I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for May, 2015

A New Stage

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” – Debra Ginsberg

Today was a life-changer.

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My baby walked across the stage and received his diploma.  My youngest child graduated high school.

*gulp*

This is the end of an era, as they say.  For 18 years I have watched a child walk in to a K-12 school building.  18 years of field trips, permission slips, Friday folders, spelling lists, fundraisers, parent/teacher conferences, concerts, plays, musicals, projects, snow days, . . . four children, a countless number of teachers, friends, highs, and lows.  I have been a band mom, a soccer mom, a choir mom, a theater mom, a basketball mom, . . . you get the idea!!

kids

These four have brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined.  They have made me laugh, tested my understanding and patience, proven that I am NEVER to old to learn and no one is ever too young to teach, and have filled my heart to bursting too many times to count.  I have NO clue what this new phase holds.  My eldest duckling (in the sunglasses next to her brother) has been living on her own for awhile and working a full-time, “grown up” job so I’ve already dipped my toe into the “empty nest” waters.  But I still had kids in school which felt comfortable.  Today all of that has changed.  I still work for the school district but that is just not the same as being a parent.

I’ve shed my tears through the “lasts” – last choir concert, last band concert, last large group contest, last musical . . . you get the idea – and I shed a few more today when he gleefully tossed his cap into the air.  I love my kids and am fascinated by the individuals they have become.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of them but I would be lying if I said that I was not at least a little bit nervous about what it means for hubby and I as we tread these new waters.

Congrats, sonny boy.  I could not be more proud of the man you have become and I cannot wait to see what life holds for you!

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An Open Letter to My Children

Hey Ducklings!

Just to give you the background, I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about parenthood lately.  And it’s mostly motivated by a comment I heard recently.  While out running errands a few days ago, I overhead a woman venting to her friend about the tribulations of motherhood.  I SWEAR I wasn’t eavesdropping.  This woman was VERY frustrated and her volume had risen accordingly.  From her comments (while she and her friend were waiting ahead of me in the checkout line) it became clear that she had kids and one of them was a daughter somewhere around the age of 12 or 13.  I’m not going to lie – that is not exactly a “fun” age with girls.  This mother kept . . . oh, let’s be honest and call it what it was . . . she was complaining.  Just as the friend finished paying for the items she had purchased, the cranky mother said something that has stuck in my brain – “After all I’ve done for her, that little brat owes me.  Big time.”

That stuck with me.  And not in a pleasant way.

So I’m taking this chance to make myself ABSOLUTELY clear:

Esther, Margaret, Janessa and Jay, I want to say to all of you – categorically and without any misunderstanding – that you owe me absolutely NOTHING.  Nada. Zilch.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve just known I was going to be a mom.  And God got crazy with the blessings and gave me four of the funniest, most creative kids any mom could have.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games.  Being up repeatedly with a newborn made for some very tired days.  Four children so close in age made the schedule a little crazy at times.  Sick kids, cranky toddlers, stubborn temper tantrums, mouthy attitudes, teen-aged angst . . . there were moments that made me want to scream or pull my hair out or put myself in time out just so I could get my head back on straight.

But none of that matters.  You don’t owe me a thing.  I did not become a parent as a way of setting up some sort of “savings account” that I could tap into down the road.  I didn’t create a score card on the day that you were born so I could start tracking the time I spent being a mom.  Being your mom has been a privilege.  It has allowed me to learn about myself and to grow as a person.  It’s taught me that I can solve problems creatively, that my “mom instincts” are pretty good and that the simplest solution is sometimes the best.

I did not do what I did as your mom to “earn points” or set you up for a big payback down the road.  I chose to have children and I chose to love each of you unconditionally.  Watching you grow, learn, try and fail and try again . . . all of it has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined.  There are many parts of my life  that I have loved and many experiences I will cherish.  But next to being married to the love of my life, being mom to the four of you is the richest blessing I could ever have hoped for.

I make no pretense about my “mothering skills” – I’ve gotten it wrong as often as I’ve gotten it right.  Might have even screwed up MORE.  But you have been loved since before I met you and nothing will ever change that.  I love you “to the moon and back.”

“Love you forever, like you for always.”

Sincerely,

Mama Duck

Best Laid Plans

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

I used to tell my friends in college that I was going to be the weirdest mom possible so that my kids would turn out normal.  I mean, kids go through this, “I will never be like you!” phase, right?  Usually somewhere around their teenage years.  And I was hoping that rebellion would stick.

In recent weeks, as I’ve done some reflecting and self-evaluating – and as I’ve confronted the fact that my plan failed MISERABLY (more about that later) – I have to admit that there was another motivation behind my desire for my kids to be “normal”.  It goes back to my own teenage years.

I am a performing arts geek.  Lifelong membership.  Took my first piano lesson at the age of 4 1/2 (one week AFTER my half birthday, to be precise!!), had my first role in a musical in 1st grade (“Babes in Toyland”), started band in fifth grade and have been singing either in my home or in school or in performance all of my life.  Choir, band, theater, and piano.  Oh!  And I played violin for a few years so throw a short stint in orchestra on that list.

So when I say I’m a performing arts geek, I’m talking “hardcore” version.

From sixth grade through the first part of 10th grade I attended a very small school in the southern part of the state of Michigan.  How small, you ask?  Try 25 kids in a graduating class small.  For most of 7th grade, all of 8th grade, and almost all of 9th grade, I dreaded going to school.  Don’t get me wrong – I liked a few of my teachers and really loved band, choir and being a cheerleader (the closest to organized sports I EVER got).  But then there was . . . him.  Let’s just call him “Thug”.  He was my bully.  Whenever he could possibly get close enough to me in the hallway (and it’s not like I could easily get lost in a school that small!) he would lean in over my shoulder and say things like:

“You know you’re a total loser, right?  No one likes you.”

“Band and choir are for geeks and losers.”

“The world would be better without you in it.”

“No one like religious freak choir dorks.”

“Why don’t you do us all a favor and just kill yourself?”

(I should probably have mentioned that my father was a pastor . . . thus the “religious freak” label.)

This started shortly after the beginning of my 7th grade year.  Pretty much every single school day.  This . . . jerk . . . took something I loved and beat me up with it.  He wanted me to feel weird, ashamed, outcast . . . over something I LOVE.  The scary thing is, he was almost successful.  Three times my freshman year, I tried to take him up on that last suggestion of his.  Thankfully, I never “succeeded.” But I tried.  Thug nearly convinced me that this . . . passion, this . . . drive of mine was somehow “wrong”.  He wanted me to see my uniqueness, my “weirdness” as a bad thing.  Sadly, I bought in, at least for a time.  In a weird way, that’s what bullies do – they try to convince us that we have somehow failed the human race.  Ridiculous!!

Then came the last marking period of freshman year.  Thug started talking the same old garbage but this time he was a little too loud.  A classmate – her name was Carla (you tend to remember your personal heroes!) – overhead him and . . . let’s just say, she lit him up!  She asked him why on earth he thought that what he was saying was acceptable.  She might have even called him a couple of names. At that point, she took my arm and walked to class with me.  From that day on, she made sure that I never walked to class alone.  I had a band of friends that made sure he couldn’t get close enough.

Sophomore year, I was a varsity cheerleader when my dad was offered a job back in what I have always considered my “home town.”  My parents and sisters moved into the parsonage in late October (mostly so it wouldn’t be empty on “Devil’s Night” and Halloween) and I stayed with a fellow cheerleader to finish out the football season.  My dad was there at the final game and, after some good bye hugs and a few tears, I moved in with my family.

That move was the beginning of a change.  I was returning to a school I had attended from 3rd through 5th grade but a few years had passed and I decided that I would use the move back as an excuse to be more “myself”.  It was tough not to give in to the first “weird” look or rude comment.  But I jumped in to band, choir, show choir, and the theater department with both feet.  I quickly found a group of friends to hang with and my Senior year provided even more friendships as I got a chance to tutor some athletes in one of my favorite classes.

Moving on to college provided even more of a chance to “reinvent” myself – or maybe just be more true to myself.  And it helps that I ended up at a college where the performing arts geeks were practically campus royalty!!  But that frustrated, scared, tormented middle schooler has always lurked in the shadows.  The older I grow, the more comfortable I get in my own skin but it took me awhile to get that process started.

The truth?  When I said that I would be mega-weird so my kids would rebel and be “normal”, there was a part of me that hoped to spare them some of the pain I went through.  Dumb, I know, but it is, nevertheless, the truth.

I could NOT be more happy to have failed miserably in that attempt.  My kids decided a few years ago that the song “That’s Just the Way We Roll” is our family’s theme song (do yourself a favor, find it on Youtube and watch it!).  We are, as someone has said, an acquired taste.  Games of Apples to Apples, Bubble Talk, or Trivial Pursuit are a unique experience when we play.  We are loud, we burst into song when certain words remind us of a song (often a musical theater song), the kids and I are performing arts geeks to one degree or another and we quote movies.  Alot.  We are a weird, unique, funny, passionate, loud bunch and I am RIDICULOUSLY blessed to have four kids who decided to follow in mom’s footsteps and embrace their weirdness.  All four of them are much more comfortable in their own skin than I was at their ages and I will consider that a win.

As stated in Mr. Burns’ quote above, the best laid plans fall apart from time to time.  And in this case, I’m so grateful that they did!

What I’ve learned . . .

This post is going to lean toward that disjointed/random thoughts kind of thing.  Nothing HUGELY profound has happened recently, but several small things or conversations have reminded me of lessons that life has helped me learn.  So here they are!

  •  Forgiveness is almost never solely about the other person.  Sometimes it’s not about them at all.  It’s about letting go of your “right” to get revenge and choose to move forward with a positive attitude
  • If you seek to be a positive person who looks for the good in others, you will sometimes get burned by those who are willing to take advantage of others.  But be a positive person anyway.  Don’t give the “users” any power over your attitude and perspective.
  • Not every one will like the work you do.  But if the majority of the feedback is positive, learn what you can to improve – because EVERYONE has room to improve – and move forward!
  • Your passion will not always be understood by others around you but don’t walk away from it no matter what.  Your passion is YOURS because it is what you are supposed to pursue.  You will eventually find others who share your passion and they will gladly share the journey!
  • If you need to take time for you . . . do it and don’t apologize!  Even the most social butterfly will find him/herself in need of some “down” time.  If you feel the urge to put on comfy clothes and turn on Netflix, then do it.

One of the college classes I teach is intended to be taken by education majors.  I tell my students all the time that it is imperative that they seek to learn new things for the rest of their lives.  So I’m grateful that at 46 I can have lessons reinforced and maybe even learn a new thing or two!

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