Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

failure

You know when you get that slight tickle in the back of your throat and you’re certain it’s the precursor to a long sinus/cold/allergy situation? I get that same feeling when a stressful week for the kids is on the horizon, except there’s no tickle, it’s more like the sharp, piercing pain from stepping on stray legos. 

There’s a good chance every week is taxing and cumbersome when you’re a teenager these days, so I make it a routine to cross my fingers and pray for success…or failure…both foster growth, one just has more tears. 

I rejuvenated this post: Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail from a few years ago on how my kids mastered failure.

Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail

The folding. The flying. The fixing.

After each failed flight I taught them to tweak it. Adjust it. Change it.

To try again.

They used paper clips, tape, rubber bands, light paper, heavy paper, newspaper, tissue paper.

The INTENTION was to make the plane fly.

If it didn’t work, they made another plane.

They learned there’s no guarantee for success.

Sure it was small. But they tested, they measured.

They learned what each fold was for and why they made it.

No score was being kept.

They learned what uncertainty and failure felt like and danced with it.

They were invested in finding the flight.

They learned the worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work.

They still tweaked and fixed.

They learned when you care enough you will fail and fail and fail again.

It’s their airplane. Their flight. Their crash. Their landing. 

But they were curious and hungry.

Let them fold. Let them fail.

Let them create. 

After all…the creative mind who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

Here’s a great article for more information on how to succeed by failing:

How to Help Kids Learn to Fail

Only through trial and error can children become resilient adults

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

The moment you realize you’re on your daughter’s group text…

As I sifted through my email today, unsubscribing from Groupon, Domino’s Pizza and DSW for the 37th time, I heard a ping on my phone. I glanced down and saw I was added to a group chat.

Let’s see…is it a bunch of moms from the PTA meeting last night? Uh oh, what did I volunteer for? Maybe it’s the 8th-grade dance committee.

Clearly, my choices are limited and telling.

Wait…the top of the text said APUSH…where have I heard that…APUSH…APUSH…APUSH.

Oh! AP United States History. That’s right, teenagers are “SO TIRED” they’ve given all their classes nicknames. APUSH, AP Psych, AP Calc, AP Bio, LIT.

Clever.

Suddenly, “APUSH me OVER A CLIFF!” with a smiley emoji lit up the screen.

Now that’s funny, I thought. Oh good, it’s a fun group.

Maybe I signed up for updates for Cora’s history class?

After a few minutes, I realized I didn’t recognize anyone on the list UNTIL I saw Cora’s name float across the screen.

Uh Oh. It turns out I was inadvertently added to the APUSH study group text. What happened was this, back in middle school, when Cora was “the only one in the ENTIRE world” without a phone, her friends used my phone number to call her. So she was listed as: “Cora’s Mom” which of course was my phone number.

Cora told me as she was laughing about this with her friends at school, another long-time friend who used to call me “Cora’s Mom” said, “don’t delete that number, she’s a good resource!”

I love being “Cora’s Mom”.

About 30 seconds later I received a message:

You have been removed from the group. 

Well I guess I was APUSHED out…good thing, that class is WAY too much work. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Cokie Roberts: a mom & legend

A few years ago, I was volunteering at 90.1 WABE, in Atlanta, during an NPR spring fundraiser. I glanced up from my seat and spotted Cokie Roberts leaving after an interview. Without hesitation, I quickly placed my phone on unavailable, pulled off my headset and dashed over to say hello.

She was absolutely lovely.

We spoke for a moment about Washington, DC, and the coincidence that we were both members of Blessed Sacrament Church off Chevy Chase Circle. In fact, Father D’Silva, a tender-hearted priest who married Justin and I also married her children.

As she picked up her bags to go, I asked an elderly gentleman who was exiting the building, to take our picture. His hand wiggled when he held my phone WAY out in front of him pointing it more toward the sky than at us, but somehow he managed to get a nice blurry photo.

I was elated. 

It’s been almost four months since Cokie Roberts died from breast cancer complications, but the legend of her spirit, her unwavering support of women and her passion for politics still grace the halls of the U.S. Capitol. Equally valued was her voice on being a mother and raising children.

In her book, We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters she says,

Caretaking–that’s the common thread that runs through these stories. No matter what else women are doing, we are also “mothering” –taking care of somebody or something, and, for the most part, doing it joyously. That’s what women have been doing from the beginning and, I believe, will continue to do. I think we’ve been doing it awfully well for a very long time.”

Cokie: a mom and a legend.

I keep her picture on the desktop of my computer to remind me what a true model of poise, integrity, and professionalism looks like.

It was an honor to meet such a stellar woman and as a mom and “writer” I value what she stood for and cherish that brief moment she took to chat with me.

IN THE WORDS OF COKIE ROBERTS:

A lot of women have come to understand that you can’t just show up and say I’m unhappy, you have to then go out and do something.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Once the teenage years hit, there’s no pause button

It wasn’t long ago when I could still pick up Zavier, our youngest. He’d nestle his head in the cozy crook of my neck and we’d sway back and forth savoring the moment.

Then one sunny day after picking him up from baseball practice, I looked into the rearview mirror and there it was…adolescence.

Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.

It looks a lot like the top of a teenager’s head. Yes, all I could see in that little rectangular reflection was a blue screen shining up at my son’s face and the curved top of a baseball cap.

Where was my little guy who would yell out the make and model of every car that passed and guessed how long it would take for every light to turn green? Why wasn’t he singing loudly or recounting his practice play by play?

He was changing by the minute. One second we’re holding hands coming from the bus stop talking about recess triumphs and the next he can’t wait to start weight lifting class and drive to high school with his brother and sister. Ugh.

Honestly, Zavier is a teenager who is quite independent. But he’s still just a kid. I mean, out of habit (and my keen sense of smell), I still have to remind him showering is not optional. And like a broken record, I futilely encourage flossing and turning clothes right side out. Luckily his love of play supersedes all. He still asks me to be his quarterback, play Yahtzee and read together…I’ll hold onto those moments as long as possible.

Yet time just ticks by without even asking. So as I file the snuggly moments away in my heart, I remind myself to make every minute count. Zavier and I may see nose to nose now, but I still get my hugs — that’s usually when I whisper…”time to shower”. 

Here’s a great blurb I found from The Center for Resilient Leadership. I love the way it describes adolescence:

Adolescence is a period of transformation, not unlike a chrysalis changing into a butterfly. If you have never seen this process, it can be painstakingly difficult to watch. The butterfly gradually breaks free of his cocoon, pulling and pushing, stretching and contracting for what seems like an eternity before he finally emerges. If a benevolent onlooker decides to help the process along, the butterfly will likely die, because it is only through the struggle of metamorphosis that he gains the strength to survive on his own.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

4 Things I learned today

Sometimes we have to peek in between the lines in our life stories and learn from even the smallest moments. Here are my four life lessons for today…

LESSON 1: It’s true, I really do have to put on my glasses so I can hear better.

LESSON 2: If your child wants to change a class, never underestimate the power of self-advocacy:

Day three of the new semester and for the 37th time our son reminded me how much he REALLY wants to switch classes from Family and Consumer Science – (the souped-up name for Home Economics) to PE. As you may have read in The lost art of writing, my sage advice to him was to write a letter (email in the case). So he crafted a note to his counselor stating his case, succinctly saying, PE would give him a break from having seven academic classes and the respite, “would let me reset and do better in school.”

Bam! Self-advocacy in action.

LESSON 3:  Turn off the stove before you go outside to pick up dog poop and/or play with the dogs:

After taking my son to school, I pictured myself sitting down, having a cup of tea and writing for a stint. Ha! Then reality hit when I opened the door and our dogs barked incessantly pleading to go play fetch. Honing my ability to multi-task, I grabbed a few empty Target bags (best for home-made pooper scooper bags) and threw tennis balls for about 35 minutes, while the dogs zoomed back and forth. After they were both somewhat tired, they darted inside and I smelled that burning scent that presents itself one too many times in my kitchen. Thinking it was the rice I overcooked last night, ugh…I realized I had left the kettle on for the tea and the water inside had evaporated leaving our vibrant red teapot a smoky charcoal black. Not my best morning.

LESSON 4: Buy an OXO BREW Anniversary Edition Uplift Tea Kettle, Brushed Stainless Steel or any OXO teapot!

Following my not so bright moment, I decided to call the OXO Company and ask them about their warranty policy on the OXO reddish-black teapots. I let them know the paint was chipping off the due to it being on for too long. After sending them a picture of the blackened teapot, they said we would receive a new one in 7-10 days. What a great company. It pays to ask about warranties.

I hope you learn something from even the smallest, fleeting moments of your day.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

The lost art of writing

I recently watched an episode of Ellen with Henry Winkler as a guest. He’s a lovely man. Kind and soft-spoken. Simply said, he’s more Arthur than Fonzie in the “Arthur Fonzarelli” character he played on the TV show Happy Days. He’s the side of Fonzie on Happy Days who was sweet and bashful when he thanked “Mrs. C” for dinner, as she endearingly served him more mashed potatoes and called him Arthur. (For anyone born after the year 2000, Henry Winkler is “Barry” on Arrested Development).

What I learned in the quick interview with Henry Winkler is his love for writing fan mail. “I think if you see a performance like Sam Rockwell as Fosse [in ‘Fosse/Verdon’], you have to write a letter…if you see Patricia Arquette in ‘Escape From Dannemora’, you have to write a letter. I write fan letters.” Yes, he writes real-find a stamp and put the letter in the mailbox with the flag up- mail. And more importantly, he writes because he wants to let someone know he admires them. He’s just a good guy.

Back in the ’80s, I was a big fan of the TV show Silver Spoons, a time when goofy kids like me called Ricky Shroeder “The Ricker”. After unearthing the show’s coveted address in a

rick.jpg

Teen Beat magazine in our school library, I wrote my first piece of fan mail to Ricky. Months later, I received an autographed (stamped!) picture, which, when your 12, was life-changing. Unfortunately, if you google “The Ricker” today, as I just did you’ll realize he didn’t pan out to be an upstanding guy. Nonetheless, at the time, I wrote a letter.

I come from a generation of letter writers. Starting with my mom. Once, when I was about 11, the cashier at Sears was abrupt with my mom when she pulled out her coupons…so, mom asked the woman her name, went home and wrote a letter to Sears. When mom didn’t want to receive the ten donation envelopes every month from St. Anne’s Catholic Church, she put pen to paper and let them know she and my dad donate quarterly. If she enjoyed a restaurant? Letter. Strongly disagreed with the editorial in the Tribune? Letter. Even today, after reading an article in her Gluten-Free Magazine, she wrote a letter telling the editor about the gluten-free hosts she and her dear friend Toni make for their church so mom can receive communion every Sunday.

Writing a letter is most certainly a lost art. Receiving a letter (other than bills) is always a joy. Just yesterday I received a thank you note from our family friend Connie. She wrote the kindest note thanking us for our Christmas card and my detailed update on our family.

Connie just turned 87 and is faithful to the written word. She sends our kids birthday cards with crisp dollar bills inside and a handwritten message in cursive that throws their brains into shock. She’s a gem.

So whether you’re thanking someone for the Instapot you probably won’t use, wishing your parents a happy anniversary, or opining about an editorial in the newspaper, write a letter. If you don’t, not to worry, Henry Winkler and mom have their pens ready.

Thanks for reading, it means a lot to me. 🙂 

Need help getting started on your thank-you notes? Here’s a guide:  How to write a thank-you note in 5 easy steps.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Find a kitten, pick it up…

Sometimes it seems life is a blurry, distant event seen through the lens of an iPhone while the meaningful, real-time, share-with-my-parents-moments are the ones I commit to memory.

Here’s one of my favorite most recent memories with Zavier, the youngest in our sweet brood:

One summer day, Zavier and I went to Home Depot in pursuit of paint colors for the kid’s bedrooms. He was given the task of selecting a color for Cora’s room since she declared, “I have too many decisions to make! Someone just PLEASE pick a color for me!” Zavier obliged and was ready for the challenge.

As we walked past the pallets of ferns and rows of grills we suddenly saw a kitten dart directly in front of a huge pickup truck. “We have to…” I said. Zavier replied, “Of course we do…I’ll go look under the grills.” Two hours later, after wading through the perennials in search of those sweet green kitten eyes, we caught the little guy…and along with a few new friends, took him to the vet and found him a home. In true character, Zavier was patient, kind and loving. And now for some reason, he feels he needs to set out “at least an hour” to go to Home Depot.

Yes, this is just another moment. Not caught on video, just logged in our memories. We did, however, take a quick snapshot of the little guy and later picked out a trending gray color for Cora’s room.

So today, peek around the lens of your phone and celebrate the real world, it’s full of remarkable moments.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Holy Saturday…then and now…

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #40

As Holy Week wraps up, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Typically we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, with a few dishes thrown in to mix it up. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode motorcycles, named her bird “Bonita” and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp slanted nose as her. She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs from a Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad so tiny, it was on the verge of being a really dry Gazpacho soup. It was like a game of I Spy with little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and other minuscule items that even back then my keen 10-year-old eyesight couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, red chili (in lieu of gravy) and the other usual Thanksgiving/Easter suspects. Another dish that was a hit was mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a dad favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a one-hit wonder, or rather a once a year wonder.

I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year. Otherwise, it’s “overuse syndrome”.

Once, I was volunteering at NPR and a talk show host said she loved my shirt. Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. And so it happened, I was immediately struck with “overuse syndrome”. I wore the heck out of that blouse. So much that one of my students at the time probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

On Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s, Dad would remind us that mass “would be a long one”. Typically, he would say one of the seven readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper.

Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside St. Anne’s Church.

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one” and I really loved that mass.

One Easter weekend, after Holy Saturday Mass, we went to visit my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent. I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups it seemed all pizza joints use.

Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary together every day. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary.

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in school during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Packed calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps when there are some. But it’s all priority-based.

Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate or serving at a homeless shelter, maybe even blogging.

Blogging for 40 days isn’t a lark. Nor is parenting, or being a woman, a daughter or sister.

What we choose to do with our 40 days is up to us. Will it make a difference?

We pray it will. If I could pass God on a little Post-It about my blog I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this flash in the pan life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much.

Amen.

My humble thanks for reading.

MENTAL EMOTIONAL PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKOUT: WALK. PRAY. REPEAT.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Beyond Bunnies: A profile

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #39

Are we Easter people living in a Good Friday world? Here’s a profile of a must-read article:

In an interview with NPR titled Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning Of Easter Season, Anne Lamott discusses this idea originally penned by author Barbara Johnson. “Well, it’s the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition,” Lamott says. “And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

It makes me think Lent has a way of flagging what we overuse, underdo and ignore. It makes us stare sacrifice in the face and see who blinks first. 

The interview is profound and telling, reminding all of us we are here in this life for a quick minute. Ash Wednesday kicks us in the rear and reminds us we are indeed – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – it is up to us to grow far beyond ourselves, past our worries and merge onto the road of joy and mercy.

Spiritual Workout: Say these Holy Week prayers, inspired by Anne Lamott:

  • Help me to see my own darkness and quit pretending it doesn’t matter.

  • Help me to know how very loved I am, despite my own protests to the contrary.

  • And help me to understand that running the universe is not my job.

Workout: 25 Burpees, 25 push-ups, repeat