Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pleased to Meet You

Today I am grateful that we have allowed are kids to Dream their Hotdog Dreams.

Mike and I spent last night submersed in Meet the Teacher - High school Edition. As a rule I detest meet the teacher, in primary grades it equates to pediatrician visit for a check up to make sure growth and development are on track. Those sit downs are critical to the success of your child. Grade school is where you find out if your child has all of their academic fingers and toes so to speak.

High school however is a whole new ball game. Going to meet your children's high school teachers is like going to sit in on a performance review for your spouse. This really is the truth, this is their world, how they preform or do not perform is up to them. The effort and attention they give to their success is that...their effort. The success or failure that results is also theirs. We are not dealing with children anymore, these are people who can drive and will soon vote and will be able to legally consume alcohol, rent cars, lease apartments, file taxes and land in the 'big house' not the juvie home if that is the course they chart. Most parents recognize it, high school is a testing ground for young adults to try on their choices with a safety net.

But we go, because even though it is completely optional it is also completely crucial. We go because that is what advisors do, and advisors is what parents become. Personally I go so that I can put a face to a name when my young adults are complaining. I go so that I can understand the personalities of the adults they are spending time with so that when they say "I don't know what to do." I can offer some insight on how they might appease the ego at the front of the room. I go so that they know that even through this is their gig they are not there without support. It is a little bit like following the bus in your car the first time you let them take it to the mall. It is our job to know their business not run their business.

Gratitude today for the teachers met last night who greeted us with smiles indulged our general academic chit chat and who put their nerves on the line everyday in the name of preparing young adults for the real world; that's a job worth a medal!

Gratitude as well to my girls who have impressed us once again with their commitments to making the very most of the opportunity high school represents.

Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be's Thursday... Your turn @ the table, what are you grateful for today?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When Things Turn Out Better Than You Planned

Monday night in an effort to get everything accomplished I wished to accomplish, I asked Mike to take KJ to the drugstore to pick up some facial cleanser she was desiring.

I wanted to get everything done so that I could participate in a Twitter party chat about building more connected families. Thank you to our lovely host @Seemummyjuggle for moderating a great party and a big thank you as well to @JustinCoulson who is facilitating a parenting boot camp in Pleasantville over the next few weeks. This week we were challenged to become more emotionally available to our children (something most of us think we do a pretty good job of already until we examine just how good a job we are doing at it).

So I sent Mike and KJ to the store in search of some elusive yet magical face goop. It tied in beautifully with the challenge for boot camp this week and co-ordinated with my 'already in my comfy pants' state. A win-win for everyone. I gave myself a gentle pat on the back.

Then they returned, giggling and joking around about old lady creams and teenagers who need jobs (ahemmmm...a hint, hint worth repeating) mission accomplished! They also returned with a gift for me...Ahhhhh, how very sweet.

This was it...

"We picked up that book for you everyone is talking about"

To which I answered with a red face and a muted giggle, "Thank you, that's awesome."

Maybe it was the money sticking out of the top (KJ's half of the face cream - repaid to Dad) or maybe it was the look on Lula's face. Maybe it was the quiet conversation she pulled me aside for afterward in which she 'warned' me of the adult content of the book, wanting to be sure I was prepared for what she hears is "Porno for Women"

I can't look at my gift without laughing now...

Gratitude today for boot camps, conversations that challenge us, gifts from the heart, gifts of the heart and confirmation that my teenagers are comfortable approaching Mom on such delicate topics. (Gratitude that apparently I am sending just the right signals as well ;)
Have an amazing Tuesday, If you get the chance, if you feel inspired to challenge yourself a little stop by Pleasantville, join in on the Boot aren't the only ones growing on this journey!
Gratitude, Hope & Smile are meant  to be shared!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Could You Save 'Amanda'?

A person would be hard pressed to turn on the television, link to their social media or crack the spine on a good old print rag this week and not be confronted by the name Amanda Todd. If you haven't seen the name or the story here is a summary for you; Amanda Todd was a teenage girl who was tormented to the point at which she saw no escape other than to end her own life. She posted a dramatic You Tube video in which she quite literally spelled her heart out for the world and she shattered a million lives in the day that followed. I say we have been confronted by her name not as an insult to the media attention her story has garnered, but as a descriptive aimed at identifying that thing we all feel inside upon learning of her tragedy.

Response after response, comment, status and conversations in the street are outpourings of apology. We are a country full of people who did not know Amanda Todd but feel a need to atone for the transgressions of her aggressors. There is this ache that if we simply apologize enough, express enough sympathy and condemn the events leading up to her death enough that we have some magic power to make the ending different, that we will erase the heartache of her family, that maybe we could save her. It is some novel disconnect here in which our brains tell us this story is real but our hearts refuse to accept that reality as final. Is it because none of us knew Amanda personally, is it because we did not see her cry and struggle and fight back, lose hope and give up. Or is it something darker? Is it the knowledge that had Amanda's story gone viral, without the tragic ending of her life all those notes of condolence would be words of opinion and judgement? Is what we are confronted with when we read Amanda's name or see her picture guilt? If it isn't, it should be.

Ironically, or not, because I think this same story could repeat itself on any given day in any given community in North America. I wrote a piece for Best Tools just a day before Amanda's story broke in which I ask parents to look in the mirror at their behaviour. It seems timely now but incredibly watered down. It will be posted to the site next week and I am good with it because the URL does not bear my name, is not my brand and I would not wish to jeopardize it's brand with my raw outrage.

But this space is a different story...

In this space I want to say that if you are truly sorry for Amanda's heartbreaking story, if you are disgusted by her tormentors and weeping for her family...instead of closing the gate after the animals have this...

Get off your self-righteous high horse and look at yourself, look at your behaviour, replay the conversations you have where you trash people who are not in the room, talk about people unable to defend themselves, pass judgement on  people you do not know and turn a blind eye to those around you doing the same thing.

Stop posting comments like...

"I need a new gym where the people are not homely"

"This girl is f'd up, get a life and a new shirt cause you look like a skank"

"Comment for TBH"

People, even the ones you consider not up to your standard have feelings just like you; they have stories that you don't care enough to ask about. That girl who is f'd up is just like you only maybe she is not as nasty. What makes you so important that others should seek out your honest opinion about them... what people think are 'honest' comments are the things that drive people to despair.

Back in the old days we had a saying drilled into us by our parents and grandparents "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." it was a really good rule of thumb, it kept people from hurting one another, it made you pause and reflect before you opened your mouth. It asked you to think about what the reaction to your verbal noise might be. It kept people from treading water in a constant stream of condemnation, opinion and self-consciousness. It prevented a great amount of mob mentality towards a person who may be struggling with poor choices, unfortunate events and struggles dumped onto their life laps that they did not ask for.

That simple rule seems to have been lost with the art of face to face conversation. People have become so accustom to saying what they think in an arena where there seems to be no audience that when faced with the real world we can hardly contain our thoughts, bite our tongues, and keep our opinions to ourselves. And what of that world on the other side of the screen? There are real live people out there reading the words you write, taking them personally, taking them to heart, and here is the kicker... the person you are aiming your comments at, they are probably listening. So are a thousand other people who, by the very nature of the human psyche, take those words and twist them until they can match them to their own circumstances. It has become easy to think outside of our minds where we used to have conversations with ourselves in which we solved a great many issues without taking them into the public arena. Perhaps we need a rule for social posting. How about... "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

While we are at it how about adding this "My life is the one I need to worry about, I will not involve myself in the life of others unless it is to build them up, improve their happiness or help them reach their dreams."

In my personal life I am not immune to transgressions, my children are not perfect. We struggle with these rules just like the rest of society. We slip into conversations that are probably none of our business and pass opinions that are better kept private. We say things we regret and listen to things we should speak out to halt. I cannot even begin to suggest that we are getting things right, living above the line and treating the world at every turn the way we wish to be treated.

But I can say we are trying, that we are reminding each other every day when we falter and pushing each other as people to live more compassionately and I can say it is hard work. We slip and transgress and we make mistakes and we call each other out when we fail.

Amanda Todd....

If you are devastated by this young girl's story, if you are yearning in your heart that your condolences and sympathies might have some magical power to change her end, then you need to do more than post R.I.P. in response to her story because it is the buzz this week. You need to take that yearning into your everyday life from this day and into all the days that follow. You need to use it to keep yourself in check and hold others up to the same standard of human decency.

How many more Amandas do we need to lose before we change our ways. That was not a question.

It is difficult to find the gratitude in this story, in this tragic loss but I suppose if there is one to be found it is in the lives that Amanda's story will change and the lives Amanda's story will save because her story has forced another to do a little introspection.

To truly honor Amanda's life do a little to change your own.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be something to make things different.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gobbling Up Control

Lula's Thanksgiving Turkey!

I am a bit of a control freak in the kitchen...I'm trying to let it go. Clearly there are others capable of taking over.

Gratitude today for kids who are not afraid to get in the kitchen make a mess, cook up some love and some Turkey!

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Wish for Every Mom

if I could...

There is this very demanding stage of life that finds us very much at the mercy of everyone else around us. It grabs a hold somewhere between the birth of your first child and your last child entering puberty. In that span of time we as Moms are the keystone that holds everyone's life together it seems. Kids need guidance, nurturing, patience and discipline. Husbands need support, attention, time and friendship. Friends need shoulders to lean on, help with their families, their challenges and their struggles. Family needs help, traditions upheld and milestones recognized. Co-workers, bosses, neighbours...every person in our lives it seems is dependant upon us and we find ourselves the centre of a needy vortex. We arrange, schedule, wipe, change, pamper, please and 'care' for everyone but ourselves. We pick up, drop off, pick up after, run errands, wake up early and stay up late.

Keeping up is not the hard part, any Mother will tell you that if you don't think too many chores ahead, if you operate under 1/3 intention and 2/3 auto pilot you get to everyone and everything. You crawl into bed at night, sometimes hours past the rest of the house but life is handled and laying in semi-organized wait for tomorrow. Most times we are not even aware of just how much life we take responsibility for but we are often left with a gaping unidentifiable void.

I long suspected that the ache was in response to the absence of appreciation, and the "more where that came from expectations" I thought that perhaps if there was some acknowledgement of my efforts I would 'feel' better, but that is not the thing. I've come to appreciate that a mother, or any parent for that matter, will do infinitely more than they will ever receive recognition for and that the absence of that recognition does not stifle your efforts any more than the occasional 'thanks' fuels you to do are already doing everything you can. It's inherent.

My void was 'not measuring up'. Like most Moms I was my own worst critic. We spend the wee hours of the night replaying events and envisioning all the ways we could have done better, because we want to be better; better moms, better wives, better friends, citizens, better people. Rarely are we satisfied with the amazing things we are able to accomplish in a day or the amazing things we are able to offer to the world. We fail to recognise our gifts because they seem unremarkable. We chastise ourselves for not having the time or the energy to improve ourselves, grow as people and 'fix' all of our failures.

If this is you, I wish you could meet the woman you will be a few years from now.

All those things you are trying to accomplish today, all those lessons, traits and hopes you are trying to instill in your children on a daily basis; the ones you think they aren't getting...they will emerge. All those things you thought you needed to improve about yourself seem small in comparison to growth and transformation in the woman who will greet you on the other side of the vortex. 

An amazing woman will stand in your shoes in spite of your doubts, your self reprimands and your struggle to teach her. I wish you could meet her now, I wish she could take you out for coffee and tell you that these years are good to you, that your best effort everyday to care for those around you is enough and all the self improvement you need. These years nurture your soul like the roots of a tree, they build your strength, your patience your appreciation for life. I wish you could hear her say that your time is coming, your quiet minutes, your meditation, growth, and indulgence time.

I wish you could see just how amazing you are today and just how amazing you will be.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

There WILL be Turkey!

Thanksgiving is coming! Thanks giving is coming!

An odd brain loop to wake up to but that is where the frequency is stuck. (There is also residual, "did you know you only manged five written pieces in September?")

My attention has been so centered on mission "Upsize Living" that I miscalculated the arrival of my very favourite holiday of life! Generally in the week leading up to Thanksgiving I have my squashes picked, my pumpkins baked, pureed and waiting to be transformed into pies and napkins pressed at the ready. So far this year I have....done nothing. That's not entirely true I guess, We picked up a store bought pie on grocery day this week and I have two acorn squash in the fridge from our trip to the apple farm last week; where by the way, there were no apples.

Usually I have things well organized and planned. We create a table for 25, set up a 'crockpot station' for the vast array of dishes that arrive with family and friends and dedicate a side table exclusively to desserts. This year I have packed all of my cookbooks in boxes, my linens stored, there are no 'extra dishes'. I have missed my last Saturday opportunity to harvest our feast at the farmers market and somewhere a turkey is on his knees saying his very own prayer of thanks that I did not get him ordered in time for the roasting pan.

We have only ever missed one thanksgiving. It was the year E had H1N1. Thanksgiving Sunday was the first day in seven that either one of us got out of his bed. Our regular guests where not so much disappointed that year as they were terrified of our self imposed quarantine. I can't remember exactly what our little family of five had for Thanksgiving dinner that year but I recall thinking at the time that it was one notch above 'Swanson's Hungry Man' dinners. I also recall crying all the way through that dinner. I cried because of how sick E was, how exhausted we were as parents, how disappointed the girls were that there was no 'Turkey, stuffing, green goop salad or screaming relatives'. I cried because I missed weeks of tradition in preparation and anticipation.

And I promised myself it would never happen again!

So this year even with our world in it's topsy turvey don't touch the walls or lick the windows state I'm going to pick it up double time! I'm going to get some baking on, whip up a batch of green goop, a pot of cranberry sauce and some cod cakes. Then when I have it all together I am going to drive it all over to my Mother's...

...Because She knows just how important turkey and Gratitude is to me. I'm just glad she called me first so that I didn't have to spring it on her! It's not just turkey; it's dogs that want to pee in the house, overturned Lego buckets, upside down pumpkin pie and whip cream on the carpet, laundry, rearranged furniture, leftovers, and smeary fingerprint portraits on the stainless steal.

Gratitude to my Mother and her willingness to sacrifice her home for a little gratitude.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...get busy!