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Archive for August, 2015

Oldest Child leaves for college tomorrow. It’s sort of surreal at this point. We’ve been preparing for this well over a year now: college campus visits, approximately 10,000 pounds of college mail, discussions, decisions, scholarship applications, letters of recommendation, buying room supplies, money discussions, rule discussions (no burning couches!), the list goes on. The boy himself is just about ready. He’s been packing up his room all week long and will vacate today to allow Middle Child to move in so that tomorrow, we’ll only have to load the second car in the morning, the first car being loaded up tonight. It just doesn’t quite seem real, yet.

When a child is born, most parents, us included, immediately decide that the tiny little newborn will be going to college one day in the distant future. It won’t even be a discussion, since in this world, a college degree will soon be required to work at McDonald’s. (Not really. I made that up. But, it does seem like it.) And not even just a bachelor’s degree, for more and more jobs these days, it seems like a master’s degree is “preferred” and since I’ll be paying off my student loans until I retire (at 83), scholarships are not only a good idea, they’re necessary. Oldest Child has acquired a few of those, enough to make his debt load significantly lighter than mine with some really cool research opportunities to boot. Did I mention he gets to go to London for five weeks next summer for school? My favorite city in the whole entire world? Where there is amazing architecture and history and the TUBE… but I digress… The point is that college is expensive and I am so proud of him for taking the initiative so that he could follow his dream without sinking into deep debt.

I really haven’t processed this yet. I don’t know if I will tomorrow when I bring up the second car load or when I get home and it’s all over with or the first time I forget that he’s not home anymore. He has left to go on trips and to Band Camp every year, but this is new territory. I know he’ll be home, but really, it’s just to visit. This marks the beginning of his true independence, the chance for him to put everything he’s learned about life to the test: how to behave, how to make choices, how to get along with new people when he has to. In truth, I wouldn’t care if he got a degree in underwater basket weaving as long as he stays a good person and can support himself. Have you ever watched those What Would You Do? episodes where John Quinones watches to see if anyone will say something when a drink is spiked or a girl is harassed? It’s kind of like that. I hope he’s the kind of man who steps in and does the right thing, even when no one is watching, through college and beyond. I hope he doesn’t make stupid choices. I hope he misses me.

This is an amazing opportunity for him. I didn’t get to go away to college. My college career happened in spurts over several years until I finally got my bachelor’s degree and I feel like I missed out on the whole college experience. It was so difficult to do it that way, but I really didn’t have a lot of choices and although I have the satisfaction of finally accomplishing it, I didn’t want my kids to go through the same thing. So far, we’re 33% successful.

The cars are mostly loaded now. Oldest Child is out with friends, saying goodbye. We already had our family pizza dinner with a trip out for ice cream together. He’s not going very far, I can be there in less than two hours, but it will feel a million miles away. His brothers profess relief that he’s going, but I suspect that’s just bravado talking. They will have their own rooms for the first time since Youngest Child was two and Middle Child was, well, he’s never had his own room, so that part is genuine happiness. Still, Oldest Child has always been there, throughout their whole lives, so this will be new territory for them, too. They’ll only have each other to fight with. Hours-long games of Monopoly will be few and far between because it’s not as much fun with only two.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s not a sad goodbye. I’m eager to see him fly, to make his own way in the big world. I will rejoice in his triumphs, cringe at his mistakes, (We all make them, especially when we’re young.), comfort during his heartbreaks. I’ll try not to ask too many questions, try to refrain from giving my opinion unless I’m asked, but let him know that I’m always there for him and his friends. It’s good practice for the rest of his life, with the safety net of Marty Man and me to support him. Even as he leaves the nest, however, I still remember that sweet baby from long ago. They grow up, you know, and it really is a beautiful thing.

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So, the website, Ashley Madison has been hacked. Thousands of names have been released, pointing direct fingers at the cheaters, including Josh Duggar, eldest child of the now-infamous Duggar clan of TLC fame, among others. For those who haven’t seen the news in the last week, Ashley Madison is a website that matches up people who want to have affairs. Yes, the internet has made it even easier for cheaters to cheat. Yay. Not that it wasn’t easy for people to cheat before, but this website has contributed to breaking down families and enabling bad behavior.

Now, a website, as despicable as its premise is, is not to blame for people cheating on their spouses. Cheating is a conscious choice, a CHOICE, not an accident, and the person who did the cheating is in the wrong. But I have a huge problem with those who see nothing wrong with cheating and who create technology not only to enable it, but to make it easier. Really? Let’s think about this.

People go into marriage with the romantic, but stupid, idea that it will all be happily ever after, that things will be perfect, that he will settle down, that she will grow up a little, but that isn’t ever the case. Realistically, marriage takes work in order to be successful. It gets boring at times. Your spouse will annoy you. You will annoy your spouse. After almost nineteen years, I know I drive Marty Man absolutely crazy with my OCD about the house, the way I leave the hose out after watering the lawn, or my big dreams of the future. He drives me nuts in a variety of ways, including when he makes five graham crackers with peanut butter instead of nice, even, numbers like four or six. (Seriously, why not an even number???) When things get boring or frustrating, we grow together as a couple, by communicating and trying new things or by giving each other space. It took us time to learn that, we went through lots of growing pains and it brought us closer together, but many allow those situations to drive them further apart, sometimes into the arms of people outside of the marriage, and that’s a shame. Look at it this way. If you are legally married, you spoke vows of some sort, in front of witnesses, to love, honor, and cherish, not to sneak around behind your spouse’s back and have a fling because things get boring after a while. If you are in any kind of committed relationship, you owe it to your partner to be honest. Having an affair means lying, whether by omission or deliberately deception. You lose all credibility and intergrity in that equation.

If you are married and unhappy, there are some choices to make. If your marriage or relationship is simply unbearable or there’s abuse of any kind, you need to leave. For your health and safety, get out and get yourself some help while you’re at it. If there’s a chance of fixing your marriage, there are a variety of things you can do. See a marriage counselor, take time alone with your spouse, read some books about the subject, do some introspective soul-searching, whatever, but DO NOT CHEAT ON YOUR PARTNER! Cheating breaks every vow, every modicum of trust and respect that your spouse has for you. The effects can be devastating: broken families, unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and having to sneak around on a daily basis. Affairs always get found out, maybe not right away, but somewhere down the line, something will slip. Why would you want to give your life partner, someone who you claimed to love above all others, that kind of pain and suffering? I love what Dr. Phil said about marriage. I’m paraphrasing, but basically, he said that if you wouldn’t do something without your partner standing right there, you shouldn’t be doing it. That’s something that has stayed with me for years.

The point is this: don’t cheat. I am glad that Ashley Madison was hacked, if only for the simple fact that it strikes their myth of “discretion” down. People are being held accountable right now and, yes, there are people hurting right now. It sucks. How do you want people to remember you? That you acted with honor, dignity, and respect, or that you were a liar who broke your vows in order to satisfy a selfish urge in a moment of weakness?

I hope that the owners of Ashley Madison and other sites like it see the light someday. I hope that they understand the damage that they’ve done and try to make amends, but I doubt that will happen. The almighty dollar is worth more than our integrity these days. As long as people have weak moments, they will continue to seek satisfaction elsewhere, when they really should be looking inside themselves. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to be better than that, to put those sites out of business, to think twice about pursuing that person that looks so exciting, and to remember what’s really important: our loved ones.

Love each other.

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I was ready to post about another topic today, something light, but my heart is too heavy for that. You see, a friend of Oldest and Middle Child died and I just don’t have it in me to be flippant right now.

I don’t know any of the circumstances, except for that he was riding a motorcycle at the time, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that his family is hurting, our band kids are hurting, many of them dealing with real loss for the first time in their lives. I didn’t know this boy as well as I do some of their other friends, but I saw him at all of the events: band camp, concerts, Homecoming pictures, and more recently, prom and graduation. My kids hung out with him, went to his house, did all of the normal things that teenagers do, and now, he’s gone. Just, gone.

It’s unfathomable really, when this happens to someone so young and full of promise. Death is a part of life, it’s inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less sorrowful or tragic, especially when it claims someone who’s just beginning his life, someone who could have changed the world. My heart absolutely aches for his mother right now. The thought of losing any of my boys terrifies me, it always has. It’s made me the overprotective parent and has earned me the title of “second strictest mom” (according to them) out of their friends’ mothers. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now, knowing that she’ll never again be able to kiss that sweet face, never hear his voice again. Her worst nightmare has just happened.

Again, death is a reality and in many cases we sadly accept it, as in the cases of old age or a long illness. But to have someone taken so young, so violently, so quickly, shocks us to our very cores, leaving us stunned. It always seems to happen to someone else, a story that we read in the paper, a blurb on the news. We shake our heads, murmur how horrible it is, and go back to our lives. When it happens in our circle, our family, it’s a different experience. It becomes intensely personal and we wonder how the world will ever go back to normal. It will, eventually, return to normal, but it will be a new normal, one with new perceptions and the reality that we are not invincible. It’s a sobering lesson.

In your prayers today, please remember this boy’s parents, his family. Please remember all of these wonderful, amazing, kids, his friends, who are grieving right now. Above all else, hug your kids today. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you love them. Life is too uncertain and there are no guarantees of the future for any of us.

Peace and love.

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Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.

Remember when you’re talking to the Man upstairs

That just because He doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean He don’t care

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”

“Unanswered Prayers”- Garth Brooks, Pat Alger, Larry Bastian, 1990

For those that don’t know, the song is about a man running into his old high school crush at a football game. He remembers praying for God to bring them together, how he wanted to be with her, praying so desperately that he swore he would never ask for anything again, but, alas, it was not meant to be, although he continued to think about her over they years. Finally, seeing her after all that time, he realized that his wife had been meant for him, that God didn’t grant his request because that girl had not been the right one. (Now, this is a little ironic, because although Garth Brooks said that this song was based on true events, he and his then- wife ended up divorcing and he remarried Trisha Yearwood. Sorry to kill mood of the song, but there you are.)

Even though the true-life version of this song didn’t end very well, the concept is a good one. I can’t count how many times throughout my entire life that I’ve prayed for something that I really wanted, something that I was convinced would be the best thing for me, only to have silence on the other end. Boyfriends, jobs, kids, almost nothing has happened as I have planned it, and most of it has turned out much better than I have ever planned.

I’m going through this situation now, and part of the reason I’m writing this blog is to reassure myself that even though I can’t see it right now, God has His own plan. I’ve been struggling with a part of my life for some time now. I apologize for being cryptic, hopefully later I can explain all, but right now I really can’t. (We’re all healthy and nothing bad is happening, so please don’t worry.) I have an idea of how I want things to go, I’ve spent a lot of time fantasizing about how much better things would be if only… But so far, things haven’t gone the way I think they should, which can be incredibly frustrating. Mr. Marty Man just reminded me of another (paraphrased) line from a play, “God hears all prayers. Sometimes, the answer is no.”

Now, let’s get something straight. God is not a fairy godmother. He is not a wish-granting genie. We are sometimes inclined to think that way, that if we only ask God for what we want, we will get it. Mega-church preachers, like Joel Osteen, preach that message, which, with their millions of dollars, is easy for them to say. As we wait for those very specific things, we are disappointed many times. Does God want us to be happy, to be prosperous? Yes, absolutely! He loves us and wants us to be the best that we can be, but maybe not in the way that we think. Rich does not equal happy. Many millionaires are miserable. Job success does not equal happy. Prosperous means different things for different people. Contentment equals happiness, and contentment doesn’t equal the same things for everyone.

In scripture, we’re told to ask for the things we want, but that God will grant us the things we need. It’s a little confusing sometimes, I know. In my mind, I’m thinking: I’m a good person. I go to church, I pray, I read my devotional, and I try to live my life the best I can, and I’ve worked for it. WHY hasn’t (this) happened??? God doesn’t work like that. Sometimes there’s a lesson that I need to learn, or somebody that needs my help before I move on, or that was definitely not the right boy to marry, or going to this event would have meant that I missed something that I loved even more. We won’t always know the reasons why our life takes certain directions. As someone who is been diagnosed OCD, I like to know not only what is happening, but why it is happening and the timeline involved, but, again, God doesn’t work that way. We need to learn patience. I HATE patience, by the way. I never pray for it, figuring that I don’t want any extra doses, but it is necessary for a good character.

Why? Why does God do this? Well, think about it. As a child, did your parents give in to your every whim? I hope not, I really hope not. Good parents know that that giving a child everything he/she demands makes a spoiled, entitled child. The same is true for adults. Just because we’re grown doesn’t mean we’re mature. We all know people who seem to be mentally stuck in middle school and live by the principle of self-gratification. Crimes are committed and lives are destroyed because people think they should have something and they decide to get it by any means necessary, throwing away morals, compassion for others, and their sense of right and wrong. Getting everything that we want sets a dangerous precedent and teaches us that our desires are more important than the basic rights of others. God knows this, hence the unanswered prayers.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I thought I knew it all, like every other young adult. But the older I get, the more I realize that I have so much to learn, that every situation I’m in, whether it makes me happy and seems to fall perfectly into place or whether it leaves me crying in frustration or rage, teaches me something and that I will never know it all.

God doesn’t give us a perfectly mapped-out life. Instead, it’s like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure Books, every choice you make leads to different circumstances. Even those who don’t believe in God can agree with that. If I didn’t decide to go to that party, I never would have met her. If I didn’t work at that camp, I never would have changed my major. Our choices and how we deal with the good or bad consequences of those choices help to design our characters, our personalities. God doesn’t make us do anything, He provides opportunities and we have to decide what we want to do. I’ve learned to pray and to listen to my intuition, trusting that God will lead me where I need to be. It may not be what I have envisioned, I still don’t have a writing contract, but I have faith, however shaky it can be at times, that He will answer my prayers in one way one another. It’s just that sometimes, the answer is, “No”.

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