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.


Hand in Hand 21

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.

 

Some People Are Hard To Love

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Some people are hard to love. Some people’s choices differ from ours. Their actions don’t make sense to us. Their beliefs are foreign to us. Some people are hard to love.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to love them anyway. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our love, our time, our compassion.

When my daughter was one, we took her to see her first movie, Disney’s Finding Nemo. She was mesmerized by the giant screen which transformed before her eyes, when the lights dimmed and the movie started, into an aquarium larger than life . There’s a scene in the movie where the seagulls are all intent upon eating Nemo and his friend Dory, repeatedly claiming their prey with an incessant chant, “mine, mine, mine, mine.” To me, it is the funniest scene in the movie. My daughter is now twelve and I still laugh at that scene.

The thing is, I’m not sure if it’s the scene itself or the fact that it reminds me of our own human behavior. It seems to me we’ve perfected this seagull mentality in our own lives as we build walls around our yards and ultimately our lives, as we claim our prey in the form of a new car, a promotion, a cool friend before others do because how would that make us look after all. Many of us, blinders on, choose to ignore the signs when someone needs help, dismissing it with a “it’s not my problem” attitude.

If you’ve ever been around a toddler for any amount of time, you know it is much like this scene in Finding Nemo. Compassion begins at home. It is our job to teach them to be aware of other’s needs as well as instill in them compassion when it comes to those around us. I’m not going to get into a political debate here because that’s not what this post is about. As I stated above, we all have our own beliefs, etc. I believe if I worked for something, I earned it. I don’t expect some greater power to demand I share what’s mine with someone else. What I do expect is for me to help someone less fortunate in my way when I see a need. I am raising my children to do the same. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, compassion should always be present.

Life isn’t a fairytale or a Disney movie with a guaranteed happy ending. As I like to say, we each have our own once upon a time, our own unique upbringing, our own cultures, our own personal experiences that make us who we are today. However, we can all come together to write the next chapter. We can reach out and help someone close a hurtful chapter and begin a new, more promising one. In the simplest of ways, we can make a difference for someone by simply showing compassion whether in person, in writing, online, with a comment or even a smile.

Teach the children in your life to be aware of the needs around them, to be kind, to love those who are hard to love, and to show compassion in all they do. It has been said it takes a village to raise a child. Do your part to raise a compassionate child for that same child will grow up to have a role in the very same village some day.

1000 Speak, Compassion

This post was written as part of an initiative that is near and dear to my heart, 1000 Voices For Compassion.

I invite you to join 1000 bloggers on February 20, 2015 as we flood the internet with compassion in the form of blog posts, videos, photos, etc.

Write a post about compassion on your blog, join our Facebook Group, invite others to participate.

You don’t have to be a writer to submit a post to the website or simply post a comment on FB, share a post or tweet something compassionate with the hashtag #1000speak then sit back and see how one little blog post has become a movement.

The preparation of this event is already connecting people across the globe. It has taken on a life of its own which to me simply means a little compassion goes a LONG way!

Let Them Eat Cake! – Photo Friday

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The day each of my children was born was life-changing for me as it is for many parents. I believe in celebrating their birthday special every year as much for them as for myself. Through the years, after the kids go to bed, I have spent many a night creating a cake for the occasion. Amid yawns and stretches, I relive each moment of my pregnancy, each memory of their birth. As I bake, ice and decorate, I imagine the look of joy on their sweet faces when they lay their eyes on the finished product. It may not be Cake Wars worthy, but I know they will remember these cakes and the love I poured into each one for many birthdays to come.

Do you have a special birthday tradition for your children or loved ones?

For more Finish the Sentence Friday and diabolical ideas of what to do when the kids go to sleep, check out

Kristi (Finding Ninee)      Stephanie (Mommy For Real)    Kerri (Undiagnosed but Okay)

A Christmas Tradition

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“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.

Gold Cross1

She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.

As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.

This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”

She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.

She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.

The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”

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“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.”

The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”

This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years.

How do you give back during the holidays?

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.

 

Evan the Artist1

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.

A Message to My Children on Their First Day of School

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Some of you may have seen this post over in The Huffington Post this week. I thought I would share it on the blog for all of us who are gearing up for a new school year this week. I hope it’s a smooth transition for kids, parents, and teachers!

Dear Olivia and Evan,

As I opened my eyes this morning, the realization that you will be starting a new school year at a new school today held me hostage for a moment. Today, you embark on yet another new chapter in your young lives, and as we rode the elevator down from the 17th floor I thought of so many things I wanted to say to you. Things I’ve already covered in the many conversations we’ve had leading up to this day, but as a mom can’t help but feel the urge to repeat in case you didn’t hear me the first time.

Floor 16 – I wanted to tell you that I know what it’s like to be the new kid. I understand the butterflies in your stomach and wondering if you’ll make friends. Believe in yourself. I do.

Floor 15 – I wanted to tell you I understand worrying about finding your way both physically and socially. You’ll spend a lifetime finding your way. Never give up.

Floor 14  – I wanted to tell you that sometimes the new kid is at a disadvantage simply because you are new, but the very fact that you are the new kid is sometimes an advantage in and of itself. Embrace the adventure.

Floor 13 – I wanted to tell you that as the new kid other kids will be drawn to you. Some won’t accept you. That’s okay as it will be their loss.

Floor 12 – I wanted to tell you to embrace this new experience with a positive outlook because while it is all strange and a bit scary today, very soon it will all be routine and familiar. It’s the circle of life.

Floor 11 – I wanted to tell you to try not to look so nervous. Sometimes the simple act of smiling can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe a smile is worth at least that much.

Floor 10 – I wanted to tell you if at any moment today you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, just breathe. You’ll be amazed how a couple of deep breaths can help you see things in a whole new light.

Floor 9 – I wanted to tell you to remember you only need one good friend. Quality trumps quantity.

Floor 8 – I wanted to tell you how my heart is torn between wanting to keep you home with me all day where I can love you and protect you and wanting you to go out there and have experiences I can’t provide for you. Don’t grow up too fast okay?

 

Cheerio!

 

 

Floor 7 – I wanted to tell you how I prayed last night that those you cross paths with today will see you as I do…smart, kind, caring, funny, creative. More importantly, I hope you always see yourself as I do.

Floor 6 – I wanted to tell you not everyone will have things in common with you. Embrace the differences. They may pleasantly surprise you.

Floor 5 – I wanted to tell you to be patient with yourself and others. Time has a way of charting our course from the trivial to the really big stuff.

Floor 4 – I wanted to tell you to not be afraid to try something new. That’s the beauty of a clean slate.

Floor 3 – I wanted to tell you to listen when the teacher speaks, when someone new talks about themselves, etc. Listening is one of those skills that will come in handy later in life.

Floor 2 – I wanted to tell you to follow instructions when necessary, but also to make sure you always express yourself. It’s okay to speak up.

Ground – As we exited the building for our short walk to school, I took each of your hands in mine and said, “Just be yourself, and remember how much I love you. I’ll be waiting to hear all about your experiences this afternoon.” I realized that’s really all you needed to hear. Love, Mom

What advice do you give your children on their first day of school?

I Slip It On Like A Well-Worn Pair Of Jeans

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They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.

Denim, Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans

My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.

I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.

Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans, ,Blue Denim

An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.

All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.

 

Raising Champions

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Little boys all grow up to be men someday.

The kind of men they grow up to be is still to be determined.

Or is it?

Football - Little Rascals

 “I watch them from the sidelines as they stand side by side on the edge of the field. Every so often they turn and high-five each other, throw an arm over a teammate/friend’s shoulder. With the short attention span of little boys, a couple of them roughhouse with those standing closest to them until the coach reminds them to focus on the game. In these instances, I catch glimpses of their faces and can’t help but wonder if I’m catching a glimpse of their future as well.

My eyes methodically travel down the line, and come to rest on each jersey, seeing more than just their number. These boys already exhibit certain characteristics that will become prominent as they grow into men.” 

On The Bench

I’ve spent the last several months getting to know these same boys from an earlier post titled, Boys To Men: A Glimpse Into The Future. I’ve watched them grow in ways I never could have imagined during those early practices. I’ve witnessed the highs and lows of a competitive team sport through my lens week after week – tough games and great plays, bad calls and good calls, tackles and ultimate victory. Through my lens I’ve taken thousands of images of these boys, each capturing something unique about them, each depicting a piece of themselves that will eventually play a huge part in their future selves.

And, while earlier in the season I sat back and wondered what each of these boys might be like in the future, I no longer wonder. You see, the images that I will forever carry in my heart clearly show the type of men these boys are destined to be. As my eyes wandered away from the little warriors armored with helmets atop their heads as they prepared for battle each week, I caught glimpses of the people who are shaping them into the men they will someday become.

Coaches who volunteered their personal time day after day, week after week, to ensure these little guys would not only learn the sport, but learn lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime. Lessons of dedication, lessons of commitment, lessons of hard work, and lessons of compassion. Men who gave them a beautiful example of the importance of carving time out of your busy enough life to unselfishly give to the children of our future, instilling in them the importance of being present.

 

And, as I positioned my camera toward our sidelines what I saw week after week was the ultimate example of support from mothers and fathers alike I have ever witnessed. These boys were given a clear picture of what good parenting is all about as fathers helped them suit up, moms provided snacks, grandparents came to cheer them on, and siblings shouted their names from the sidelines all confirming that simply being present in our children’s lives is a priceless gift they will forever cherish.

Due to such an amazing team of people, these boys had an undefeated season and went on to win the championship. However, I can’t help but feel that during this season they won so much more.

The glimpse of their future selves is of men who will know how to be a part of a team and who will lift each other up, men who will have faith and men who will never give up. They will grow up to be dedicated fathers and supportive friends. They will dig deep when the going gets tough and they will see the best in those around them. Trophies and titles will come and go, but the greatest reward these boys received was the love that was showered on them all season long, proving they were winners long before they became champions.

Football Prayer

 

 

Lover

Goodbye Nightmare Lover!

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The nightmare took over. It came to me night after night, tiptoeing into my peaceful sleep and curling up beside me like a longtime lover. Quietly climbing into my bed, slowly inching over my body, not near enough to touch, but close enough to hover over my warm skin, its breath upon me. Beginning with a gentle caress, it traveled over me, inch by inch, plying my body to its will, allowing no resistance until the moment arrived when it entered me in my weakened state of slumber. At first came only a moan, barely audible, but enough for my brain to register it was happening. In denial, I ignored it and settled deeper into the mattress, rolling over, the universal sign for “not tonight, please…I’m tired” but with its one track mind it seemed to draw strength from my unwillingness to participate. The more I resisted the louder the moans came, until…

Lover

MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!

They were the screams of my daughter and they came from down the hall. The nightmares were hers, this routine one I was all too familiar with and one I was sure I could not physically keep up with much longer. While she had always been one of those children who didn’t require a lot of sleep thus never slept through the night, through the years her lack of sleep was taking a toll on my own. I like sleep. I need sleep.

Yet, every night after an exhausting bedtime routine of prayers, stories, and night lights, kisses and hugs, questions and comforting answers, more kisses, more hugs, more night lights, I dreaded allowing myself to fall into a deep sleep knowing it wouldn’t last. The nightmares would arrive, the fear would take over and the screams would begin.

I tried everything – night lights, prayers, staying with her until she fell asleep, each night putting a bit of distance from her until I sat in a chair right outside her door – Dr. Phil recommended it, claiming it helped to progressively reassure the child you were still there. Obviously, Dr. Phil had never met my kid!

As our daughter got older, my husband introduced her to one of his passions, Superheroes. He started telling her stories about his favorite Superheroes and eventually started watching some of the movies with her. He explained that in his dreams, whenever something bad was about to happen, he pretended he was a Superhero and changed the course of the dream, fighting off evil and sending villains back where they came from.

My Superheroes

One thing we never did was discuss her nightmares in the middle of the night, believing she needed comforting more than we needed a play by play in that moment. Thus, many a conversation over breakfast consisted of our dreams, nightmares, and ways we could control them. My husband insisted our brains could be trained to control our dreams as he described his often becoming quite animated. He depicted scenes in which he picked up a villain, dropped him on his head, and his cartoon teeth flew out. My daughter soaked it all up like a little sponge, but the sleepless nights continued.

One morning, I woke to the smell of toast and the realization that I had slept through the night. Not sure if I was in dream state or reality, I shuffled my way to the kitchen to find my daughter and husband laughing and hugging over breakfast. When she sensed my presence, she rushed over to me. “Mommy! Guess what?! I had the best dream last night!”

To me, sweeter words had never been spoken. Words tumbled out of her mouth as she described a dream in which terrible, scary things were starting to occur, fear tried to envelope her and she almost succumbed to it. “Instead, I became a superhero and flew above it all! They couldn’t reach me up in the sky and once I realized that, I flew around the city. You should see the view from up there!”

In dreams we set aside the rules of real life. We are in control and can be anything we want to be. Believing in superheroes cured my daughter’s nightmares. What tools have you used to control your dreams?

#teamsports, #sidelines, #boystomen

Boys To Men: A Glimpse Of The Future

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#teamsports, #sidelines, #boystomen

I watch them from the sidelines as they stand side by side on the edge of the field. Every so often they turn and high five each other, throw an arm over a teammate/friend’s shoulder. With the short attention span of little boys, a couple of them roughhouse with those standing closest to them until the coach reminds them to focus on the game. In these instances, I catch glimpses of their faces and can’t help but wonder if I’m catching a glimpse of their future as well.

My eyes methodically travel down the line, and come to rest on each jersey, seeing more than just their number. These boys already exhibit certain characteristics that will become prominent as they grow into men.

#boystomen, #teamsports, #lifelessons

Number 17 stands still, eyes directed at the field and his fellow teammates in action. He watches each play intently, tuning out the more restless boys on either side of him. Will he grow to be the kind of man who is focused and driven, eyes on the prize at all times? Will this cause him to neglect those he loves most, not understanding they need his love and attention more than his paycheck?

Number 23 is just as focused on the game, but expresses his enthusiasm not only for each pass completed. He also jumps in the air, his little cleats stomping the grass as he yells “Good job guys!” and “That’s the way we do it!” Will he be that guy who always encourages and supports those around him? Will he be the go to guy when someone needs a little push to overcome life’s obstacles or will he be the man who hides his true emotions behind a facade of smiles and cheers, always giving others, never sharing of himself?

Number 4 is more focused on the blades of grass at his feet as he pulls one, twirls it in his hands as though he’s seeing it for the first time, oblivious to the activity surrounding him. Will he grow up to be a man who takes pleasure in the small things in life? Will he appreciate all the parts that make a whole or will he get so caught up in the little things, that he misses the big picture?

Number 32 can’t stand still as he shifts his feet this way and that way. He alternates between watching the game and watching his teammates goofing around beside him. Will he spend his adult days always on the sidelines, watching but never truly participating? Or, will he be the type of man who tunes in to everyone around him, always fully present for each?

Whatever these little boys turn out to be as they grow into the men in our lives, our daughter’s lives, and our communities, I hope they take the lessons they are learning today and hold them close to their hearts.

The field may be a tough place at times, full of surprises, wrought with confusion, and a place of decisions both instant and well thought out, but isn’t that life? I hope these boys take their commitment to their friends and teammates today and turn it into commitment to their significant others and family in the future. I hope they apply the same drive and determination they display today to the things they are truly passionate about as they make their way through life. I pray they hold on to the pleasure they currently take in the small things and truly take the time out to embrace the little things that will tend to be harder to see as they get older. I wish for their future self to be the guy who encourages others from the sidelines when necessary, but also the guy who knows when to jump in and make things happen. More than anything, I hope they will be ever present in each moment life presents for themselves as well as those around them.

We, as a whole, spend so much time complaining about our youth today and the mistakes they make. We try to find a way to mold them into what we think they should be or what society needs them to be when they are all grown up. And yet, our children already hold admirable characteristics that they are applying on a daily basis, in sports, in the classroom, at home. They are exhibiting admirable qualities every time they help someone up, cheer someone on, show up for practice, commit to an entire season, and hang on to a belief that won’t let them quit. It is our job, as parents, teachers, coaches, to support and guide them from the sidelines, help them embrace the great qualities they already display today, because one day the little boys standing on the sidelines will take the field.