Building Memories and Constructing a Future – What do you Leave Behind?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” 30×24 acrylic on canvas

Thanksgiving always conjures up the past: My large family of six children, each sneaking alternately into the kitchen to satisfy a craving before dinner; sweet mini-marshmallows awaiting their place on a pan of sweet potatoes; a slice of American “peel” cheese to satisfy a hungry stomach; a triangle of sugar and cinnamon pie crust leftover from an apple pie; a swipe of frosting from the annual birthday cake that became a part of our festivities.

I not only cooked Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, but we had a birthday party in the late afternoon. There was a turkey cake, a train or animal cake, depending on what Chris, the birthday-boy, had requested. One year there were even pilgrim hats and collars for both adults and children.

The lively celebration helped to fill the empty spaces caused by our parents, brothers, sisters and cousins left back home when we moved to the east coast. In their absence, friends became family. We treasured the associations and the memories.

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Kayla in the pumpkin patch.

Building a past is just as important as constructing a future. What you leave behind in the wake of life may, over time, turn into regrets or a blessing. The people you touch, the actions you take and the choices you make become the warp and the woof of your muscular and emotional fiber.

We shouldn’t just let life happen to us. If we’re being buffeted and battered by the winds of change or allowing others to manipulate or prod our “ship of sail,” we become victims of other people’s wants and desires instead of our own.

Building and constructing are positive activities that require planning and initiative. Similar to business endeavors, we build memories by consciously thinking of outcomes. How will this action or activity affect me and my family tomorrow, next month, a year from now?

Enjoying the finished product!

Amelia baking cookies.

Don’t kid yourself, words can kill, or at least wound. Once out of your mouth, they cannot be taken back and are seldom forgotten. They continue to hurt long after they’ve been said. Ugly or negative actions toward or against someone else, especially a family member, leaves scars that may last forever.

When you encourage and support independent behavior, you increase self confidence.  I tried to provide my children opportunities to choose for themselves whenever possible.

When selecting clothes, they were given two or three options, all of which were pre-approved by me. In being given a voice in what they wore, and in what we could afford as a family, they at least felt they had some say in the matter.

They chose their own pumpkins and Halloween costumes. They could choose to make their beds and go and play, or stay in until it was done. They could choose to clean their rooms or miss out on the fun later. Learning to choose and suffering the consequences of their actions provided opportunities for discipline and self-control.

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Kayla hiding beneath a coffee table.

Mom and dad always had the last word, but at least the children felt respected in their ability to contribute to family decisions. Harmony isn’t something that just happens. It must be planned. If one parent or the other is “scrappy” and negative, then the children will be, too. Happiness is catching. Giggles are contagious. Once the ripple starts it is hard to stop.

Negativity and complaining are also easily “caught.” They can spread like a wildfire and infect surrounding attitudes and feelings. These black moods are combustible and highly volatile. People fall under their power like dominoes.

A negative person’s aura can be felt the minute they walk in the door. Keep those enemies of calm at bay. Sometimes it’s as simple as filling a growling stomach or allowing someone a chance to be alone and unwind at the end of the day.

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Katy fixing her bridal sash with help from a friend.

Keep your home as a sanctuary where people feel safe and loved. When you desecrate that hallowed space, there is only one place to turn – the streets. Build yours and your children’s tomorrows by creating a peaceful environment at home. In that way, there will be no regrets later to tear your family or your loved one’s apart.

A Person’s Life should be a Living Song

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"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

“Tickles from God” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

My mother’s joyful heart was evident in our home, in her well cared for garden, and in her twinkling blue eyes. She whistled bird song while she worked, and she sang to us from morning to night. I in turn sang to my children as I cradled them in my arms and rocked them to sleep. When they were older I tucked them into bed with a song. Sometimes I made up my own words and music using silly rhymes that made them laugh.

We are born to music. Our lives follow the rhythms of nature. Our blood flows through our veins like a silent river keeping us alive with every heartbeat. Our attitudes and choices build a bridge to the powers of the universe. Eternal wisdom passes between heaven and earth and whispers in our ears if we stay in tune with its melodic harmony. It is within our grasp to be happy. Sadly, some of us leave this earth without ever having sung the songs we were meant to sing.

"Mother and Child" 11 x 14 brush drawing

“Mother and Child” 11 x 14 brush drawing

Joan Baez was a gifted singer and writer of amazing songs during the 60s. Some found her words too truthful and abrasive, but I wasn’t one of them. Her velvet voice allowed her to say things that others couldn’t say. She cut to the core of truth and wrapped it in savory chords of melody that we sang for days and weeks after we heard them for the first time. Her ballad “Honest Lullaby” came to me as I remembered my own lullabies to my children.

HONEST LULLABY
(Words and Music by Joan Baez)

Early early in the game
I taught myself to sing and play
And use a little trickery
On kids who never favored me
Those were years of crinoline slips
And cotton skirts and swinging hips
And dangerously painted lips
And stars of stage and screen
Pedal pushers, ankle socks
Padded bras and campus jocks
Who hid their vernal equinox
In pairs of faded jeans
And slept at home resentfully
Coveting their dreams

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Yellow, brown, and black and white
Our Father bless us all tonight
I bowed my head at the football games
And closed the prayer in Jesus’ name
Lusting after football heroes
tough Pachuco, little Neroes
Forfeiting my A’s for zeroes
Futures unforeseen

Spending all my energy
In keeping my virginity
And living in a fantasy
In love with Jimmy Dean
If you will be my king, Jimmy, Jimmy,
I will be your queen

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

I travelled all around the world
And knew more than the other girls
Of foreign languages and schools
Paris, Rome and Istanbul
But those things never worked for me
The town was much too small you see
And people have a way of being
Even smaller yet

But all the same though life is hard
And no one promised me a garden
Of roses, so I did okay
I took what I could get
And did the things that I might do
For those less fortunate

And often have I wondered
How the years and I survived
I had a mother who sang to me
An honest lullaby

Now look at you, you must be growing
A quarter of an inch a day
You’ve already lived near half the years
You’ll be when you go away
With your teddy bears and alligators
Enterprise communicators
All the tiny aviators head into the sky

And while the others play with you
I hope to find a way with you
And sometimes spend a day with you
I’ll catch you as you fly
Or if I’m worth a mother’s salt
I’ll wave as you go by

And if you should ever wonder
How the years and you’ll survive
Honey, you’ve got a mother who sings to you
Dances on the strings for you
Opens her heart and brings to you
An honest lullaby
© 1977, 1979 Gabriel Earl Music (ASCAP)