Monday, October 27, 2014

5 of 642...

I spend a lot of time dreaming… of the grass on the other side.

I'm an optimist by nature. I try to always see the bright side of things. To make the best of any situation. And I am glad that I am able to do that. I can't imagine how sad and dark life must be for the truly pessimistic, those people that always seem to find fault and are never satisfied.

But I do find myself dreaming of a better life more than I like which is sad really because I have a pretty wonderful life.

When I think though of the perfect day, it is never an ordinary day in my life. It is full of the unfulfilled dreams, the adventures I have not taken. The perfect day involves me wandering New York or sitting in a cafe in London. I dream of sleeping in and waking to an empty house and a pile of my favorite  movies to watch or spending the day laughing with friends while soaking up the sun while sipping coffee outside.

Not because these are truly the perfect days but because these are the unattainable. These are the grass is greener. The things I cannot do right now at this point in my life, but oh how I miss these possibilities.

And then there are the dreams I wish I had for my perfect day. The person I wish I was that wanted to hike deep into a forest and spend the night or who was training with my friends for a marathon. The mom whose perfect day involved carving pumpkins and creating elaborate holiday memories for my boys. The risk taker who changes the lives of those in need around them. But I am not that person.

The truth is I cannot describe the perfect day. Not one perfect day.

I can tell you how I love to spend a bright fall Saturday morning watching College Gameday while drinking coffee in my flannel pajamas. I can write about the joy I get watching my boys do something they love, especially when they are doing it so well that day and you know they will be proud of themselves. The conversation that happens at Bible study that makes me feel alive or the walk amongst the changing fall leaves with a friend that centers me in the here and now. Smelling the salt air and hearing the crashing waves. The dinner out with my husband, slow courses, a good glass of wine, a delicious meal, and time standing still. The day when all of my boys come off the school bus with smiles and funny stories to tell. The day spent reading a good book that you can’t put down. The adventure of taking my kids on a subway ride into the city and wandering around drinking warm hot chocolates on the cold day.

For me, there is no one perfect day. At least not one that can be encased in twenty four hours of time.

And maybe that is a good thing.

Maybe I have found a way to make the little things, the glimpses of joy in my days, into my own green grass.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear Boys,

I don’t know if you remember your very first ice skating lesson. You each did take that first step on the ice at some point, a helmet atop your head and knit gloves covering your fingers. You were each so cute. And so determined.

Interesting fact about ice skating - the very first thing you learn is how to fall down. Because no matter how good of a skater you become, falling down is part of learning to skate. That’s why we put those helmets on your heads.

When the skating instructor gathered her beginners, before you ever stepped on the ice, she took you off to the side and taught you how to fall down. She made sure you knew to let it happen. To not fight. To lean into the fear of falling.

Failure is inevitable. Falling will happen no matter how much you try to avoid it.
So before you learn to skate, you learn to fall. But the instructor didn’t leave you there. She taught you how to get up the right way. How to protect your fingers from the skate blades and to step up with confidence one foot at a time. She taught you to get back up and try again.

Then she had you practice falling a few more times.

And each time you got back up.

She may have taught you the most important lesson you ever needed to learn.

You cannot skate without falling down. Nor can you build a video game that delights you without making a few mistakes along the way. That is just part of the process of getting good at something. It is a scary, scary thing. I know this all too well. I wish I had taken more chances in my life, risked more, and even failed more because at least that meant I was trying something new, something challenging. I wonder how many great moments I missed in life because I was too scared to make a mistake.

I recently heard Sarah Lewis, a cultural historian and Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University, speak about the importance of failure. She said, “There are blame worthy failures and praise worthy failures.” Can you imagine? Sure, sometimes you will mess up but was it while trying to do something great? Or was it while avoiding the good, the better, the scary, the risky?

I’m sure you’ve seen the inspirational photos with the saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I’ve always liked the idea of this, except I am beginning to realize that the destination informs the journey and creates the path you will travel. The destination matters. Shoot for the moon. Seek the destination that leads you on the most amazing journey you can imagine and then see where it leads. Take chances. Make mistakes. Fail. Because you cannot get where you want to go, without falling.

You cannot dream without closing your eyes.

You cannot find love without opening yourself up to pain.

You cannot succeed without first learning how to fall down.

And then getting back up. One step at a time.

Honestly, maybe this letter is really more for me than for you. I have watched each you take risks and I have seen the smile on your face, the pride in your accomplishment, when you moved past the possibility of failure and succeeded at something that was hard at first. I have witnessed your perseverance as you stumbled, made mistakes, brushed yourself off, and then took another step.

So maybe it wasn’t the ice skating instructor that taught us this lesson as much as it was watching each of you.

Thank you for inspiring me with your dreams.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

To My White Boys

This is an awkward letter to write. And one I hope is totally out of date and unnecessary by the time you read it. But it needs to be said. You are white. You are male. And that makes life easier for you.

Many want to say we live in a post racial world. But we don’t. You may not see color. I hope you don’t. We have tried to encourage an appreciation of different cultures in our family. We have tried to expose you to a diverse world. But the truth is you don’t have to see color in others because of your whiteness. That is the privilege you enjoy.

I do not worry when I send you out into the world that you might not come home. When I talk to you about what to do if you are stopped by a police officer or even arrested, I have told you to be respectful but I don’t worry that any move you make, any word you speak might create enough fear in the officer to cause them to feel a need to protect themselves and shoot you.

I watch you walk out the door in your hoodies and baggy clothes, I tell you to speak up. Advocate for yourself. Be you. This is my privilege as a white mother. But it is not the case for black moms across America.

Read this - listen to these moms tell their stories. 
“The Rev. Traci Blackmon is pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant. She has a daughter and two sons…. ‘Every policeman is not bad,” she added. “But if it is your child, you can’t take that risk. You have to have ‘the talk,’ because they have to stay alive.’”
Credit Provided by Missouri History Museum

I also wish that we lived in a post misogyny world, a world where what I can do is not determined by my vagina. Where I didn’t have to worry about what time my train will arrive back at the station and is that too late to walk by myself across a parking lot. Where I didn’t have to wait to see whether my gender interfered with someone wanting to hear what I had to say.

But we don’t.

You know me. You know I’m strong. I am smart and thoughtful and well informed. I speak my mind. I have gifts to share with the world and yet there are places, even within the church, where I am disqualified simply because of my being a woman.

You my sons, my white boys, will walk into a room and belong there simply because you want to be there. You will speak and people will give your words more weight at first because of your white privilege. Unless of course you say something stupid. Or unkind. Or demeaning of others. But that would be based on your actions, your actual words, and not on your ethnicity or gender.

There are programs in place to encourage diversity, both racial and gender, in schools, careers, etc. And you may lose a spot, not be given an opportunity, because of this. Some will say it’s not fair. But the truth is every day life isn’t fair.

You are white boys.

And that opens doors, gains respect, and protects you in ways you will never understand.

Listen to those not like you. Hear their stories. Take in the mistreatment, the disrespect, the limitations, the otherness.

And then use that white privilege to change things. Even if, and most likely it will mean, you have to give up your privilege.

Lay down your rights and raise up those whose voices should be heard but are not yet.

Because the world you could create will be so much better.

I love you.

Your White Mother

Monday, October 13, 2014

4 of 642

I am a planner, to the extreme, though I am not necessarily a detail person. I like to know what is happening next, and in an hour, next week, and next year. I like to dream about the possibilities, all of them, or at least all of the good ones. 

I also de-stress by planning for possible bad outcomes. Husband traveling overseas has me figuring out what I would do if he died or was seriously hurt? How would I get him home? Who could I call to watch the kids? Or what if he dies here in Wisconsin? Where would the funeral be? Buried or cremated (this is actually an ongoing debate in our home)? 

So when asked to write a Facebook update for 2017, that’s easy. I imagine that my life will look pretty similar to today. It is only three more years. I’m sure my updates then will look a lot like now. Hockey, sick kids, holiday pictures, Middle Man’s latest adventure. Though there will be some changes that year. My oldest will be in high school, though at this moment I cannot imagine that ever happening. And Little One, he’ll be a sixth grader, the age his biggest brother is now. 

But when I look backwards, I see how much can really change in three years. It was just over three years ago that we left Oregon, the place where each of my boys was born and the house that was perfect because it was two blocks from the high school. It was just over two years ago that we bought a condo in California because it was all we could afford and we knew it was time to put down roots there. It was just over a year ago that we boarded a plane to move to Wisconsin, a place a first saw on our house hunting trip the month before we moved. 

A lot can change in three years. 

And yet, our lives today look very similar to the lives we had before we ever left Oregon. My husband goes to work. The kids go to school. They come home and do homework, bicker, and head off to sports and music lessons.  And I spend my days doing the things that have to happen around our house all while trying to figure out how to have purpose and value beyond the day to day stay at home mother role I fill. On the weekends, we go to church, we go to hockey, baseball or swim meets, we watch sports on tv and monitor video game time. We try to create family memories and include some adventures along the way. We spend time with friends, we build relationships with those around us. We connect. 

Our surroundings have changed. The faces have changed. But the key part of me is still my family and so far, we move together. 

Someday, those little boys are going to become big and head off to college or the great big world. I can picture their lives, or at least possible versions of their future. I can see their dreams coming true. 

But for my life, I see the every day. 

We will go to work, go to church, try to find purpose in our lives. We will connect with those around us. We will go on adventures and create memories. 

And I will continue to post random updates from my life on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

To My Boys, Each of You

I love you.

Each of you.

Differently and yet all the same.

I learned what love is because of you. First with you, my eldest. You opened my heart up in ways I did not know were possible. I could never have imagined being happy to be woken up in the middle of the night be a crying baby, but there was something truly amazing about being able to fix things simply by being there, oh and feeding you. It was you that gave me the confidence to be a mom, to trust that we knew what we were doing together. It was you that smiled at me like I was the sun which in turn filled me with the joy the size of a harvest moon, all big and bright and surprising.

I learned to love you each separately when you, our middle son arrived, actually even before that when I was put on bedrest and we had to figure out how to best care of each of our two boys. It wasn’t day 1 but it was pretty quickly that we learned how different two boys can be. Middle Man, I learned how to love not just my child but how to love each of my children from you. You, who were so very much your own, taught me to love you. Not my son, but you.

Ahh and then Little One came along. I had no idea when I first started writing about my youngest as Little One how very wrong that name would be. You may be our youngest but there is nothing little about you. You live big. You love big. You were the final piece of the puzzle we didn’t even know we were missing.

I love each of you. First, because you are my sons and I am your mother. There is something amazingly safe about loving each of you because I am your mommy. At least for now. Someday you will each walk away and not come back. You will visit. You will call, or more likely text. You better. But you will move away, move on, and while that is sad, there will still be a part of you that will call me home. And there is a part of my heart that you will take with you wherever you go.

But I also love each of you because of who you are - the pieces of you that make you different from your brothers, the threads that are your own color added to our family tapestry.

That is the lesson. You love your children first because they are your children but over time, you learn to love them for the people they are. Unique and all their own. And part of loving each of you, is protecting your right to be your own person, nurturing those parts of you that are yours alone, and standing with you in those that run through our family’s DNA.

There it is my sons. Lesson number 2.

I love you.

All of you.

And each of you.


Your Mom

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dear Sons,

I have never wanted to write a parenting book because as we all know that’s the kiss of death. Once you claim to be the expert on something, anything, you end up eating your own words. Not to mention, there are so many privacy issues involved. There was a time when you could write about your kids in a book and they would never find out. Their friends wouldn’t read the story of the little boy that wouldn’t potty train until they were all well into adulthood and only if they picked up the parenting book themselves to help them as they parent their own kids. But in today’s world, every word published ends up in a google matrix of some kind and with just a simple click, your entire childhood could be read by your classmates while sitting next to you in class as you are working on your laptops. 

And you, my boys, are way to precious to me to expose to that kind of ridicule. 

I have written about you. I told cute stories of missing shoes and harder stories of school struggles. I felt okay with it because you didn’t have internet access and I used cute nicknames. But today, you all use laptops in your classrooms and you have access to the internet at home. I can’t imagine you are reading what I write on this blog of mine. I worry that you might find this one day soon. But then I realize that you might want to know me better than I have let you. You may someday want to know who your mom is besides your mom. You might not, and that is okay. But if you do, feel free to read this blog. 

With that in mind, I thought it might be good to write down the words I will want to share with you when you have your own kids. If you are anything like your dad and I, you will want to pave your own way. And we really, really do want you to be your own type of parent. If we have learned anything along this parenting journey it is simply this - you are each your own. But I thought someday, you might google what to do when _______. You might want to ask your mom how I handled something without worrying about judgment or my getting upset if you completely disregard my advice. So I am going to write down what I want to share with you. And I am going to post it here on my blog for you to find when you need my words. I could print up letters like they do in the movies or make a video but then I would have to remember where I put them and you would have to find them and most likely they would be lost until the estate sales people clean out all our old papers after your dad and I have both died. 

So here is the essence of letter number 1. The very first lesson I want to share with you. I am here for you. However you need me to be.  And I am happy to share what I have learned along the way, if you want me to, but I know also that you have to travel your own path, that each of you will manage things your own way. And I am okay with that. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself and be your honest self. You are each your own. You are each so uniquely you. And that is a good thing. 

Be you!