This girl

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20-something me in the ’70s

Many little girls dream of the day when they become mothers. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t.

Oh, when I was young, I played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy to them. I had tea parties with my dollies and did all the usual little girl play acting.  But when I thought of my future, which I must admit wasn’t that often, I didn’t envision myself becoming a mother.  No, I imagined my future self as either a famous actress or a well-known best-selling author.

And I have become neither.  But the best accomplishment I’ve ever achieved and one that I will never, ever regret is becoming a mother.  Growing up, my own mother instilled in me that I needed to go to college and become ‘something.’  Mom never worked outside of our home and she was a wonderful mother taking care of us three girls, cooking and baking the most delicious food, and turning our home into a lovely sanctuary. 

An only child, Mom also lovingly cared for her own parents in our home until they passed away.  She was generous, devoted to her family, and homemaking really did seem to make her happy particularly when she used her artistic talent in sewing, crocheting, and making beautiful hand-made quilts. 

Somewhere along my path to becoming an adult, whether it was a nudge from my own mom or just a sign of the times – the late 60’s and early 70’s – I embraced the idea that I did not want to become ‘just a wife and mother’ like my own mom.  I used to proclaim that I aimed for one goal – to be a career woman. I wasn’t interested in getting married, and for anyone who listened, I added that my vow certainly did not include having children.

What I did not account for in my made-up scenario of life is that I would meet and fall head over heels in love with a young man during my junior year of college and I would gladly become his wife three years later.

Still I entertained thoughts of not having children. Looking back now, I really cannot pinpoint why I had made that decision in early adulthood.  But four years after I married my husband, it happened.  I discovered that I wasn’t really suffering from an intestinal bug that made me nauseous and prompted early morning trips to the bathroom, I was pregnant – with child.

I was shocked and unprepared and the timing certainly wasn’t ideal.  My military husband was slated for an overseas year-long unaccompanied (meaning no wives along) assignment and would be leaving soon.   Up to this point, our lives seemed great since we both enjoyed our careers; we were saving my earnings; we had a great social circle of friends; and we did pretty much what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. 

All of that came screeching to a halt when an Army doctor gave me the good news.  Since the baby was due when my husband would be out of the country, I panicked.  How could I bring a baby into the world alone, far away from not only my husband but my family and their support as well?

We solved the dilemma by preparing for my husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) by moving out of our on-post housing, putting most of our belongings in storage, and moving me to temporarily stay with my folks while my husband was stationed on the other side of the world.  My parents eagerly welcomed me home and they were amazing as they helped me adjust to the idea of motherhood.  

A week after Christmas, my own mother held me as I sobbed inconsolably in an airport restroom after kissing my husband goodbye for the next year of our lives.  As she hugged me and stroked my head, my wise mother whispered, “You need to stop crying now.  It’s time to think about the baby.”

And she was right.  As foreign and surreal as it seemed because I wasn’t even showing yet, there was a new little life growing and developing inside my own.  I felt the baby’s first fluttering move on Christmas Eve while sitting in church but it all still seemed so unreal.  

It was indeed time to think about my baby.

It was time to really grow up.  Time to put aside my wants, my desires, my thoughts about myself and my sadness over being separated from my husband, and think of someone else.  Someone who would be solely dependent on me.  My child.

Thirty plus years have come and gone since that day.  When I brought that first new little life into this world, I never imagined the intense love I would feel for that child.  My child.  The day my firstborn was placed in my arms, I launched on a new career path – motherhood.  My husband and I together decided that the best thing for our family was for me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I kissed my former career goodbye and I’ve never regretted that decision.  My outlook on motherhood completely changed when I became a mother myself.  With each child born – and there were two more gifts of life – my joy and blessings increased and so did my deep love for my children.  

A couple of years ago, each one of my grown children married (all in the same year!) and now I am Mama to six adults instead of just three.  My love for my ‘children’ just keeps blossoming and growing and extending way beyond what I ever envisioned.   

And now I am an empty nest mama.  Somehow time flew past in a whirlwind and our house, which once was so full of noise, toys, and childhood mayhem is neat, orderly, and quiet.  And yes, I must admit, it’s also lonely from time to time.

Change.  That’s what life always brings.  And now it’s time for a new change. 

This girl…this girl with her wide-eyed dreams…this girl who never thought she was capable of being a mother…this girl who cherished motherhood more than a career…this girl who watched each of her fledglings soar out of her nest…this girl who is sometimes astonished at the middle-aged lady who looks back at her from the mirror…this girl…is changing again. 

This girl…is going to be a grandmother!

“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott

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©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A father’s footsteps

pexels-photo.jpg“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” ~  George Herbert (1593-1633)

It’s Father’s Day.  I’ve written quite a bit about my own father here on my blog.  He was one amazing dad, but he didn’t benefit from having a role model to pattern himself  after.

My paternal grandfather died when my own father was just a baby, so Dad grew up with a single, widowed mother in a household of five kids.  From what I gather, his older brothers were not necessarily great examples of fine fatherhood.  So I’ve often wondered how my dad learned to be such an exceptional father.

Since Dad was the youngest in his family, I believe he gleaned some lessons from watching the mistakes his older brother made and vowing not to follow in his footsteps.  Dad also showed nothing but love, support, and respect for my mother, which I think is the first step in being a good patriarch of the family.   But I also believe he trusted God to show him the way from through fatherhood territory.

I think my dad embodied this particular scripture:  “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ~ Micah 6:8

My own husband is also a terrific father.  He combines a good mixture of firm but not overly stern discipline with lots of opportunities for fun.  I think he exhibits a good example for each of our children and he’s always supported their endeavors, offering sound advice, and buckets of encouragement along the way.   But like my dad, I think my husband also leans heavily on God and his faith to point him in the right direction.

One remarkable and admirable aspect about my husband is his involvement with a prison ministry.  For several years now, my husband has visited our local jail about once a month and holds a Bible study/question and answer time with the male prisoners who choose to attend.

One of the things my husband has shared with me is that so many prisoners either: a. don’t know their fathers or b. don’t have a relationship with their fathers at all.  That breaks my husband’s heart and mine.

I have to wonder how many men – young and old alike – would not be sitting in their prison cells now if they had had good, respectable fathers in their lives as a youngster.  Hubby has also shared with me that prisoners wait patiently to be able to call their mothers on Mother’s Day, but don’t call their fathers on Father’s Day.

Something needs to change.  I don’t know the complete answer to the situation of absent fathers, irresponsible dads, or unloving parents.  But I do know one thing.  Fathers are vitally important to a child.  I don’t want to be ‘preachy’ on this subject, but in my line of work, I see the direct result of teenagers who don’t have a guiding father in their lives.   And I wish it was different for them.

I pray on this Father’s Day that more dads would stand up and take responsibility for the life of the child they’ve been given as a gift.  It’s not just about financially providing, although that too is needed.  It’s about being there as a loving, supportive, involved dad and leading by example for the children who are crying for daddy’s attention.

I pray these men would seek wisdom to guide their children morally and spiritually into their futures.  And on this day in my book of Opportunity, I pray more dads would be like my own father, my father-in-law, and my husband, father of my children.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” ~   Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Labor of love

Meet Cutehead

Meet Cutehead

You may have noticed Mama’s been mum again lately.  This mama’s been too busy to blog, bogged down with a bevy of tasks. 

Baffled by bedrooms, I’ve bandied items around the basement, and now that I’ve burst through the barricade, I’m happy to report I’m breathing easy again.

Usually here at the empty nest, there’s not much astir.  But just as surely as the cool wind and rain brought a change to the season – temps drastically dropped down the thermometer from 90’s to 60’s today! – change arrives soon at the nest too.

Oldest daughter is moving back to the homeland from that place down south.  She’s commencing a new chapter with a new job in the city near us.  And can I just say that I am ecstatic that she will be nearby once again?  Until she gets situated though, daughter will move in temporarily with the ‘rents.

So you know what that means?  Mama and Papa have been shoving and pushing and cleaning and purging to make room for daughter’s kit and caboodle.   First we tackled the basement to make room for storage of some furniture – didn’t we just do that not so long ago? Click  I Declare War if you missed that one.

Next project was oldest daughter’s bedroom.   Along with the empty nest syndrome, parents of certain age fall victim to another malady called SOE (Spread Out Everywhere).   Since that room possessed a somewhat empty closet (well, don’t look on the top shelves at the Barbies, books, and Girl Scout mementos), Papa and Mama took over the closet space with extra clothes, extra pillows, mementoes and pictures…and stuff.

That situation required remedy since daughter needs closet space while she stays here.  Solution?  Just move everything over to other daughter’s closet….no wait…can’t do that, there’s a wedding gown, wedding decorations, and a miscellany of other items belonging to middle daughter there.

No problem.  Let’s just open up son’s closet….oh dear.  Why does that young man have so many items of clothing still hanging in here?  Not to mention, shoes, backpacks, 9th grade framed artwork from an art show, AND Papa’s suits (SOE, I tell ya!).   Pushing and shoving and squeezing uncovered enough room to transfer some items over there.

Time to address the chest of drawers.  Good grief, each of the five drawers is full of extra sheet sets, blankets, etc.   Now to where shall we divert this stuff?

All of this labor finally completed on Labor Day (Chapter 9, Page 5, in my Opportunity book) uncovered a plethora of paraphernalia and pleasant memories:

  • 16 gowns including bridesmaids’ dresses from weddings past, Christmas dance formals, Prom finery, and one 34-year-old wedding gown (that one is mine).
  • 6 high school and college graduation gowns.
  • Assorted college textbooks.
  • 3 high school letter jackets still adorned with pins for each sport (track, cross country, soccer, and basketball) and year won.
  • Stuffed animals with special significance (Rocky 2, Cutehead – that’s him grinning in the picture – and various other friends).
  • 1 lonely pair of Eeyore slippers strangely out of place next to the pairs of glittery, spike heels from aforementioned formal events.
  • 1 Science of Scent perfumery set (oldest daughter wanted to be a scientist from early age).
  • Childhood books galore, Barbies, and an array of special dolls.
  • Keepsake gifts given to our three as babies.

So what do we do with it all?  For now, it’s crammed into whatever space we could find and waiting – just as it has for years – to be surveyed, sorted, saved, or shed by its owners, our three adult children.

But that labor of love will remain for another day.

©2011mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I smell….school!

blogDSCN0263There!  That’s it!  Did you catch a whiff of that?  I definitely smell school, do you?

The other morning, I awakened and took a nice deep breath while I lazily stretched in bed.  And that’s when I caught a whiff of the air circulating in and out of our bedroom via the open windows.  It smelled like school.

I can’t really describe it with words, but there’s a distinct smell in the early morning air this time of year.   The days are still warmed by the sunshine, but the nights commence their descent into cooler temperatures.  I’m certain there must be a scientific reason for what transpires but I don’t know what it is.  All I know is that fragrance in the air reminds me of going back to school.

Even though it’s been decades since I jumped on a school bus or packed up my belongings for dorm life, that smell transports me back in time to the first few days of a new school year.   I can vividly recall standing outside my house, shivering a bit in the cool, morning air, excited and yet a little nervous, waiting for the school bus to arrive on the first day back to school.  Yep, the scent in the air reminds me of crisp recently purchased school clothes, clean white tennis shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, and pristine notebooks with no doodles defacing them.

This time of year, stores tout their back-to-school sales and the aisles overflow with everything you ever wanted to start a new school year with and more.  At the discount store, I maneuver past mothers with children in tow loading up their shopping carts with packs of crayons, glue, rulers, markers, and backpacks.   College aged students heap all those dorm necessities into their carts.  A walk in the mall reveals families purchasing school clothes and the shoe stores swarm with children trying on shoes.   I notice school buses timing their practice runs.

My nose is right.  It’s time to go back to school.   Gone are the days when my children and I piled in the car, school supply lists in hand, to begin the annual ritual of back to school shopping.   The arrival of a new school year generated excitement with transitions from elementary to middle to high school to college, another season of sports practices and games, different schedules to learn, and new teachers to meet.

After a summer of leisure and relaxation, the smell of fall in the air meant the hustle and bustle of a new school year was about to descend and we had to get ready! But now at Mama’s Empty Nest, the scent of school in the air just ushers in a new season.  I can sit on my front porch swing in the warmth of the afternoon, watch the school buses drive by, hear the chatter of students on the bus, and reminisce about those days of putting my own children on the big yellow bus for another year of learning.

It’s my second year of not sending someone back to school, and in Chapter 8, Page 22, of my book of Opportunity, I can honestly say I’ve made peace with that.  No marathon shopping excursions, no frantic run to Wal-Mart in college town because we forgot this, that, or the other thing.  I find extending summer relaxation into this back to school season enjoyable, but the best part of all is my check book is a lot healthier too!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Escaping the shyness gene

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Not being a scientific type, I’m not sure if there really is a gene for shyness, but if there is, it must be – of course — a recessive one.

“Scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it years ago, but it was hiding behind a couple of other genes.”  ~ Jonathan Katz

A little girl with stick-like legs hides behind her mother when someone talks to her.   In school, she never raises her hand to respond to her teacher’s questions because she’s afraid her answer may be wrong.

In everyday life, she won’t answer the phone or even make calls to people she doesn’t know.  In the bigger scheme of life, she’s not fond of trying something new or taking a risk.

She’s shy.  Her mother tells her she’s afraid of her own shadow, but that’s not true.  Other people’s shadows or things that go bump in the night frighten her because she’s afraid of the dark and unfamiliar things.

That little girl used to be me.   My shyness lasted all the way up to my senior year of high school.  If you asked my former teachers about me, they would say I was a quiet student, if they remember me at all.  But something happened during my senior year that brought me out of my shell.  I took a drama class.

My teacher, who also directed all the school plays, required all drama students to participate in some fashion in school productions.  I’m not certain how I summoned up the courage to audition for an acting role, but I did.  I vaguely remember my friends shoving me into the school auditorium for try-outs.   Once I was onstage reading the script, I forgot to be scared.  The result was I landed a leading role in the play.

At school the Monday after our weekend performances, one of my teachers stopped me in the hall, his mouth widened into a perfect O, and he said, “Wow, that WAS you!”  Yep, a scared little butterfly emerged from its cocoon.

Once I became mother to our three children, I was determined, genes or no genes, not to pass along the trait of shyness to them.   Together, hubby and I attempted to provide challenges and new, exciting  experiences for them so they would embrace adventures and unfamiliar territory easily without fear and hesitation.

For much of their growing up years, my husband’s job transported us to different areas of the country.  We endeavored to make each move a grand adventure for our kids.  We traveled as much as we could to investigate unfamiliar areas, learn new information, and experience various events.

Our oldest daughter attended a different school every two years, which could be detrimental, but instead became an asset for her.  She learned quickly to adapt, make new friends, and gain a sense of independence.   I think acquiring those skills molded her into the adventuresome woman she is today – one who traveled by herself for a trip of a lifetime to Africa,  served others on mission trips to Honduras, and moved to a state far from home without family or friends.

Middle daughter overcame insecurities and displayed confidence early in elementary school and on the soccer playing fields.   She’s faced uncertainties with courage and bravado even when she felt like yielding.  Her perseverance enabled her to become a strong and assertive nurse who has used her compassion for others in the mission field from poverty-stricken areas of Mexico to hurricane-ravaged  Mississippi.  She loves to travel, appreciates historical and scenic sights, and records it all with her ever-present camera.

To me, youngest son seems fearless.  He welcomes new experiences like a parched man gulping a long draught of water.   He’s always eager to taste diverse foods, attempt different sports, engage in activities he’s never tried before.  Go on a mission trip to Belize?  Why not?  Try sailing? Sure.  How about a little surfing?  Go for it.  White water rafting?  You bet.  He’s traveled westward across the country and Pacific to Hawaii and eastward across the Atlantic to Germany and Italy.

This weekend, all three of my adult children reunited for a sibling get-together.  Son traveled from the state next door, met middle daughter in the city, and together they drove all night to oldest daughter’s home down south.

The three of them planned a big adventure for themselves to knock an item off their bucket lists.  They are all going sky-diving together!

Has that once shy, fearful little girl succeeded to instill a sense of daring exploration in her children?  Did they escape the shyness gene? 

I’m happy (and a little bit proud) to say yes in my book called Opportunity, Chapter 8, Page 12.  And I can’t wait to hear all about their exciting escapade after I go pray for their safety!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Still Daddy’s little girl

blogscan93If you’re female and you’ve been blessed with an endearing relationship with your father, no matter how old you may be, you’re still Daddy’s little girl.

Our middle daughter recently called and wanted to speak to her father.   While he chatted with her, she surprised him with an invitation to spend a day out with her – just the two of them, her treat.

Hubby’s birthday falls in the same month as Father’s Day and daughter had promised him then she had a special gift in mind.  Between her job, wedding planning, and spending time with her fiancé, she doesn’t have many weekends free, but she set aside one Saturday just for her dad.

She planned ‘Daddy-Daughter’ day with an activity they both would appreciate.  These two share a love for historical places, so a trip to one of the local museums seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, this particular site closed early that day, so they took a detour to our city’s National Aviary and then a scrumptious dinner out afterward.

As always, our photography prone daughter snapped lots of pictures.  Anyone who views those photos easily could surmise that daughter and dad experienced a great day together.  I wonder how many twenty-something daughters care to spend a day with just dear ol’ Dad, and how many fathers really devote time to their daughters.  I think there are multitudes of daughters who desperately desire time with their fathers but are cheated of it, and that truly makes me sad.

My father was Dad to three daughters.  It’s safe to say, next to my mother, we three girls were the light of our Dad’s life.  He always treated us like his treasures. Even after we all became adults, he continued giving us gifts of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.    Dad loved spending time with all of his girls, and that included grand-daughters too.

Our father didn’t have a role model since our grandfather died when Dad was a baby, so our papa set his own fatherhood standards.  And they were exemplary.  My sisters and I never felt unwanted, unloved, or like our father didn’t have time for us.  Instead, we experienced the reassurance that we were taken care of,  protected, safe, and very, very loved.

And that is vastly important for a young girl as she grows up.  Research shows that fathers have just as much and often more influence on their daughters as mothers do.    One researcher (L. Nielsen) states a “father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy and relate well to the males in her life…well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters.”

All you Dads out there, it’s time to step up to the plate and tell your daughters how important they are to you.  Better yet, show them.  If you need some good pointers, I’d recommend this book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters:  10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, by Dr. Meg Meeker.

It’s never too late to let your daughter know she’s still Daddy’s little girl.  I know that I’m grateful my father made me feel secure in his love.  And today in Chapter 8, Page 5, in my yearly book called Opportunity, I’m also thankful my husband is that kind of father to our daughters.   Maybe that’s why the following Subaru commercial always makes me cry!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Some homes look like “Better Homes and Gardens,” mine looks…lived in

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Not my house!

Wouldn’t it be nice to come home from work one day and find your living space as calm, neat and uncluttered as all the home magazine photos gazing back at you from the grocery store check-out line?

I’m not sure why I get a primal urge to purge my household in January, but obviously, magazine editors believe most American women get the same impulse.

Pick up any women’s publication and you will be bombarded with “10 easy tips” to organize your space so it will look like a photographer’s dream shot.

Pristine counters.  Neatly organized desk.  Uncluttered family room.  Carefully cleaned closets where everything is perfectly poised on shelves.  Supposedly.

Organizing your home takes time.  I wonder how many women have time to properly clean their houses, let alone time to stash everything in neat little rows of containers.  And that’s another thing.  Who can afford all of those nifty, spiffy bins, boxes and binders that perfectly match your décor?

I recently read an article in Better Homes and Gardens entitled, “25 Ways to Declutter for the New Year.”  Organizing experts provided the tips; some were useful, some I thought lacked practicality (my middle name!).

One guru suggested setting up a bookshelf perched by your front door with labeled pails (yes, buckets!) “for each family member’s shoes and other equipment.”  Hmm, ever tried getting pairs of size 11 men’s sneakers and soccer cleats in a bucket?

Do you know how many buckets – excuse me – pails it would take to store shoes for a family of five?  And might I add, that’s certainly what I want guests arriving at my front door to notice – buckets of smelly shoes.  Here’s a novel idea instead.  How about everyone pick up their own shoes and take them to their respective closets?

Is it me or is this idea just plain kooky?  Another expert suggested you arrange two coffee dates with a good friend, apparently one at her house, then one at yours.  Forget about a relaxing moment of peace with your friend and your favorite beverage.

Nope, on this visit, you should clean out her kitchen cabinets and get rid of her clutter.  Then on the next “date,” your friend should clean out yours.   Yeah, that sounds like (major sarcasm here) fun. I don’t know about you, but I’m not up for snooping in my friends’ kitchen cupboards nor am I crazy about them checking out mine either!

To be fair, some ideas proved winners.  If toys threaten to overtake your house, “quietly tuck a few of them away in a box. If kids ask for a specific item, retrieve it.  After a month, donate what’s left in the box.”   When three rambunctious young children squandered their toys all over Mama’s Empty Nest back in the day, hubby and I employed this technique…sort of.

Of course, we didn’t do it quietly.  When our kids delayed picking up their toys, we yelled, grabbed up all the toys and dumped them into a garbage bag which was deposited in the garage.   And it stayed there, promptly forgotten, until we found the “lost” toys when we prepared to move a couple of years later.

I don’t have to contend with toys any more, but a stockpile of too much stuff still overloads our basement.  How pleasant it would look organized in tidy fashion with shelves and color-coded storage containers like all of these pretty magazine pictures.   Oh well….no photographer will be taking pictures of my basement anyway!  At least I hope not!

So in Chapter 1, Page 7 (January 7th) of my book of Opportunity, guess where I spent a good portion of the day?  You guessed it, cleaning out the basement.  Hey, I can walk through it now!

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Mind your P’s and Q’s

light-sign-typography-lighting.jpgMind your manners, please.

Manners seem to be a thing of the past nowadays.  It seems each and every day someone quite rude and devoid of manners crosses my path.

I find it disconcerting that people would have to resort to an online reference to learn proper etiquette and good behavior, but there are countless websites for that purpose.  Does that disturb anyone but me?

Why are there so many human beings out there who don’t utter the words “excuse me,” “please,” or “thank you” let alone know how to be polite and courteous?  Instead I hear vulgarity brazenly spoken and witness a host of other discourteous actions that would cause Miss Manners to suffer a heart attack.  Not only do people have little respect for others, elders or not, but they appear to also hold no respect even for themselves.

That’s why a trip south always restores my faith in the civility of the human race.  A few years ago, when oldest daughter was preparing for her move to the deep South, I traveled with her to search for an apartment.

It was my first trip that far into the South and I still recall the amazement I felt over southerners’ lovely etiquette.  Everywhere we ventured I was called “ma’am,” and people were quite kind and chivalrous.  Thank you, you’re welcome, pardon me were vocabulary words obviously spoken in everyday language.

Even on my flight back home, the twenty-something young man seated next to me on the plane sprinkled our conversation with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.”  I finally disclosed to him that I had never been called ma’am so many times in my life as I had encountered in the two or three days I had been there.  His answer was, “Well, ma’am, here in the South, our mamas know how to raise us right.”

I will never forget that conversation and I ponder why everyone’s mama doesn’t raise her children right.  I mean what is so difficult about teaching your child to say “yes, please” or “no, thank you”?  Why is it an arduous task to open a door for someone, let another go first, or say excuse me?

I was again reminded of this when hubby and I made our recent trek into the southern states.  We were in Tennessee, stopped at a restaurant for dinner.  There was a gift shop there and we wandered around checking out the wares. While I was looking at a shelf of items, a little boy, probably about five or six, walked in front of me to get to his mama.

His grandma was behind him, and she promptly stopped him and in a firm and southern accented voice said, “What do you say?”  He was a little confused and answered questioningly, “Please?”

She then explained that he had rudely stepped in front of me and again demanded, “Now, what do you need to tell this lady?”  That time, his manners circuit connection fired up accurately, he turned to me and said quite sweetly, “Excuse me please.”

Excuse me please.  Most adults don’t even articulate that phrase, let alone kindergarten children.  And I simply will not accept the excuse that children are growing up in dysfunctional families or disadvantaged environments and that’s why they do not have decent manners or good conduct.

Oldest daughter is involved in the Big Brother/Big Sister program in her city.  She spends time encouraging a young girl who comes from a disadvantaged home.  The child’s daddy is incarcerated, and her mama makes do as best she can.  One evening we treated oldest daughter and her “little sis” to dinner out at a bar-b-que restaurant.

That child had very nice table manners.  She folded her napkin up when she was finished.  She even brushed all her crumbs to one little area in front of her.  She spoke politely and respectfully to us and she carried herself with dignity.  Her conduct was stellar and she should make her mama proud.

When we returned to her home, which was a temporary living space, she promptly thanked us for taking her to dinner.  That young lady had better social graces than most of the adults I observe, who come from middle-class or well-to-do families.

My mother used to say “mind your P’s and Q’s” to me when I was being impolite.  I’ve always wondered from where that saying was derived.  One explanation, which came from Wikipedia.com, suggests that the P is short for please and the Q for thank you, the latter of which contains a sound similar to the pronunciation of the name of the letter Q.  Parents used this phrase to educate their children in good manners and to remind them to use polite words when they spoke to others.

It all comes down to what that young Southern gentleman once told me, mamas (and daddies) out there, no matter what your situation in life is, you can raise your children right.  Let’s start with good manners, shall we?

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Parenting’s a roller coaster ride

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Being a parent is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding jobs, you can ever occupy.

It’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes you just hang on for the ride.  Other times you want to throw your hands up in the air and see what happens.

One evening this past week, I joined a discussion group for parents of teens. I agreed to attend as a favor to my friend, a youth pastor, and as a representative of the non-profit for which I work.  My friend orchestrated the discussion at his church and because he isn’t a parent yet, he asked me to sit in and share any words of wisdom I may have about parenting teens. When someone asks me to give my thoughts on parenting, I always feel so inadequate.  My husband and I raised three children to adulthood, but I still don’t feel like an expert.  All I can offer as advice is to share what worked for my family.

I totally realize that when my now-grown children were teens, they were really good kids. Oh, we had our arguments and problems just like everyone else, but for the most part, our kids were respectful teens who made excellent choices.  My husband and I don’t take the credit but attribute that to God’s help and intervention.   He listened to countless prayers we lifted up for our children and He helped us guide them in their paths.   And thankfully, they listened!

One of the things I always tell those who ask my advice is that “Children will do what is expected of them.”  If you expect them to be smart-mouthed, rebellious brats, they will exceed your expectation.  If you expect them to be well-behaved, respectful, contributing members of the family, they will exceed that expectation.  I firmly believe setting boundaries and using discipline actually demonstrates to your children how much you love and care about them.

But honestly, my husband and I did not experience some of the heart-breaking situations that many parents face.  Oldest daughter, middle daughter and son:  you don’t have a clue how thankful I am that all three of you possess good heads on your shoulders and honor not only your mother and father but your heavenly Father as well by making outstanding godly decisions!  I am so proud of all three of you!

Two things do occur to me about the way we raised our children.  The first is that our family always attended church together. From the time they were born, we worshipped as a family.   We didn’t just drop the kids off at Sunday School every Sunday, their Dad and I attended adult Sunday School classes too.

Church was a major part of our life and trying to live a godly life was something we, as their parents and believers in Christ, endeavored to model every single day.   We attempted to teach our children that faith is more than religion, that it is a growing, personal relationship with Jesus.

Secondly, we always traveled as a family unit.  Part of this was due to the fact that for a good portion of our children’s growing up years, we lived far away from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and my husband traveled with his job a lot.

So the times we spent together as a family meant the world to us. We taught our children that as a family, we were a tight unit.  When one of the kids had a sports event, we all went to cheer her/him on.  If one of them was performing in a chorus or band concert or in the school musical, the rest of us were sitting out in the audience.

We ate meals together and played together.  We watched TV and went to the movies together.  We laughed and cried together.  We spent as much time together as we could and we talked and listened to one another.

Their friends were always welcome at our house, and we tried our best to make our house fun, yet still adhere to the rules.  As our children grew older, of course, they started to venture away from home, off on their separate ways, but we made sure our lines of communication stayed open and our bonds of connectedness remained intact.

I don’t know in what context she wrote this, but short story writer and poet Dorothy Parker once said, “The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”

We tried to make our home atmosphere pleasant but never thought about letting the air out of the tires!!  If you try that parenting tip, let me know how it works for you!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

A Birthday Letter for Middle Daughter

 

My beautiful daughter at 25

My beautiful daughter at 25

I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing on this day 25 years ago.  I could explain all the details and give you a play-by-play on the events of that day, but I’m taking a different trail today.

Today, you see, is a milestone.   Today my middle daughter turns 25.  I’m not sure she is that pleased about her age, but I want her to see herself through her mama’s eyes, to see what a blessing she’s been to me for 25 years.  So this post is addressed to you, dear middle daughter, on the occasion of your birthday.

Your older sister was three when you made your appearance into this world.  The three of us, Mama, Daddy, and Sissy waited all through a long, hot, and very muggy summer for you to arrive and then you decided to make us wait an extra week!  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to finally be in labor early in the morning of September 8.

From the first moment we laid eyes on you, you were a joyful addition to our family.  Sister had someone to love, play with and boss around.  Mama received another beautiful baby to love, cuddle, and nurture.  Daddy gained another little girl to cherish and rock back to sleep at night, taking little snoozes together on the recliner.  You were a happy, contented, pleasant baby full of smiles and giggles.

Babyhood turned into the toddler stage all too quickly and the meaning of your given name, which means “lively,” fit you to a tee.  You were oh so busy all the time, not content to sit quietly watching “Sesame Street” like your sister.  Oh no, you had to be doing something at all times!  Climb up the huge, high sliding board at the park?  No problem.  Run and jump and take in everything there is to see?  Absolutely!   With excitement and wonder and gibberish.

You developed your own little language complete with inflections and hand gestures and none of us could decipher it, yet you regaled us with hysterically funny stories.  We just didn’t know what they meant.  But you did.  Two French fries or even two crayons would suddenly be involved in an intense conversation in a language unknown to anyone but you.   And you would laugh heartily and be delighted in what they had to say, whatever it was.

You welcomed your baby brother with gusto when you were two and a half.  You loved him, wanted to hold him, and wanted me to attend to him at the slightest squeak that he made.  You never seemed jealous that there was a new baby in the house.  On the contrary, you were thrilled to have another person to have fun with, and your sweet nature prevailed.

Time to venture to pre-school arrived.  Prior to that, you asked me two questions every morning: “Where daddy go?”  To work.  And “Where Sissy go?” To school.  Oh, the excitement of getting to go to school too, where you could learn and be busy as a bee and social as a butterfly!

School years flew by and we could always count on two things: you always did your best at school and everyone, teachers and students alike, absolutely adored you.  Your cheerful and positive attitude always were your assets.  Even when there were struggles, you marched forward and persevered and had fun on the way.

Being the middle child of our family was never a detriment to you; instead it uncovered  some of your finest strengths.  You learned the fine art of diplomacy and compromise and settled many a backseat argument with a mature, “Can’t we just figure out a way to get along?”

I will never forget a disagreement a friend had with you on the school playground.  You demonstrated maturity way beyond your years when you approached her and said, “On the road to friendship, we’ve taken the wrong turn.”

Friendships came easy for you back then and everyone in your classes wanted to be your friend because they knew it was a treasure to behold.   Your kind and compassionate heart befriended the unlovable, including a special needs child in your class who got along with no one, except you. She listened to you, looked up to you, and loved you with all her heart.

You strived to do your best whether it was learning a new dance, doing a one-hand cartwheel in gymnastics, or learning goal-keeping skills at soccer.   You developed a devout love for reading and still can be seen with a book in your possession.  Athletics, math, singing, and acting were activities in which you shined.   And to us, you were always our glimmering star!

Moving back to mama’s homeland brought a few difficulties for you.  For some reason, cultivating friendships wasn’t as effortless as it was before.   You learned you had to stand up for your convictions and your beliefs and that wasn’t easy.  But you stood firm, even when you were talked about behind your back and ridiculed for your godly decisions.  Your sensitive and sweet heart got trampled on more than one occasion.  But God used those difficult years to strengthen and prepare you for things you had yet to encounter. I think He knew He had to make a warrior out of you.

Daddy and I were very proud of you graduating from high school with honors and participating in so many activities where you devoted your all whether it was on stage in school musicals or on the soccer playing field trying to vie for a playing spot amid a field of boys.  The frustrations you endured and the injuries you incurred didn’t make you surrender; they just made you more determined.

Your college years were harder yet. You faced disappointments – and there were more than your fair share – but you chose to show your mettle instead of giving up and you earned that Bachelor of Science in Nursing with lots of hard, diligent work.  And again, you relied on your Savior to carry you through the difficult times.

The Lord bestowed upon you a heart for those less fortunate than you and provided opportunities to bless those on mission trips to the Navajo people, to the poor and needy in Mexico, and to those devastated by hurricane Katrina.  As always, the children in those areas were drawn to you and adored you for your free-spirited sense of fun and play, but most of all, your sweet and loving ways.

As you begin another year of life, I pray for God to bless you and always lead you where He wants you to go.  My daughter, you have bloomed and blossomed into the most gorgeous of creatures. 

God uses your compassion for others and your servant heart each day as you minister to the sick and weary in their hospital rooms.

As much as the Lord has blessed others through you, He has blessed me even more for He allowed me to be your Mama.  Daughter, you are loved beyond measure.  Happy 25th Birthday, my dear one!

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:16-18 (New International Version)

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com