A Mom’s Hope for Lent

My dear sons,

I’ve been following my heart lately. It’s as if something is pushing me along to just go for things. Far too often, my fears drive me to forget about any ideas I might have, or they simply drive me to do things I don’t want to do at all. But lately, it’s as if a force has been encouraging me to just do what I want to do and what I feel is right for me, as well as for you and your dad. It is as if it’s saying, “Nope. No fear. Purpose. Keep moving.”

I sat in church this morning and realized that the “force” to which I am referring, may very well be God (insert humorous Star Wars reference). I listened to the sermon (which was informative as well as inspiring) and took notes feverishly – something, if I’m being honest, I usually don’t do. To prove it to you in case you don’t believe me, here are my notes:

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I was interested in the content of the sermon (about world religions) and was motivated to write these notes down. So, I have decided to share my spiritual journey with you, with the hope of deepening my faith, and maybe yours. This idea comes at the perfect time –- Lent.

Lent begins this coming Wednesday, March 5th, and I am going to take a break from social media and write to you about my spiritual journey through the Lenten season. I will be studying Adam Hamilton’s Final Words and will update each week (although I may post other thoughts unrelated in between).

I am not claiming to be a pastor, deacon, theologian, or even a “strong Christian,” as some people say. I’m just a woman who grew up a Protestant and has experienced God’s love, but who is still making sense of her faith —  all while making it a priority to raise her children to experience God’s love, too. I have no reason to claim any authority here, so I’m just going to be honest – completely honest — in this blog as I travel through Lent.

Well, back to those sermon notes. Here is what I learned today. Our pastor interviewed a local rabbi in his sermon, and I was reminded that the Jewish faith has also been divided into different sects over time, just as the Christian faith has, as well as the Muslim faith. I learned that they, too, are struggling with their identity as Americans and as Jews. They also are trying to compete with the world’s obsession with achievement by focusing on character and spiritual growth.

As a side note, one thing was interesting to me about these (and possibly all) religions:  In many cases, the disagreements within the religions occur because people (We are talking about human beings, here!) tend to fall under one of two categories:  There are those who fight to keep tradition and those who fight for change. I think this is true for all kinds of groups that have formed within the human race. It is a necessary fight, actually, if you really stop to think about it. Or, is it? I find this fascinating and am suddenly reminded of one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Swift, but I’m getting off topic here.

Well, here is something huge that I took away from today’s sermon:  Jesus is our model for how to interact with others of other faiths (and even belief systems within one’s faith – I am adding that last part since that is something with which I struggle).

I needed to be reminded of that. It was a reminder for me to run a self-check when I’m feeling my blood boiling and want to yell, scream, and even spew my thoughts and feelings (not that I ever do it, but I want to) over discrimination for “religious beliefs,” for example. I recognize that I’m often a fighter for change – particularly when it relates to social justice, but I must also recognize that the human resistance to change is very strong, so this fight might take a while. There is a better way to fight against “but that’s the way it’s always been,” and I need to look to Jesus, who modeled it. I’m working on finding my own voice and my own way to change the world around me in a way that is loving and therefore (hopefully) effective.

As one of my junior high teachers used to say, “In my humble, yet accurate opinion…” (wink, wink)

I love you boys so much. I hope that you enjoy my Lenten study blog posts. I know I will enjoy sharing this journey with you.

xo,

Mom

Food Allergies: Today’s Hope for Awareness and a Cure

Dear Prince 1,

I’m so, so hopeful today.

Right now, you are allergic to five of the top eight allergens. Today, in a time frame of 30 minutes, I received two hopeful articles from my food allergy networks. One was a blog post written by a mom who just received news that her older son has outgrown the last of his many allergens! I cried while reading it, just feeling the hope that the post provided for me and for you. I am so grateful to that mom for writing about it and expressing her feelings so eloquently. It made me feel just how amazing she must be feeling. I think that if we end up in a similar situation, I will humiliate you by dancing in the streets and on top of tables. 

Well, ten minutes after that, I got an email from a friend to tell me that JetBlue Airlines has partnered with Skeeter Nut Free snacks! We now have an airline with which we can feel more comfortable for travel! When we traveled last year, the airline (which was not JetBlue) was not very accommodating or supportive. It was scary, but because we not only brought a ton of snacks for you, but also for about ten people around us on each flight, you were okay. The flight attendants all refused to make an announcement, so your dad and I were nervous on all four flights across the country and back. Now, we can travel safely and with much more confidence! Hooray! You can read all about this big news here.

Food allergies suck. There is no other way to say it. But the step that JetBlue has taken is hopeful in that it shows that awareness is spreading. I pray that when you start kindergarten, awareness will be even more widespread, and you will be safe and included in everything. I hope you won’t be the only one in your class with an Epi Pen and sitting at a special table. Thankfully, you are sociable and make friends easily, which gives me hope that you will be able to handle your difference with a shoulder shrug. But I know it won’t be easy. I pray that while you grow up, the world around us continues to catch on to this epidemic and that you are not put in danger because a peer or adult doesn’t understand the severity of your situation. Equally important, I pray that I am able to avoid hovering over you and driving you insane. I’m working on handling my anxiety so that you can live as normal of a life as possible. You deserve that. It’s a tough juggling act, you know — keeping you alive and letting you live that “normal” childhood that all of us food allergy parents want more than anything in this world. If I have scarred you because I have not been able to adequately achieve that balance, please forgive me. 

Maybe as you read this in 2030, you have outgrown all of your food allergies, and this post is irrelevant to you. Maybe the research out there has fully cured the life-threatening aspect of food allergies, or maybe even cured allergies! (Hey, I’m extra hopeful today). Maybe you only have one or two of your allergies now. Even that would be wonderful. However, if you still have all of them, I pray that you are confident, responsible, and happy in spite of it, that you still don’t let it define you, and that you have learned to advocate for yourself with grace. I promise to continue doing my best to model all of that for you.

Here’s to hope!

All my love,

Mom

If You are Gay (and even if you’re not)

My princes,

It is 2014 right now, and your mom is angry.  You know, the kind of angry where you can almost feel it in your fingertips? Well for relief, I feel the need to write this to you. You see, a few states in your country of birth have actually decided to look at the possibility of passing bills, which would allow discrimination against homosexuals based on “religious beliefs.”

In recent years, many have started realizing the truth about homosexuality  — that it is actually not a danger to society and that it is not a “lifestyle choice” but simply a way of being. That it is no more “sinful” to be gay than it is to be redheaded.

But there are many religious people out there who are so focused on this issue that they are driving many people away from knowing God — from even experiencing the love of God by telling them they are not welcome and that God’s people do not agree with their “choice.” They are not only driving away homosexuals, but also those who know and care about a homosexual as well as those who recognize this belief is nonsense. Sons, you’re right. That’s almost everyone. And these people are also scratching their heads, wondering why on earth church membership is falling dramatically at a rapid rate.

I know this is hard to believe, especially since we are members of a loving and accepting congregation that welcomes all. It is probably as hard for you to believe as it was for me to believe that my own grandparents (who were Christians) may have actually thought it was okay to have separate bathrooms and water fountains from those of another race, and that somehow, they may have found a way to use the Bible to defend this. Now, I don’t know for certain what they thought. I just know they were alive during that time, so I can only speculate. This is why I’m writing this to you – so you will know what I think.

Mark it down. Today is February 26, 2014, and your mother is a Christian who supports equal rights for the LGBT community and is appalled by the actions of those who claim to serve God. I want no part of it and believe it’s time for Christians like me to stand up and speak up.

You guys are still little right now. I don’t know if you will grow up and realize you are gay. I just know that I love you more than I ever thought I could love – so much that it is painful sometimes. The thought of one day telling you,  “You are not welcome in my home because you’re gay” or even “I don’t agree with your lifestyle choice,” makes me sick to my stomach. It will not happen. Ever. So, rest assured my precious sons. Your mom (and dad!) will welcome you and whomever you love (IF they treat you right!) into our home and our lives. Also, we will be mortified if you are straight and use the Bible to clobber people for who they are.

I do not claim to be a theologian or even a scientist. I am just a mom who has worked with enough youth in her career to know that homosexuality is not a choice. And I don’t need Bible verses or even science to prove what I know in my God-given heart and mind to be true.

Jesus loved all and reached out to those who were considered “unlovable” in his time. I don’t know what makes anyone think he would do any differently were he here among us today.

I almost posted the “status update” below on Facebook this morning (the social media site we have in 2014). However, you will notice I typed it with “Only Me” at the top, because I was afraid to post it. I’m still working on figuring out why I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid of starting an argument. Maybe I was afraid my former, and possibly future colleagues or employers would read it and disagree, and therefore keep me from working when I’m ready to go back to work. I don’t know, but I feel better now after writing to you.

Unlike a number of people, I will never feel ashamed of my stance on this issue, for I know without a doubt that I am on the correct side of history. I just pray that by the time you read this in 2030, you don’t know what I’m talking about because the insanity was short-lived and everyone finally “gets it.”

With lots and lots of unconditional love,

Mom

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Real Men Cook

My dear sons,

If your dad and I have been successful in raising you the way we believe is best, you will agree with the title of this post as you are reading this in 2030. We want you to grow into truly independent men. Cooking is an important aspect of achieving this, which is why I’m covering the subject in this blog. (By the way, if either one of you believes cooking is “women’s work,” I imagine I’m one upset momma!)

I’ll be honest, and I hope this surprises you, but when I was young and single, I didn’t know how to cook. I think I knew how to do some very basic things with food, but my idea of cooking was throwing a Lean Cuisine in the microwave. 

Growing up, your aunt (my older sister) was always the one helping my mom in the kitchen, and I was usually shoo’d away if I tried to come in and help. I mean, three’s a crowd, particularly in a kitchen! So, I didn’t really learn to cook until I had you two. Your dad was the cook before that, and as you know, he’s an excellent cook. I still remember being amazed by his cooking when he cooked for me when we first started dating. It definitely made him even more attractive to me.

Well, since your dad and I are raising you to know your way around the kitchen, we not only expect you to be able to take care of yourselves. We also expect you to truly appreciate it when someone else takes care of you. And Prince 1, with your food allergies, it is just a requirement for you to know how to cook. Therefore, cooking together as a family is a priority for us, and we all have fun together prepping and cooking meals in the kitchen. In fact, even as young as you two are now (in 2014), we let you carry your chairs into the kitchen so you can watch and/or “help.” I hope you have great memories of this as you read this.

Well, for this post, I want to talk to you about the basics. I’m going to spell it all out, even though you probably already know a lot of this. Just in case you don’t, here it is:

1. Buy a large skillet, a few sauce pans of varying sizes, cooking utensils, cutting boards, knives, and measuring cups and spoons.

2. Get a spice rack and fill it up.

3. Practice chopping an onion – often.

4. Spend a week making the basic recipes I post on this site, which I intend to be ones you are familiar with, including my marinara sauce. You can find it below.

5. Pick five of your favorite ones to make and settle on being comfortable with them, and then once you are comfortable with those (and possibly even bored with them), once a week, venture out and try a new one. Your recipes will expand, and you will soon have many you can turn to in order to enjoy and impress. I’m telling you, this will make you very attractive to people. Everyone wants to hang out with a good cook. :)

Well, here is my Marinara Sauce Recipe. I got it from your aunt and have modified it over time. As you know, it is sooo yummy! In fact, you two gobbled it up tonight and asked for seconds!

1/2 Cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 large onion (or 2 small), chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 (28oz – the large-sized) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
Dash of red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tsp Italian seasoning, or more to taste
1 tsp (or more to taste) sugar (optional)
1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheese

Use a large pot, and heat the EVOO on a medium-high flame. Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes. Then, add the salt, pepper, celery, and carrots and sauté for 10 more minutes. Then, add the tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. (Because you two can be picky right now, I use the blender after this to blend it all together after discarding the bay leaves, but it is not necessary). Discard the bay leaves, and add the seasoning, spices, and parmesan cheese to taste. Enjoy!

This sauce freezes very well and makes a lot! So, use what you plan to use and freeze the rest. You will be glad you did.

I hope you enjoy the process of becoming a confident cook. It can be quite fun, especially if you like to eat. :)

xo,
Mom

P.S. Prince 1, as an important reminder, be sure you are reading ALL labels thoroughly to be sure that your allergens are not present.

 

Perfection Schmerfection

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hi princes,

I hope that as you read the title of this post, you scratched your heads, wondering what I (or your dad) would know about perfectionism. If that is the case, we have perfected the art of curing (or at least ignoring) the burden.

It has not been easy, I’m sure. You see, I became wired as a perfectionist. I don’t think it came from my upbringing, although it’s quite possible I have fallen victim to the perception of perfect beauty in beauty magazines and to the perfection that appears to exist in the homes of fake families on television and magazine ads. But honestly, I think I have simply wanted to do everything right, and to me, “right” has meant perfect rather than simply right for me. I have thought that if I do everything perfectly at all times, I am living my life “right” and honorably. I’ve come to realize this is not necessarily so. In fact, it is an insane way to live one’s life, because what in the heck is “perfect” anyway? Life is not a math equation.

I’d like to share a personal story with you that I hope will be helpful. As a college student (around your age), I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember feeling like everyone around me had it all figured out. I hadn’t declared a major by the second semester of my sophomore year and had to choose quite quickly. I panicked. I remember going to the career counseling office at my college and asking for help. I was given a few personality tests to take, hoping that the perfect career for me would print out in black and white. The results? An actress or a homemaker. Gee. Uhh. Thanks, Counseling Center? It didn’t help that a friend had actually proudly told me straight up that she was in college to get her “Mrs. Degree.” This was not me. Not at all. And well, public speaking scared me, so acting was out; therefore, I left feeling dejected. I went ahead and declared my favorite subject as my major, even though I didn’t know what career I’d choose because what else was there to do? So, I chose English. Do I wish I could go back and choose to double major in English and Education since I did become a teacher nine years later? You betcha.

But you know what? I figured it out and worked extra hard and learned lots of valuable lessons and met many interesting people in those nine years (not that those years were all sunshine). A year later, I met your amazing dad. It all turned out okay. If I had declared a different major, I would still be okay. The fact is that I did declare one, worked hard and graduated.

Those people who supposedly had it all figured out? Well, they didn’t. At least not everything in life. Nobody does. If you meet someone who tells you they have life figured out (career, relationships, money, God), run. Trust me.

You may not have a clue about what you want to do for a career but are working and educating yourself to figure it out. You might have a clue and may change your mind multiple times, or you may be lucky like your dad and know for certain and remain certain until you retire. All scenarios will make me and your dad proud because whichever scenario describes you right now is a part of who you are and where God is working with you. Embrace the process as we embrace you through it.

Our imperfect choices (Yes, you will make them) make us human. They make us interesting, and they make us grow. I’m not suggesting you go out and choose to make bad decisions, but I am suggesting that you not let fear keep you from making any decisions at all.

If you are in a place right now of having to choose what is right, go with your gut. Accept that it may not produce the results you hope for, but it will lead you into a direction, rather than leaving you stuck in indecision. And that sort of “stuck” leads many people in our world into depression, anxiety, and far too often, addiction.

You are not going to find a perfect career, a perfect spouse, or a perfect life. If you believe in yourself like your dad and I believe in you and like God believes in you, you will find the perfect path for you, which makes YOU, the soul that is you, pretty darn perfect.

With great love and expectations,

Mom

Our Spare Moments

A photo I took while on a romantic stroll with your dad when I was in labor with Prince 1

I took this photo while on a romantic stroll with your dad. I was in labor and we couldn’t wait to be parents. :)

My dear princes,

This blog is for you. I pray that by the time you read this in 2030, you feel exceedingly loved and fully prepared for the joys and challenges of adulthood. I sincerely hope that I am doing a bang-up job of playing it cool and revealing nothing but my utmost faith in you.

As I write this very first post, you are healthy toddlers — absolutely full of joy. Truly.  I have sixteen years, God willing, to share, in depth, who I am with you in a way that I cannot share day-to-day. Of course, if I am the mom I hope to be, you should feel like you already know me very well. However, it is my hope that this little labor of mine reveals truths that may surprise you, and hopefully, help you in some way as you begin to make sense of your life and realize the overwhelming reality that is adulthood. I promise, it isn’t that bad if you have some guidance. That is why I am starting this blog — to share my own experiences, observations, and certainly in all honesty, my embarrassing blunders (which I hope to save you from living through). I know. You are tired of hearing my stories, but you can bet that I’ve saved a few for you.

Since I plan to be brutally honest in this blog, I’d like to share with you how I came to my decision to do this.  You see, my sons, in 2014 there is a website (and mobile smartphone app) called Facebook. Pretty much every person I know is on it, and people share their random thoughts and post articles and pictures throughout the day. Because you guys are small now and I am home with you, it has served as a connection for me to the world outside of the house. As I’m sure you both know by now, I crave human interaction as much as I do stillness and peace, so this has been a good thing for me.

Or, so I have thought. One day recently, it all hit me. You two were trying to tell me something, and I didn’t hear you because I was busy reading some article on Facebook about parenting — something I had convinced myself I needed to read in order to be a good mommy (insert embarrassed throat-clearing) — while my children were trying to get my attention. I’m so, so sorry.

Well, do you want to know what I did when I realized how pathetic I was? I threw my phone. I threw it across the family room and got on the floor with you boys to play and had a wonderful time. I left the phone where it was until bath time and later deleted the app. I recognized that I had a slight addiction to Facebook (I’m sure the giant company banks on this), since I have to finish what I start. I have been addicted to “finishing” reading my forever-long newsfeed (as they call it) — a page full of mostly unimportant information that continues updating. Insane. Well, I have dropped a significant amount of time I was spending on Facebook (There are too many valuable connections to delete it from my life completely) and added this — my outside connection to the adult world through a chance to talk to you, my extraordinary adult children.

So, here is lesson #1. At the risk of sounding trite, let’s soak in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, shall we? “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

Guard them with all you have, my princes. Save up those moments to breathe the air in and out and notice. Appreciate. Dream. Don’t do what I allowed technology to do to me by incessantly checking your phone, social media, or whatever it is you have in 2030. Be cognizant of your distractions. Keep your eye on living the meaningful and fulfilling life you were meant to live.

One more thing. I read a blog post recently written by a mom with grown children, which you can read here: Mommy Bloggers. She had some thoughts to share with “mommy bloggers” (moms of young children who blog). Her concerns were for the children whose pictures and stories were being shared by their parents without their consent (a “mommy” had recently written a story and posted pictures of her child’s tantrum). She reminded the mommy bloggers that their children will grow up and may very well carry resentment for all the sharing. It was interesting that the blog post was sent to me just as I was secretly planning to start this one. Well, I guess I am starting a “mommy blog,” but fortunately for you, my plans do not fit into the aforementioned category since I will not be posting any of your photos, your real names, or really anything related to raising you. I may mention a fun fact or memory here and there, but that is not what this blog is going to be about. This blog is about my hopes for 2030 and my hopes for you, and anyone else who happens upon this site.

I am quite excited to share my thoughts on a whole slew of subjects that I hope will be helpful. I am sure that some of what I write about will be sensitive, and maybe even embarrassing for me (like my Facebook addiction story), but they will be my stories, not yours. I promise.

Much more to come.

xo,

Mom