Advice or Meddling? Guidance or Interference? A Parent’s Dilemma!

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Oldster’s love to share their wisdom with others; especially their own children, and experience does provide new insight. If you don’t learn from history, you or your posterity are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

I recall writing a letter to my oldest daughter before computers came on the scene. I admit I sometimes waxed poetic and a bit philosophical. Her response sizzled with anger and sarcasm. “Is this some more of your good advice?”

I was stung and surprised. What had I said that offended her so much? Did my efforts to help come across as meddling or had I actually “hit the nail on the head” and brought her up short?

I will never know. Her rocky start into a difficult marriage finally ended in divorce, but not after bearing five beautiful children.  We never know how our words will impact others because we cannot see into their minds or know what they’re going through at the time. That’s what makes relationships so doggone difficult.

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Sometimes our children actually ask for our advice. I always tell them “You’re the only one that can make that decision, but I can tell you what helps me when I have tough choices to make;” then I bloviate about taking a sheet of paper and writing PRO on one side and CON on the other, followed by a list of the positives and negatives about each choice and an evaluation.

To tell you the truth, I’ve used this process most of my life and it seems to work quite well. Whether my children actually follow this method is another matter. I remember the wisdom my mother shared when I married at age 17.

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“You’re on your own now. I don’t want you to come running home whenever you have a problem. You and your husband should work out your differences together;” sage advice that served me well.

Did I resent her “meddling?” Not in the least. I knew that she was right. She had married at 16 herself and knew the obstacles. I accepted the fact that there was no turning back. The only thing that hurt was that she had closed the door on my youth.

Our job as parents isn’t to coddle our children forever; it’s to send them off into life prepared for the difficult decisions and dangers that lie ahead. It is to help them learn how to be independent. Children who must talk to their parents every day in order to make hard decisions are not equipped to survive the rigors of adulthood.

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Teaching your children to be independent and to accept adult responsibilities is a lonely job. You may not hear from them as often as you would like. Their preferences and life styles may be far different from the ones you would have chosen for them. Their political and religious persuasions may contrast sharply with your own. The only thing that keeps you together is blood, shared memories, and if you’re lucky love.

I take pride in my children’s accomplishments. They have used their talents and interests to provide fulfilling and interesting lives. They are helpful, kind, and hardworking. What more could a mother want?

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Marriage Joins Two People for Forever or Not!

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Bride and Groom

Weddings are generally happy times. Two smiling faces, love in the air, expectations and the anticipation that surrounds the festivities. I’m heading to Atlanta for my oldest son’s wedding (third time’s a charm; or at least we hope!). I’ll be seeing two of my daughters there as well. The photos will appear in my next blog.

Commitment and faithfulness are difficult to come by in these frenetic times. I’ve read that the most important part of any successful relationship is not only chemistry, but the ability for each partner to feel comfortable with the loved one. I remember “walking on eggs” most of the 30 years in my first marriage. It seems that every word I said or every action I took either irritated my partner or caused a negative reaction. I tried to be so many people to please him, but nothing worked.

I’m hoping my son has found the perfect combination of comfort and caring. Living in a relationship where everything receives criticism is agonizing. You’re afraid to speak. You tip toe through the motions of living. There is nothing you can do or say to change things. Even my laughter was mocked. What you really need and want is love and affection, but all you get is disdain and indifference.

Life is much too short to spend your days in suffering. To really feel alive you must be able to be yourself, for better or worse. Acceptance is a gift you give the one you love. Neither of you are perfect. You have to take the good with the bad. If you end up punishing your partner through silence or indifference, you end up on the receiving end of unhappiness. One person does not a marriage make. It takes two people to meet in the middle to form a partnership that becomes one in mind and purpose.

Growing together creates more love than you can ever imagine possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it only one person’s problem. Rigid stubborn hearts cannot form this kind of union.

From what I’ve seen of my son’s new relationship, they have what it takes. We were there at Thanksgiving of last year and were surprised to see how settled they appeared and how relaxed they were in each other’s presence.

A low self-esteem in either partner makes an unbalanced marriage. If one person is arrogant or self-absorbed, they want everything their way. When the “other” in a union is confident it is much easier for them to be patient and to avoid saying something cruel or cutting. If you can’t think about anyone else’s happiness but your own you should never get married in the first place.

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Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Above all, don’t marry for the wrong reasons. Join hands with someone you know you can trust. You know them so well that you feel safe sharing the private yearnings of your heart and mind. And they will not use your own words against you or belittle you in any way.

Learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Each day is a new start. Move from weakness into strength. Invite God to be a partner in your marriage. Support the person you love and don’t allow your ego to get in the way.

Confide in your partner and share the burdens of grief and worry together. Allow nothing to come between you, not the children, not finances nor other people. After a time, a butterfly will perch on your shoulder and envelop you in happiness. After all, you’ve earned it!

In-laws, Outlaws, Cousins and Fam make Life a tad Richer and Fuller

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Scene from “Call the Midwife” PBS

The birth of a new baby always draws people together; the anticipation, the anxiety, the hope and excitement for the future are mirrored on each face.

Time inches forward. The waiting is stressful. We traveled from Fort Myers to Minnesota to welcome a new great grandson into the family.

Dick's granddaughter

Dick’s granddaughter

Yesterday I walked back and forth with the mother-to-be and her mother hoping to shake this stubborn little fruit from the tree. Overripe and bulging, Katie hoped that the bouncing and jostling in the crowd would encourage her son’s birth. And she was right. At 2:30 a.m. that morning, the contractions began. But the long labor and final delivery went on for another 24 hours.

This ordeal brings back many memories, not only of my first daughter’s birth after 24 hours of hard labor, but of five more who came into the world on their own terms. Their personalities were imprinted on their souls from the beginning. We saw glimmers of their uniqueness even before they were born and forever after. No two babies are ever the same. Each is a priceless jewel that opens like a bud in witness to a miracle.

Characters from "Call the Midwife"

Characters from “Call the Midwife”

“The PBS Show “Call the Midwife” will begin its Fifth Season next March through May 2016. Based on the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth, “Call the Midwife” tells colorful stories of midwifery and families in London’s East End. Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife follows the nurses, midwives and nuns from Nonnatus House, who visit the expectant mothers of Poplar, providing the poorest women with the best possible care.”

The show’s timeline is sometime after the Blitz in London and moves into the 1950s. Midwife is tender, revealing, and oftentimes traumatic as seemingly live births occur in the seamiest side of London’s East End. The characters warm your heart as you watch their personal struggles. The Midwives become the only strength and power many of these women and their families will ever know.

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Wondering how my husband felt about watching this show, I turned to him and saw tears glistening in his eyes. “Isn’t that a beautiful sight?” I commented. New life really is beautiful and most parents will cherish the birthing moment forever even as the pain and anxiety fade.

We are heading out to Seattle, Washington, to see my oldest daughter and her children, and grandchildren. I haven’t been out there in a long time, and our reunion is past due. I’ll keep you posted with photos of the new baby and stories of our trip.

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First Impressions are not always Accurate

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I planted my “potted” Peace Plant in the yard. Doing Well!

I have a friend who is very persnickety about what she eats and how it is presented and served. She keeps waiters and waitresses on the run. Friends and fellow diners are sometimes embarrassed or offended.

I was dining with one of the latter who mentioned our friend’s behavior with disdain until she was served a dish that wasn’t quite to her liking. She called the waiter over and asked for extra sauce complaining about the dry noodles.  After the waiter left, she looked at me and we both laughed realizing the tables had been turned. “Now who do I sound like?” she said, feeling apologetic.

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One exquisite bloom!

Have you ever changed your mind about someone after you got to know them? When I first met my fuss-budget friend, I was put off. I was wearing a suit jacket that belonged to my mother; it was one of the few things I had left from her. The coat was tweed with a black velvet collar. As far as I knew, it was still in fashion.  Long before we really knew each other my friend said “I had a jacket like that years ago (with the emphasis on years.)” I took it as an insult.

From then on I would look the other direction when she walked my way. She had done the same thing to me when I tried to get to know her. This went on between us for some time, until she went out of her way to change things.

I soon learned that she wasn’t the stand-offish rude person I thought she was. In fact, to those who took the time to get to know her, they discovered that she was a true friend; one who would bend over backwards for you and delight in spending time with you.

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First impressions are rarely correct. We often assume things about others that are simply not true. We scratch the surface, make our judgment calls and then go about our merry way missing out on what could have been.

There are simple people who are easy to know and love, but also easily forgotten. And then there are complex people who have many sides to their personality. They usually require patience and some digging to get to know them well, but it’s worth it.

The Neptunes -- Octoband

The Neptunes — Octoband

People who are deep, interesting and multifaceted often turn into lasting friends that stay connected. All types of people can bring laughter and fun into your life. They can also teach us about ourselves and help us to become better for having known them.

The most successful television sitcoms are about ordinary people like you and me and the funny things we say and do just being ourselves. Authentic down to earth people we can relate to. They become endearing to us because they are us.

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The Neptunes — Trumpeteers

Remember that the next time you pass someone over because they’re not “your type.” How can you possibly know at first glance?

A broad range of friends can enlarge your heart, enrich your life, and change your perspective to a more positive point of view.

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The Neptunes — “Golden Girls”

To All the Friends I’ve Known and Loved

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“The Neptunes — Golden Girls” acrylic on panel

Do you believe there is only one right relationship, one perfect painting, one right way to live your life, one opportunity that when lost is gone forever? If you do, you’d better change your perspective. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is this: life is a struggle, and it can be downright grungy and gritty in the trenches. But if you hold on to your faith and your identity, it will get better.

Once there were people in my life who chastised and criticized every word, every action until I didn’t know what to do to please them or to make them happy. These were the spear throwers, the backstabber’s, the poison arrows of envy, and hatred.

It’s impossible to feel loved when you’re constantly under attack, when the eyes that look at you are filled with disgust, loathing, or anger and soon you begin to hate yourself. I’ve also learned that love doesn’t always last even though you want it to. Why? Because there are no perfect people. But just as you can love another child even though your “quiver” or your house may be full, you can always find room in your heart for another child or for someone else.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

“The Neptunes — Trumpeteers” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

I’m grateful for the people who have come in and out of my life. Even though the relationships were not perfect or even healthy, I learned something treasured from each of them. I not only learned things I didn’t know about myself, I learned fresh ideas and discovered new things that made me who I am today. I’m thankful for each friend and for each person who has ever touched my life, even in a small way.

Barbara Streisand sang: “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” For the first time in my life I know exactly what she means. We not only need each other and depend on each other; we add something unique and special to everyone we meet and they to us.

"The Neptunes -- Octoband" acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

“The Neptunes — Octoband” acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

I treasure the friend who taught me about fire stations, and fire engines, and instilled in me a love for antique cars. I will never see another auto show or ride in a classic car without thinking of him. I treasure the friends who loved me for who I am. With them, I didn’t have to be self-conscious. I didn’t have to walk on eggs, or be afraid of offending them anymore than they could offend me.

Acceptance not approval is what makes us truly happy. To hear someone laugh at my fractured jokes, or tolerate my irritating habits and still love me is a blessing. Feeling that you’re attractive and beautiful even without makeup – now that’s something!

It isn’t so much what is said, it’s the smile on the face of the other and the glow of love in their eyes that speak so much louder than words ever can. When you are loved, you know it deep down inside. You can tell when someone is genuinely pleased with you or not.

The friends and lovers who take us back when we’ve been quick-tempered or sad remind us of our frail humanity. Friends keep us humble, and bring us joy. Today, I’m thankful for all the friends I have known, and for those who will yet come into my life.

I wish you, my online friends, who may yet become better friends, a joyous and Happy New Year. May life be kind to you.

Rescue Dogs are a Hot Item on People’s Heart List

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Madison discovers a “puppy mill”

We rescued several dogs over the years. They brought us both joy and frustration. Our friends and neighbors love to show-off theirs. I’ve seen bearded collies, Italian miniature greyhounds, Scottie dogs, and a Bichon_frise named Max that has turned from a cuddly white pup to an aged 16 year old.  His owner’s can’t bear to put him to sleep as long as he seems happy.

They soften his food with water so he can gum it. His teeth are almost gone and his tongue hangs out side-ways for lack of support. Max is almost blind and he chews on his paws and toenails until his white fur is stained with blood. He has arthritis in his back and is not long for this world. They care for him ignoring his diminished strength and beauty. My dear friends that is love!

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Amelia with rescue dog “Bella”

Would that we had so much love for the human babies that are conceived in today’s world. In Los Angeles recently, a newspaper photo showed an abandoned infant that the Sargent had placed in a desk drawer using it as a bed. The innocent child slept peacefully unaware of neither his negligent mother and father nor the uncertain future he faced.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had parents out there who would joyfully accept these unwanted children as readily as they do rescue animals that need our care and concern? Instead we throw them away as easily as we do our recycling discards. We ignore their pain, their slaughter because the current law has made it acceptable. They’re suctioned out, chemically burned or torn out; their precious gifts and talents lost to mankind.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

“Broken” mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available

I’m hoping the next generation will realize its loss. Many more single mothers are now raising children so acceptance is gaining. “The worth of souls is great in the eyes of God.” Thank goodness we no longer shun these mothers or their children. In the past they would have become “outcasts of society.” I would hope that life could be cherished once again and given its proper distinction as the hope of the world. I wish society would open their arms and welcome these infants into the world.

Children are precious and should be treated as such. If they were treated with the respect and dignity they deserved, they would never become the victims of sexual predators or callous parents.

I was at a wedding celebration this weekend. Curly topped toddlers and gangly children danced with the grownups on the granite floor. The Norwegian bride had married a Hispanic immigrant. Her aunts and uncles had adopted other immigrant children. A close friend had come from Nepal. He had married a Japanese girl and their two children reflected the beauty of both cultures.

All were related in some way and yet visually different. The love was strong, The shared happiness was obvious as everyone there and their friends and relatives mixed together and laughed, sang, and “jived” to the music. My own grandchildren are part Korean, my second son having married a Korean girl.

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People hope and pray for world peace. They want to embrace other races and nationalities (in theory); and yet, they sometimes crucify their own in the name of convenience or lack of money.

This weekend I saw a glimpse of what could be. As we celebrate the “Prince of Peace” during this upcoming holiday season, let us reach out and embrace a neighbor, a friend, a parent, a stranger. Let us cherish and celebrate life. Let hope reign in every heart!