Don’t Dull Your Shine!

I feel a little bit nervous for my son Max this morning.  He’s in fifth grade and he’s a young fifth grader.  At this age, my other two sons were growing into their pre-teen status and were transitioning from the magic of childhood to the realities of more homework and new social norms.  Not Max.  The world is full of magic and possibility and I absolutely love this about him and I also fear for him.

Yesterday he video taped himself making a news presentation for his class.  The children have a choice, they may create a Powerpoint presentation on a current event in the class or send in a video.  He wanted to create a video.  He sat at his father’s desk and started his newscast  “This is Max Lundqvist with Lundqvist news.  I have an intriguing adventure story for you today.  A snow leopard fell of a cliff BOOM and survived!”

Yes he used special effects, his tone was excited, quirky and engaging.  He had the time of his life and even signed off the video by saying Adieu!  ADIEU!  What kid says Adieu?  I’ll tell you what kid, a kid who reads all the time and is not afraid to be himself.  My first reaction was pride and my second reaction was to worry about what the other kids would think.  I sent the video to my husband who was simply thrilled that his son has inherited his presentation skills.    This is not my first rodeo and I suspect that this video that Max is so proud of may be very different from the presentations that have been done so far.  This IS an age where kids start to quiet their inner personalities to avoid ridicule.  But why?  Why should we dull our shine?

Last night Max told me he also wanted to wear pajamas to school.  If you pledged a small donation for the school Fun Run then you could wear pajamas.I made the donation and he happily put on his pajamas and we went to the bus stop.  Not one child was in pajamas.   Not one.  Not the first grader, not the third grader and not the fourth grader.  Max had his pajamas on AND his Chewbacca hoodie.

I drove home and sat down at my computer to write and to think.  I encouraged him this morning to be himself, to celebrate his creative spirit and to be unapologetic for his uniqueness.  And yet….for all of those pretty words and intentions I still have a pit in my stomach.  This is not allowed.  We are told to conform to social norms and kids are punished and bullied for their differences.  Even when those kids grow up to be adults, many of them conform and focus on not standing out.

It makes me mad.  I see parents who have gifted kids, really gifted kids who are not very academic but are inventors and unique and their friends make fun of them.  In an effort to protect themselves these very same kids hide their talents, talents that may take them really far in life.  They dull their shine.   I know kids who love nature and paint and play music and celebrate the wonders around them but can’t sit still in class.  They are labeled and flattened and scolded and told to burn less brightly.

Why?  Why do we try to quiet the future leaders of our world?  As their parents we need to stop being afraid.  We need to celebrate our kids and help make them more resilient.  We need to also push back on other parents and their snide comments and judgmental bullshit.  Don’t dull my kid’s shine.  Don’t dull my shine.

Don’t dull your shine.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Missing you.

I am missing you.  When I look down at my aging hands I see you.  I remember sitting next to you on the sofa, tracing the veins on your hands and thinking that your skin was beautiful and soft while you knew that your skin looked thinner and more frail.  Now you are gone but I hold you close by looking at my own hands.  I am missing you but I still have my memories.  Thank you for all of the joy and lessons and love that you have given me.

I am missing you.  I remember when you were a small child and adored me.  You don’t adore me to that extent any longer.  You’ve become an independent, strong, young man with your own thoughts, opinions and personality.  I am missing being needed even though I know I am loved.  I hope that you will not judge me so harshly like kids are prone to do.  I was imperfect while you were perfect.  I did my best and you have made me a better person for all of the smiles, the sickness, the teenage angst and the challenges that have come with growing up.  I love you.

I am missing you.  I see an uncertain future.  No longer can you neglect your health.   I am missing you before I need to because I see what you do not.  I see your tired heart and lungs, your weary heart and mind and the abuse your body has taken from years of neglect.  I mourn you before it is time because I do not see a future with you in it.  I hope you prove me wrong.  One day we must all say goodbye but we should not speed up that clock.

I am missing you.  We have separated and have gone different paths.  Deep inside my heart I know that we have both learned valuable lessons from our friendship but we also know it was not meant to be.  The beautiful thing about aging is that you constantly grow and sometimes you grow apart.  It is what it is.  I miss the days of youth but would never go back to them. Sometimes it is the same for friendships.  They are not meant to be revisited.  I wish you well my friend.

I am missing you.  The days of my youth when I would sing in my family’s car on a road trip and imagine I was flying through the air.   Lazy days by the pool and Italian ice with wooden spoons. Ice cream trucks, parks, little league games and Charlie’s Angels trading cards.  Eighties music, the first boxes of mac and cheese that we thought were actually healthy and Saturday morning cartoons, the only time when a kid could watch cartoons.  Joy came easy.  Today I make my own joy, I work at it and pay attention.

I am missing you but you are all woven inside the fabric of my being.  The lessons, the laughter, the joy, the heartache and all of those experiences have brought me to this road.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Yes I am missing you but more than that, I am celebrating the gifts you have given me.  I hope you can say the same when you think of me.

I can’t help you.

During the last six months I’ve made some tough parenting decisions.  Those decisions were incredibly difficult and uncomfortable.  I put some serious boundaries in place with one of my sons..  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I had to tell him that I couldn’t help him anymore, that he completely owned his life and that I was done and was letting go.

He was crushed.  I was devastated. 

And he did it.  He helped himself.  I didn’t enable him any longer and he understood that it was time to love and care for himself and his future.  So in dedication to my son, this very difficult and perhaps harsh post is seeped in love but that love, well, it is tough love and it’s a strong love.

I can’t help you.

I can’t help you.  I’ve tried.  I’m always here to lend a helping hand, to support you when you need it, but I can’t actually do the work.  You need to do it.

I can’t help you.  I know money is tight and yet you still went on that vacation and you can’t stop shopping and you don’t put boundaries in place.  It’s never too late to save and it’s never too late to protect your future self.

I can’t help you.  I’m not sitting in that classroom and I don’t have homework and I didn’t lose my calculator but I can listen and help you find solutions so you can prevent those mistakes in the future.  The rest is up to you.

I can’t help you.  All children are born into this world naive and innocent.  If your child  is heading towards a wrong direction there’s only one person who can right that ship with boundaries and discipline and that’s you.  You are not helpless, you just need to pay more attention and do things that are uncomfortable.  There’s no magic to parenting, just a lot of hard work.,

I can’t help you.  We are all struggling with weight because we are in midlife and some of it is genetic but most of it is because we are indulging.  Alcohol, lunches, socializing, portions and lifestyle is what keeps people fat and unhealthy.  I can’t help you.  I’m trying to take care of my own health.  I’m letting go of yours.

I can’t help you.  You hate your job and yet you don’t look for another one.  You wait and wait until you don’t have a choice and your money runs out.

I can’t help you.  I know you don’t feel good and yet you won’t go to the doctor or take care of yourself.  There is no one else to blame.

I can’t help you.  I’m a hot mess and am trying to make myself just a bit more tidy.  It’s an ongoing struggle but it’s my struggle.  I own it.

I can’t help you.  Help yourself.  The only person you can control is yourself.  Make sure what you’re addressing in your life is a problem and not an excuse or justification.

If you face something that you can’t control I will be there in a heartbeat.  I will always listen and lift you up……

But the other stuff?  The challenges that you face that you yourself have contributed to?

I can’t help you.  I know someone who can.  Look in the mirror.  You can do it. Go forth and do it and I will support you.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Midlife Crisis – The Blank Page.

I am turning fifty this year.  As I age, I see more and more people around me struggle with this time in their lives.  I do also.  I believe that the decisions we made in our twenties and thirties come back to haunt us in our forties and fifties.  That’s the darn crisis!  Perhaps if we made good decisions, life would be all peaches and cream (has anyone actually eaten that).  Let’s face it.  A good portion of our twenty plus years focused on being married and raising our children.  We were in survival mode!  When that’s almost done we have our AHA or WTF moments.  ONE CRISIS COMING UP!  DING!

If someone today asks you: What is your life’s purpose?  What gives it meaning?  These are important questions because the way you answer will also lead the way to your future.  If you sit here, as you read these words, and tell me that your children are your only life purpose, I will understand your sentiment but will whisper a word of caution.  They are only on loan.  If you neglect yourself, who you are at the core, all for the sake of your children and your spouse, you may be setting the foundation for some confusion down the road.  I think that it’s about balance for all of us at this stage.

Those decisions that you made in your youth will now become the midlife elephant in the room.   He will trumpet and stomp and ask you uncomfortable questions.  That’s why this time of your age can be difficult.  The elephant asks questions like:

  • Why didn’t you save money?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you love your spouse?  Does he/she treat you right?
  • Are you going back to school?
  • Are you taking care of yourself?
  • What brings your life meaning?
  • What has your marriage taught your children?
  • Did you really think he/she would stop cheating on you?
  • How much time do you think you have left to take that trip?
  • Exactly what day will you start to exercise?
  • What else do you have besides your looks because…ummm…they are disappearing!
  • Do you need glasses? (LOL sorry why yes, yes I do).
  • When will you retire?
  • Are you taking care of your health and securing your health for the future?
  • What are your goals?  What do you want to achieve?

We build prisons of our own making.  It’s never too late to write the second half of our lives.  Midlife is a blank page.  It’s a new beginning.   I don’t care if you’re in your forties, fifties, sixties or seventies – your time is NOW.  Rewrite your story or finesse it.  It’s never to late to stop making excuses.  Face the elephant in the room and have your answers ready.  It’s never to late to live your best life.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Hurricane Tornado Crazy Mom.

Hi.  It’s me.  I was going to write about how skinny people get wrinkles even though they’re skinny and my fat easily fills the lines on my face in but then I thought that wasn’t so nice.  Plus, who am I kidding, I have both fat and wrinkles.  So instead I will write about one of the biggest “oh my I’m raising sons” mistakes I’ve ever made.    This mistake has come back to haunt me and I’ve dubbed it “I’m too tired to follow through on your bullshit” mistake.  You’re welcome for my technical and psychological expertise.

So this is how it goes.

MOM:  “Clean your room.”

SON:    “OK Mom, I will….after I finish this game.”

MOM:   “OK” (I naively and foolishly comment)

Two days later I realize that he never cleaned his room.  Do I follow through?  It depends on my energy level.  To be honest I often repeat myself until I’m so damn tired and realize that it’s easier to pick up his dirty clothes myself.  MISTAKE ALERT! WHOOT WHOOT WHOOT!

My sons have trained me, outlasted and outsmarted me.  They have won the resilience battle.  It’s really not fair because I have three kids to follow through with and they only have one mother to push back on.  I am the ONLY woman in this household except my dog Mocha!  What was I thinking?   And let me say something about my Mocha.  She’s a sweetheart.  She keeps her brother Cap clean and licks the gunk out of his eyes while her eyes are matted like crap because he is not going to clean her because he is MALE.  OK I digress.

So then I erupt into this huge monster hurricane tornado kind of mom and am met with complete embarrassment and attitude.  “Seriously, like my other friend’s moms don’t behave this way.” To which I will reply “I AM FRIENDS WITH THOSE MOMS AND YES THEY DO!”  What usually then follows is an exaggerated walk to the refrigerator by (pick any of my son’s names) and a slow drink of water until he sloooowwwwly goes upstairs to take four hours to clean a room that should have taken five minutes.

Dear future daughter-in-laws I am so very sorry.

One day I wrote a note to my son Ryan.  The note said “Ryan, is that your plate in the basement I see on the TV cabinet?”  Later when I passed that note I saw a reply.  The reply said “Maybe.”  OUT came the hurricane tornado mom only to find that he cleaned up his damn plate and now I AM the crazy one….again.

My point is?  I try.  I really try to follow through.  To be honest I do a great job until they turn 16. That’s a magical age.  That’s when the hormones and the body odor and the attitudes all peek at once and it’s just easier to hide from them.  That’s when you feel like a boxer in a boxing ring and wonder where you went wrong and why you’re feeling down for the count.  As they approach twenty you start to understand that you don’t care where you went wrong and start to dream about beach homes and long vacations.

But for now?  I’m Hurricane Tornado Crazy Mom.  However when my husband intervenes and puffs out his chest and sternly tells them to listen?  I’m SUPER SULTRY SEXY WIFE!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

No. I didn’t see your Facebook post.

o-SELFIE-facebook.jpg

No, I didn’t see your Facebook post or maybe I did and just didn’t focus on it.  I liked something or I didn’t like something or I was lazy and switched gears and went to a news site.  If you think that I’m intentionally ignoring you or selectively using social media to send you a message then you need to understand that social media is not a good tool to measure human interactions and relationships.  I have the attention span of a five-year old most of the time so please don’t read into what I do or don’t do on social media.   Be kinder to yourself.  You’re worth more than what Facebook wants you to believe.

I’m not offended by what you say, what you write or what you do in your life.  If that changes I will simply unfriend you in real life.   I don’t believe you have a picture perfect life and I don’t believe you always look hot or skinny, because unlike your selfies I don’t view you from ten feet above your head.    You may be a great mom, but I also know that you really suck at motherhood because all of us do.  There’s no such thing as mother of the year.  Trust me, I know….I’ve been losing that contest for twenty-two years straight.   Your marriage isn’t perfect.  I know this because I’m married.  Your kids are great and I also know they suck.  I know this because I have kids.   You’re on vacation?  So was I!  Maybe you saw the pictures?  No?  That’s OK!  I’ll tell you all about it over lunch or I won’t.

No, I didn’t see your  Facebook post or maybe I did and just didn’t focus on it.  Pick up the phone and give me a call.

I knew I was in Sweden when…

IMG_0417It’s summer and that means I went to Sweden with the boys to visit family.

I knew I was in northern Sweden when:

  • I had to wear a knit hat on one particularly cold summer day.
  • My kids jumped into the lake fully clothed.
  • A mosquito took a nose dive towards my nether regions while I was on the toilet.
  • My son fed a worm to a baby bird. That baby bird is now dead because the mother was attacked by a cat.
  • I lost all desire to put on makeup, shave or wear any clothes other than sweat pants and Levi’s.
  • It took me a freaking hour to make hard-boiled eggs. Seriously what the heck is that? My sister-in-law said it’s because the eggs are so fresh.  No way. This is a country that imports lots of food and I’m not buying that.
  • I’ve made fire after fire to keep warm outside.
  • I’ve served my kids half and half instead of milk due to not reading Swedish labels and being half asleep.
  • Ice cream is now a food staple.
  • My kids added Tack, OY, and hej to their vocabulary.
  • I’ve been using the lawn tractor and push mower weekly.
  • I’ve become a one-handed warrior mosquito killer.
  • I’ve tried some jungle salt licorice candy that caused shooting pains up the sides of my jaw. Really guys?
  • Pork is not steak. Enough with the pork Sweden.
  • Have engaged in fun political discussions with my Swedish friends.
  • I have fished and fished and fished.
  • I went nuts when I discovered it was going to be hot one day at a high of 68 degrees!
  • I’ve enjoyed the most beautiful sunsets.IMG_1002.JPG
  • My kids have been outside running around every single day.
  • I went to Svansele and ate moose and artic char.
  • I saw a moose! A living one!
  • A Cinderella toilet has changed my life!

Not all of this is glamorous but it refreshes the soul.  There is plenty of time to get back into the hustle and bustle of life back in the U.S.  This is a gift to my sons, and is the number one reason why I don’t return to work; my annual summer month in Sweden.

Sweden has changed me.  I am two different people now.  Many of you see the sometimes sarcastic, introspective,  often humorous American friend and colleague.  In Sweden I can build a mean fire, bait maggots and worms on a hook, and can drive a lawn tractor so fast it puts landscapers to shame.   Being true to both of those personas is important to me.

I love you Sweden.  Until we meet again.  Back to my reality!

 

 

Politics and the death of integrity and character.

I don’t identify with our political two-party system.  I am fiscally conservative but believe in social responsibility. I have been blessed and don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes.  I think if you are healthy and able, you should be working in order to put food on the table.  I believe in a woman’s right to choose and yet I can’t stomach abortion.  I believe in the second amendment.  I believe in universal healthcare.

You can’t fit me into a box of political making and I firmly believe if you agree to put yourself into one of those boxes you are selling yourself short.  Policy is important and so is integrity, character, leadership, and honesty.  For this reason I am struggling to support many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle.

We are a nation divided.  We are torn between policy, politicians and our values.  I see so much hypocrisy, especially on Facebook.  I see church-going people post pictures of their kid in church and then use the word libtard and whiners in their next status update.  I see celebrities take pictures of a headless Trump and people defending it because “they did it to Obama too.”  NO.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  More people need to stand up for what is right.

INTEGRITY:  firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.

CHARACTER:  the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation.  moral excellence and firmness.  (Merriam-Webster)

The death of integrity and character is upon us.  We expect Congress to work together on healthcare but we can’t stop ourselves from spewing hatred on social media and at each other.  Change needs to happen.  We need to hold our politicians accountable and we need to hold ourselves accountable.   Be the change you want to see in the world and all that.  It starts with us.

So be brave.  If someone victimizes another because of their race or religion then speak up regardless of your affiliation or political party.  If you don’t support the President but someone disrespects him to such a disgusting length, then please speak up!  Don’t spread the toxic nature that is growing like a weed between the citizens of this great country.

Stop making excuses and don’t justify horrible behavior.  Don’t use someone’s past transgressions as a justification for present transgressions because quite frankly, it doesn’t make it right, it only makes it petty.

Be brave.  Be human.  Be true.

And for goodness sake….vote more and hold all candidates to a higher standard.  Our values as Americans are on the line and it’s not pretty.

The lesson your kids may be missing.

This week was a tough parenting week.  Worst week ever!    My motherhood crown came flying off of my head.  I handed in the trophies and went into a corner and wallowed in cluelessness and self-pity.  My weakest personality trait reared its ugly head and served me a nice big cup of wake the hell up coffee.  I also had a bit of an epiphany so it’s all good.

So that’s what I’m going to cryptically write about today.  This week I have realized that I was the weakest link in my sons’ perspective on life and the people around him.  I taught him how to be kind to others but I didn’t fully teach him how to be compassionate to himself.

You see, I always see the good in people.  ALWAYS.  I’m a typical victim.  I’m the girl who dated guys that were bad for her because, well, there were good moments too.  I’m the friend who put up with so much negative bullshit because sometimes that friend was actually kind and supportive.  I’m the person who will put herself last and put others first even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.  I’m an annoying optimist and pride myself on my own strength.  That strength is also a weakness because I will hold up the world alone, to my own detriment and sing “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

When I was younger, my mom told me that sometimes people are just not good for you.  In fact, I’ve given her that advice also.  Why would I listen to my own advice?  I have now taught my children to see the goodness in everyone and it’s blowing up in my face.   When you don’t teach your children to hold others accountable for their actions or inaction, you are invalidating their worth.

Invalidating their worth.

The truth is that some people are jerks.  Some people are selfish and not everyone shares your values.  Going into a situation and automatically believing that someone who has already let you down over and over will change or switch gears is just a fantasy.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a duck.  No it’s not a prince or a friend, it’s a damn duck.

Actions speak louder than words.

So I have reversed course a bit with the kids.  Be kind but be kind to yourself and others.  Forgive those who want to be forgiven, not the person who will take a dump on you again.  Don’t sacrifice yourself to save someone else.  YOU ARE WORTHY of all the love and support and friendship life has to offer and YOU CAN BE PICKY about who you give your own love and time and support to.  STOP wasting time with people who take take take and then take again.  You know who your true friends are so stop wasting time with the ones that just don’t matter.

Mic drop.

 

 

The Romanian Travel Prayer

When we travel overseas I become “that American person,” in a sea of different languages and cultures.  I’m the one who asks strangers if they want me to take a picture of their family when I see them struggling with a selfie.  I smile and strike up random conversations.  I once helped a silent monk find a way to his airline gate with the help of other friendly American passengers who were going in the same direction.  Americans, by their very nature are weird friendly.  On one particular visit to the grocery store, my Swedish mother-in-law asked me if I knew the woman who was shopping at the deli counter because we struck up a mutual friendly conversation about some jacket she was wearing.   When I told her I had no clue who this person was, she expressed surprise and simply shook her head.  This behavior, to complement a stranger, to offer help or assistance is very American and is a behavior I am very proud to display.  Of course this is different than the American who wears bright white tennis shoes and who loudly asks if there is a Jack-in-the-Box fast food restaurant in the middle of Cannes because they haven’t had a decent thing to eat in France (true story).  Oh the stereotypes we create in the places we must go!

On one particular business trip to Paris with my husband, this weird friendliness came out in full force.  It was December and Paris was getting hit with a ton of snow .  Our plane was sitting on the runway, still in view but the airport was a mess. Technically we missed our flight because the doors were closed and therefore had “departed.”   My husband and I got into a long customer service line to rebook our trip.  He went into full business survival mode intent on rebooking our way home surrounded by travel chaos.

Then I saw her.

A grandmotherly Romanian woman was walking back and forth at the gate completely distraught.  It was clear she didn’t speak any English.  She looked scared and confused.  Much to my husband’s surprise I invited her to wait in line with us.  Somehow she had not been given any help, was supposed to be traveling from Austria to DC and was instead rerouted to Paris and didn’t understand why she wasn’t able to board the plane. She didn’t speak a word of French or English.  We let her use our cell phone to call her daughter in the U.S. who translated and helped us understand her predicament.

One look at my face and my husband knew I was going to temporarily adopt a grandmother.

We walked up to the counter and explained the situation to the frazzled agent.  It was clear that they were not rebooking many people right away and that we were all stranded for at least a day.   The relief on that agent’s face when I told her we would take care of this woman was priceless!  I can remember her repeating the words back to me “So you will take care of this woman and make sure she gets on the plane tomorrow?”  A resounding yes got us a free hotel room with my temporary grandmother down the hall, free dinner tickets and a seat in business class!

Upon arrival at the hotel we promised her daughter we would get her up on time for the flight.  Breakfast followed and a seamless flight home to Dulles airport ensued.  Home sweet home!    Rikard and I breezed through customs.  As I looked back I saw one of the border control agents giving our travel companion a difficult time.  Once again I looked at my husband who smiled as I ran back to the agent and told him the story.  They let her in the country once I vouched that she had a person in-country meeting her. The love and gratitude from this woman and her daughter warmed my heart.

But why am I telling you all of this?  Why now when this happened years ago?

Because today, years after this incident I found the gift she gave me.   Using Google translate I was able to finally understand the words on the card.  She gave me a Romanian travel prayer card that she had on her person!  This is the translation:

Save us and Keep us Safe, Travel Prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, all the way, the way, the truth and the life, and he traveled with your servant Joseph and with you my servant blessing my journey. Send me the guardian angel, to be my foreman And protector, to keep me safe from all evil happenings, that in peace and in health I will return to mine and all my life to glorify Your name, the Father of the Son and of the Holy Father
Amen

She kept this travel card as a talisman on her person because she was so nervous about flying.  I bet she prayed and prayed during this trip and just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  Giving this to me was a thank you that I didn’t even understand, a thank you for a prayer answered.  It is moments like this one that makes me understand even more that love and kindness are truly what make life worth living.

I’m a strong believer in making a difference in this world one person at a time.  Never underestimate the joy you can bring to another human being.  I often think of her when I see this card and now it means even more to me now that I have translated the words.  You’ve got to love Google translate!  It’s summer now and many of us are traveling.  Let’s spread love and kindness wherever we all go!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave