Tag Archives: Family

To the happy couple – my words to my niece as she marries …

I’m thankful to have a chance to be a part of today’s ceremony. It is always a joy to speak of love and the beauty that a day like this means not only to the couple, but to all of us who have found love and experienced what it means to commit your heart to another.

I learned a long time ago that finding your mate isn’t about finding someone you can see yourself living with the rest of your life. It’s about finding someone and realizing you can’t possibly imagine living your life without them. The first case is focused on the admin logistics of a lifetime together and the second more pressing interpretation, and the one I think brings us here today, is about the total faith and commitment of your most vulnerable self to another. Not because it will be easy, but more because you realize when it is not easy, you still want that man or woman to be the one by your side.

I would suggest that being in love on days like today is easy. It is when times are hard, when things are in chaos and when you are at your most vulnerable that real love shows itself in the form of that one man or woman who is there every time to lend strength and comfort to make you stronger than yourself and better than yourself when you are alone. I know that every married couple here, who utters the words “I love you” to another has experienced times when you’ve looked to your husband or wife and asked them to carry you through things you didn’t feel you could navigate alone.

I know too, after being in my own marriage for 28 years, that revisiting the type of love we witness today is an affirmation of our own beginnings and our early surrender to the promise and trust of marriage. In a way, I envy my neice and Steve. In a way I wish I still had that brand new love, that clean fresh rain of passion that you are experiencing now and will experience in the coming years. After consideration however, I will tell you a secret. If you do this right and if you guard the other persons heart and trust as I believe you will, your depth and understanding of true love will only grow deeper and more beautiful. Your depth and understanding of how strong it makes you to be so vulnerable with someone, your depth and understanding of how easy it will make the hardest of times and your depth and understanding of why today, you are giving yourself to one person for the rest of your life will be one of the greatest gifts you will ever receive.

Love that is true, love that is faithful and love that is vulnerable, scary, at times equally painful and exquisite in nature is as unique as a storm that opens to a rainbow, as beautiful as a winter that yields to a spring and as satisfying to see as a flower that blooms from a beautiful and youthful bud.

You have both had trials, you have both had victories over those trials and today you stand to yield yourselves to one another in love. We are grateful to share your day and as I shared at your sister’s wedding Becky, all of us are here to help you and Steve recognize there is nothing you cannot overcome together, there is nothing we will not help you grow through and there is nothing that will stop the growth of our faith in your love.

Becky asked me to read a sonnet by ee cummings. It is not an easy poem to read as cummings designed it to been seen and felt for the way it was written as well as for the words he selected. At no time in the poem does he capitalize the letter “I” to separate his importance from the importance of his love and save one or two semi colons there is no punctuation to mar the flow of the words. In particular cummings separates phrases visually as if to allow him to whisper to his loved ones heart quietly and yet still in full view of the reader.

I will however, do my best to help you sense the depth of his faith and surrender:

 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Be gentle with one another’s hearts. Be gentle with your words and strong in your commitment not just to each other, but to the promise of love.

beckys-photo

 

 

Letter to #2 as he leaves for college

Happy Birthday Son:

It’s hard to believe you’re celebrating your birthday away from us. Your birth was the most calming and beautiful I experienced. When people saw you they said out loud “he’s perfect”. From day one I embraced you as my sidekick. You’ve proven you are unique and strong enough to follow your own path. You’ve stayed the same and yet changed so much. That little boy who talked to me about heaven and said: “My heaven will be inside” is now literally jumping out of the house to kayak and climb mountains. Trust me, I didn’t see that coming.

That little boy who was so angry at the day care for not allowing him to be in the “big boy room” with his brother and was subsequently pegged as “angry” is still fighting when he feels there is an injustice. That young man who told me “Mom you have to do something” when he saw the need to help his friends is now making every effort to help others, when and where he is needed. That young man who was defeated during his first year in High School by careless words said by careless adults graduated with a close to 4.0 average (was it 3.93?) and got exactly where he was meant to be.

You know when Jake left I wrote him a letter focusing on the philosophies I wanted him to embrace in life. I don’t need to write those things to you. Seems to me we routinely talk about them. I’ve had the best time sharing and exploring your beliefs and thoughts; because you listened to mine as well and made me feel that you valued the time we shared. Watching how you’ve grown over the years and how your initial observations matured and cemented into your core beliefs has been remarkable for me. I’ve watched a man mature in word and deed

Still, because I’m the mom, I must impart a few thoughts.

Make mistakes – but for goodness’ sake learn from them. There is no failure if there is learning and growth—PERIOD.

You’ll continue to grow and your opinions will change and grow as well. Your strength will be in your ability to awaken people to the benefits of your thoughts. You cannot force them. You CAN inspire them.

Stress is the best and worst thing you can experience. It is good when it motivates you and bad when it rules you. Figure out a way to manage it that works for you. Breathe, walk, listen to music, MAKE LISTS to help you manage your tasks and remember WE can and will carry ANYTHING you might find too heavy to on your own.

You WILL land where you are supposed to land. Making an adjustment in course is what we do to keep the wind moving us forward. Don’t ever think you are failing if you are moving forward. We believe in you, we trust you and we will help you. You are NEVER alone.

Guard your heart. You have a special tenderness and vulnerability that others may exploit in a way that hurts you. Be thoughtful and brave in all things but especially in matters of the heart. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Love is best recognized during the hard times as opposed to the good times.

Nothing you can buy will be as cool as something you can experience and feel. Put your effort toward experiences and capture them with your photography talents. “The business of life is making memories.” Think the “Fun Fund”.

Despite what everyone says – “You can come home”. Home is a place in your heart where you know you are emotionally safe. You were given a great gift that not everyone has; the gift of unbridled love and support by your family. You have and will continue to meet men and women who have struggled to feel the support you have as your foundation. Don’t take that for granted. Build on it in a way that helps you reach higher and stronger every day. You will never be alone when your family is with you…and we will always be with you.

I love you. Your dad and I are SO proud of who you are and are thrilled with your strength to be you. Go out and make a difference with your words and deeds in a way that when you leave a place, people will know “Sammy was here.”

Have a great year my son.

Love

mom

 

 

Another gift from mom

I used to love the smell of my mom’s perfume. It made me feel safe and warm and was the hello to my day when I hugged her.

Since the boys were little I’ve made sure to spray my perfume on the blankets I tucked into bed with them, or the little stuffed animals I left with them when I had to deploy or leave for a few days. When my oldest left for college I sprayed some of my perfume on a new washcloth and put it in a baggie. I tucked it in his “to go” box.

I’m not sure if he’s ever reached over to open it but it made me feel good to know he could if he wanted to. I’m picking him up from Union Station today and after a long week of GSmarts presentations that had me leaving the house at 0700 and not getting home till 7:30 at night I was just going to throw on some sweats and head up. Then I thought about my mom.

Here it is 0621 and I’m sitting showered, dressed and perfumed getting ready to pick him up. That first hug is important…I hope to him as well.

“Why Me” (A Thanksgiving Reminder)”

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Why me?”, then a voice answers “Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.”
Charlie Brown

We all get overwhelmed. We go to places that make us wonder what we’ve done to bring such challenges to our lives and question how in the world we’re supposed to cope when so many things are going wrong. The voice that tells you “Nothing personal…” is only slightly satisfying. I really believe you, and me, and everyone else; we need to look at the things in our lives that ARE working and that are, in fact, going better than we could ever have hoped for. When those things come to mind, we need to be just as diligent and ask:

“Why Me?”

When we are facing a challenge and friends rush to our sides to assist us:

“Why Me?”

When we suffer a serious accident, and somehow survive:

“Why Me?”

When we have a child who is struggling with school, and we have teachers who join with us to assist in moving them to success:

“Why Me?”

If we focus solely on the things that are challenges, we just don’t realize how each day brings positives we will miss when our head is down and shaking in dismay. We miss our opportunities to be thankful for today. I am not a Pollyanna, I have suffered many hardships in my life. As I’ve grown through them I’ve come to realize they were a gift that brought focus to the good times in my life. They provided clarity to my thoughts about “the routine” and sharp edges to what is really hard and what is just nonsense. They’ve helped me put into perspective how fleeting time really is.

Now when my sons, rush off the bus, jackets flying and backpacks bumping up and down; when they rush up the driveway in a full out race, laughing and fussing about cheating and head starts; all the time with their eyes smiling. I’ve come to understand that I am witness to the morning of their lives. That’s when I ask:

“Why Me?”

and that’s when I say thank you for all the moments that have shaped me and brought me to this place.

At Thanksgiving especially – look around at your place in this world and ask

“Why Me?”

It’s sometimes overwhelming when we realize just how lucky we are.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

I will try to do better

I’m disappointed in myself today.

Yesterday I was up at Bethesda with Benjamin. We went to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory as a treat. I put money in the meter, we went inside and had a lovely lunch. After we pulled away and were heading home Ben said to me:

“I’m sad we didn’t give that man who was homeless any money.”

“What man?” I asked.

“The man, who was there at the meter.”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t see him.”

But then it struck me. I HAD seen him. I had seen a man sitting on a pile of stuff but didn’t take the time to really look at him and see him as a real someone; someone in need. I think I did realize he was homeless but I didn’t process it properly and realize I could do something.

I don’t know why, since I’m usually quite attuned to that sort of thing. Maybe it was because of the doctor’s appointment I’d had with my son, or because I’d scraped the car in the parking garage on the way out of the hospital, or because I have been so tired given all the running around or

…..really…WHO CARES WHY…I DIDN’T LOOK AT HIM and I didn’t SEE him.

But my son did.

I think that makes me feel worse in some ways. He saw a man who needed us and his mom didn’t do anything to help him.

I hope today that if I see someone in need I really do SEE him or her and don’t just think about myself.

Thank you son, for opening my eyes and reminding me to look and to see and to realize it is not just about me.

Today I will try to do better.

A letter to my oldest son

My oldest left today for college. One of the boys has a raging fever so I stayed home. Pretty tough to do that but I packed him a surprise box. Sharing the letter I put in there.

You know me…blah, blah…but when I write things I feel like I’m getting them out of me. So read if you care to and drive on if you don’t. This pretty much sums up how I see life…

My dear son:
Today you begin to step away from us. As your dad and I fade into the background of your life I want to tell you what a privilege it’s been to have you as our son. You’ve brought such joy to us in so many ways. Your spirit, your dedication, your integrity; all of that adds up to a future of such potential and such promise for you. A few things I want to impart in black and white because I think they are incredibly important for you to remember:
• People are basically good. That doesn’t mean all of them are but most of them are good. A leader’s strength, I think, is being able to find the goodness and bring it out to shine. If you can do that even when it’s hard you will find the best of what people have to offer.
• There is no finish line in life. Have goals but don’t think of them as the “be all” of what you do. Along the way toward succeeding you have to enjoy the experiences you have, as it will become a part of that success. If you are constantly pushing for the next ending, you’ll end up missing some pretty fantastic beginnings and durings.
• You have lived a life of privilege. That doesn’t mean you have been coddled or that you haven’t done your share when it comes to helping. It means you’ve never had to worry about whether you will be fed, cared for and supported. That is an incredible gift. To honor that gift I ask that you remember to be charitable in word and deed. The only time you should look down at someone is when you are extending a hand to help him or her up. You are young, strong and smart. You can change someone’s life with quiet support. Be someone’s hero. The world certainly needs more of those.
• Keep yourself open to new things but don’t be flippant about the fragility of life and limb. Take care of your body and test its limits. Take chances but I don’t ever want you to risk your health for a dare or a fool hearty adventure. People do exciting things all the time. When you want to do something outside of your experience base – go for it. But research it, find someone who KNOWS how to do it and then learn, practice and step forward with confidence. The best way to arm yourself for success is through knowledge.
• Respect women. This is a big one for me and there will be times that you’ll find women who don’t respect themselves. It is rare that you can change someone with love, so choose wisely as to whom you give your heart. If you find that “love” is causing you to compromise your other values; then examine it closely. Love is when your values align and you can see yourself working hard for the rest of your life to stay with that person. Falling in love is easy. You can fall in love with anyone. Find someone worthy of your love and then put in the work that defines a loving relationship. If someone is worth that effort over and over again, then you are on the right track.
• Never forget son, that YOU are loved for who you are right now. With all your goodness and all of your foibles, you are loved. Rest assured that you are not alone in any challenge you undertake. Our family is strong and regardless of the back and forth squabbles we have at times, we are all here for you as you need support. Don’t give up on the big stuff and don’t sweat the small stuff. Nobody’s shooting at you so it’s going to be okay.
You have been ready for this since you were 2 years old son. Even that young you were ready to run out into the rain and do what needed to be done. Of all my sons, you enjoy the exhilaration of life and living. It makes me happy to see that in you. Run in the rain, dance in the rain, look up to the sky in the rain and laugh as the drops splash against your cheeks. You can withstand any storm. Enjoy the sound of the thunder and when the lightning flashes, let the smile on your face reflect in the light. You will do extraordinary things.
Your dad and I will be there at every turn possible to embrace your successes, support your learning when you make mistakes and provide you a soft place to land when you need it. Home is more than a word, a house, a state or an address. It’s a place in your heart that makes you feel safe and secure.
You got this son and if you need us for anything; we got you too.
Mom

Parenting: You must be present to win!

Were I to settle upon one point of success reference this whole parenting thing; I’d have to say it is something that must be done in person. That doesn’t mean you have to be a stay at home parent. I’ve got friends whom I admire completely because they have raised such amazing children; and both are working parents or in some cases they are single parents raising their child. In all of those cases however, the parents have been involved actively, ever step of the way. That means they were involved in their child’s life in a routine way that allowed their child to feel accountable to someone who is vested in their lives.

My hubby and I went to our middle school open house for our 6th and 8th grader. It was interesting to see how the population of parents dwindle from elementary school to middle school. I do get it. By middle school we think they’re set in their paths and moving along. Given our “present to win” philosophy however, it was important for us to attend. My husband ran through my 6th graders schedule and I went through my 8th graders class schedule. Just ahead of my husband in line to speak to the homeroom teacher, a mom’s first sentence to the homeroom teacher went something like this:

“I’m (so and so’s mom). Would you mind telling me why my son had lunch detention on his BIRTHDAY the first week of school.”

Wow, there’s a way to introduce rapport with a teacher huh? Now a few things strike me. If you are approaching a teacher, in whom I hope you want to establish some authority for your child, why would you be so confrontational? Hello Mom…communicating is something the LISTENER does. If you shut her down up front you have a tremendous task ahead of you to get some sort of appropriate relationship established so you can build your child’s educational experience. Also, why in the world, if you are this upset, would you wait till the third week of school to approach the teacher (in a large group, inappropriate setting, surrounded by strangers)? Perhaps you thought the teacher would cloud over and say:

“Oh my gosh, your right. Little Johnny did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and THAT’S why he got lunch detention.”

Couple of thoughts for a successful year:

-Teachers hold trump. Tell little Johnny that at school, the teacher is in charge just as much as you are in charge at home. Kids have to learn to follow the rules in order to shape their behaviors in a way that will lead them to a successful relationship with society. If you fight with the teacher about behavior you do not witness, then you’ve set your teacher and your child up for failure. A popular saying here is “if you believe half of what they say about me; I’ll believe half of what they say about you.”

-If there is an issue where you believe the process was mishandled, set up a private time/place for you to discuss the issue with the teacher as soon as possible. An immediate response is important especially if you are not in sync with the teacher’s approach. If, after a private meeting where you handle yourself in a professional way, holding onto your emotions (if it even goes there); if you still cannot wrap your mind around the teacher’s approach and depending on the severity of the issue, take a deep breath and step back; not too far back but let’s get past this and move on.

Now the teacher knows your “present to win” and will understand you are both are track with your approach. If you don’t think he or she gets that, tell her that!

“I want to be on track with you this year because I want it to be a great year for my son/daughter.”

Tell your child that while you may not competely understand the teacher’s approach, you do believe that she/he is in the school to educate your him and you will support the teacher in doing so. Then document the issue, date, time of the exchange, what your points were and what you understood the teacher’s points to be. If there is another issue of similar disagreement, you can step the process up (after once again discussing with the teacher) and move to an administrator if you are still dissatisfied and cannot come to an agreement with the teacher. Do this again, in a professional manner that will allow your child’s success be the center of the conversation

I received a call once reference my second son. Apparently he’d pushed a child down who was attacking one of his best friends. The assistance principal explained that regardless of the circumstances, a physical response couldn’t be accepted within the student body. I agreed that was the County’s policy, and my son accepted his punishment. At home we applauded Ben for his personal decision to not just stand by when a friend was being bullied. While Ben’s response didn’t fit in a system of zero tolerance (which I have issues with personally) his response WAS an example of a value we as a family support. I understood the AP’s bigger issue and we discussed it with Ben, but also made clear that we supported him (as did many of the folks at the school-but the school, of course, had to enforce the rules).

We all think our children are amazing; and, in fact, all of our children ARE amazing. But really, they all make mistakes. My kindergarten son lasted a whole 13 days before he was sent to the front office. Sweet Danny, sweet social, chatty, heartwarming Danny, recently came home with two yellows in a row. I trust the teacher (whom I’ve had for another child) and understood she was setting the standard for behavior for the year. I did however, exchange several emails with her for these rather minor transgressions to ensure Danny knew his teacher and I were on the same sheet of music.

“Danny” I told him, “don’t push the boundaries; set the standard.”

That is now our mantra as he gets on the bus. He’ll mess up again. I know and it’s okay. This isn’t a zero tolerance game. You learn by making mistakes and boy oh boy, I’d rather they learn them now when everyone around them wants them to succeed than when they are out there in the “real world”.

After having children involved in the public education system here in Stafford for a total of 18 school years spread over the four boys, I have never met an educator who wasn’t open to and almost pleading for a relationship with me that would foster my children’s success. You see it is also their success.

So be present to win, and learn to communicate in a way that moves an issue to resolution. No time for show boating, right fighting, or “showing that teacher”; blah, blah, blah. Be present in mind, in spirit and in physical being and you will win the prize! A healthy, educated child who will learn to make the most out of his situations in life.

Have a brilliant day!

d

Parenting Tip: Start your children with alarm clocks early in their education and make them responsible for their wake up time. It’s a small but important step toward them “growing away from you”. Don’t even TELL them about the snooze button.