Self-esteem is often mentioned in relationship to one's success or lack thereof. Some psychologists downplay the significance and others inflate the need for an above average self-esteem. High or low, I have personally witnessed the influence of this emotional factor on many a child and even more adults. It appears as if there would be a simple formula to enhance one's positive feelings of self, but it is as complicated as most mental issues. The first dilemma is that self-esteem is not what one thinks of his or herself. It is based on the perception of what others think of him or her. This perception may be totally inaccurate, but as I have learned over and over, Perception is 99% and reality is 1%. Initially it begins with family who respond in ways that either enhance the child's worth or does the opposite. Unfortunately if these were the only people that mattered as a mirror of one's image, most children would have a healthy self-esteem. However, the more important figures in one's life are everybody else. Lately "S" often says to me after I compliment her on an achievement, "you are supposed to say that, you are my parent." She pretty much is discounting most of what I think lately and is already more concerned with her teachers', friends' or coaches' view of her accomplishments. As time goes by, her peers will carry the most weight in the scale of self-image. Eventually with maturity, family will once again become an integral part of the search for worth, but there is pain and agony in the wait. From my own experiences, I have interacted with individuals who make many unhealthy decisions with an overinflated self-esteem as well as one which is too low. Either way, the issue is complicated when one's image is based on perceptions and not reality, and will be developed by countless interactions and individuals. But there is a very simple solution. If one could measure his worth on God's perception, than he or she would realize that no matter how smart or illiterate, rich or poor, thin or obese, of one color or another, disabled or abled, that his worth is priceless in the eyes of our savior. My wish is that "S" will realize this as will all others.
Interactions within our society are dominated by frustration, agitation and just plain annoyance. We just do not “get” the person and we choose to ignore, flee, avoid, fix, control, or in worse case scenarios react with anger. Empathy is at an all time low and just simple understanding seems to be an anomaly! My mother likes to repeatedly remind me “that you cannot understand unless you walk a mile in their shoes.” Since I am a visual purist of words, I am not sure wearing my granddaughter's size 2 shoe and walking over a gravel road would create anything but pure discomfort and bunions. I prefer to induce a kinder, more gentler approach to others by asking the question, “What is their reality?” Another words, what is going on right now, right here, with whom, that invokes a certain lifestyle or response? A friend recently asked me who I was since I appear to be changing drastically (owning a dog in particular) and it is so difficult to put into words or even one phone call how complex and chaotic my life has become! For some, this age is one of quiet, random acts strung together that are usually more about “I” than “You”. Retirement is the time so many youth blindly wish for, but what they do not realize is that it may not be as it is perceived! I am not alone on a path that took me off the paved road to a rocky uphill climb. For some, it is a result of bad decisions, for others, situations arise out of their control. In my case the out-of-control situations caused me to make some decisions for the betterment of my family! Yes, it is chaotic, and I may not seem to be connecting, but my retirement reality is just that—Unreal. Pour on the understanding and more importantly, please pass it on.
Sometimes a "Never" turns into a "Why did I do that?" I have had quite a few of those in my life and will take some of those to my grave. In my twilight years, I am trying to avoid having to ask that question and spend hours in regret and frustration. Afterall, who wants to use up whatever time one has left in a sea of questions. For me, these last years are all about gaining wisdom and answers. So when "S" started asking me about getting a puppy (about five years ago), I stood firm with my "Never" and recited my top 50 reasons not to own a dog. My biological children know the list well and it begins with the top three 1. It will make a mess that I will have to clean up, 2. It is a big expense, and 3. We are away from the home too often. It ends with number 50: everyone who has a dog complains about having a dog! "S" is reasonable and seemed to understand that I was either a woman who stood by her words, or cranky in my old age and not budging. Thus, she started a dog walking business last year, which seemed to appease and make money at the same time. But then she broke her ankle and Charlie and I made some observations that seemed to escape us for a long time. "S" is being raised by individuals who are not going to take up surfing or rock climbing. We are losing energy by the days and are more her observers and cheerleaders than her partners in risktaking. She is living in a neighborhood where the number one topic is health and not adventure. The nearest friend her age lives about 10 miles away so playdates have to be arranged and are not just a jaunt across the street. Her closest family member lives in MA. Thus "S" is unbelievably imaginative and plays for hours with her dolls or stuffed animals, pretending that they are her playmates. So when her guitar teacher announced that his chiweenie had nine puppies and really wanted "S" to have one, I said a firm "Never." I did not want to add to my regrets, but started to re-examine my rationale everytime we went to a lesson. I decided to hold a family meeting which now consists of a two person dictatorship-Charlie and I! I was self-assured that he would laugh or just walk away, but he said "Yes" without hesitation and the rest is history. We waited three months to discuss the boundaries and prepare for our new, permenent houseguest! Today, "Coco" has lived here for two days! "S" has not stopped holding, or caring for her since the moment we picked her up. She told me that she feels like she is living within her best dream. How can you maintain a "Never" when it is fulfillment of a dream? Now there is a better question?
Charlie's and my nephew died last Friday. He leaves behind his wife of 11 years, a teenage daughter and a six year old daughter. I met Tommy when he was three years old when I started dating his uncle. Many of our "dates" were babysitting Tommy and his older brother. Tommy was very reserved and quiet, but always loving. We enjoyed following his career in baseball, his enlistment in the AF and his management of a business. My husband was delighted to surprise Tommy and Lisa at their wedding in Puerto Rico and Tommy always made a point to visit us whenever we flew to MA. He will be buried tomorrow, too soon, too young. Many hearts are broken to include my own.
The contemplation of death always brings me back to the subject of life. Death is inevitable, it will always be a final breath and the passing from this earth toward the light of our Lord. However, life is as unpredictable as the weather. We all bounce around the winds of emotions, trying to bunker down for storms, find a haven from the rain or occassionally wrap ourselves in the warmth of contentment and peace. But the blow of a death is a nudge to reflect on life. It reminds me of the song, "Live like you are dying." For me, that is not a pass to spend lots of money or jump out of an airplane; it is simply a reminder to love. Connections, relationships, or service to others is the pathway to our common destiny. We spend so much time being frustrated, disappointed, angry, hurt, or misunderstood that we totally forget the message of Jesus and the reason we are here in the first place. Tommy, your death is not in vain. It is another chance for all of us to reconnect and do better. Thank you for the reminder and for the memories. We love you.....
So here I sit at guitar lessons! Actually these are not an attempt to check off another item on my Bucket List, but frankly one more thing to check off the list of dutiful parenting. It was apparent 50 years ago that I was musically challenged, but I am diving headfirst into the parent pool of hope that my offspring will have a mutated gene that makes her different! But as I listen to her teacher talking music theory in some sort of foreign language and listen to agonizing catlike screeches coming from the strings of her guitar, I wonder once again what am I doing?? Sure, she begged for lessons in order to mimic one of her favorite TV characters who is "cool", however is all this time and treasure going to add to the formation of a healthy, happy individual? Where is the research on the correlation of music lessons and a successful, self-actualized adult? Is the prodding, threatening and begging to practice going to cancel out the benefits of the lessons? If the past is my compass, then I should pack up this overpriced and much too large for her guitar, ignore her very enthusiastic and getting-rich-on-my-retirement-fund teacher and walk out the door. "S's" dad and aunt both played instruments in MS. The reasons were simply put: to play drums to attract girls for my son and "all my friends are in band" for my daughter. I remember having to learn the art of persuasion which probably included cash payouts to get either of them to practice. We were considered the black sheep of all neighborhoods because "S's" father played the drums, to include a nasty call from one of our german neighbors who clanged pots and pans to get her message across. Of course there were also moments of pride as we sat in the audience while our children played in the school band or in my son's case an actual performing band, but eventually instuments gathered dust, and were sold. Life went in many different directions, none of them musical or in many cases melodious! So are music lessons just one more recommendation from some author's "How to Shape the Perfect Child" book? As the consummate cynic I know that parenting is more of a crap shoot than a recipe of ingredients. Wouldn't it be nice if just a pinch of this and a tablespoon of that and you could create a dish that could be showcased and served at every gathering. I have been cooking, so to speak, for 43 years, so I know that it will never be this simple. So for now, I provide her with experiences that I can only hope will enrich her life, and create another happy memory of our time together. Only this time around I hope I do not go deaf in the meantime.....
Just a few days to go and I will be scratching out 2017 to correct to the New Year. A mere tip on the end of a pencil and an entire year is erased. Another 365 days of activity, some enshrined in photos, others forgotten within a nucleus of memory cells, but all memorable as minutes of a life passing on fast and furious! Or at least that is how it seems to me! It has been a year of bustle and hustle, some tasks totally menial like cleaning the grout from over 500 pieces of tile, but some were breath taking such as “S” making her first snow angel in the fallen frozen rain, (the first in 33 years). This Holy Season is the time to recall the good, learn from the errors, look to the horizons and question the possibilities. In review, “S” and I walked side by side through a maze of playdates, school projects, summer fun, and growing pains. Many times, our walking involved dogs in tow because she started a dog walking business this summer. This requires a very flexible schedule because it is upon request with no specific schedule. She is a natural entrepreneur, manning a lemonade stand to coincide with my annual garage sale and selling homemade dog toys. Her soccer season culminated in third place in the zone and one game in the playoffs. There were only two girls on the team and they kept the boys running! She is taking guitar lessons on the off season before the next sport and is as competitive and self-motivated in school as in sports. She is very independent and reminds me of this daily either with the roll of the eyes, or the occasional sassy word. Our travels were quite limited this year with a short excursion to the Outerbanks to visit Shan, her family and her in-laws who go there each year. The Rowlands are fantastic hostesses and the beach is beautiful. I made two trips to MA, one to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday, and one for my nephew’s beautiful wedding. One of my most bittersweet trips was on Charlie’s last flight in Delta on the 29th of October. I am thrilled to have him home each day, but he was not ready to leave his passion and career of flight. “S” loves the lack of coming and going and getting Popee hugs every night before bed. There is never a dull moment in my house, either Kyle is going or coming, Charlie is starting a project or “S” has a beckon of some sort. Our days are full, but our adventures are more Kiddieland than Foreign Lands. We continue to build a foundation for Kyle and his daughter, drawing strength from Our Lord and feeling blessed for our health to do so. We wish you the same: that each day have meaning, and that connections remain strong and loving. Have a Christmas full of joy and laughter….
The greatest gift on earth is life! It comes in all packages from old to young,
tattered to decadent, slim to full bodied, broken to renewed. It defies what is
thought to be impossible and challenges all explanations whether it be from
science, psychology, or theology. But life is not within our human control.
Senseless death besieges every corner of the world due to accidents, at the hand of another,
sickness or just the passing of time! Mourning the loss of a life tears at the very fiber of our being and results in hopelessness or despair!
However there lies within our control a gift equal to the essence of existence itself. It is the ability to be a positive influence on the life of another. It can be a child, grandchild, neighbor, friend or a complette stranger. Although I have not always succeeded, I have tried to emulate a positive, motivational vibe for as many as possible. I renewed this conviction when I chose to raise "S". I was heading in another direction, but this little girl grabbed my hand and I have never let go!
For those that continually feel I have sacrificed my twilight years, know that I actually enhanced them by focusing on modeling and mentoring a young soul! I hope to shape a future creative, adventurous, happy adult that will serve others and our Lord way after I have departed from her presence! This is a very large factor in my daily routine so if you want to know what I am doing or what I will be doing tomorrow, expect that "S" will be at the center of this discussion and that I am thrilled to be part of this conversation. Hope you are a positive influence on someone today and I would love to hear all about it!
It is the last day of summer. Not according to the Farmer’s Almanac, but by a declaration by all parents in “S’s” school district. Tomorrow I send her off with a new outfit, and hopefully a planted and somewhat fake smile. She is upset that she did not get the teacher that the entire fourth grade wanted and to really make matters worse, is seemingly separated from everyone that she considers a friend. However, she will be adorned by wolves which she is passionate about with an Amazon ordered backpack and lunch carrier, but it is not masking her disappointment in “being in the wrong class with the wrong students.” And what am I doing about it, -- Absolutely Nothing with the exception of a dose of reality statements that basically spell, get over it, get on with it and get better for it! I am watching the news regarding my fellow Texans displaced from their homes and sinking within the muck of dirt, tree branches, trash and contaminated water and this is her outcry for the day. Logically speaking, I am delighted by this and worried at the same time. I am thankful that she has the kind of life that so little a problem becomes an actual issue, but am concerned that entitlement has reared its ugly head. Many articles have been written about the upcoming generation with few positive highlights written for this age group. I read traits such as crave attention, sheltered, overconfident, group oriented and pressured, and I realize that these are pretty much the direct opposite of what I am trying to teach. I am trying to shape a child who will share personal strengths to create a better team, be willing to listen as well as speak, realize her limits, but accentuate her strengths, be aware and empathetic toward the perils of others, accept disappointment with a solution oriented outlook and view pressure as motivational. It is just one more reminder that I am old schooled and an old parent. Tomorrow I share “S” with a much younger adult who may or not share my same vision. Fourth grade is filled with sass, a quest for independence and a lot of questioning, so I know that both her teacher and I brace for the onslaught of push and pull behavior. For today, I emphasize that not having the choice of classrooms is not the same as having to seek shelter from the loss of one’s home. She is reasonable and understanding. I am ready!
Every so often I leave "Motherland" to see what is going on in the rest of the world. Right out my front door is a huge amusement park called "Politico". The theme of the park is politics and it has increased its revenue by 100% in the past year. This entertainment location has several roller coasters that ascend slowly and descend quickly. Clowns greet you on every corner and there are many games that entice you with promise, but rarely pay out. You leave this park with less cash, frustration and a bit of cynicism. Further down the road is the "Healthstop." This is my least favorite place to visit, but the most frequent outing. Once inside, I am inundated with questions, coughing sounds, sad faces and the well recognized smell of an institutionalized office. Nothing is timely here. No one is in a rush, but me. I take this trip about once every other week for myself or others, but lately it seems like once a week. Long stringy, hard to pronounce words are spoken, and little relates to how I feel. Pop a pill is the diet of this land and fatty foods of my liking are strictly prohibited. Thankfully, there is an escape within the" Meadows of Relationships." I love this place with all my heart, but finding time for this pleasure is a constant struggle as I try to juggle all the responsibility within Motherland. I love to quietly stroll along the varied paths, but visitors are warned that some of the paths are rocky and require more energy than others. I bump into all types on this walk, friends with an abundance of laughter, friends who have suffered immeasurable losses and leave me speechless, my new Bunco group, and others who sometimes fade from my view. My husband and family members often walk alongside me and new friends (half my age) run ahead chatting non-stop about the latest adventures with our kids. As I have discovered, there are more worlds outside my own than I can even imagine, but "Motherland" always draws me back within the confines of this safe and well know haven. The other day, we had a National holiday of celebration to recognize the main worker bees of this land. "S" gave me a handmade pillow that she sewed. it took her about 15 hours locked away in her room to complete this present. I cried when I read "Nani" on the front which she had handstitched in perfect block letters. It was one more reminder why I return to this place over and over no matter the distractions or desires of other locations. It lies wthin the heart and head of every woman who has ever adopted, given birth or cared for a child. I will remain here until I die and will never regret one moment. Happy Mother's Day everyone!
So "S' rang in her ninth year on Tuesday and her yearly physical on Wednesday. This appointment is usually wedged between going to school and still having to do homework on her birthday list of contradictions, but I decided to place it front and center before it became an almost 10 physical. If a grade was given, "S" would have received an "A" for health, vision and hearing, but an answer to a question was my biggest delight. She was asked if she slept well at night. She told Dr. Magic (he performs magic tricks throughout the exam) that she often had trouble falling to sleep. This is due to "S" always wanting to complete at least 10 more activities before calling it a day, but the Doctor is a magician not a mind reader, so he asked her if she was ever worried about anything. Her answer placed a smile on my face, as she abruptly stated that she has nothing to worry about! I am pretty sure that I am carrying the load of this emotion for the two of us. I am spinning a tale of open discourse, step by step problem solving and agreeable solutions, as I watch the news of angry protests, threats and violence toward others. The first amendment has been horribly twisted from free speech to loud shouts, vulgar rhetoric and condescending remarks to any one who disagrees. I am telling "S" that she will always have a voice, but I do not want to emphasize that she will only be heard if she carries a big stick and bullies any opposing opinion. What ever happened to the exchange of ideas, a lively debate and a shake of the hand with an agreement to disagree? We have reached a pinnacle of "my way or the highway!" Have we all become so narcisstic that we create our own kingdoms and turfs to the detriment of anyone who does not bow and curtsy to the monarchy? As Nani-mommy, I feel like it is my job to teach her the fine art of conflict, but lately it seems like this will be an occupational hazard when "S" realizes that only a shaking fist and a hardfelt punch will be the final resolve. I am thrilled that she does not have anything to worry about right now, because too soon she will understand the complexity of traversing this world in a democratic, peaceful manner with her dignity, principles and faith intact. Happy Birthday little one....May your dreams always be hopeful and enlightening....
Garden Ridge, Texas