Parents are the Model

I became a parent at a very young age, eighteen infact for my first child. I had my next child, my only other one, just two and a half years later, giving birth a few months after turning twenty-one.  While friends from high school were off attending college, I had two in diapers and was a stay at home mom. To make it even more isolating, I lived in a city far away from where I grew up and was too young for neighbors in the apartment complex to really want to befriend me. Thus, I put a lot of energy always into the relationship with both of my children.

One thing I noticed early on with both of my children is they mirrored quite a bit of what they saw of me.  I felt it was unfair to expect them to do something I myself did not do anyways though. I eat healthy, so as children they were introduced and made to eat food from all food groups.  They were not allowed to simply eat junk food or whatever they pleased. If that was their goal, they went hungry.  They both quickly learned sweets were not going to be the only source of food. This lesson was learned much better by my son who, to this day, eats very little sweets! 

When my daughter was born, the second child, and was diagnosed with asthma, it gave me the ammunition to put my foot down and insist my husband quit entirely his smoking cigarettes in the house and in the car. I think it is hypocritical to tell children it is unhealthy to smoke and then smoke around them.   Dueling messages are confusing, especially at young ages. Children can’t comprehend which is right and wrong and are looking to their parents for direction.  They should not be put in a position where they have to choose sides either.   

Today, in schools, children are reading at a much quicker pace than ever before.  The bad news is that there are more children with special needs than ever before and most of these children have language issues which include reading.  My children were read to daily, encouraged, even prior to reading, to look through books.  I have been an avid reader all of my life and, at this time in my life, though time was limited, I still read some. I made certain my children knew reading is a lifetime habit for me. This is not something that, we hit a certain age, and we simply stop doing.  As they got older I told them that it enriches the mind and keeps our reading skills sharp.  That might not stick but the seed was planted.

When my children got into sports, I was working out also, exercising regularly, playing tennis with friends and even progressed into coaching children’s sports.  Dropping children off at practices and games simply says that the parent is keeping them busy. Staying there from time to time shows an active interest.  This shows a parent how they are spending their time there, giving a firsthand view of what is being accomplished, how they are being coached and an opportunity to reinforce those efforts at home.  Your child may not be the star player, most aren’t.  He or she can still benefit from team play from hearing from a parent that their efforts are not going unnoticed by you.  Telling a child that their discipline is preparing them for the future and that dedication is what makes people successful is awesome affirmation for a child to play sports or any extracurricular activity.  You also participating in some other hobby likewise shows them that what they do is something that should be a lifetime goal.  For mental and physical health, these activities matter for us all, we need balance.

I had to wait to go back to college as a non-traditional aged student. Hence, while my children were doing homework, I was helping them with homework, proofing their work and then doing my studies.  They saw this. My children witnessed me working from home as an assistant book publisher during my college years.  I was a single mother, having divorced their father by this time and raising them on my own. At some point in the evening, when we weren’t on the run to practices or games, I would transition to my coursework. 

The usual routine was they did their homework first and I studied while they did theirs. I checked theirs, took care of their needs, put them to bed and then finished mine. When my son was old enough, he would quiz me when I had tests coming up.  There were times when he had no idea what he was asking me as I would make up tests for him to quiz me but he would play along.  It became a learning lesson for him because he learned some of my material from quizzing me and he was quite bright to begin with! These evenings taught my children the value of a good education at any age.

We struggled financially.  It was not easy to find ways to make ends meet. My children were aware of it and I made sure they had the majority of what they wanted and needed. They both got to go to a private Catholic high school, my son by choice.  I put my daughter there, and that was not entirely by choice but it seemed the best place for her to be at the time.  I still believe, my pursuit of my education led to them both setting high educational goals for themselves.

My son and daughter both have gone on to get educations past Bachelor degrees.  My son lives closer  to me so it is easier to attest to his behaviors with his wife and children.   I see many similarities with him and myself.  I see someone who enjoys interacting with his children and supports their extracurricular activities exactly how I was.  His wife tells me he never waivers in his support.  He has sat at soccer games where his son simply runs after the crowd of kickers.  He sits and cheers for his daughter at dance recitals being the dutiful dad taping her dances and rushing the stage with roses.  He has taken his other son to horseback lessons encouraging him to hold on to a huge horse and that he, the little 4 year old, will be just fine!  

I recall attending both of my son’s graduation, first for his undergrad and then for his PhD.  Both times I recall hearing him say that he would never read again.  That stuck about 3 months.  To this day, my son is constantly reading updates on his field, publications, online articles, attending seminars, and reading other materials. Yes, that drive of reading is still there. His amazing ability to write he had in school, occasionally, when he has the need to write, it is still as strong as ever, he just seldom has time to tap into it. 

All of this to say, my son and I have an extremely close relationship all of his life.  Our bond has always been more of one that was unspoken.  He has always watched me, from the time he was a little guy.  He was always the lover of the two kids though and never questioned me on anything. But what he did too was observe.  And what he taught me was this, children learn from what you do, how you live, your example.  It is very similar to how a leader leads by example. 

Parenting is best done by being what you want your child to be. Being honest, being fair, being truthful about where you have made errors. It is about stressing education, having laughter in your home, teaching morality, accountability and understanding what the word love really means, in the Christian sense.  Parents need to show children how to apply intelligence to life, how to have self-discipline, and how to admit they have a problem and when they have one how and where to seek help and get it when they need it. Getting help is not a weakness, having a problem and not doing anything about it is.  Above all, loving God and letting your children and spouse know you love them is key.  This is done not just in words but in deeds. 

Indeed, this is a hard job.  Sign up only for the serious minded!


Any Regrets?

If I could live my life over again, would I change anything?  Such a deep question and if I had been asked years ago, readily I would have responded yes.  Now, I would just as quickly have to say no. Maybe with some regret because, honestly, there were some bad choices and decisions along the way. Some of those choices hurt others too. 

But I have learned over the period of my life that it is important to make amends with myself.  Asking for forgiveness, when I can, with some of those I have hurt when the error was mine, is sometimes the best any of us can do.  And then forgiving myself, working through the pain and disappointment of those choices is what must be done.  To move on is what is called living in the present.   To not, is to live in the past.  It steals us of our gifts of life, our present relationships, of our development and those around us that want to develop with us. 

I look at all I have now, of all God has blessed me with and realize, changing my past could jeopardize any one of those blessings. Then I am faced with more troubling questions. If I changed one aspect in my past, would it have led to me not making a choice that would have led to something being gone from my life.  Would I be without my wonderfully supportive best friend, my husband Jim that it took two other marriages first to find?   My daughter might not have gotten to plan her dream wedding in Kentucky. Would somehow I have jeopardized the chances of my son moving to TN and having three grandchildren near me?  Would I not have met some of my dearest friends, all cancer survivors, from having had the disease or the many other friends I have come to love?  I could not pay that high of a price.  Those blessings have come to mean so much to me, they are priceless.

The other thing I have reflected on is the perception of our lives as we age. People view our lives through their own lenses, their own filters without having walked in our shoes.  Many not really wanting to know the details, hence they form judgments without knowing facts. It is easier these days to think the worse than the positive for some reason.  Society prefers to put others down rather than build them up.  I feel my mistakes are few and my successes many.  I am overall proud of how I have lived my life and how I have faced adversity.  I have made sacrifices throughout my life to provide for my two children the best I could.  I put myself through college and worked most of my life.  Yes, I made and had my issues but overall, I survived through it all.   

Thus, it has made it easy, at this stage of my life to say yes, I would not change a thing. I am saddened indeed by what I have lost.  I am heartbroken by doors that have been shut but I also realize I am not in complete control of my destiny, I never have been.  God is watching over me now as he was when I was a little girl guiding me every step of the way, whether someone is being kind to me or being cruel.  I have his everlasting love.  That is enough to make me smile, embrace my life and feel indeed blessed! 


A Real Star Would .........

After having a career in marketing and sales, and being a consumer and planning events, I have learned a thing or two about PR.  Based on that, I thought this would be a rather fun, entertaining but realistic blog to write.  In that vein: 

If I were the PR agent for a celebrity, my advise would be as follows:  

  1. Make sure you do not project arrogance.  Fans are what are making you successful and fans are what can bring you down.  Be grateful and maintain some form of humility. 
  2. God gives and God can taketh away.  Only He knows his plan so do not take your blessings for granted. In the blink of an eye, you can lose the ability to breathe on your own, sing due to throat cancer, dance due to a car accident, etc.  Make sure you are well rounded and known for more than just a craft.  One dimensional people are just that. An act with nothing else to follow.
  3. Give praise to God always for your blessings.  Don’t take all the credit. Give thanks to those around you also that support you and do your dirty work.  Just because they are paid, they never get the recognition you get so take heart and see that they get your accolades. They will then be loyal, promote you and help you always be your best.
  4. Keep it real, don’t pretend to be someone you are not.  Phonies get smoked out.  The media will expose you.   If you are screwed up, seek help, professional help earlier rather than later so it is not played out in the media. Otherwise you will be looked at as a train wreck and known for all the wrong reasons.
  5. Give something back to the community you came from, your hometown. Folks expect it and appreciate it.  It is part of who you are, no matter how far you run.  Doing things because you have so much is the right thing to do. Sharing is one of the most basic things we learn, a requirement for living humane.  Hoarding your wealth is just not right. And don’t do it to draw even more attention to yourself. Things like what Drew Carey did, tweeting a reward for a bunch of teens who bullied an autistic teen, now that is cool.  Eminem showing up for some teen dying in MI who wanted to meet him before he passed away, no camera crew, no nothing just to say hello dude, now that was real.   Miley Cyrus, Rascal Flats and many many others have done things for others without having a spotlight on them.  These are altruistic acts.  These make you have character.  Do some of these because it is the right thing to do. You will thus earn respect and at the end of the day, end of your career, feel good about who you are and what you did.
  6. Don’t be a politician if that is not your calling. Stick to what you are good at. Don’t try to be the authority on everything unless you are super knowledgeable in that area. Use your influence in the right way.  People want you to entertain them, not be another stressor in their life, someone who makes them think painfully about life.  Be a beacon of life, of hope, of laughter.  Share talent and create joy.
  7.  As Diana Ross said, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” Don’t be so aloof
    that no one can reach you.
      One thing people liked about Justin Bieber was his ability to be reachable to his fans.  He responded directly to his tweeters. Too many stars never respond to anyone.  They never show up for anyone’s events but their own, they never respond to anyone’s letters anymore personally. People are more likely to hear from the President than a celebrity.  Take time to pick a few to show you are human and realize that.  Have compassion for others.
  8.  Share your contacts with a few trying to break in the business, you know how it feels.  Return the favor someone gave you.  What will it hurt to help someone? You may one day age and need a favor from them. 
  9.  Don’t neglect your family and friends. Your business associates are not who will keep you warm at night. They might not even attend your funeral or be at your birthday party for the right reason.  Separate business from pleasure some.  Have a life, have balance.  Everyone deserves this. Stay mild, meek and grounded.
  10. Live fully, laugh without reservations and love completely! 


One Year Seems like Paradise!

May not seem much of a big deal to anyone but me or perhaps to my oncologist but to us, it is pretty special!  After a diagnosis for cancer in Sept. 2007, Dr. Serie has been a regular part of my life. There have been many times I have seen her more than my close friends, family and everyone but my husband and Charley (our beloved dog, finder of my tumor!).  

Well, at long last, a separation of a lengthier period was awarded at my visit this week.  She has held me to 3 months for what seemed forever, then at 6 months. This past week, I graduated and now am allowed to go a full year without returning to see my beloved doctor. 

It seems a perfect time to celebrate, once again, the victory of being a survivor. I can’t help but recall just how wonderful life has been, how many things I have celebrated over the past years since diagnosis. So many personal changes have occurred, besides the obvious, going from bald to hair.  I have gone from being a mother to being a grandmother, to being someone who lived a frantic lifestyle to someone who takes time to smells the coffee and treasures small things in life. I found out that long term effects of chemo are not just imaginary but well worth the price of having another day to life.  I got real, and though it took quite a lot of practice and, in the process, may have lost some people that were dear to me, with the loving support of caring people in my life, I am there. I find myself happy, healthy and whole, just as I prayed and asked God to make me when I was flat on my back in treatment.

So I must be reflective for a few moments. It is my trip down memory lane. Even at my age, I recognize, inside all of us, is a child that seeks wisdom continually and must adjust to an ever changing world.  That innocence of youth still looks for a more perfect world, void of war and certainly wishes for a day the world will be void of cancer.  I long for a time when others live without judgment of others and find a way to truly understand what unconditional love and regard means and can incorporate it into their live and relationships.  Getting real seems like it should not be reserved for the very few.
But, with or without those expectations met, I treasure life and God’s blessings.  The many blessings in my life, in particular the people,  make my dreams as a child of paradise feel more like a reality. 

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Parents, Stay Focused!

 The Focus is the child, not you, or they'll be blue!

I am always amazed at parents’ attitude towards sports and activities with their children. The parents that seem the most concerned try to find something that lights a spark in their kids to keep them busy and engaged.  They see the value in being involved, goal setting, and building up a skill set, a talent or at least trying. 

But there are also the parents that say they have this same attitude, but when it comes game time or competition time, the line becomes blurred between who is really performing, the child or themselves. The parent on the sidelines, in the audience, or coaching seems to take every negative call or point as a personal assault on their character and feels they must rush to their defense. Notice I say they take it to heart, reacting emotionally more at a gut level than in the best interests of their child. 

When this type of reaction happens, it sets such a wonderful example to children much like
the Bernstein bears books of how not to act.   The following should be treated with respect, in this order; referees, coaches, and children.  There is no fine line, it is a firm line.  If a parent can’t withhold their temper, their profanity, for example, they should either refrain from coming to events or be banned from entrance to any.   The behavior is an embarrassment to a child, and offsets the lesson of fair play and building self-esteem and learning how to have self-control.  

As I have gotten older, I see this trend has continued but just like when my children played, it is the minority that are obnoxious.   Most are like the parents in my family, thus making me so proud of them and their children.   In our circle of family, we have children that are excelling in their age group in many fields.  There is a wrestler, a gymnast, a swimmer; basketball player, football player, dancer, singer, and those are just the ones that come to mind.  The age range is from 7 years old all the way to 17.  In fact, the youngest one just started a tumbling class at age 2! 

All these parents have one thing in common; they want to keep their children happy, healthy and learning about life through activities beyond academics.  There isn't a desire to relive their youth through their children either. Thus the pressure is not there for their kids to perform at a bench mark their parents are placing over their heads.  This lets the coach establish the bar, their peers, and with most of these children in our family, themselves. Confident children do that, set goals for themselves, because they are more certain they can reach them. They all seem to have a passion to thrive in what they invest time in so approach it accordingly.  As Jack the swimmer told me, “Every time I dive in, I swim with everything I have regardless of what anyone else in the pool is doing.”  

I believe all of them are gaining a maturity and self-esteem in the way they are spending their time, especially in the conditioning aspect.  None of them seem to think they are invincible and they all seem to be okay with it. What a fantastic way to approach life as a
child.   Parents that push children beyond their limits break their spirits and then they are doomed to fail.  This becomes an internal tape in their head, this negative thinking, that plays later in life. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy for many.

When you see a child attempting a sport or other outside activity, whether they are the star or not, remember, everyone’s role is important, just like in a company.   We all are interdependent and can make a contribution and learn off each other.  Reinforce their efforts, not what they do but what they try to do and how they do it.    Your words of encouragement can and will need be the fuel for the future. What you say may play on their internal tape, their mental dialogue.  Make it be a resounding message of faith and reassurance.  Everyone wins when a child is built up to believe in themselves.  You will feel rewarded too!