Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Letter to my 16 year old self....

A dear friend of mine, Joanna Roddy, and some of her friends have asked people to participate in a "simul-blog", where several people post on the same topic on the same day.  The subject is "A Letter To My 16 Year Old Self".  Here is a link so you can read the others who are joining in. http://seattleiteimagery.blogspot.com/    Her blog is Roddylife http://roddy-life.blogspot.com/2010/08/letter-to-my-16-year-old-self.html and I highly recommend it.

Wow.  That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of my 16 year old self.  Wow.

Since I am 51, a bit more time has passed for me than most of you sharing in this “simul-blog”, so a lot more stuff has happened since I was 16.  Many of you are just starting families, my kids are all grown.  But I certainly remember being 16 and all that came with it.  So, I am going to give this a shot.  Well, first let’s think of where I was at 16....

At 16 I was already married and had a daughter, Shay.  We had settled into family life and had even purchased our own home (after I went to court and gave up my rights as a minor so I could legally sign the contract).  I was learning to cook, bake and make a home.

The home we purchased was just a couple blocks from where I went to middle school, so every morning kids just a bit younger than me walked past my home on their way to school.  I have to admit it was a struggle watching them go off to classes with cares that at the time you think are monumental (boyfriends, bullies, where are we going for lunch), but compared to the cares that came with marriage and kids, I looked at them and thought “they have no idea”.

But, what would I say to myself knowing what I know now?  Here goes:

The first thing my 51 year old self wants to tell you is that you will be ok.  There will be times when you will be ready to lose your mind, and you will even have a couple of nervous break downs, but you are going to get through them.  You will think you are alone, that no one understands you and that you are unloved, but are going to be ok.  The person I am now, is because of who you were back then.

God loves you.  No, Sue, I mean it,  He REALLY loves YOU - just as you are.  In fact, He made you the way you are...really.  He loves you as you are now and the person you will become. HE LOVES YOU.

Be grateful.  Be very grateful.  Don’t focus on what you DON’T have, but what you do and know that the possibilities ahead of you are endless.  Be grateful everyday, several times a day.

Right now, your meals consist of pretty simple stuff as your cooking skills are nil.  One day, you will be a wonderful cook.  And, you have taught each of your children to be wonderful cooks - so when you are old, you will not starve.

After you have your second baby (in about a year or so from now) your mom is going to tell you that you are too skinny.  Don’t listen to her.  In just a few  years she is going to do an about face and every time she measures your hips for a new garment she is making she will say “Oh Susie!” as she looks at the tape measure and your growing hips.  Weight is harder to lose the older you get.

Believe in yourself and don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know, but do everything you can to learn what you need to know.  You will not have many people you can identify with because of your early motherhood, but don’t be discouraged.  Even though it seems like many of the people around you talk “down” to you, underneath they really do admire your courage and maturity.  They respect you and you should respect yourself.

God loves you.

Your love of reading will pay off, so keep on reading whatever you can get your hands on.

You will be a great mother.  Hug those babies as often as you think of it because truly, it is the blink of an eye.  You don't believe that now, and nothing I say will convince you of it and thats ok.  But look at those sweet faces whenever you get the chance, tell them how wonderful they are and pray for them always.  Cherish these days of young motherhood.

You will never love cleaning house so don’t even start beating yourself up over it.  Just because you accept Christ does not mean you automatically become a perfect housekeeper, so stop thinking something is wrong with you. You are no less of a woman because of it and there are many other things you will excel in.  In fact, soon you will get the revelation that the term “housewife” is demeaning and tell people that call you one that you are married to a man, not a house.  You go girl!

Your kids will grow up to be wonderful, gifted human beings.

You will have great friends.  Many of them will help you be a better mother.

It's ok to ask for help, don't always feel that you are stupid if you don't know something.  ALL mothers need help, not just 16 year old ones.  You are normal.

Right now, you still have some issues with your parents.  Even though you are married and have your own child, a part of you is still that rebellious teenager that does not want to be told what to do.  But one of these days, a light will go on and you will appreciate them more than you can ever imagine.  They are about as scared as a parent can be right now, wondering if you are going to make it.  But you will make them proud and will gain a new respect for them in the not too distant future.  They love you more than you can see right now, but one day you will understand.

You have a purpose...several in fact.  It's a wonderful journey discovering them all.

Exercise.  All the time, make it a way of life and learn to love it.

Fad diets don’t work...don’t even waste your time.

Sometimes life sucks so bad you want to ask God if He really knows what He is doing - go ahead, ask.  Tell Him how you really feel because He knows anyway.  He is not going to strike you dead for being honest, He is not going to be angry because you said the "wrong" thing.  He is so much more merciful than what you are being led to believe. Think of the love you feel for your daughter and multiply that by a number too large to imagine...that is how your heavenly Father feels about you.  After your rant, listen to what He has to say.  He loves you and wants to give you the desires of your heart.

Know that everything you go through, every experience you have will add to you.  God will use the good times and bad to teach you, strengthen you and bring you closer to Him.  Soak it all in, write it all down.  Those journals are your story and it is a grand story.  You will gain confidence over the years and one day will be able to tell your story and there will be no shame.  God has done marvelous things in your life and you are loved beyond what you have ever dreamed.

Keep going...the best is yet to come.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


It is said that confession is good for the soul. And I have one to unload. I really like the Dollar Store.

Many of you probably think, “And?” Why do you need to confess that?

Bill and I try very hard to be as locally minded, fair trade, fair wages and good for the environment as possible. What does that have to do with the “Dollar Store”? Well, maybe a lot. They now make things specifically for the Dollar Store, where years ago they were buy outs of last years products, overstocks and such. So to stock a lot of the stuff in a dollar store, people are working in a factory somewhere being paid to make things that only sell for a dollar...imagine what it actually costs to make them. Probably not the best wages, or the best products.

But last week I had occasion to go to the Dollar Store. I had a fundraising Gala to attend and needed new shoes to go with my outfit - which I had just purchased the day before the Gala - I know, not too bright, but shoe shopping is my least favorite thing to do. I have wide, flat feet and finding “pretty” shoes that fit and feel good does not happen easily.

I miraculously find a nice pair without too much stress and ended up buying two different colors (light gold and off white) of the same shoe to take home because I wanted to try them both with my dress (and get my daughter Shay’s advice on which color to choose). We chose the light gold ones, rather than the off white and I was actually kind of excited about wearing the shoes. I even purchased nail polish to match, thinking it would be a nice touch.

So, the morning of the event (Saturday) I wake up and enjoy the patio with coffee and my sweetie pie. It was a beautiful morning, cool and pleasant. We sat out there for about an hour and came in to have some steel cut oats for breakfast. As we walk through the dining room after breakfast, I take note of my dress laid out on the chair to be pressed. I want to show Bill my choice of shoes and my “accessories” (another Shay decision). Since I still have both colors of shoes, I also want to see if he would pick the color we did to go with the outfit.

I take the shoes out of the boxes and immediately he picks the light gold. I am relieved and decide to put them on to show him how they look. I put the left one on and fasten it. I put the right one on and...wait a minute...what’s up...I can’t...fit...my...foot...in...it. What!!!!??? I try again and I cannot fit my right foot in the shoe. Now, I swear I tried both shoes on in the store...but I pick up the right shoe to see if I have a different size. Nope, same as the left. Bill asks if I have been sitting on my feet (my favorite way to sit) and I say no, I don’t think so, but decide to sit for a few minutes, not on my feet, and see if it makes a difference. Try again. No go, this foot ain’t fitting in this shoe! It’s about 11 a.m. and the Gala starts at 6, so I figure I better get to DSW and see if I can correct this.

I get to the shoe store and explain my dilemma. One of the girls that I had chatted with the day before when I purchased the shoes was there and was very understanding and took me right over to where my shoes were. She looks for another 9M (I usually wear an 8, but that is also in sandals and flats, not heels) but there are none. However, she finds a 10 and I try it on. It actually feels pretty good, although it is a bit loose at the heel and I will have to punch another hole in the straps to correct this. The woman tells me the best way to punch a clean hole in the strap is with a dental tool that has a pick on the end of it (the thing they use to scrape plaque off your teeth). She says you can get one at Meijer for a few bucks. I thank her for the advice, exchange the shoes, return the off white ones for credit and I am on my way.

The DSW is on the south side of South Bend in a complex with a bunch of other stores, one of them being “The Dollar Store”. Now, I have not been in one for quite some time, for the afore mentioned reasons. But as I think of this little dental tool I was told about, realizing it will probably cost a few bucks, I look up and see the store in front of me and think “Hey, the Dollar Store probably has one”. So, off I go.

As soon as I walk in, I feel kind of comfortable - which surprises me. I take note of this and wonder why I feel that way.  All around me is just about anything you could ever need...and each item is only a dollar - or less! Even the smell of the store is kind of comforting and familiar...I don’t know if I can really describe it...nice plastic or something like that. It is the combined smell of a million different sundries all mixed together. It just puts me at ease. I know I am going to find something to work for the job of punching a hole in my strap. I decide I am not going to dilly dally though, so I head for the toothpaste aisle. But wait...what’s this? A display of back to school items that has magnetic dry erase boards....for only a dollar! Since it is magnetic, I could hang it on the side of my fridge and use it to make grocery lists and write notes. I used to have one but it was not magnetic and I had it rigged up kind of goofy on the fridge and it was forever falling down - and I had paid a lot more than a dollar for it. I have to have this one. I pick it up and continue on towards the dental aisle.

I find it and start down the row. The wall is lined with tooth paste, tooth brushes and such. But right across from that, on the left side, is make up and manicure supplies. Now, I don’t buy cheap make up anymore, as I have learned my lesson on that. But eye liner jumps out at me and I stop to look at it. I don’t use it often, so my pencils tend to get dried up or lost in some abyss between uses. I think I might want to have some for tonight’s event, so I look at them. Now, the thought does cross my mind that I might not want to put something on my face that only costs a dollar, but then notice that it is a brand name eye liner, so I figure it’s just discontinued shades or something like that. As I try to make my choice, I think I know why they are in the dollar store - no where on the package is there a color listed, only on the pencil, which of course is tiny and depending on how it sits in the package, almost unreadable. I am able to see the color on a couple and make my choice. Now if it dries up or gets lost, hey, I have only spent a dollar. And next to those are lip liner pencils...another thing I rarely use, but I like the color and its another brand name, so I pick one of those up.

I bring myself back to task, turn around and scan the dental selections on the other side of the aisle. I gaze through the tooth paste as well, just to see if my favorite brand is there, but am reminded that they found some kind of poison or something a while back in dollar store toothpaste, and even though the one I use is a brand name, I forget about buying that (which they don't have anyway). I continue looking and no dental tools. Paste, brushes, dental floss, but no dental tools. Damn. But hey, there are lots of other things to punch a hole with, so I don’t give up. I just turn back around to the other side of the aisle where the manicure supplies are. Here they have whole manicure kits for only a dollar. Many of them have little pointy scissors with tiny ends on them and I think...well those will work. I have a pair at home, but they cost more than a dollar and I am not sure I want to dull them with my shoe strap, so I pick out a kit from the 4 or 5 choices and am sure I have found what I need. I continue down the aisle and there are soaps, lotions, shower caps...so many things! I pick up some “Yardley” lavender soap and smell it...mmmmm. I notice the “Tone” cocoa butter soap and pick it up. The smell of original tone soap brings back a kind of nice memory for me from years ago, so I smell that as well. However, the memory is not one I need to be dwelling on, so I put it back in the bin.

Now, I have what I came for, plus 2, so I should be good, right? But it won’t hurt to look a bit more will it...there is just so much to see! So I peruse a bit more. Oh look, those cool super absorbent hair towel turban thingies! I have one, but it is small, so it does not fit my hair any longer, since it now grows beyond my shoulders. I pick it up and look at the picture on the box, which promises lots of twirl room, so I have to get it.

There are only 4 things in my hand now, and I still have a bit more time, so I decide to walk around. Oh, there are the wine glasses...a favorite of mine. Several times in my travels out of town, I have hit a dollar store to get some real wine glasses to use, and then leave behind. Wine always tastes better in a real wine glass (wine in plastic is the devils idea) and I rarely travel anywhere that wine is not involved. I am forever breaking mine, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few extras. I look over what they have and resist the temptation to buy. They are pretty nice, but the stems are a bit thicker than I like, so I move along. I look down the food aisle, but don’t go down it. I am still pretty convinced that I don’t want anything from the dollar store that I am going to ingest, so its not too hard to pass it by. Most of the food is crap anyway, and I am trying to be good.

Oh, but look, there are nylons! I don’t wear those very often, but it is nice to have an extra pair around, so I check those out. I pick out a pair that are control top ones, because they are nice to have to “smooth things out a bit”. On my way through the aisle, I remember I need light bulbs, so I detour to that aisle. Most of our lights now carry the compact fluorescent bulbs, which I hate, but I understand their value and purpose. But, for reading, they just don’t give me enough light, so I have a couple lamps I use the old bulbs in. I pick up a package of 75 watters and I am on my way again.

I head towards the checkout, but decide to take one more look at the manicure stuff. They have the 3 way buffers, that I like (file, smooth and shine) so I pick one of those up, as well as a regular emery board. Ok, now I am up to 8 items...all cradled in my arms, as I took no cart or basket when I came in (because I was just wanting that one thingy to poke a hole in my shoe strap). Oh, and there is a “smudger” brush for my newly purchased eyeliner. So 9 items...

I get to the check out (which is packed) and wait my turn. The nice clerk rings me up...“That will be $10.70”. Hmmm..that means I have 10 items...what else did I pick up? I don’t recall but I am sure she is correct and pay the money and head home.

When I get home I get the shoes out to show Bill and thankfully they BOTH fit my feet. I explain my need for an extra hole and that I have carefully selected a tool to do that and pretty please will you take care of it for me...but he does not see the need. “They look good” he says. He can tell by the look on my face I don’t agree and tells me he will punch a hole if I really want him to and yes of course I really want him to because I have just spent $10 getting a tool that costs a dollar to punch a hole! I continue to get ready in another room and leave him to the task, which he does, and they look great.

I use several of my dollar store supplies to ready myself for the evening. We attend our Gala and all goes beautifully.  We have a wonderful time, although my feet are killing me by the end of the evening as they are not used to wearing anything higher than a shoe sole. But it was worth it.

This now concludes my confession of being a secret dollar store junkie. I really did not think I was until I walked back into the store and realized I had missed it. I am hoping that I have not stirred something that cannot be reasonably controlled. You know what is the funniest thing about all of this? This morning, before Bill left for work I read my story to him and the first thing he said was...“Did you check to make sure you had 10 items” and the next was “I didn’t use the scissors, I used a safety pin”. Laughter is good for the soul too....

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's A Beautiful Morning....

What follows are my musings of a wonderful morning spent in my back yard last week.

I sit in the back yard patio, surveying my surroundings. My second latte in hand with remnants of yesterdays activities with the grand kids around me - gloves and tools still strewn about on the table and the hose stretched across the yard.

The sun is peeking through the trees, a bunny feeds in the grass, birds are singing. Its a cool morning and all seems peaceful. It is cool enough that no one’s A/C unit is going on, so a few cars driving by is the only other noise. It’s a little piece of heaven for me...a private sanctuary just steps outside my back door.

I am prone towards feeling some guilt about all this enjoyment - actually, the opportunity to enjoy it since I am not working outside the home. If I accomplished more during my days, perhaps the guilt would not be so prevalent. It is not as if I sit around all day and watch soap operas while eating bon-bons.  In fact, because I am "free", and people know it there can be quite a few things on my daily schedule.  But still, in my mind because of my current “unemployed” state (I prefer the term “Kept Woman”) my house should be immaculate, a several course meal on the table every night and all the clothes starched and pressed. Ha! The reality is, the house is clean enough and Bill and I are never in dirty clothes - in fact I am quite good at keeping him supplied in fresh shirts, underwear, socks and pants. But there is a bit of clutter (especially in “under used” rooms) and plenty of meals are leftovers or thrown together (with lots of love of course) as in “what do you feel like eating tonight?”. The truth is I hate housework and always have, so even the bit I do accomplish is a great stretch for me. But I do love having a clean house and still dream of being decadent enough with money to hire a housekeeper.

But for now I just enjoy these times of peace and tranquility in this home God has blessed us with.  There were plenty of years I had little peace or time to enjoy things like this.  I remind myself I have been keeping house and raising children since I was 14, have held many jobs that were stressful enough and that Bill really likes having me home.  I cook often and we use our home to entertain all the time.  So, I put the guilt aside and embrace this peace and feel like God created this place just for me, because He really does love me.

I survey the freshly cut grass (thanks Gary) and see the sun shining on the day lilies, their buds reaching out towards the sky, waiting for the warmth of the sun to open them up so they can bloom for just one day. There are plenty there, so even though death comes quickly, more are waiting for their turn to burst open and assures the bright orange flowers will be visible for weeks to come.

The wild rose bush in the rock garden at the end of the yard blooms with red flowers, the mulberry tree behind it holds thousands of berries, to the right, along the fence the tomatoes are growing like crazy in the container garden, the onions my sister in law DeeAnn gave me many years ago thrive and continue to spread, Brown Eyed Susans are starting to bud and my hanging baskets and pots look pretty with the annuals I planted. I especially like the pot with the orange daisy like flowers with the purple centers. Even the “tree garden” to my left (named so because of the tall maple tree that grows in the middle of it) that seems to have lost it’s order is beautiful as it overflows with an array of plants : 2 kinds of ground cover (Bishops Weed from my sister in law Billie and another that I bought, but can never remember the name of - it gets beautiful purple flowers all over it), lavender in bloom, mint gone wild, chives, cone flowers, a sweetheart rose bush (a gift from Martha Byler after my mom died) the tallest Fox Glove I have ever seen, Snap Dragons and several potted plants placed on the wood beams that contain it all. Two of the pots are jasmine, which especially excites me as they are now forming buds with a promise of sweet scented white flowers. I love the color of a garden, but the smells...oh, they bring a special joy to my soul.  

One of the jasmine trees holds a very special place in my heart, as a couple years ago I thought I had lost it because all the leaves had fallen off and no sprouts were visible...it appeared lifeless.  I pulled it from it's pot and put it in a pile with other branches and yard debris at the end of the season.  There it remained through the winter and last year in the spring I cleaned up the area and lo and behold there were sprouts on the branches!  I scooped it up, re-potted it and it bloomed wonderfully that year and I took it inside for the winter.  It is a beautiful green with lots of new growth and those promising buds.  It is that wonder of nature I have written about before...what may appear dead to my limited human sight is yet alive and ready to be re-born.

Behind me, the patio is lined with pots that contain various herbs and a few more flowers: Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Chocolate mint and my favorite flower, “Heliotrope”. My favorite because it is so fragrant - like sweet vanilla oozing from its deep purple flowers. It’s an annual and some years it is hard to find, so last year I babied one plant through the winter indoors and am pleased that it survived and is now blooming. But one just won’t do, so two more pots are in the row with my herbs. I also backed it up with buying some Helioptrope seeds online, just in case...

The hose catches my eye again, and reminds me of yesterdays activities with the grand babies: A meal of pancakes on the grill (with fresh mulberries picked by their little hands) and bacon, then yard work with Grammy (encouraged by my promise of payment for labor) and then spraying each other with the above mentioned hose. Grammy even taught them part of a new song: “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” by Frank Zappa. I did this after a comment they made to me - they thought they were cute by saying something like...“Hey Grammy, did you know you shouldn’t eat yellow snow?” Now why they were thinking this in the middle of such a warm day, I don’t know, perhaps just wanting to tease me..but I was ready for them. I replied by singing “Watch out where the huskies go, don’t you eat that yellow snow”, a line from the Zappa song. They snickered and seemed impressed. Good times.

The sun is moving closer to me, but I still enjoy the shade and coolness of this morning. I go inside to grab seeds and fill my bird feeder, jealous of all the activity I see at my neighbor Noreen’s feeders. I have neglected mine and left it empty for several weeks now, so I am sure the birds will need some time to notice. Hopefully they will see it before the squirrels do. My next chore will be slathering the Shepperd's hook it hangs on with shortening, the only sure fire way I have found to keep the squirrels at bay. An added benefit of doing this is the fun of watching them try to get up the pole, only to slide down on the grease.

The bird bath is next to the feeder and seems always in need of more water.  Both the feeder and the bath are in view of the back window, where our cats sit in the family room.  The birds flying and squirrels running give them hours of pleasure and in turn gives us enjoyment as we watch them at the ready to pounce on anything that moves outside, out of their reach.  I especially love it when Isabella sees a bird that catches her fancy and lets out the little "clucking" sound a cat makes - "eh, eh, eh, eh" - when a bird excites them.

Summer has not even "officially" begun yet, but I know these mornings are numbered, and so I am quite adamant about spending time out here when the weather is so awesome.  There will be mornings when even early the humidity will be too much for me to really enjoy being outside and then of course the dreaded winter is just a few months ahead.  So this time is treasured, sacred and appreciated for the beauty and peace it holds.

It is already 8:30 and I need to think of going to Zumba class.  I pull myself away to pack up my computer and empty latte cup. Goodbye sweet haven...we will meet together again another day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

This Mother's Day...

I write a lot about the people in my life and have posted stories of individuals that were on my heart.  Really, it is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are so many in my life that move me and influence me, it will take the rest of my life to write of them all…which of course is my plan.

Right now, I am very moved as I think of my three children – Shay, Job and Anna.  I have talked about them in previous postings but want to go into more detail.  The idea for this started out as I began scanning old pictures of Shay to post on Facebook.  She wanted some pics of her as a child for a FB “look alike” week.  As a child, she resembled a young Natalie Wood and every Christmas when “Miracle on 34th Street” ran on TV, she was hit with “Did you know you look like that little girl in the Christmas movie?”   


I started looking through my myriad of pictures stored in boxes and albums for pictures of Shay.  I had already begun sorting through them a few months before and had separated many of them into categories…individuals, family, events and such.  So, the biggest challenge of the task was already done – I knew where they were!

As I sorted through the hundreds of pictures, memory upon memory collected over the years began to surface and come alive.  Births, parties, outings, bad haircuts, poverty, friends, joy and sadness…several lifetimes strewn before me in a sea of moments caught on film.  All of them stored away in my heart and mind, but the pictures bring them all back, as if they just happened yesterday, instead of 30 years ago.  It made me think of my children and what having them has meant to me and how it has changed my life.

So on this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my children.

We talk of parents and the lasting impact on our lives – words from our childhood can either help or haunt us forever.  But I wonder sometimes if my children know how much they influence me and the impact they have on my life, even though all are grown.  There are way too many things to list in this format, but here are some things that are close to my heart.

Does Anna know I reach for my tin of “Rosebud Salve” to put on my lips before any other chapstick because she likes it so?  That every time I see the blue tin with the red letters I think of her in her apartment in Brooklyn, standing in front of her full length mirror, “Rosebud Salve” in hand saying to me “You have to try this  mom, I love it”, as she extends her arm, pointing the round tin toward me.  She repeated this several times on that visit until I finally said yes to the tin of pink “goo”, and as I apply it to my lips she is pleased and says “isn’t it great…I love  this stuff!”

And yes, I do like it, but bought it mainly because it makes me think of her.   Does she know that one of my favorite gifts ever was the green scarf she gave me several years ago, and that every time I wear it, I think of how thoughtful a gift it was since it is green (my favorite color) and I love long, wide scarves.  Sometimes I will put it about my shoulders just to think of her when I miss her being closer.

Does Job know that many times when I cook, I have him on my mind?  As I look through my recipe books or new magazines, I see recipes and I think “Job would love this” and that in him I feel I have finally found someone who truly appreciates my cooking.  Not that others don’t, but with Job, because he is a chef, a foodie and enjoys creating for himself – he “gets” it.  Does he know that when I call him up to ask his advice on a recipe or ask him to help me prepare something, I don’t do it just to humor him or make him feel good, but I do it because I respect him and totally trust what he says.  That when I tell him his bruschetta is the best I have EVER had, I do mean it.  Does he know how proud I am to cook with him for events or just a family dinner?  I tell him all the time, but I wonder if he really knows.

There are so many things I could say about how Shay impacts me...her caring for others, her mothering, her biting words when I consider a purchase that does not sit well with her (“And what are you going to use THAT for?”).  But because Shay is my firstborn, made the biggest impact at her birth…well, really at her conception - as the beginning of her was the end of many things in my life - which was a good thing.  Of course, she had no control over that, but I credit her just the same.  I cannot negate her influence even though she had no say in the matter.  And the impact of the beginning of her lasts to this day.   I gave birth to Shay, but she gave life to me.

Shay's story has been told on many occasions.  But it is a fine story and bears repeating.

What started out as something that seemed could only lead to disaster, became the defining moment of my life and put me on a path that led to greatness.  I gave birth to Shay at the age of 14.  In the day of 2010, not such a rarity, but in 1973 in my circle of peers, it was unheard of.

I was a damaged, broken girl when Shay’s dad Dave came into my life.  I was a glue sniffing, cigarette smoking 7th grader that went from a straight A student in grade school to flunking out in middle school.  I had little confidence and went with the “wave” of my friends….which at the time was skipping school and the afore mentioned smoking cigarettes and sniffing glue.  It is well known that sniffing glue destroys your brain cells and Shay’s dad credits himself with saving my brain, as he introduced me to marijuana - and with that new introduction I exchanged one drug for another and gave up sniffing glue.  I must agree with him on that one, because the after effects of weed versus glue - really glue was not what we were sniffing, our chemical of choice was lacquer thinner, but I digress - were significantly less.  And I needed all the brains I could muster for the days ahead.

There is much more involved in the telling of that story, but I just wanted to set the tone so you can get a feel for the significance the “beginning” of Shay had.  Two very messed up kids, 14 and 16, hooked up; having no idea of how to make wise decisions in their own lives, let alone a child’s.  

But from the moment I realized I was pregnant, something changed in me.   I am not sure of all the emotions I felt, but I know I experienced a rebirth of sorts.  My life seemed to have found purpose and I felt responsible for this new being immediately.  I was aware, even at 14, that anything I did from that point on would have an impact on this baby.  Now, I was scared shitless, but scared or not, I began to change.  I stopped smoking both cigarettes and weed…we both did, her father and I.  And we started making plans for this new life we had created.

I no longer looked at life through my eyes only, but began to think of life with a child.  A great sense of responsibility took over and I went into “protection” mode and wanted to make sure our child would be taken care of.  Dave started saving money from his job (he had quit school) and we were making plans.  Now, these plans were crazy, because they included running away (to avoid the wrath of my father) and Dave delivering the baby at home (which was to be in St. Louis), but they were PLANS nonetheless and we began thinking of someone other than ourselves.

We did end up running away (what some refer to as “The Wilderness Story”), but I skip forward to her birth, which thankfully occurred safe and sound in a hospital in South Bend, Indiana (not St. Louis) after we were married.  She came out so fast after just one push in the delivery room that the doctor almost did not catch her and that really set the tone for her life. Shay always makes an exciting entrance and impact!
I wonder if Shay knows that her opinion is very important to me.  I trust the way I raised her and know that she has good sense and good instincts.  Does she know that I think of how she saved my life almost every day and I am grateful?  That even though the birth of her was the end of my “childhood”, but I really don’t mind and have never regretted it?  That the sweetness of her spirit was evident from the moment of her birth and that it encouraged me daily.

Of course, I have told my kids many of these things.  But sometimes people really don’t grasp or even believe it when they are told they changed someone’s life.  They just think you are being “nice” or telling them what they want to hear.  If my kids know me at all, they know that this is not my way…the word “nice” is not in the bible and I feel no compulsion to be nice for the sake of being nice.  I pretty much say what I mean and mean what I say.  So these words are true and they are heartfelt.

I honestly feel that if I never did anything else in my life from this point on, I would have no regrets because so much of my life has been spent raising my children.  Of course, I have a million things left I want to accomplish, but I am just saying that if some calamity came and took me from this earth, I know that I have walked out an eternity changing life by raising my three kids.  I have never felt anything was more important to do than that. 


Starting out having kids so young was a very interesting experience.  We definitely had to make some things up as we went along, since “How To Raise A Child” was not in our reading list at that point!  We were both strict and lenient at the same time, since we were teenagers and the desire for freedom was very strong in us, yet we also both drew on our upbringing to discipline.  

Add to that the element that we both accepted Jesus not long after we got married and you have a very interesting mix of 70’s Hippie/Jesus/Josh McDowell going on.  I thank God that Shay was my first because she was pretty easy going and helped keep the door open to want more kids because of our experience with her.

We truly settled into family life.  I learned how to cook and bake so we would not starve, but was never very adept at housekeeping.  When Shay was a year or so, we purchased our own home and decided to expand our family and Job was born.  Having a very active boy was a different experience from the “girly girl” Shay was and we became familiar with emergency rooms to get stitches and mend broken bones.  

One of Job’s favorite things to do was imitate
“The Incredible Hulk”.  He would go around the house stomping and roar, then rip open the front of the K-Mart purchased, flannel button down shirts he wore and buttons would fly.  I baby sat for a cute little girl at the time and she would run and hide screaming “Don’t kill me Hulk, don’t kill me!”  I knew when I heard it another shirt had bit the dust.

As I mentioned, Shay seemed the perfect child and was sweet and minded pretty well.  I just thought she could do no wrong…until kindergarten.  All of a sudden my image was shattered when she lied to me.  For some reason she decided she no longer wanted to go to school and told me one morning that school had been canceled.  Knowing this was not the case, I gave her several chances to “fess up” and tell the truth.  I went so far as to walk over to the phone and say “I am going to call your teacher right now and ask her”, very confident that this would stir the truth and she would confess the error of her ways.  No go.  She stood there firm, and said, “OK”, calling my bluff.  I had to put the scare tactics aside and just say straight up I knew she was lying and that she in fact did have school that day.  I think the issue was a little girl that was bullying her and she was afraid.  Shay was just barely 5 years old and very small.  Thinking that some big girl bully was harassing her caused mother bear to rise up inside and so I walked her to school (yes, there was a time when schools were within walking distance of your home) and had Shay point her out.  I just knew it was going to be some huge girl that had probably repeated kindergarten and was taking it out on my little baby.

I was surprised when Shay pointed to this little girl, no bigger than Shay who for some reason decided to use Shay as her anger outlet.  Being the young zealous Christian, I walked up to the girl and introduced myself and explained that people are not made to hit and be mean to, but to love and show kindness.  I talked firmly but lovingly to her and she listened, stone faced and not seeming to care.  I walked away thinking that it was probably a waste of time and hoping she would leave Shay alone.  Not long after that, I chaperoned a field trip with Shay’s class and guess who did not leave my side the whole trip?  That little girl…her face no longer a stone, but was smiling.  She held my hand all day and fell asleep on my lap on the bus ride back to school.  It was a lesson I have never forgotten…people respond to love and attention.

Shay grew into a loving, caring woman and all through her school years befriended the friendless.  On several occasions she brought home the stray soul, the young girl that no one else liked and needed to have a friend.  I have always loved that about her.

Job grew out of his “hulk” stage, but kept the superhero heart.  He was a very sensitive young boy and like Shay, had a heart for those who needed help.  On more than one occasion he stood up for someone who was being bullied by his classmates.  One of these times, when he was in the second grade, he was hurt badly by a mentally disturbed girl that had been held back more than once and was a lot bigger than even the boys in the class.  He stood up for someone she was bullying (throwing rocks at I believe) and she decided to throw him to the ground and strangle him.  The incident left him bruised in body and soul.  I had a teacher tell me that the girl was so strong that she could not physically restrain her alone.  Thankfully, it was the last day for the troubled young girl at that school.

Job’s desire to cook came pretty young and one year he decided to surprise me by making dinner.  I believe it was ravioli with wine sauce…the only problem was we had no wine, only rum and because it was a surprise, he did not want to ask 

 any questions. So, thinking alcohol is alcohol, he substituted the rum for the wine and proudly presented his meal to me.  It was quite a taste that creamy rum sauce, but being the proud mommy I ate it and smiled the whole way through.  And today those efforts paid off as he can cook like nobody else and makes some of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten.

Anna was born when Shay and Job where older – Shay was 11 and Job was 8.  They were excited about having a new baby and Shay quickly became her second mommy.  Anna’s beginning started with difficulty, something I wrote about in a previous post entitled “Queen Anna”.  She was very ill in her early childhood and she was small.  This inspired Shay one Halloween to dress her up to make her look like a “Raggedy Ann” doll and then set her on a shelf in her room among her other dolls and took her picture. Unfortunately, the only copy  I found was a bad one, but you get the idea.  I was always being asked if she was a "preemie".  Funny, as she has grown taller than both Shay and I!

It is amazing the impact that children have on your life always, not just when they are young.  Even though all of mine are grown (36, 33 and 25) they still influence my decisions and choices.  And, even though they are grown, they still remain my children.  Don’t get me wrong, they are adults, but there are times when they still look through the eyes of a child and expect “parental” behavior from me.

About 11 years ago, after their dad and I got divorced and Bill and I began dating this fact became clearer than ever.  Shay was newly married and 24, Job was living on his own and 22 and Anna 14 and still at home.  The divorce was probably hardest on her since she was the only one left at home and had only herself to commiserate with. So, her dislike of me dating (and then planning a marriage) was very understandable to me.  I was not prepared for Shay and Job’s dislike of it however.

So, after I heard through the “grapevine” that my kids were not happy (a good friend who had the sense to tell me the truth) I decided to sit my kids down, just “us” and let them rip…I wanted to hear exactly what they were upset about.

Turns out that they were still hurting over the divorce and really did not understand why it happened at all.  What was painfully obvious to me in my marriage (constant fighting, totally different goals and directions, a husband that was not thrilled about being married to me – just to name a few) they were oblivious to.  I made the mistake of thinking that because Shay and Job were “grown”, that they looked at it through adult eyes.  But as a wise friend told me at the time “No matter how old the child, they still look at you through the eyes of a child”.  So, to them, the bickering and such were business as usual.  As Job said to me in that sit down session “It was always that way”.  So, while I finally got fed up with it, they had grown accustom to it.  This is not to say they liked it that way, it was just the way things were.

Allowing them to be honest was hard, especially Shay; she has her mothers “way” and her cutting was the deepest as her words were sharp and to the point - she had some very strong opinions on this recent engagement.  With the help of God’s grace, I sat there, listening without too much protest, reliving once again the pain of divorce, which I honestly have to say I was quite pleased to forget, or at the very least put aside...something I had been able to do with the new love that had entered my life through Bill.  I was in love and giddy with it all…I really did not want to think anymore about the pain of the past.  The words they spoke brought me back down to earth and the reality of the world through their eyes…that was a very different perspective.  So, once again, my “mommy” genes had to kick in. 

The guilt, the sense of failure, feeling responsible for causing my children pain – it all flooded back in as I listened to their side.  There were so many unanswered questions for them.  So, together, we went through the divorce, why it happened, how it happened and so forth.  Information we had tried to protect them from came out and it helped to shed light I believe.  In the end, Job paid me the greatest compliment I ever got I think by saying something like “Hey mom, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life but things always seem to work out for you, so I think you know what you are doing”.  In that statement I think he was saying he respected me…and that means a lot.  In a very short time they accepted Bill, love him and he has added to their life and they have added to his.
And as much as I love my children and wanted them to accept my marriage to Bill, if our “sit down” did not change their views, I still would have married him.  Because while raising them has been one of my greatest accomplishments, it is just that, something that has been accomplished.  I was not seeking their approval for my marriage, but wanted to hear why they were opposed and try to bring understanding.  Thank God it worked.  We are never “done” being parents, but our focus changes. I raised them to be responsible, caring and able to make their own decisions as adults.  I was walking out what I had taught them.  They had begun their own lives that did not depend on mommy.  After raising kids for 25 years, mommy was now beginning a life that did not depend on her kids.  It included them, but was not centered around them any longer.  I had begun to look to my future, without kids at home, realizing that in a short time, my nest would be empty and theirs was just beginning to fill.

It’s the double edge of being a parent…you parent your children with the purpose of preparing them to be on their own and be able to care for themselves.  You love them with all your heart just to let them go.  Children have the same challenge…one day their parents will (hopefully) decide that raising kids is not their primary purpose any longer and may move away, start new careers, go back to school.  We love each other enough to let go to be able to walk out the adventure that is our life.

Investing in someone’s life is one of the reasons we are placed here on earth.  We bring glory to our Creator through our love, care and commitment to His creation.  He entrusts us with the power to create offspring and if we are wise, we realize just how grand that is.  I say again, that if I do nothing else in this lifetime, I am assured that I have changed the world and invested in the future by what I have in my children.  I have taught them that to love is to live, that as a parent there are times you put your needs aside to give your children what they need, that to discipline them is to love them, that life isn’t always fair and when it isn’t look for the higher road and that in their lives they have the power to change another’s life.

Our family has been broken, mended, blended and expanded.  It's never been easy, but has always been an adventure.  We have our disagreements at times, but we get over them quickly and have learned we don't always have to see things the same way. We love, enjoy and respect each other.  Life goes forward and the next generation begun.  I am fortunate to be alive and well to witness it.

So, this Mother’s Day, 2010 I say to my kids I love you. When you become parents, you understand the depth of this love. I am so proud of you all and not only love you with a mother’s love, but I like you.  You are fun to be with and I enjoy your company.  I admire each of you and know that the world is a better place because of your lives.  Your ideas, thoughts and dreams are a part of me and important to me.  I chime in with my opinion when I think it might be helpful and try to keep my mouth shut when I sense it is best to do so.  And even though you are all grown, on your own and well able to take care of yourselves, I would fight anyone or anything to the death to protect you from harm. 

Hopefully you understand some of the challenges your parents went through and look back and can say we did our best.  Many mistakes made, that is a fact.  But I don’t regret it, laugh at much of it and treasure all of it.