In this time of Divisiveness, don’t forget who YOU are

It is the Lenten Season and I am trying to be good and have daily devotion. Even though I work for a religious business (a church camp), I have to admit that, sometimes, I fall short of reading the Bible daily. I converse with God daily and I try to be a good listener, but the education component is sometimes missing-except during this season.

Today, my devotion took me back to my upbringing.

My dad was a small business owner. I was raised in a small/mid-sized city and I was sure that everyone knew who my father was (silly child!) What that did for me was to help keep me on the straight and narrow. (http://www.co-z-aire.com/)

I didn’t want to do anything that would cause shame to my family or in any way impact my father being able to do business. I was so sure that my actions might impact my dad being able to have customers. I may have been very naive, but it was something I always thought about when I had a choice to make; ‘How will this affect the family name? Will Dad lose business if I do this, or that?’

Today, I was reading about being part of the family of God. It made me think about what I do daily. Do I think ‘How will my actions affect my Godly family? Will Dad (God) lose business if I do this, or that?’ I will have to honestly say that I do not always think in those terms.

I am not a bad person but I could always be better.

Yesterday, my son had me take a survey to “determine” my political temperament. Where did I fit on the political strata? The questions were very black & white and very polarizing. I answered honestly and I think my son was surprised that I was almost smack-dab in the middle of the fascist/libertarian & right/left quadrants.

circle UM logo  When I take “what are you?” political tests, I always rank as a conservative Republican. If I were to take a religious test, I would be right where I am supposed to be. As a United Methodist (click and learn more about the UM Church) , I am allowed to have my own beliefs and still feel confident in my political views. You see, the United Methodist Church is made up of all peoples. And studies do show that over 50% of church members are conservative but over 50% of the pastors are liberal (I do not have exact percentages but you can read this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/05/on-the-political-leanings-of-methodists/483683/ )

I think my son was surprised at the results. I told him that I try to see all points of view and try to be compassionate and understanding. But there are times when I do not think about my God Family when I do things. I don’t think about how God might look at my actions.

While the majority of people in the United States believe in God, the percentage is dropping – http://www.theharrispoll.com/in-the-news/harris-polls/Americas-Belief-in-God.html . I think it is apparent when you see how violence has escalated, how insensitiveness  has increased and how people are louder, ruder and less kind than in the past. I think that people are hard and combative and not willing to sit across the table and break bread. It seems to have become ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude.

I try not to be that person. But I also know that I need to be more concerned about my God Family and think first how God will react to my actions. Just as I don’t want my children to behave inappropriately, I, as a child of God, need to make sure that I do not behave inappropriately. I need to make sure that my words are loving and not divisive; that I use proper language and not words which are polarizing, degrading or downright tasteless.

Today, I want to be aware of my God Family; that I make sure I do not do anything that would embarrass my Father or take ‘customers’ away from His Business. What a wonderful world we would have if we all just tried to make our family proud.

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In Today’s World, Where do I fit in?

The election is done! The inauguration has happened and yet, people are still wailing and moaning and decrying that ‘This is not my president!’

This past weekend, the women’s march continued to separate our nation. If you didn’t support the march, you’re a Trump supporter (not meant to be a compliment), or against human rights, or uninformed.

Words which, at one time, were derogatory, are now a badge of honor. What has happened to us? What does our future hold when people are fighting so hard to show that they know more than you, or worse, that you know nothing?

Not that a college degree necessarily conveys intelligence, but I have a college degree, many life experiences, common sense and yet, I have had people speak AT me as if I had not a brain in my head. And generally, the people who speak that way to me are of a different political affiliation. Because I chose not to support Hillary Clinton, I am treated as if I am ignorant.

For the record, I am a strong woman, intelligent, well-informed about many things and I chose to not support Hillary Clinton because I viewed her as weak. I chose to not support Hillary Clinton because I believe she gave the sacrament of marriage a bad name when she chose to turn her head to her husband’s continued philandering. I chose not to support her because she supported a man who abused his authority and denied having sex with a White House intern.

I think there was a recent incident where a television CEO stepped down for sexual harassment, not sexual activity, but words! I am not condoning what this CEO did (it was very wrong) but he received a much harsher punishment than Bill Clinton. Some may say, ‘Well, that was years ago!’ You are correct, but Hillary Clinton remained married and publicly supported her husband when allegations were purported and his affairs continued.

I also chose not to support Hillary Clinton because I feared government would continue to brainwash people by offering them ‘the fish’, instead of teaching them to fish.

I believe government has worked to make people dependent on government support.

I believe that people should work hard to be independent of government handouts.

I believe the premise of smaller government.

I believe, that while we need immigration in this country, we need to know who is coming into the country and immigrants should be documented. AND, if you are in the country without going through the proper channels, you are illegal.

I lock my doors at night so people I don’t want in my home, don’t enter without my knowledge. And if you lock the doors to your home or your car, then you too, should want to know who enters our country. If you can honestly say you don’t mind who comes and goes from your home without regard, then maybe you can truthfully say you don’t mind not knowing who comes and goes from our borders.Think about it people!

But where do I fit in to this world? And this is maybe why people don’t think I have a brain in my head…my lifelong dream is to be the best mom, best wife, best housewife that I can be. While my life is not defined by these things, these are very important to me. And that seems to be a rare dream these days.

When I went off to college, my dad said to me, ‘I don’t care if you are going to college to get your MRS degree; one of the big reasons for college is to learn to be independent in a protected atmosphere.’ My mom said to me that it is fine if I want to be a wife and mother but I need an education to fall back on if something should happen and I never marry or my husband dies at a young age.

I met sexual harassment in my younger years when I didn’t get a promotion because I wouldn’t date the boss. I felt the stab of harassment when inappropriate comments were made about my breastfeeding by a superior. I felt betrayed when a supervisor looked at his superiors and blamed me for something that was not my fault. In private, he apologized and in his apology, he told me he wasn’t willing to take the heat, so he threw me under the bus. I left that meeting, called a friend and had another job in a different state before my lunch was over. Did I really want to work for someone like that?

So don’t think that I am uninformed or sheltered. What did I think about these experiences? First of all, I thought the men were idiots! Secondly, I was not scarred for life. I still think these men are idiots but I know that I am in control of my attitude and ultimately, I control my destiny.

In the different jobs I have had, there has not been the opportunity for me to experience unequal pay.Well, maybe, I don’t know, but I have never been unhappy with what I was paid. If I was unhappy, I took my complaint to my superior and presented my case for needing a higher salary. I feel like if you are happy with what you make, what difference does it matter, what other people make? If you were happy with your salary and then found out that someone else makes more, then all of a sudden your aren’t happy? If you were happy before you knew what someone else makes, why does knowing make you unhappy? (I know I am repeating myself. I am confused. If you feel valued and feel your salary is fair then that’s that. If you don’t feel you are getting paid what you deserve, then deal with that. What someone else makes shouldn’t matter. These days, it is pretty easy to find what the going salary is for any given career.)

I spoke with my husband about unequal pay and he has never seen that either, in his career. His career with the state and then in private manufacturing for 20+ years, had both men and women with equal pay for equal qualifications. So I am curious as to what careers, when qualifications are equal-equal, have men making more than women? In this, I can claim inexperience, because I have never seen it.

Remember…my family and home are the most important for me. So I don’t want to be married to my job. I want to look at my supervisor and tell him that my child needs me and I need to leave and take care of my child.

I need to have the flexibility, in my job, to take care of things which can only be done during regular business hours. I am the manager of my home and family. Even though my children are in college, I still schedule their doctor visits; I manage calendars, bill-paying and home cleaning. I am the one who generally handles getting vehicle maintenance done.  I manage the house and manage the family.

You can either pay someone to do those things because you are married to your job, or you have a career which offers flexibility. This may also may mean, you don’t make as much money! That is a trade-off which I am willing to have.

Remember…my family and home are the most important for me. I am married and so my situation may be different from others. I believe that, as a couple, decisions need to be made as to the roles in the home. As a couple, this is the role in which we have agreed; my husband is (kind of) married to his career, which means I take on almost all of the home responsibilities.

That meant that I was the one who stayed up with the kids when they were ill because I did not have to go to the office in the morning. It was my responsibility to get the kids to the bus stop. It was my job to do the grocery and clothing shopping. I was the children’s taxi, not my husband. His job was to make the money, so the home could run smoothly. I took over mowing the lawn until a riding lawn mower was purchased and the kids got old enough to mow. But, when I went to work full-time, outside the home, my husband started helping with household chores. That is what happens when you are married, you work together for the betterment of the family.

I do not believe I have experienced discrimination as a female, to the extent that I feel mistreated, dehumanized and/or devalued. Do I have the intelligence, stamina and ability to become a successful career person? ABSOLUTELY! Is that a goal in my life-ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I am ME! Don’t put me into some generic category and label me because you think you know who I am. I had a man tell me that, as a Republican, I did not believe in the welfare system or environmental causes and that I was all about what I could do for me! When I told him that I volunteered in the schools, and the community, and my church and that I donated money and items to numerous organizations (including my church) and that I recycled and have lived in an energy-efficient home since 1991, his only come back was that churches were awful places (with many expletives in his comments). He could only cuss at me because I was doing more to help my world than he could imagine doing himself. He was all talk and very little action.

You know, in the scheme of things, it doesn’t make much difference how I fit in this world or how other people view my life. Yes, I get frustrated when people try to peg me into their square hole, or don’t try to understand who I am. Yes, I get furious when I see people trying to see around the log in their eye to pluck out the splinter in my eye.

I try to be a good person and as I have gotten older, I have been trying to be more understanding of others and less judgmental. I think sometimes, I am more understanding and more accepting than some people who are trying to get that splinter out of my eye. (I know, that is being judgmental!)

But here is the deal, I only have to justify myself to God, not to my neighbor, the person down the street, or anyone on Facebook. I live my life as honestly and godly as I can and people are just going to have to accept it. If I don’t fit well in this world, maybe it is because I am trying to work towards an eternal life after this one is over, where we will all get along and there will be no need for protests, marches or presidential elections.

 

The Power of a Woman – Part 2

I believe that God puts you in positions, or provides opportunities, for you to learn. Like, for instance, a part breaking on a plane which frees up some time for a person to write a blog.

“I struggle every day with who I am…” those were my words on Monday as I sat in an airport, waiting for my plane to attend a United Methodist National Gathering of Camp and Retreat Leaders. I arrived eight and a half hours later than I was scheduled. I missed the opening worship service, but I found out I did not miss the lesson!

Because I arrived late and missed the first event of the conference, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything else. I was up at 6:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. my time) to attend Morning Watch. I walked the short distance under the Spanish Moss laden trees to the little white chapel. Built in 1880, the small chapel is named Lovely Lane Chapel after the site where the founding of the Conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, MD, took place in 1784. It is significant in the life of the Methodist Church. But today, it was significant for me as it became my chance to move from my past, to the present and into the future. I did not even know that what I wrote yesterday would have such significance today. But that is the way God works.

The air was crisp as I walked towards the chapel. I opened the white-painted door to a small room filled with rich dark woods and beautiful, vibrant-colored stain glass panels. It was warm and welcoming. I was ready for newness.

I had spent much of yesterday, writing, re-writing and reading my blog. I wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to say. It was significant to me. After I was finished and hit the “publish” button, I kept thinking that the blog was not what I had intended.

I had meant to write about the fact that a woman has great power in no matter which position she holds in life. It is the right of a woman to determine her direction in life, whether it is being a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. I wanted to write that my parents had given me the power to decide my fate; I WAS to go to college; I WAS to get an education that would allow me to live on my own if that is what happened in my life; I WAS to have the chance to be independent and that would happen in college. My parents gave me the values and foundation to be whomever I wanted. That is what I meant to write about. I meant to write about the power women have and to not let anyone take that power away, and that power could be defined in many different ways.

That is what I meant to say. But that is not what happened. I cried that I missed my past life. I mourned for the person I was and I lamented my sorrow to the world.

It was actually on my mind as I entered the chapel. And then the pastor stands up to give the message. He cited Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God’s Word Translation says, “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events long ago.” Apparently, that was the Bible verse that was cited in the opening worship service which I had missed.

I was dumbfounded! That verse was speaking to me; God was speaking to me. He was telling me to get over it and feel blessed with the life that I have and am re-creating every day. He had probably been telling me that for quite a while and I was not listening (I just typed lostening. How ironic that I wrote lost because that is what I am/was.)

If I had been at the evening service and heard that verse, I am sure it would not have meant as much to me. I needed to be placed in a position where I allowed myself to have a pity party. I had to put down, in words, my feelings of despair because then, and only then, would it manifest itself into the “aha” moment of this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still own my words. I do miss being “that” person, but there are parts of my childhood and young adulthood that I miss. I do not mourn those times, I have recollections which have shaped who I am today, I must look at the past and take what I did and learned and use it in my present and into my future. I need to quit dwelling on my past and being mournful because dwelling on it makes me sad and I do not want to be a sad person. I want to be a happy person, an inspiring person, a person filled with love for God and family.

God gives us a chance to learn. Sometimes God needs to set things in motion that force someone to look at their life so they can quit dwelling on the past and begin looking towards new things, the future.

For my Morning Watch alone, I am a changed person. I may only say this once, but thank God for my canceled flight.

I believe in God – a confession on my life

I believe in God! I believe that He* is the Master of my life and that, by my belief and acknowledgement of Him, I am blessed. I have always felt that way no matter what was happening in my life. And while I believe that, sometimes it is hard for me to talk/write about. I feel that God inspires me in my writing and when this topic entered my head this morning, frankly, it frightened me. Why you ask, please let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about keeping family secrets and the importance of making sure that the family not be shamed. I also believe that you should be humble, no matter what the circumstances. So in writing this, I am making myself vulnerable. I must have faith that it is God that is inspiring me to write and that I am not being led astray by other forces. So I do write with trepidation but I think this is what I am to do. (Can you feel the hesitation that I have? Imagine me taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out…) Here goes…

As I wrote, I believe in God! I am a faithful person always; I believe in God, always; but I am not a religious person, always. I do not memorize where Bible passages are located in the Bible, although I know many Biblical stories and lessons. Sometimes I forget to say grace. And there are times when I am so tired or pre-occupied that I forget to speak with God daily. I go to church weekly and attend Sunday School and worship services. My husband and I have raised our children in knowing that Sunday is a day that we spend at church and church takes precedence  over sports, or sleep, if they were out a little too late.

To my recollection, I have never said that I hated God or been angry with God. I try to take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame God for my circumstances because I am of the opinion that God lays many paths before me. Based on the path  I choose determines my future. I rely on God to be with me if I make poor choices and available for me when I ask for guidance. I do not attribute my shortcomings to “things” that God “has done” but I do give Him praise when things are going well. Some may ask, “How can you give credit to God but not place blame?” I can’t answer that for anyone else but myself. I have free will to make decisions in my life and I believe that some of my decisions have caused my life to go in directions I did not anticipate.  When I make a wrong choice, God has the opportunity to show me the correct path, if I am open to His words. (I am still somewhat hedging. I don’t want to rock the boat, known as my life, but I think it is time. I think I am being called to share what I have not shared before. I hope you have given me a little leniency)

Coming up in two weeks, I will have been married 25 years. There have been ups and downs, as in any relationship. Having a husband who is self-employed, there were times, early in his self-employment, that we did not have income. When that happened, I would say, “Well at least we are healthy.” When someone became ill I would say, “Well at least we have health insurance.” I would always try to find a way not be angry or to get depressed. I always thought that there was someone out there that had it worse than me and tried not to have a pity party.

I think our family is where we are today because we have always given credit where credit is due. As a family, we have always praised God and made Him an important part of our lives. Our family is healthy; We are gainfully employed; We have a full food pantry;  There are no reasons to complain about anything going on in our lives. (It took a lot for me to write that. It all goes to being humble. I worry that by actually saying this to the whole world, I may affect things. I know that seems superstitious, and I like to think that I am not, but I really do not want to jinx our life)**

Why do we have the life we have, while other people of faith struggle? I wish I knew and that may be one reason why I am humbled about what we have and what we are able to do for our church and our community.  I was able to go 17.5 years and devote the majority of my time to managing the household, everyone’s schedules and was a very busy volunteer. I always said that I volunteered so much to take on volunteering for women that were unable to do so because they had jobs outside the home. We have taught our children that it is important to give back to the community; that your community is only as strong as the people who give, to make it a great place to live.

I don’t want to say that life is easy, but we are blessed. And I know that our life may seem “easy” compared to others. But I think it is how I have looked at things that make me feel like we are handling things well. And maybe things have not been easy and it is just the way I look at life that makes me feel so blessed.

BIG GULP!

I believe that my husband was meant for me. I was faced with circumstances that forced me to move back to my parent’s home. It just so happened that my husband attended the church where I grew up. We met only because I trusted too much and gave someone access to my life.

FLASHBACK…the story

It was the darkest day in my life. All I saw were stars escalating into a pit of darkness the day I found out that I had nothing! I didn’t have much, just a car and furniture and Oh Yeah, a job. That may not seem like much to you but I had just lost it all, because I trusted, trusted too much.

Standing in the phone booth, listening to every customer service agent tell me that my phone and my electricity and gas were not out because of the spring storms; they were cut off from lack of payment. Uncontrollably shaking, I dialed the number to the bank that had my car loan…my car was up for repossession! That phone booth kept getting smaller and smaller and with that, the oxygen seemed to be less and less. I thought I was going to pass out before I made that last, most important, phone call.

It was hard to punch in the phone number to my bank because I was too frightened to hear the truth. I didn’t want to hear that I had a negative balance in my account. But I knew that was what I was going to be told. And even though I could feel my life crashing down around me, I could feel the weight of all that I was being told, I was in too much shock to let my emotions burst out of my soul.

I had been robbed, financially raped if you will, by someone whom I had trusted, trusted with my life. I had to think. I had to get my act together and figure out what I could do.

I was young, in my early twenties. I had a college degree but had not earned my degree in life. I was from a Midwestern town where you left your doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about “bad guys”. I did not grow up in a small town, there were 60,000 people in this city which was near a larger city. When someone told me they were my friend, I trusted that was true. And when someone told me they wanted to help me, I took them up on their offer.

I was living in a different city about 6 hours from my hometown. I moved there for a job and basically knew where my bank was, and where the grocery store and my apartment were located. I worked long hours and my friends were people I managed. I now know that is inappropriate but they were the people I knew and my social life was my work.

I became friends with a man who seemed to know everything. He intrigued me. We began dating and then he started offering to handle mailing my bills for me since he was more flexible with his time. I thought, “How great is this. I basically have my own personal shopper and someone to take care of my bills.”

I would bring my bills to work and he would swing by my work and deliver my bills to the mailbox. (It seems strange but I don’t know that I remember where the post office was or any stand alone mailboxes. I look back now and know how dumb I was.) Within a month’s time I gave him access to my bank account. He was my friend, my boyfriend, I could trust him, right?

Fast Forward…The spring storms came and everyone lost power and phone service in my apartment complex. But after a few days I became concerned. My “boyfriend” said not to worry; it was just taking time to get everything back on-line. After a week, I decided to go to a pay phone and find out what was going on…

Every phone call I made saw me sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss. During the phone call to my bank the bottom dropped out of my life. If I remember correctly, I think I sunk to the floor of the phone booth and sobbed, deep-heavy breathing sobs.

Thank God I had(have) great parents. I phoned my parents and tried to explain to them what had happened. In between the tears I told them that I had nothing. I explained to them that I had trusted someone and he had stolen everything from me. I had to explain that I gave him my bank account information and instead of mailing my bills, he was taking money out of my account; Instead of picking up my mail, he was throwing all of my bills away and only giving me the junk mail. I had not received any late notices or anything that would give me a notion that I was slowly being robbed of my life. I was lost, alone and I needed Mom and Dad to rescue me.

They explained to me that they could not get to me right away because of commitments that they had. I needed to be strong and they would take care of things. They asked for the phone numbers to all of the utility companies and they would make sure that everything was settled up with them. They would make sure I had lights and phone by the end of the day and I would not lose my car. My dad told me I needed to get things squared away with my work and tell them that I needed to make arrangements to transfer to my hometown and that I would not be in to work for a couple of days.

I did what I was told and my company was very understanding and very accommodating . I would have a job and could start at the new location in two weeks. Thank God for a good company. Even through all of this, God was there with me. I had made the mistake of trusting someone but I put my trust in God and he took care of me with a loving family, a good company and wonderful people at the bank, the utilities, the phone company and JC Penney.

JC Penney? Yes, JC Penney. I had purchased all of my furniture through them and was on a payment plan. I had a living room set, bedroom set and dining room furniture. I phoned the sales person whom I had purchased my furniture and explained what had happened to me. Through the tears I told her that I could not afford the furniture and I needed to leave the state and really did not need the furniture anymore. Can you believe that they took it all back! Within two days a big van came out and picked up all of the furniture. My 1200sf apartment was almost completely empty. I had a television and a plastic shelving unit from college. (I still have the shelving unit in a spare room of our home) I slept on the floor, ate on the floor and relaxed on the floor. It was an empty shell, a true picture of what my life had become.

I moved back to my hometown and moved in with my parents. They had settled up all of my bills and I lost nothing except my dignity and the trust of people. Innately, I still wanted to trust, but I was vulnerable and frightened of everything. I started working almost as soon as I moved back and started going to church regularly again.

My parents wanted to help me transition to my “new” life. I was asked by a pastor to join a group of young adults that were planning a singles group for our congregation. Needing to find ways to meet new people in a protected atmosphere, I said yes. Twenty eight years later, I am so blessed to say that my first friend back then, is now my husband. He knows what happened but we don’t talk about it. After we had dated for a while, I told him what had happened. And up until the day that we started building our home, I was making payments to my father for everything that he had to pay out to rescue me. The day that we signed the papers for our construction loan, my father forgave the remaining debt.

You see, bad things, really bad things happened to me. But as I look at things now, in a more mature and as someone from the outside looking in, God was with me always. I had parents that could help me in my dire situation. I met a man who looked past my failures and loved me for me. There were companies that bent over backwards to help this poor, naive, single female.

It was not all wine and roses. There were some companies that were not as kind and I had problems with this individual, this creep that stole my life, after I moved back to my hometown. But I moved past all of that. I thank God for my life and even though it was a horrible time, it was a blessing, because I am where I am today because of the situations that brought me back to the fold of my parent’s arms.

I believe in God! I am a faithful person but not always a religious person. I believe that when I take the wrong path, God is there to help me learn and move forward. I believe that God wanted me to tell my story. I believe that I needed to tell my story, finally. I believe that you should never give up on God because He will never give up on you. You need to be willing to have God guide you and you have to be willing to struggle through the hard times and still want God there with you.

As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “Stay in love with God.” I say, “Always be grateful and find ways to stay in love with God.”

A couple of side notes below…

*When I say Him, I do not mean male, it is the pronoun that I have used all of my life because there is not a pronoun for parent.

**It took me a week to finish this. The day after I started writing this, I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal. On that same day, I found out my car had about $1,000 worth of expenses in repairs and tires that were in desperate need of replacement. You know that “jinx thing” I wrote about in the beginning, it took me awhile to convince myself that was all coincidence. I thank God that my root canal was successfully treated and my car is in good repair. And I thank God that we are gainfully employed. As the old saying goes, “You can choose to see the glass half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full.”

Where have all the manners gone?

As I wrote last week, I was visiting the southern states of Florida and Georgia with my daughter. The metropolitan feel came out of our Orlando and Tampa ventures. But there was a drastically different sense when entering the city of Savannah. Even though it was the celebratory “season” of St. Patrick’s Day, it was different from the party scenes in Key West during New Year’s Eve celebrations or Florida Spring Break festivities.

We were graced with the genteel nature of the south in our visit to Savannah. You could feel the embodiment of aristocracy in the stately buildings on Whitaker Street or the elegant lifestyle on Bull Street. Even the Spanish moss cascading off the tall oak trees evoked a sense of curtsying maidens and tuxedoed gentlemen retiring to the smoking room.

Oh, the days when manners meant something. If we could go back to, or move forward to a time when manners meant/mean something; where our elders were treated with respect and civility, temperance in speech was practiced and virtue was a badge of glory.

I am a dichotomy in terms. I am a very independent woman. If I were childless and single, I would be very successful in my career as I am outgoing, determined and intelligent woman.  But I am married with children and I love the aspect of being a wife and mother. I would love to be at home baking, cleaning, sewing and volunteering with my time. I miss being flexible for my family now that I have a fulltime job outside the home.

I am old-fashioned and yet if I weren’t married, I would be a very modern woman. That seems strange but I love being married. I love my focus being on a house in order and a family in order. I want my family to be courteous, kind and a good example to others. I want them to be good stewards in the community by making sure that we give back both in community service and in an active church life.

Modern or old-fashioned, I do know that I would always have my manners; I would always have my “please” and “thank you’s” and I would address individuals as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when appropriate. I do see this as greatly missing in this society. I think that families are not honoring the etiquette that was so important in the past and they are missing many aspects of a time long gone. I think that the demise of the wife taking the husband’s last name has caused a confusion as to how to address adult women. I understand professional titles and my taking my husband’s last name had nothing to do with me losing my individuality. Believe me, even as a married woman who proudly took her husband’s name, I am an individual.

I am not a friend to my children. I am their parent. I am the parent that can speak about anything and everything to her children and they can say anything and everything to me. We speak about personal, worldly, out-of-the-box topics, but I am their parent. I expect them to respect my authority and I expect them to listen to me, learn from me, and take orders and guidance from me. We have a great deal of fun but when the fun goes too far, and they start treating me like a friend, I let them know.

What I mean by that last statement is, I don’t want to be talked to like I am their friend. I want proper and respectful English used, no swearing, no inappropriate words. Sometimes, my son gets carried away and I have to remind him that I am not his buddy and proper language needs to be used.

When I was growing up, I spoke to my friends differently than I would speak to my teacher, or parent or other person of authority. I would not use slang around my elders and would address my elders with the proper title. I knew that there was an invisible line that separated me from persons of authority. I was, and still am, okay with that. I believe that there is a pyramid and the higher you move up on the pyramid, the greater expectations people will have of you.

Let me go one step further, I don’t want to see my pastor out getting drunk. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do it; I just don’t want to see it. I don’t want my choir kids to see me getting drunk and I don’t want to see my president “yucking it up” on late night television. I know it is done to “bring them down” to the level of the common man, but let’s be real; many politicians in Washington D.C. are wealthy. And I don’t want them to be at my level. I want them to have a better grasp of things than I do. I am aware of this and I do not begrudge them. I applaud them for being successful enough in their business life that they are wealthy. I don’t want them to be on my level. I do not want to see them in a way that would not make their mother or pastor proud or would tarnish the position in which they hold.

That means, yes, I do have higher expectations of them. Because they were chosen to be a person of authority, I do believe they should act in a way befitting their position. Just like you would not see me in a mini-skirt or a string bikini; not just because I shouldn’t wear them with my body-type but because I am a 50+ year old woman. Mini-skirts and string bikinis are for those of younger age. I would say by your late thrities, you should start steering away from skin revealing clothing. Late night television is a lot of fun but not a place for politicians.

Don’t get me wrong, these thoughts came about because of my visit to Savannah, and I know that there is a lot of degradation, salacious acts, lying and cheating, just like many communities in the world. The difference is what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) My grandfather probably said it best, “Don’t share family secrets.” What he meant by that, was family problems need to stay within and handled by the family. Problems are not meant to be publicized and become the fodder for gossip.

I don’t want to know the sex acts of celebrities. I do not want to know what my friends do behind bedroom doors. I don’t want to hear swearing in public places because you don’t know who could be walking by and you should always want to come across in a positive light, if at all possible. I love the parents that openly swear and speak of personal things in front of their children. I want my children to have respect for me. How can that happen if a bunch of trash is coming out of my mouth.

As we get further into the political season, we all get to hear the bashing that will happen amongst the candidates. Another great saying my grandfather had was, “Don’t try to raise yourself up by putting others down.” If you degrade someone, then others will feel they can do the same to you. It is a vicious circle.

I never heard my mom swear. When I was older she told me that she didn’t swear because she had too much respect for herself. Wow, what a concept to have respect for others AND yourself. I wish there were more people out there who could have that same respect for themselves.

I admit it. I have sworn in my life. I have even sworn in front of my children. I have yet to reach the level of respectability that my mom has for herself.  I am a work in progress and I do feel horrible when I say something or do something that is not to the standards that I strive to achieve.

Think about how you portray yourself. If you are a church going person, would your words and actions be acceptable to your congregational family? Would you be embarrassed to have your children speak with their teacher or principal about your words and actions? If you don’t care, then that is a whole other problem. If someone was describing you and you did not know it was you, would you be proud to know that person or ashamed?

Our world needs to think about the genteel South, even if it is an old wives tale, of their cordiality, their soft words, their proper manners.  I listen to a lot of old-time radio, so I do know there was a time when it was expected, not a surprise to have a door opened for a woman or a “please” and “thank you” regularly said. There was a time when children addressed all adults with a proper title. You don’t have to be uptight or a snob to use manners and be polite.

I have hopefully instilled in my children a sense of respect in their lives. Maybe they can be strong and continue on this tradition into future generations. Time tarries on and I must close for now and say, “Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your day is filled with love and joy.”

Happy Teens, Happy Family, Happy Life

Note: I do inter-change “I” and “we” when I am writing about parenting. In parenting, sometimes it is a joint effort and other times not. So, because of that, I include my husband when it is appropriate and sometimes it is things that I have done individually.

When I woke up this morning in the new year, I thought to myself, ‘What made me most proud in 2012?’ It did not take me long at all to realize that I am most proud of the relationship that I have with my teenage children.

My newly turned 17-year old son and soon to be 15-year old daughter still like being around their parents. We joke; we talk; we shop; we still do most all of the things that we did ten years ago. I know that amongst the friends of my children, I, and my husband, are a rare breed.

Do I have any thoughts as to why this is the case? Of course, I do; we joke; we talk; we shop. That has not changed in my 17 years of parenting. While I say this so confidently, it is not easy. There is a fine line that you walk from being a friend, to a tyrant, to a pushover. And believe-it-or-not, each of those characterizations are just a step away.

My parents were not poor parents; but they also were not very good communicators. To this day, my mom has never spoken with me about sex, or even menstruation. I don’t know if it was just my mom or if it was the times but my sex education was not controlled at all by my parents. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted a different relationship with my children.

I don’t know if I value my children more than other parents. I know that about 22-years ago, my gynecologist told me that I would probably never have any biological children. After buckets of tears and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue an answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Our investigation resulted in me having surgery for endometriosis and being put into menopause at age 32. (That is a whole other writing!) And as I wrote above, 17-years ago, we were blessed with our son. After a miscarriage, God blessed again and we had our daughter.

So you see why I wanted to make sure that I always would have a good relationship with our children. We went from being told we would be childless to being blessed with not one, but two children. I am sure all parents wish for a great relationship with their children. I worked from the time they were born to have the relationship we have today.

How did I do it? I think first of all, I was conscious of what I wanted and I have worked for it. From the beginning, I have always been open in our discussions. When they were younger we did not speak with them as if they were babies; we spoke to them in normal voices and used words, adult words – a penis was a penis; a vagina was a vagina. If I was uncomfortable using words, how could I speak with them about those things? I was determined to be open and honest.

The car was a great place to talk. We drove a lot, so instead of zoning out on music or movies, we would spend the time talking. Because we spoke with each other from the beginning, it was natural that it continued as the kids got older.

We are a family that cussing is not allowed. But the rule is that if you have a question about anything, that rule does not apply. I never wanted my children to think that they could not come to me about anything. We have had wonderful conversations that, I am sure, many parents have not had with their children because they have not been open to anything and everything.

I think we have done a good job in teaching our children to respect authority. It has taken a little bit but we have tried to emphasize that the way they speak with their friends is not the way they speak with us or other adults. We have taught them that there is a level of respect that needs to be given. And even though we want a good relationship with our son and daughter, we have taught them that we are still the adult, still the parent and what we say goes.

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to face is that my daughter’s friends do not want to have any type of relationship with me. After six years of homeschooling, our daughter went back to  public school in 8th grade. While she had church friends, homeschool friends and Girl Scout friends (which by the way, I had relationships with) these new friends wanted/want nothing to do with me.  I think it was shocking for me because I have such a good relationship with her. My guess is that the relationship I have with my daughter is different from the relationship they have with their parents.

Some of her friends think I am the “cool” parent. They also know that we have rules and while they think I am “cool” they also think I am strict. Thankfully our children don’t think we are strict; they think it is just the way it is.

In a nutshell, I believe we have happy teens, a happy family and a happy life because we communicate and we set rules and expectations. We come from a position of love and respect but ultimately, our children know that we are in charge; they do not have carte blanche on their life. We have taught them to be grateful for what they have and always be thankful to God, who gives all.

Happy New Year and I hope that you have a great relationship with the people whom you love!

 

Bread Pudding

I said I might write about bread pudding today and decided it was a quirky topic and I should just go for it. Who knows how this will develop. We will go on this journey together.

I love bread pudding! Whenever I see it on the menu, I will order it for dessert. That is quite the commentary because I generally never order dessert from a restaurant. I then make a judgement of the restaurant based on how I liked the bread pudding. I do the same when it comes to eggplant parmesan in Italian restaurants and tamales in Mexican restaurants.

I like my bread pudding to be moist but not so moist that you can’t differentiate the torn (or cut) pieces of bread. It has to have the perfect consistency that doesn’t taste mushy in my mouth. It needs to be not too dry, not too wet. Just like Goldilocks, it needs to be just right.

It can be chocolate bread pudding or banana or just plain ol’ bread pudding. What is a delicacy, but really adds to my enjoyment, is a warmed rum butter sauce. In fact, I would say a standard bread pudding with a warmed rum butter sauce and oh yea, nuts sprinkled on top is the best of the best.

I guess I am somewhat like bread pudding. I am just a plain ol’ girl from the Midwest. I like to think that I have good values that are simple to follow; be nice, give back to the community through service, and raise a family that is respected by the community. I think that whatever you believe in, you need to be consistent and follow through. As a Christian, I believe I should be in church every Sunday. Yes, there may be days that I would rather stay under my nice warm quilts, but going to church is the least I can do to thank God for allowing me to wake up every morning.

I would like to live a simple life. How wonderful it would be to not be tied to a computer for communication or a cellphone for that same reason. How nice it would be to wake up in the morning and only need to worry about making the best home for my family and volunteering to make my community a better place to live.

All very simple. You know there has to be a but coming though don’t you…

BUT that is not the reality of our world. We need to be connected to our electronic world. That is just the way it is. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not be blogging and you would not be reading this post right now. If it weren’t for the cellphone, I wouldn’t be able to have a sense of security knowing that I can get a hold of my children when I need that connection. Our family has been able to learn about the world and our country because of our traveling. What a wonderful opportunity we have had that many have not.

Those things are the rum butter sauce and nuts. Without those extras, the food is good (life) but the extras help me appreciate everything that this world has to offer. Without the internet or our traveling, our world would be so small. I am so glad that we have been able to expand our children’s scope of the world because of those extras.

So while my simple rules for life are good, because of the rum sauce and nuts, my life does seem more complete. There are days when I just am bread pudding and have no toppings. I clean my home, run errands for the whole family, bake/cook and do all of those domestic things that I just love. More times than not, there is so much more going on that it gets crazy. There are days that not only is there rum sauce and nuts, but sprinkles and whipped cream or maybe a flambe’ is made by adding rum and catching it on fire. Those days when I have added a little too many extras, make me a little crazy and I feel overwhelmed. The simple life helps me appreciate those extras and conversely the extras help me appreciate when things are simple. In that way, my life is complete.

How is your life complete, are you a plain bread pudding or are you someone with a few toppings or an overload?

My coffee latte for the day was Almond Joy; chocolate, almond and coconut.