THEY CAN’T HELP IT BUT YOU CAN

Serenity prayer

Many have heard the “serenity prayer”, but the meaning becomes clearer as we age. It applies to all people, everywhere and of every denomination. Parenthood is the only exception, but it shouldn’t be. Parents see the best in their children, but do not accept them for who they are. Frequently lamenting that if only Johnny would apply himself. If only Suzie could see herself as I see her. If only they would try harder.

Whether we accept it or not they are who they are. Johnny is applying himself. Suzie sees herself as herself, and they are both working as hard as they can. The hard part is for the parents. The parents must love them and accept them as they are.

Typical scenario is that you push Suzie to [fill in the blank]. Then as soon as you stop pushing, Suzie falls back to her old ways. Then you fall back to your old ways and pushsisyphus 3 Suzie again. This scene repeats itself  like the myth of Sysiphus until you’re both exhausted and you are broke. I threw in the broke part because pushing frequently means spending money.  Stop trying to change them, because it makes you and them crazy.

Love them as we did when they were babies when their poop stank, kept us up all night crying, and they wrote on walls with crayon. They couldn’t help it then and they can’t help it now. We get especially crazy when our friends are raving about their daughters and sons who are doctors, lawyers, biologists, and ironmen. We tell our children about the super children without meaning to compare but to encourage. When all we are doing is saying to them that they are not good enough. That they can and should be better. We are all guilty.

No matter how old they are…. Tell them you love them like you mean it and accept them as they are, and when all else fails…. Refer back to the Serenity Prayer.

manatra
I Love You and Accept You Just As You Are

Stay Tuned…….

 

You Never Know

Going away card 2What you say or do can have a profound effect on others without you even knowing it. I still remember the smart dresser that I worked for in my early career. He even dressed on weekends or after hours as if it was a normal work period. He taught me “how to dress for success” and he doesn’t even know it….  and I don’t remember his name.

I remember the english teacher at community college who gave a book by Maya Angelou to me. (note the correct english in that sentence). She didn’t know (or I don’t think she did)  that was the first book by a black author that I had ever read. She opened my eyes to an entirely new world of literature. She had no idea what that one act of kindness did for me. I still get emotional just thinking of her, and I don’t remember her name.

When I moved to a new job in San Diego, I left my work-out buddies at the Sport and Health club. They took me out to lunch and they all signed a “sorry to see you leave” card. I carried that card across country. I wanted to save it for reading when I had time to read all the notes they wrote. It stayed in my bag unread for a week after my arrival. When I finally had a moment to relax from the move, I opened it and read all the good wishes they wrote. I placed it on my living room end-table, and four weeks later…. it is still there. They will never know how deeply I was touched by the lunch and card, but…. I remember all their names… especially Gail, Kathleen, and Eileen.

You never know….

Lost My Rhythm

Thirteen days and I have not found
 my rhythm.
 Intellectually, I know it takes time.
 I had a rhythm
evolved over last 24 years.
Wake at 6. Protein drink at 7.
then chat with sweetie til 8.
Start working.
 
Moved to a new city without my sweetnin’ and
lost my rhythm.
Looking everywhere.
Looked for it at the health club.
Looked for it during a Meetup walking group.
Looked in a nightly glass of wine.
Looked for it when driving around town getting acclimated.
Today I looked for it at the pool.
 
They tell me to be patient.
I’ll find my rhythm
or it will find me.
 
Wait a minute… maybe my rhythm is my Sweetnin
and he’ll be here in 2 weeks!!

Valentine’s Day: The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Valentine’s Day: The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Found myself sitting in a chair next to a framed picture from our wedding day. It was only 22 years ago, but I almost didn’t recognize those people who found one another after 20 years of kissing toads. They looked so young, vibrant, healthy, energetic, and life was full of promise.

There were no lines on their faces, no fat around the middles, plenty of hair on their heads, and they could do anything they set their minds to. They knew all the answers, and they were in love without knowing what that meant.

They didn’t know that love changes with each season. They didn’t know that love grows like an old oak tree. It weathers storms, sun, disease, earthquakes, rain, and snow. It sometimes rages like a fire and then calms down like a slow-moving brook on a hot summer day. Love can be like an out-of-balance pendulum or a totally synchronized, smooth running engine.

They also didn’t know that love grows. It can be hard to imagine that the love you feel today can (and should) grow stronger over the years. Like the oak tree, the weathering of storms has actually made the love and marriage stronger.

A friend of mine, John, started me on this thought path when he was answering the proverbial question “what makes your marriage work”. When young people see you’ve been married for a long time and that your marriage seems to work, they want to know the secret, and John was right… every couple has their own secret. A secret that was hewn, shaped, molded, and crafted by the seas of life together.

Happy Valentine’s day and may your seas always be smooth, but when they are not… put on your life preservers.

What You Seek Is Within

You turned to a couple with some years on them and 22 years in the marriage saddle in the hopes that we had the answer, and I sorely wished we had the script writers from Father Knows Best or the Cosby Show, because they always knew the right thing to say in every situation. Unfortunately, TV only imitates real life. Script writers get hours to prep “the right answer” and they have the luxury of wrapping everything up neatly with  happy ending in 30 minutes.

I so wanted  to give you the “right” answer. I wanted to solve “it”. I wished we had the sage and wise answer. Of course the sage and wise answer is that “what you seek is within”.

In your individual hearts, you know whether this is the person that you want to be with. You know if you want to build a life with this person. You know whether you want to be a couple or single… whether you would deeply miss your partner if he/she were absent from your life. You know whether this person makes you better, or happier, or saner or calmer. You know it’s right when you look forward to ending your day together. You know it’s right when you discover something and the first person you want to share it with is your partner.

A relationship is not an intellectual decision. It’s totally emotional, but more importantly, the answer is intuitive. Both of you must want it to work, or it won’t. The answer is in your heart, your core… your spirit… your soul. You know the answer.

10 Things That Go a Long Way Towards Making it Work

–          Always, always consider the feelings of your partner

–          Remembering that words are as sharp as knives and cut just as deep

–          Treat your partner as you want to be treated

–           Do not assume your partner knows what is on my mind or in my heart

–          Listen with your heart

–          Speak in terms of feelings and not actions

–          Care for your partner

–          There is no ego in a relationship

–          Relax and play together

–          Love and friendship

Both of you must be honest…  first with yourself and then with one another. The real answer is that it will either work or it won’t and both represent a new beginning.  One caution…. don’t wait too long to discover what you already know.

Parenting

Today I had an opportunity to explain why I and thousands of other grandparents lavish our grandchildren with love, but the words wouldn’t come to me until I was awakened by an alarm in the middle of the night and the words came. I couldn’t go back to sleep so now I will explain to all the young parents why grandparents appear to be more loose and forgiving with our grandchildren.

We look back at our parenting and see many of the things we did wrong. We frequently ask ourselves “if only” I had done something else… would my children have turned out differently. “If only I had put my children before my career” “If only, I had dedicated more time”. We are full of “if onlys”. We also have the benefit of watching how our peers raised their children, and we learn from what we have read and many other influencers.

By the time we become grandparents, we have a much better sense of how to raise a child and our grandchildren get the benefit of that. These are some of the things we know

  • our children are incredibly fragile
  • everything we do to them shapes them
  • being a parent is not a license to deliberately inflict physical or emotional pain
  • a parent who cannot correct their child without yelling is out of control
  • a parent who cannot correct their child without hitting is out of control
  • no one, especially a parent, has the right to deliberately harm a child
  • emotional pain is equally as bad as physical pain… but the marks are less visible
  • when we tell our children they are fat, they are dumb, they will never be able to do better, they are too tall, too skinny, too short… we inflict pain, and we create that belief in them.
  • kids are quick learners. if a parent smacks Justin because he hit James… then we are sending mixed messages
  • kids understand emotions. If you tell Susan that teasing  Karen hurts her feelings, then Susan understands. If you tell Tony that tripping Larry at school embarrasses and humiliates Larry,  then Tony understands.
  • the next time you catch yourself screaming, yelling, or smacking your child… just STOP… take a breath… apologize for hurting them… explain that no one, even you, has the right to deliberately hurt them… then explain why he/she should not have done X.
  • When a parent’s response is to be out of control than the parent is teaching their child to be out of control.

Grandparents have learned that the best corrective tool is lots of love and understanding.

The next time you yell/smack/correct/punish your child, ask yourself if you could get the same result by talking and/or restricting activities.

“The  key is to maintain a positive, loving emotional environment while setting consistent rules and limits.”

— from The Children’s Hospital Guide to Your Child’s Health and Development, Children’s Hospital Boston

Synchronized Marriage

 No, this is not about Jung’s marriage experiment concerning astrological signs as a bellwether for marriage, this is about what happens with synchronicity in relationships… one woman’s perspective. This weekend was chockablock with conflicting activities… grandsons baseball game, grandsons birthday party, swimming clinic, practice triathlon and weekend at beach with husband.

As I am writing this from the living room of our condo overlooking the beach, I apparently chose the weekend at the beach with my husband. I’m still conflicted and feeling guilty while also feeling relaxed. He’s out fishing but I know he’ll be back soon. I can “feel” his presence nearby. Somewhere along the line over twenty-one years of marriage, we came to a place where we just want to be together… kinda like teenagers in their early dating years or like newlyweds. Don’t know when it happened… it just did. So, as he was packing to go away for a weekend of fishing and de-stressing, I just wanted to “be with him.” I changed all my weekend grandson and swim plans, packed my bag and off we went.

I remember my parents who after 49 years of marriage were totally and comfortably co-dependent. His memory was failing and her eyesight was failing, but together, he could drive and she told him which way to go. That’s synchronicity.

I didn’t know how entwined they were until her health took a downturn. He was absolutely lost without her. It was then that I knew how bad his memory really was, because she had become his memory. She told him what to wear, what and when to eat, and what to do. Without her, he couldn’t function. When she was in the hospital, he developed a blank stare and just sat. I was totally taken aback. How could I have been so blind to what was happening? It was because they were one. Like the winning team in a 3-legged race, they were totally in step.

It takes a long time to get to that place and we are moving in the right direction. Not there yet, not by a long shot but it’s beginning to happen. So, I chose the weekend with him, because he’s my partner in the 3-legged race of life.

Stay tuned…

OMG !!!

OMG The year in review…. A look back in time…. The most incredible year of our lives… Every year we want to be able to say “Oh my God… the last year was the most [positively] incredible year of my life.” That’s how we want to live and eventually we should be able to say “Oh my God… the last month was the most [positively] incredible month of our lives].

Incredible for some might be losing 25 pounds, conquering a phobia, or finding the cure for cancer. For me, it meant degunking the arteries of my life. We had become so intellectually and spiritually sedentary that our souls were creaking. Our blood had slowed to a crawl. Our spirits were dormant! We were comfortable, complacent, and happy. But wait a minute, except for the complacent part… comfortable and happy should be good things!

I was happy but my soul was discontented, and saying that makes me wonder if it’s possible to be happy with a discontented soul. Maybe I wasn’t happy! Maybe I just thought I was! But this is getting way too philosophically deep. So maybe I was conflicted? On the other hand, Clay just keeps ticking along without a worry in the world, which makes me think there just might be something to this meditation thing, because he meditates every day.

 Whatever the case, my sojourn in the Middle East was like rotorootering my soul, spirit, body, and mind. We cleared junk out of the house for our son to move-in, which meant an opportunity to throw out things we had been keeping just because they were too good to throw away; because we might use them one day; because the kids might be able to use them; because, because, because. We couldn’t figure out why we held on to skis that we hadn’t used since my knee surgery fifteen years ago had ended all hopes of ever doing a double black diamond out west. We gave away stained chairs that we keep for overflow gatherings and an assortment of other stuff that lined the front of the lawn for others to take away and store in their respective attics and garages. All this was done to make way for the OMG experience.

 We hiked a Wadi. We climbed a mountain. I took horseback lessons. We had countless glorious evenings walking towards the sunset along the Persian Gulf. We made as many friends in 10 months as I’ve made in the last 10 years. I became a better and more interesting teacher. We learned there are as many different types of Muslims as there are Christians. We learned that girls cloaked in abayas are the same as girls everywhere around the world.

 Streetwise punks say “I can do a year standing on my head” while referring to prison. Not to compare marriage to prison… but prior to this year, I would have said “We can do a year apart standing on our heads… because our marriage is strong”, but when faced with that decision, I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew that what made the last year magical was having him to share it with. I knew that if I returned to the Middle East without him, it wouldn’t be the same. I’m now in the process of having an OMG year right here in the US. I took a storytelling class that ended with a scared-to-death stage performance. I’ve signed up for a chorale group advertised “for those who cannot sing”, and [drum roll please] I might sign-up for a motorcycle class. Clay is working in his dream job, Director of Cyber Security at UMUC.

So… we’re busy working on keeping the physical and spiritual arteries from clogging back up. Wishing you and yours a [positive] OMG year! Aleta and Clay

The Internet Sucks: Unplug Me

The PC is a drug. I pass by the door of my home office and decide to pop in to check on a recipe, or a movie schedule or anything and the next thing I know… I’m surfing the web. One thing literally leads to another and another… until I’m sucked in. An hour or more has passed and I’ve forgotten what I was doing when I passed by. Ahhh!!

The PC has taken over my life and I can’t seem to break free because everything I do is on the Internet! My garden needs weeding and filing is piling up along with laundry that needs to be folded, but the PC beckons and sucks me in. I use the computer to pay bills, check on insurance estimates, get a copy of a check from the bank, locate contractors and on and on. Everything I need is on the computer!

This is the ultimate love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I wonder how on earth I ever got information before the Internet. On the other hand, before the PC (BPC), I took time to sit quietly and read a “real” book (as opposed to one of those Kindle or IPAD things). I would use the telephone to call and track down information, and I would spend hours in the garden.

Now that I’ve become a Droidite things have gotten worst. Now I can be on the Internet anytime wherever there’s a WIFI connection! I’ve become my kids!

Stay tuned…

LeBron James Decision

Woke up this morning to the news that Lebron James is going to the Heat, which helped put my decision in perspective. Apparently, his Cleveland fans are up in arms about his abandonment and someone actually burned a jersey bearing his number. The Cav’s Coach Gilbert, said that James had made a “cowardly decision”.

This kinda makes my “go/no go decision” regarding a job in the UAE a lot simpler. The only people who will be disappointed are those who made the offer to me, and I don’t think they will burn me in effigy. In fact, they will just make an offer to the next person on the list. A few friends and family will be disappointed and some will be happy, but like LeBron, at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to live with the decision.

The out-of-country move was already a tough decision, because I was going to go alone and hope that Clay would get a job and follow in a few months. As fate would have it, last week he received a job notice that was perfect for him, and he is already in training. So, the last week has been filled with angst (seldom get to use that word, but is totally appropriate now.)

Being the perfect husband (most of the time), he made it clear that he did not like the idea of a long term separation, but that the decision had to be mine because he did not want me to blame him for a missed opportunity. Had a younger person asked me what to do in a similar situation, I would have expounded on “opportunities”, and how they can come again but probably in a different form, but… ponder long and hard before turning it down.

Last night, we came in from a late night movie, and I saw my neighbor sitting on her porch resting after making funeral arrangements for her husband of thirty-plus years. Not to sound maudlin, but this kind of stuff gets your attention. It’s part of what makes us cry at funerals (especially when the person is part of your peer group). We are faced with the reality that one day our friends and families will gather at our funerals. So after much long and hard pondering, I realized that, unlike a young person, my biggest opportunity is the precious time that I have with the love of my life.

Unlike LeBron, I will not walk away with a large paycheck, but I will have something infinitely more important…a good life and a perfect man to share it with for as long as we have.

A new adventure begins.