Tag Archives: Philosophizing

Advice from the rear-view mirror

Every day I hear young moms beating themselves up because they have a hard time living up to expectations – both their own and those of others.  I want so badly to hug every one of them, and assure them that it’s going to be alright, that they’re going through the hardest part of motherhood, and that this, too, will pass.

I refrain from offering too much advice in person (usually out of fear of being hit with a sippy cup), but since that part of my life is behind me and I now have the clarity of hindsight, I want to share some hard-earned wisdom with all of you “younger versions” of me.

1.  Cut yourself some slack.  We all yell.  Our houses aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be.  We occasionally send our kids to bed without a bath . The list goes on.  You don’t have to be a perfect mom to raise good kids.  Last week I posted a photo on Facebook about positive parenting, and I was surprised at some of the reactions.  A few readers interpreted it to mean we have to do awesome things every minute of the day.  But that’s not the reality of parenting – every day is not a good day, full of rainbows and glitter.  Try to find moments of joy amid the chaos, but don’t expect to be able to maintain storybook standards all the time.  Work hard for your kids, but don’t expect Utopia.  It doesn’t exist.

2.  Your kids aren’t perfect.  They don’t always clean their rooms when you ask.  They tell lies to get out of trouble.  They hit each other.  Expect them to test their boundaries, because that’s part of growing up.  It isn’t a failure on your part.  It means they’re normal.

3.  Teach them right from wrong.  In our culture of acceptance and political correctness, we’ve gotten away from using terms like right and wrong. But we need to bring them back.  Children need to know that everything is not OK.

4.  Explain why.  I’m not a big fan of the phrase “because I said so.”  While its use is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be a standard response.  Take the time to explain the “why.”  You have to teach them the reason behind decisions, because someday they’ll be making them on their own.

5.  Let them fail.  We knew a family from school whose son was “over-praised.”  His baseball skills were fussed over like he was A-Rod, and if he made a bad grade, his mother would march in and demand that the teacher let him re-take the test.  The Trailblazer once said about his friend, “One day he’s going to realize that he’s not the best at everything. And he’s going to freak out.”  The best character-building lessons in life are learned through failure.

6.  Look forward, not back.  When mistakes are made (by you and them), don’t dwell on it.  Extract the lesson, throw out the pain, and move forward.  Nothing is gained by rehashing the sins of the past once the lesson has been learned.  This becomes more important in the teenage years than you can ever imagine.

7. Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Eat right.   Exercise.  As we all know from airplane safety drills, our own oxygen masks must be fastened securely before we can help them.   But be realistic about it.  (See item #1.)  It’s easy for that to become another place where feel inadequate.

One day, you’ll wake up and your baby will be 11 years old.  You’ll be able to actually enjoy quiet, instead of fearing it.  You’ll be able to go to the grocery store alone.  You’ll know that all the very hard work you put in while they were little is paying off.

When that day comes, go find a young mommy and give her a hug, and tell her everything’s gonna be alright.

The Years are Short

Originally posted October 7, 2010

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My fifth-grader came home this week with instructions for his first research project.  A research project.  My baby.  The youngest of my three kids.  The one who’s never supposed to grow up.  I remember like it was yesterday sitting at the kiddie table in my den with a bucket of crayons, and the lesson of the day was “staying in the lines.”  It really can’t be that long ago…  Now we have to do a research project.

He chose Marco Polo as his subject.  In the coming days we’ll be learning about Marco’s life and adventures, and I’ll be trying to get a 10-yr old boy in modern America to relate to the concept of an “undiscovered” world.  I’m not looking forward to that.  But what I am looking forward to is sitting at the table with him, having his undivided attention, and holding on to him for a moment.

As any mom will tell you (especially one with at least as many kids as I have) is that days are long.  We rise early, ready ourselves, wake the family, make sure everyone’s fed, wearing the right uniforms, delivered to the right schools at the right time, then start our day.  As soon as we get a little momentum, it’s almost time for the school bell to ring — and then the real chaos begins.  Carpool, after-school activities, homework, dinner, showers and bedtime.  Just getting it all done takes drill-sergeant-like qualities, which don’t necessarily bring out the best in a mom.  I know from my frequent chats with other moms that I’m not the only one who collapses as soon as the last kid hits his pillow.  We’re wiped out long before then.

Each day seems like a long journey.  But then they run together, and the time compresses, and before you know it one is in college, one is in high school, and one has to do a research project.

The days are long.  But the years are short.

Happy Blogoversary To Me

Friday is the first anniversary of the launch of  The Lucky Mom.  (Big smile.)

I’ll never forget the moment I clicked the PUBLISH button the first time, and held my breath in anticipation, watching the stats, waiting for the first click.  For the first six months of its existence, everyone most of the people who read it were friends of mine, and strangers to whom I gave pathetic pleadings for validation.

Tens of thousands of views later, I think it’s time I started referring to myself as a blogger.  Maybe soon I’ll even call myself a writer.

I am so grateful to those of you who have followed me down this path.  So like Sandra Bullock on Oscar night, I’m going to thank a few people.

Erin – you were my first follower. 🙂

Pepper – you were the first person to share one of my links. 🙂

Blondy Magee– you were the first person I didn’t know to follow me. 🙂

Eugenia – you have left the most comments. 🙂

Life in the Trenches – you showed me the Facebook admin page. 🙂

Mr. Wonderful – you have given me the most inspiration. 🙂

The Trailblazer, Slick, and The Caboose – you have given me the most material. 🙂

Because I’m feeling nostalgic, and because only about 10 people read it, I’m going to re-publish (is that a word?) my first post.  Which is still one of my favorites.  (You really never do forget the first time, do you??)

Leaving the Storm Behind

With the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, I’ve made a decision.  This will be the last year I mark this anniversary.  I’m willing to tell the story one last time, as a final catharsis to anyone who still wants to hear it.  Then I’m going to declare it in the past.

The first responder marking says: 1 Dead in Attic. Photo credit: Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune

The first responder marking says: 1 Dead in Attic. Photo credit: Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune

Katrina is still in our daily vocabulary.  We use her as a reference in time.  We refer to her as an experience that reshaped our lives and our communities.  We blame her for our losses.  We thank her for our renewal.

Putting it in the past is going to be a hard thing to do, for every day I drive past vacant lots where families once lived, and empty houses with broken windows and spray-painted first-responder code still on the front.  But I also drive past gleaming new schools, manicured parks, and thriving communities.  Those who haven’t moved forward with rebuilding have obviously made their decision.

This memorial is across the street from the Convention Center. The inscription to the right reads: Honoring the people and remembering the events that occurred August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Photo credit: community.devexpress.com

I’m going to be part of the “new” New Orleans.

I’m going to reflect one last time on this event that changed my life.  I’m going to recall a few details, commit the lessons to my memory, and thank those you saved me when I most needed saving.

One last time.

Random Acts

I remember the first time I saw the slogan.  I was living in Texas at the time, and was in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding.  We were at the local hangout, and it was plastered on the wall behind the bar:

PRACTICE RANDOM KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY.

I was amazed by its simplicity.  I was inspired by its power.  I committed it to memory.

{ Source: OptimisticMinds }

Now, this was the 1980s.  There was no internet to fuel such a concept.  It was a grassroots movement, forced to travel by bumper sticker and magazine article.  By word of mouth.  By deed.  It was slow going.  If it was going to catch on, I was going to have to do my part.

I went back to work the next week and remember being excited by the concept, and sharing it with co-workers.  A few thought it as silly.  A few thought it weird.  A few thought it was as wonderful as I did.

And so began my journey.

Over the years I’ve paid people’s tolls, bought the coffee of the driver behind me in the Starbucks window, bought groceries of the young couple with the baby in the stroller.  I’ve given blankets to a homeless man, and picked up hitchhikers (I don’t do that anymore).  I remember sitting on the side of the road on Christmas Eve with an old lady who had car trouble. (Before cell phones.  You had to get someone to drive to the next exit to make a phone call for you.)  I sprinkled flower seeds in the empty field and watched them bloom.  I cleaned the statue outside my church.  I carried candy around at Christmas and left it in the tube at the bank drive-up with a note.

But mostly I just tried to Be Nice.  To as many people as possible.  A genuine smile, a cheerful hello, a simple “How are you today?”— while making eye contact and waiting for a reply.  Learning to be friendly, learning to listen, learning to care.

Talking about it seems a little strange to me.  One of the points of a Random Act of Kindness has always been that it should be anonymous.  (Touting them here is only for the purpose of explaining the concept.)  When the recipient of one of my Acts tried to thank me, I always asked for the same thing: for them to pay it forward.  To be kind, or generous, or helpful to another.  I had this pyramid scheme in my head that one day, people would go about their business, constantly being nice to one another.  My version of Utopia.

Twenty five years later, I’m trying to keep up the momentum.

Which brings me to 2011.  A few days ago I came across a website called JustBeeGenerous.com.  The concept was familiar: being anonymously generous.  But this added the ability to push the movement forward using a card, explaining the act of generosity, and urging the recipient to pass it on.  I was so excited!

As things now travel at the speed of Google, it took only a short time for the web site to pop up o a friend’s Facebook page and for me to learn that its creator is someone I know, the niece of a dear childhood friend of mine!  I ordered my FREE cards and exchanged emails with her, and am watching the mailbox for my JustBeeGenerous gear.

Her version of the concept added the missing piece – the message of the act, and the request to keep it going.  I’m so proud of this little girl I used to know, for making such a substantial difference to our world.

So, according to one calendar, Monday is Random Acts of Kindness Day.  (According to another calendar it was yesterday.)  Whichever day you choose to recognize, I challenge each of you to join the movement.  Practice Kindness.  Make the world a more beautiful place.

You never know whose life you may change.  Might even be your own.

The Lucky Daughter, Part 2

I was Daddy’s Little Girl.  No doubt about it.

When I was little and he came home from work with a 5 o’clock shadow, he’d go straight to the bathroom and shave, because I wouldn’t give him a hello kiss if his face was scratchy.

It's no wonder my mom fell in love with him.

I was about 12 when we built our camp in Grand Isle, and he and I built all the cabinets in the boat shed ourselves.  Just the two of us.

When I went away to college, he was the one who cried.

On my wedding day, just before I walked down the aisle, he asked me again if I was “sure” this was the right guy.  I said I was, because that guy was a lot like him.

He taught me well.

We worked in the same industry for a few years, and he was so proud when we’d end up at meetings and conventions together.

When I named my second child after him, he was speechless.

He taught me to enjoy the everyday moments of life, not just the big events.

Even though he’s been gone from my sight for 16 years, I still try to make him proud.

Transforming Grief

Yesterday was a rough day for me and Mr. Wonderful.  We attended two funerals.  Two funerals for men about our age.  Two wives much like me burying their husbands, children much like ours saying goodbye to their dad.  Two mothers grieving for their sons.

It was hard.  And by the end of the day, I was in a very contemplative mood.  Once we got home I began to recall the words I’d heard earlier, promising myself to find the lesson in them, and to put it to use.  It was the only gift I had left to offer the two friends I’d said goodbye to.

My mind went to something a friend recently posted on Facebook.  It was a message about good intent being of little value if not backed up with action.  I thought about all the times I say I’m going to do something, and don’t.  Specifically about all of the times I tell friends we need to get together, but never do.  I let the trivial actions of my days take over, and my well-intentioned invitations go to the back burner until next week.

That’s not good enough.  I have to do better.  Because I was reminded yesterday that next week doesn’t come for everyone.

So I’m challenging myself – and you – to think about the separation that sometimes occurs between feelings and intentions and actions.  And close the gap.  I want to reduce the regret I have over phone calls I don’t get around to making, visits that I’ve left unscheduled.  I want to know that I’ve offered my hand to those in need.  I don’t want anyone to wonder whether or not I love them.

In the Lord’s Prayer we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  The Golden Rule speaks of action: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It is clear that God intends for us to receive in the manner in which we first give.

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It’s not enough to love someone.  You must tell them.  You must show them.

It’s not enough to feel compassion.  You must reach out to those who are in need.  You must touch them.

It’s not enough to foster relationships that are easy.  We must find the good in others, even if it is buried deep.

It’s not enough to love God.  We must live according to His word, and be disciples of that word.

With apologies to those who had to put up with me…

Many years ago, my friend and I were pregnant with our first child at the same time.  We compared notes throughout our pregnancies, and eagerly anticipated the arrival of our little bundles of joy.  (I was due first.)

So along comes The Firstborn, and everyone agreed he was perfect.  Perfect little round head, perfect little eyes, perfect fingers and toes… you get the picture.  My husband and I stared googly-eyed at him for hours, because he was so darn cute.  Ahhh.

Then my friend’s baby arrived, and I went to the hospital to visit her.  She escorts me over to the bedside cradle beaming, and said, “Isn’t he perfect?”  I looked down at the little guy and smiled.  He was, indeed, cute… but perfect, no.  He had these little white bumps on his face, and broken capillaries on his cheeks, and his fingers were peeling.  Cute, yes.  Perfect, no.

At that moment I heard angelic harp music in my head, accompanied by visions of my baby.  “No, but my baby IS perfect,” I thought.

Then, like the needle being scratched across a record on an old Victrola, my vision stopped.  “What if my baby isn’t really perfect??  Maybe they’re all like this, and we just don’t notice it on our babies…  Oh, no.”  I kissed her goodbye, reassured her once more that her little angel was perfect, and made the mad dash home.

I raced into the house, tore back his covers and stared at him.  Sure enough, he had the same little bumps on his face and weird fingernails.  I just hadn’t noticed.  I saw him with my Mama Eyes, which made him perfect.  To me.

So thank you all for putting up with me this week, as I stare once again at my children with my Mama Eyes, overlooking their flaws, seeing only the good parts.  You’ve all been really good sports.

Monday, Monday, so good to me.

I realize what I’m about to say will make more than a few brows furrow, but here it goes… I Like Monday Mornings.  There.  I said it.  I’ve always liked Mondays.

Maybe it’s a maternal thing.  You know, the whole renewal, birth-of-a-new-week philosophy.  A chance to get it right.  Learn from the things I didn’t do well last week, and incorporate the things that did go well into the new plan.

This particular Monday morning was good.  I got enough sleep, had the laundry caught up, and my hair looked decent straight off the pillow.  (This last thing is important, because it determines if I’m going to run errands on my way home from carpool.  Good hair=getting things done.  Bad hair=coming straight home.)  Sounds vain, I know, but it’s how I roll.  So the extra time I took de-frizzing it yesterday paid off this morning.  I fixed my son a proper breakfast (it’s standardized testing this week…) fed the fish, cleaned a bathroom, and watered the plants between my first and second cup of coffee.  After making my morning loop, I stopped at the grocery store, meal plan for the week in hand. 

The grocery store is nice on Monday mornings.  The floors are clean, the shelves stocked, and the employees are in a better mood than usual.  I got a good parking place and didn’t have wait in line to check out.  Evidently there aren’t a lot of us “Monday People” out there.  So I pretty much have the place to myself.

So here’s my Monday Morning Reality Check:

Lessons learned from last week

  • My friends don’t care if my house isn’t spotless.  They will come over if I invite them.  So I’m going to invite them more often.
  • It’s worth the effort to cook dinner.  (This one blew even my mind, and I can’t believe I’m putting it in writing.)  But a busy evening doesn’t get any better with a pizza box on the counter.  I’m going to reserve my dining dollars for times that I can actually enjoy it. 
  • My kids can be more independent than I give them credit for.  I shouldn’t hover so much.
  • I should never be too busy to stop and ask a friend how her day is going.  I will make that phone call.  I will put the card in the mail. 

Things I will do better at this week:

  • Not let laundry pile up. 
  • Spend more time with friends. 
  • Clear away the clutter in my kitchen.
  • Get to bed on time.

If I can finish the week with this much energy and optimism, there’s hope for me yet!

Spring Fever — or — If It’s Good Enough for Others, It’s Good Enough For You

The Lucky Mom has been in a kind of weird place lately.  I’ve had things on my plate and on my mind that have been weighing heavy, and have been avoiding the keyboard out of fear that I’d be bitter.   We’ve been making important decisions about education for our kids, about elder care and nursing homes for parents, dealing with a 24/7 construction zone behind our house, handling a crisis with one of our boys, coping with declining property values and a rental market that has us barely breaking even on our previously-profitable rentals, and so on.  Small potatoes compared to the woes of some, but a load on The Lucky Mom’s mind.

Since I’m always ready to dispense wisdom to those who ask for it (and occasionally to some who don’t), today I decided to turn the tables on myself, and pretend I was one of The Lucky Mom’s friends who came to her for advice.  As I did, I had to prepare myself to be ready to take the advice I was about to give, even if it was tough.  And I made a promise that I would find the positive side of each issue, no matter how tough.

This, too, shall pass. I use this one all the time, because of its universal truth.  No matter what “it” is, “it” will eventually change.  Change is the one thing you can always count on.  Whether it’s a bad haircut, or 2 years worth of construction noise, it won’t last forever.  And hey, when the new levee is finished, my flood insurance premium may go down.  (Smile.)

Perspective:  there’s someone out there who wishes she had your problems. I didn’t have to look far for illustrations of this point.  Not long ago a friend was excited to announce that her daughter didn’t need another open-heart surgery.  Another was pondering how to help her stepson handle his first birthday without his mother.  The list is long of friends who are shepherding their kids through much greater ordeals than mine.  I can hug and kiss my boy and soften his blow.  I need to quit making such a big deal out of it.  Then he will probably do the same.

Keep the faith. Another universal truth.  As a woman of faith, I believe that God’s plan for me doesn’t skip any details.  I believe that all the experiences of my life contribute to the plan that He has for me.  Even if they seem difficult.  Even if I don’t understand.  I have an enviable life.  I need to remember that more often.

So after a little positive self-talk, I feel better.  I’ll embrace the coming Spring, noticing the new leaves instead of the pollen, the green grass instead of the weeds.  After all, we’re in the heart of lacrosse season (my fav!) and crawfish are just around the corner.  So what was I worried about?????