A New Chapter

My daughter and son in-love, after seven years of marriage, told us that they are expecting.  Not only are they expecting, but they are expecting twins! My heart is overflowing and I cannot stop smiling.

I gave birth to this tiny little angel. She moved three times my entire pregnancy and I worried the entire time. When I first held her, she looked right into my eyes. She laughed when she was only hours old. She smiled continually, even after falling off her bike. The sun always shone on her and from her. Her eyes changed colors with her moods – blue grey to vibrate green. She loved deeply, her older brother was her umbrella because she was always right up under him. Her daddy was her all and she lived for “Daddy Date Night”. When her younger brother arrived, she became his little mother and protector.

She is going to be a mother!

When she was old enough to qualify, she began working at summer camps for kids. They flocked to her. She could not get out of the car because they swarmed the door when we drove up. Her unconditional love was felt by those children. She was fun to be with. She listened to whatever they wanted to talk about. She gave a comforting hug when needed, a pep-talk, and sometimes she just cried with them. They knew they had value because of her, even if their world told them they didn’t.

She is going to be a wonderful mother!

I am not sure that I did anything to make her the amazing woman she is. I am not a great example, I made plenty of mistakes while raising her. I was not an expert in any interpretation of the meaning but she IS amazing! The one thing I believe I did right and I did well is that I prayed. I prayed for her. I prayed for me, that I would do what was right for her in the long run. I prayed for her spouse before she was even old enough to date. I prayed for her children….and soon I will hold them.

I’m going to be a Grandmother, or more accurately, a YaYa! I pray that I am all they need in a YaYa and that I am all my daughter and son in-love need me to be for them while they raise their children. I pray that I do not over-step, but if I do that my daughter and son in-love will lovingly let me know that I have. I pray that God is always sought. I pray that God is always allowed to lead and rule.

Children are a gift and a true blessing. They do not “belong” to anyone, even if we call them “mine”. They belong first and only to God. I pray that we never forget that we are only guardians and that we strive to always point them to Him.

LESSON: When raising your children, keep in mind that one day they will be raising your Grandchildren. Teach them well by word and, more importantly, by deed.

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Not For Praise Or Glory

Ever wonder “How did this happen?” Whether it is about a particular situation or where you currently are in life, I am sure we have all asked that question of ourselves. My life right now is not what I envisioned or planned for myself.

I have become a full-time care giver to my mother in-law. I have given notice at my job and in a few short days, taking care of her will be a full-time commitment.

I married her only child and about 25 years ago we all moved under one roof: mother in-law, husband, our three kids (all living in their own homes now) and one dog (whom is no longer with us). We had the best set-up. She had her own kitchen, laundry room, entry, etc. That cut down on the possible risk of friction. As she began to show her age, we started doing some of the “heavy lifting” for her. My husband learned to cook cornbread the way she does it, because the iron skillet had gotten too heavy for her to lift. Our son in-love started collecting some of her family recipes, that she just couldn’t seem to “get right” any more. Her two grandsons painted walls, moved furniture and anything else she needed. Her granddaughter became her encourager, trying to get her to remember and tell stories of growing up in “the olden days”. I did the housekeeping she could no longer do.

Over the years she has broken both hips, in separate falls. Both times, I slept on the sofa for weeks so that when she needed to get up at night she would have someone close to call for help getting in and out of bed. She recently fell and broke her collar bone. Due to the hip replacements and four fractures in her back (two required “cement” to stabilize them), she relies on a four-wheeled walker. With the broken clavicle, she cannot use her walker and is 100% reliant on others. She is currently in a rehabilitation facility. I spend week-nights on a cot in her room at the facility and her son stays on the weekends. We help the aide at night (they only provide one and two are truly necessary in her sleepy state). I get up each morning and get ready for work, get her ready for the day and then go to my day job.

As I sit and type this, exhausted by lack of sleep and overwork, I can’t help but think of the situation as a whole. It is like being a first-time mother. You KNOW there will be sleepless nights, but you have no idea how that will affect your life until you live it. You KNOW you will need to wipe them, bathe them, change their diapers and the like – but you are not ever “ready” for the reality of it. You KNOW you will let them down at some point – but you cannot fathom the depth of the pain that it brings you until you feel it.

I guess it is true, we all revert back into infants. Helpless we enter this world and, if we live long enough, helpless we leave it. I was an “outsider” that “took away” her only child, and I was a “Yankee” on top of all that; however, now I am the one she can lean on, rely on and turn to. Now, as I enter a time in my life that I thought I would have all the answers, enough money to relax and time to do it –  I am working a 24/7 “job” that nobody has a manual for.

What my father taught me many years ago echoes in my heart: We are not responsible for how others treat us but we are responsible for how we treat others.

This outsider-son-stealing-Yankee will honor this woman not because of what she has or has not done for me, or to me, but because she is a child of the King, as am I. I will treat her with all the warmth, love and care that the Father has lavished on me because I love Him. I will also lavish love on her because of her son, whom I love more than words can describe.

My one hope is to have a positive impact on her “Golden Years”, not for reward, not for gain, not for praise of others but because in doing so I can see the smile on my Heavenly Father’s face and make my Earthly Daddy proud as well. Also, I hope to instill in my children the willingness to do for others – not for gain or reward but because it is what needs to be done.

LESSON: Always remember who you are and Whose you are – then act accordingly.

Ruin Or Blue Sky?

It is not that I love my father more than my mother.  To pick a “favorite” parent is like a good mother trying to choose her favorite child. One may bring laughter wherever they go, so when she is feeling low, that child may be her favorite. Another may be a musician and can make you dance even in troubling times. While yet another child is calm and can soothe frazzled nerves the moment they walk through a door. To choose a favorite child or parent, well I just cannot do it. I love each as they are and for who they are. Each brings love and lessons into my life. Each occupies my entire heart.

My father is was the standard I measured every other man by. My father was loving, strong, protective, giving, intelligent, funny, and so much more. I miss him every single day. Even in the middle of his cancer battle, his thoughts were not for himself but for those he loved. I know he was in pain but he never complained in my presence. I know he was fatigued but remained buoyant during my visits with him. I know he was scared but no one would ever know it. He wasn’t scared about what would come after death for him, he had secured his Heavenly location years earlier at the age of Nine. His fear was what would become of those whom he loved and would be leaving behind.

I do try to be like him in all things. I do try to be strong, to protect those I love, I try to give to those that need, and so much more. I am not my father. A hard confession to make for me. To be like my father would be the closest I could come to perfection on this earth. Okay, I know my father was not perfect. There were chinks in his armor, that is sure. However, my dad was a man after God’s own heart. He may have stumbled or fallen while on this earth, but his gaze always remained upward. He never lost sight of the One that loved him unconditionally. Because of that, he was able to get back up when he fell. Because his focus was always upward, his chin never stayed down long. Because he had weak moments, he was able to discover and tap into the strength of Thee Most Powerful.

Maybe I am more like my father than I first realized. In the center of any storm, I can still look up and see clear blue skies reigning over me. I am walking through a storm right now that can erase who I am but, thanks to my father, I have inherited strength that will help me survive. I will not focus on the storm, I will look up and claim that patch of calm blue sky. That will be my focus and that will be my prize.

LESSON: Whatever you focus on will be your reward – good or bad. Don’t focus on the storm or ruin will be your only gain.

Larger Than Life

My Dad died several years ago; however, he is still influencing my life, my decisions and my future. He is still that voice in my head. He is still encouraging me from the side-lines and urging me to be my best, give my all and love with my whole heart.

My Mother is a strong, determined, intelligent,  decisive woman. I would put her up against anyone and say a prayer for the opposed. That is NOT to say that she is not loving, kind and acts from the heart – for she does. What I am saying is that she is not a door-mat or someone that will follow the crowd. That being said, Daddy always had the lead in their relationship. When we discovered that Daddy would not be with us much longer, we all assumed that Mom would follow him quickly after he was gone. They were the type of couple that if he stubbed  his toe, she would feel the pain. If she had spicy food, he would have the indigestion.  We just could not see her going on and thriving after he was gone. He was larger-than-life for me, but he was even more for Mom.

She has done well since my Daddy died. She immediately took the reigns once Daddy got too weak to do so and began leading. She was instrumental in his care and, I truly believe, in the longevity of his time with us after his diagnosis. They were inseparable my whole life. To this day, it is still strange to see her without him close behind and at times it is unbearable.

However, the fact that we can go on after losing so large a part of our lives is a testimony to God – who is our Rock, Fortress and Strength – but also, to my Daddy. He would be the perfect example of the saying: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” (Hunter S. Thompson)

He did everything “right”. He never did anything half-way. He never left a job undone or incomplete. Everything he did had his full attention, whether it was his job, his artwork, his home and even his family. Very few times in my life do I remember speaking with my father where he was not looking me in the eye and giving me his undivided attention. I even remember him pulling to the side of the road once to give me his undivided attention when I was upset about some trivial thing. It bothered me, therefore it was not trivial to him.

Yes, he did all things “right” – to the best of his ability as a human being – and that includes preparing us to live without him. Because he took so much care with us as we grew we are able to stand after his death. My brother spoke at the funeral, my sister and I sang. Our strength came from the man that we were there to celebrate, he passed it on to us a little each day, each hug, each phone call, each beat of his heart. We travel forward in our lives still drawing from that pool of strength.

Is it any wonder that I still hear his voice in my head, see his face wherever I go and feel his heart beat with every beat of my own? Being larger-than-life is not being a celebrity, a Wall Street warrior, or a wealthy mover-n-shaker. To live a life that makes a ripple in the world around you, even if it is a small ripple in a local pond, that is living large because that is living outside of self. Live larger-than-life and begin today.

LESSON:  One day you will be a memory, make it a good one, and make it larger-than-life.

My Inheritance

I wish I were more like my Daddy. He was able to get along with anyone. People from different walks of life, educational backgrounds, religious beliefs, social status, etc. He was able to connect with them, converse with them and make them feel comfortable.  I try to be more like my Daddy and less like “me” but it seems to be a loosing battle.

My Daddy was one-of-a-kind. Even when he was doing his job, which often times meant telling someone something they didn’t want to hear, he was liked and respected. My Daddy did not like how things were being run regarding work, therefore he ran for office and tried to change it from the inside. He did make many positive changes while he was there and did, I am told, hold back the “ugly” during his time there. Even when he was going up against the “big guys” they admired and respected him. He made everyone around him better for just the experience of knowing him.   He could laugh at himself and didn’t take offense when others laughed at him. He believed that laughter built bridges and would “suffer” for that opportunity to build a bridge to another human being.

By this description of my Daddy, you may think that he was a “people pleaser” but that is so far from the truth. Daddy had values, scruples and principles. He never waivered from those, they were his guidelines for life. He was always striving to improve himself; however, he never became any one other than his truest self.

I remember cleaning out his lunch box once and finding a small dictionary and thesaurus. When I questioned him about it, he told me that you are never too old to stop learning. He had a goal to learn five new words a day, to know what they meant, and to use them at some point during the day. Is it any wonder that he became one of the most intelligent men I have ever known?

Once, when I was listing my pipedreams for the future – important job, success, being famous, unmeasurable treasures – he sweetly brought me back down to earth. He told me that success is truly measured by who you ARE and not what you DO or HAVE. To have people know they can depend on you, trust you, seek you out in times of need, that was the true measure of success. To be able to stand before God at the end of the day and know in your heart that you made a positive contribution to His Kingdom and His children, you were the richest person on the planet. And, THAT “treasure” is the only thing you can “take with you” with you leave this planet.

My Daddy was the most intelligent person I have ever known and by far the richest. His wisdom, passed on, has made me rich indeed. May the inheritance I leave for my children be as valuable and lasting.

LESSON: Do not under achieve to be the copy of someone else. Be you, be authentic and never loose contact with the One who created you and knows you best.

On Second Thought…..

Well, I am in a new job, position, field, and time in my life. I switched careers a few months ago. I thought I would at least have a “system” or a “groove” going by now. Not so. There are some days that I feel more of a hindrance to my employer than a help. The “lingo” is different, even the English language and punctuation is different. There is no “base line” or “standard” for anything I do, not really. Every situation is different, every project has its distinction. That makes it hard for me to truly get my groove on.

I have actually played with the thought of giving notice – but my parents did not raise quitters. Okay, I LEFT my previous job and some classify that as “quitting”. However, when I say “quit”, I am saying “throwing up your hands in defeat” – being “beaten” by circumstances – allowing others to dictate your feelings, emotions and future. By THAT definition, I am not a quitter.

I try to always be a positive force in all I do and some days, like today, I just do not have that feeling. I really like my boss and feel he deserves better – better than me. Who have I become? The girl I remember was strong, confident, sure of herself and open to change and challenge. I am not that girl right now – okay, “girl” is stretching it, but I think you get the point.

When did I become this other person? When did I stop being “me”? When did I become this muddled mass of indecision and error? How I long for that girl I used to know. How I miss that feeling of confidence and sure-footedness.

That old saying keeps running through my head: “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” So, I want to know, when does the “stronger” happen?

I cannot be the only one that feels this way……..talk to me.

LESSON: Never get too comfortable in your today because tomorrow will pull it out from underneath you.

Change – A Scary Thing?

You would think after so many years on this planet that I would be accustom to change. To the contrary. While I know change is inevitable and even necessary, change is never easy. Whether it is your favorite shampoo that is suddenly “New and Improved” (which it never is) or a change in livelihood, adjustment takes time and produces at least a little discomfort.

I try to approach change with an open mind and willing spirit. Sometimes, I must admit, I approach change with a clenched jaw. The change that worried me most was when I got married. Having to share my entire life and living quarters with another person was a daunting vision – even though I loved him desperately. However, that change in my life worked out to my benefit. I have a partner that doubles my joy and makes the dark times bearable.

I recently felt the need and motivation to make a change in my employment. I have to admit that I had a comfort zone and great friends at my job. However, I slowly became aware just how poor the “fit” had gotten for me. I started applying for jobs. I would come home from work every night and spend hours on the computer applying. Then I stopped. The holidays were approaching and I did not want to forfeit my already scheduled vacation time.

Then the decision was taken out of my hands. A job came to me. I had a friend ask for my resume, she passed it on and I got a phone call. I had no nervousness and felt at peace during the whole process.  I am now in a new career and I have peace.

I am not sure why change scares me so much. I cannot remember one major change in my life that did not work out for good or one that did not leave me stronger. Change, while it is happening, can be scary, painful, daunting and seemingly endless. However, if we stay true to our convictions and listen to that “inner voice”, at the end of change will come peace and a chance to look back and wonder why you were so hesitant for change to happen.

LESSON: Christians have the Holy Spirit as their “inner voice” but others have their conscience as their guide and driving force. Put your faith in it, trust it and listen when that still small voice speaks – let it light your path through change.

North Ronaldsay lighthouse beams April 2010 midnight (Marion Muir)

Selective Memory

Was I ever like that?

I find myself asking my husband and children that question a lot when we are out and I see parents interacting with their children. I seem to have a selective memory – something I have teased my mother about for years. She never could remember anything negative. “Mom, did I ever have the chicken pox?” Reply: “I’m not sure.” “Mom, did I have any surgeries as a child, like a tonsillectomy?” Reply: “I don’t think so.” Now I have become her and I totally get it. My brain can only hold so much information and I choose to remember the fun, the good, the pleasant.

I see parents that seem to allow their children to do anything and everything – scream in the restaurant, talk back to the parent, hit their parents.  Was I ever so caught up in “me” that I forgot about my children and allowed them to self-govern?  Did I turn a blind eye when they were rude, petulant, ill-tempered or just pain sassy? Did I allow them to “rule from the cradle”? Were my children ever the focus of negative attention when we would go out?

I have heard it said that the faults we see in others are only visible to us because we RECOGNIZE them – they are our own faults. This is the reason I ask this of myself. My children all turned out to be amazing, productive, personable, grown-up-adults. So I believe that something went well along the way.

But I still ask the question: Do I hold myself up to a mirror often enough? Do I inspect the image I see or just do a cursory glance and impose the image I want to see in the reflection? Am I constantly trying to “improve” me or have I thrown up my hands in defeat? Have I passed on that desire, to constantly improve, to my children?

The Goal: I strive to always be open to change, to be open to loving criticism, and remain willing to reinvent myself daily to be a better me. The Reality: I am just a slimy caterpillar, wiggling around in the cocoon, with the faith that one day I will emerge a beautiful butterfly.

LESSON: Never stop striving, reaching and improving. Until you take your last breath, there is still room to grow, to learn, to perfect. Always reach for perfection, and learn to love yourself when it is not obtained.

god-is-not-through-with-me-yet

Fall Celebration

It’s that time of year again. Fall!  I love it when the leaves begin to change. The air is a bit crisp in the morning but the sun is still warm in the afternoons. Fall is also a time to celebrate. My first born came in the Fall, my brother was born in the Fall, my parents were married in the Fall and my Daddy was born in the Fall. As I enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of Fall it is nice to have my memories around me.

Raking leaves with the family and then jumping in the pile. Birthday cakes, anniversary cards made by hand, watching the sunset, long rides in the car to look at the changing leaves or even longer rides up state. Stretching out in the back of the station wagon with the rear window down and watching the trees fly by as Daddy drove down the road.

As I sit here inside, in my mind I smell the burning leaves and taste the melted marshmallows. I can feel the wool of Daddy’s sweater on my cheek and the scruff of his beard as he pulls me close. When I think of Daddy I always remember him with a smile. Even in his last days that smile crinkled his eyes and lit up his face. He loved to make people laugh and did it very well. There are many things I miss about my Daddy but it all comes down to one thing – the beauty that was him. God placed him in this world to bring the fun, show His compassion to others, and to point out the beauty in this world. Therefore, I believe it is very appropriate that he was born in what I consider the most beautiful part of the year – Fall.

yellow-gold-fall-path 

LESSON: It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; however, beauty is there, whether we choose to see it or not. Open your eyes and see the beauty in today.

My True Reflection

I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an employee, etc. If I am any “good” at any of these things, it is solely because my decisions are based upon how they affect others.

I always wanted to skydive;  however, once I became a mother I realized that decision would affect many others. If something catostrophic happened, my husband would be left to raise my child/children alone, and my children would have no mother. My mortality came to the forefront of my thinking. To date, I have not tried skydiving.

I am an employee. How I dress, cut my hair, etc. reflects on my employer. While deep inside I would love to dye my hair copper-penny red, I know that it would be “frowned upon”, so I don’t. My hair remains a “non color”.

Am I morphing into someone I am not, or am I merely being courteous?  Am I burying the “real me” under politeness?

The more I think, and see these words in writing, I see that I am being the real me. The real me cares for others, not what they think but the total person. I do not want to offend, not because I want to be liked and accepted, but because I do not want others to be uncomfortable, hurt, disrespected, inconvenienced. That is who I am. Not a people pleaser but a nurturer. I want to take away the hurt of others, the confusion, the disappointment, the loneliness. I know I can’t but that does not kill the desire within me to do so.

While I am on this planet, I will sing and I will reach out to others. Joy does not always result in laughter. Sometimes it is merely the ability to look in the mirror and like what is reflected there. If I have gone through the day without hurting someone, even unintentionally, then it is a “good day” in my opinion and I am joyful in the reflection I see.

LESSON: Be you. Not the you others deem you to be. They may interpret who you are differently because they are on the other side of the mirror and the reflection is shadowed by their own.

woman-mirror-reflection-600(Google Images)