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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When Lines Blur between Reality and Fiction

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“With these Hands — Wonder” http://carol-allen-anfinsen.pixels.com 

Most People seek the truth. They want to believe in what is real; what is factual. But the media has long given up on gathering facts and are now focused on distortion and white lies. They’ve become promoters of their own personal ideology and political bias, and are focused on manipulating truth. Many participants take words out of context and turn conviction into lies. They prevent their audiences from getting an objective viewpoint or in hearing both sides.

Now unabashedly the FBI and the Justice Department have begun to skirt the law. Even the Supreme Court is ignoring their allegiance to the Constitution and the people dishonoring their positions and personal honor in order to promote an agenda that is underhandedly dark and holds serious repercussions for the future of this nation.

Remember when a handshake was not only respected in a contract or agreement, but engraved in stone because people considered their word sacrosanct and lawful? Now we can no longer trust our leaders who we thought were held to a higher standard. As a matter of fact, most of us don’t trust anyone. We’re afraid of a sales call, of identity theft, of scammers that assault us day and night.

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(Front yard blooms)

Those elected to power are mainly concerned with their own careers. In their personal view and thinking “the ends justify the means.” Their allegiance to the electorate whom they serve no longer matters. How did we sink so low? What has caused this fall of national character into the murky abyss of slime where right and wrong have been muddied in a grab for power?

Prior to her husband’s election as President of the United State, Michelle Obama said “I’m ashamed of my Country.”  After almost eight years of Obama leadership, I can say in return “I’m not only ashamed of my country, I fear for its future.”

We have become a Godless people more concerned with our personal pleasures than in our own honesty and integrity. The decline in American values is evident. We have turned honorable men and women into puppets of the state. Our greed for power has tainted our judgment. Our leaders have become dictators, and our loyal servants have become dishonest politicians grubbing for position and control.

The heart of America is rotting from the core. There are a few glimmers of hope. When a crisis emerges, we still stand together. When people die, we are there to give compassion and support. But even in the midst of this, we are divided. We ignore crime and the law in favor of prejudice and popular opinion. Many segments of the population have become a mob mentality. It doesn’t matter what the laws say, they break it. If they don’t like the outcome, they stand against the enforcers who have pledged to keep us safe. In turn, lawbreakers are shielded by their leaders and mob violence is often encouraged and allowed.

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(These young armadillos visited us early one morning.)

Both political correctness and designated “hate speech” are becoming a law unto themselves setting a dangerous precedent in overruling existing Constitutional law. As a result, people are becoming afraid of spontaneous speech or of expressing an opinion. Free speech is being set on its ear by self-appointed enforcers who label someone’s opinion as prejudiced or hateful. Recently some university students uttered “I hate the first amendment. We don’t want these people (those with opposing views) on our campus.”

These students are too young to remember Hitler and his brutal regime when hate speech was lauded and opposing opinions were stifled. Our Founding Fathers must be quaking in their boots in fear that all they worked so hard to achieve is being destroyed.

We have one of the most important elections in our time coming up in November. Will we disregard what history can teach us? Will we put our personal stamp, our thumb print, in support of lawlessness, dishonesty and Godlessness? Or will we uphold the principles that made America great for all people and not just the few in power?

This division we now feel in our country did not come from the ground up, but from the top down. Good leaders inspire the best in their followers. They lead by example and truth. The chaos in our country and the world has been allowed to happen. The Middle East has been blown apart by incompetence and falsehoods.

Socialism and totalitarianism are not the answer. You just have to examine their roots and results to understand their automatic downfall. Freedom isn’t lawlessness or pitting one group of people against another. Class warfare is a communist tactic. Morally it is bribery with the intent of getting what you want.

Freedom isn’t free just because you want it to be so. Freedom is the result of sacrifice, honor, and hard work. If you’re not up to it, someone else may be and the result is your neck under the boot of oppression. Please friends, vote judiciously and prayerfully.

 

Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

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Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

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I now pronounce you man & wife

Who will keep your Children Safe in America’s Gun-free Zones?

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“Fuchsia Fantastic” 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas

I’ve always considered gardening to be as close to God as you can get. The miracle of planting a seed, caring for it, and then watching it grow is just short of creation. So many things can go wrong. If you forget to water, the seed will wither and die. A hungry caterpillar or rabbit may come along and chop off the blossoms or chew the plant into the ground. Lots of TLC is required in order to get your seedling to reach its full potential and produce.

Children are a lot like seeds. Sometimes their lives are snuffed out before they even begin. Genetic problems may hasten their demise or create a problem long after they’re born. The mother’s health can affect the baby’s well-being. The environment the infant is born into may be physically risky. The child may not receive the nourishment or love that it needs to grow. So much depends on circumstances as to whether the child will thrive and survive.

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“Hibiscus Glory” 16 x 20 Oil on acrylic canvas

Life is a precious gift and should be cherished and protected. Sometimes our priorities are topsy-turvy. We “worship and serve the creature more than the creator.” (Rom 1:21-25 KJV) A gorilla’s life may become more valuable to us than a small child’s; a human being who may one day discover a cure for cancer, or create a solution to eliminate genetic imperfections. The gorilla on the other hand has reached the full extent of its potential.

Have we come so far that we place animal life above that of humans? Has mankind become our next endangered species?

There’s much talk and angst between proponents of gun control and those who believe strongly in the 2nd amendment and the right of Americans to own a gun if they are of sound mind. I placed those words in italics because most of the school shootings have not only occurred in supposed “gun free” zones where there is no one equipped to protect the innocent, but the violence was imposed by those who were mentally disturbed and were still able to obtain a gun.

Until we make our schools and our environments safe, our children will continue to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Our laws must be enforced. There must never be gun-free areas where only criminals and predators are safe. The sale of illegal guns to criminals and the infirm must stop if the majority of our citizenry are to be kept safe.

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“Peaches ‘n Cream” 12 x 16 acrylic on wood panel

Although our pets and other animals bring joy into our lives, we must never place them above human life. They were created, after all, for our benefit. Even though I abhor animal cruelty, human life must not be relegated to a lower position of importance.

Taking care of our environment and being good stewards is commendable; so is having compassion on all living things, but not at the expense of human life. When we place human life secondary to “the planet, to “the world,” or to other forms of life, we make a mockery of God’s plan for human existence.

Before you become a champion for some other cause make sure that you’re not endangering your own life in the process. Study the issues on both sides. What are the long-term consequences? What does history reveal about this path? Have others made this same mistake before?

Don’t vote until you research the issues that face you. No matter what you decide, you will (along with others) face the consequences of your decision for many years to come.

Labor Pangs are soon forgotten Once you receive the Prize

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(Yes, here I am in all my exhausted and pregnant glory, expecting our 5th child)

Our first home had a cement floor that we covered with throw rugs to keep our feet from freezing in the winter. The kitchen was overlaid with grungy black tiles thickly coated with layers of old yellow wax. I knew it had to come off, but how?

Finally I tackled it! Not with a scrubbing-brush or gallons of product that our budget couldn’t afford, but with a razor blade. I knew I had to be gentle or scratch the tiles. I figured if I could scrape five or more squares a day while my two toddlers were napping, I could get it done in a few months. Speed was not the objective. A shiny black floor was.

By sticking to my guns, I beat my goal and had it done in a month. I reasoned that if I could do this with every dream and every challenge, just think what I could accomplish! Every time I walked into that room and saw the deep sheen on the floor, cooking for my family and taking care of my babes did not seem so daunting. I needed this kind of optimism because we ended up with six kids.

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After going three weeks over my due date, the first one brought 24 hours of excruciating labor. The doctor debated a cesarean section, but kept saying “let’s wait a little longer;” until finally her little head crowned and she was born.

The second child, a boy, was born 14 months later. My water broke at home and we rushed to the hospital. My husband was still registering me when he was born. “Wow, this birth thingie is going to be a snap from here on,” I thought.

It wasn’t. Four years later, during fireworks on July 5th , I went into labor with my third child, a boy. I was also three weeks overdue with this one. After another long labor, he weighed in at 10 pounds.

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Sidney, child #3

The fourth child introduced me to stress diabetes followed by two more ten pound babies and difficult deliveries. But once the births were over, and I held those precious humans-in-miniature and nursed them joyfully, the pain and suffering was quickly forgotten.

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(Chris #2, Holly #4, Paula #5, Sidney #3, Pamela #1

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Most of us have heard that Teddy Roosevelt quote many times. We’ve experienced it when we finally get that perfect job, or find the right mate after we’ve gone through several “duds.”

There are struggles and growing pains in every new thing we try. We think we will never find satisfaction or success. But if we’re patient, we may get to see completion. Then we realize we were watching the unfolding miracle happen before our very eyes.

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The first time you must  punish your child for disobeying the rules or for going against your family values, you probably experienced pain; perhaps even guilt or shame. Not that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but that you had to do it at all.

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Paula, my 5th child (Aunt Jean’s paintings behind; and a baby quilt I made.

One of my daughter’s was forever breaking the rules. The frightful thing was that she accepted the “grounding” or the scolding willingly knowing that she deserved it. But that consequence didn’t stop her from disobeying the next time. Even as a teenager, if she were grounded for a week or even a month, it didn’t seem to make any difference. She just went out when she was free and again disobeyed the curfew. I didn’t know how to deal with her effectively.

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Here’s that cute little nubbins at age three.

Her father was absent most of the time. When I’d explain the situation to him, he seemed not to hear. His response was nothing as he left for work. My daughter had to experience the results of her actions again and again. Later in life, long after there was no one there to reprimand her except herself, she went through some hard times before the “light came on” and she altered her choices and behavior because it was healthier and safer.

We sometimes see ourselves in our children. We try to hold them back through warnings or discipline so they won’t have to experience the pain that we did. They could listen to us if they would. They could be obedient and save themselves a truckload of you-know-what, but they don’t. They go blindly forward in spite of our words and our anguish.

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Here’s all five of them on  the mountain with Mom, ready to throw rocks over the cliff. (# 6 wasn’t here yet.)

I always believed that if my children knew how deeply I loved them everything would turn out all right, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Accepting your child as he or she is with all their flaws and imperfections is the key to their own self-acceptance and outlook as adults. You need to continue loving them even though their life choices may not have been your own.

It may be difficult. You may not necessarily approve of their actions or behavior. You love them anyway. God does this for us as parents and we’re far from perfect. He loves His children unconditionally. Can we do any less for our own?

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#6, getting a bath in the sink.

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Learning to stand.

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#6 now a toddler, dressed up for church.

When your Kids take the Wheel – the Nail Biting Begins

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1936 Ford Coupe

Remember when you learned how to drive? Was it via a Driver’s Education Class or through the help of a husband, father or mother? A Sibling?

My Dad drove miles every day to work to provide for our family. He was extremely proud of his Chevrolet; the only brand he would buy. He wouldn’t allow his three daughters to drive, let alone take driving lessons. He flatly refused by calling his car his “only means of livelihood.”

My boyfriend, who later became my husband, taught me how to drive in his 1936 black Ford coupe. I had never driven a stick shift before and kept getting the clutch and the gas pedal mixed up. We drove on small country dirt roads, but when we came to the first intersection, I faced a strip of black asphalt piled at least four feet high down the middle of the cross road.

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My friend shouted for me to break, but I hit the gas pedal instead, and we sailed right over the top of that obstacle at 35 miles per hour. I hit my head on the roof light and cracked its plastic plate. We flew through the air and landed safely on the opposite side of the pile. Amazingly, we continued our driving lesson on the other side. I learned the importance of focus and concentration. Soon I was able to keep the three pedals straight and figured out how to use them.

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My oldest daughter took Driver’s Ed, and drove with her dad or me until she finally got her license. I was a parent chaperone on a high school field trip when she drove the car. There were four other girls with us. Pam had difficulty concentrating with the noise and chatter in the car. There were a few close calls as we manipulated the city streets.

images (15)When we got close to our destination, she pulled into the wrong side street. Everyone was yelling at her to turn around and go back. She was flustered, distracted, and confused. I was shouting my own instructions to watch out for that man crossing the street at an angle toward her, but she didn’t hear me.

She pulled over to the curb just as he was reaching almost the same point. He literally arched his back over the hood of the car as his feet jumped up on the curb.

To this day I can still see him back bending over the front of the car with a shocked look on his face; his feet way ahead of him. That he remained upright is a miracle in and of itself; that she didn’t hit him was another. He looked just like a character from a Wily Coyote – Road Runner cartoon.

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Pam was completely oblivious to what was happening. According to Driver’s Ed statistics. 50% of teens are in an accident the first year they start driving. How parents ever survive teaching their children how to navigate a car especially in traffic is a wonder. Waiting patiently for them to return safely from an errand or an evening out is nerve wracking, to say the least. And how to describe the feeling when the whir of the engine finally pulls into the driveway? sweet relief!

There were no cell phones back then. Parents dreaded their home phone to ring when their older children were out somewhere. It could mean anything from running out of gas, sliding on the ice into a tree, or locking themselves out of the car. Heaven forbid if it was anything more serious. I remember well the familiar cringe when the phone rang.

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When they were all home, the phone was constantly ringing. Because we had a large family, limits had to be placed on how long anyone could stay on the phone. The girls would run for the phone at the first ring convinced the call was for them.

I worked at home as a free-lance writer and consultant in addition to holding leadership roles in my community and church and needed to use the phone often, as did their father who had many responsibilities as a Boy Scout Leader and volunteer at our church. Believe me, we kept the wires hot. How we endured one phone is mind boggling.

In my adult life, I’ve always had a telephone phobia. I resent the interruptions when the telephone rings during dinner or at the climax of my favorite T.V. show. I don’t like to talk to people without seeing them (and their reactions). I dislike calling for assistance and getting an artificial computer voice that requires me to push buttons until they finally push me out the other end. It never occurred to me why I have this phobia. Now, looking back, I say is it any wonder?download

Leave your Baggage and Unresolved Issues Outside, Please!

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Expectations can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction and unhappiness; especially when they collide with reality. Yet without this lofty perspective, you may rob yourself of the motivation you need to complete your goals and dreams. If you are forever pigeon-holing yourself into the lower-rungs of failure through negative thoughts, how can you expect to succeed?

I’ve always thought of myself as a realist. For awhile at least, I was afraid to hope for anything better. In order to deal with the many challenges life placed in my path, I decided never to assume anything and to expect even less. By lowering my expectations I was less likely to be disappointed or hurt.

I had no pre-conceived notions. I was simply grateful for what little I received and chose not to complain, but my spirit wilted into a bottomless pit. I quit feeling altogether. I became a zombie, but without the makeup. The real me began to disappear. I spent many hours on my knees praying for patience and for ways to improve my role in life. Essentially, rather than fighting back, I continued to fall through the cracks until one day, I hit rock bottom.

I knew I had to make a change in my life or die trying. Through the grace of God I met a friend who had perhaps seen me fade into non-existence. She invited me to a painting class. Me paint, I can’t even draw? Another woman gave me an assignment to write something for a church group – a skit that the youth would perform. Me? Write? I hadn’t written since high school.

I found myself learning new things. The Public Library was my teacher. My art friends and a unique and professional art instructor introduced me to a magic world where I lost myself in a rainbow of color and creation. For those few hours each week, I was able to forget the pain and release that part of me that had all but vanished.

I grew stronger. I began to laugh again. I made new friends and made plans. I started getting excited about life. My family noticed a different person emerge; a happier woman who glowed with anticipation. For awhile, they didn’t recognize me. My now ex-husband seemed even more withdrawn and morose. I sadly noticed that he was happiest when I was down, and when I seemed happy, he threw out more sarcasm and barbs. Jealousy? Resentment? Since we rarely communicated, I had no way of knowing.

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When two people marry, each brings into the marriage their own expectations and point of view about what a marriage should be like. According to couple counselors, differing expectations not discussed beforehand usually cause unresolved issues and arguments.

If the two lovebirds don’t correct these attitudes and beliefs, it is the beginning of the end. Instead of allowing their love to bring them closer, they draw a line in the sand in a power stand-off. If one party backs down before the problems are discussed and resolved, they will be viewed as the weaker party, the one who constantly makes concessions.

If this passive behavior is exploited by the more aggressive partner, an escalation of power and abuse begins a pattern of controlling behavior that continues throughout the marriage. Constant belittling, disrespect, and outright verbal assaults teardown self-esteem and destroy intimacy.

Couple’s counseling may help, but in many instances the ruts couples get themselves into are very difficult to break. If people would only lay the groundwork ahead of time. One young bride found herself in just such a power struggle. Her husband had pulled out the “junk drawer” in anger as he searched for a tool. The drawer fell to the floor in a clatter, further scattering some of the items.

The husband went off to work leaving the mess behind. What were his expectations? “A wife cleans up the house. It is her job to take care of things at home.”  The surprise on his face when he got home, told him that something was wrong with this scenario.

His wife had her own expectations. “I’m not going to pick up after him like his mother did. He’s a grown man and can pick up his own messes. If I clean up this drawer, I will be forever picking up after him, and he will treat me like a maid instead of a wife.”

A power struggle went on for almost a month. Both parties stepped around the drawer and high-stepped over the mess surrounding it. They fixed dinner, did the dishes together, all while tip-toeing around the drawer and each other. The tension was almost visible.

Finally at the end of the month, the husband cleaned up his mess and put the drawer away. The smart wife said not a word. She didn’t rub his face in it. She didn’t say “I won!” They both had learned something about respect and how to treat the person they loved and had committed their lives to.

If these little squabbles aren’t resolved in the beginning, the grooves of habit get so entrenched that it’s almost impossible to think and behave in new ways. Make up the rules of your marriage together. Find out what each of you hope for and want from your relationship. Whether you believe it or not, prayer does help. If your partner refuses or does not want to pray together, do it yourself. One praying partner is better than none.

The joys of a close and intimate relationship equal a lifetime of blessed memories.

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