Fathers: a necessary ingredient

I recently heard a young woman say men are only needed for one thing, but the rest of it would be better if women did it themselves. If you haven’t guessed yet, she was talking about having and raising children. After more than twenty years of marriage, I tried to offer her a little insight into how wrong that idea was. First of all, kids are hard to raise. And just because you are their mother doesn’t mean they’ll go any easier on you. I’m grateful that I never had to face down a tantrum alone, or more likely these days a teenage mood swing. My husband isn’t just hanging out in the background either, for some of our kids he’s the point man. Let’s face it, not all personalities mesh so well, but in those moments my kids have two of us to contend with. And my husband and I are very different when it comes to approach but our goals are the same, so I have no problem stepping back and letting him do the talking.

It saddens me that fathers are being minimalized in this day and age. I see the important role they play every day. You need and want your children to have a father in their life. I don’t care how strong of a woman you think you are, a good father brings unique qualities into a home that aren’t easily replicated by other means.

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Upcoming new story from me…

I spend so much time fixing others people’s writing I seldom have any time left to write for myself. Part of me really likes seeing the work of others polished to it’s finest so I don’t hate the direction my writing life has taken, but recently a necessity arose that required me to crack out a short story. It was awesome to create something from my own imagination. I worried that I might not be able to in such a short amount of time, but it was like turning on a faucet. Once I cracked it open, the trickle of words turned into a steady flow. I’m grateful to not have completely lost that side of my writing abilities. I really like having many talents and learning new things everyday. The problem is having enough time in the day to keep them all as sharp as I would like. My latest offering will be part of the Mystic Publishers Inc. 2021 Christmas Anthology coming out October 15th.

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Boys should not be your focus

Like most young ladies, my daughter struggles to believe any young man will ever like her enough to want to be in a relationship with her. She doesn’t think she’s pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, athletic enough–pick a category–it’s all the same to her. I hate her constant negativity on the subject and I’m always pointing out the great qualities she has, but it falls on deaf ears.

Incredibly, she thinks being grumpy with everyone around her is somehow the best way to deal with her insecurities. Ugh, it’s frustrating and stupid, if you ask me. So I’m going to tell you what I’ve told her a thousand times. Maybe it’ll reach someone out there in internet land. And because I’m not your mother, you’ll listen and put it into action.

Stop worrying about whether or not a boy will ever like you. That should be the least of your concerns. Instead, focus on changing yourself into someone you can honestly look in the mirror and like. No, this isn’t about being conceited. In fact, it’s the opposite. If there is something you don’t like about yourself, make a plan to fix it. Then, for heaven’s sake, actually put the plan in motion. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your best self be. Stop looking to external praise as a barometer for your efforts. Nobody matters but you. You are the one who has to live with yourself for the rest of your life.

Now, don’t confuse this advice with some stupid notion that I don’t want my daughter to ever have a man or get married. I love being married, it’s added so many amazing dimensions to my life. But there are only two kinds of marriages–really good ones and really crappy ones. Trust me, it’s the good ones you’re looking for. And those good guys don’t want a fixer upper anymore than a good woman wants a fixer upper. That’s why I keep saying start with yourself. Once you have done all you can to make yourself awesome, the dating pool of awesome guys will naturally expand.

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The HOCO experience…

I sent my youngest son off to his first Homecoming Dance. It’s a semi-formal affair around here, so I sent him in a shirt and tie. He wasn’t exactly excited about going, but his big sister made the request that he come. She is a senior this year and wanted to share in this “first” together.

My daughter told him there will be lots of “single Pringles”. I don’t know if that’s original to my daughter but that’s what she calls kids without a date. So he didn’t need to actually get a date himself if he wasn’t ready for that.

My daughter did have a date so they left before to take pictures and have dinner. As I drove my son over to meet my daughter and her date at the high school, I tried to impress on him the importance of these kinds of dances.

“These girls do not get all dress up hoping they will just stand against a wall, so please have the courage to ask those single Pringles to dance. And if one asks you to dance, please don’t ever say no. It takes a lot of courage on their part too, so–“

“I know, I know,” he said. “You’ve told me a thousand times–be kind.”

Well, at least I’m now assured that he’s heard me talking all this time. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of that school to see if he actually puts all my years of advice into action. I see great potential in him to be an amazing kid, the kind that can change the atmosphere of a situation. He’s naturally charismatic, which, like everything, can be use for good or bad. My fingers are crossed that he’ll choose to use it for good.

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What makes a bully

Every person, at one time or another, has been the bully.

Think about it. If I were to ask, “Have you ever felt bullied?” I guarantee every single person I asked would say yes.

How is it possible for all of us to have felt the effects of a bully if there’s only a few in every town doing it? The short answer—it’s not possible. But we have to redefine what it means to be a bully. It’s not always about threats of physical violence.

Have you ever said negative things about someone behind their back? That’s a form of bullying. Sure, you’re not throwing punches, but your actions hurt the person you’re talking about.

How about when you intentionally exclude someone? We’ve all seen this one. The cool kids can only hang out with the cool kids. But nerds, jocks, musicians, every click that’s ever existed, do this as well. Does it hurt when this happens to you? You betcha. That’s bullying.

When the jokes you make are at the expense of others. Everyone’s laughing so it’s fine, right? Is the person you’re making fun of laughing? If not—welcome to bully town.

As a reformed bully myself, I’ve found the best way to avoid slipping back into that role is to make a conscience effort to consider the feelings of others. I’m far from perfect at this, but when my mind is all on me, me, me I can bulldoze a swath of pain right through those closest to me in record time.

The only way to really stop the bully epidemic is for everyone to stop pointing fingers and start looking honestly at their own actions. Do you have the courage to change?

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There are limitations to what we can do

I’ve always said the best way to understand something is to experience it. It took the life-altering experience of having children to finally get a sense of what I put my mother through while growing up. To become a better writer, I had to write. A better cook, friend, teacher, or a thousand different grains of knowledge I’ve acquired over the years have all been strengthened by experience. And quite honestly, I’m discovering that might be the easier route to understanding, but in reality it’s not always possible to gain your knowledge through experience.

Non-physical issues are hard to experience if you aren’t prone to those problems. Let’s face it, I’m not shy. I have zero understanding what it’s like to be shy. I do know what it’s like to be nervous, but I also know how to shove the feeling aside and barrel through where others don’t seem to be able to. I’ve tried sharing how I do it with others on many occasions, but the “telling” seldom seems to translate if they can’t create that feeling of boldness inside themselves. And that emotion is something I can’t give to them.

And it even goes the other direction. I’ve listen to countless people explain to me their struggles with depression, but I have no idea what that really feels like. To be honest, I’m grateful that I’ve never felt in such a funk that I couldn’t climb out, but at the same time my lack of understanding hinders my ability to offer tools that might help. And I doubt saying things like, “Come on. We love you, so just pull yourself out,” would be very helpful. But I hate standing by and doing nothing. I’m a helper kind of personality, but over the years I’ve had to learn to swallow my pride and admit that having a desire to help is no substitution for really being able to help.

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The foreign exchange effect

This week we received a new foreign exchange student. This is our second time doing the program for the entire school year. When I started this program a couple of years ago I thought we were doing it for the benefit of the foreign exchange students, but I’ve learned it’s the other way around. Besides learning about other cultures, these students bring such a drive to learn and succeed here in the United States for their short time here. And I love how they are pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to do it. I consider all of those qualities fantastic, and want my children to strive for them as well. The example these students bring into my home is so appreciated I would recommend every family trying it while their kids are in high school.

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Adjusting my expectations

I keep telling myself that life never goes as planned, and yet I still struggle not to be disappointed when it does just that.

My daughter, now a senior, has decided not to swim this year. She’s always been such a fish–we’re talking jumping off the high dive at three kind of fish. Mind you, she’s not the fastest fish in the pool, but her endurance to just keep swimming never failed. She should have been born with gills.

To say I wasn’t thrilled with her decision is an understatement. I love the sport of swimming and will miss it, but if she’s going to wrestle now I have to go where she will be. The formation of a girls’ league in our state has attracted many young ladies to give wrestling a go. My sons have always wrestled so she knows what the sport entails, but watching her come home after open mat practice these past few months has been hilarious. She seems to wake up to a new bruise every time, yet she never talks about giving up. I have to give her props for that. I don’t think there is a more physically grueling sport out there, and just because they’re girls doesn’t seem to change that.

To be honest, I would have felt more comfortable if she had stayed where she had always been–swimming away to her heart’s content. We’d been doing it for so long, I just figured we always would. At times like these I have to remind myself to keep quiet. It’s her life–not mine–and she has the right to do what she wants with it.

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The best example of what a real alpha male should be

During a long overdue family vacation last week, my daughter and I were walking up a steep hill back to our vehicle. We had been boating all day and would be returning the next, so we left my sister’s boat at a slip for the evening. My husband and son had taken off ahead of us, carrying items that we didn’t want to leave behind. My daughter and I also had a cooler and a swim bag filling with things that needed to be either dried out or exchanged before the next day. Between the heavy items, the steep hill, and the extreme heat, my daughter’s patience waned pretty quickly.

“We’re fine. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and we’ll get there,” I said.

Of course, she rolled her eyes. “Why did we get stuck with the heavier stuff?” She thought her dad and brother had gotten off easier with the smaller items they had taken ahead of us.

“Don’t you worry,” I said with a smile. “Your father will be back before we even reach the top.”

“How do you know that?”

“Haven’t you ever notice that when there’s work to be done, your father is always the last to be finished. As long as he is around, you are never alone.”

It wasn’t long after I made that proclamation that the man himself appeared at the top of the hill again. He jogged down to where we stood and took the cooler from her and the bag from me, then turned and climbed again.

Now hands free, my daughter leaned over to me and whispered, “I have the coolest dad.”

“And I hope you never forget it,” I said.

He may not be a man of many words, but he doesn’t need to be. Over the past twenty-plus years I’ve known him, his consistently selfless actions speak for themselves. I truly hope my daughter can find a man of her own that is cut from the same cloth one day.

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Where is your focus?

‘The world in which we live can be dark and very cruel at times, but joy can still be found. It’s not always easy to see. Let’s face it, everything wrong in this world sticks out like a soar thumb, but the lift you experience by finding those little positive threads are worth the effort. And it is something you can control. No matter the situation, you can find a reason to be grateful. I know it’s hard, the frustration and heartache of life always seems to be lurking close by. But dwelling in the negative will only drain your strength and can even warp the mind into even darker spaces. It’s a downward spiral for those who choose to focus there. If you must, start small–list one thing a day your grateful for and why. You will be so a happy you did.

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