the nest

the nest

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The National Anthem

The other day we went to the local Memorial Day Parade.  It's a sweet small town parade and reminds me how proud I am to live in the U.S. despite the many things we can't seem to get right.  The very fact that we are free to disagree and protest makes it a great place to live.

In college I had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe with my college choir - the summer of 1988, before the Berlin Wall came down.  We learned the National Anthems of each county we visited, not realizing that the citizens of those countries were not allowed to sing them.  I remember vividly our concert in Estonia when we began their National Anthem and within the first few notes, the audience was on their feet singing and weeping with us.  These songs were never on our program, so it was always a surprise to our hosts.  As a 20 year old student from the Midwest, I was stunned.   On our return from what was a life changing trip, I was watching a baseball game on t.v. with my Dad and was outraged when the camera scanned the stands and there were people sitting and laughing and goofing around while OUR National Anthem was sung; even making fun of it as they screeched out my favorite note ~ the one that always chokes me up ~  I had never felt such indignation in my young life!  I don't remember exactly what my Dad said, but it was something to the effect of "we are free to not only sing out National Anthem, but to ignore it or mock it as well."

There are so many things about our country that make me nutty right now.  I'm still so very proud to live in a country that, for now, allows me to speak my mind.  If I don't like something, it is my right to step up and work to change it.

That first concert is why I will always vote.
It is why I will always stand respectfully and sing our National Anthem.
It is why I will continue to teach my children to respect the laws of our land or work to change the ones they disagree with.  

It is why I will continue to be proud that I am an American even when I am disappointed or angered by the inability of our leaders to balance the need to protect our freedoms while caring for those who can't care for themselves.

Oh say can you see...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being a Creative Entrepreneur...

Having been self-employed for almost 12 years now, I find myself wondering once in a while what it would be like to have a boss who gave me tasks to complete with deadlines and clear instructions of what my "job" is.  There are times when the the idea of having someone tell me what to do and how to do it sounds so appealing!!!
I think that I'm over my current longing for this kind of structure though.  There's a reason I've been self-employed for so long and maybe if I stop fighting it and embrace it I'll figure out what "it" is.  There are huge advantages to being my own boss and from a purely practical standpoint, I've done pretty well while being available to raise my children.
I recently came across a book called "The Creative Entrepreneur" by Lisa Sonora Beam.  I'm intrigued by it.  It's a DIY guide to visual journaling as an alternative to the more traditional ways that small businesses are guided.  I've never actually had a "business plan" because any template or guide I've ever found to creating one has been so linear and I'm not a linear thinker.  I'm interested to see how the process she guides the reader through might help me focus my quest for clarity about my purpose in life.
Lately I've been running into, finding time for, crossing paths with,  or otherwise having conversations with a number of women of varying backgrounds and ages, who all seem to be so wise.  I've been thinking about how we as women could be (should be) guides for each other through life.  Women have so much power and so much wisdom, but we don't own it or share it the way we should.   I see posts about parenting choices or overhear conversations about the same and it often seems to be adversarial in nature.  An "If you don't do it my way..." kind of thing.  I get this and I don't.  I understand how it can be difficult to talk about topics as personal as birthing, breastfeeding or not, sleep sharing or not, with someone who disagrees with you.  What I don't get is why can't we "talk" about it?  Why can't it be a conversation instead of an argument?  We just might learn things from each other even if it is only a deeper commitment to the choices we have made because we've had to explain them.
As a woman and a mother of girls, I want to share the wisdom I've gained over the years with my daughters and anyone who wants to hear it.  Keeping the things I've learned including the mistakes I've made to myself seems selfish, but it seems equally narcissistic to think that anyone really cares about my experiences...
"Wise Woman for hire"... I wonder if there is any market for that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

little children~little problems big children~big problems

I miss having babies and toddlers.  I really do.  When my children were babies and toddlers and even preschoolers, I could nurse them, snuggle them, sing them a song, love them, and whatever hurt them would go away.
I wish I had learned early what battles are really worth fighting.  I wasted time fussing about things that really don't matter ~ I hope I paid attention to what was really important most of the time.
The problems of "big" children can't be soothed away by a Mama.  Those children have to muddle through themselves.  They have to deal with heartache and pain, life changing choices and existential angst.  I have to stay out of the way as they process the challenges of becoming an adult while making sure they KNOW I am there to hold them when they need to rest or vent or cry. 
When I wrote my first post a while back and talked about pushing my little birds out of the nest, my very wise father told me this. "You know that when eaglets leave the nest, the parent flies below them in case they need to be lifted up."
I have great models for launching children~ my mom and dad did an amazing job of giving us wings and allowing us to fly as far as we needed to.  I have a sister in CA, a brother in Moscow, Russia, I'm in CT and my other sister is in MN near Mom and Dad, but started her adult life on the East Coast as well.
Sometimes I wonder how they really feel about us being so far away...  They say "It gives us wonderful places to visit!", but imagining my children so far away some day is difficult.

But that's our job.  We have to hold them and love them and then send them on their way.

Until they need us to catch them and lift them up to try again.

I miss the days of babies.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mama love...

The last 2 weeks, I've been absorbed in the process of fostering and then ultimately giving up a very large, very sweet, very protective Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff).  Her name was Daisy and she outweighed my teenage daughters.  I'm still not sure what compelled me to even consider taking her in... I've never been a "big" dog person, and with my children, husband and the dog we do have, my hands are plenty full!
She was sweet, beautiful and her eyes looked so sad.  Her owner died suddenly and somehow she ended up in our care.  Our "nest" is pretty big and so why not?
Daisy quickly attached herself to me almost to the exclusion of the rest of the family.  She was fine with the girls and after a few challenges at the door, was fine with Jeff.  Our last family member to meet her was son Andy who came home from his first year away at college.  They didn't do so well.  Not sure what the story was, but suffice it to say that we decided quickly that the nest wasn't big enough for the both of them and with 19 years in our life, Andy won.

We said goodbye to Daisy after 3 weeks and I cried.  Not sure if it was because I fell in love with her or because I couldn't make the commitment to do the intensive training that would be needed to help a dog of her breed and nature accept our crazy life.  Doesn't matter, but I wept.  She loved me and needed me and I couldn't make it better for her.

Mother's Day 2012


 Since the day I became a  mother, my heart has been open ~ I want to love up anyone or anything that needs me.  Setting boundaries, or just letting go, have been difficult lessons for me to learn.

I have had great teachers though...

My Mom is a treasure! She has always had a funny way of hearing what I needed to say and then moving the conversation on and away from the drama.  She didn't ignore or diminish my thoughts and fears, but she didn't let me dwell too long on the crisis of the day.  I try every day to channel her with my girls, but I'm a work in progress ~ I still get sucked into the drama too easily.

I'm lucky enough to have not one, but two Mother's-in-law!  My children have benefited by having the love of three Grandmother's and I have had the support and love of three wonderful women to guide me!
Jeff's Mom has taught me so much over the years about being a mother and wife ~ She has been patient and sassy with me and overall has appreciated how very much I love and cherish her son and her grandchildren.
Jeff's Step-mom has been a sweet bonus!  Over the years, she has supported my mothering choices and nurtured my need for girl time.  While the other mother's have sometimes openly disagreed or challenged some of my choices, she has always been clear that I know my children best and she knows I will make the right decisions for them.

I've learned about mothering from so many others, it's hard to touch on them all, but here are a few...

*Woodbury, MN neighborhood Mama's.  I was so lucky to be surrounded by strong, smart women as a girl.  They were friends of my Mom, mother's of my girlfriends, and women in our church.  They were my "other mothers" and always opened their arms when I needed them.  They, along with my many Aunts, taught me that I could trust other grown-ups and I was never alone even when I needed space from my own Mama.  All of these women showed me that there were many options for being a mother and a woman.  Staying at home, working part time, working full time....  I learned I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I was willing to work for it.

*Our pediatrician taught me that while books and advice are good, the most important thing is to listen to my children and trust my instincts.

*My sisters and girlfriends have taught me that there are so many different ways to give birth and nurture life ~ there is no room for judging, we need to love and support each other even when we make different choices.  They also taught me to always have chocolate.... and to remember the phrase "This too shall pass."

*My three sweet children have taught me the most.  From the moment they were born, they have taught me how to be their mother.
Andrew has been working for 19 years to teach me how to just relax.  "It's cool Mama..."  I'm a slow learner, but I think there are moments when I breathe and know that he is going to be just fine.
Katy came into the world like a dynamo and has always been clear about what she needs from me.  As an infant, that was constant body contact and nursing.  She was a sling baby who taught me that if I listened to her and met her needs I could move on with life.  She taught me more than anyone that ignoring someone's needs just makes those needs stronger, but will eventually squash that someone's spirit.  Better to meet the need so they can move on with life.  From the moment Katy decided she was ready to venture out into the world at 18 months, she has been the most independent, confident, strong girl I've ever known.  I'm SO VERY PROUD of myself for listening to her as a baby because the long term results are looking fabulous!
Helen is an interesting combination of her siblings and has worked hard to teach me that life is to be lived in the moment ~ why would you focus on cleaning your room when there is a beautiful sunny backyard that is calling you to come dance???  As my "baby" I know she will have many more lessons to teach me over the next several years and I hope I'm a good student.

The latest surge of media attention directed towards parenting choices has been both frustrating and enlightening.  So much has been written about the Time Magazine cover, and the "radical" parenting methods of famous Mama's.  I've decided that I'm not going there.
I'm going to focus on loving up the Mama's I know.  I don't agree with all of them.  I feel sad for some of them.  A few of them frustrate me.  But I love and honor all of them for the very powerful work they do raising their precious children.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

musings on the nest

I've had so much activity in my head lately that finding a focus to blog about has been impossible.  Maybe if I just meander through my thoughts I'll find the focus. 
I started the week finishing a book called "The Descendants."  I haven't seen the movie yet and am not sure I will for a while.  It was an interesting book, but didn't really hook me until the last hour.  That bit focused on the father and his daughters waiting for the mother to pass away. 
I've only "watched" someone die once.  It was also a mother and wife who was leaving her husband and children behind.  She was a dear friend and it was time - the cancer was too persistent and wasn't going anywhere.  The last few days were difficult, but I was so absorbed in "being there" for her husband, who is a dear friend, and his children that I could distance myself from the reality. 
Reading about someone else deteriorating in a similar way brought back the events of 4 years ago like a wave pulling me under and I cried as I read.  I've been exhausted ever since.
How did families of past generations cope when death came more frequently to both parents and children?  Illnesses, accidents, wars...  There are so many things we think we can control, but aside from the benefits of modern medicine and an increased awareness of safety, we ultimately have no more control over death than they did.  We all die - it's just a matter of when and how.
I read the book for my book club and at our discussion, we ended up talking about keeping children safe.  How do you keep them safe without sheltering them?  Most of the other women in the group have younger children than I do, so when we talk about raising them, I'm often looking back rather than where I am currently.  So many awful things can happen to our young ones... They can get on the school bus and it could go over an embankment.  They could walk to school or a friends house and be snatched.  They could get to school and be offered drugs or alcohol or worse yet, killed by a tormented classmate. 
While we like to think we can protect them from the world by building fences and giving them phones earlier and earlier to keep in touch, and hovering over them, we can't keep them safe from everything and we shouldn't.  In many situations, natural consequences will be way more powerful than any consequences we might impose.  THEY have to learn how to keep themselves safe, and we need to trust them (and God) to be aware of the world while not being frightened by it. 
"Into the Woods" is a favorite musical in our house and a song I love and am always moved by, is "Children Will Listen". 

How do you say to your child in the night?  
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white 
How do you say it will all be all right  
When you know that it might not be true?  
What do you do?
Careful the things you say 
Children will listen  
Careful the things you do  
Children will see and learn  
Children may not obey, but children will listen 
Children will look to you for which way to turn  
To learn what to be  
Careful before you say "Listen to me"  
Children will listen

We can talk all we want and hover and shelter and discipline, but at the end of the day we have to trust that THEY will be alright.  We need to watch what WE say and do as much or more than what THEY say and do.  That's what they learn.  From day one they watch us.  They learn trust when we meet their needs.  They learn empathy when they see us acknowledging and supporting others (and them).  If we Hate, they will Hate.  If we Love, they will Love.  If we ignore others in need, so will they.  If we serve - they will learn service.  If we choose to live a life full of love and joy, they will see the path.  We can't make them choose it.  We can't hang onto them and pull them down the path after us.  We have to trust that they have learned what we wanted them to learn so when they are choosing their path, it's one we can accept and embrace even if it is different than the one we "saw" them going down.  Be careful what you say and do - children are listening and watching.