In my previous post, I mentioned a great book, Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister, and the fact that much of it resonated with me and is certainly worth sharing and applying to my life.  The statement that resonated with me the most from the book is one that has meaning on so many levels, and it’s simply this:

Adults need to have fun so that children will want to grow up!

I think that’s true on so many levels, and perhaps explains society’s current problem of adult children who never do, in fact, grow up.  Perhaps older adults, busy with making a life and providing stability, forgot to have any fun at all- and so gave their children nothing to look forward to but a life full of hard work and bill payments.

Many people grow up with parents who wake up every day tired, go to a job they complain about, come home tired, do more “work” around the house, never have time to play or relax, stress and complain about bills to play and how they never have enough money, never go on vacation, and then wake up and do it all again.  I mean, really-  if that’s what growing up means, can you blame them for never wanting to?  At least as a kid, you have your friends, ride on your parents tab, and lack a certain level of responsibility- so of course they’re still riding that wave at 25, 30, 35, and 40- if you let them.

I think parents forget that every single day, they are shaping their children’s childhood memories as well as creating what the future looks like for adults.  Yes, it’s a tall order, but it’s not hard to carve out something beautiful to aspire to.  Just don’t forget to live a little.  (I’m not suggesting for a moment that we shirk our responsibilities, quite the opposite- that a part of our adult responsibility is demonstrating that life is good and worth living.)

If you’re married, that means spending time together as a family having fun, and also letting your kids see you invest in each other.  Spending time just with your spouse doing something you both enjoy, going somewhere fun- if your marriage is stagnant and boring, why would your kids want to grow up and do that?

If you’re a single parent, it still means doing fun things together, and having some adventures of your own.  What if your child never gets married or gets married older in life?  Give them the expectation of a full life in spite of- show them that single people have rich, full, exciting lives, too.

I’ll probably have more to say about his subject, but I gotta run-dropping the kids off at my mom’s so that hubby and I can have a day filled with adventure to tell them about when they come home.  What kind of adventure are YOU gonna have today?  This weekend?  Next week?  Think about it, and then go DO something!

Joy For Beginners

2012/02/24

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but I’m going to try and do better.  ‘Nuff said.

One of the blogs I follow, Cheaper By The Half Dozen, mentioned a book in a post I read a few days ago.  The book, Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister, is February’s book selection on the blog She Reads (also penned in part by the author of Cheaper by the Dozen).  It sounded intriguing, so I snagged a copy from the library.  This is easily the best book I’ve read in a long, long time- not because of the writing or anything like that, but because of the subject and how adeptly it’s handled.  This is the kind of book that touches your soul; the kind that you hold inside of you forever.  I will never forget this book and the lessons I learned from it.  Don’t be surprised to see entire posts stemming from one line or theme from this book!  If you like reading fiction, or even if you don’t, I still recommend that you check this one out.

I’m not sure if I found so many nuggets of wisdom and insight in the book  because they were just there- intended by the author to pierce the heart of each reader, or because I was looking for them.  I’m at a place of openness right now- openness toward my future, and hopes, and dreams.  Openness toward rediscovering the anticipation and expectation of wonderful things happening in my life.  I want to live, really live my life, becoming as grown and mature as I can possibly be, in the most childlike way possible.  Childlike because I want to believe and receive it with no doubts or second guessing based on bad experiences, fear, or whatever it is that other people think.  I want to really embrace the future and the hope that God has for me, knowing with every fiber of my body that He CAN and He WILL give me the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him, just ‘cuz.

So!  Back to the book.

As a quick summary, there are seven women.  One has battled cancer and won, and at her victory party, the others decide she must do something she’s never done before, something that scares her, to overcome her fear.  For her, they choose white water rafting through the Grand Canyon.  It was initially her daughter’s suggestion, which they get a hold of.  Completing this will cause her to do two things- first, face the direct fear of the rapids.  More importantly, commit to something a year away (the trip is for a year in the future), as she has yet to embrace the fact that she has survived and does, indeed, have a future to look forward to and plan for.

She accepts, but with one condition- she gets to pick something equally challenging for each of them to accomplish.

What a great idea!  I’m totally going to round up some gals and steal it.  Seriously.

I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts about this book, and on my journey to truly get a life this year.  Your job is to get a life, too (if you don’t already have one) and to hold me accountable!!!  With that said, go check out my next post about a statement from the book that holds a lot of meaning- particularly as it pertains to children growing up, and how adults facilitate that.  Go read!

I wanted to post my feeling on this about a week ago, but out of respect for the family and not wanting to share any information before they were ready, I decided to wait.  A little over a week ago, an aquaintance of mine lost his wife.    When I used to teach, I would see him at professional development days and teacher things, and sometimes, I’d see them at church.

A week ago, she had a massive heart attack in her sleep and died.  She was 33.  They have a daughter who’s about 7 or 8.

She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend.  She was young.  She was overweight. She was stressed out.  And she had a heart attack.  And died.  At 33.

I write that because in a lot of ways, she is me.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.

While a little older than her (36), I am still young.

And I am overweight.  And I am stressed out.

Do you see where this is going?

That could have just as easily been me.  But for the grace of God go I, and all that.  When I heard about her death I was shocked.  I mean, I know overweight + overstressed = candidate for heart attack, but she was so young I would never have seen it coming.  I doubt she did, either.  So many questions filled my head all that day and night:

Did she wake up the morning before just like every other day?  Was she tired?  Was all that she had to do that day running through her head?  Did she go to the market?  Take her daughter to dance class?  Did she kiss her husband goodbye?

Did she put gas in her car in the cold, and comment to her gas- pumping neighbor on how cold it was?

Was she thinking about all she had to do that week?  Fretting about her ailing mother?  Did she argue with her husband?  Were they on good terms, or barely speaking?

What did she cook for dinner that night, or did they go out?  Was she feeling okay, or unusually tired?  Was her heart racing and did she attribute it to stress?  Did she think she was coming down with something?

Did she read her daughter a bedtime story?  Did she skip pages or rush through it because she was tired?  Did her daughter ask for just one more story?  A glass of water?  One more kiss?

Did she kiss her husband goodnight?  Did they make love?  Sleep with their backs to each other?  What was she thinking about as she drifted off to sleep after a full day?  Did she say her prayers?  Have a quiet time?  Or maybe just crawl into bed, exhausted, deciding that when it came to exercise/ lovemaking/ prayers/ devotions/ reading that bedtime story she’d just do it tomorrow?

All of these questions plagued me, and we’ll never know the answers.  The truth is that a lot of those questions described MY Saturday, and I thought about how much I would regret if that had been me and I could have looked back.  I would have read the extra story, hugged my kids a little tighter, kissed my husband, made time for that last prayer.  Or knowing it was a possibility,  in the days and weeks before I’d have taken more time with my kids, exercised anyway, made better eating choices, been more available for my husband, and worried less about the house/ laundry/ my to- do list.

I’ve decided that I’m going to learn from this wake up call, focus on what matters, change those things that I can for the better, and honor God with the time I have left- however long that may be.  Not just for me, not just for my kids or my husband- but to learn from and honor the life of a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend who left us too soon.

Holiday Giving

2011/12/21

One of the things that I want my kids to develop a heart for (or at least a healthy respect for) is service to others.  I recognize that I can’t make them love it, or even really like doing it- but I can instill in them a respect for the fact that we should be concerned for “the least of these”, and we are responsible for helping them in some way.  It’s not okay to see a need and do nothing- I think God shows us things so that we can act, although “act” to me doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it yourself.  Sometimes the action is doing, but sometimes it’s finding the right person to get it done.

Anyway, on Saturday, I took Monae and Maisy to the Salvation army headquarters here in Baltimore.  Mark was quite ill, so he stayed at grandma’s, and Max would never understand why we weren’t opening the toys for ourselves, so I thought it would be better if he just stayed with daddy, lol.

Monae wasn’t really happy about missing her early dance classes to do this, at least not at first.  I am pleased to report that about halfway through the experience, she asked me if we could volunteer there every year- like a family tradition.    I told her I’d see how it went, and let he know after we were done.  When I explained to Maisy that we were going to pack up toys and clothes for kids who wouldn’t get anything for Christmas, she said, “some kids can’t get anything for Christmas?  Wait- but I’m still getting toys, right?”  It was kinda funny.  Once I reassured her that we weren’t giving away her toys, she was fine.  Maisy didn’t really mind helping at first, but got bored with it quickly.  I think next year she’ll do better, since she’d be able to help out a little more.

After signing in, we were escorted to an aisle and given directions.  In a room about the size of an elementary school gym, there were long tables set up end to end, almost the entire width of the room across, and most of the length to form aisles.  These tables were also stacked on top of each other- so take the layout and stack it on itself to get a mental picture.  On these tables and on the floor were large boxes, side to side.  Around the perimeter of the room on roughly three sides were giant wooden bins with the fronts cut low (so you can reach things inside).  The last wall consisted of a large shelving unit holding boxes labeled with boys and girls sizes, and shelves full of shoes, also sorted by size.

Each box has a sheet with information about the children in a family (they provide gifts for kids 12 and under only).  There are kids’ first names, their gender, age, and whatever they wished to receive as a gift.  There are two gift categories- toys and clothes- and stocking are also added for each child.

Our job was to look at the sheet, go to the bins/ clothing area to find the specific items in the right sizes, and fill the boxes (which contained black trash bags to hold everything).  Monae was shocked by the sheer amount of boxes in the room; we were about halfway down the aisles and we started working on boxes in the 900’s.  There were at least 2000 boxes in that room.  She was even more shocked, and quite sad, when I told her that those boxes didn’t come close to approximating the total number of kids or families that needed help- there were many more who wouldn’t get the help they needed.  It was very sobering.

We worked for three hours, finding stockings (separated by age), searching through toy bins, looking through coats and shoes for the right size.  It was easily one of the simplest volunteer jobs I’ve ever done, but also one of the hardest.  What I found most difficult was looking at the kids’ names and ages and realizing that they were the same ages as MY kids.  Seeing that he or she needed a coat.  Or maybe a pair of shoes that fit.  Maybe the four year old wanted a Barbie, or the tween girl asked for some lipgloss.  Things we take for granted everyday.  I can’t imagine any of my kids not having shoes that fit, or having to put “winter coat” or “gloves and hat” on their Christmas list.  That may sound petty or snobbish, but I’m not trying to be snobby- I’m just saying that it really hit home for me how much we take for granted.  How many things do we take as a given, and not even consider because we just know that they will be taken care of?   You know, those things that never even cross your mind when you’re whining about what you can’t get, or can’t have, or can’t do?  I’m guessing that when you’re having that pity party about how you haven’t been on vacation in three years because you just can’t afford it, things like affording a pair of shoes that fit or a thick coat for the winter never enter your mind.  They don’t for me, at least not at first.

This year when it got cold, I had a moment where I sighed to myself because I’d have to choose between one of my “same old coats” again this year, instead of buying myself a new one.  Not that I can’t, just that since I already have several puffy jackets and several wool coats, it wouldn’t be prudent for me to buy a pretty new camel- colored, cashmere blend car coat.  I thought about that when I was standing in the Salvation Army warehouse.  I felt ashamed and surprised at myself for not seeing how self- absorbed I probably am most of the time.  Not in a selfish way, just in a “me and my little world” kind of way.  My kids can choose what coat to wear, by style and color.  These kids are just happy to get something that will keep them warm.  Again, it was very sobering.

The silver lining in recognizing and acknowledging my selfish nature is that I caught a glimpse of the woman I want to be.  Introspection can be very difficult, as it forces you to take a hard look at yourself and see some things that you’d rather not acknowledge.  Indeed, the very act of seeing makes what you weren’t seeing before crystal clear.  It’s like looking in a highly polished mirror at yourself- seeing everything that you are, and everything you’re not all at the same time.

Along those same lines, I’m reminded that God was at work in me even then.  Not just because He stirred my heart to make volunteering a priority this year, but because during that introspective experience, He shined His light on me, exposing those dark places that I’d prefer to keep hidden- like the selfishness hiding in the shadow of my humility.  Have you ever noticed that when light is shined on some dark places, whatever is in the path of the light comes into focus, but those things on the margins are cast in shadow?  I  have found that when God’s light shines within us to reveal something we need to work on, it has the opposite effect on the outside.   The bright light focuses on the selfishness within me, but in that moment, people on the outside see my humility and compassion in the light; my selfishness is cast in shadow, out of sight, beyond pointing fingers and clucking tongues .

I had the desire to give to those less fortunate this holiday season.  However it really worked out that they gave to me-  a better, clearer picture of myself and the woman that I want to be.

And so, to answer her question:

Yes, Monae- we’ll make this a tradition every year.