What do you do with your time?

How do you pass the moments of your life?

Moments shape our destiny.
Our future.
Our children’s future.

We speak of inheritance as a monetary substance. It’s not.

Inheritance is the air around us.
The looks between us.
The love we share.

The memories that embed themselves into our brain on a random Tuesday as we lug in overpriced groceries with a barefoot child on us piggy back during a torrential downpour. 

We craft this inheritance day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. 

Our time is the currency of inheritance.

It bankrolls itself, developing and flowing from the words we speak, the way we react, and the choices we make.

It doesn’t fall haphazardly from the sky. 

It’s not something we can wish into existence. We have to grab it.
Craft it. Mold it.

Minute by minute.
Hour by hour.
Day by day. 

What do you do with your time?

Two Words to Define Your Parenting Legacy

What two words describe the legacy you hope to pass on to your children? 

In other words, if someone asked your children years from now “What were your parents were like?” or “How did they make you feel?”, what would you want them to say?

MINE: “Supported. Exposed.”

I want my four to remember the laughter. 

The floor under their feet. 

The hand in their hand. 

The person behind them. 

The experiences. 

The smiles. 

The sense of wonder. 

Car rides. 

Conversations. 

I want them to remember that no matter what we did, we were there for them. 

Together, as a family. 

When they tick back through their childhood memories of activities and events, I want them to remember their parents’ faces glancing back at them. Their siblings cheering them on from the side line. 

The roughness. The tiredness. The fullness. The variety of experiences. 

Because to me, support empowers children to become better adults. A solid foundation of support, alongside a legacy of exposure to different ideas, customs, and experiences provides a wealth of tools to make it through adulthood. 

Or at least, I hope it will. 

Children and Funerals

We took all four kids, ages eight, six, four and two to the viewing last night. We were all close to Aunt Leola and the kids adored her.

My boys both did well. Happy go lucky Caleb at age four does not grasp things yet. He doesn’t pose deep life questions either like his older brother always did at that age. Jack, age eight, has already been introduced to death and he is stoic, strong like his father. He locks emotion away and doesn’t know what to do with it. He bottles it up. Remains quiet. He reacts to sadness by laughing. By fidgeting. So my talks with him and sharing of life take far different tones and private gear shifts than talks with my other kids.

Maggie, age six, however, had the toughest time processing things last night as this is the first human death she is cognitively aware of. She emotes. She feels things far too deeply. (I dread the curse I passed down to her!) And I feel responsible for teaching her how to tame that side of her nature.

We stood in front of the open casket talking, I on my knees, she leaning against me.

We talked about more questions she had, so many of them repeats, differently worded, from earlier this week. She’s been clinging to me all week.

How did her body get into the casket?
Did she die in those clothes?
How were her clothes changed?
Why did she look different?
Where were her legs?
What is a heart attack?
Why do brains stop working?
How do bodies die?
Can people live past 99?
Will she be scared in the big box?
What will the funeral be like?
Why do we put people in the ground?

Will we die?

I walked her in detail through the physical process of what the funeral today would look like. Who would be there. What it would sound like. What her experience would be like.

We talked of the split between a body and a soul. How Aunt Leola’s essence, the soul that she embodied, the vibrant life that Maggie had sleepovers and fingernail painting parties with, was no longer stuck in her body’s shell. And how Aunt Leola firmly believed that her soul would be free to enjoy a beautiful Heaven after her body died.

Maggie suddenly wanted to give her aunt something. Anything. So she found a penny in her coat pocket and placed it in Aunt Leola’s hand. Caleb, following his sisters cue, took off his favorite Olaf bracelet and placed it in her other hand.

They all verbally said goodbye.

We moved to a soft wingback chair and Maggie sat on my lap with her face buried in my chest crying.

She said she feels so so sad.
That her insides hurt.
She pointed to her rib cage.
She said she wishes her aunt were alive again.

She said she misses her smile.

I said I did too. I cried with her.
I ran my hands over her hair and rubbed her tiny nose. I promised her for the millionth time in her life that any question she ever has, mommy will be here to answer for her.

After a few minutes, she stopped crying.

We watched a beautiful slideshow with photos passing by and talked about enjoying life like Aunt Leeky (our family nickname for her) strived to.
We talked about loving people while we were alive. And about making good memories with them.
We talked about how it’s up to each of us individually to consciously initiate wonderful moments that remind us of the gift of life. And how she too will grow through life learning to offer love to others and make beautiful memories of her own. And how every opportunity she has to smile, she should grab it and multiply it.

We talked about how human grief works.
The coming and going.
The ups and downs.
How one minute she will feel happy and then the next minute she will suddenly remember what happened all over again…and the sadness will wash back over.
Like the ebbing of the tides. In and out.

And that it’s ok to cry.

And that it’s even ok to stop crying.

And that it’s ok to tell people the truth.

Everyone kept asking me if I was ok. Asking her if she was ok. That seems to be the opening words for everyone at times like this – “Are you ok?”

It’s an unintentional covert attempt to avoid uncomfortable emotion. A viable way to comfort our own self during someone else’s pain. To massage our inner conscious regarding the person we are asking this of.

I told her it’s perfectly fine to just say no.
It’s such a stupid question when a loved one has died anyway. Of course we are not “ok” at the moment.
I told her it’s even acceptable to not answer at all if she doesn’t want to.

And I gave her the words “…but I will be.”

Because OK will come later.
It always does.
“Ok” is the portion of hope we are all gifted, the portion of hope that exists. The portion that we can continually reach for day by day.

And I must say, never in my entire life have I wished the wise Fred Rogers was sitting beside me than when I was holding my child in that funeral home making this all up on the fly, hoping that by some chance I’m doing this mother gig….. “ok”.

God, I sure hope so.

Childhood Questions on Death

Welcome to my week….. I just had a long discussion with my six year old daughter about human death, what happens to our bodies after death, what many believe happens to our essence after our bodies die and how everyone will pass through death at some point.

She had many questions.
She looked into my eyes and asked them.
She wanted to know where our aunt was now.
She wanted to know if there would be a funeral.
She wanted to know if she could go say goodbye.
She said she didn’t like it. I said I don’t either.
She held me tight and I smelled her hair.
She cried in my arms for the longest time.

This is not her first experience with death. But it is her first cognitive awareness of acute human loss.

Is there a correct way to teach another human how to grieve? How do we teach another human to process the sudden pain of loss? Is it even possible to teach it?

During my lifetime, Ive heard the words “Don’t Cry” so many times.

Over and over, DONT. CRY.

As if tears are a sign that we’ve somehow lost the battle? As if we are somehow worse off for actually letting all the pain out?

When I’m hurting I want to curl up in someone’s arms and cry too just like Maggie was curled up in mine. Despite my love affair with words, silent touch conveys far more to me than language ever can.

So I let Maggie cry.
I didn’t stop her.
I just held her.

And then…. she ceased crying.
Now she’s eating ice cream and watching Disney Channel.

True Friends or Aquaintence?

How do you define “friend”?
Here’s a good question that I was discussing with a friend (someone who I consider a legit friend!) the other day. Facebook has whitewashed the term “friend” over the past 10 years. It’s an easy, comforting label that we all know isn’t 100% factual…..but would you really want to have an “acquaintance” list?
Yeh. Didn’t think so.

Which brings us to the definition of the words!

The friend I was discussing this with took a much broader approach to “acquaintance” than I do. I often use the term “acquaintance” to distance myself from someone I do not value nor respect for whatever reason. For me, it has just a slightly negative connotation.

But what about those people in between?

The 50 Shades of “Friends” whom you encounter often, enjoy doing various things with, are happy to see if they appear on your radar, do lunch with, invite to parties, laugh with….but they simply wouldn’t be on your 2 am call list when yo’ mama dies.

Lately I’ve stolen a term from another pal that seems applicable…

“Friendly”.

As in…”not close friends, but we are friendly!”

It works.

A whole big bunch of friendlies.

Friendlies are the spice of life. 😄

And as for the question, what separates true friends out for me starts of course with feelings. How much I like that person, how well we interact, the feeling of being able to be myself without feeling talked down to, ridiculed or judged (that’s a huge one). I’d like to think that physical time together isn’t as big of a factor but it definitely is. The more hours and effort one puts into communicating in various ways and face to face playdates, the closer a friendship becomes.

Too bad the English language is so inadequate in defining various shades of friendship and love.

Most Beautiful Song on Earth

In 1975, a sci-fi novel called “Bid Time Return” (written by the same author of I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, and a number of Twilight Zone episodes) followed playwrite Richard Collier’s growing obsession with the haunting image of a beautiful woman he had only seen in a decades old photograph. 
In 1980, Chris Reeves (of Superman fame) and Jane Seymore (Dr Quinn!) brought this time travel sci-fi fantasy to life in a film adaptation called 

“Somewhere in Time”. 

As a young child, this particular movie not only introduced me to paradoxical causal loops but also to one of the most beautiful pieces of piano music to strike human ear. 

“Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43” by Rachmaninov

It’s hard not to weep listening to it, especially at the swell. 

Listen to the YouTube video if you get the chance today. And link to your own favorite pieces below!

Four Words to Your 17 Year Old Self

Good morning!
What would you say to your 17 year old self if you could?

Four words.
Just 4 easy words.

For me, I would say:

“People aren’t that bad”
“Life is very fluid”
“Don’t be so judgmental”
“Force yourself to connect”
“Let yourself love others”

The day I turned 17, December of my junior year in high school, I thought my entire life was planned out.
I knew my path.
I knew who I was.
I knew who I was going to be.
I was a planner and a mapper.
I was detail oriented.
College focused.
I was going to get a PH.D. in developmental psychology and eventually own my own chain of unique early childcare centers.
I had a full 20 page business model written out. I had numbers. Numbers are comforting. Numbers don’t bite.
It was the one thing my sights were set on, and anyone who knows me even now knows that when I dedicate myself to something, I give 200% to the cause…even to the point of ferocious tunnel vision.

Only difference then, I didn’t realize how deeply the social relationship component factored into life success, happiness and contentment.
At 17, I had the same small set of 2-3 friends that I had since kindergarten.
I didn’t reach further.
I used them as a crutch, smothered them, and didn’t reach for more.
I hated people in general.
I was judgmental.
Haughty.

Scared.

Who needs people anyway?

There’s such a fine line between American independence and despondency.

And then a series of 5 deaths, losses, poor decisions and life twists over the next 16 months landed me into a black pit that I would not escape from for 5 more years when I finally met Kevin.

And now, that girl, my 17 year old self, is dead. (Probably a good thing because she would have voted for Trump without a second thought).

Nowadays my view of people is far different.
My view of friendships and life is far far different, far more accepting.

I actually enjoy getting to know a variety of life stories, seeing what makes others tick and why. And life mistakes / rejection (which I still encounter routinely) doesn’t phase me nearly as much because something new and fascinating is always just right around the corner.

Self-preservation instinct is weird. It’s easy to get confused and shun connection because of potential imagined pain that can arise from letting ourselves care in abundance. But in doing so we only harm ourselves and lose out on the numerous good memories that make life actually worth living.

Ten years from now my oldest will be 17. Evan, Samantha, Marshall, Juli…they will all pass through their own moment of being “17”.

The “17” moment when their own story starts to etch itself upon their core, forming who they will ultimately become.

Your kids will too.

I wish I could save my children from the ripping, soul baring, tumultuous process of “growing up”. Yet at the same time I realize that’s what makes our stories all unique.

Because everyone must eventually craft their own
“4 words”.

——————–
I asked my 68 year old father, Jack, what his words would be.

“Don’t eat yellow snow!” he replied.

35 Fun Date Ideas Not Involving Food or Film

What are some date ideas for couples that DO NOT involve food or film?
My local playgroup mama friend posed this question the other day on our group’s private Facebook page and there were soooo many great answers! 
I loved the question so I decided to see what you all could come up with. You old married folks remember what dates are right? 💑

Here is my personal fun list. 

These are all very tried and true! 😁

NO FOOD/FILM DATES:

  1. Walk around the mall and make up stories about various people you see
  2. Climb up on the roof, lay back and watch the stars
  3. Go bowling
  4. Sit under a bridge tossing pebbles into the river while talking about the future
  5. Rent a top floor hotel room with a view and have wine and chocolate sauce in the jacuzzi/shower/floor  
  6. Find an old old hidden graveyard out in the country to walk through and talk about the names and who they may have been
  7. Sit on the swings at a park and reminisce about when you first met
  8. Couples massage
  9. Couples pedicure 
  10. Take musical instruments to an old park  and play together at sunset
  11. Kayak, tube or paddle boat down the river
  12. Go fishing 
  13. Hike a trail in a State Forest 
  14. Walk downtown main street and visit the shops
  15. Find a new-to-you park with courts and basketball or tennis, bonus points if you suck at sports like I do
  16. Bike a local park trail
  17. Take a board game to a state park and play together
  18. Wash the car together, ensure loads of suds. 
  19. Walk around the a flea market, see who can find the funniest/wackiest items
  20. Park at the airport and watch the airplanes
  21. Ride out to the rural parts of the midlands past the corn, cotton and cows and visit a quaint little town
  22. Go geocaching 
  23. Visit one of the local garden nurseries and compete to learn the names of as many plants as you can in 30 mins or less
  24. Toss pillows and blankets in the bed of the truck and drive somewhere secluded 
  25. Adult night at a trampoline park
  26. Buy some new candles and play with the wax
  27. Go play in the spring rain showers together 
  28. Grab one of those conversation question boxes for couples, head to the zoo and find a funny spot to sit and answer the questions with each other. 
  29. Walk around the botanical gardens together
  30. Visit the a local Museum of Art
  31. Hit up a large Paintball field and play 
  32. Take a ghost tour downtown
  33. Hit up a local sports game (hockey, baseball, high school, college, farm team, so many choices!)
  34. Attend a free musical concert at the local college
  35. Walk around the library and see who can find the weirdest/funniest books

————————–

Who can think of more?

Growing Pains

My oldest boy, now 8, is having growing pains this week. Last night we were at a birthday dinner and I ended up holding Jack like a baby because he kept crying saying his leg muscles hurt. I wiped his tears and traced his eyebrows and smoothed his forehead and ran my fingertip over his upturned freckled nose.
I swear I saw his newborn face staring back.

So I held him there, rocking, and we talked.
Just he and I.
We talked about when he was a baby.
And when he grows up.
And right now.
He asked a billion questions…
“Mom, how was the earth made?”
“How did the sand appear?”
“How do our brains work?”
“Why do our cells die?”
“How do our cells multiply?”
“Is my skin, cells?”
“Why is skin soft enough to get hurt?”
“How do light bulbs work?”
“Where does electricity come from?”

Those are just ones I can remember.

Not too many more moments like this left in his childhood. I noticed yesterday he’s almost as tall as my mother.

Next time I blink he will be as tall as me.