Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Childhood summers revisited

Summers for children are a magical and all too brief time.  Days spent swimming, bike riding and playing with friends disappear into memory in a fraction of a second.  But with children the chance to revisit those golden days happen every year.  All too often I am busy running the house and fail to take advantage of time with my boys.  Yesterday I really spent time with each child.  It was wonderful.  The highlight of the day was digging through the  pit  playroom and finding my Pente game from high school.  The eldest was not interested in learning the game so I started with Twin A.  Once he mastered the concept I moved on to Twin B and then let them duke it out on the playing board.  They are hooked!  So hooked that they introduced #4 to the game and spent hours playing.  Twin A and I revisited the game for about an hour before bed time.

Teaching my children the game brought back so many memories.  My best friend and I playing Monopoly for days at a time during summer breaks.  Another friend introduced me to Pente during high school and I can remember spending  all our spare time in the band room with a few others battling for supremacy in Pente.  I lost frequently but I was still addicted. In a time before personal computer games we sat down across from each other and played board games.  Sometimes the only conversation was trash talking our opponents but real conversations also occurred.  Conversations that helped us all formulate our dreams into words.  We talked about our lives, classes, parents and challenges with other friends.  We dreamed of who we would become and where we would each live.  We shared our thoughts and feelings and in doing so created friendships that would last over thirty years. 

Children today have so much pressure to succeed in school or sports that these moments to just sit and play are even more precious. They need this time to be unscheduled and unhurried.  And we as grownups need to join in that time as often as we can.  It nourishes our souls, builds memories with our families and reminds us of times we had forgotten about.  Take some time today to do something you haven't tried in 20 or 30 years.  And enjoy the silly grin on your face the rest of the day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my mother's birthday, or because she insists she is still 29, the anniversary of her 29th birthday.  My mom is my rock.  She taught me what it is to be a woman.  Yes she handled the basics such as the horrific memorization of multiplication tables and how to clean a bathroom.  But she also taught me more important life skills.  She taught me to never stop learning.  The mind stays sharp when you learn something new.  Her favorite hobby is sewing and she has never stopped learning new techniques and exploring new ideas.  My mother's sewing helped finance my college education.  My mom taught me about sacrifice.  She and my dad worked full work weeks and then came home and created things to sell at shows on weekends.  Their sacrifice of time and energy meant I had opportunities they could have only dreamed about as children. 

My mother is from a very small town in central Louisiana.  She was raised in a time of segregation.  And yet she always told me to judge people on their behavior, not the color of their skin or the origin of their birth.  Or as she always says, "There is good and bad in all kinds of people".  Because my daddy was in the military we had the opportunity to live over seas twice.  My mom took full advantage of seeing as much of Europe as possible.  My parents exposed me to different cultures, ideas and art at every opportunity.  My mother spent much of my childhood with a travel book in her hands.  From her I learned that our lives are blessed with choices and the quality of our life depends on our choices and actions.  We can mourn changes in our life or we can embrace them and see them as exciting opportunities to learn something new. 

She taught me that not only are children a gift but an immense responsibility.  Giving birth is the easy part, providing an education and teaching them about life is the challenge.  All the money in the world will not raise a child.  Time, attention, love and discipline are required to raise a child.  Giving children your time and attention, giving them rules and consequences, expecting the best and loving them when they are at their worst is more valuable than money.  She has taught me by example and I hope to do the same with my children.  My mother also taught me that motherhood does not end at 18 or 21.  She still mothers me and worries about me and my boys.  I know that I will do the same.  

My mom taught me self reliance and courage.  She is the toughest woman I have ever met.  Mom has never cared what other people thought of her.  She wears what she likes, is friends with people she respects and says what she thinks.  If you mess with her family or friends then God help you because she does not back down until you have been shown the error of your ways.  This woman is solid steel and yet she does not hesitate to offer assistance when needed.  She has shown me that you can love someone and still tell them no if what they want is not in their best interest.  I am blessed to have my mother and I still rely on her for so much in my life.  She is still my moral compass and my inspiration.  Happy birthday Mom and thank you for your guidance and love.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I am blessed to have three amazing dads in my life.  My father, my father-in-law and my husband.   Each one of these men illustrate what being a man really means.  They love their families, they work hard to make sure their families are taken care of and they do not run when life becomes challenging. 

My daddy was a feminist before it became an acceptable word.  He never told me that I could not do something just because I was a girl.  At Christmas as a child I got dolls and Hot Wheels cars complete with tracks.  We fished together and at one time even bought a car to restore although I did not see that one through. He recently gave me a scroll saw and a sander to further my hobbies.  Before I could drive away from the house in my first car he made me learn how to change the tires and check the oil and fluids.  He had a steel pipe in the trunk so I could use it to provide more leverage on the lug nuts, or in case of emergency, as a weapon for self protection.  He taught me to "measure twice and cut once".  He taught me "if a thing is worth doing then it is worth doing right".  But what he really taught me was love.  That raising a child takes time, interaction and putting someone else before yourself.  He taught me about marriage by being a faithful and loving husband.  He showed me that that two people can disagree, have different beliefs or ideas and still love each other.  Daddy showed me that marriage is not about one person winning all the time or one person hitting the other.  He lives out his vows with love and respect for my mother.  He set me up for a successful and healthy marriage by example, not just words.  He gave me the foundation for a successful life and what more could any child ask for of their father?

My father-in-law and I met the day before my wedding.  Hampered by his broken English and my non-existent Spanish there was relatively little thought provoking conversation at that meeting.  And yet he still made it clear that I was welcome in his family, that I would be loved and accepted as his only son's choice of life partner.  Never in 18 years of marriage has he ever made me feel like an outsider.  We don't get to spend a great deal of time together due to geography but this gentle man has still taught me so much.  He, like my father, is a man of principle with a strong work ethic.  When it became clear that jobs were leaving his country he left to find better opportunities to provide for his family.  It meant spending months away from his four children but doing so would give them the finances to attend the best schools in the area.  Above all he believed in educating his children so that they could achieve their dreams.  And that meant sending them to a school that could teach them to be bilingual.  He sacrificed precious time with his family and took jobs that were not always representative of his education so his family would have a better life.  He has lived his life with dignity and love of others.  The embodiment of a real father.

My husband and I have three boys.  My husband, like his father and mine, is a hard working man.  He has earned a great deal of respect in his field by being the one who stays past quitting time to fix the problem.  He is showing his boys that a career takes dedication and the willingness to stay even when the job is hard.  He teaches my boys how to respect women by opening doors for me, treating me with kindness and never raising his voice to me.  The boys are learning how to mow the lawn, take care of a family and have a good marriage by example.  My husband tells the children what he expects from people who work with and for him so they can be good employees one day.  He reviews their grades and discusses why they should focus on school.  My boys like getting in the kitchen because on the weekend they see their daddy cooking breakfast and other meals.  They know that everyone should know how to do laundry, cook, clean and take care of the lawn.  When they make a "girls can't do that" comment he corrects them with examples of successful women.  Even though we have a very traditional family my boys know that women can work in any job and that men should do their fair share in the home.  My husband is teaching by example how to be a loving man.

These three men have given me love and support.  They love my boys unconditionally.  Each of these wonderful men show my boys how to be a real man and a loving father through their daily lives.  They embody the spirit of fatherhood and I and my boys are all the richer for having them in our lives. 

Happy Father's Day to my three favorite men.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Social Media

I have a new addiction.  The television series Bones.  I am slowly catching up on the entire series through Netflix.  Yes, I enjoy trying to solve the murder along with the cast and expanding my limited knowledge but what really fascinates me are the main characters themselves.  The incredible differences between them all and how they learn from each other while retaining their unique characteristics that make them all so interesting.  I wish I saw more of this in real life.  For a while now I have been observing some posts, comments and sometimes attacks between some of my facebook friends and they disturb me.

Because my father was in the Air Force I was blessed with the opportunity to live in a foreign country and multiple states.  Even when he retired it was in an area where a lot of my peers were also children of career military and therefore well traveled.  Then I met and married a man from another country. Through all of these experiences I have been blessed with meeting and becoming friends with men and women from all over the world.  They are of different races, religions and cultures and values but they are all basically the same.  Good people wanting to live their lives with dignity and leaving their families and world a little better because they made a difference.  They have all taught me something about themselves, their cultures, religions or why they do not subscribe to religion.  They have expanded my mind and helped me develop a world view.

Between my diverse friends and a love of reading I understand that anyone is capable of great good and great evil, brilliance and stupidity, generosity and selfishness.  And it is possible to have this multiplicity converge in a single person and even in a single sentence.  That sentence aspect is what is bothering me lately.  I have noticed people posting quotes on facebook and then using those quotes to support their opinions about a topic or belief or as an opportunity to ridicule something or someone they do not agree with at all.  Usually these are political or religious in nature.  Naturally this causes great debate and animosity and sometimes hurt feelings and harsh words.  I find it all very sad.

The reality is any famous person or book can be quoted out of context.  History is rife with quotations taken out of context or twisted to serve a person, organization or country's agenda.  All to often this was the start of a war, massacre or an excuse to enslave or subjugate another population.  The fact that we have not learned from this behavior speaks volumes about the human race in general.  In order for us to learn from each other and have true rational discussions, we as humans must learn how to listen with an open mind.  That does not mean attack with quotes or facts until we force our peer into seeing the world as we do.  We have to understand that people will disagree with us even after our "case" has been presented.  Explaining my religious faith to someone from a different faith or no faith will probably not "convert" them.  What it will do is help them understand some of the motivations behind my actions.  Learning the cultural norms of another person does not mean I have to adopt those norms myself.  Instead it teaches me how not to offend a person of that culture and therefore allowing us to develop a relationship of respect.  Attacking another person's belief system with facts and figures will not change their beliefs.  It will create a wall of resentment and distrust.  It will shut down communication.  That is the antithesis of a social network or social media.  Being social requires communication.  Communication requires respectful and open discourse.

We all need to learn from each other while maintaining our unique characteristics and "quirks" that make us so interesting to others.  The next time you post, like or share something on your favorite social media take a moment to think.  Is this really how you want others to view you?  Are you being funny or are you just being offensive on purpose?  Are you just expressing a momentary thought, celebration or frustration or are you attacking another person to "prove a point"?  Are you really being social or are you just pushing your beliefs for your own benefit?  Will we develop a social relationship where we can disagree but still like each other or are we creaitng more resentment and discontentment?  What is your reason for being on that social media and what are you hoping to achieve?  I hope we can all learn to be kinder to each other and social media is an excellent place to begin.