Friday, November 26, 2010

...And We Can All Use a Little Change...

Do you ever have one of those moments when you stop, look around you, and think..."Wow. I never thought this is where I would be"?

I had one of those today.

Sitting beside a young girl I barely know, at a table shoved in the crowded corner of the back room of a retail clothing store, snarfing down a room temperature egg roll and trying desperately to ignore my throbbing feet, I looked around and thought exactly that.

Change is a funny thing. Most things are funny with our family, so why not? But, honestly, if I hadn't been scared that I might spew egg roll bits on my new acquaintance, I would have laughed out loud. I remembered the day after Thanksgiving last year. This was not where I thought I would be a year later. But divorce+recession+teacher hiring freeze=Roaring Mom working retail on Black Friday.

I'm not complaining. I'm grateful to have a job. And my girls immediately loved the idea that I was working at the mall. Apparently, it's much higher on the Cool Mom scale than middle school substitute. Go figure! Still, it's not where I thought I'd be. Then I realized, I'm not alone. There are many, many others who aren't where they thought they'd be.

Which leads me to this update...

On July 7, I posted a blog entitled Saying Something. It was about a family I know whose dad had suffered a spinal cord injury. I know that last year at Thanksgiving, they never imagined they'd be where they are now.

I've followed the updates of the Carl Hall family on Facebook. And because my daughter is friends with one of the kids, I get to hear tidbits from her every now and then, too. Carl Hall is now home. He's back with his family in a new home that can accommodate his needs for the time being. I'm not going to presume to know or understand or even guess what all has changed for this family. But I can tell you one thing that has stayed blessedly the same in spite of all that has changed--their spirit.

My daughter Sophie has seen that spirit in Megan's gracious smile and bubbly laugh and the joy that sparkles in her eyes when she talks about her dad. That spirit is evident in the many update postings that detail Carl's drive and determination. That spirit overflows in the sharing of a simple kiss between Carl and Stacey, as seen on a local news story. That spirit is most obvious in the overwhelming outpouring of love and support of hundreds of friends and community members who have been touched by the Hall family over and over again.

I haven't taken an actual count, but other than well-wishes, I think the one comment I've seen more than others it how Carl and Stacey have faced this change with the same optimism and grace they have always had. They are the same good, kind people. Although this accident changed almost everything, it couldn't touch the essence of what everyone loves most about this family.

I've been thinking this Thanksgiving week that change is not only a funny thing, but a good thing as well. We all experience those times that we wish could last forever. But if we never move or grow or change, think of the hearts that might not have been filled, the minds that might not have been opened, the souls that might not have been touched. I'm realizing that it is in the least expected events that we are able to inspire others. It's in the unforeseen tragedies when only our character remains, that we make our mark. It is in those moments we have never imagined that our true nature sustains us and we are able to transcend who we thought we were--who we thought we would be--and just be. And it is in being that we experience love in its truest, purest form.

I'm sharing with you a link to a local news story about Carl and Stacey. I hope you take the time to watch it. It will inspire you. Then, please, say a prayer for them. Then remember to be grateful for change, even if it comes in the form of Black Friday egg rolls. Then, take a moment and just be...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boobies in a Bind?

Do you love boobies? Do you advertise that fact?

It was a girlfriends' weekend with some new friends and it was a long drive to our destination. One thing I love about these long car rides is that women get to know each other very well, very quickly. We share personal stories of heartache and romance. We share parenting mishaps and miracles. We cry. We laugh. We bond.

There was once subject, however that split the group right down the middle, deeper than Double D cleavage.

Mom "A" told a story about her 14 yr old step daughter coming home one day with a "Save the Boobies" bracelet. The step-daughter got a tongue lashing and the offensive bracelet was immediately removed. Mom "B" gave a verbal high-five! Mom "C" laughed. She loved those bracelets. Mom "D" (that's me), laughed too. Of course. Don't I always?

Disclaimer and Digression: The use of alphabetical labels in the preceding paragraph has no relevance to each Mom's cup size. In fact, Mom "B" is probably a Double D while Mom "C" used to be an "A", but thanks to medical technology is now a "C". I'm actually a "C", too, but interestingly enough, Mom "C"-- with her skinny jeans, 3 inch heels, fabulous hair and general runway model appearance--well, her "C's" look a whole lot different than my 40-something, gravity fighting "C's". If you know what I mean. We all secretly hate her. But we love her too. Heck, we want to be her. Anyway, back to the story...

Moms "A and B" were not feeling the humor. In fact, they were offended by the shock value of the bracelets and agreed that they should be banned from middle schools. Moms "C and D" thought the bracelets were great and wanted to get some for ourselves, and maybe our daughters, too.

Later, when I thought back on our conversation, I thought about it from an educator's viewpoint. Should the boobie bracelets be banned? I guarantee you that just because a middle school bans any and all visible breast references, students still notice, comment on, and giggle over boobies. And all other unmentionable body parts. And they are spouting way more shocking phrases than, "Save the Boobies". So I developed a brilliant solution.

My kids' middle school sometimes holds Jeans Day fundraisers. The students bring at least $1 for the privilege of wearing jeans for the day. Everyone participates. What student isn't going to pay $1 to be out of uniform? Similarly, why not charge $1 for the privilege to wear the Boobie Bracelets? The school could choose a day during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, educate students on this devastating disease, and raise a little money for the cause. The students get to wear their bracelets (even if they still giggle a little while doing so) AND the school has taken away the shock value while doing their part to Save the Boobies. Everyone wins!

What do you think? I'd love to know your opinion on this one. If you aren't sure what to say, check out this video. It might make you rethink the "shock value" of a little Boobie Bracelet. (Don't worry. It's completely clean.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No Pity Party Here!

Confession time. I know I profess to face life's challenges with a smile and a determination to turn loss into a lesson and grief into gratitude. And I do. Most of the time. But, honestly, I go through a mini-depression every other week.

The living arrangement with my ex-husband requires the kids to live one week at a time at each house. I have a very strong opinion about this kind of arrangement, but that's for another blog. Nevertheless, that's the arrangement. In some ways, it works. There's not a Monday night here and a Tuesday night there and a Wednesday, Thursday somewhere else. The schedule actually provides for a small amount of stability and routine.

Still, every other Monday, when my children move to the other house for a week, it takes getting used to all over again. When we first started this arrangement, I literally did not get out of bed until Wednesday. Apparently I didn't know how to function without children bickering over who gets control of the remote or who is hogging the computer or which sister wore the other one's shirt without permission! My home was simply unrecognizable without 12 pair of shoes in the living room, 2 sets of shin guards under the dining room table, and 3 glasses on the computer desk. After nearly 2 decades as a stay-at-home mom, I couldn't come up with a good reason to get up if there was no one to coerce out of bed or complain about having to cook breakfast for. (You all know I hate to cook, right? Love the kids. Love the food. Hate the cooking.)

One morning, while trying to steal back a few inches of bed territory from the alien beast who thinks he's too good to sleep on the floor like a real dog, it hit me. No, not the alien beast! It was the idea that it is not my children's responsibility to make me happy that shook me awake. I had preached this philosophy to them forever. Which, I can tell you, sometimes came back to bite me. For example:

ME: Frank, you really should join the cross county team with your sisters. You'd love it. They have a lot of fun.
FRANK: Mom, I don't want to join the cross county team. I don't even like going to the meets to watch them run.
ME: Well, maybe if you were running in the meet, you'd enjoy it. They seem to like it. You should do it.
FRANK: I don't want to. I'm fine with soccer.
ME: But, you've never tried it. You should try it. You might like it.
FRANK: Huff! Mom, do you want me to go out for cross country?
ME: Only if you want to, honey.
FRANK: I don't want to.
ME: But...
FRANK: Mom, you always tell me it's not our job to make you happy and that we don't have to do stuff like that just to make you happy.
ME: grumble, grumble, grumble

Funny how that philosophical parenting stuff sounds really good until they use it back on us, huh?

Anyway, that morning...and it wasn't even Wednesday yet...I jumped out of bed smiling because I had found my life lesson. I blasted  Bon Jovi (because it is his job to make me happy and he does it so nicely!). I danced through my not-so-cluttered house with a joyful heart.

It isn't  their job to make me happy. And maybe it's not mine to make them happy. But it certainly is my job to provide an environment that fosters happiness. And apparently, that environment includes wayward shin guards, homeless shoes, and burnt toast. At least when they are here. Because when they are there, the maid provides a cleaner kind of happy place. And that's okay, too.

I still miss my kids when they aren't here. I still bless the technology gods for the invention of cell phones and texting and computers and Facebook so that I always feel connected to them no matter where they lay their heads at night. It's okay to miss them. It's okay to be sad that there's no one to burn toast for. It's not okay, however, to selfishly stop living and stop celebrating the fact that I am their mom every second of every day. Living in two homes, they have more of a burden than I do. I owe it to them to live gloriously and graciously. I owe it to them to take the Pity out of the Pity Party. I think a Parent Party is better idea anyway.