Tag Archives: life

Letter to my son as he turns 10

My son turned 10 and I just found the letter I wrote here when he turned 5. I cannot believe time has passed so quickly! (Yes, friends did warn me.) I am drawing, once more, from the inspiration that prompted me previously. My friend, Nevin Adams, wrote a letter to his son as he graduated from high school. I cherry-picked a few of his messages because, really, a 5-year old can only follow so much! 

Never miss a chance to tell someone “thank you.” This can be a friend, a teacher or anyone who you see helping others.

“What do you think?” is a great response when you don’t know the answer. We often do not have all the answers! AND, more importantly, asking questions is the smartest thing you can do to keep learning. Life will always be your classroom.

The hardest thing to do is quit while you’re ahead. 

The second hardest thing to do is to keep your mouth shut. Listening is much more important than speaking. Unfortunately, some people want more attention and make a bit of noise. That’s ok. Be well informed before you decide to take center stage.

If you don’t speak up, people will assume you’re happy with the way things are. It is acceptable to question authority and propose new ideas.

If you don’t love yourself, nobody else will.

Not everyone will become your friend, but be kind to everyone.

Civil discussions are important. People will have differing opinions but discuss your viewpoints without being disrespectful.

I just shared this with my son. He read both out loud to me. After going out and playing Pokémon Go this morning, I enjoy having a moment where we just talk. The next five years might fly by just as fast, so I will hold onto this day.

 

Time Passing…

Background: I started writing this a year ago, then I did not post it. I came upon it and another draft that now I’ll be posting so it has been two years since my last published post.
My son just turned 8. I had intended to write in time for his birthday. Being slightly compulsive, I thought the deadline would help me get back to writing. That did not happen but as we are now into his 8th year, it does provide me an opportunity to reflect.
He has made me proud so many times this year.
We had a parent-teacher conference and his teacher shared that she relies on him to help new students ease into the class. He has good leadership skills but also has a nice manner with younger kids (it was a first and second grade split class).
We watched a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen and he heard some language for the first time which prompted us to talk about racism. As we explained it, he said it made his “heart hurt.”
He actively decides on items to donate to a local domestic violence shelter. We’ve taken clothes, toys and books of his that he has outgrown. I also have given them furniture and other household goods. Recently he asked if he could give some money that had been given to him, too. He has learned to share and he realizes that he has been blessed with quite a bit.
He also makes me smile a lot. For Mother’s Day he filled out a form in school about my traits and among them he said “She always knows what to say when I’m sad.” And, he listed a hobby of mine was shopping for clothes. For the record, I tend to shop for him! He also thinks I “know his every move.” I hope he believes that for a while.
He turns his head when couples kiss on tv. He lets me cover his eyes if something violent happens in a show.
A fun area of connection for us is music. We seem to have similar tastes, which are mixed: The Fray, Maroon 5, OneRepublic, Bruno Marz all have had recent songs that we both enjoy.
I have them saved to a playlist, so that makes things easier. We listen to music mostly as we are in the car. And, we gave him a record player so a visit to a store selling vinyl makes for a good afternoon. He’s gotten a decent mix of old and new, including Michael Jackson and KISS. He’ll have interesting tastes when he gets older.

Life Happens

bowlingWhen I began my blog I was newly-unemployed. I decided to split my available time between my son, embarking on a job search and expanding my social media skills. It took ten months to secure a new job. During those months, my son and I went on various outings (bowling, library visits, swimming, and the zoo, among others). I was able to walk him to school every morning as he started Kindergarten and I assisted the coach for his first soccer team. It was a success in many regards.

I got this blog launched and networked with better-established bloggers. I did not have a rhythm going but I did manage to produce some decent content. The new job stalled my best intentions. Life happens. My son is completing the first grade and we have been to Disneyland. Soccer was replaced by t-ball. And the tooth Fairy has made repeated visits to our house.

Last weekend, I attended a conference and Chris Brogan was a presenter. He talked about distractions and suggested if we “stopped doing stupid shit” we could get more accomplished. With that in mind, I am resuming my writing. It is a time I can carve out for me. Let’s begin…

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My Life Interrupted

The goal or theme of writing this blog was how I intended to make sure my life was balanced. I started a new job in October and as a result I have not been writing. I have been very busy at work and learning a great deal, and I did not have much more to give of myself when I got home. My son started kindergarten and we’ve been surprised to find we had homework every night. My priority was to help him with his assignments and by the end of the night I’ve been spent. Happily, we are seeing all sorts of progress in his reading and writing skills, and how he can illustrate his thoughts. We’ve also had our first two parent-teacher conferences. We’re watching him develop before our eyes.

I have a neighbor who is facing health issues and her husband was recently laid off from his job. As a result, she and I have discussed our mortality. We’re close in age and had our babies within two months of each other, so our lives have been on parallel paths. In recent days, there have been announcements of the deaths of a few famous people that also struck a nerve in me. The most stunning was a news story that Wall Street Journal author Jeff Zaslow died in a car accident. Aside from his newspaper work, his book, “The Last Lecture” was a favorite of mine. I found so many life lessons in it and felt the connection he had made with his subject (professor Randy Pausch). lastlecture_bookcvrHis writing was powerful. Then, to read that he was the father of three daughters and had just published another book made me stop short. We all go through life knowing it will end eventually but are rather blissfully unaware of when that might be. We presume we have decades but what if it turns out there are only months (or less) left for us? Would we do things differently?

I’m planning our first Spring Break vacation and it will be a trip to Los Angeles. A visit to Disneyland is on the agenda. My husband and I are hoping to surprise our son. We’ve seen those ads where kids are told about the destination and they go nuts. I’m not sure if we can hold out that long but we’re going to try. There are six weeks to go and we’re weakening. We have all this anticipation building for us and we do stop periodically because we want to remember to enjoy it as it happens. Taking too many pictures or having too many expectations may make it less fun in the end. But, it might just be magical.

Part of the fun of the So Cal trip is that I can hopefully see some friends who I have not seen in years. A former co-worker, college roommate, business associate—I hope we can squeeze them all in. Through social media, email and Christmas cards, we’ve managed to keep track of one another for many years but it would be really great to see people in person. Like the ad…we will be creating memories.

 

 

Rainbows…a little bit of magic

My son saw his first rainbow today. I have to say it was pretty cool. He was at soccer practice. I was not thrilled to be there on the sidelines because it was overcast and windy. I thought we had lucked out with no rain but the clouds opened up with about five minutes left. Off in the distance there was a rainbow and my son stopped dead in his tracks to look at it. It was a double rainbow and it looked like it ended right on top of our car. As we walked toward it he could see it was far away. I stopped in the parking lot and took a photo. We drove home and saw the other end of it,  which made the experience complete.

Looking back on this year, I may have preferred to have worked but I would have missed so much in the process. We went swimming. There were play dates. The walks to and from school. I could not have done all that if I had been employed. So I guess I am actually thankful that I was forced to have this time off and be available for my son. I hope he has good memories of this summer. I know I will.

We’ve had some fun conversations. I’ve jotted down his comments when he made me laugh. I was not sure I could use them, but his insights have been pretty entertaining.  Here are a couple: “There’s a lot of love in this family” or “You know what I like about our house? Everything.”

It is possible that we would have had similar exchanges on our way home from work. Or that he would make cute observations over the weekend. However, the sheer number of hours we spent together meant that my odds were greater to catch the small details. I will readily admit to getting tired of cartoons and non-adult activities. But like tonight, I regularly realized I was witnessing firsts and those simply cannot be recreated. Another blogger recently wrote about magical moments being all around us and I could not agree more.

 

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What do my favorite books say about me?

I was sorting through some files and I came across a list of books.  About two years ago on Facebook people were inviting their friends to “List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”  I did it and here is the list I posted to my profile:

1.     The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

2.     Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

3.     Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

4.     The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

5.     Nancy Drew  by Carolyn Keene

6.     Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume

7.     The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

8.     The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9.     The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

10.  Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

11.  Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

12.  The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

13.  Harry Potter by JK Rowling

14.  Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

15.   The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

It went all the way back to my childhood. So, that first one, “The Giving Tree,” was probably read to me by my mother.  I’m pretty sure I read “Charlotte’s Web” on my own.  What strikes me, though, is that the common theme of the two most recent (“Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Last Lecture”) revolved around death.  Both were stories about real men who were dying and how they shared their final days with others.  There were tremendous lessons to be learned.  I decided to take that last one off my shelf and read it again.  Not your typical summer/beach fare but it was worth a second look.

On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” which sparked his book.  He was battling cancer and chose this opportunity to give a final lecture that could be saved for his three young children after his death.  I saw the video of it which had gone viral (as of today, there have been more than 13 million views of it on You Tube). Then I watched a television profile of him, and I also read Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Zazlow’s coverage of Pausch. When I finally read his book it was one of those bittersweet experiences where I was touched by his lighthearted stories and I also cried.  It made me wonder how I would behave if I was in a similar position.  I am impressed by the grace some people exhibit as they die. Zazlow wrote that “Randy had a way of framing human experiences in his own distinctive way, mixing humor here, unexpected inspiration there, and wrapping it all in an uncommon optimism.” So while we face death with the author as we read his words, we come away inspired.

I think that we can learn a great deal from death: how people react to it; how families cope with the loss of a loved one; and how our lives can impact others even after we are gone.  It is a sad event but so much positive can come from it.

The book, “The Last Lecture,” is dedicated: With thanks to my parents who allowed me to dream, and with hopes for the dreams my children will have.  This sets the tone for what follows.

As a parent, I was struck his early memories of his youth and that he thought of his family as “winning the jackpot” of parents. One glowing example was that they let him paint/draw all over his bedroom to illustrate his dreams and passions.  I can be rather controlling and I like having everything in its place. I’m all about order. So I can learn something about giving over some control on the décor of my son’s room and what some early encouragement might eventually help him obtain.

Pausch ran through a number of key thoughts that were worthwhile to share. Here’s a sampling:

  • Never lose the childlike wonder
  • Help others
  • Loyalty is a two-way street
  • Never give up
  • Apologize when you screw up
  • Brick walls (obstacles) are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something
  • Be engaged, appreciate this day and this moment

I just paused to look back over the Facebook list and am struck by the thread of death in other books here. I hope I don’t have spoilers in writing here, but “The Giving Tree,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Little Women” and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” all included main characters who died.  Which leads me to ask myself, what is with my curiosity about the end of life? I’ll ponder that one for a while…

At this point, you might be wondering if I gave away all the content of “The Last Lecture.” I have not—there is plenty for you to explore on your own.  I highly recommend it for those who want something real and inspiring.

Want more recommendations (and some variety)? Here is a number of other blog posts with books and movies from the summer:

 

A Spiritual Rebirth, Writing Renewal

This is both a discussion of procrastination and spiritual exploration.  In April, we went through the Easter season.  At that time, I read an article by Jeff Goins entitled “Why Writers Must Practice Resurrection.” Among other things he wrote: “When you write, you share a piece of you with the world. You put your very soul on display for all to see.” I began thinking about how different parts of my life might merge at this time.  I’ve been trying to write more regularly with limited success.  I am currently job hunting.  And, I have not set foot in a church in quite some time.  There has been a void in my spiritual life.  These things may not be connected but I do think that if I fix the spiritual void I’ve felt, I will see success in other areas.

I have not been attending church regularly for a number of years.  The simple act of going to church helps at a minimum because you can learn new things.  Whether or not they stick, whether or not one continues to study the Bible, is up to the individual.  A greater sense of community is also good and I’ve participated in ‘small groups’ over the years that provided me with more spiritual development.  This has all been lacking lately.  I did start reading a book on devotions but even that has not been a routine effort.  But, Jeff’s post in April did spark something in me and as a result I have begun church shopping.

On Easter morning, I happened to catch “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” where Tim Keller, from New York, was featured.  This minister spoke to me even though it was via the television.  He touched on the polarization of secularism and devout religion that has been growing in the U.S.  He pondered the essence of sin.  He suggested we stop demonizing each other as has become common practice.  This connects particularly with politics when one side of an issue decides the other is not only wrong but evil.  He proposed that churches should play a role in creating individuals who know how to talk civilly, that churches should teach people humility and graciousness, and that they ought to serve people in their communities.  These are the sorts of lessons I am hoping to hear at my home church.  Now if I could only find it!  The search began that day.

I attended one Methodist church on Easter Sunday and returned to it to see what a regular service was like.  Then, I visited a Lutheran church service.  These were in stark contrast to one another.  The Methodist church was much more formal in all regards (some men wearing suits) and, as a result, I was not particularly comfortable.  On the flip side, the contemporary Lutheran service was at the other end of the spectrum.  I liked the pastor there.  I’m going to head back for one of the church’s traditional services.

Interestingly, both ministers touched on how we conduct our lives in a “messy” world.  I liked some of the descriptions that one used: the thought of heaven and God being nearer to us than someplace so very far removed.  And, that from our current perspective, we see the loose threads rather than the finished design of the tapestry (of life).  It was a reaffirmation of the need for faith in God while we make our way through this life.

Back to my opening line: I have been thinking on these things and considering whether or not to write about spiritual exploration.  It does not fit with previous posts and I tend to not talk about faith in my work life.  This blog is somewhere in between my professional and personal worlds and I was not sure about venturing into this area.  So I have not written at all.  But now I have made some progress and am turning a corner creatively.  Wish me luck as the journey continues.

 

 

 

What I Would Say To My 20-Year Old Self

Life is going to be pretty good.  You can stress less about the future.  Try to enjoy moments in the present.  Try very hard.

Spend more time with your grandmother to learn more about her youth.  Some day it could help put pieces together.  It would be fun to think that maybe she’d share a secret with you. Back story:  In 2001 I traveled to Malta and requested the birth certificates and marriage certificate for my grandparents.  As it turned out, my grandmother’s birth date was ten years earlier than we believed.  My aunts & uncles were not super excited with this news.  I found it inspiring.  But it also made me wonder about her life before coming to the U.S. It would have been great to be able to ask her about it when I had the chance.

Try to get along with your father.  He is going to die in 1996.  Don’t regret that you missed time with him.

Getting laid off in 2001 ends up being a major turning point.  This will be the place you meet your husband and start your family. When you move to Chicago, try to embrace it sooner.  You’ll be there much longer than you anticipated.  Nine years so far!

It’s in my nature to plan and analyze, so it is a nice break to look back and consider the paths I have taken and how it all led to the place and person I am today.

 

 



A New Mexico Adventure

I am on a train, traveling through New Mexico.  I am here to clear my head. Well, that was my intention.  Weather interfered with the start of my trip. I got stuck in Dallas overnight and was very angry. However, a lady was on the same plane with me who had started in Ireland.  She had been traveling for more than 20 hours en route to her son’s wedding in Colorado.  She was maintaining her composure and had a smile on her face, so it put me in my place (at least temporarily).  Once I arrived in Albuquerque, a massage, dinner, and a good night’s sleep helped.  Then, as I watched the local news, there was a story about an apartment fire. People were evacuated quickly and they lost everything. A man was interviewed as he watched the building being consumed and he managed to say he had a good job and he had God, so he was ok.  Again, I was humbled.

So, I am riding a train, in hopes that I can sit, write, and relax, while enjoying the countryside.

This should also afford me the opportunity to consider what my priorities are (both in life and professionally).  I do not want to squander the time I have.  I actually really appreciated the year I had when I was last unemployed.  That was too much time off, but it is not terrible to be forced to stop for a while.

A Letter to My Son

In December, as I read about Elizabeth Edwards (when she passed away from cancer), I heard a few things that stood out: as her condition worsened, she wanted to leave her children with great memories of living rather than prepare them/focus on her pending death; and she wrote letters to her children so they could learn from her later after she is gone.  With that in mind, here is the first letter (of several) I will write to my son.

I have tried to raise you by taking some of the customs or traditions I was raised with but I have also done away with things that were unnecessary.  I have worked hard to be the best parent possible.  Someday, I hope you look back and recognize I am human so I may have made some mistakes but I have tried my best.

Please stay true to yourself, be self-confident and be an individual.  Don’t be a follower.

I hope you enjoy exploring the world around you and be inquisitive about new things.  This should apply to many aspects of life.  Be curious to listen to different music, travel, eat weird food.  It is ok to not like it but make informed decisions.  Saying you don’t like something you never tried is ignorant.  Meet new people and try to understand different cultures. The world is a diverse place, so it will be easier if you can get along with people.  Be compassionate and give to those who need help.  Lots of people need help.

My grandparents immigrated from Malta.  They lived the American dream.  Appreciate the risks they took and learn from their work ethic.  This means you should aspire to achieve a lot but you will need to work hard to attain that goal.  Do not expect a free ride. I went to a terrific college and I hope you do the same.  It took years of dedication to my studies and focus when I was young.  I want you to enjoy your childhood but sometimes it will be important to work toward your future success.

Have faith in God.  Life is complicated and we cannot get by on our own efforts.

Challenge yourself constantly–don’t limit yourself or set expectations that you can achieve easily.  Avoid mediocrity.  I hope you enjoy reading and learning new things. I believe in life-long learning.  I still think about heading back to school for an advanced degree as an adult but informally, I use the Internet to expand my scope of knowledge.  We are now capable of connecting with people globally.  This is remarkable.

I hope you enjoy sports.  Have fun playing and learn teamwork.  Soccer players have great legs, so I highly encourage you to try it. 🙂 But there are probably better scholarships in other sports.

Don’t be afraid to do the unexpected.  Moving to Chicago from California was a drastic change for me that resulted in starting a family.  Life doesn’t come with a blueprint and rarely can you go in a straight line.  It will be helpful to learn from life experiences of older people (like your parents) and it can save you some heartache. But sometimes you will need to step out on your own and take a risk.