.

Do not email me and tell me that they are just children, excited, having fun. That is why I didn't leave as soon as I saw them. But when parents don't correct behavior and make children aware that there are other customers, the behavior never changes. Then we see them as teenagers in the mall, carrying on loud conversations and cursing as they run into you because they were'nt watching where they were going. They become the drivers who forcefully squeeze their car into the merging traffic at the last minute or "steal" that parking place as you so patienly wait for someone else to pull out. Here they are with the world revolving around THEM.

Please, Thank You, Excuse Me. Teach your children well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

And The Cow Says Moo

I loved books as a child. Someone was always reading to me. This photo is of my Pappaw reading to me in "his chair". He only went to the 8th grade but he loved reading and passed that on to his family.

I learned to read when I was four. I say learned but there was never any sounding out of letters for me. I just *knew* how to read. I just started reading. My mom never really figured that out but it didn't matter. My youngest sister did it too.

My mom read to us constantly and she was always very animated when she read. Every character had a different voice. I read to my kids the same way. I don't really understand people that read to children in that monotone, "gotta read to the kids" voice.

I have always worked with children and before I had kids of my own, I collected children's books. And my mom saved all our books from when we were children and gave most of them to me. There is just something about childrens books. They are simple, straightforward, and usually have a lesson. Sometimes they are just fun and make no sense whatsoever.

My son loved for me to read to him. From the time he was born really. When he was a little over a year old, he would wake up in the middle of the night and cry until I would come into the room. He would hand me a book and I would lean over the edge of the crib, half asleep reading "Goodnight Moon" or "I Love You Forever" until he was ready to go back to sleep.

My daughter had little interest in me reading to her. She would wander around the room as I read to her brother, too busy to sit down with us. I tried to sit with her alone. She would listen for a second and then quickly dash off to do find something more active in which to involve herself. She had one favorite that I can remember - "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See". She could say the whole thing when she was two.

But lately I have come to realize that she must have been listening a little bit. My daughter is teaching 2 year olds. She loves to read to them. She laments that the books in the classroom are boring. "Mom, can you give me some of your books?" She reads to them with exaggerated expressions and all the characters have fun voices. "I remember this book from when I was little, this is a good one" she tells me. Tonight she wanted to go to the bookstore to pick out new books to read to the kids. She has good instincts.

I used to say that at least one of my kids loved to read but I guess really both of them do. That makes me happy.