Category Archives: Family

Learning from those you’ve taught

When our children were young it was hard to imagine them taller than ourselves, driving a car, waking up to their own alarm clock without our knock on the bedroom door as the back up, getting to work, on-time, 5 days a week, paying rent, deciding where to live and with whom without your time, effort or approval.  It’s hard to imagine them as an adult separate from yourself, living a life that is full, vibrant and apart from your care.   And even harder to imagine that they would be my teacher, my  mentor and a model in areas of my life.  Inconceivable in the early years.  Getting a daily shower was inconceivable in the earliest years.  I find myself beyond the disbelief of imagining my children as adults.  I am there.  And what I’m finding is that I’m learning from them.  They are going places in their lives I never dared or dreamed for in my own.  Perhaps I was never brave enough to risk because of my own insecurities.

How often do I admit I don’t know how to do something, I need help and then ask the one person that I have alienated for that help and in so doing build a bridge of relational restoration?  Watching a child, my child, my emerging adult child take that step of vulnerability, risk and humility I will not soon forget.  This was a moment when I was challenged by the example I saw in my child to examine my willingness to humble myself with those I need to rebuild a bridge of relationship with.  I don’t recall ever teaching or modeling this myself.  In fact I have said and done things in his presence that would have led to the opposite behavior.  How did he get farther than I have ever been in this arena?  He is humbly leading me now.

I hear a young adult navigating their way through a world of needs, hurt, pain and sadness in the lives of those around them.  Speaking words of compassion, truth and comfort into their lives.  I see the tangible acts of love and care extended through simple ways of listening, remembering, including, seeing the dignity in the most needy all around them.  Where did she learn that?  I was quick to dodge and ignore the needy, for fear of my safety, for fear of  her safety, for a host of selfish reasons.  She was there to watch and observe those things in me.  And yet she’s taking a different path.  Stopping to listen and engage the stranger, including the weak and frail.  How did she get farther than I have ever been in seeing, really seeing, others?  She is teaching grace and compassion to me now.

Each week they are hosting coffees, deserts, dinners, bbq’s, impromptu gatherings of the newly formed relationships in their home.  They are practicing a way of life that includes others, generous with their time and resources and willing to continue to expand their relational circle beyond the familiar and comfortable.  Their home is a bright spot on their street, where others come uninvited to join in, and they are welcomed.  Where did she learn that?  The home she grew up in did not feel this way, though now I wish it had and did.  The standard she sets is high, maybe more than I can see for myself.  She gently coaches me with her encouragement, experience and wisdom.  She is modeling generous hospitality to me now.

Our children come to us as babies and we teach them everything.  How to eat, walk, play nice, clean up, read, spell, work hard, forgive, speak truth, be honest.  As a parent when I was caught in the day to day of teaching, leading and coaching them it was hard to imagine that they would someday out pace where I was.  But they are.  I wish I had known then that perhaps all my shortcomings would not “ruin them”.  I wish I had rested in knowing they were not destined to be limited by my own limitations.  I wish I had known then to be easier on myself and my expectations for them and for me.  But I am learning now.  From them.

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August 1, 2013 · 1:52 pm

May Day with Bessie

A little nostalgia today. May Day was my Grandma Bessie’s holiday. And she only shared it with me. It was our special tradition. Bessie had a lot of special traditions I remember fondly. The iridescent red candy dish filled with cold M&M’s for each of us around the kitchen table while the adults talked for hours after dinner in the living room, the mirrored vanity with drawers full of clip-on ear rings and beaded necklaces for trying on and admiring and the annual summer day trip downtown which included a bus ride, a movie and a treat at Brown’s Department Store lunch counter. But May Day was reserved for just me. (First grand child does have it’s benefits.)

Early in the day I was dropped off at Bessie’s house and it was just the two of us. We were on a secret mission each May Day to assemble several simple baskets made of construction paper and tape, fill them with the spring flowers, honeysuckle and dandelions from the yard and then secretly hang these baskets on her neighbors door knobs as an anonymous celebration of spring, neighbors and friendship. Looking back those baskets were nothing more than a sheet of construction paper folded in half and taped down the side. A simple handle was attached from a strip of ribbon. A child’s scribbled message and simple drawings of flowers and sun rays decorated the basket. And the flowers were just a handful of bright yellow weeds, nothing fancy. But the real fun came as we hand in hand quietly made our way to the neighbors door. Whispering so our identity would be kept secret we left our baskets and hurried home, laughing and wondering if they would find them soon. Later in the day Bessie’s neighbors would come by for a visit mentioning they had found such a wonderful surprise on their door, a little May Day Basket. Bessie would get out that beautiful red iridescent candy dish, fill it full of cold M&M’s and settle me at the kitchen table with that small treat while she made a pot of coffee and spent time with her friend, her neighbor, our secret mission.

Looking back this May Day on my Grandma Bessie’s tradition I see she was teaching me much more than how to construct a paper basket. She was teaching me how to love my neighbors.

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May Day with Bessie

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May 1, 2013 · 11:56 am

On going home

Visiting my aging parents brings a myriad of emotions, thoughts and reflections.  I reminisce with them of funny stories, vacations taken and camping trips soaked in rain.  There are the stories they can’t seem to recall, the ones they will never forget and the tales that grow over time with each retelling.  I observe their habits, how they manage thru the daily routine and try to get a sense of what life is like when it’s just the two of them at home alone.  When I slip away from the lunch table and busy myself in another room they forget that I am there. It is then that their conversation ranges from the mundane of the weather, the escapades of the squirrel’s routine visit to the yard (they’ve claimed him as their own and named him Speedy) and sometimes even a glimpse of their warm conversation with one another that displays a shared life of 58 years and the love and deep concern they have for one another.  This is the moment that I cherish and know that their love does run deep and strong, in spite of the rhetoric, bickering and “show” that is displayed for us, their children.  it is then that I begin to ponder my own path that I am carving out as I travel down that road of age and decline.

Several years ago as I thought back over my parents aging process I could see some very definitive choices they made.  In their 50’s and 60’s they were mobile, traveling, engaged and still expanding their world.  But somewhere along the way as they approached 70 and beyond they began to “circle the wagons” as I used to call it. Their world became smaller and smaller, less travel, the adventurous spirit was gone, no new friendships, and they became disengaged with the world and their contributions to it.  And I would say even their contributions to family, grandchildren. The circling of the wagons was to keep out change, vulnerability and danger.  To protect themselves from uncertainty, dangers and calamity.   As I watched their lives over the last ten – 12 years now I have seen their health decline, their mobility lessen,  nothing uncommon as we age into our 80’s.  But what about me.

I was just past 50 when I started to reflect on all this.  And I could often be heard saying, “I’ve got 20 good years left, maybe.  What am I going to do with it”. Some of my friends thought I had a death wish.  Some thought I was being presumptuous. But as I explained, if my life and health went as my parents had, then I have until about 70 to be active and healthy, if I get that long.  No guarantees.  So what did I want to do with my 20 good years, where I was engaged, involved, contributing, expanding my life?  I never wrote it down, but I made a mental list.

  • Say yes as often as I could to opportunities.  Even if they were scary, I’d never done it before or it was unfamiliar. Say yes and try.
  • Make new friends.  I wanted to keep expanding my circle of friends, and not the FB kind.  And not the acquaintance type.  Real friends,  the kind you laugh and cry with and share life with.  I wanted more of them.
  • Plan to move. (don’t plan the going away party just yet) I want to be close to my kids wherever they are across the country (and at this point they are just that, CA, MI, IL) I want to visit them, spend time with them, in their lives and towns, not just mine.  If or when they have children of their own, I want to know them, which will mean going to them and welcoming them where I am.  Whether we move or not is still talk more than reality but I want to be mentally ready to start over, make new friends, learn a new town.
  • Learn new things.  I want to keep reading, listening to discussions, engage in thought, keep up with technology, try a new game.
  • Expand my world. The opposite of circling the wagons.  Embrace change, even create it if things seem too much the same.

The last 5 years have been full.  I have traveled, I took a class, I made new friends, I accepted a new position, I even dared to go onto the SU campus by myself, twice.  I have ventured to learn from some very bright people who allow me to be in the room with them and contribute.  Though I often wonder why, I am grateful they welcome me.  I have chosen to remain a learner, because I don’t know it all and never will.  And I have continued to grow in my faith as well.  My faith is not a destination but a direction that I choose to follow. One that takes me towards Jesus not away.  There’s no end in that.  I want to trust, reach, listen, obey. And that never stops.  I have seen others live ahead of me that have been great examples Doug B., Norma G., Jack M.  Their faith is real and continues to expand.  They have not circled the wagons and shrunk back, waiting for the inevitable.  They are pioneers pushing forward and I am hoping I can follow in the path they are walking.

I have invited my mom and dad to come to live in my town, in a house across the street  and their response was ‘that just wouldn’t work’.  Why? “We belong here.  In this house.”  They are tied to a place, a house, an address.  I told them I don’t want to be tied to a house, I want to be connected to people.  That is what home is, it’s who you belong to and with.

I come home to Fayetteville grateful for my husband, my kids and my life.  And determined to live it fully.  Because my 20 good years is down to 15 now.  If it is shorter than that, it’s ok.  I’m living it full on.  And if it’s longer, then that’s a bonus.

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The Courage of an Artist

We converged on the opening from both directions. East coast and west coast family meeting in middle America to celebrate her creativity, her design and, I think most importantly, her courage.

What courage it takes for an artist to share the work they have created with others. To allow strangers to gaze at their creations projecting different, perhaps even opposing emotions, thoughts or conclusions than the artist had in mind when designing and creating the piece. To stand in the gallery and listen to the reactions of others surrounding the work you have on display while they do not recognize or realize you are the creator. To share your inspiration, your process and your emotions not knowing if you will be understood or accepted by those observing your work and you as an artist.

Yes, I have come to appreciate the courage of my daughter as an artist. She is fully living, engaged and contributing. I recently read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and she speaks of the courage it takes to be vulnerable.

“Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

What a great picture this is of an artist displaying their work, allowing themselves to be seen. Literally.

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Customer Service Done Right

She returns home each evening and relays the day’s customer service interactions.  She wears a uniform and a name tag to work and “That”, she says, “has made me a non-person in the eyes of the customers.  It’s like I’m a robot, a machine or just a thing.  They don’t look me in the eye, talk to me or acknowledge that I am a person.  I want to wear a sign that says talk to me, I’m real!”

She accompanies me to the grocery store now and I lose track of her on every aisle.  When I backtrack I find she is having a conversation with the store clerk who is wearing gloves, stocking the freezer section. Not just “hey, how you doing” but a real conversation, listening and interacting. I find she looks everyone in the eyes these days.  Really looking at them.  Her pace is slower and she notices the people, all the people, around her.  She sees them.  She treats them like real people that she cares about.  She’s walked in their shoes, she’s one of them.  And they look back.  They smile.  And you see them respond, converse with her and become real people.

I saw this picture while the two of us were visiting NYC last weekend.  “Christ on a Train” by an unknown artist.  And I thought of her.  She has been demonstrating for me simple ways of being “Christ On A Train”.  Slowing down long enough to notice.  To sit with people.  To look them in the eye.  To see beyond their uniform, name tag or stereotype.  To see them as people created by the same one who created me.  Loved by the same one who loves me. And the very ones I am asked to love as well.

She’s teaching me a lot these days.

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Vegetarian Gluten-Free and Delicious?

Call me a nay sayer. Or a meat and wheat snob. But I was skeptical about eating vegetarian gluten-free meals with my daughter. Tonight she convinced me otherwise with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of her favorite food blogs.

Charred Corn Tacos with Zucchini-Radish Slaw

These corn tacos were delicious. And always the artist, she said the colors were beautiful as well. I was too busy eating to notice the colors. This is the same child that was far from a vegetarian. When she was younger her idea of variety was plain spaghetti noodles with parmesan cheese instead of without. A bagel with cream cheese instead of butter. Cheese pizza with parmesan cheese instead of without. You get the idea.

But our children change and mature sometimes with the help of our parenting and sometimes in spite of it. My cousin was of the parenting variety that pressed the issue of eating everything on your plate. And if you didn’t finish it at dinner you had another opportunity at breakfast. My friend allowed her children to eat round the clock, whatever you want, wherever you want, with no expectations that even resembled manners. We chose somewhere between those two for our meal times. Eating was done at the table, you tried what was served but didn’t have to finish it. But if the cook couldn’t eat it, you were off the hook. There are vegetables I don’t like so I wasn’t going to ask my kids to eat them. But now, all three of them enjoy a wide variety of foods far beyond what I ever exposed them to at our table. And they are more health conscious in their choices than they ever learned from me. In spite of my influence they have become dessert in moderation, vegetable loving, nutrition conscious food connoisseurs.

I hope food is not the only area where this applies.

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