Cowboy Take Me Away (My Silent Midlife Crisis Part V)

Facebook quiz results. And these things never lie! Cowboy up!

Real cowboys never run, they just ride away.  Anonymous

Texas is calling, but first things first:  Everyone knows that I would die on the prairie.  Seriously, D-I-E.  I’m not exactly Veruca Salt spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I land somewhere in the pampered princess department.  That being said, I’ve discovered something about myself recently…I LOVE westerns.  Seriously, L-O-V-E.  Of course, I’m categorizing this new development as just another part of my silent midlife crisis.

Most weekday mornings (ok, Saturdays, too) you’ll find me glued to the television, coffee in hand, watching the western series Big Valley.  In case you’ve never stumbled on to this show, it features the Barkley family of Stockton, California.  Each episode tells the story of a widowed matriarch, her adult children and life on the ranch.  There are horses, bad guys, near calamity at every turn, adventure and drama.  Everything you could ever want in a 1960s television show, plus they wear cowboy boots and hats!  BONUS.  I really can’t get enough of it.

I wouldn’t classify myself as western or even the least bit country…well, I did go through a bit of a country music spell in the ’90s, but didn’t well all?  My best friend and I even went to a Little Texas concert at the county fair…hats included.  I’ve been to the Lone Star State several times.  Oh, and I’ve ridden a bull (not mechanical) and a horse.  My guardian angel is a cowboy.  He drives a dirty, old white truck (but that’s another blog.)  Maybe I am a bit country after all?  Yeah, I know…none of that really counts.

These things aside, I’ve been asking myself what’s the appeal here?  Why am I so invested in this show and these cowboys?  The answer has eluded me, but I think I’ve finally come up with something.  It’s their PERSEVERANCE.  It’s fiction and probably even cheesy fiction at that but in each episode, one of the characters must fight to save a person/critter, battle the elements, rescue a loved one, defend his/her honor, and ultimately save the day!  And it’s not easy.  One character, Heath (played by Lee Majors,) gets shot practically every other episode…and still manages to come out on top.  It’s impressive, but more than that, it’s INSPIRING.  A reminder that good guys win, one should never give up, there’s glory in overcoming obstacles, and even if you’ve been shot multiple times you can muster up the courage to go on.  (Yeah, that last one was a bit of a stretch.)

Dealing with life change isn’t easy for any of us.  Whether these changes are mental, physical, emotional, locational or even hormonal…change basically just sucks sometimes.  And in the midst of my own life changes, I’ve found westerns.  I’m not sure how everyone else is dealing with their midlife issues, but this is what works for me.  So, if you’re into westerns…and Big Valley in particular…look me up.  We can chat about our favorite characters, storylines, plot twists and answer that one unanswered question…why aren’t these heroic and extremely handsome cowboys married?  Inquiring minds want to know…

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

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Nostalgia is a B— (My Silent Mid-Life Crisis, Part IV)

The funny thing about chasing the past is that most people wouldn’t know what to do with it if they caught it.  —Atticus, poet

I am a sucker for nostalgia.  “Remember when…” and “how we used to….” followed by “back in the day….”  Yes, ALL good stuff!  In my heart, I carry around a zillion memories, stories and images, of days gone by.  I can’t help myself.  I remember our old house (the one by the church,) my Pepto-Bismol pink basement bedroom that had a closet with a secret door.  I remember awful lunch ladies who wouldn’t let me go out to recess if I didn’t try EVERYTHING on my plate.  I especially remember the one NICE lunch lady who healed my wasp sting with a special baking soda balm (in my recollection she wears a superhero cape!)  Filed away in my mind are all the important “firsts,” childhood friends, and a hidden compartment labeled NEVER, EVER DO THAT AGAIN!  Nostalgia.  Something as simple as a song or a smell can take me back.  Next thing you know, I’m lost in thought…off on my own adventure…sort of like stepping through the secret door in that old closet.  Suddenly, I’m in a completely different place…and I like it there.

Yes, nostalgia is a tricky thing.  For a control freak like myself, it’s absolutely bewitching.  I know all the plot lines, the dialogue, the setting and most importantly, the outcome.  These are my stories.  These are my people.  These are my glory days.  I think the Twilight Zone touched on this theme…the idea of “going back” —as if all our best days were behind us!  If you’re a fan of the show, you know nothing good can come from chasing the past.  And I mean nothing.  Yet…it’s tempting.  We all have that desire to relive a special moment, right a wrong, fix a relationship or situation, say words that we left unsaid…the list could go on and on.  And while the concept of nostalgia seems so benign, when one crosses the threshold of midlife, nostalgia can cause things to get ugly…fast.

Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  There’s so much wisdom in that statement.  As we reach our supposed “midpoint,” it’s natural to take inventory and evaluate our lives.  Am I in a good place? Am I happy with the choices I’ve made? Should I have chosen differently?  Before long, we start making plans for the future.  What will my second act look like?  What still needs to be done?  What should be done?  We start examining our lives internally AND externally.  Graying hair, wrinkles, shifting weight and suddenly we’re regretting every yummy dessert and cursing those not-so-funny laugh lines. Making these assessments often lends itself to comparison.  Look at what she’s doing.  Look at how far he’s come.  Look at what they’ve got.  Combine these comparisons with nostalgic reflections, mix with hormones and suddenly you’re gulping down the poison of one volatile cocktail!

Sure, nostalgia is a B—, if we blame others for the choices we made in the past, if we use it as a means of justifying today’s regrets and if we let it fuel our present dissatisfaction. But before we write nostalgia off as just another bad word, let’s do a little re-labeling. Shift our perspective, if you will. Nostalgia is a B—but what if that B stands for BLESSING?  Hear me out.  In a healthy context, one where we recount the past for the good that it set into motion…we can truly see the blessing.  In good ol’ George Bailey fashion, we can come to value the past…both the mountain top moments AND our days in the valley.  Clarence, the angel, reminds us, “One man’s life touches so many others, when he’s not there it leaves an awfully big hole.”  I don’t want to compare my life to anyone else’s.  I don’t want to wallow in regrets or seeth with envy.  I don’t want the past to keep me from moving forward.  My past (and yours) is precious.  It has set into play the person that I am today (flaws and all.)  And if I don’t like that person, I can change.  My story isn’t over (and neither is yours!)

This midlife stuff is hard.  None of us have it all figured out.  It’s important to offer yourself grace and remember, this is all normal.  And while I’m not sure that I can say that I wouldn’t change a single thing, what I can say is that I don’t regret a single moment.  The good, bad, (the uncertain) and especially the ugly.  Nostalgia is a B—, but its definition is up to me.  Plus, it will always be one of my favorite places to visit…because I know all the plot lines, the dialogue, and the settings.  These are my stories.  These are my people.  These are my glory days…and I have a few more to make in the process.

Remember the days of old; consider the years long past.  Deuteronomy 32:7

UP NEXT:  Cowboy Take Me Away (My Silent Midlife Crisis, Part V)

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Blog Gets a Podcast (aka Can You Hear Me Now?)

The written word can be erased…not so with the spoken word.  -Anonymous

This is going to sound morbid…at least that’s everyone’s response when I tell them why I decided to take my blog “next level” (yes, I’m laughing at MYSELF as I type that!)  I wanted to make sure that my kiddos knew the stories behind our Christmas traditions and, narcissistically, I wanted to make sure they heard them in my voice…FOR ALL TIME.  I mean, that’s the kind of loving mother that I am after all.

Readers who know me, often say that they can “hear” my sense of humor when they read my posts.  My close friends laugh at the snide little inside jokes and hints that I drop in my writing.  My family likes to point out that I can’t hide my snark (that’s up for debate as far as I’m concerned.)  Still, as a former broadcaster, I know that tone and inflection add that something extra to a story.  A simple pause, deliberate whisper, or a mere lilt goes a long way.  In this age of text messaging and Twitter, the spoken word’s value goes up tenfold.  Thus, the podcast.

I’m a big believer in the podcast.  I have several favorites.  Everything from news, politics and pop culture to social media theory and all things NPR.  It’s storytelling magic and I’m always surprised (sometimes pleasantly and other times not so much) to put a voice with a name.  According to Forbes magazine, at least 112 million Americans have listened to podcasts…and that number continues to grow.  A constantly connected culture, we can listen in our homes, cars, at the gym and beyond!

Let’s be real.  Truly excellent and iconic writers…we’re talking the BIG NAMES, let their words speak for themselves, but some of us (like me) could use a little help sometimes.  Connecting with an audience is a core principle of writing…and thanks to the podcast, it’s never been easier to solidify that relationship.  Besides, even Shakespeare would have jumped at the opportunity to create a podcast.  Writers are so vain.

 

 

Bing Crosby is Slowly Killing Me (Did I Say That Out Loud?)

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones I used to know….”  Bing Crosby, singer & actor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?  Exactly.

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas season is the music.   Growing up, I recall the local radio station playing Christmas music solely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  That meant that we had to get out our little boom box and cassette tapes and record as much of it as possible.  This served as “seed” music for the following Christmas.  And boy did we wear those cassette tapes out!  Today, it’s a different story.  Often times I hear Christmas music playing way before Thanksgiving…and I’m not the DJ orchestrating this holiday magic!  In shopping centers, restaurants, and even on the radio, the Christmas tunes are cranked up loud and proud early in the season.  I don’t mind really…and then again, maybe I do.

I mind because it seems that every year (without fail) one song seems to capture the season for me.  A Christmas song brain worm if you will.  On good years the song is something fun and light-hearted…a sweet ditty sung by Michael Buble, Mariah Carey or even that little cutie, Justin Beiber.  Other years, though, the song is something that stirs up a completely different (less cheery) feeling.  I don’t necessarily want to call it darker or deeper or even more soulful (yes, I know I’m talking about music and not coffee!) There’s just something about that one song that touches the most tender part of my heart…a melody that evokes such profound emotion that it almost always manifests itself in near tears (ok, occasionally one leaks out.)

In the past, these “other” songs were always familiar Christmas tunes…but for whatever reason, they took on a new flavor.  For example, a few years ago Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” could completely kill my yuletide joy.  Still, that makes sense, although I love, love Elvis, the title is “Blue Christmas.”  Other songs on this glum list include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Josh Groban with its added military personnel audio (oh, the tears,) Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” with its resounding sad tale of lost love (more tears,) and need I say ANYTHING about those stupid “Christmas Shoes” by New Song?  Boo hoo hoo.  And then there’s the overwhelming “whoa” of “Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown…just to name a few. During these years, I can’t decide whether to avoid the song completely or just play it on repeat until the feelings subside (which doesn’t work by the way.)

Today, with the onset of digital music streaming, we can customize our own playlists in a matter of minutes.  This is awesome because who doesn’t like personalized stuff?  A “just-for-me” anything speaks to the most narcissistic part of our brains and makes us feel important and special.  I’m all down for that…I have a zillion custom playlists.  So basically, my game plan is to just avoid the song altogether.  (Avoidance is one of my favorite psychological strategies.)  Still, there are algorithms. And try as we might, people, we cannot escape them!  Now that Pandora (such a fitting name by the way) knows ALL of my Christmas music favorites (thanks to the thumbs-up-thumbs-down buttons) I am at her mercy and this year’s song has been a doozy!  A Christmas classic, a favorite among favorites, such a BASIC Christmas song that it is altogether inescapable…no matter where I turn.  I’m talking about the beloved holiday staple, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  Yes, that’s the one breaking my heart this year (can I say that out loud?)

Who doesn’t love “White Christmas?”  I mean, I absolutely adore it!  It’s the best-selling Christmas song of all time!  But this year, whenever I hear it a sadness ensues.  It’s like I’m hearing this familiar tune with new ears.  I remember the song from childhood, fell in love with it AND Bing Crosby while watching the old black & white version of Holiday Inn…and the song was further impressed upon my heart when I discovered the movie of the same title a few years later.  Bing sings the song so effortlessly.  As I write this I can picture him at his piano…the debonair crooner drawing us in with this perfect song.  His voice so melodic and rich…all the casual sophistication of an American icon just pouring out of every single note.  Did I mention that I adore this song?  One can only imagine how surprised I was to find that this song, this tried and true favorite could cause me such grief.  It was like walking into a door…and I never saw it coming!

Turns out that I shouldn’t be surprised at all with the heartbreaking aspect of “White Christmas.”  It’s nostalgic.  Wistful.  There’s a sense of longing…and hope.  A wartime favorite, “White Christmas” was the song American soldiers clung to following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was a staple on Armed Forces Radio as soldiers tuned in while stationed overseas during World War II.  For many, on the war front and at home, the lyrics told of bygone days and easier times…a reminder of a “normal” that they hoped to reclaim.  For the songwriter, Irving Berlin, the lyrics were much deeper as many believe he wrote the song during a bout of extreme homesickness.  Still, other music historians claim the song was actually written to memorialize Berlin’s infant son who is said to have died on Christmas Day. Given this history, the song certainly takes on a different significance and gains a depth that I wasn’t aware of before.

For these reasons (and so many more) Bing Crosby is slowly killing me…at least he is this Christmas.  And while at first this slow, figurative death was limited to “White Christmas” it has moved far beyond.  Now, it’s EVERY Bing Crosby Christmas song…and there’s no way to avoid it.  I immediately recognize his voice and something just gets caught in my throat.  My heart sinks a little.  My eyes get damp in the corners.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve been jokingly (and seriously) blaming everything on hormones lately, but really I know it’s something more.  It’s me.  It’s today.  It’s nostalgia.  It’s dreaming.  It’s gratitude.  It’s a brokenness.  It’s hope.  It’s this present time and place.  It’s perfect and imperfect all at the same time.  It’s Christmas…just listen.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

 

 

Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

When you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household 🙂 and as a self-appointed Christmas authority I feel obligated to share these 12 little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves….

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats (and their tiny crumbs) in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend and Peet’s Holiday Blend Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup?  Of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Holiday Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without holiday movies.  My all time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Cards  I love the tradition of Christmas Cards, but I’ve noticed that this tradition is fading.  Sigh.  As someone who has lived in several states and many cities (towns) over the years, this is one of the best ways I know of to catch up with far away friends and family.  Be sure to throw in a zany family photo or funny Christmas letter!
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, my husband and I continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!

 

Country Cardio or When Introverts Exercise (My Silent Midlife Crisis, Part III)

Country music is three chords and the truth.  –Harlan Howard, songwriter

For many, the word “exercise” conjures up hundreds of negative, SWEATY connotations.  If you’re an introvert, you could likely multiply that number by a million.  And if you’re me, one could amp it up even more.  Exercise just sounds awful–exertion, perspiration, racing heart, muscle burn, etc.  Combine that with the thought of joining a gym or signing up for a class with a bunch of strangers and the idea becomes absolutely overwhelming.  So obviously, I’m not a fan…and yet, I’m also not an idiot.

Exercise is important, that’s what THEY tell us anyway.  They’re right, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it…or at least I don’t.  As an introvert, exercise has been rather tricky for me.  Fortunately, I’ve settled into a routine that hasn’t killed me (at least not yet!) and of course, I had to add my own dramatic flair to it.  I mean it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

ENTER THE EXERCISE BIKE.  You’ve probably seen the Peleton commercials and I’m definitely not that girl, but it was my inspiration.  I figured a stationary bike was perfect for me.  I could ride at my own pace, work up to a good solid routine, stay indoors, and monitor my progress all while indulging in Netflix!  Jealous, right?  It was the perfect solution…ALMOST.  It wasn’t long before I decided that this was a little too easy.  I mean the saying goes, “no pain, no gain,” right?  So I decided I needed to add an element of suffering AND discomfort to my cycling.  Thus, the Country CARDIO music playlist was born.

These 11 country songs fuel my 10-mile daily ride all the while generating an emotional punch that stirs up just the right amount of heartbreak, memories (good and bad,) and tearfulness.   From the very first song to the last song, I experience a rollercoaster of feelings…love found, love lost, break-ups, good times, hopefulness, hopelessness, dreams shattered, dreams fulfilled and more.  Yes, all good stuff!  And while I only truly loved country music for a few years in the 1990s, these songs are near and dear to my heart today.  I can remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and all the circumstances surrounding each song.  It’s like unlocking a memory treasure chest with each pedal turn…the perfect compliment to my current midlife crisis.

All the nostalgia of George Strait and Garth Brooks combined with girl power ballads from Martina McBride and The Dixie Chicks (yes, I’ve forgiven them,) intertwined with Tracy Byrd, Vince Gill, and Brooks & Dunn.  (Betcha can’t guess which song is my favorite?)  The memories span from leaving home for college to moving halfway across the country AND BACK, plus so many more.  One minute I’m so grateful for everything, then a simple song change has me feeling all melancholy in a lonesome bar somewhere.  Another song has me completely heartbroken and the next musical selection reminds me how much I learned from that same heartache.  To quote one favorite, “And the words of every sad song seem to say what I think….”  Sure, it’s a tad dramatic, but that’s what makes it perfect.

So maybe I don’t work myself into a total sweaty mess on these little treks, but I know that I feel like I’ve run a marathon when I’m done…even if it’s just an emotional one.  My bike doesn’t have an incline setting to induce burning thighs, but I’m satisfied with the melodramatic pain.  I might not be building tons of muscle, but know that in one way or another I’m growing stronger.  Somehow it all seems like enough.  When I step off the bike, I feel accomplished.  I feel empowered–like I’ve done something and been somewhere.  I feel sore and worn…and there might even be some perspiration, too.  Sounds like exercise to me…

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.   – Philippians 4:13

UP NEXT: Nostalgia is a B— (My Silent Midlife Crisis, Part IV)

 

 

 

 

Parents are Perpetual LOSERS (Looking for the Win Column)

“The first 40 years of parenthood are always the hardest” – Unknown

I guess it’s fair to say that we’ve hit the “rocky stage.”  It’s the craggy valley where your kids try your patience, serve up dozens of complaints, defy you at every turn, accuse you of the most outlandish things (like purposefully ruining their lives!) and all before Cheerios.  I believe the marketing industry categorizes this phase of adolescence as “tween,” but that sounds a little too benign for this particular stage of development.  And while I’m not sure how we got here, (as far as I can tell) there are no posted signs for the nearest exit.  The most baffling part (at least for me) is that just when I think things can’t get any crazier and I start wondering who these children REALLY belong to, I find myself the recipient of a hug and a warm smile.

04-ecardSo what’s up?  It’s the same old story.  Only it seems all the more confusing since I’m the Mom actually living through it.  I feel like the victim of some kind of psychological warfare, thus making it hard to balance what I know is age appropriate behavior with these outrageous episodes.  I know enough to realize that I wasn’t the perfect child.  Yet, I still seem to think that on so many levels I had to be a little easier than my two kiddos.  “Can I have this?  Can you get me that?  If I do this, then will you…” (fill in the blank with some outlandish request), followed by, “Do I have to?” and “You CAN’T make me!” It’s like we stepped back in time and I’m the mother of toddlers again.  Suddenly, the automatic kid response to everything is “No” accompanied with eye rolling (that’s new) and foot stomping.  I shudder to think of what might happen if the two actually got along long enough to conspire against my husband and I.  My sweet, darling daughter often takes her cues from her older brother which only seems to compound the problem.  And whoever said that boys were easier than girls doesn’t know squat about my household.  So what’s a Mom to do?

Basically, I pray a lot.  I try to understand where they’re coming from and channel my own tween years.  I take a deep breath and sometimes I actually have to ESCAPE to my happy place.  I remind myself that parenting is not easy.    In fact, it’s pretty much a thankless job.  And I think that’s the part that bothers me the most.  That’s the part that hurts so much.  The lack of gratitude.  These children have EVERYTHING.  I’m not just talking about material things, these children absolutely have the whole, wide world laid out before them!  My brain knows that their lack of gratitude isn’t something I should take personally, but still my heartstrings can’t help but feel heavy and pulled and sometimes even FRAYED at the end of the day.  It’s tiresome, worrying and basically not much fun.

On bad days…well, it’s bad.  Good days (as in 24 continuous hours of bliss) are hard to come by.  That’s why I’m trying to hang on (and find hope in) the little things.  I’ve secretly started calling these rare occurrences “Mom-tastic Moments.”  They’re the small victories that I tuck into my heart and hold on to for dear life.  They stack up like this….

win column

Like with anything, the good times are unpredictable and unscheduled.  The outrageous moments seem to happen at the most inconvenient times.  And since this parenting thing doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to call upon my own life experiences to get by…and sometimes that makes for a parent-child disconnect.  For example, I remember how much my husband laughed when he overheard me telling our newborn, “If this breastfeeding thing is going to work out, you’re going to have to learn to FOCUS.”  Needless to say, my baby didn’t choose to listen to me (even at two days old) and we had to move on to bottle feeding.  Short-term loss, long-term gain (the kid had to eat right?)  And many years later, my rational approach to life still gets trumped by these two irrational beings.  I’ve read all the books, researched and googled every problem, and (in desperation) I’ve even tried to reason with them!  Most of which has gotten me nowhere.  So while I’m still neck-deep in this motherhood thing, here’s What I Now Know (WINK) about parenting:

  • THERE’S POWER IN NUMBERS.  Don’t go at this parenting thing alone.  I know the two parent household isn’t the norm for everyone, and that’s okay.  As much as you can, involve the other parent, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and even trusted friends.  Role models do not have to be blood related.  Many times things that I have harped on my kids about become an “aha” experience when the same advice comes out of the mouth of an adult other than myself.  I’m way over feeding any sort of parenting ego…if there’s someone else who can aid my efforts and serve as a voice of reason, then by all means 🙂
  • MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS KNOWN.  Not all things go as planned, but I’m slowly finding that if I speak up about what I expect from my kiddos then at least we’re all on the same page (if only for a brief second.)  No–this doesn’t mean everything will go perfectly, but it’s better than having that horrible conversation after everything has gone wrong only to hear your child say to you, “Well, why didn’t you tell me that’s what you wanted in the beginning” or “I didn’t know that’s how it was supposed to go down.”  Although they sometimes act like three-year olds, I find that things go a lot smoother when I approach them with clear “big kid” expectations.
  • DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY.  This is probably the hardest one.  I really try to live by the golden rule.  I’m not sure this is a priority for my kids…and I have to remind myself to cut them some slack.  Science reminds us of all the growth and development that takes place in a child’s mind.  Researchers have proven that a “mature,” functioning brain (complete with a rationale for risk taking) doesn’t exist until one’s early 20s.  Obviously, they’re not going to be perfect.  I often remind myself (and them) that we all have feelings, words and actions both speak volumes, and that we’re a family that LOVES each other.  Some days are better than others.
  • IT’S OKAY TO BE A LOSER.  This one is going to need some clarification.  Remember how I mentioned short-term loss, long-term gain?  That’s parenting in a nut shell.  We lose a lot in this exchange:  sleep, control, time, energy, money, arguments…and the list could go on and on.  The gains don’t typically take place in the parenting trenches.  Often times they come much (much) later.  It’s a miracle to me that any of us signed up to do this! But then I think about the gains:  smiles, hugs, love, and eventually…appreciation, respect, and wisdom 🙂  This is big picture stuff, and the big stuff never is (and maybe shouldn’t be) easy.
  • CALL YOUR MOM (a lot.)  She has a way of putting things into focus.  My mom reminds me that I’m not the first mother to go through this and that it’s all NORMAL.  I need to hear it and you probably do, too!  Mothers who have graduated into “grandmotherhood” have an insight and a perspective that just cannot be matched.  Besides, acknowledging your mother’s hard-earned wisdom is a heartwarming way of showing your mother how much you love and appreciate her…even if it took you decades to get there!  No one person has had more influence on my life than my mom…and she deserves to know that!

I am far from the perfect parent.  There are still days when I’m as far away from the win column as any one person can get.  I lose my cool more often that I like.  But, like most of us, I’m in it for the long haul–these kids have my whole heart 🙂  For some crazy reason, (as irrational as it sounds) I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  And when my children are 40…well, maybe (just maybe) I’ll get that win column tally mark I’ve been waiting for….  Hope you get yours, too!

😉 What I Now Know (W.I.N.K.) is a recurring entry on this blog.  The idea of WINK as an acronym popped into my head the other day while I was doing laundry.  You see, aside from being a slave to housework I actually have quite a bit of knowledge filed away in my overworked brain.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, I know something about a few subjects that just might be worth sharing.  And just like that this new blog idea was born–WINK (What I Now Know).  I hope to share a little bit of what I’ve learned as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother and all-around regular, ordinary girl.  Look for ongoing posts, but What I Now Know (as a busy wife and mother) is not to promise weekly entries because life happens– and it usually happens when I want to blog!  (Here’s where if I could wink at you, I WOULD.)