There are only 18 summers in childhood. -author unknown
To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing about this song. I decided to include “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. on my summer playlist for two reasons. First, I remember it playing practically non-stop last summer (2016) and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around its success. And second, because (eventually) its haunting lyrics and melody spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.
A piano ballad on the Billboard Top 100 might be unusual, but the term “unusual” pretty much describes this song from start to finish. The Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. said she wrote the first line of the song after watching the television show Once Upon a Time. She then “debuted” her partial song via the Vine app. Fans encouraged her to write a full song, and thanks to internet demand, she released a YouTube video in late 2015. Record labels finally took notice and an official music video arrived in Spring 2016. Many in the industry thought the idea of a song about Peter Pan simply wouldn’t fly (pun intended.) Several said it was too “Disney” and others wrote it off as anything but a summer music hit. Obviously, they were wrong. A ballad about a young boy who refuses to grow up, a rebel of sorts who will not conform, a carefree character who chooses fantasy over reality…it was a song that resonated with so many…even a 40 something year old mom.
“Lost Boy” was the song that played on the radio when we headed to the ballpark and played again on the long rides home. On nights when our team won, the song’s melody suggested that these were absolutely the very best days. Peter Pan was definitely on to something–never, ever grow up! On nights when the team lost, the song resounded with a heartbreaking quality. A reminder that perhaps these were indeed “lost” years, where boys transform into men despite the alluring idea of living in “Neverland.” Watching your children grow up is something that no one can prepare you for…believe me, I know. I’ve read all the books, sought out advice from everyone under the sun and I still sit in awe. My mind can barely wrap itself around the idea that these kiddos are becoming adults and my heart practically refuses to believe this is even a possibility. Yet here we are.
I remember what it was like to be fifteen. It was the absolute best and it was the absolute worst. It was fun and it was lonely. It was exciting and it was scary. It was pivotal. Neverland never looked so good (at least to this mom.)
Summertime is always the best of what might be. –Charles Bowden
As soon as the first warm rays of sunshine arrive, this song comes to mind! Suddenly, it’s 1985 and all is right in the world. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves was a chart topper when I was just 10 years old. Double digits, no worries or cares and summer was so close I could practically taste it (the song was released in May.) There are two things I find absolutely charming about this little ditty…1) despite the fact that this tune came out more than 30 years ago, my kids practically know all the words AND 2) the song has one of the most dreariest music video settings EVER!
Thanks to pop culture, “Walking on Sunshine” has been the catchy, upbeat, background track to more than a handful of movies and television shows, it’s been highlighted in a variety of commercials, and is featured on countless “best of summer” playlists. The song has been rerecorded at least three times and is a universally popular cover for bands worldwide…making it hard to believe that it was the group’s only top 40 hit in the U.S. Searching up the video on YouTube is a real treat, too! Hard to believe that this song, which invokes so many sunny, feel good vibes, was shot on an incredibly gray, bleak (typical?) day in England.
As a kid, I really only remember cranking it up on the radio while eating popsicles and dancing around my mom’s kitchen. Now, it’s a permanent feature on my own summer music playlist. I still crank it up today…in my own kitchen, of course (popsicles optional.)
MOMS. Because not all superheroes wear capes! -author unknown
In case you didn’t know it, that’s MOM upside down!
Okay, all kidding aside, WOW is the only word that comes to mind for me this Mother’s Day. I’m not sure what made this year’s holiday different, but I feel very compelled to give a huge shout out to other mothers today. I feel like belting out a great big THANK YOU…complete with song and dance (not to mention a few hugs!) But mostly, I just want you all to know that I see you and I really just couldn’t do this mothering thing without you.
Some have said that being a mother is the most important job on the planet. Something along the lines of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” And there’s plenty more sayings out there to describe motherhood (and, believe it or not, most of them are favorable!) Still there’s nothing like being deep in the parenting trenches to remind you that you cannot do this alone. We need each other…sometimes desperately. I need you to be my eyes and ears, I need you to catch my kids doing good AND to give me the heads up when they make poor decisions. I need you to double-check our kids whereabouts and sleepover plans with me…because communicating in the tween/teen years can be difficult and responsibility/accountability are crucial. I need you to share advice and help me navigate through tough situations. And I need you to be loving examples, safe places, and trusted adults whom my kids can turn to, if needed. And I promise to do the same…because motherhood is an interesting club. It’s not necessarily hard to join (although I’m sensitive to the fact that it can be.) There’s no pre-mom exam. No age limit. No “green light.” Some of us fit in from the get go. Others clamor to get in. Some of us enter hesitantly, if not reluctantly. Many of us trudge through. And some of us never quite find our place. Regardless, once you’re in…YOU’RE IN. And there’s no guarantee of success in this club. There’s no real manual. No graduation. And sometimes, in spite of the numbers, it can be a pretty lonely place. I can’t speak for everybody, but for myself I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into. Albeit the oldest of four, growing up in a very large extended family, having countless hours of babysitting under my belt and with a “mother hen” type personality…I never felt like I was ready. In fact, during my teen years and early twenties, I was pretty dead set against becoming a mother. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t up for the task. At age 26, my son was born…and while this was a well thought out and planned event I still knew on some level that I had no idea what I was in for (despite all my research)–and I was right!
We all know that our bodies change when we have a child. Hormones fluctuate, things shift, etc., but what happens to your heart has to be the most remarkable, extraordinary change of all! While the other changes occur over a matter of months, it seems that your heart changes almost immediately. Your priorities change, your instincts change, your thought processes change…basically, what I’m trying to say here is that EVERYTHING changes. What I was really least prepared for was the general roller coaster ride of motherhood. The wins and the losses. The ups and the downs. I’m pretty much a planner (and a bit of a control freak) and motherhood is everything but a well-defined plan and you can throw any hope of control out the window. Plan A quickly moves through the alphabet to Plan Z, and in no set pattern. What works one day (and for one child) quickly falls to the wayside in lieu of something completely different for another child (or the same kiddo down the road.) Uggghhh.
So for all this (and so much more) I continue to look to you, fellow mothers. Without other mothers, I’m not sure where I would be. I’m grateful to have my own mother to serve as an example and a guide. Grateful for a mother-in-law who offers love and encouragement. Grateful for a sister, who lovingly mothers all the nieces and nephews and her own stepkids with a natural mothering gift. I’m grateful for sister-in-laws who treat my kids like their own. And I’m especially grateful for the mothers of my children’s friends, the “church” moms, the “teacher” moms, the “neighbor” moms and other mothers in my community. You all ROCK! BIG thanks for your kind hearts, for the rides to and from practices/games, for the driving them through the fast food line and including them in your family plans. Thank you for the birthday cakes, countless sleepovers, day trips and shopping excursions. Thanks for bridging the gap when our family schedules were overloaded. Thank you for sharing photos of my kids and yours just doing their thing. Thank you for the “Walmart Updates.” Thank you for not judging them harshly, for understanding that they are in a unique circumstance (as are most kids) and for offering them grace and love. Thank you for including them in your family life. And thank you for your example…often times it’s your own mothering actions that speak volumes.
So let’s forget the mom-shaming, the parenting peer pressure, and all the other nonsense. And instead, keep breathing life and love into each other’s kiddos. Keep talking, keep texting, keep cheering, keep showing up and keep vigilant. Please continue to keep your eyes open…looking out for my kids and others. Thank you for filling my ears (and heart) with bright spots that you see in my children. I see the same bright spots in your kiddos, too!
We truly are on each other’s team. Happy, happy Mother’s Day!
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. –Bruce Lee
People ask questions. Some appropriate, some inappropriate. Some thoughtful, some downright stupid. I have to admit that as I’ve aged I’ve noticed that I’m often on the receiving end of very polite queries (because being 40-something has its perks?) Gone are the days of fielding ridiculous questions from peers. Adios, unseemly questions from guys. It seems like the only people with a license to ask me anything personal has been narrowed down to family and a few close friends. It’s not that I’m anti-question…I just think for the most part my matronly disposition wins out–“respect your elders” and all that. I wouldn’t even be entertaining the topic of questions if it hadn’t come up recently. And when I went to file it away in my little brain I realized that I put it in a folder that I’ve labeled “My Least Favorite Question,” and let me tell you…this file is getting thick.
The funny thing about this file is that My Least Favorite Question has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my kids. I’m trying to decide if I’m overreacting…and if nothing else, just get to the root of why it bothers me so much. So here it is. My heart absolutely sinks when people ask my kids, “Are you going to be a Pastor like your Dad when you grow up?” It probably doesn’t sound like much but it’s bothered me for years and now that my kiddos are getting older (tween & teen,) it actually bothers me more. I mean, if your mom’s a teacher does that mean you’re going into education? If your dad sells insurance is that your child’s assumed destiny? Not necessarily, right? So hear me out. I would love for my children to go into the ministry! What an amazing blessing it would be to see my children choose to serve the church full-time. I would be so incredibly proud if they opted to attended seminary/Bible college and become ordained clergy. I can think of nothing better. Still I cringe when people ask…mostly because I think it is unfair. Unfair…and maybe even detrimental to their faith development.
If you have a minute just google “pastors kids” or “PKs.” There’s a lot more out there than I expected…and most of it negative. Despite the stereotypes, I’ve tried really hard to raise “regular” kids. “Regular” kids who go to church. I remind them that they are loved by God, created for a purpose, and gifted with talents and abilities. These are things that I think all parents should say to their children. They are not more special than anyone else, set aside or placed on any sort of pedestal. They are works in progress (as we all are) and yet in a recent conversation I’ve discovered (again) that they have been placed in uncomfortable positions and asked faith questions that no youth should have to answer to. One child responds politely (perhaps because this child hasn’t been asked particularly difficult questions yet) while the other child has been asked about homosexuality, evolution vs. creation, validity of the Bible, and more. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t answer these questions as a kid…I’m not sure I want to debate these questions as an adult…let alone with someone older or in a more authoritative position than myself. It’s not right…and it never takes place while my husband and I are around.
In this latest exchange, my child was so put off by the questioning that the only way to move the conversation forward was to change the subject altogether. And for the first time, I sensed a weariness in the retelling…almost like this might not be worth it. God. Faith. Church. Often times, Christians are characterized as being judgemental, but I’m pretty sure it works both ways. I hate that this happened (again.) I can only imagine how uncomfortable this must be…to have what was a fun evening with friends, suddenly interrupted by an adult who puts you on the spot about what your Dad does for a living. So now I’m scrambling…for coping mechanisms and tools, for words and remedies. How can I make this better? How can I better prepare them? Being a Pastor is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is being a Christian or going to church. In a world where anything goes, why does this put my kiddos on the hot seat?
Here’s a newsflash…these kids didn’t choose their parent’s profession. These kids didn’t go to Bible college alongside their parents. And I’m pretty sure these kids aren’t giving sermons on Sunday morning. Today, I know of a handful of PKs who have left their faith…and statistics point to so many more like them. Each story varies but a couple of comments stick out like “glass house,” never feeling like a “regular kid,” and “negative experiences.” Countless blogs and articles have been written about these types of hurts. Intense feelings that lead them to walk away from God altogether. My heart sinks more. I’m not asking that you handle my children with kid-gloves. I’m asking that you not single them out, understand that they’re not Biblical scholars, and please stop asking them if they’re going into the ministry (because if they do, I’ll let you know. In fact, I’ll probably throw a party!) In the meantime, just let them be “regular” kids…”regular” kids who go to church.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” Matthew 7:12
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…. –Meredith Willson
You know the Christmas trees you see at the store? The pretty ones that they put in the windows and on display for everyone to gawk at and fawn over. The perfect ones that force you to stop in your tracks and make your mind ponder (just for a moment) if perhaps you’re really ready for a “grown-up” tree. The kind of tree that screams I have style AND taste. Yeah, I’ve seen those trees, too….
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of them. Not just at the stores, but on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (the social media list goes on and on) and even in the homes of family members and friends. It seems to me that everyone has one of these beautifully accessorized trees. And this sort of thing stands out to me, not because I’m envious or jealous but more from a place of sheer admiration. You see, I LOVE Christmas trees…all kinds (and especially the Charlie Brown one,) but in my heart of hearts I always imagined that I, too, would have one of these special Christmas trees…a “magazine ready,” picture perfect tree.
My Mom has that kind of Christmas tree. I can remember the red apple tree, the blue and silver bulb tree, and the crystal snowflake tree, among others. I always assumed that would be my destiny–like mother, like daughter. In fact, I tried really hard to have one many moons ago. When I met my husband he had a Christmas tree in his living room…in May. Granted it was a mini TV top tree, but he had it on display for Memorial Day, I guess (oh, and a plush Thanksgiving turkey was placed next to it, too, probably to welcome the summer season.) I took this as a sign that he wasn’t much into decorating and eventually I filed it away as proof that I would be in charge of all holiday décor. So when we graduated from tiny, dorm apartment living and moved to a home in Salina, I figured this was my big break. I was going to do Christmas my way. I remember telling my Mom that I was going for a blue/white/silver snowman theme. She purchased ornaments to get me started and I began to gather all the “right” accessories as well. Our son, Sean, was just over a year old, and after photos with Santa one night, we came home to decorate the tree. And while I was strategizing and putting a final game plan together, Steve and Sean were already placing ornaments on the tree. What?
Turns out these ornaments were from Steve’s childhood along with a few others that his mother had passed down to us. (I’m still not sure where this box came from.) Sean looked thrilled as several of these ornaments were football related. And I remember stopping in my tracks and thinking that 49er red really didn’t go with my snowman theme…at all. Obviously, a “discussion” ensued. That Christmas the tree was properly adorned with blue/white/silver snowman themed items and EVERY ornament my husband had ever owned in his life. I figured I had lost the battle, but certainly not the war. There was always next year, and the year after that, and the one after that. The odds, however, were not in my favor.
Please don’t feel bad for me. It really wasn’t a make or break deal. I love Christmas and pretty much all things Christmas related. So we moved on and it wasn’t until Sean was in preschool that I finally got on board with the “all-things, everything” kind of Christmas tree. When that sweet-faced little boy brought me his first homemade ornament from school and proceeded to put it on the tree…well, my heart melted. He was so proud of himself. A little man contributing to a holiday that I loved so much. Sean would tell me in his tiny voice, “I made it for you.” So naturally every scribbled on, wadded up, half-glued, misshapen ornament made its way onto the tree–as it should. And when Casey came along, well her “contributions” went up right along side his.
As you can imagine, after more than a decade of “contributions” amassed from school AND church, we now have quite a collection going. Add to it EVERY ornament we have ever received from relatives, friends, plus our church family, and it amounts to 7 boxes of Christmas knickknack goodies. Every year the tree is quite full (this may be an important factor when you consider the number of times the tree has fallen over the years,) but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Spencer Family Christmas tree is full of as many stories and memories as it is ornaments. This year the kids asked me if we really had to hang every last trinket from the boxes. I guess they thought that maybe the “bead ornament” (there really is no other name for it since it resembles absolutely NOTHING ever known to man) and the “paper Jesus candy cane” may have seen better days. “If there’s room on the tree, then there’s room for it,” was my constant reply. And while I think the “all-things, everything” kind of Christmas tree has roots in my husband’s Christmas tradition, he is the one who announces every year that “it looks like Christmas threw up in here!” At least he says it with a smile.
Our tree is still up (it’s New Year’s Day,) it’s leaning to the side as is its custom during the 12 Days of Christmas, and the ornaments are taking themselves down (with a mini thud!) The Christmas “spew” extends well beyond the tree to the fireplace mantel, hearth, the piano and into the dining room, and it will…for at least another week. Yes, it STILL looks like Christmas in here and everywhere we go…even if it’s the regurgitated type. Falalalala Lalalala!
I get obsessed with decorations and decorating the house. I keep it tasteful outside, but when you get inside it is a bit like Blackpool illuminations, I go BONKERS! –Johnny Vegas
Stay tuned for Christmas Trilogy, Part 3: The Sticky Nativity
I’ll admit that I don’t watch a lot of MTV these days, but I so clearly remember when the network first debuted in the 80s. Practically THE perfect channel (in my adolescent assessment,) as it was brilliantly simple–music videos with young, hip, fun personalities known as video jockeys (VJs.) The ability to tune in to my favorite songs, 24/7, served as the backdrop to my tween and teen years and I’m sure that was the story for countless others from my generation. And while reminiscing about Paula Abdul videos, Yo! MTV Raps, Pauly Shore and MTV News typically bring a smile to my face, it’s at this time EVERY year that my thoughts about MTV merely result in a long, sad sigh as the network offers up the its annual MTV Music Awards show.
Right now the web is blowing up with critiques and reaction to Sunday night’s show. The annual offering was pretty hard to miss given that it runs live on several Viacom channels aside from MTV. And while you couldn’t avoid it, there were plenty of reasons one might try to. Obviously, the show is edgy. It was edgy back in the day, but somehow the definition of edgy has been changed from simply “pushing the limits of good taste” to “practically naked” and “high on drugs.” Hence the long, sad, sigh.
I am a big music fan (I have kids so I think it’s important to know WHO and WHAT they’re listening to) and believe it or not, I was actually very familiar with most of the performers and nominees. I am genuinely impressed by the talent and creativity that goes into making a hit song, I just wish it could be different. The pop psychologist in me wonders if these music celebrities would be any less successful or culturally relevant if they decided to keep their clothes on and skip the pre-awards show doobie? I have a feeling those with true musical talent would still find fame, but those whose celebrity relies upon sensationalism might not. I guess that’s what they call “famous, for being famous.” My biggest disappointment in all this is that I’ve seen research that suggests provocative clothing (or lack there of,) foul language and drug references actually make today’s teens that much more inclined to like a song or artist. Apparently, marketing and public relations gurus are also hip to this trend as many advise their celebrity clients to continue to push the boundaries. Listen, I was young once…we all want to push a little, test the waters, and see what else it out there as part of declaring our independence from our parents, peers, etc. That’s pretty typical, but somewhere along the way we’ve also opened the door AND placed a welcome mat out to some pretty disappointing, potentially dangerous and scary behavior. Long, sad sigh.
The optimist in me keeps looking for a little glimmer of hope…a sampling of the fun, nostalgic MTV of days gone by, but that’s a pretty tall order for a network that has used sensationalism as its stepping stone toward continued relevance. Several writers have outlined their top ten moments from this year’s show and while I could recall each of these episodes…none of them stood out as great or outstanding. Most of them weren’t even about the music. Again…long, sad sigh. Just another f-bomb laden, almost nude, drug-promoting, angry ranting awards show. For me, the best part of the show was not what was taking place on the television, but rather my family’s reaction to the whole thing. I wish I had kept a tally for every time my husband asked “why we were watching this show, when we could change the channel, and if the show was over yet?” My tween daughter opted to watch YouTube tutorials in her room, and my teenage son didn’t even know the show was on (boy, I dodged a bullet there!)
No doubt the coverage of this event will continue. Miley Cyrus will be critiqued, the feud between her and Nicki Minaj will further develop, a reporter will be assigned to find out why Justin Beiber was in tears, and a campaign team is likely assembling now for Kanye’s presidential run. It’s all just a little too much. As I type this, plans are probably in the works for next year’s award show, but as much as I ascribe to the “devil you know” mantra…MTV just might have to count me out. I think I’m done.
When you get something like MTV, it’s like regular television. You get it, and at first it’s novel and brand new and then you watch every channel, every show. And then you become a little more selective and more selective, until ultimately… you wind up with a radio. David Lee Roth
In a former life I worked as a TV news reporter. It was my dream job! I say that because when I was an eight year old little girl, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. It’s a pretty big word for a second-grader, but…I liked big words! My focus was so intense that while many of my peers played “house” and Barbies, I often cajoled family and friends into playing “TV News Station” in my basement. It was my favorite game 🙂
While most kids outgrow or revamp their ideal job, mine never really wavered. One of my most treasured memories growing up was getting to visit a “real” TV news station. In the small, southwestern Kansas town where I lived we were lucky enough to have a news bureau. A small building way out in the country with a giant antenna, a few offices and an actual news studio. I got to see how the news was produced, watch the anchor/reporter get ready for live reports, check out the teleprompter and they even let me sit at the news desk. I loved every minute! Those outings only furthered my desire to make it in the news business.
A self-avowed news junkie, I often surprised teachers with my knowledge of current events. Even at a young age, I gobbled up newspapers and watched the national nightly news (sidebar, Tom Brokaw was my secret crush!) Throughout high school I wrote for the newspaper and took courses in broadcasting. After graduation, declaring a major was a no-brainer. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed pursuing this passion in college. The university I attended offered so many wonderful hands-on opportunities in broadcasting. I learned about both the radio and television side of the news from wonderful professors who I adore to this day. I never really considered it work, it was all just incredibly challenging, invigorating and oh so much FUN! So when I landed my first internship and later my first job in the industry, I felt like I had won the lottery. Listen up, kids…dreams do come true!
So why am I writing about this now? I left the business many years ago and I haven’t set foot in a newsroom in over a decade, but when I heard about the tragedy in Virginia yesterday it really hit me–hard…and in a way that I wasn’t expecting. While making bag lunches for my kiddos to take to school, I stood there in disbelief, my heart immediately aching for the families and friends of those involved. As more information was shared throughout the day, my disbelief continued. Look, I told you that I’m a devout news junkie (almost to a fault) and we know that for the most part the news is TRAGIC…daily and tragic. So why was I so stunned?
It wasn’t until later that evening when my daughter and I went to pick up my son from church youth group that my personal grief came into focus. She asked me, “Mom, when you worked in news was it scary? Did you ever think someone would kill you?” I told her that I loved working as a reporter, that it was exciting and rewarding. There were so many parts of the business that I truly loved…especially the people I worked with. I shared with her that while I had covered stories in some questionable and unfamiliar places that at no point was I ever fearful. No sooner had I uttered those words did I realize that this was the source of my heavy heart. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were doing their jobs that morning. A live shot for a story about tourism. Look, it doesn’t get anymore benign than that in the news industry. They were young, energetic, had their whole lives ahead of them and they never, EVER saw it coming. And while I can’t relate with most tragedies that make the news, I could relate to this one. I had been there before…making small talk before the shoot, holding a microphone, adjusting my outfit one more time before the cameraman gave his cue.
I don’t want to believe that this is the world we live in, but I’m not naïve. We will probably hear a lot more about this story because (in case you didn’t know) news people take care of their own. As we watch an entire industry come to grips with such a graphic example of workplace violence, we will no doubt hear new details about all of the events leading up to this tragedy. These details will be magnified, politicized, examined, and theorized… all in the next few days. An outsider might chalk this up to just another disgruntled employee seeking some sort of revenge and move on, but for those inside the news business there will be many, many questions. And likely, no good answers.
Yesterday reminded me of the many wonderful people I worked with waaaaaaay back in the day. I want you to know that I saw your posts on social media and I recall the early mornings together, leaving work in the wee hours of the night, being called in at ridiculously, horrible hours in the a.m., covering good news stories, and retelling tragedies. But what I remember most was the family like atmosphere that truly exists at news stations across the country. We spent countless weekends together, numerous holidays and essentially some pretty big and meaningful days of our lives with one another. My heart goes out to those who mourn the loss of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward whose lives were struck down so tragically as they only intended to report the news and not be the news on that fateful morning. If I’ve learned anything in the business, it’s that most of us started out with a pretty big dream and that those who choose this profession do so hoping to change the world (for the better.)
And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place. Christiane Amanpour