The Challenge of Raising A Gentle Giant

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He wasn’t my first-born, but the moment they placed the sweet little bundle of boy in my arms I knew there would be different challenges in raising him. He was a healthy baby and thankfully those challenges wouldn’t be of the medical sort, but the difference in raising a boy are always present. As he entered the years of playgrounds and sandboxes, there began the instances of little boys wanting to play a bit rougher than I had witnessed my daughter and her playmates at that age. Pushing and shoving, sticks in the air, and mutterings of “boys will be boys” filled the playground and my little guy’s world. They also filled my heart with trepidation and a little despair as I wondered how I would raise the kind of man I wanted my son to be, the kind who was compassionate to others, who was aware of someone’s need and was willing to help them, the kind who would be strong yet gentle.

Inevitably, my sweet little boy gravitated toward sports, specifically football, and I was faced with yet another challenge. Raising a boy to be tough in sports can be a double-edged sword. Even with the best of coaches, and he’s had some amazing ones, the sidelines are filled with shouts to “tackle harder” and “get that guy” and “you’re tougher than that” none of which are intended to encourage aggression off the field, yet teaching them to leave it all on the field takes constant reminders and discussions I wish I didn’t have to have with my son at such a young age. A love of sports comes with an interest in professional athletes some of which didn’t learn to “leave it all on the field” and are in the news for domestic abuse, animal abuse, and other behaviors that maybe stem from a belief that they are invincible and will hear the cheers no matter what they do. It’s not that I don’t expect to have these tough conversations with my kid, but having the “when a girl says no, it means no” conversation was one I thought would come a bit later in life.

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5 Things I Want My Gentle Giant To Know:

1. Being a great athlete is more than being great on the field. The world is your field and when your days of sports come to an end, it is on this field where your performance will truly matter.

2. When a girl says no, it means no, but she shouldn’t have to say no. You should be aware if she’s uncomfortable and back off. Truth is this goes for anyone in any situation. 

3. Always be the guy who stands up for what is right instead of the guy who lingers in the background, knowing he’s witnessing something very wrong, but is uncomfortable speaking up.

4. Don’t get caught up in messages like “man up” and ” real men don’t cry” and the idea that men are superior to women or that being part of a wolf pack ups your cool factor. Be you, whatever that looks like.

5. Be aware of your surroundings in all you do in your life. Being present and being aware of those around you will make you the best person you can be as you will be truly in touch with others and those who might need a little compassion in their life.

As a mother of a daughter and a son, I share this advice with both and try to raise my children equally. The truth is the world still demands differences from each, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. I encourage my children to be the best they can be in all they do, including sports, and I am always their biggest cheerleader. However, it is my job as a parent to have the difficult conversations, to constantly remind them of what is truly important, to raise compassionate human beings no matter their gender.

I’m raising champions, but I also choose to raise gentle giants. What do you choose?

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This post was part of this month’s #1000speak. Add your post by following the link below.

Texas Style

I Said Goodbye To An Old Love Today

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“I said goodbye to an old love today. My heart squeezes in my chest every time I allow myself to think about it. The pain is still fresh and the memories hit me uninvited as they slam into my unsuspecting mind and pin me down, holding me hostage until I have to catch my breath and take the journey. It wasn’t all heartbreak and these glimpses of what it once was often bring a bittersweet smile with them though I fight the pull with every tiny movement of the over twenty muscles it takes to smile, or so they say.” – Little Miss Wordy

I’m featured over at Felicity Huffman’s What The Flicka? today and am twice as excited because Helen Hunt is this month’s Guest Editor! I hope you’ll check it out and share!

What The Flicka?/I Said Goodbye To An Old Friend Today

Texas Style

Ten Things Of Thankful

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1. I’m thankful I have the physical ability to drag myself to the gym every day even if the enthusiasm isn’t always there. I’m always thankful I did it when it’s over.

2. I’m thankful my family and I never go hungry. Our hearts are full. Our fridge is stocked. Our souls are fed.

3. I’m thankful for making new friends at this stage of my life. When you’re in your 40’s, making a new friend is an unexpected golden nugget that brightens your world.

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4. I’m thankful to have experienced “normal” at our house these last two weeks when my other half wasn’t traveling for a change. “Normal” looks good on us.

5. I’m thankful to have discovered a new coffee flavor for my Keurig. That morning cup sets the tone for the rest of my day and a delicious flavor is a great start.

6. I’m thankful to have discovered a poem that inspired me this week. It stayed with me for days so I shared it here.

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7. I’m thankful for those I’ve loved and lost. In the loving and losing I’ve grown bigger than the biggest elephant on the tallest tree.

8. I’m thankful my children still want to scoot over on the couch and rest their head on my shoulder without any prompting from me.

9. I’m thankful for friends near and far who reach out when they sense my heart may need a hug.

10. I’m thankful for the drive within me that may dim for a brief time, but never goes completely dark.

Head over to Lizzi Rogers’ Ten Things Of Thankful linkup here.

Are You A Chinet Or A Dixie?

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The days are warming up as the sunshine begins to grace us with its presence, but it feels like we’ve just wrapped up the holidays chockfull of picture worthy dining rooms photographed as proof that we are capable of dressing up our tables as much as our bodies. As Easter approaches, we are presented with another occasion to pull out the fine china and gather round the beautifully set table with family and friends. Each place setting lovingly set with items that were pulled out of their resting places in dark corner cabinets, washed, and given a prominent place on the table.

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I love a magazine worthy table as much as the next person, but I’ve come to accept that we are living what I refer to as the Paper Plate Years. The truth is with active young children, dogs, work, workouts and only twenty four hours in a day, paper plates have been a life saver at our house on many an occasion. The benefits of a quick table setting, less dishes to wash, and guilt free recycling currently outweigh a pile of dishes in the sink battling for attention with nightly tooth brushing and tucking in services.

Place Setting, Holiday Table, Dinner Party

And, I’ve begun to use the term Paper Plate Years in other aspects of our lives too.

The lack of dishes in the sink, makes for quick clean up and more time for my husband and I to enjoy some evening quiet time, watch a show or catch up on our day as date nights during the Paper Plate Years often consist of evenings in rather than evenings out.

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The Paper Plate Years may also come in the form of carpets that are showing wear and tear and are in need of being replaced or a car that may have run its course but the money is more wisely spent elsewhere for now.

Dreams of fine china vacations may currently be replaced by staycations during the Paper Plate Years and laundry may not get the attention it needs in exchange for loads of family time instead.

Homework is a large part of the Paper Plate Years as school projects need supervision and little readers need encouragement.

The house may not be as pristine during these Paper Plate Years, but life is messy when you’re living it to the fullest.

Intimate moments may often feel impossible with toddlers in the house, but your creativity will surprise you (and your partner) during the Paper Plate Years.

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We’ve all experienced the Paper Plate Years at some stage in our lives. Some of us may still be living smack dab in the middle of them. Each phase of our lives brings with it a set of challenges but also a set of dreams. When the kids are young or money is tight it’s easy to lose ourselves in wishful forecasts of what awaits, but the Paper Plate Years are the memories we will look back on and cherish when we have plenty of time, money, and energy for date nights, vacations, new cars and clean homes.

The most important thing is to be fully present in the here and now as you pull up your chair to your family table and make it a fine dining experience filled with love, conversation, and of course, paper plates.

In what aspect of your life have you experienced the Paper Plate Years?

The Bully Within

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Bullies are all around us. They come in many forms, making us victim to unspeakable feelings, but the worse kind of bully is the bully within, the one that resides in your mind and heart.  Don’t give in to self-hate, doubt and regret. You deserve a little self-compassion.

“Anti-bullying starts by facing the bully within.”

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No name, no sex, no gender, no race

Anonymous lurking in every face

Out of dark, dusty corners evil shadow to defend

At your side push, push until you bend

Innocents dismiss its presence

doubts seep in become their essence

Sinking through layers of confidence it sets

the table for second guesses and regrets

Unwelcome dinner guest feeds without restraint

on self hate, past failures and pain

Cozy on up, pull up a chair, make yourself at home

Not in this heart continue to roam

No solicitors, don’t want what you’re selling

Your sales pitch is convincing but also telling

Of your own demons hiding within

inviting others to join in

Dinner party pity party the more the merrier

Guest list with no barriers

Come one come all

Clock ticks Last Call

Open your eyes, turn on the lights

See what’s right before your eyes

Turn the lock, flip the sign, closing time

Don’t give in…not this time.

This post was part of this month’s #1000speak movement where bloggers all over the world come together to flood the internet with compassion. This month’s topic is “Building From Bullying.”

Link your post here.



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No One Talks About It

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littlemisswordy:

“No one talks about it. Not a sound is heard. Not as the dark limbs grow and stretch, their gnarly claws inching ever closer, until you are sure they will grip you in a viselike hold and never let you go. Still, while the fear seeps into layer after layer until it chills you to the bone, no one talks about it.”

I’m over at The SisterWives today discussing a topic no one talks about, but we should. Have a look!

Originally posted on The SisterWives:

Fear. Judgement. Discrimination. This is the short list associated with the the stigma of mental illness and the effects are devastating to not only those who live with it, but the family members who love them. Please welcome Leah who simply wants you to hear her message when it comes to perpetuating the stigma of mental illness. No one should suffer in silence. – Sandy

silence

No one talks about it. Not a sound is heard. Not as the dark limbs grow and stretch, their gnarly claws inching ever closer, until you are sure they will grip you in a viselike hold and never let you go. Still, while the fear seeps into layer after layer until it chills you to the bone, no one talks about it.

The illness is discussed, the diagnosis, prognosis, medication plan, the therapy sessions, hospital stays and endless prayers. Those words easily find a voice…

View original 726 more words

Will The Internet Catch You When You Fall?

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The internet is a funny thing. It can suck you into a time-consuming black hole of social media, leaving you informed on news you could have lived the rest of your life not knowing. Last year, I wrote “When 547 Facebook Friends + 832 Twitter Followers = A Negative Number.”  It was about a beautiful friendship between two men who started their journey as childhood friends, sharing treasured experiences throughout the years, only to have that journey end tragically with a cancer diagnosis. In that post, I touched upon the fact that I believe real life friendships, the kind that allow for eye contact, hugs that stay with you forever and the day-to-day that comes with it are unique and can’t be experienced in internet friendships. I don’t mean a real friendship can’t exist, but in my opinion it’s not the same. There’s something to be said about holding a complete conversation with your best friend without saying a word because you know each other so well that one look is all the communication you need or how one little squeeze of the hand can give you the strength to face your biggest fear.


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However, a movement called #sogladtheytoldme, by blogger Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy For Real has stirred something within me that wants to address this in a whole new light. Sprenger wrote a response post to  “They Should’ve Warned Me” about motherhood and the warnings or lack thereof that new moms are given by experienced moms in their lives. In her article, “I’m Glad They Warned Me” Sprenger spoke in detail about the fact that she respects experiences such as the one Jenny Studentroth Gerson had as a new mother where all went smoothly and she simply embraced motherhood like a natural and  felt they should have instead warned her of all the positives of motherhood.  More importantly, and the reason I believe Sprenger’s post went viral is her focus on making sure all readers, especially new mothers, understand it is okay to have a different experience.

Motherhood is a very personal journey and no one should feel pressured to have a storybook pregnancy or feel like a failure when the whole nurturing thing doesn’t come easily. Colicky babies, postpartum depression, raw nipples, and sleepless nights are a reality many mothers face.

#Sogladtheytoldme is allowing mothers everywhere to know they are not alone. And, if you’ve ever felt truly alone in your plight as a new mother then you understand the magnitude of Sprenger’s movement.

Lisa – She can’t keep her eyes open after weeks of sleepless nights with her newborn baby girl. She has finally gotten her down for a nap though has failed at getting her to sleep in her crib yet again. As she tries not to disturb the baby, asleep on her chest, she gently shifts her body on the couch and reaches for her phone. She knows she should sleep when the baby does, but she’s also desperate for some adult interaction even if it is online. Lisa scrolls her Twitter feed coming across the same hashtag time and time again. Mother after mother shares a story, a photo, a simple line, all conveying the same message, #sogladtheytoldme. And, with her newborn snuggled to her chest, Lisa no longer feeling alone, drifts off into a peaceful sleep…if only for twenty minutes.

Like Lisa, I can’t help but wonder how many other mothers are being touched, saved, by knowing they are not alone in wanting to run away some days or wondering if they just aren’t equipped to be a mother. Single mothers, working mothers, first time mothers and mothers of three can all relate to navigating the course of motherhood like a newbie at a Spartan race. I wonder what they feel like when they come across another mom online admitting they are so glad to have been told it’s okay to not be a perfect mom all the time or even half the time. It’s okay to cry because you feel like you are failing this precious gift you were given, yet maybe don’t truly deserve. You’re not the only one.

I still believe there’s nothing like having a friend that can show up on your doorstep when you need them most. I still believe there are certain experiences only to be shared in person, but I think I may have been wrong when I said, “The internet won’t catch you when you fall.” Stephanie Sprenger has proven just the opposite.

 

Lessons From A Third Grade School Performance

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I watched you from my seat in the second row of the right side of the auditorium. Your eyes scanned the room, row by row panning left and right, left and right. Hands in your pockets, you stood tall and attentive, fully aware your third grade performance would begin at any moment. You had the notes, lyrics, moves memorized as you had been practicing for weeks in the comfort of your own home. Though, now you looked a bit nervous, standing on the stage, in the spotlight, anxiously searching the audience. You had told me to sit on the right side of the auditorium so I would have a good view of you. Today, on the drive over, we even reviewed left and right a few times to ensure I would be in the right seat.

 

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As you searched the eager faces in the room, I knew we had gotten our right and left mixed up. The more your big brown eyes sought mine, the tighter my heart squeezed. I tried to catch your attention even waving my hand in the air but you were focused on the other half of the room. I stood and waved once more and it was then your eyes locked with mine, and as your little body visibly relaxed you nodded your curly head ever so slightly in my direction.

I sat back and watched you shine on that stage much like you do in our living room every night and throughout your performance I thought of all the things I want you to know as the world becomes your stage.

1. I will always be here for you, even when you can no longer see me. You will never be alone.

2. When life’s spotlight shines too bright, blinding you from what’s really important, I will help you see it.

3. And, when that same light dims eventually leaving you in moments of darkness, I will be your guiding light.

4. There will be times when our signals will get crossed and lead to misunderstanding. Know that we will communicate and straighten things out and even through disagreements I will never stop loving you.

5. Enjoy your successes, the big and the small. Those that seem insignificant are often the ones that will fill your heart with joy when you look back on them.

6. When the spotlight is on you, remember that all eyes are on you too. Use that opportunity for good.

7. Never take life so seriously that you exit the stage completely. There’s always room for creativity, imagination, and those things that make you laugh.

8. I will always be your biggest fan –  in your brightest moments as well as your darkest.

9. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you aren’t simply to please others. Who you are behind the scenes is better than anyone you could ever pretend to be.

10. Live your life in such a way that you will exit the stage with dignity when the final curtain comes down.

One Ring To Rule Them All

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“I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with air, slowly lifting the weight that seconds earlier was crushing my chest. My relief at hearing his voice didn’t allow me to focus on his words. In his endless string of hurried phrases strung together with pauses to catch his own breath, I could only make out a few words. Wedding. Flood. Ring. Elevator. Almost died.”

I Love You

My first contributor post is live on Felicity Huffman’s website, What The Flicka?

Head over and check out One Ring To Rule Them All and take a moment to look around.

You won’t be disappointed!

Dear High School English Teacher, Don’t Kill My Buzz

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I sat at the old worn oak table and nervously tapped my foot on the linoleum floor, stealing glances at my parents as they sat next to me trying to hide their own anxiety. How many students had awaited the unknown in this very room through the years? How many parents accompanied their children, likely being transported to a time when they were the student awaiting the fate thrust upon them by adults they never imagined becoming?

As the hands ticked on the unsuspecting clock hanging on the wall, student became teacher, teacher became parent, parent became teacher, in a place where respect was demanded, expected, drilled into our psyche alongside the alphabet.

You, sir, entered the room without so much as a greeting, never acknowledging us as you took the furthest seat possible, distancing yourself and immediately setting the tone for our meeting.

My parents said, “Good afternoon.” You nodded, shuffled a few papers, letting the silence hang heavy between us.

“I’m told you want to be in Honors English. That’s not a good idea.”

Looking at my parents, I took a deep breath.

“I’ve been in Honors English all through high school and would like to continue taking an Honors English course at this school.”

Another deep breath.

“Just because you’ve taken Honors English at your old school doesn’t mean you belong in my class.”

My father spoke, “Her current English teacher recommended she transfer to your class. She’s doing so well.”

You looked at my parents as though you were surprised to find them in the room. I could see the disdain in your eyes because they expressed themselves with an accent, English not being their native language. You stared them down as I shifted in my chair. I wanted to tell you I was no longer interested in your class. It was evident to me you were a horrible teacher and even worse human being. Anger bubbled up inside me when you finally responded to my parents. So did a little something called determination.

“Obviously, English isn’t your first language and while your desire for your daughter’s transcript to reflect four years of Honors English is evident, I don’t believe her past courses have prepared her for my class.”

Looking back, I should have bowed out then, thanked you for your time and not pursued your class. However, I was young and naive, and you made me feel like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what finally convinced you to allow me into your class, but so began the year of English hell for me.

You were as determined as I was, except your goal was to tear me down, constantly remind me I wasn’t good enough for your class. You shot down my creativity, demanding I follow a set formula for every assignment, going so far as to insist I begin every last paragraph with the word “Thus” and never giving me a grade higher than C. I tried so hard to write the way you wanted, losing my voice in the process, but determined to show you I was a good writer. I approached you for help yearning for positive guidance.

“What can I do to earn more than a C? What am I doing wrong?”

Your response stayed with me for years.

“Nothing really. You’re just not a very good writer.”

And, just like that you extinguished my creative spark. You planted a seed of doubt that grew with each sentence I wrote for many years to come.

I don’t know what became of you, but I want you to know something. My creative spark was reignited. These days, I grow more confident with each sentence I write. I make words come to life and never start my last paragraph with the word “Thus” because to this day that word makes me cringe.

However, I’m going to make an exception today because (no thanks to you) I’ve learned I have a way of expressing myself in writing that touches people enough for them to come back for more.
The beauty is I didn’t have to lose my voice to do so.

Thus, I AM A GOOD WRITER.