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Tears in My Coffee

Today my son texted to say he would be at my door soon. I assumed he must need something as he leaves tomorrow on an important business trip, and I’m always at the ready with a stocked fridge, natural remedies, stain removal kit and answers to the riddles of life for my young man. I was sure he had a to-do list as long as his guitar-playing four-foot arms, and the stress and preoccupation to go with it. He’s a music producer, performer and writer, stopping at several cities on this particular journey for collaborating and production, carrying responsibility and weight beyond his young years.

A few moments later, he bounced in and declared, “I wondered if you’d want to walk to get coffee; I’ve been wanting to take you out before I leave town!”

I must have looked like a raccoon staring at headlights in the dark, mumbling to find my words…sooo not prepared for this gift. Whenever my children present me with this mom-luxury, I hesitate awkwardly, then my first reaction is to say “thank you SO much but really, you have soooo many important priorities in life, it’s OK you don’t have to go with me or spend your limited time and money on ME your boring old (limping) (click here for the lowdown) mother!”

But I overrode my insecurities and said, “Sure, let’s do it!” I flew into hurry mode, spending just enough time on myself not to be an embarrassing hag-mother. Fifteen minutes max and we were strolling on the sunny side of the street in our urban neighborhood and yes, I was giddy as a schoolgirl. (Funny how the tables turn in midlife.)

I can’t express what it means to have my grown son choose to walk with me on this golden fall day, sharing his thoughts and dreams aloud. My beaming grin tells the world what a lucky girl I am; yet just beneath my smiling eyes, tears threaten because I recognize this moment, this blessed now, this glorious pause and I think, “what more could a midlife mama want?!”

We arrived in the bustling cafe to order. When he pulled the cash from his pocket to pay – that wrinkled well-traveled paper bill representing his thousands of hours of study and preparation, the hundreds of hours of driving cross-country performing his art – that humble slice of green left after the rent, utilities and cell bills were paid, the new guitar strings purchased, the gas tank filled, THIS! the portion he chose to spend on me rather than on himself…

Oblivious to the cashier, his outstretched hand held what represented his very life and here he was, giving it back to me in his love language: a perfect cup of fair-trade, shade grown, single-origin hipster drip, just to bless me, his Mama. I had to turn away because his sacrifice meant so much to me.

We lingered long out front on a bench, rays of autumn sunshine highlighting our deep and meaningful conversation…I hung onto him tight as we strolled home, wanting to freeze the frame, to replay the tape again and again. And I saved the cup until I see him again. A symbol, empty now and yet so full of priceless memories to me, his Mama.

    THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE!

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    Cut Through the Noise: What Do YOU See In Your Little One?

    I have to ask, how are we assessing our kids? A proper assessment assures us we’re on the right track as we aim our children toward their destinies.

    When my sons were growing up, most schools administered broad assessment tests once toward the end of the year, while report cards went out quarterly. I never put a lot of stock in what the S.A.T., C.A.T or the I.T.B.S said about my kids. They always tested acceptably on these, but the scores didn’t carry a lot of weight with me.

    In our home, their progress was monitored daily and their character assessed relentlessly; those were the tests I was concerned about. I didn’t care if they’d read every book that Nietzsche or Darwin had written and memorized it backwards. It didn’t matter if they’d been invited to honors classes. At the end of the day, from my perspective all that stuff was meaningless if there wasn’t character, integrity, and world-changing purpose in their lives.

    I found it necessary to continually resist the standards set by popular culture as they related to my five sons. Often the world’s perspective was diametrically opposed to how I viewed true success for my boys.

    If my children didn’t possess prized qualities of distinction like perseverance, respect for authority, quick obedience, faithfulness, and a solid work ethic, then what kind of impact could they possibly have in our world?

    If they didn’t display active compassion to the hurting, and think outside of the tiny box of their own personal happiness, then in actuality, no matter what the test scores told me, I would have failed to produce a successful man.

    John Taylor Gatto, former public school educator and prolific author, had this to say about the children he taught for three decades in the public system:

    “The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. The children I teach have almost no curiosity. The children I teach are cruel to each other; they lack compassion for misfortune; they laugh at weakness; they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges.” *

    This assessment is troubling. How many educated children of our day would be similar? That is a specimen you and I don’t want to produce. A person who is highly educated, but without character, is an educated idiot. God knows there are more than enough of them populating the earth as it is. Many of them teach at our universities.

    Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Education is important. In fact, it’s so important to me that I labored long and hard educating my children for over 20 years. I took their life preparation very seriously, but all my eggs weren’t in the academic basket.

    This world’s system of assessing our children is based on their good looks, athletic prowess, personal charisma, academic standing, fine arts talent, and so on. This information is collected and used to compare our kids with others their age. Comparisons are often destructive and can prove to be a death knell to us and our children. And although a child may excel in any or all of these categories, he may still greatly lack true substance in his life.

    Sadly enough, grandparents, educators, and adult friends aren’t always a good litmus test either. Depending on what their basis for evaluation is, they might be out in left field in their assessment of your child.

    I’m not endorsing lone-ranger parents with an independent spirit, but I am saying the buck stops with you. You have to own the responsibility of knowing your child, assessing your child through the lens of your values, gathering wisdom from those you deeply respect and applying it appropriately to your unique situation.

    This isn’t a one-size-fits-all microwave-speed method of child rearing, because, trust me, you don’t want a one-size-fits-all microwave-speed method for your little miracle who is as unique and set apart as his or her own fingerprint indicates.

    *Gatto, John T. Dumbing Us Down (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992), pp. 30–32.

    If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

    Letting Go: the first day of school on repeat.

    There is a season when we control most everything in our children’s lives. That’s the easy season.
    It’s when Jesus takes the wheel when they’re about 17 we begin to lose our hair and drink more wine.

    It seems my new Mama job these days is saying “goodbye.” Can you relate? It doesn’t matter how old they are or how many times they turn to walk out that door, my heart always dips a little and I feel vulnerable and sappy.

    “Mama I’m just goin’ to school! The store! Work! Band practice!” they’ll say.
    You just don’t get it, hon. You’re my baby. Always and forever.

    I never knew fear until I had grown kids. Not the real extended version, that is. The kind that robs you of untold hours of sleep, creates grey hair and indigestion and drives you to the Doc for sleep aids so you can avoid the looney bin and wake up somewhat sane to face the world. (Until you realize medicated sleep leaves you ‘functioning’ in a fog the next day.)
    Yawn. Sigh.

    Today at 7 am, wrapped in my oversized granny robe with hag hair and tired eyes, I followed my son to the front door like an anxious puppy.

    I hugged him tight, reminding him of this and that, urging him to “be safe!” then I leaned hard against the open front door as I watched him get in the car and start the engine. The frigid air confronted me, adding to my melancholy – ice on the cars and streets, frost on the lawn, and I pulled my robe in snug and waited. He hung up from his cell call, fastened his seatbelt, backed out and creeped up the steep hill.
    I didn’t move. I just stood there, shivering, watching him until I could catch no further glimpse of his paid off 90s white Toyota…and I saw my mother in my mind’s eye.

    There she was back in the 70s, all five foot two of her, standing on the front stoop of our Midwestern rambler in her faded cotton robe with no make-up and greying pixie urging me with her timeless mantra, “Be careful!” and a hug. Then she would stand there for the longest time, while I started the car, organized my seat belt and piles of stuff, backed out, and gassed it up the hill. There she’d be, still standing with the door cracked open…it could be 30 below zero and she wouldn’t budge until I was clear out of sight. I never understood why, until now, as I watch my son do the same…

    How we linger, hug twice, say things like,
    “Be safe! Drive careful! No loud music, no texting, and please don’t go the interstate! LOVE you a million billion zillion!!!” while madly blowing kisses.
    When actually we’re saying,

    “Please let me look at you as long as I can. Please don’t get hurt. Please don’t ever not come home to me. Please choose your friends wisely. Please forgive me for when I’ve been a bad mom. Please know the depth of my love for you. You are my everything.”

    As I fixed my gaze on my twig-thin teen-aged college student loaded down with his thirty pound backpack heading out into the fray, little did he know what my heart was communicating. How could he? He’s only a boy, learning of life, oblivious to the real dangers…the risk of driving up that hill.

    At that moment I understood my mother and her annoying, clinging, obsessive behavior and I appreciated her caring so much for me, so many years ago.

    Yep, full circle. I get it now.

     

    So the Stock Market is Tanking – Here’s Where to Realize Your Greatest ROI

    The U.S. stock market is experiencing extreme volatility in recent weeks due to the Coronavirus pandemic across the globe, shrinking individuals’ investment portfolios ‘overnight.’

    This has been especially painful, since record-breaking stock market growth had become the norm since the day Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

    Anyone who’s put their money in stocks, knows the market can’t be trusted. Ups and downs are cyclical and to be expected, but we all prefer the booming bull market to a sinking bear market.

    Successful investing is a marathon, not a sprint. The tortoise wins, not the hare.

    Living here in the Seattle area over the past 20 years, where Bill Gates and Paul Allen began their little startup called Microsoft, I often hear folks wistfully reflect, “if only I’d invested 35 years ago, I’d be a millionaire.”

    Maybe.

    But I CAN say, with absolute confidence:

    “Your kids are the new Microsoft – buy stock in them!”

    You’ve heard of the magic of compound interest? The genuine interest you show in your kids today will compound magically just the same, but with returns far more valuable. If you consistently make deposits into that relationship ‘account’ over time, 20 and 30 years down the line when you need loyal comrades and friends the most, you’ll have them.

    Now that my sons are grown, I’m experiencing the remarkable and satisfying fruit of the investment I made by faith in them, day-by-day, over three plus decades. They are my dearest friends, confidants, neighbors, helpers, and encouragers.
    Last week is a perfect example.

    I was having a daaaaay :(( after incurring a sucker punch perfectly designed by the devil to abort my mission.

    BOOM!

    I walked around like a zombie, going through the motions of my decidedly demoted existence doing only those things I do on auto-pilot; tidying, walking the track, listening to an audio book, praying, fighting tears, trying to muster my emotional resources and regain my inner balance. Been there?? I figured.

    I trudged through the market selecting groceries at a snail’s pace, loading and unloading, with no relief in sight. I reheated leftovers and, (what else??) ate chocolate and drank wine until I was too tired to watch another mind-numbing segment of my current Amazon Prime series. I collapsed into bed with a heavy heart.

    A few sleepless hours later, I grabbed my iPhone and ambled quietly into the kitchen so as not to wake hubby, determined to somehow brave this new day with intention. I glanced at my screen: 5:21 a.m.

     

     

     

     

     

    A text was waiting from one of my sons.

    I was on his heart at midnight; he wanted me to know how much he loves me, that he thinks I’m awesome, he’s praying for me and if I need anything he’s always there for me.

    He had no idea what my day had contained. I try not to burden my kids with negative crap.

    It’s not the first such message, act of kindness or show of support my sons have sent me this week, month, or year. I’m wrapped in so much love, care and prayer from my adult children, I hang my head in shame at particular moments for complaining about any single thing in my life.

    I wanna grab them tight and tell them a thousand times how much I love them. They are such treasures to me and to my husband – such incredible, diverse multi-faceted human beings with incomprehensible value.

    Watching them grow into men; husbands, fathers, leaders and entrepreneurs – makes me want to hold them even tighter, as my pleasure in them is mixed with fear for them as we live in uncertain times filled with so many challenges…and yet I’m reminded that in every generation there were significant concerns specific to the timeline in history.

    I’m confident they are men fit for the times we’re living in, and I’m on the edge of my seat, watching as this nail biter of life’s journey takes place for each of them as they venture out into the world.

    I know firsthand, the investments you’re making in your children today, will return to you and the world around you in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

    The character you develop in them by your example and training, is going to benefit you and so many others, years from now and perhaps you haven’t even considered it. Invest well while you have the opportunity – what a privilege to change the world through the humble call of parenting.

    Your Two-Minute Takeaway 

    1. Investing a slice of your hard-earned dollars is NO joke. Even if you can spare a meager sum each month, contact a reputable company and get your money working for you. TIME FLIES! You’ll be surprised at what’s possible if you simply invest what you can over time.
    2. YOU are a bad ass parent who is longing for MORE! Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. Consider the ways you can practically ‘budget’ your allotted time in order to set aside a reasonable, quality portion out of your 168 hours per week to spend with your kids.
    3. Here are some ideas: Choose a book to read aloud at bedtime and plan three nights (or more if you have the grace) per week you can commit to reading one chapter before ‘lights out.’
    4. The other nights that work for you, lay in bed next to them for a few minutes and ask them about the best part of their day-what they’re looking forward to-if anything is burdening them…whatever convo works for you and your kids.
    5. Make a date – one a month – to take each child out on their own for a meal, errands ending in ice cream, even a walk with the dog. Nothing beats one-on-one with Daddy/Mommy.
    6. Turn off smartphones and landlines during dinner or as long as is humanly possible until the kids are put to bed.
    7. Limit electronics as babysitters – this is so easy to lean on, but can quickly consume far more time than we’re aware of.

    This Is Us. What I’m Sure of After 37 Years of Marriage.

    Lying in bed tonight, I reached over to touch my Gregory.

    I felt his warm skin at my fingertips. That same firm, broad muscled shoulder, same manly smell I’ve known for 37 years, and I wanted just to lay there, knowing he wouldn’t leave….kind of like clinging to my pink blankie.

     

    Comforted and assured.

    All is well with me.

     

    Seeing him across the room, time and again over the years engaged in conversation…behind a podium, earnestly addressing a crowd…tickling my granddaughter, chasing her about as she giggles wildly, or sitting, brooding over sons by number…each boy furrows his brow over one thing or another….or Bible in hand, pen poised, awaiting the next underline as he reads for hours.

     

    This is my man. 
    The one I’ve known and watched and smelled and touched and loved and hated and boxed with and screamed at and cried to as he held me tightly to his chest.

     

    Don’t ever be gone.

    Don’t ever not be there for my fingers to reach.

    “I never want to be away from you,” he said in the car today as we drove from Walmart. “Even though sometimes I want to kill you,” he chuckled.

    “Touch my neck.” For he loves my hand on his skin just to know I’m there.

    We have had our ups and downs.

    Extremes, like in music scores; highs and lows.

    My recently-degreed fifth born said without the lows you wouldn’t have the highs and vice versa. You need them in music, in movies, in photography, in color, in sound, in life.

    It’s what makes life alive.

    A flatline isn’t a good sign.

    The dance of marriage is the ebb and flow, the dark and light, the valleys and the peaks.

    “Husband and wife, pulled taut like rubber bands, then crashing into one another with a squabble, loving feelings rekindled, pulling back again to retract for space…repeat.”

    But he doesn’t look for space from me these days.

    Any space is too far.

    Even as my thoughts wander, he intuitively knows and will softly say, “don’t leave me.”

     

    Hiding in my office for hours, days, to write my articles and books, then emerging to grab a snack or drink…he will look up as I walk by as if the sun just arose to break through his gray clouds…countenance lift…just to spy me there.

    And then he’ll ask me a question like always to solve a mystery of his.

    To get some practical info.

    To cause me to linger a while longer.

    That’s when I playfully call him the ‘yard frog;’ that decorative garden creature at Home Depot who ribbits as motion is detected.

     

    At times his doting is more than my crowded, busy, driven self can bear and I wish him away…but now I don’t do that.

    I wish him here.

    Not just til morning, or the next night, or til the weekend or over the holidays; not through the upcoming family festivities or Happy New Year, but forever.

    I don’t want to be the widow who rolls over to a cold pillow next to me.

    I don’t want the same for him.

    I resist the pull of such melancholy, yet I’m sobered by my thoughts; this deep affection is so real to me at this moment.

     

    I roll to the left to snuggle to his back until I doze, even through his numerous, irritating restless movements, late night games of solitaire on his iphone…to cling because I can, until he stirs so that I cannot sleep, then I roll to the right and he turns off his light and scoots up to my back and clings to me.

     

    This is us.
    This is our love.
    This is our silent cry never to be apart, never to be forced to fall in love with another because one’s left.

     

    How can I possibly articulate these deep feelings to those wandering souls who pledge their love, fingers crossed behind their backs as they hold stubbornly to their independence? Living with their options open— this language I speak is foreign to them, the country I live in is not theirs, and yet…our apartment is three doors away.

     

    How can they know that sex and relationship are only two-dimensional without a love that’s birthed through the darkest of days, over time, children sick with fevers burning hot in the night, bills, oh bills, fears, anguish, anger, multiple birthdays and anniversaries, the drone of the dailies, the tempo of tedium…way beyond goosebumps, convenience and frivolous emotion?

     

    How can they understand what it means to stay…when they keep leaving?

    How could they relate to my eighty thousand family pictures and videos, packed carefully in a myriad of cartons and boxes, copied on hard drives, all taken since 1980 at our inception which I’ve dragged across the map of our innumerable moves?

    Young, strapping, serious, muscle-bound dark-headed man takes vivacious, optimistic bouncing blonde girl to be his lawfully wedded wife. Then comes one boy child, then two, then three, then four and five…photos show the same man, now graying, the same girl, now a grannie, both slightly rounder, in 37 years’ worth of family albums, yellowing around the edges.

    Same immediate family unit intact.

    Stuck together like glue.

     

    Years and pain and marathons soften the edges of our personalities, making us flexible enough to surrender, despite our intense displeasure for the moment, knowing somehow this too shall pass and we shall love each other fresh, yet again.

     

    Now, my wish is his command.

    He is smitten, as am I…no end in sight. We are each other’s muse.

    I’ve been trying to get back to my borrowed, downtown Seattle writing retreat and my solitude, but I’m finding it so very difficult.

    I’m afraid.

    I wish I could call my recently deceased almost-ninety neighbor, Joyce, on the phone and commiserate.

    I used to find her so irritating at times as she clung so tightly to Paul, her husband of 63 years. She would almost certainly strangle him under her iron grip…for she feared losing him. Every breath, every second, every jaunt, every move he made was under her watchful eye with baited breath and subject to her random and irrational outbursts and rants.

    Now, at this moment, I feel her anxiety.

    I don’t know where to be at times for I fear I will have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and will look back and wish I’d stayed, or that he went away to give me space and never came back and why did I wish him away that weekend?

    We are no longer in our 30s or 40s; as the wrinkles define our features and our hair thins, our mortality is highlighted.

    I don’t want to face the day he is not there when I reach over for him.

    Who would rescue me from my haunting nightmares as he has, jolting me from my blanket of terror, wrapping me in his safe arms of love; reassuring me?

    I sleep differently when I know he’s there. My whole body sleeps.

    Without him, only my eyes sleep — the rest of me doesn’t rest.

    He is the Papa our three-year old granddaughter hotly pursues through the house until she finds him, calling through the locked bathroom door or interrupting him as he studies, his earplugs in for soundproofing.

     

    He is the steel beam holding up our dynasty — invisible on many days but more necessary than could possibly be imagined.
    We would be lost without him.

     

    In the light of day, funny how every car whizzing by grabs my attention…then my eye turns to see…is that him?

    And I feel elated to think that he is coming home to me…again…predictably, like a horse to the barn these 37 years. And as happy as I was that he was out and about all morning, giving me much-needed solace…I’m more happy to hear his familiar gait as he makes his way into the house all kerfuffle. He’s Italian, after all…not the kind of guy who tiptoes around in life.

    As I watched him in action today hoisting items, shifting, working, as we relocate yet again, replay kicked in on my inner reel.

    How many times he’s organized, lifted and shifted over 37 years of progress and forward motion.

    Now I know these movements and sounds as a comfort.

    My strong man exists to make things right, to adjust the crooked and toss the needless and prepare what’s necessary. To bark out commands and get things done.

    Such a masculine man.

    A visionary.

    A leader.

    A passionate soul.

    A deep thinker.

    An intentional man.

    Perhaps I could find a warm body to snuggle; a well-heeled businessman to pay my bills and care that I’m on his arm, to buy me dinner anytime, anywhere. To never complain about my spending.

    But this is My Man. He is not simply good looking or stylish or sharp or clever, he is The One I have loved more deeply than I thought possible.

    The love of my life since my teens.

    Child bride was I.

    Next to me as I birthed each of our five sons, then next to me through postpartum blues, baby fat and my copious stretch marks he calls “beautiful.”

    Every morning for the last 13,505 mornings I have waked knowing…he is.

    Trusting.

    Assured.

    Together with him.

    My husband, my friend, my co-laborer, my covenant man.

    I’m so glad we’ve endured the hardest things in life to get to the sweetest things in life.

    You are my heart, my life, my ballast…my home. Happy Anniversary, my love.

    Want MORE? Grab my tried and true TRANSFORMATIVE  gift 7  Simple Steps to Raising Happy Kids Who Persevere HERE.

     

    Entertaining with Children: Build a team, not a hierarchy!

    I know it sounds cliche, but it’s like someone pressed FF on the remote and the holidays are here againBefore you get lost in the overwhelm, keep reading because this season is a fabulous opportunity to work a priceless principle into your brood, while at the same time, lightening your load.

    If you’re like me, there’s always a checklist or 22 on your iPhone or notepad. (Paper is risky. Lose my list and lose my mind. Right?)

    Holidays create more lists within lists…food, decor, gifts, cards, cash, concerts, cleaning, invites, wrapping, houseguests, charities…

    But everything truly is figure-outable and if you’ve got kids around your feet, don’t look over their heads and do it all yourself.

    Gather those elves and build your power team!

    I’ve always included our kids when I entertained; often this has included hosting overnight guests – dear lawwwd we almost ran a constant B and B everywhere we lived.

    This has built such active compassion in them; it’s their default now as they are the most hospitable, helpful, capable, servant-hearted men and fathers as adults.

    How can your children change the game for you, while you build priceless character traits into them?

    Here’s a page from my playbook.

    1. My children participated at every level when we hosted. Don’t underestimate their capability or their enthusiasm to be in the game. (And don’t discount the boys – they can crush it without drama!)
    2. Welcome cards. Markers, crayons, stickers, paper…and HEART! Which adult (except for Uncle Scrooge) wouldn’t melt to see a perfectly, imperfect handmade ‘welcome’ at their plate or next to the bed in their guest room??
    3. House cleaning from toilets to vacuuming, changing sheets and mopping floors – anything needing done. Mom, Dad, you’ve got a labor force around you if you patiently train and confidently delegate.
    4. Food Prep with clean hands and hair nets LOL truth – one of our sons always made the homemade caesar dressing (I’m married to an Italian so it’s usually an Italian Christmas 🙂 and here we are decades later, and he’s still the man for the job.
    5. Greeting warmly. Remember, we aren’t ‘entertaining’ but we’re opening our homes and hearts to others in the spirit of Christ’s extravagant love, humbly offering our best to others. Who better to express this than our sweet spirited children? No one gets to be shy – it’s time to teach your bunch confidence, eye contact, “yes, sirs,” and handshakes!
    6. Teach your team the power of serving others first. Buffet style? Then guests go first, from main dish to desserts. And kids don’t touch, cough on and grub what they don’t take. That’s gross. Be tough on this one.
    7. Decorations – unless you insist on a Martha Stewart standard, kids can create home made decor like placemats, name cards, centerpieces; they can trim the tree, set  out the stuff from the attic where they like it and arrange the Nativity set. (our Nativity set always had G.I. Joes hanging from the rafters 🙂
    8. We Included our kids at the adult table – I tried never to relegate them to ‘kids should be seen and not heard.’ They were seated with the adults when there was room, sharing respectfully in the conversation and experiencing the wisdom and input of seasoned men and women. Of course this can be risky. Children aren’t adults and you may, on occasion, be embarrassed by their unexpected antics; but if we demand perfect and sterile conditions, we will never create an atmosphere in which to raise mature men and women.
    9. Our boys helped care for the youngsters who were our guests, entertaining toddlers, pacifying babies, sharing their toys, etc.
    10. Clean up. Clearing plates, scrubbing pots, sweeping, taking out the trash, folding chairs and tables wiped and stashed, ad infinitum.

    If you can forget about perfect, overlook faux pauxs in conversations, spills and breaks when they occur – and they will – and simply delight in your child’s perfectly imperfect assistance, this practice is a major win for everyone.

    Our children won’t magically at some mysterious age, suddenly take responsibility.

    That is a fantasy.

    But as we endeavor to include our kids, making sure each has a task to complete with excellence, they learn their contribution matters and they begin to take ownership for the success of our ‘team’s’ progress. 

    This holiday season, think ‘team’ on the home front, not segregation. Society constantly segregates and labels the masses, big people, little people, important, unimportant, creating a hierarchical mindset, paralyzing many from taking action.

    You’re building men and women for tomorrow – moms and dads, uncles and aunts, neighbors and friends who will take what you’ve given them and change the whole world.

    If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

    Gardening a Child’s Life: harvesting the sweetest fruit on the planet!

    My daughter-in-law has always had a passion for gardening. This year she’s gone all out, studying, planning and growing what’s termed a square foot garden in multiple raised boxes built by her hubby. 

    The more I reflect on raising my five children and the parenting role I’ve played, the more it reminds me of gardening.

    According to statistics, many of you reading this article love nothing more than to have your hands in the dirt, working away in your landscaped beds of bushes and flowers or fruit and vegetable gardens. Time flies as you plan, purchase, dig, and plant your living plot of ground, envisioning the possibilities of beautiful blossoms and luscious fruit. You carefully place protective shields to safeguard against critters and frost so your ‘babies’ will be safe when unattended. Laying in bed at night, you worry that perhaps the storm that’s predicted might beat too hard upon your tender shoots, and you breathe out a prayer, yes, even for your treasured vines and veggies.

    Day-by-day care is demanded; watering can’t be left for ‘whenever.’ Weeds are sneaky and relentless. Flowers are fragile – each requires a particular approach. Time will be your friend . . . and foe. Miracle-Gro can support your best efforts, but no magic exists to fast-forward your progress. Asparagus takes five long years to yield a harvest, tomatoes appear in mere months. At times, you feel your work never ends, and yet, it’s the work you love most!

    Parenting parallels each of these principles, wouldn’t you agree? To be perfectly honest, I’m no green thumb. As much as I love the smell of soil and  the satisfaction of fresh cut flowers, I just don’t have much interest in applying myself to gardening the earth, but I’m passionate about gardening the next generation – those eternal souls with inestimable potential who will tower over us like giant oaks one day soon.

    I believe it’s up to us parents to garden our children’s lives in such a way that they, too, flourish like a productive field. They should yield abundant fruit and ample provision to share with the masses, becoming a blessing to the world around them. How do we cultivate and work this organic land of our children’s lives, realizing the possibility residing within them? 

    I don’t know about you, but at our house we’ve had to continually hoe, fertilize, and prune our living plants. At times, intent upon going their own way, they had to be pulled taut for a season, snug against the standard of our values, just like a young tree staked and bound with thick rubber cord. The attention it takes to nurture these ‘saplings’ is all-consuming. Their neglect is unforgiving.

    How many parents give long, hard thought, year after year, to their winter bulbs, spring seedlings, and summer harvests, but give such little consideration to nurturing the garden of their children’s hearts? Proverbs 29:15b sadly reminds us, “. . . a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” How many youngsters, left to themselves, never had their soil carefully tended or their multiple and diverse weeds addressed? What we overlook today in our offspring will surely produce a crop we’re forced to deal with later. That little seed of stubbornness and rebellion we repeatedly ignore, will grow and multiply if left long enough. The end result will be an unmanageable teenager who was left unrestrained and ‘had his way’ as a preschooler.

    This reminds me of a blackberry vine, common to our region in the Pacific Northwest. Seemingly innocent and laden with tiny blossoms and prized fruit, it cunningly begins to work its way into and around anything within its proximity. Before long, our city government is found spending loads of taxpayer money to destroy these prolific, thorn-covered, resistant, weed ropes which have become intolerable nuisances to our yards, streets, and parks. No matter how cute and sweet they once were, they’ve become a nightmare. Children in their growing-up years have the same potential if left to themselves. How much public money is spent in our cities nationwide to manage the transgressions of our youth?

    When I look upon the condition of multitudes of adults today, I grieve over the harmful character flaws which have overtaken these human gardens: laziness, self-indulgence, moodiness, self-centeredness, stinginess, addictions, unhealthy eating patterns, and more. Each of these vices had a root that could have been addressed so many years ago.

    Work your land while time is on your side. When children are young and flexible like tender shoots, it’s relatively easy to stake those vines and adjust their growth pattern. But when we ignore their offenses, saying, “They’re just kids,” “Boys will be boys,” or “It’s child’s play,” we fail to see their faults as a snare, a deadly pattern which we are encouraging and actually training into our young plantings. Proverbs 19:18 urges us to, “discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” How detrimental these flaws will become to our children if left to flourish! If only we could see the end result from our patterns of parenting, rather than live for the moment. 

    Weeding in our homes may be left undone because it’s hard, unpleasant work, and weeds are persistent. This human gardening requires exhaustive patience and face-to-face interaction if we’re going to see valuable character qualities blossom and sweet fruit borne. We must engage until harvest. At season’s end, one can wish for something they failed to nurture, but to no avail. “I’m longing for fresh corn, oh I want corn,” they say, but did they plant corn? “No,” is the reply. “There wasn’t time.” Then there will be no corn.

    I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds,” Pro. 24:30-31

    My daughter in-law is already harvesting a bounty of beautiful organic produce. It’s been exhilarating for her to see the sprouts become viable, edible ingredients for her families’ dinner menu!

    Their project’s value is multiplied because it’s a family affair, with their young children learning and participating in the process as well. Observing their garden grow is a beautiful phenomenon not just for their family, but for all of us who visit and experience it as well! Their hard work is paying off and is a blessing to so many. 

    Isn’t this our desire for our ‘human gardens’ as well? We all long to raise healthy, hearty youngsters who will impact the world around them. Our hard work will pay off and our children will be a blessing – even a beautiful phenomenon – if we faithfully attend to these, our miraculous human plants.

    Want MORE? Grab my FREE gift: 7 Simple Steps to Raising Happy Kids Who Persevere (while building team spirit in YOUR home) by clicking HERE. 

    When the Test Comes

    I opened my Merriam-Webster Dictionary app and the word of the day, CRUCIBLE, flashed at me in psychedelic neon. (I made that last part up.)

    OK, it may well be in black and white print, but the effect on my brain was the same. Its definition, ‘A severe test‘ enhanced my reactionary impulse. OMG.

    Such a cruel word, it seemed out of place, like WT____?!?  Couldn’t you have chosen more carefully, Merriam or Webster?! Which of you made such a blunder, causing such discomfort and creating a foreboding on the masses looking to you for fresh vocabulary insights today?

    You could have gone with, say, SERENE? (tranquil) or perhaps, EUPHORIC? (elated) or maybe, TRIUMPH? (victory), but no, you had to go there??

    To the place we all have to live and dwell for extended periods of time throughout our lives, tapping our fingers waiting, wondering, crying “UNCLE!” begging out, bleeding, commiserating, asking “why?” and wondering, what if…when, how??!

    And so, as our eyes light upon this word of the day we are reminded of our severe tests and their outcomes.

    Perhaps it was a diagnosis. A marriage #fail? A financial crisis? A child gone astray? A career mishap? A church disaster?

    None of us participating in this insane marathon called the human race is exempt. It’s universal, right? We’ve all tasted of intense trials, been encapsulated in our extended-play ‘crucibles;’ those lonely, isolated, panic rooms of pain, torture even, awaiting the end of the story, looking to see a better view from the other side.

    And how did we react?

    Did we, with our life choices, attitudes and investments, ramp up the intensity of our suffering, or, with self-control, wisdom and patience, grow and abound with a bittersweet sense of destiny wrapped around our circumstances?

    Are we proud of our responses? Did we make it out unscathed? What did fate decide?

    Did we learn, did we change and grow, did we come out better for the ugly trial?? We may indeed limp from the battle, but do we taste of the bitterness of vitriol as we reflect? We’ve lived in the fiery furnace, but do we still smell like smoke?

    Merriam, Webster, whichever one of you chose today’s text, you will have touched many a tender nerve and doused some cold water in surprised faces this fine day. You didn’t choose neutrality; you won’t be ignored, skimmed over or easily forgotten.

     

    Well done.

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    Thank you for reading! Want more?? Here you go…

    Denise Mira KNOWS that parents are the superheroes of our culture and she can’t shut up about it! If you’re hungry for MORE in your parenting, grand parenting, midlife parenting and all things LIFE, sign up here and grab your free gift – Denise is always brewing up something good to give away to her VIP subscribers to not only inspire but lift you higher!