Changes in the Works

When I started blogging a few years ago, my hope was to simply have a place to chronicle and share things that were happening in my life. My focus was just to vent, write when I felt like writing, and learn about the world of blogging. I was a stay-at-home mom living in Alaska with six children and my wonderful husband. My life was indeed blessed.

My life continues to be blessed, even as I look at the prospect of sending my oldest two children off to college in a few short months.  My younger children will all be in school for 5 days a week (half-days for my youngest next year) and we likely will be looking at another move with the military this time next year.

Things are changing, and they are changing quickly.

Change is inevitable in life. I actually welcome it. Having grown up in the military, I am used to it and thrive on the excitement that comes with change.

And so, I am, yet again, planning some changes with my blog. I want to make it more interesting, more relevant, and more readable. (Not to mention, more consistent!!)

Thank you for being a reader of my blog. If you have any tips, tricks, suggestions, or advice as I change up a few things, I would welcome them. And please be on the lookout for coming changes!

 

Lent…a little different this time

Lent is upon us again, and it has hit me like a ton of bricks this time.ashwed

Why?

Well, I have been pretty remiss in my spiritual walk lately. In fact, I have been practically absent when it comes time to spending time with God.  My prayer time has been non-existent, and I have just barely made it to Sunday Mass (some weeks, I haven’t even done that…which is a BIG no-no for us Catholics…at least without a very, very good reason).

The funny thing is, I have noticed the other areas of my self-care have been non-existent as well.

Exercise? What’s that?

Eating clean? PSHAW!!

Keeping the house orderly? I can’t even go there right now.

Here’s the thing:  a priest once asked me, “If you used to feel close to God, but you no longer do, you have to ask yourself one question…who moved?”

The answer to that question is what hit me so hard. I have moved so far away from the things that I know are important and meaningful and valuable in creating a rewarding and fulfilling life.

Now, orderly closets don’t necessarily make me happy. But not having to argue with the teenagers about where their JROTC uniform skirts are…THAT makes me happy.

Eating broccoli instead of Tostito’s doesn’t float my boat, but it does make me feel better later when I try on my jeans.

And prayer time may not be as exciting as Facebook, or socializing, or whatever, but it centers me and makes me feel more alive and appreciative of my surroundings.  And THIS is what leads to real fulfillment, purpose, or whatever you want to call it.

Unfortunately,  I think we Americans focus too much on trying to be fulfilled in our everyday mundane tasks. We have this idea that if we aren’t being “fed” by our jobs, then we should be looking elsewhere. We want every day to be filled with purpose and profound meaning. But sometimes, we just need to wipe the three-year-old’s nose, put the groceries away, or do the gosh darn taxes.

The phenomenon of “seeking purpose” was demonstrated in a little article called Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy I stumbled across on Facebook, of all places.  And it has caused more dissatisfaction than satisfaction.

Read the article here on the creative blog “Wait But Why”.

I don’t know about you, but I can identify a bit with “Lucy”.  But I would rather not. There is so much in life to appreciate.  I have wonderful friends, the most amazing family, and blessings beyond compare.

Therefore, for Lent, I am “giving up” the “search” for purpose, and rather, I am going to do my best to be a good wife, mother, friend, volunteer, and most importantly, Catholic woman…meaning, I am going to get my act together and move closer to God again. (Please pray for me!)

And I will pray for you on your Lenten journey!

Yesterday was Veterans’ Day…now what?

This is a long post, but I ask that you read to the end. We military families need help.

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Yesterday was Veterans’ Day.

Many of us spent a significant amount of time pouring over our Facebook Timelines reading posts about veterans and thanking them for their service. And rightfully so.

But what are we doing today?

Those veterans who have been wounded, physically, mentally, or emotionally, have to get out of bed and continue to cope with their wounds. They will go to physical therapy, speech therapy, counseling, surgical pre-op appointments, and follow up exams. For them, November 12th, 13th, 14th, etc. continue to be Veterans’ Day.

Being a veteran or the family of a veteran is not easy. No one ever said it would be. And I think that those of us who are in that position accept that as fact.

And yet it seems that the burden of our nation’s defense is falling on fewer and fewer families. (Of course I don’t have proof of that, but it seems that way to me.)

For example, yesterday many of the posts on my facebook timeline heralded uncles, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, cousins, etc. as veterans. It amazed me how so many families had so many veterans in their bloodlines. Fellow Army wives posted pictures of themselves in uniform before they became Army wives. For many of these, I had no idea they had served!

And as I get older, I am seeing more and more pictures of military children who are growing up and are planning to enter the military themselves. They understand the realities. They know they have a good chance of being gone for holidays and birthdays. They know that they are “signing a blank check” with their lives to the United States. And yet, they understand the importance of doing so.

But there are those out there who would detract.

Upon announcing their intent to apply to the United States Military Academy, my daughters have been met, over and over again, with frowns and questions.

“Are you SURE you want to do THAT?” people ask.

“You are so smart. You could do ANYTHING.” they say.

“You are so pretty. Why do you want to put yourself in that situation?” (Seriously? Because pretty girls at other schools are never in danger? Really?)553239_10152898694534379_4830643027368257199_n

As a military family, we let these things roll off our backs. We are used to these kind of statements.

But I worry about the kids who want to enter the military who don’t have supportive families. I understand that there is real fear in this unknown. They are offering to stand up and do the bidding of our nation, to answer the call of their civilian leaders and the people of this country, whether or not they agree with the motives or premises. They are truly giving and serving.

Please, if you are a family member of someone who is considering military service, whether it is enlisting, applying to an academy, or applying for an ROTC scholarship, please do not plant seeds of doubt. The military experience itself will be tough enough and will weed out those who really aren’t meant for it. Right now they need your support or at least your willingness to learn more.

Unless more families are open to their children pursuing military service, the burden will continue to fall on fewer and fewer families. And these families are stressed, worn, and in need of some backup. Don’t get me wrong…most of us would not leave the military life by choice. We are proud and we have learned to be strong when we need to be. And we are compassionate as can be when a fellow military family is suffering.

But our ranks are shrinking.10004012_10152909835969379_5425738323474612032_n

Please, in the aftermath of yesterday’s celebrations and outpourings of gratitude, support someone in your life who is considering military service. Help them to learn more about it before bringing up the obstacles. As a mom, I know it is scary to think about your son or daughter being in harm’s way. I get it. But, someone has to defend our great nation, even with all her flaws. And we will be a stronger military and indeed a stronger nation if more families, rather than fewer, are invested in the defense of the country’s interests.

 

 

Taking a big scary step (sort of)

Today I actually took the time to walk into the education center at the local library here.  Since this is a military post, there are many resources available to help Soldiers and family members pursue education in order to enhance and nurture their careers both while in the military and after they retire or separate from the service.

What I found was…

I am scared to death!

I feel so behind as far as getting myself ready to enter the work force, that I have no idea what to do. There are degree programs that I could pursue,  but I am not in a place to invest a lot of time or money into my education right now (getting ready to put kids through college, even with a couple of them getting accepted to West Point, is a bit daunting).

As the name of this blog implies, I have no idea what I really envision myself doing. Well, that’s not entirely true. I see myself working with small groups of people in some sort of guidance, coaching, therapeutic, or otherwise supportive capacity. I love the idea of empowering people to help themselves. And yet, I find myself getting so stuck in my own life from time to time that I ask “Who am I, of all people, to work in such a field??”

Then I remind myself that the Famous Financial Advisor, Dave Ramsey often says “I love to spend money…that’s way God makes me teach this stuff about having discipline and saving money.”

That’s how I feel about inspiration, health, empowerment, and counseling. I struggle with being motivated and inspired in my own life, but I do tend to be good at helping others to do these things.

So, this is the direction I want to go, in some capacity.

But, after 18 years of “stay-at-home-motherhood,” this is scary. I don’t even have an updated resume or references at the moment.

So, I am going to take a class that will help me build my resume. And I am going to start looking for opportunities to work in the area that love.

Wish me luck, and please share any tips or tricks you have for getting back into the workplace after a prolonged absence.

Thanks in advance!

Putting off things that bring joy?

This post is going to be (relatively) short and sweet but as General Patton, in his ruthless wisdom, observed, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

I have not blogged regularly in several months, and I admit that I miss it.

This gets me to thinking: Am I the only one who seems to put off those things that really bring joy and meaning to life? Or is this a common phenomenon among mothers and other nurturers?

If I had to guess, I would say that the latter is true.

There are several activities that bring joy to my life that I have put off for many, many  weeks and months.  ( exercising, writing, crafting, attending classes that interest me, playing piano, spending time with friends, etc.)

For some reason, we have this idea that if we are enjoying an activity, it must not be worthwhile. We think that something must feel “sacrificial” in order to be of value.

And we spend time comparing how busy, tired, overwhelmed, and self-sacrificing we are with others…as if being rested, energetic, and peaceful means we are doing something wrong, selfish, or excessively indulgent.

I don’t think that this is how we are meant to be.  And yet it is so easy, as mothers, to slip back into this mentality. The needs (and wants) of the little (or not-so-little) people in our lives seem to take precedence over our needs and wants. And as parents, we understand that it is our responsibilities to attend to our children’s needs.

I think the key is to not allow another person’s “wants” to trump our “needs.”

How to do that? That is a subject for a much longer blog post.

 

Who are the “Greats”?

It’s probably not a big shock that I have never been a huge Oprah Winfrey fan. Well, that’s not entirely true…I have been a fan of her work as she has broken barriers for women and especially women of color in the worlds of business, entertainment, and media. But she and I differ greatly on matters of politics and faith.

Be that as it may, I believe that we can differ on subjects and still have respect for and appreciation for, and even (gulp) LIKE people with whom we disagree. (Maybe if more people adopted this attitude we would be able to make progress in the realm of politics).

I digress.  I have a great amount of respect for Oprah Winfrey’s work with literacy and promoting reading among adults. Her book club has inspired millions of women (and many men as well) to pick up novels that they would have overlooked otherwise. There is just something about that “Oprah Book Club” seal that draws many people in.

One of Oprah’s favorite and most talked about authors was Maya Angelou.  Now, to be fair, I have not read many of Angelou’s works, so I cannot say whether or not I am a fan. But, I do like many  of the inspirational quotes attributed to this lady, and I will likely pick up one of her books in the hear future.

It seems I am always looking for a good book to read, and often I find myself disappointed. I am not a literary snob by any means, I just have limited time and resources, so I want to spend it on good material. Now I can always go to the classics, but I also like reading modern authors. The problem is, with the ease of typing on a laptop, creating a blog, and self-publishing, it is harder than ever to weed through the junk and find good material.

So, this makes me wonder, who are today’s truly great writers? We may not know until decades after they have passed away. This is often the case with creative people…their works are often unappreciated until after their deaths. But in an age of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and blogs and videos that go viral in an hour, it seems that it should be easier to discern the “greats.”

Then again, great literature is not made for instant gratification. It takes time to create, and more time to consume and appreciate.

So, I would like to ask: who do YOU think the great authors of today are? Whose works inspire and “speak” to you? We may not be able to answer this question accurately, but I am still interested…who do you think will have their works studied by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

The post in which I simply write what came to mind for my daughter

Yesterday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table and my 17-year-old daughter came up behind me and asked “Mom, have you blogged in a while?”

“Um, no”

“Well, you should. I really like reading your posts.”

Now, for those of you who don’t have teenagers, when a teen says something like that, you listen.  When a teen is reaching out and wants to communicate, you respond.

So here I am, trying to think of a brilliant, insightful, meaningful post. Something that will impart some kind of profound life lesson on my daughter and the three other people who read this blog.

And you know what…I got nothin’.

I think the harder I try to be wise or influential, the more fake I sound. And there is nothing I hate worse than sounding fake. I want my family and friends to know that I genuinely care about them, even if I don’t always express it well. My compliments often sound empty, and I am a lousy gift-giver (I’m lookin’ at you, beer-making kit that I bought my husband 3 Christmases ago and has moved to 3 different houses without being opened.)

There are some people who have a way with words that make the rest of us drop our jaws and exclaim “That is exactly how I feel.  I just never knew how to say it!” The late Maya Angelou, who passed away earlier this week, was one of these people.

And there are other people who simply seem born with talent or at least discover their talents early enough in life to develop them into lifelong careers or passions. We all secretly want to be one of these people: someone who knows his or her purpose, discovers his or her talent, and develops it to the level of a divine art.

And yet, we rarely see the struggle, pain, and hard work that leads up to these accomplishments. We see the shiny, polished surface that these people present to the world: the perfectly edited and published book, the magnificently sculpted muscle tone on a fitness model, the perfectly lit and positioned photograph, the amazingly straight and tight spiral on a football . But underneath all these things are years of bruises, headaches, fatigue, arguments with family members, bills that need to be paid, demands from employers, children, neighbors, extended family, etc. Namely, there is life to be lived.

What we often fail to realize is that no one does it all. The folks who excel in one or two areas often failed in many others, or at least they struggled in other areas. I have never seen a painting by Pavarotti. I have never seen Michael Jordan host his own cooking show on the Food Network. I have never read a book written by Mozart or heard of any great military feats that Shakespeare accomplished.

Nobody is talented at everything. But we often compare our own weaknesses with the gifts of others. And we downplay our own gifts as if they were common and that everyone has them.

Please don’t do that. Where would our world of art be if Pablo Picasso lamented that he wasn’t good at chemistry or algebra?  And so what if Einstein couldn’t sing or sew?

Find what you enjoy doing and do that as well as you can. If you know your calling or your talents, develop them, and don’t flounder, wishing you had someone else’s talents. If you don’t know, that’s okay too, even if you are 40, 60, or 80 years old. If you are still alive, you have a purpose and something to give to the world.

But whatever you do, do NOT fall prey to the traps of envy, jealousy, and despair.  YOU are where you are supposed to be. But you have a choice…you can  squander the gifts and talents you were given, or you can develop them into a gift for the world.

(And I’ll tell you a little secret: even if you squander them, you still have a chance to live an important, meaningful, fulfilling life. Have you ever heard of the “prodigal son”?)

So, dear daughter, I blogged for you this morning. This is just an unedited outpouring of what came to mind as I started writing. Hopefully there is a nugget of value here for you.

And if not, that’s okay…there’s always next time.