Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I'm going...back to work!!

As of today, I am officially employed part-time at the School District of Clayton! Yes, after twelve years of being predominantly a stay-at-home-mom, I am re-joining the workforce, as a Parents as Teachers Educator, in the school district where my kids attend.

I couldn't be more excited, nervous, overwhelmed, AND overjoyed - all at the same time.

My family is very supportive, and happy for me, but I know they are somewhat anxious about what that means for us going forward. I covet your prayers, as we all navigate the road ahead. My job is part-time, with a flexible schedule that I mostly set myself, but things will be different at home.

I'm taking what feels like the next step, for me, and it feels great - really really great! I just wanted you to know.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Paradox of Motherhood

The paradox of motherhood is never more obvious, to me, than in the summer. How can I feel so much overwhelming love for each of my children - the kind of love that makes tears of thankfulness literally spring to my eyes without warning - yet in another moment, feel so incredibly frustrated that I wonder if it's possible for my head to actually explode from one more utterance of the word "Mom" with a request or complaint attached? I think love/hate is much too strong, but love/so-over-it might be appropriate.

In the summer, there is an abundance of everything. Too much meal prep and clean-up, too much activity planning and refereeing, too much talking, too many questions, too much laundry... But also, so many hugs throughout the day, much more snuggle time in the mornings, so many more opportunities for imaginative questions and deep conversations, more bike rides and lazy afternoons at the pool... The paradox. 

Whoever coined the phrase, "The days are long, but the years are short." was a genius, and had moms squarely in mind. How can I so desperately want to speed up the days, and yet - simultaneously- want to hold back the years?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dear Ruthie,

Thursday is your birthday, and I'm writing this letter to express how very much I love you, and how much I long to understand you, and support you in becoming your very best self. You are an introvert, baby, a quiet, pensive, perceptive person who spends more time listening than talking. I, on the other hand, am an extrovert. I get my energy from being with people. I really enjoy talking, and I try very hard not to do it too much. Your dad is an introvert, and he and I have spent almost twenty years figuring out the very best ways to relate to and communicate with each other. We're still working on it, and we forever will be.

The process is different with you, though, baby, because I'm your mom. Part of my job is to help you navigate life. And not just to get through, but to thrive. I want to help you figure out the best way to bless this world with the beauty of you! You are beautiful in so many ways. And while your brother and sister seem to be the kids who charge into life, and never look back, you are different. You are delightfully different.

I'm reading a book to help me understand you, and to help me help you to understand yourself. The book is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and it's written by an introvert named Susan Cain. One thing I was reminded of by Ms. Cain, which I already knew from you, is that introverts tend to be better at asking questions and actually listening to the answers, than non-introverts. You know that amazing memory you have? It's partly because you spend so much time listening. We baffle at how accurately you can remember the exact words someone has said. You listen, baby, you really listen. You're not busy thinking about what you will say next, because you're not really that interested in hearing your own words. You like to hear what others say to you. Ms. Cain also says that this skill of introversion - listening to others - along with a companion skill of being more likely to consider the suggestions of others, will make you a very successful leader. If you decide you want to be a leader. You don't have to be. Ms. Cain reminded me that it's important for me (especially as an extrovert), to accept you just as you are, and not try to force you into situations (like leadership) in which you may have little interest. You can be an amazing leader, though. I know that to be true (and Quiet says so)!

I love you so much. Just as you are. Being a mom is sometimes tricky, though. I need to help you figure out how to negotiate your world. There are things I adamantly encourage you to do - like asking the kind lady at the food counter for a second fork, when yours falls on the floor - because I want you to practice these things in a safe environment. Ms. Cain explains that being introverted and being shy are not necessarily the same, and I know she's right. But you, baby, are both. While I do not want to force you to speak to strangers, and I know you are often uncomfortable interacting with people you don't know, I want to make sure that you have the skills you need to get the things that you want and need when you're older. Ms. Cain says that some kids are almost like dandelions - they will prosper in any environment. She then explains that high-reactive (introvert) kids, like you, are more like orchids, "they wilt easily, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent."(p. 111)

Another thing that I know about you is that you sometimes like to keep your thoughts to yourself. I support that, if that's what you want, but I never want you to feel scared to share your ideas. Sometimes shy introverts struggle with sharing their thoughts, even when they want to. You have great ideas - original, well-thought-out ideas. Your family, friends, teachers and bosses will be lucky to hear the thoughts and suggestions that you bring to the table! I want you to have the freedom to speak up, when you have something to say. So, we'll keep working on this stuff, and I'll keep trying hard to help you figure it out, without trying to force you to be more like me and less like you.

I know that having an extrovert for a mom is a huge relief to you sometimes, and a big embarrassment to you at other times. You and I will have a lifetime of figuring each other out, and of continually learning to accept each other for all that we are. Even now, you may wonder why I would choose to share these ideas I have about you with all of blog-dom. I'm pretty sure this is something you would never do, and to have me put the spotlight on you, like this, may seem embarrassing. But here's the deal, I am an extrovert, and extroverts like to share ideas all the time with others. While you sometimes long to be left alone, I often long to know that I am not alone! So, I share things on this blog, in order to connect with others, and to hear their thoughts and ideas. These are good people, and my letter to you is safe with them!

Words will never be able to express the amount of love I have for you, and how very much I want you to greet each day with your head high, knowing that you are the exact person God made you to be! I will always be here for you - on your team. And as much as it pains me to think about having you leave our home someday, walking into the world without me, I want you to know that I take this job of preparing you very seriously. You are an orchid, baby, my orchid, my beautiful,
magnificent orchid!

I love you forever,
Mom

Saturday, May 04, 2013

My Work

This morning at breakfast, I asked my kids this question, "If you had to say one thing you've learned from me, what would it be?" After a minute of "Aw, I don't know, Mom, you've taught us a lot." this is what they said (in the order of their responses):

Ruthie (9), "Be kind to everyone."

Gregory (11), "Eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're full."

Mary (4), "I've learned that you like me.... A LOT!"

There you have it.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Mary and the Umbrella

Mary is almost 5, and as soon as she realizes it's raining outside, she begins obsessing about the umbrella. If I were better organized and more forward-thinking, I would, by now, have a "Mary Umbrella". It would be a really cute pink one, that is just her size, and easily managed by her - alone. But I'm not. So, I never think about buying Mary her own umbrella, until the morning that it's raining, and I realize what kind of day I will have with her.

Mary wants to open the umbrella, carry the umbrella (unassisted) and then close the umbrella, when necessary. Not having an umbrella that is made for a four-year-old means that she and I argue about (and possibly wrestle over - not kidding!) the umbrella almost every time it's raining and we leave the house, the car, her school, etc... I worry that she'll poke her eye out opening it. I know that I'll get soaked while she carries the umbrella. She won't let me help her, which means I'm either not under the umbrella at all, or am under it in a cock-eyed way that gets me more wet because of the big drips falling on me from the umbrella itself. And, oh my!, the closing of the umbrella! We all know how hard and pinchy it can be to close an umbrella (at least one that's made for an adult)!

One day last week, it was raining particularly hard, and after I picked Mary up from half-day preschool, we headed to Target. (The fact that we were post-school, means that Mary and I had already had at least three occasions to grapple over the umbrella!!). When we reached Target, I made the decision that I would just let Mary do what she wanted with the umbrella. I was tired of trying to micro-manage her umbrella use. We got out of the van, and I handed her the umbrella. She opened it (with only one small reminder from me to "hold it away from your face"). Then she proudly held the umbrella directly over her head, and began walking toward Target, in the pouring down rain. Each time I tried to hold onto one of the umbrella spokes, to guide her, she insisted that I let go.

So I did. I let go, and I let her walk victoriously into Target. Walking next to her, I got completely soaked. The rain came down hard on me, while the little person by my side walked with her head held high, carrying the umbrella at my waist level. When we got inside, she did her very best to get that darn thing closed, while I shook the water off my clothes and hair.

Since all of life tends to feel like one big fat analogy to me, I will tell you what hit me, as I walked next to my daughter, proudly carrying an umbrella, while I got soaked. In that moment, I didn't care about getting wet. I could tell how happy and proud of herself she was, and that mattered to me more than keeping myself dry. Isn't that we do, as mothers (and fathers)? We walk right next to our kids, while they try out independence. They learn to do things like open an umbrella and hold in a way that keeps them dry. It takes a lot of practice and effort on their parts, but that's how they find success. Often, as we watch from our own spot - which is close, but not too close - we realize the last thing they may want is our assistance.  And in the process of not interfering with, but walking next to, we may end up getting wet.

Really wet.

But it's ok. Really, really ok.




Friday, April 26, 2013

A Tiny Little Gift

Yesterday, I had this conversation with my son, Gregory (11):

G, "Mom, do you know what I was just thinking about?"

Me, "No, what?"

G, "I was just thinking about how much I admire both of my parents."

Me (*gulp*), "Oh yeah, why is that?"

G, "I admire dad because he is such a hard worker, and he supports this family of five. And I admire you, because you take such good care of us kids and everything about this house. I appreciate that!"

Me (playing it cool), "Thanks, Bud. I'm really glad you feel that way."

Every once in awhile, I get a tiny little gift from God, and yesterday it came in the form of this conversation. One of the hardest things about being a stay-at-home mom, is the lack of recognition and feeling of accomplishment. Yesterday I felt both.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A New Goal

A pre-race picture with my friend, Sarah
On Sunday, April 7th, I ran a half marathon. I've run several, and when I decided to run this one, I wanted a time goal. In January, I picked 2 hours. I had recently run a 5K in less than 26 minutes, and I knew I could run one mile in less than 8 minutes - two precursors (apparently) to running a half marathon in 2 hours. So, it was an informed decision, even though I sort of picked 2 hours out of the air. My fastest previous half marathon time was around 2:18 (my last pre-Mary half).

I ran this race as a fund raiser for a friend of a friend, Erin, who is pursuing an international adoption. Erin is also a personal trainer, and she agreed to train me to run this race in 2 hours.  She sent me weekly work outs. I did them, and I got faster. I felt well prepared.

Race day was the most beautiful day we'd had in awhile. For the first 6 miles, I was right on pace. Miles 6-8 were mostly uphill - a part of the course called "Holy Hill". The night before, I had driven the  course, so I was aware of how these miles would go. Still, when I reached mile 8, I was struggling, and slightly off pace. The hill, combined with warmer weather than I'd trained in, required me to drink more, and that took time.

My family waited to cheer me on at mile 9. I knew they were going to be there. (What a beautiful sight for me - those four precious people!!) I told Gary that I was struggling, and he encouraged me, saying he thought I was only one minute behind. At mile 9, my 2-hour goal was still well within reach.

I felt better after seeing my family, and I ran well to mile 11. I looked at the clock and realized that I had 20 more minutes to reach two hours. My target pace was 9:10/mile, so 2.1 miles in 20 minutes seemed very doable. I knew I was losing strength in my legs, and struggling some mentally, but I really thought I might have enough left to get it done.

In the middle of the 12th mile, though, there was a hill. Halfway up the hill, I made the decision to walk. It was excruciating, because I knew that if I walked, I was letting go of my two-hour goal. At that point, I knew I had no extra time. Walking felt like quitting. I was afraid that if I didn't walk, though, I would literally have to quit, because I would not be able to make it to the finish line. So I walked - feeling so discouraged. While walking up the hill, I texted this to Erin: "I'm walking at 12. I'm not going to make it." Honestly, in that moment, I was so sad. Erin and I texted until I got to the top of the hill, where I told her I was going to run again. With only about a mile left, I knew I would finish the race. I wanted to do it running.

And I did. I ran as hard as I could. I just put one foot in front of the other. When I could see the clock, I realized that if I kicked it in at the end, I would be able to finish in under 2:05. All of the sudden I had a NEW goal!! I started running as fast as I possibly could, and I finished the race in 2:04:27.

(Erin was getting texts informing her of my progress, and when I crossed the finish line, this text came to me from her: "2:04:27!!!!! That's awesome.")

In thinking back, I can't help but be a little disappointed that I didn't reach the goal I set for myself in January. I trained the best I could. I was well-prepared, but in the end, there was just one hill too many. I'm proud of my time. I know it's good one. But I did not run a half marathon in 2 hours or less.

But also in thinking back, I realize that there may be more to be learned and gained from the experience of not quite meeting a goal, than there would be from making it.  Not giving up, and setting a new goal, may tell me more about myself, than what running a half marathon in 2 hours does. Having my kids see me struggling along the race course, and working my hardest, at the end, to accomplish my new goal, may be the best lesson I could teach them through this experience. My need for the encouragement of others was much different in this race, than it was in other races that weren't as hard. I appreciated my family and Erin so much, and I realized that they loved me and were proud of me, no matter which goal I reached!

The sentiment of equating life to a marathon may be overused, but the truth is, life IS like a marathon! And I think it's more like a marathon that is hard and hilly and unpredictable, where goals are not reached and new ones are set, than it is like the races that simply go according to plan.

Friends, if you take anything away from this post, please take this: When things get hard along your course, walk if you have to, and when you can, set a new goal!!





Sunday, March 31, 2013

SAHM

I'm currently reading the book, Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. The main character is a stay-at-home-mom, and the book includes a few well-written, incredibly insightful sentences describing what life is like for her. Kingsolver writes, "...being a stay-at-home-mom is the lonliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself." (p. 59) and "...motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse that outstripped her physical dimensions." (p. 60), and "A gut-twisting life of love, consecrated by the roof and walls that contained her and the air she was given to breathe." (p. 60).

This part of the book hit a nerve for me, in the most raw way. The decision to become (and to continue to be) a stay-at-home-mom, is one that I made/make without hesitation. And while there are many days that I wish I were working, I'm confident that I would make the same decision again. But it honestly can be a very lonely life, sometimes feeling as though these walls contain me, and what I breathe is only my particular allotment of air for that day! I'm thankful for these images from Barbara Kingsolver, because they somehow make me feel understood. I feel as though someone sees me. I try to keep the big picture in perspective. I know that I am in a particular stage of life. These lonely times won't last forever. Sometimes, though, the daily grind of this "gut-twisting life of love", becomes a little overwhelming. I write these words for other stay-at-home-moms to say, "I see you. I love you. You are not alone."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

To be, or not to be... Overprotective

It's becoming almost a daily discussion - my 11 year old son not-so-subtly expressing how he feels about my "overprotective" parenting. Here's a list of things that "all" his friends have that he doesn't: a cellphone with texting capabilities, an Instagram account, Call of Duty and Black Ops for his Playstation, freedom to run around the neighborhood, and access to all the latest R-rated super hero movies.

He's 11! I'm quite sure all his friends don't have all these things, but enough of them do, to make my parenting style an on-going topic of discussion. And my go-to explanation, "I guess your friends' parents don't love them as much as I love you." just isn't cutting it!

Here's the deal. When I was in Jr. High I had to watch the Adam Walsh movie in Health. Do you remember that movie? I believe my overprotective parenting style was born when I was 12! I also live in St. Louis, where not so long ago, a Pizza Hut employee from a neighboring community kidnapped a boy, who was held for four days before being found by police. In the process though, they found another boy who had been held for four years! My son plays sports, and the high-profile Penn State tragedy required me to have an extremely hard conversation with him regarding locker rooms, and adults he may perceive to be safe but act strangely, etc...

I know that violent movies and video games affect young minds. I know that you have to be 13 to sign up for Facebook or Instagram. I know that Google+ is dangerous for kids.  I also don't believe my 11-year-old is mature enough to handle having instant access to texting, emailing and calling on a device that he keeps in his pocket. I think it's well within my normal parenting rights to exert this type of protection over him. In several of these cases I have the law (or "rules") on my side. In others I refer to my instincts. I think I'm doing what is in his best interest.

On the other hand... Is there another hand? How can I step back from doing the things I think are necessary to keep him safe, in a society that is full of crazy people and greedy business people who may very well do what they can to hurt and exploit him? Am I paranoid? Am I overprotective? Am I somehow messing him up, in my attempt to keep him safe?

Really, I'm asking you! What do you think?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My 3rd-Annual Oscar Preview Post

This year I saw 7 of the 9 movies nominated for Best Picture: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. The two I did not see were Django Unchained and Amour. I decided about a week ago to give up on seeing Django, but today was the day I gave up on Amour. I won't go into details, but I'm really disappointed about Amour. I saw a couple of other non-best-picture movies, because of their acting award nominations, including Flight, The Impossible, and The Sessions. The Master was a movie I really wanted to see, but I couldn't. So, again this year, I am unable to weigh in on all the nominated performances, because of my incomplete viewing, but I will make some predictions.

This year I was particularly struck by the depth of the human experience. Many of the films detailed true stories and real events, while still others depicted what my college professor, Dr. Reinhard, would describe as a "truth stories". I'm not sure of the amount of hours I spent crying during this Oscar season, but I know it was many. Throughout, the messages of hope, redemption, and faith (both keeping and experiencing) maintained strong. The pastor at our church preached a sermon series, recently, on the story of Jeremiah. One line that stuck with me from one of these sermons was: "Out of the pit, you will have a powerful story to tell." Powerful stories - indeed!

*Spoiler alert - please do not read if you do not want to know major plot points of all the following movies, and possible spoilers!*

Best Picture Nominees:

Argo tells the story of 6 American near-hostages in Iran at the end of 1979, and their eventual escape under the guise of being a Canadian film crew, leaving from a location-scouting trip. The beginning of the movie shows an Iranian mob storming the American embassy, and the real terror of the people inside, who realize they are on their own. Noone is coming to rescue them. We see a display of human experience in the light of possible panic, which in my opinion, was riveting. Many Americans were taken hostage, but 6 managed to escape and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck, who directed the film, among other things) is a CIA agent, who works with some of his Hollywood friends to devise an escape plan for the hostages. I found the film fascinating, and the acting compelling (especially John Goodman, and Ben Affleck with his nerdy-hunky late 70's look), but there were a few things that bothered me. I thought the ending was over-dramatic (and according to what I read on Wikipedia, untrue), and I couldn't help but wonder about the stories of those who were killed or captured in the American embassy. I'm glad six escaped, and their story is worth telling, but what about the others?

Beasts of the Southern Wild follows the story of a 6-year-old girl named, Hushpuppy, who lives in a Louisiana bayou community called "The Bathtub" with her dying father, and a community of other poverty-stricken folks. It's a heart-breaking tale, in which Hushpuppy lives in her own trailer of sorts, where she cooks her own cat food dinners by lighting the burner with a blow torch, while loving her tough-love-giving father and missing her deceased mother. She says things like, "Kids who have no mommas...gots to live in the woods, and eat grass and steal underpants.", and mentions at one point that she can count the times she's been lifted by another (in an embrace) on two fingers. Can you imagine? Quvenzhan√© Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy, is absolutely amazing (and only 5 at the time of filming. The film highlights the community's fierce independence in the face of crippling poverty. I couldn't help but think about how hard it is to really help people, without truly understanding the circumstances, and grasping the people's thoughts and feelings about their own plights. 

Les Miserables is the movie version of the popular musical, with Hugh Jackman (at his best) playing Jean Valjean, a shunned paroled prisoner, who finds refuge in a monastery, and then proceeds to steal from the very bishop who took him in. The Bishop shows much mercy, though, when Valjean is caught by the police and brought back, and Valjean is able to change his life and become a successful business man. Much more story is told. It's almost hardest for me to write about this movie, because I was moved by it so deeply. The performances (all singing) were astonishing, with the filming done in such a way that the audience was drawn in so completely (even seeing the snot dripping from Anne Hathaway's nose) as to experience the emotion of the difficult story in such a significant way!

Life of Pi is the story of a teenager, Pi, who is the only member of his family to survive a shipwreck. In the life boat with him, is a bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The filming is amazing and the story is larger than life, but the themes in the film are universal. A few of my favorite lines from the movie are these, "Faith is a house with many rooms.", "Above all - don't lose hope.", and "What hurts the most is not taking a moment to say good-bye." There is also a point in the movie where Pi, who is stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a tiger, looks at the sky, after a fish jumps into his boat, and prays aloud, "Thank you for coming in the form of a fish and saving our lives!" Sometimes in the midst of the pit, we must be thankful for the things that allow us to "survive", in order to tell our powerful story!

Lincoln was my favorite movie, and my friends know that I now have a very strong crush on Abraham Lincoln! I was so completely captivated by his compassionate intelligence! The movie chronicles the time during which Lincoln (and others) worked to get the 13th Amendment passed, which would formally abolish slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was passed earlier, but Lincoln feared that because he had invoked his wartime powers, that it would either be reversed during peace time, or that peace would be reached with the South by allowing them to keep their slaves. Therefore, an amendment to the Constitution, was the only way to guarantee the abolishment of slavery, once the war was over. My favorite part in the movie involved an informal speech by Lincoln (of which there were many), in which he refers to a math textbook, written by Euclid, that he read as a self-taught child. 
Lincoln states, "Euclid's first common notion is this, things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning. It's true because it works. Has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is 'self-evident.' You see there it is, even in that 2,000-year-old book of mechanical law. It is a self-evident truth that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other." Thus says the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...", and Lincoln read the same concept, as a boy, and was driven to ensure the destruction of slavery based on this truth! I haven't explained this very well, but I think you may be able to see why I have a small thing for Abraham Lincoln! And Daniel Day-Lewis did a bang-up job of portraying him! Wow!

Silver Linings Playbook was a "dramedy" about Pat (Bradley Cooper) who was recently released from a mental hospital, and his relationships with his family and beautifully quirky neighbor, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). The acting was fantastic, especially (I think) the performances by Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver, as Pat's parents, but also including the performances of the leads. I think a person may need to see Jennifer Lawrence's other major performances (Winter's Bone and Hunger Games), to truly appreciate her creation of the character in this film. I didn't like the movie that much, though, mostly I think, because I wasn't really drawn into the story. I kind of didn't buy it. I know many people loved the film, though, so I'll just leave it at that.

Zero Dark Thirty told the story of the manhunt and murder of Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain played Maya, whose life's work, thus far, had involved the search for Bin Laden. She was semi-obsessed, and was smart and resilient enough to continue on until the work was done. There were parts of this movie that were incredibly hard to watch, but the story was compelling and well-told. Jessica Chastain shines in this role (and I would say that if you saw her in The Help, you would probably further appreciate her range - similar to Jennifer Lawrence). This movie depicted the human experience on so many levels!

Non-Best Picture (acting award nominees):

In Flight, Denzel Washington plays an alcoholic pilot (with tons of baggage, haha!!) named Whip, who miraculously lands a failing plane while drunk and high! His skill at landing the plane is undeniable, but a blood test taken at the hospital reveals his secret. The story which unfolds takes Whip deep into the pit, in order to find redemption. 

The Impossible tells the true story of an Australian family who gets caught in the Tsunami in Thailand in 2004. I think I cried in this movie from beginning to end. I really don't want to say to much, because it is easy to give things majorly away for this movie. The relationship, though, between the mother and her oldest son was particularly poignant for me, because it reminded me so much of my own relationship with my 11-year-old son. This movie is painful to watch, but a valuable look at the human experience in the face of tragedy.

I've run out of time to discuss The Sessions (and kind of don't want to discuss it anyway), but I found it to be an incredibly touching story (no pun intended, haha again!!). Helen Hunt's performance was beautifully sensitive and nuanced. 

My predictions: 
Best Picture - Lincoln
Leading Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis
Leading Actress - Jessica Chastain
Supporting Actor - Robert De Niro
Supporting Actress - Helen Hunt
Directing - Steven Spielberg

I waited until the eleventh hour this year to write and post my Oscar thoughts, but let me know what you think (either before or after the awards show). I always love to discuss!! 

**as a disclaimer, I will say that I wrote this whole thing in one sitting, today, and ran out of time for much editing. I know, for example, that some paragraphs are written in the present tense and others in the past, but I don't have time to make them all consistent. Please forgive me. I think next year I will write about the movies as I see them (and not wait until I've seen them all - or most). Please remind me that I said that, if you see me next year during Oscar time!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Do What You Can, Whenever You Can

I just finished reading the book, The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring true story of a mother/son book club, started after the mother's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The mother, Mary Anne, has spent her life as a humanitarian, traveling the world and working in her home state of New York, to address many human rights causes, especially those of refugees. At one point in the book, after reading a particularly heart-wrenching story, Mary Anne's son, Will, tells her that he feels guilty for not doing more to help people. I was so struck by Mary Anne's response,

"Of course you could do more - you can always do more, and you should do more - but still, the important thing is to do what you can, whenever you can. You just do your best, and that's all you can do. Too many people use the excuse that they don't think they can do enough, so they decide they don't have to do anything. There's never a good excuse for not doing anything - even if it's just to sign something, or send a small contribution, or invite a newly settled refugee family over for Thanksgiving." (p. 255)

When I worked as a social worker, I had a sense of satisfaction that part of every day was spent helping people. I knew I wasn't making huge changes, or taking on worldwide causes, but each day I helped kids to hopefully feel better about themselves, and to be able to spend more time learning.

As a mom, I know the importance of this work. I know that raising loving, caring, good citizens is a daily contribution to the greater good. Unfortunately, in the trenches, it doesn't always feel that way. I definitely spend time wishing I was doing more to help people who are struggling. Mary Anne's words struck a cord with me. I definitely need to recognize and appreciate how important my children, and my care of them, is in the big picture, but I also need to do whatever else I can, whenever I can to help the people around me who may need a little something from me.

Let's do it! Let's all try to do something for someone. It doesn't matter what. It doesn't matter when. When you feel the urge, give in to it! I'll try to do the same!