WINK ;) 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.)

Thank God for the Gift of Fear (with Nods to Gavin de Becker and Oprah)

giftoffearIntuition is God whispering.  –author unknown

It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly scared. You know–hands trembling, what in the world should I do next, I just might throw up…kind of scared. And yet that’s exactly where I found myself this week and I’d do just about anything NOT to feel that way ever again. That’s why I’m writing this…to help me process what happened, but also to remind each one of us (and women in particular) to mind that little voice–it’s our God-given intuition…the gift of fear.

Let me start at the beginning…the very beginning (bear with me here.)  While Oprah Winfrey and I have been on the outs for several years (LOL), I was at one time a huge fan and watched her show as regularly as any college aged kid could without purposefully arranging their class schedule.  One day I happened to catch an episode that honestly changed that way I live my life.  Oprah was featuring an author and security issues specialist named Gavin de Becker.  You may recall that many of the show’s episodes centered around empowering women and his book titled “The Gift of Fear” focused on the importance of trusting your gut because so often intuition is our best guide (and sometimes our only hope) in alarming situations!  This isn’t a religious or faith-based book, but I read it as further confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our everyday lives.  I took his advice and suggestions to heart for a number of reasons…1) I am a small person, young (at the time) and female…all of which could make me an easy mark, 2) the advice was practical and empowering, and 3) I felt like intuition was a God-given gift that had served me well in the past.  I believe this book crossed my path for a reason and since 1997 it has never been far from my mind.

Having lived in small and large communities, frequenting cities and as a traveler in general, I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings.  Being a news junkie doesn’t hurt (it’s a crazy world out there, right?)  I will admit…I may be a little high-strung when it comes to personal safety, but like I mentioned before I think the advice in this book (the validation that comes from trusting your gut) has proven itself on at least a handful of occasions in my life.  I can immediately recall a few scary situations where I put the tools from the book into practice…like while viewing an apartment with a questionable potential landlord, parking on a side street with my infant son and walking at night in the Bay Area, and being approached by an overly aggressive woman asking for money in a Dillon’s parking lot in Wichita.  In each of these scenarios that little voice spoke and the advice from the book came back into focus.

woman being followed DSThis isn’t a fun subject.  As women, this is a weight that we carry.  Men don’t fear for their personal safety like we do.  For years I dwelt on the fact that this just didn’t seem fair.  It affects my life everyday.  I’m careful about where I park, I’m overprotective of my kids, I try to assess every situation.  But I must confess:  I do get lazy.  I’m guilty of letting my guard down and it frustrates me.  This is part of the reason for this blog post.

Yesterday, while making a stop at a local store in my small town I was followed into the building by a strange man.  I noticed him immediately.  His demeanor seemed shifty and he was with a woman who did not enter the store, but instead waited just outside the main entrance.  The guy followed me as I went searching for two unrelated items on opposite ends of the store.  My antenna went up.  I thought it was odd that he turned down the same wrong aisle I turned into.  He made his way into the cleaning supplies aisle where I was and never looked at anything or picked anything up.  When I zig-zagged through the store in a an attempt to lose him he continued to follow, my mind was racing.  Imagine my surprise when this guy appeared to be looking directly at me from the jewelry section.  I again changed course immediately.  I needed to get out of this store!  I purchased my one item (having abandoned the need for the other item) and made my way to the exit…with him about 10 steps behind.  He had purchased nothing in the store.  Even as I type this my mind is trying to rationalize his behavior.  The urge to be “nice,” to not be so suspicious,  and to dismiss my uneasiness keeps creeping into my thoughts even at this very moment.  “Oh, he probably just needed some help.  You’re overreacting.  He wasn’t trying to scare you.  You let your imagination run wild.”  NO.  I heard God’s voice whisper to me.  I have no doubt about that.  I make no apologies for responding to my intuition.

The thing that gets me, though, is that the little flutter in my stomach first occurred before I entered the parking lot that day.  As I crossed the intersection to get to the store I clearly heard a whisper that said, “You don’t want to go there.”  But I didn’t listen.  I just wanted to pick up two items and go.  “What’s the big deal?” I told myself.  When I parked the car, I noticed that things didn’t feel right.  I still went in.  I want to be the kind of person who believe in the goodness of mankind, but I have to remember that this is a broken world.  I have to remember to trust the voice.

As I scrambled to get out of the store, I called my husband and let him know what was going on.  I had my keys ready.  My gut tried to soothe my panic by telling me that I was doing everything right.  I couldn’t get to the car fast enough.  As I pulled away, I saw the guy standing outside the store scanning the parking lot.  Look, I live in a small, safe community.  My intention here is NOT to scare anyone, but I will not discount what I felt.  I refuse to disqualify that voice.

Ladies, if you have not heard of this book…please consider getting your hands on a copy.  We need to know that it’s okay (in fact, it’s wise) to listen to our intuition.  It doesn’t make us unkind, not nice or even hateful to look after yourself or your loved ones.  I’m not saying we should walk around on edge all the time or believe that at any moment something horrific could happen to us.  I just want to remind myself and others to trust God more fully and to be open to his nudging in all that we do and everywhere that we go.

When I finally calmed down (several minutes and miles later),  I said a prayer.  I apologized for not responding to the Holy Spirit while I crossed the intersection.  I apologized for not leaving the parking lot when that bad feeling first came over me.  And at the same time, I thanked God for prompting me into a state of awareness and for giving me the ability to see the situation clearly.  The gift of fear…that Divine presence and the book again coming into focus all at once.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalm 46:1  

Excerpt from The Gift of Fear

It Really is HOW You Play the Game….

Let me begin with this:  I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.  So, for many, I have absolutely no cred when it comes to talking about sports of any kind.  That’s okay, I don’t mind talking about it anyway 🙂  In fact, it’s not so much the sports aspect that caught my eye this weekend…it’s more the human reaction to it.  Look, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can pretty much get the gist of it by reading a chapter.  Satire, mystery, fiction, inspiration…you get the point.  And if the old adage also holds true—“you only get one chance to make a first impression”…then we all might want to check ourselves before, well…you know.

Anna&Kids

Flashback photo…Raising little Kansas Jayhawk fans.

So, here goes nothing.  Like most people, I’m a sports fan.  My favorite team in this great, big, wonderful world is the Kansas Jayhawks (for a myriad of reasons, but we’ll save that for later date.)  But I also  enjoy many different types of sports and follow several other teams as well.  In my community, circle of friends and in my family for that matter there’s a wide variety of sports fans.  Some of us live for football, hockey, and tennis.  Others can’t get enough NBA, golf and volleyball.  Personally, I’m a college basketball and baseball fan and thanks to my  kiddos, I have a great appreciation for soccer.  Different strokes  for different folks.  Amen, right?  Still, one of the things that always strikes me about some fans is their (my) deep, die-hard passion for our sport of choice.  We not only follow our designated tribe, but we support it with our time, energy and often, our money.  No judgement here…I’m right with you.

Where things get tricky, though, is when we start to dis each other and personally belittle our perceived opponents.  I can hear the groans and comments already…“this is why girls shouldn’t watch sports, you’re ruining the industry, this is how the game is played, if you don’t like it–don’t watch it.”  I hear you and I understand.  But it still begs the question, do we really accomplish anything when we put down our foes?  What does it prove?  Especially, if we’re on the winning end.  I’m asking….  It seems that anytime you give your heart over to something…there’s going to be passion and intensity.  Just like any relationship there will be huge highs and deep lows in fanhood.  And since our teams foster a family like comradery…things can get personal fast.  And not only do they get personal, but they can also get ugly.

This morning everyone is talking about the NFC Championship game and some of the post game antics.  It was a hard-fought game.  Can we agree on that?  Depending upon who you were rooting for (and for the sake of disclosure I will tell you that my team lost), you were either right there with this (now notorious) cornerback, Richard Sherman, or you’ve reactively thrown your support behind a man who many describe as THE  All-American quarterback, Peyton Manning.  It doesn’t take but a second to scroll through any number of social media outlets to see the reactions and commentary.  It’s been less than 24 hours since the hoopla aired, and arguments have been made on both sides.  Some have tried to rationalize and excuse the behavior by calling on player intensity and testosterone.  Others have written him off as classless and a thug.  We’re all entitled to our opinion, it’s how we choose to express it that matters.  In fact, I’ve been sort of surprised to see which side fans, sports gurus and radio personalities have signed on to.  It’s also been equally interesting to see where my own circle of friends stand on these events.

Personally, my heart hurts for Richard Sherman.  I saw his post game interview live like many other football fans.  His moment on national television, the replay of his butt slap, choking gestures and trash talk against Michael Crabtree were truly baffling to me.  Here was a man who had just demonstrated that he’s at the top of his game.  He played a key role in his team moving on to the Super Bowl.  I think the whole world expected him to be excited and amped up (and does it really matter who started it?) but using his airtime to disrespect an opponent…well it doesn’t add up, especially now that countless reports have come out about Sherman’s educational accolades, his communications degree from Stanford and blog writing/interviewing abilities.  In a world where image is everything and first impressions are lasting impressions,  Richard Sherman just cast himself as a football villain and in the hearts of many that role will last a lifetime.  Football players often live and die in the moment.  Whether it’s a consequence of personality or just the nature of the athletes who play the game, he has just categorized himself in a less than ideal light and he may spend his career (and life) trying to undo the damage of a few seconds on national television.

Unfortunately, fanhood means that we’ll never know the hearts and minds of those sports figures we idolize, but let this be a lesson to all of us.  The way you play the game…your game, my game…will be noted.  The world keeps records, it profiles and categorizes, and is not always gracious in forgiving our wrongdoings.  How much more important does it become for each of us to live our lives more thoughtfully.  Our words and actions are and will be judged.  That’s a fact.  If you don’t care, more power to you.  Still most of us, if we truly examine our hearts, want to know that we have lived life well.  As a sports fan, as part of a sports family and as a human being I want to live a life without regret.  We all have our moments…where we wish we had done things, said things, differently.  We can make amends and there are roads to reconciliation and redemption.  Thank God for that.  But wouldn’t it be better if we could just be better people?  If what spills out in our words and actions really reflect our heart wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t look and sound like self-centered, entitled, thoughtless, rude men and women?

I don’t mind telling you that I won’t be rooting for the Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday.  In the same breath I can tell you that I also won’t be cheering on the Broncos either (I’m a Chiefs fan, and therefore diametrically opposed, you understand.)  Chances are, however, that as sports fans we’ll be checking in on the game, rating the commercials, and eating more than we should.  I’m going to keep Michael Sherman in my prayers and hope that he and all the other athletes on the field play their hearts out, take in and savor their moment in the national spotlight and finally, make good choices…because the whole world is watching (and I’m trying to raise sports fans.)

You have to learn the rules of the game.  And then you have to play better than anyone else.  –Albert Einstein

What I Learned Today: iPhone Photography is Tricky

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” Eudora Welty

I’m not sure if I’m just late to the party or if I’m one of the last of a dying breed to finally succumb to the “dark side” that is the smart phone.  Maybe–it’s both.  Either way, after years of bashing the thing…I am now the proud owner of an iPhone and I feel like Steve Jobs (who I am not a fan of) is all out belly laughing at me big time!

Let me start by saying, I certainly don’t NEED this phone.  I mean, who really does? (Let’s compare convenience with necessity here people.)  But after being lost numerous times while trying to find various tournament venues for my son’s teams (Wichita, Kansas City and even little ol’ Newton) I decided enough is enough–I MUST HAVE one of those fancy phones with a map!  The when, how, where and why of my phone purchase would take too long to detail and I’m fairly certain that I don’t care enough to rehash the whole thing.  What I do know is that last week I managed to get me, my daughter and my folks to an out-of-town wedding without any hiccups and ON TIME.  So for that very reason alone, I can’t complain about this overall quality of the purchase.

TESTING 123

Photos taken with the camera+ app. While I’m not sure I’m a “selfie” kind of girl, I highly recommend this app.

Here, however, is where things get interesting.  iPhones have cameras.  You already know that, and so do I…but did you know that they’re not that good?  Honestly, how can we go around capturing moments and memories (that are supposed to last a lifetime) with this megapixel inferior, soft focus, low light challenged camera???  As a mother of two of the most (reluctantly) photographed kids on the planet, having a better than decent camera is really important to me.  (Here we go again comparing convenience with necessity.)  However, the practical side of me argued that carrying my Canon around 24/7 was just unrealistic, remembering to charge it (at home) before taking it out on the road is low on my priority list, and finally I thought to myself–everyone in the world manages to make their iPhone cameras do the job…surely I can make this work.  Right?

Operating the iPhone camera was much more difficult than I thought.  I’ve been told many times that the iPhone skillfully combines intuitive and ergonomic features that can easily be navigated with one hand.  Okay.  That’s a lot easier said than done when it comes to taking photos.  First of all, you must be super still to avoid that fuzzy, blurry look with this camera.  While I consider myself to be a steady shot, my iPhone has another opinion.  I’ve tried holding my breath and snapping the photo, but that didn’t work out much better.  The soft, focus thing is really an issue for me.  And forget about the zoom.  No good.  And EVERYTHING had these horrible shadows!  Look…I know you’re rolling your eyes with all my complaining, but I do know a thing or two about taking pictures.  At last, (after sorting through several BAD photos) I had to surrender and decided that maybe I needed some help with this photo thing.  Afterall, instagram is a huge success and it’s not like there are thousands of Ansel Adams or Annie Liebovitz types running around with camera phones in this world!

Research.  Yes, research.  I started with the apple FAQs and worked my way from there combing through reviews and tips.  Next, I focused on new media photography articles (there are many) and moved on to blogs about capturing the perfect picture.  It wasn’t long before I discovered that I have a lot to learn.  In the process, I’ve been asking around…finding out what friends do to capture their perfect moments.  I’ve received a lot of great advice and after about a month of iPhone camera ownership, I have managed to snag a few photos that I like.  And while I am far, far from being a professional photographer, this is what I’ve learned today:  iPhone photography is tricky…but there is help!

1.  Take lots of photos and use the auto focus feature (First, you have to find it.)  New technology means that we can take a zillion photos and delete all but the perfect one. 

2.  Lighting is key.  I could go on and on about some of the technical aspects of this point, but here’s the easy version.  Bright light is not your friend (neither is low light).  Say it with me…NATURAL LIGHT!  Try to take photos outside (or near a window) during the golden hours (about one hour after sunrise, and one hour before sunset.)

3.  Get close and personal.  The zoom is a joke on the iPhone camera.  If you want close-ups, then get close up.

4.  Explore apps.  The iPhone is all about apps and so is the camera.  There are tons out there.  Do your research.  Currently, I’m using camera+ and the more I learn about it, the more I like it.  Plus, it’s inexpensive…so you really have nothing to lose.

5.  Filters are your friends.  A friend (and a fellow mother) shared with me how filters have salvaged her photos.  Fuzzy or blurry…use a filter.  Too dark or too bright…use a filter.  Want to set a mood…use a filter.  You get the point. 

I’m excited about what I’ve learned and I hope to learn more (especially where the flash and white balance are concerned.)  I still plan to use my Canon for photos that I want to hang up on the wall, but I’m coming around to this iPhone camera thing.  Like I said before, I’m not a professional…so these are not hard and fast rules…merely suggestions.  And speaking of suggestions…if you have camera phone wisdom you’d like to share with me–bring it on!  I have two (reluctant) kiddos whose lives I need to capture…and I need all the help I can get!  They just keep moving…or is it running?

WINK (What I Now Know)

winkLet me start by saying that I CANNOT wink…but, boy do I wish I could! I think that if I could actually wink, my life would be very different. If I could wink I might be a little funnier, more carefree, flirtier and definitely cooler than I actually am. If I could wink I’d wink all the time…so much that someone might think that I had some sort of eye disorder or nervous twitch. Nope, that would just be me–winking because I could 😉

Kidding aside, what I love most about the wink is the feeling it denotes. It sort of says “look I’m in the know” or it gives the impression that you’re sharing something special with another person.  A wink can say “hey, I’ve been there” or even make you feel like you’re the only one that matters in a room full of people.  A wink is personal, even intimate. I like that.

That being said, 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.)