perspective… after Irma…

perspective |pərˈspektiv|
– n.-
— true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.

One the many things I frequently ponder is whether my perspective is solid or skewed. And if my perspective is skewed, what makes it that way? What has contributed to me being “off”? … especially when perhaps via passion, opinion, or extenuating circumstance, I can’t see it.

While my intent is never to be callous nor cruel, my strong sense is that each of us is capable of possessing either angle. Each of us can possess a solid or skewed perspective, and each of us is capable of not knowing it.

Do we have a true understanding of the relative importance of things? Especially, for example…

When we are shaken…
When we are shocked…
When we are fearful…
When we are wronged…
When we are mad…
When we are hurt…
When life is tough…

When any of those valid emotions becomes most prominent within us, do we understand the importance of what we feel or what we’re going through in relation to all else? … in relation to all others? Or does what we feel rise to the top, so-to-speak? Does what we are going through become the absolute most important and everyone else should so obviously get that, too?

Six weeks ago, my family moved to Florida. Two days ago, we found ourselves in the path of one curvaceous, stormy woman named “Irma.” As a brand new Florida resident, I must say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that Hurricane Irma would be the one to welcome us with the widest of arms. Sunday night was awful.

The winds howled; the dog barked; and trees and debris went continuously airborne outside. For ten hours, we huddled underneath a dining room table, topped by a mattress, adjacent to two inside walls, which were the two walls that seemingly shook the least. At one point on the constant hurricane TV coverage (and I do mean “constant”), the weatherman said, “Everyone in the viewing area should just assume there’s a tornado near them right now!” It was serious and potentially severe.

And so we huddled. It was a tough experience accompanied by tough emotions.

We were not, however, the only ones to huddle. We were not the only ones going through a hurricane. We were also not the ones to face the worst of Irma’s wrath, and we were certainly not the only ones to ever experience tough circumstances.

One of the many things the Intramuralist increasingly realizes is that we all experience tough things; the tough things come via varied circumstance — things from which we can each learn — but we’d be wiser to glean the available wisdom than to instead spend more time and energy comparing ourselves to others, attempting to discern who has it worst. There will always be someone who has it harder than we… regardless of who actually experiences a hurricane.

Some respected friends in Irma’s path, with solid perspective, chimed in:

“Winds still howling, not sure of outside damage, but we never lost power and we never lost hope.”

“Feeling overwhelmingly grateful for those who stayed in contact with me, assisted me, sheltered me, and most importantly made laugh during these past few days.”

“In times of crisis, we rise and help each other.”

“Our prayers remain stronger than Irma.”

“Made it thru Irma. Made it through cancer. Irma doesn’t come close. Perspective.”

Amen.

It’s amazing how encouraging solid perspective can be.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash}

bumper sticker diversity

Search for the meaning of “diversity” and one will find multiple answers…

… the variety of characteristics that make people and communities unique…
… a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences…
… more than one of something…

As I recently attempted to more fully comprehend the current manifestation of this word, I simultaneously heard the call to appreciate, respect, and understand. The call is not to appreciate, respect, and understand only one or some of something; the call is to appreciate, respect, and understand all.

As recently noted, over the last 6-7 weeks, the Intramuralist has driven approximately 5,914 miles. Recognize that utilizing that same number of miles, I could have driven from Broadway to Beverly Hills and back again to Broadway — and still had 328 miles to spare. Hence, I decided to entertain a most unscientific study. I observed our diverse expressions in arguably the only avenue offering smaller space than Twitter. Yes, I observed the ever-expressive bumper sticker. My sense is if someone feels a saying is worthy of sticking on their automotive derrière, then it must be highly important to them. I found diversity in what’s highly important.

Let me first acknowledge, I did not notate the adhesive identifications that seemed primarily of local value only (i.e. “my kid is an honor student at…”). Instead I wrote down every sticker that publicized or promoted something bigger, so-to-speak.

Some expressed themselves via only a singular letter… “L”, “A”, “T”, and “M”…

Others were succinct through a single word — first, those encouraging exercise… “Skate”, “Swim”, “Run”. But still more chose a word of seemingly increased imperative… “Love”, “Coexist”…

There was a strong contingent of proud students and alumni… “Villanova”, “Virginia” and “Virginia Tech”, “Texas”, “Tennessee”, “Boston College”, “Purdue”, “Penn State”, and many more. Prouder, perhaps, were the parental units… “West Virginia Mom”, “Ohio State Mom”, “Clemson Mom”, and moms from UCF and Florida, too (… question: do dads don stickers?).

I will admit, I was somewhat leery of the plethora of political messaging I would encounter; our messaging as a nation has been pretty poor in the respect category this past decade. The political stickers were less prominent than the collegiate crowd, but still vocal… “Trump”, “Yes We Can”, “Stop Obama”, “She Persisted”, “Not a Liberal”, “I Am a Woman and I Vote”, “Make America Great Again”, and perhaps most poignant, “Don’t Assume I Like Your Politics”.

Granted, there were some who focused instead on the issue… “Abortion Is a Slaughter of the Innocent”, “War Is Not the Answer”, “Our Nation Is Open”, and “Police Lives Matter”. Let me add that the latter was one of the few messages frequently repeated… “Back Blue” or “Back the Blue” were the most popular refrains.

I was struck, no less, by the refrain I saw most — that which displayed pride and support for our veterans, troops, and uniformed services… “Army Vet”, “Vietnam Veteran”, “U.S. Marines”, “United States Navy”, “Coast Guard”, “God Bless Our Troops. Especially Our Snipers”. The following humbled me more… “Army Mom”, “My Son Is in the US Army”, “Pray for My Soldier”, and maybe my favorite, “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes. They Wear Dog Tags.”

“God Bless the USA”… yes, another repeated refrain. There were additional comments here… “In God We Trust”, “Jesus Saves”, “Life. Faith. Freedom”, including multiple calls to pray.

Some stickers were less solemn, such as the declared love for Labradors, Westies, Steelers, Patriots, nurses, Eagle Scouts, and even Dr. Who. Then there was this whole “life” advertisement… “Mom Life”, “Christ Life”, “Salt Life”, “Walt Life”, and “Band Life”. I realized there are some “lifes” I don’t totally understand. (Insert “Marathon Freak” here.)

A few more wise encouragements and notices… “Disconnect & Drive” and “Stay Alive. Don’t Text and Drive”, and “Baby on Board”. Granted, a witty friend sent me a copy of the sticker stating: “Adults on Board. We Want to Live Too.”

More that made me laugh out loud?… “Bach Off”, “Do You Believe in Life After Death? Touch My Truck and We’ll Find Out”, and (sorry ahead of time) “If You Are Riding My (bleep) This Close, You Might as Well Kiss It.”

Obviously, we are a diverse country, a country in which “God blessing us” is far more than a bumper sticker, but rather, a humbling, wise, and potentially powerful prayer. Maybe we start by learning to appreciate, respect, and understand our differences… even through often sticky expression.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Frankie Guarini on Unsplash}

back!

Greetings, readers, friends, peers, and participants! I have missed you! But prior to sharing some insight into the past few weeks and foreshadowing a bit of what’s next, allow me to extract some wisdom from current, current events…

Roger Federer, one of most talented persons to ever play the sport of tennis, celebrated his 36th birthday during my recent respite. Currently contending in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, in July, Federer was crowned the oldest open era winner of Wimbledon (the “open era” began in 1968). If Federer wins this weekend’s championship, he will also become the oldest winner at Flushing Meadows.

To win at 36 in professional tennis is highly unusual. Also seemingly unusual, is the discernment Federer has so keenly displayed — a discernment available (to us all, if we take it) via age. In an excellent editorial by contributor Bruce Y. Lee in Forbes this summer, Lee noted what was unique about Federer’s success. Unlike the professionals who enroll in each and every tournament, Federer decided much of last year to rest. He wasn’t hurt; he took time off — despite being ostensibly healthy.

Lee continued with the following:

“Rest and recovery are an important and often overlooked part of sports. Of course, if you are resting all the time, you aren’t really playing the sport… But constant practice, training and competition are not good either. Anything in excess, including sushi and baby animals, is bad. Always being on the go doesn’t give your body time to replenish its glycogen stores, repair damage such as small muscle tears and rebuild into a stronger and more flexible version. Injuries tend to occur when you are fatigued not only because of wear and tear, but also because you tend to lose focus, concentration and good form.”

Something in Lee’s words struck me this summer (… no, not that I believe Roger and I have so much in common in our obvious, mutual athletic prowess). Rather, I am learning that rest is good. Rest is necessary. And intentional rest is wise. In fact, if we are not intentional in employing individual rest, then the good Lord seems to allow for some creative way — like it or not — of slowing us down. Yes, it is wise to be intentional in our rest so that we don’t lose our focus, concentration and good form.

I suppose some from afar would look at my last few weeks and ponder where the rest was. True. My best estimates are that in the past 6-7 weeks, I drove approximately 5,914 miles, sold a house, moved four states away, dropped two kids off at college, ensured one medium-sized dog survived, and witnessed one son eat both frog legs and escargot. (Ok, so that last one isn’t so relevant… just kind of fun to say.)

To say the least, my season was busy; the above was on top of the other commitments already a part of my day. I needed rest. I needed not just a time for crashing on the couch. I needed time to slow down… rest and reflect… be refreshed… both feast and fast… get a sense of divine direction… be still… quiet… gently ask where are those pockets where I still need to grow. The intentional rest thus allowed for such a time.

And so let me first offer a humble thank you… to our once again excellent Guest Writers in our annual series. Thank you for covering so much so well! Whether I shared your opinion or not was secondary to the respect lavished upon the expression of your perspective; that is something we all could get so better at — and dare I say, should get so better at. I thoroughly enjoyed processing each of your perspectives.

Thank you, also, to you, my respected readers, friends, peers, and participants. I appreciate that you have embraced others who prioritize respectful communication. That is a gift you give to me. That is a gift we give to one another.

And so now ’tis time to get started. I mean it… I have so much to say!! I want to talk about Charlottesville, Harvey, ESPN, and CBS News. I want to talk about controlling the historical narrative, racial reconciliation, and how disaster can be an opportunity. I want to talk about finger pointing and healing… authentic healing. I also want to talk about virtue and who has it and the penetration of pluralism in our culture. Yes, so much to say. So many things we need to talk about.

So let’s start on Thursday. Topic?

Bumper stickers.

I drove approximately 5,914 miles; remember?

(Looks like we’re back in good form.)

Respectfully…
AR

 

[Photo by anja. on Unsplash]

principle or power

Over the last decade I have seen the priorities of discourse trend away from arguments based on principle to those fed by the desire for power. Persuasive speech driven by facts has given way to forceful tactics where anything goes as long as you persuade or shut up your opponent. Honesty has lost its value while influence is the goal we all seem to be grabbing for.

A few years ago a friend shared an article on Facebook regarding an author she had issues with. The article was full of fabricated untruths that vilified the author. I pointed this out to my friend.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I don’t think people should read her books.”

She was using the article to frighten people from reading rather than putting out her own thoughtful opinion based on facts and reason.

In this world of instant results, it seems we have lost the willpower to take the time to actually engage over our differences. We would rather convince people of something in a matter of seconds. Our world of pictures, where we can with a snap show the universe a fabulous meal at a restaurant — “You need to go here!” or of a disastrous vacation spot, “Avoid this place at all costs!” — has turned us into toddlers who use only short sentences and a lot of jumping up and down to get our opinion heard.

To my point, I received a phone call from a polling firm earlier this summer. They asked a series of questions regarding political issues. For most questions, I was given 4-5 responses to choose from, except one question where I was given only two possible answers, neither of which reflected my opinion and both were very one-sided.

“Are those the only answers to choose from?” I asked the surveyor.

“Umm, no,“ she replied. “There are three more listed, but we were told to only read the first two unless asked.”

The polling firm was obviously looking for a particular answer, not caring about the integrity of the survey.

When we use false, exaggerated or manipulated information, not only does the argument fall flat, but the source loses respect and credibility. Which is why, according to recent Gallop polls, less than a third of Americans trust the media. But it is not just the media that are using these tactics.

There is a current court case in Canada where a scientist has been accused of manipulating data in order to show certain results… celebrities being sued for posting complete falsehoods on Twitter… and the thousands who reposted a picture of President Obama not having his hand over his heart during the national anthem while military members saluted around him, not bothering to check the source. Turns out it was “Hail to the Chief” that was playing and he wasn’t supposed to have his hand anywhere near his heart. We have become just as quick to put something out there because it reinforces our opinion whether there is validity to it or not.

If we want to maintain our integrity as individuals or as a society, I propose that we need to all take stock in how we try to persuade others…

Are we totally honest with our approach?

Are we open to hearing rebuttals?

Are we willing to take the time to have open and civil conversations over our differences?

Are we willing to be principled rather than powerful?

Respectfully…
SS

your health is in your hands

With chronic illness on the rise and many of us facing our own health-related challenges these days, I want to take a moment to look at how we respond to these difficult circumstances. So often, when faced with illness, we are looking for a quick fix, an easy answer. We go to the doctor expecting him/her to fix it, to give us a prescription or recommend a procedure that will make it all go away.

But what would happen if we stopped looking for a magic pill, for a simple fix, for a doctor to give us the answer? What if we, instead, turned to our own bodies for the answer to healing? What if illness is our bodies way of communicating with us and telling us we need to make a change? What if healing is possible, but the answer isn’t just a simple fix?

Truth is, we are extremely capable of healing ourselves. Our immune system was designed to heal our body and it’s inherently great and efficient at doing so. Think about it… if you get a cut on your arm, you don’t need a prescription or a procedure to heal. Your body knows what to do and immediately goes to work healing the wound. So, if we know that our body is inherently capable of healing itself then why do we look outside the body for a cure when things get tough?

We often turn to the advice of doctors because they are the experts in their field. They “know more than us.” While they surely have depth in their field of knowledge, it is often a very narrow scope, when illness is usually caused by a wide range of conditions. Doctors don’t always take the time to get to know their patients and the lifestyle habits that can influence the patient’s health. All of these variables need to be considered when deciding the best path to healing. Who is more of an expert on what’s going on in your body than you? Who better to decide what’s right for your body than the person who knows it best? If we trust in our body and our own personal ability to heal, we could have a great impact on our own health.

This is not just ideology, I speak from my own experience. I dealt with HPV and severe cervical dysplasia for over 7 years before finally finding my way to health and healing. HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) is an extremely common sexually transmitted virus that can potentially cause cervical cancer. I had severe cervical dysplasia or mutated cells on the inner lining of my cervix. Had it progressed any worse, it would have been cancer. I spent years trying the traditional methods, following the doctor’s orders. They recommended a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), which could possibly reduce my ability to bear children, only to have the mutated cells return, worse than before.

After a doctor told me my options were getting a second LEEP, or waiting until it turns to cancer and she would give me a hysterectomy, I choose a different option. Instead of relying only on what a doctor had to say, I started listening to myself, something we often forget to do when dealing with our health. I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started to listen to my body. I trusted my own intuition. And it told me that another LEEP was not the answer. I knew that my body was capable of healing itself. just had to have faith in it and find ways to help my body heal.

If I was going to heal, I was going to have to heal myself. After years of trying different methods, I was finally able to clear the virus and reverse the cervical dysplasia. Many people asked me how I did it. I noticed they were looking for one simple answer — a diet, a pill, a vitamin, a supplement, a doctor. But my path to healing wasn’t that simple.

In fact, I knew in order to fully heal, it wouldn’t be a simple answer or a quick fix at all. I knew it would be a complete overhaul of the way I lived my life. I looked at my life from every angle. I started doing my own research and implementing changes that made sense to me. I improved my diet, adding in more fruits and vegetables including lots of dark, leafy greens. I ate more organic foods, less meat and dairy and more nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I cut out a lot of junk food, fast food, and highly-processed food (think anything in a box/bag). I stayed thoroughly hydrated with clean, filtered water. I got rid of personal care products with toxic ingredients, such as parabens and phthalates, which are known cancer-causing agents and replaced them with natural soaps and homemade deodorants and lotions.

But I didn’t stop there. I added more yoga and meditation into my daily life to help reduce stress and anxiety. I changed my daily habits, working less, sleeping more and waking up with the sun. I spent more time outside in nature and less time behind a computer screen. I focused more on self-care and self-love. I spent more time honoring the people and relationships in my life. I was more mindful about the way I reacted to stress, letting the little things go more easily and keeping my body out of unnecessary fight or flight mode, which can wreak havoc on your immune system. I used a variety of immune boosting supplements, changing it up as I learned more about each supplement and how my body responded to them. I found a doctor whose principles were in line with mine and would help support me in my own healing journey.

Basically, I renovated my entire life to be in line with healing. It wasn’t just one thing in the end that did it. There wasn’t a magic pill. It took hard work and determination to really look at my life, analyze what got me to this point and how I wanted to shape the future of my health from here. Sometimes, I wish there was a magic pill, an easy way out, but, the truth is, I have learned so much along the way, I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have changed my daily habits and diet for the better. I feel healthier, stronger and have more energy. HPV truly was a blessing in disguise, designed to help me clean up my diet and lifestyle to ensure a healthy and happy future.

When faced with a medical challenge, keep in mind, YOU are the most important part of the healing process. Sunshine, fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet are the best medicines. Of course, this should not take the place of professional medical advice. But if that advice doesn’t resonate with you, listen to yourself, seek out other opinions and do your own research. Knowledge is power and power is healing.

Empowering yourself and putting your health into your own hands is a huge part of the healing process. Align yourself with a healing path that works for you. If we eat well, take care of ourselves, put the right things in our body and take the wrong things out, our bodies can and will heal themselves.

Healing takes hard work, dedication and self-discipline. It’s not just one little change that will do it, but redesigning your life as a whole. It may not always be easy to find your own path to healing, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

Respectfully…
CBM

how many cups?

There were two other scary incidents that could have been life threatening to Sam. They were in addition to the times I personally threatened his life.

The first was the grill brush. It was an industrial strength brush hanging on a bar designed for grill accessories on the side of the grill. It was heavy plastic with a brush made of one-inch long, very stiff stainless steel. It was a sturdy sucker-I could have scraped the asphalt driveway clean down to the gravel beneath. The grill was sitting in a corner of the deck covered by a vinyl cover-out of sight, out of mind. Apparently, it wasn’t out of Sam’s mind.

We frequently left Sam and Meg outside in the backyard, safe within the confines of the Invisible Fence. They loved to lie on the deck in the sun. Like a child, we couldn’t leave Sam alone for long or he’d find something to do, and this time he thought he would clean the meat flavor off the grill brush. Maybe he thought he was helping, like doing the dishes.

I found what little was left of the plastic handle lying in the grass. There was no sign of the steel brush anywhere. I even got down on my hands and knees to look for pieces hidden in the grass, but I found nothing. He could have munched it anywhere and discarded it. He was never selective about dining ambiance.

I started to seriously worry about the metal pieces perforating his stomach or intestines trying to pass through his body, and a possible trip to the emergency clinic in the middle of the night. No sign of distress the following two days, but on the third, Ed was doing poop patrol before mowing and yelled, “Lin, come out here. You’ve got to see this!”

I walked up, looked where he was pointing and burst out laughing. There it was: a huge pooh that looked like an explosion of mangled Brillo, all spikey and metallic. It must have hurt a lot, like passing ground up tin cans. It was really something, and we laughed about it for days.

The next eating extravaganza was expensive. I used manure-based fertilizer for many of the flowering shrubs around the house. The ten pound bag was too heavy to lug around, so I filled a five gallon bucket about three-quarters full. As I worked my way around digging trenches around the drip lines and mixing the fertilizer into the soil, I had my back turned to the bucket sitting several feet behind me.

I heard Sam behind me somewhere, but I had my head in a Rhododendron, and wasn’t paying him any mind. I had no idea he was following and eating the fertilizer as I worked. Ed came out of the garage and caught him with his head in the bucket.

“Sam! Get out of there”! he yelled.

I turned and looked, and saw Sam’s entire snout covered with the fertilizer. Good grief. How long had he been sneaking the stuff, and what’s in it besides pooh? We knew Sam loved to eat deer and bunny poop, so this was probably a culinary convenience-just stuck his head in a bucket. No rooting in the grass required.

Ed grabbed the bag and started reading the ingredients. To be safe, I called the poison control center. I never had reason to call the doggy poison control center before, and wasn’t aware you were required to charge a rather large sum to a credit card before anyone would speak to you that knew anything about anything. They weren’t in it for philanthropic reasons.

First a tech, or someone like that, asked a lot of questions. I repeated the same answers to the same questions when the vet finally came on the line. At least I assumed he was a vet. He could have been a plumber for all I knew.

I gave Sam’s age, weight, rattled off the ingredients, but could not say exactly how much Sam had ingested. The doctor wanted to know how many cups.

“I wasn’t serving tea”, I snapped. “He was sneaking it when I wasn’t looking”!

After a somewhat frustrating conversation, it was suggested I take him to a vet. Ours was closed for the day, so we piled Sam into the van, and off we went to the Emergency Care Center.

The big goof was as happy as a clam to meet so many new friends. He greeted everyone in the waiting room, went from chair to chair, wagging and smiling, as if he wasn’t about to empty our bank account. He reminded me of a smarmy politician working a crowd. He did everything but kiss babies.

After explaining the situation at the front desk for a third time and filling out the required paperwork, Sam was whisked off to the back. Thankfully, no one asked, “how many cups”?

An hour later a doctor came out to tell us Sam was receiving IV fluids, and they may want to keep him all night to keep an eye on him. She said the high iron content in the fertilizer could damage the lining of his stomach. I almost laughed at that. His stomach was made of iron! She said to hang around for a while, and she would let us know. Cha-ching went the cash register in my head.

While we waited we could hear what sounded like Sam’s deep bark in the back. He didn’t sound ill. In fact, he sounded rather boisterous. It was his happy bark. The doctor came out to give us an update, and I asked her if that was Sam barking. She laughed, and said, “Yes. He’s barking at the cats in the cages. He’s a happy boy, isn’t he? Everybody loves him”. Yeah, everybody loves him.

Four and a half hours later, $522.00 poorer and with two prescriptions, we took Sam home. He had mild diarrhea for a couple of days, but was none the worse for wear. What a knothead.

I will say though, the Rhododendron’s looked splendid that year.

Respectfully…
Linda

 

[Sam and Friends, A Collection of Recollections of Life with a Knothead
With permission by Linda Kiernan July 2017]

mom guilt

I struggled this year. I struggled with what I needed to write. What would help someone along their way? …and I struggled. I even considered that the Lord had closed the door on my guest blog time, and yet here I am. I hope this meets you or someone you know along the road when you need it most. Thanks to AR for the invite again; it’s always such an honor.

I was walking with a fellow mom (who I will call P) along a beach path recently in Myrtle Beach. I am just getting to know her, as our sons played baseball together this year.

The husbands were taking a large group of the boys from the team to a local water park and most of the moms were spending the day on the beach. She looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I was looking forward to a day of relaxing. She asked why I didn’t feel guilty for not going nor felt guilty for planning a day of relaxing at the beach.

I said, “No, I don’t feel guilty.”

I told her P we’re a better mom when we take time for ourselves, read a book, get a pedicure, sit on the beach or have lunch with a friend… doing these things all help us, not hurt us — in being a better mom. P told me she has a lot of guilt being a mom, and that her husband really feeds into the guilt. This conversation has been plaguing me for weeks and got me wondering how many moms feel this same way.

When I googled “mom guilt,” 493,000 pages came up! WOW! WOW! WOW!

I had no idea this was crippling so many moms. I then saw this quote from author Fay Weldon: “guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.”

Webster’s defines “mom guilt” as tendencies a mom has to berate herself and to be judged by others for our child rearing decisions. A poll by Glamour Magazine asked men and women how guilty they felt about working after having kids. I was dumbfounded by the results: 87% of women and 0% of men feel guilty.

Let’s go back to my earlier time I was sharing while at the beach…

A group of us were having fun, enjoying the waves, the sun… some were napping, some were chatting… it was a great day. Throughout the day P kept asking if anyone had heard from our spouses and sons… “Do you think they’re ok?… Should I be worried that I haven’t heard from them?” I reassured her several times that it would be more concerning if we had heard from them.

I could see the struggle inside her on her face. It was sad; she’s believed the mom guilt lie. It’s the lie that says good moms don’t need a break — good moms are fulfilled solely by the time with their kids; “good moms _____________ (fill in the blank).” Friends, it’s a lie.

Focus on the Family describes taking time for yourself in this way…

Imagine running your car on low gas; it’s always a gamble, right? If you run out then someone has to come rescue you, fill up your car, and that takes away from two people — where if you had just stopped and filled up, you could’ve kept going. We are just like that car. If we are running our emotional and/or physical tank on empty, we can’t be the best for our family. We run the risk of running on low gas and that’s when tempers flare, feelings get hurt and meltdowns happen. If we had stopped and taken an hour, an evening, a whole day or even a weekend, we could’ve kept going at our best.

I’ll promise you this: the longer we let our tank run empty, the longer it takes to refill. Small stops of refilling when we’re a little low is much easier than if we let ourselves run bone dry.

I think I’ve become the strange lady in the grocery. When a kid is screaming and the mom is trying to regain control or maybe she’s not and just letting the kid scream, I’ve begun offering encouraging words. Sometimes my words are well received — sometimes they’re not — but I’ll keep saying them.

Let me end by saying parenthood is hard, and we’re all in the same kind of boat whether we see it or not.

So be kind; sometimes the sea of parenthood is temporarily smooth and sometimes it’s rowdy and the water is sloshing into the boat. So offer a smile, say a kind word, load a busy mom’s groceries into her cart, be kind to each other, and mostly be kind to yourself.

Respectfully…
AW

 

[Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash]

an american millennial… overseas…

Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.

As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.

Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.

I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.

Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.

I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.

However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.

As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.

I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.

Respectfully…
HB

 

[Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash]

questions from an old(er) woman

Like most adults my age, I have adopted social media along with the rest of the world as an efficient way to reconnect and stay in touch with my distant family and friends. This time of year is the best time of year to be on social media, in my opinion. The pictures! Wonderful, happy, pictures of end-of the school year events, summer fun, and WEDDINGS (honestly, my favorite!). I think it was around the end of May, as I was gazing upon all these posts that questions started popping up in my head.

As a more, ahem, mature woman, I can’t help but think about how things have changed from when my children were growing up to now. My questions here are sincere because it seems growing up in the U.S. has changed quite a bit in the last 20+ years, probably as it changed in the 20 years prior to that and so on. I wonder if growing up in the U.S. right now is better than it used to be?

Take into account while you’re reading that most of my social media “friends” have enough food in their bellies, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back. They earn the means to raise their children and thus, I think there are less basic worries and perhaps a greater desire to celebrate the joys in life. I totally get that. My husband and I struggle to keep the balance. Should we go on vacation or sock that money into retirement? The answer is not always clear to us. Too often, we see friends and family “waiting” for retirement to enjoy their life and something devastating happens before they get there.

Back to my question: is it a better experience growing up in the U.S. right now than it was 20+ years ago? I’ll tell you why I have that question. Pre-schoolers are wearing caps and gowns in order to graduate from being 4 to being 5. Pinterest-inspired (and definitely Pinterest-worthy) birthday parties are being given, starting with gender reveals during pregnancy and continuing until children say “stop, I’m too old for that.” Children receive cell phones, video games, and other traditionally “adolescent” privileges at younger and younger ages. Kids today have experiences! Activities! Travel! One friend took her elementary-age child to Disney’s Art Institute because he likes to draw. Fifth grade proms. High school prom-posals. Oh my. The prom-posals. Kids are traveling internationally and experiencing other cultures and ways of doing things. Truth be told, I didn’t even travel outside the U.S. until I was 45.

It also seems to me — and I stress the “seems” part because I am beyond the active childrearing years — that teenagers are not working at jobs outside of schoolwork and chores at home. I read an article the other day that addressed the joblessness issue among teens today and it surprised me to read that the findings revealed that teens aren’t working at part-time jobs because they are using summers to continue to prepare academically and experientially for college applications. Wow. That’s some added stress to families.

So. These are my observations from social media. Downright objective, I know, but question-generating for me nonetheless. Part of me thinks this is a natural process of growing older. Comparing generations. Another part of me, though, sincerely questions the differences. I know now how important it is to travel and experience other cultures, environments, and situations. Do today’s young parents already get that? It seems that more have than when I was growing up. A trip to the beach was downright glamorous and highly anticipated once a year (or less) when I was young(er). Do today’s parents realize how fleeting our time is here on earth and work to make as many special memories as possible before their kids move away and begin lives without mom and dad? I can get behind those ideas. Honestly, I wish I had had some of those realizations 20 years ago when my kids were small.

Let’s also look at the other side of the coin. May I insert here that the element of competition might be at play? Mommy wars is a real thing. Women striving to outdo other women through their children. It happens in the workplace. Isn’t it logical that it also happens in the family and childrearing context? Is that what is driving the “uber-childhood experiences”?

That leads me to my next question. Are today’s children programmed to be disappointed adults? There has been research done in this area. Some note that today’s young adults experience anxiety and depression at greater rates than previous generations. How do young adults continue to experience life events when parents aren’t around anymore? Don’t you suppose that there is a bit of shock and letdown when they realize that there won’t be a parade for them when they start their first job? Is there a transition of the responsibility to create joy? To whom? Spouses? What does that expectation do to young marriages? I would imagine that it takes a while for people to figure all this out. How long does it take for young adults to find their own, sometimes less sensational, ways of celebrating or simply experiencing life? I rarely see pictures of “twenty-somethings” throwing Pinterest-inspired parties for themselves.

As with most interesting life situations, there isn’t a black and white answer. Is this trend good or bad? I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s a shade of gray (no, I haven’t read the books). It’s one of those things where it’s up to moms, dads, and kids to make sense of it all and pull the good out of it and use it to lead fulfilling lives. Likewise, the not-so-good should be weeded out and discarded along the way. Easier said than done, eh?

As noted at the beginning, this old(er) woman has a lot of questions. I’m still not sure of the answers, but I have confidence that all will work out for the good of American families. In the meantime, I’m considering asking some of these families to consider me for adoption! I’d LOVE to go to a Disney Art Camp.

Respectfully…
SLL

 

[Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash]

growing up with depression: a note to parents from a millennial

Every parent hates hearing the words “You just don’t understand” from their children. Because 99% of the time, of course they understand. Parents have been through more than their children generally give them credit for. Just because they’re technically from a different generation doesn’t make them clueless on the challenges of growing up in the modern world. Especially when those challenges include various struggles due to mental illness inherited through birth, such as depression. Sometimes, our parents know better than anyone else the battle of being handed a certain collection of genes that we may not be too fond of, because they share the same genes.

However, social media has drastically changed today’s culture, and for some of the older generations, it is hard for them to comprehend the acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses amongst today’s youth. The internet has created a whole virtual world of “support” for young adults who feel they are struggling with anything from questioning their sexuality to dealing with an eating disorder. Anyone with internet access can log into chat rooms, connect with social media groups, and so much more, with people all over the world who are being faced with similar road bumps on the journey of life. While this can be a helpful benefit of today’s technology, nothing beats the one on one support of a child that a parent can provide.

Unlike in the past, when people would get embarrassed and clam up with the mere mention of mental illness, today’s youth is much more outspoken and straightforward when it comes to the said topic. So, parents today should not be afraid to call their kid out if they feel something is wrong but their child won’t come to them for help, because it is likely that their friends at school/ sports/ clubs/ etc. are already talking freely about their own problems. Therefore, taking a blunt and straightforward approach, which may have been frowned upon in the past and viewed as “inappropriate” or “invasive,” is very fitting for helping a growing child in a world that is rapidly adapting to helping those with mental illnesses.

Coming from someone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more since the age of 14, it is extremely scary, but mostly confusing. Growing up, I was never sure of my feelings, my thoughts, and my actions. I had so many questions throughout my daily routine and I would obsess over little moments every day, wondering if I had said or done the right thing. I wish my mom had sat me down, related to me the best she could, and welcomed my problems with open arms, ready to hear whatever I had to say. She tried the best she knew how, and would ask me daily how I was doing, checking in to make sure I was okay. But, to say the least, I was stubborn and of course wanted none of the help and support my mom was offering. Because I was young.

I didn’t know up from down in my life, no matter how much I thought I had figured out, I may as well have been going through every day blind and deaf. My hormones were way off, not only due to going through puberty but also due to a chemical imbalance within my brain. What may have seemed like just a moody teenager who thinks she knows everything, was really just a confused, sick young girl, needing an outlet for all her questions and concerns. Looking back now, I can see that my mom had tried the best she knew how to help me at the time by just trying to be there for me whenever I needed her. But, like I said, I was young and unable to comprehend her potential to truly help me conquer whatever battles I was fighting. At the time, I needed her to sit me down and basically force me to talk to her. That might sound aggressive but it’s truly not; it’s strong guidance from a person of importance in a young one’s life.

Today, I can talk freely with both of my parents about my ups and downs, how I’m working on balancing medications, and how I’m getting through my day to day life. It took a lot of growing up but I am finally reaching an age where I am mature enough to come to my parents when I need help, on my own. I’ve talked with my parents about the past and explained to them what I was missing from them in my teenage years. I’ve even given them some tips to help keep an eye on my younger siblings as they grow through their young adult years as well.

If there is one conclusive piece of advice I would’ve given my parents years ago to help my younger self, it would be this: don’t be afraid and don’t give up. Kids are hard to raise, especially teenagers, but parents, don’t let a moody teenager that claims they “hate” you scare you off or make you question your parenting. Give undying love and support and make it clear to your kids that you get it; you were there too once. Tell them stories, relate and connect with your kids on a more personal level so that they aren’t constantly faced with answering the questions “how are you?/how was your day?” because a lot of the time kids/teenagers truly don’t know their answers to such broad questions. For someone young, trying to figure out themselves, their growing bodies, and where they fit into the world, a question like “how was your day?” can instantly shut them down because their day was full of so much, that they don’t even know where to begin answering that question. A teenager’s day may be going great all the way until the last 5 minutes of school when something put them in a bad mood, but those 5 minutes can dictate how they feel about their whole day.

So, don’t be afraid to dig deep and get personal with your kids, parents; just keep trying and give them time. I promise, we’ll thank you someday.

Respectfully…
Kaylyn Brooke

 

[Photo by www.IAmSethCharles.com.]