Even hard work won’t get you everything you want

The brutal truth about life is sometimes you’ll never win. My daughter learned this truth last week, and it broke my heart. She’s been trying to get on the competing ballroom team at her high school for three years now. I’ve blog several times about her growth as a ballroom dancer, going from I have no idea what I’m doing to being able to name every dance step there is. She truly loves it and worked hard to improve. Next year she’ll be a senior, so this was her final opportunity to make the team. After tryouts she was so hopeful.

“I didn’t mess up once and I did every lift.”

But the next day we received the email that she would be remaining on the JV team. Crushed, she struggled to come out of her room. As a mom, part of me wished there was a way to take away the pain of the disappointment. And I might have thought about punching the stupid teacher in the face for split second, but thankfully my cooler head prevailed. I decided the best thing I could do was hug her through the sorrow and then the teaching moments just kept coming.

A friend of hers on the JV ballroom team sent her an excited text to tell her she had made the varsity team. My daughter cried even harder.

“Don’t be mad at her. She wanted to make the team as much as you did. I know it’s hard, but you need to congratulate her.”

The next text was from a girl on the JV team, sending out a group text to gloat about making the varsity team. I just kept hugging her.

“Well…you always said you didn’t like how she made things difficult on the JV team. At least now you won’t have to deal with her anymore.”

The next text came from a freshman girl that my daughter had befriended this year. She had made the JV team.

“Hey. Isn’t that a silver lining? Someone you actually like hanging out with will still be on your team.”

She rolled her eyes, but over time the tears ebbed. We went out to lunch for a final pity party and then I told her.

“Put it behind you and move on. There are still opportunities to be found in disappointments, but only for those who stop wallowing the “if only” and look for them.”

I know I need to get over the “if only” too, but being a mom is a special kind of hardship I could have never fathomed before having kids. The good thing is, I’ve lived long enough to know this too shall pass.

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“What’s this for?”

My oldest sister married off her daughter over the weekend. She was the first of my nieces and nephews to marry so it was exciting to be apart of the celebration. At the reception, I was doing my best to help wherever I could and ended up doing the part of MC as well. Winding down, it came time to have the groom pull the garter from the bride’s leg and then have the bride throw the bouquet.

My youngest son, who won’t be fourteen until June, hears me tell all the single men in the room to gather so they can try and catch the garter. He runs over to join them. I pull the mic low so my chuckle won’t carry over the sound system, before gently telling him over the mic that he’s only thirteen.

He looks back at me and yells, “Yeah, but I’m a guy too.”

Well, I couldn’t argue with that so I decided it best to just let it go. Of course, being Mr. competitive he caught the garter and ran over to me to gloat.

Twirling it around his finger, he asked me, “So, what’s this for?”

My chuckle turned into full-blown laughter. “Well, son. It’s believed that the single male who catches the garter is the next one to be married. So congratulations! Who’s the lucky girl?”

He chucked it at me. “Ew, I don’t want it any more.”

Every patron in the room started laughing at his reaction. Maybe next time he’ll listen to his mother or, if I’m not there, ask someone why people are gathering before running headlong to join. Oh, he’s a character…one that now has a garter belt wrapped around his Optimus Prime transformer bank on his dresser. I hope his abuse of the poor thing ensures he won’t be next to marry, because even fourteen is way too young.

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George Orwell’s 1984

Teachers, just like all people, aren’t perfect, but I love it when they understand the importance of letting a child discover for themselves.

Recently, my daughter came home with George Orwell’s 1984 novel. I walked upstairs and saw her reading it at our kitchen island.

“Where did you get that?” I said. I had read the book years ago but don’t own a copy.

“Oh, I finished the other assigned book for my English class, so my teacher let me pick another one from her collection.”

“Did she say anything about this book?” Having read the book, I could see two school’s of thought on why she might be allowing my daughter to have it. And to be honest, one of those school’s of thought I wouldn’t be very happy about. I want my children to be taught to think for themselves, but I’ve seen far too many attempts at indoctrination happening to my kids.

“No. Why? Should I not be reading it?”

“Oh no, knowledge it power.” And I truly believe that. Every single one of us would be much better off if we turned off the TV and picked up a book far more often. “I was just wondering if she gave you any opinions on the premise.” If she had, it would be harder for my daughter to come up with her own opinions about the novel.

“No, she just told me to enjoy.”

I nodded my head and started to walk away.

“But you’ve never really acted this way when I’ve read other books,” she said. “What is it about this one?”

“Mmm…” I didn’t want to shade my daughter’s thinking with my own biases. “I’d rather hear what you think about the book, so come talk to me about it whenever you want.”

Less than a day later, my daughter comes home from school. “Holy cow, mom. The kids in this book are twisted.”

I laughed. “That’s one way to describe them. Why do you think that is?”

“Because they’re being told a different reality, and history has been wiped away so they think what they’re being told is the truth. It’s making them do terrible things to their parents…”

Back and forth we bantered about the subject matter of the book for almost another half hour. It was such fun conversation to have. The best part, I could see the wheels in my daughter’s head turning. She’s forming her own opinions about the world around her. It’s scary because she might end up with differing opinions than mine, but it’s probably the most important thing she’ll ever do–to think for herself. And George Orwell’s 1984 novel, in my opinion, is a good example of why learning to think for one’s self is so important.

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Be careful how you talk about others

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone at one time or another has let someone down. But both the wronged and the perpetrator in every instance have an opportunity to take these moments and turn them into something positive.

If you are the wronged party, I would strongly encourage you not to dwell on the negative of the interaction. I would also hope that you would refrain from retelling the mistake over and over again to anyone that will hear, especially if this is someone you consider to be a friend. Go back to the first sentence I wrote–everyone makes mistakes. At some point you will be the person who has wronged another. One of the best habits you can acquire is learning to always speak positively of others who aren’t with you. Sadly, negative gossip travels further and lingers longer. Do you really want to be the reason why others think badly of someone they hardly know?

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The youngest filling the shoes of the oldest

For almost a year now my oldest son has been gone, and boy have I missed him. He was always my best helper, but his absence has also brought positive developments. My youngest son who often tended to disappear first when it came to work around the house and the family farm can’t anymore. There is no older brother to take care of it for him.

To be honest I’m relieved he’s learned to step up. I no longer worry I’m raising a lazy man who won’t be of much value to his future wife. And, looking back, I realize his behavior might have been partly my fault. I always called out for my oldest son first when I needed a strong back to assist me when their father wasn’t home. But now that I know how capable my youngest is, he’s done for. He won’t be getting out of anything ever again, even after his older brother comes home in another year.

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Expanding My Talents

Working at a publishing house has opened many opportunities for me to learn different elements of the publishing business.

Growing up, I never thought I would ever be very good at the tangible arts like drawing or painting. I had tried and failed them on several occasions, so typical me shrugged it off and decided to look elsewhere for my hunger to create. I found it in writing, but this past year, I also discovered I really like creating book covers.

My latest endeavor came out at the beginning of the month. This one really challenged me to up my game with Photoshop. It’s so exciting to see a cover of my making that I truly feel elevates the fantastic sci-fi story within. Click on the book below if you want a closer look.

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The power of choice

I don’t know about you, but I’m surprised at how social media has become an never-ending experience of walking on eggshells for some. Heaven forbid you don’t agree with every single person your friends with. I hate to break it to you, but I’ve friended a lot of people on Facebook, and I don’t want to unfriend any of them. They all come from different backgrounds and life experiences, and their posts offer me a glimpses into their lives and many different view points. That’s something to be cherished, not destroyed.

Sometimes I don’t agree with what has been posted, but here’s the beautiful thing, after reading it I don’t have to repost it or comment on it. And If I do choose to comment on it, I have to accept that my opinions might not always be well received. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is important that we allow each to choose for themselves how they will think, feel, and act. Remember, trying to force people to do what you think is right has never made anyone a better person. Goodness is not something that can be dictated from others, it can only be found within. And true goodness is only real when it is offered to others freely, despite how you are being treated. No one has the power to stand in judgement of you, so stop allowing others and inanimate things to offend you. Every emotion you experience in life is a choice, choose wisely where you will expend that energy.

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Wishing will never be useful

Nothing you want in life happens by accident. The singer you revere on the radio, the movie star you love to watch, that incredible athlete everyone talks about, those people didn’t get there by accident. Success, however you want to define yours, will never be achieved by hoping for it. A sacrifice is always required, whether it be physical or emotional, those who reach their goals gave up something. So go beyond the wishful thoughts of things you want to happen in your life. Take a moment to consider what you are willing to give up to achieve said goal. The more you are willing to “bleed” for your desires, the better your chances. The path of least resistance is littered with mediocracy. Though the harder path is just that–hard–you’ll find it far more satisfying in the end.

Posted in Blasts from my pasts (popular re-posts), Things I wish I would have known when I was 15. | Leave a comment

Parenting: it’s not for the weak.

My thoughts on what makes a good parent has changed much over the years. My mother always told me to never say never when it came to kids, and boy, was she right. I had such grand thoughts before I had children…

I was never going to raise my voice. I was never going to say, “Because I said so.” I was never going to be that parent that had to physically drag my child anywhere.

After having my first child it wasn’t long before that first “never” went by the wayside. And trust me, I tried. I didn’t start by raising my voice. But sometimes, I swear, they couldn’t hear me until I’d lost my mind and given myself a sore throat. But as I grew into the parenting role through practice, things started to change. I actually don’t yell all that often anymore. I don’t need to. I’ve learned to stop talking until I have their attention. I’m a talker so when I go silent everyone notices, so this technique works like a charm for me.

I also didn’t start out breaking the second “never” until my kids were about three. You can only explain yourself so many times before you can’t take the “why” anymore and just say, “Because I said so.” As my kids have gotten older, I’ve learned to toss their whys back at them with questions of my own. “What are the house rules for late nights? Why do you think that’s a good idea? What might be a downside to that choice?” Making them have to verbally work out why they should or shouldn’t do something has all but ended the “Because I said so” argument. However, every once and a while they still try to get cheeky when told no, so “Because I said so” may truly never be gone. Good thing I’m a parent who can live with not being perfect.

The last “never” I failed at almost immediately. But I don’t regret failing at this one at all. It’s amazing how stubborn kids can be, and how strong you can be when they’re pitching a hairy fit in a public setting. Yeah, I’ll drag you all the way if I have to.

Over the years, I’ve master the ability to cross my arms and raise my eyebrows in such a way when I say one my kids’ name that they pretty much come running. Even last week, while we were at a seven-on-seven football tournament, I said my youngest son’s name with that look. You better believe he came running. He didn’t care that it made the other boys chuckle at his quick response to me. He knows I don’t use it lightly, and I’m dead serious and not above grabbing him by the ear to have a little talk.

You know, the more I think about it, maybe it’s not me getting better at being a parent. Maybe it’s that my children know my expectations and have learned to manipulate the situation to keep me pacified. Smart little buggers, but I remember being one too.

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My redhead…

My youngest child is blessed with the most outstanding of hair colors. It’s not just slightly red. Nobody is ever going to mistake his hair as an auburn or a strawberry blonde. This kid has a head of bright, in-your-face-vibrant, RED hair. Let’s just say, in a crowd of a thousand, you would be able to pick him out pretty quick, as long as he’s not wearing his infamous ballcap. He also has the blessing, well I think it’s a blessing, of this hair being extremely coarse. With all that natural texture, his hair doesn’t even know how to be flat to his head. He doesn’t like his hair long, so he has this perfect, short bouffant going on all the time, even when he takes a football helmet off.

Living with such audacious hair, he gets comments–both teasing and praise–everywhere he goes. Yet none of it, not even the mean jeering he sometimes gets seems to bother him. This last week, one of the high school football boys told my son as he was walking out to our vehicle after practice that he should do something about the ugly red hair on top of his head. I had my window open so I heard the comment, but before I could say anything, my son turned around.

“Thanks,” he said to the older boy. “At least we can confirm you’re not colorblind.”

He hopped into our truck with me sputtering into laughter. Of all my children, I’m the least worried about this child going to high school next year. The boy is downright fearless–even in the face of older students. And with those kinds of comebacks, I doubt there will be many who will try to raze him too much.

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