Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Posts tagged ‘Being Nice’

Emily and How to Love Middle School

I am way ahead of the sun this morning.  I woke up even earlier than usual.  My heart is full.  I have to write.  Not writing this morning would be like waking up with a terrible thirst, and not taking a drink.  Unnatural.

Yesterday was Olivia’s 8th grade promotion.  I had a pretty decent headache yesterday evening.  I think my head hurt,  because my heart couldn’t hold all my feelings.  Some of my feelings landed in my head.  Yesterday was a great day.  A wonderful day.  A tearful day.

I didn’t shed tears because Olivia is going to high school.  I shed tears because of Olivia’s friend, Emily.  Emily and Olivia have been very good friends since 4th grade.  Emily is funny.  She has a quiet voice. When you listen closely, you hear Emily’s witty remarks. Emily loves her dogs. She loves her family, and Emily REALLY loves sports.  I’ve tried talking to Emily during a football game. That’s a one way deal. Emily didn’t hear me. She was completely engrossed in the game. Emily is a loyal friend.   Emily has Noonan Syndrome.

Emily is in 8th grade.  Over the years, Emily has had many serious surgeries.  Last year, Emily had heart surgery.  This year, Emily was experiencing almost constant pain.  The Doctors told Emily that they could help eliminate some of her pain by fusing two parts of her spine.  That’s what they did.

Emily’s surgery was the day before 8th grade promotion.  Olivia and I were feeling some grief about Emily missing this milestone.  I do not know what it’s like to have a daughter with Noonan Syndrome. I can’t.  I do know how it feels to be a parent watching your child’s friends enjoy life, passing through joyous milestones, and feeling like your child is forgotten and left behind.

Eddie spent about 80 percent of his elementary and middle school years at home.  While his friends were on field trips and playing baseball, Eddie was probably at another doctor’s appointment, or curled in the fetal position, waiting for a break from his pain.  I’m not feeling sad about this now.  We have had so much sympathy from kind people over the years.  Really.  More sympathy than anyone deserves.  I know you’re a big softy, but please don’t be tempted to feel sorry for us now.  Eddie is feeling GREAT.

I’m just recalling this memory,  because our experiences have made our family unable to NOT share the grief of another family walking through something similar.  Our own story is why every time I felt love and happiness for all the sweet 8th grade kids promoting to 9th grade yesterday, I simultaneously fought back tears for Emily.  While all those precious soon-to-be-ninth graders were celebrating their success, Emily was attempting to raise her head 60 percent, and  successfully dangle her feet off the side of the hospital bed. Accomplishing this was going to be Emily’s reason to celebrate.

Emily’s Mom, Traci, Olivia and I wanted Emily to participate in 8th grade promotion.  We came up with a good idea:

emily grad 4

Traci told us Emily wasn’t up to watching the video yet, but Traci said watching it brought joy to Traci’s heart.  Oh man, now I’m being a big baby, and crying again. I’m feeling grateful God gave me exactly what I asked him for this time.

After graduation, I was taking Olivia and some of her friends somewhere.  The girls were laughing and being funny.  I liked listening to them talk.  Some of the girls said they cried when they hugged their teachers goodbye.  They were sad to say goodbye to these teacher-friends, and to all their happy memories. I was feeling soft and gushy about Emily, and now this.  My heart was overwhelmed with gratitude.  My daughter actually loved middle school.  I know middle school can go so wrong, and that’s why I’m humbled with the emotion of it all.

When my kids were in grade school, I heard some terrifying stories about middle school.  Those stories had me seriously contemplate home school.  I remember one woman telling me about her middle school aged granddaughter who was cornered in the hallway by some girls. The girls smeared katsup all over this woman’s granddaughter, because the girls were mad at her.  This woman also told me that another mean bully took a scissors, and cut a chunk of her granddaughter’s hair.  See?  I wasn’t lying.  These stories are actually nightmares happening in real life.

Our boys got to middle school, and things were fine for them.   I would usually drop the boys off first in the morning,  and then take Olivia to the elementary school.  I remember Olivia taking a look at the “big” middle schoolers milling around the front door in the morning, and she said, “I don’t EVER want to be in middle school.  Those kids look scary.”

I worried for Olivia.

Eventually, there was no changing it.  It was Olivia’s turn for middle school.  The whole thing just went down great.  Really, I’m overcome with it.  I was trying to break it all down in my mind.  I want to know what made the middle school experience such a happy one for Olivia.  If I could do that, then maybe I could share that information with some other young ones approaching the middle school gauntlet; they also might survive with great memories and no scars.  I want that for everyone.

I’ll try.

Here is an incomplete list of how to love middle school, based on the opinions of a mom blogger. Take these tips for what they’re worth:

1. Shun popularity.  When Olivia was in grade school, I remember talking with a mom of one of Olivia’s friends.  The Mom innocently talked about the “popular girls” in Olivia’s class.  I so rarely find a reason to disagree with anyone.  So rarely, that I remember the times it has happened.  I (hope) kindly told this mom that I didn’t think using the word “popular” with kids was super healthy.   I told her that I thought even one moment invested in evaluating who was popular and who wasn’t, was one moment too many.

Lucky for me, Olivia feared “popularity”.  What she saw of it on Disney and in her own world looked exhausting to her.  She wasn’t at all interested in managing it.

2. Participate.  Try everything that interests you. Olivia tried, band, choir, student council, track, cross country, basketball, volleyball, dance and piano.  She would have liked to try more, but a girls gotta sleep.

3. Embrace Disappointment.   This is the thing.  This is the thing that makes me want to hug my daughter tightly, and tell her how much I like her.  Olivia ran to be an officer for Student Council. She didn’t make it.  Olivia didn’t make the “A” team in volleyball or basketball in 6th grade, 7th grade or 8th grade.  Olivia tried out for every solo in every choir concert, for 3 years.  She never got one.  Olivia made it as an “alternate” for one concert.  She memorized the song, and practiced it many times.  Just in case.

Olivia made it into the talent show in 6th and 8th grade, but she  didn’t make it in 7th grade. That year, her teacher told her she could be a narrator for the talent show instead.  Olivia said yes to that.  Olivia spent many hours learning her narrator part. We thought she rocked it.

Olivia never won a race in track.  Olivia stayed organized, studied and did her homework. Olivia never got straight “A’s”.

I think Olivia is a talented and smart young girl.  I think perseverance and optimism are two of her finest attributes.  A few middle school kids are going to excel at almost everything they try.  Those kind of kids amaze me.  Most of us aren’t like that.

Middle school kids should walk into middle school understanding that it is the trying that is the point.  It is the trying that makes us stronger, smarter, more resilient and better for the next time.  Not being the best should NEVER be a reason to not try again.I don’t ever remember telling Olivia this before middle school. Some how she learned it on her own. Then she taught me.

4. Be a good friend.  Friendship is key.  Really.  Not just in middle school.  The best way to attract high quality friends, is to be a high quality friend.  High quality friends are good listeners.  They root for you, and build you up. High quality friends admit when they’re wrong.  They aren’t afraid to apologize, and they’re quick to forgive.   High quality friends make you feel comfortable and accepted.  Olivia had high quality friends.

5. Like who you are.  You are precious. Be excited about who you are and what interests you.  You’re not an accident. You’re here for a purpose, and to make a difference. Finding your purpose can be your own fun adventure.

6. Faith helps.  Olivia went to youth group, and attended many fun youth group activies.  At youth group Olivia connected with other kids and adults who were excited about their faith.  These faith-filled people built into Olivia’s life, and encouraged her to embrace her own relationship with Faith. Olivia chose to believe God loves her, and He cares about what’s happening in her day.  Faith helps middle schoolers.

I have more tips in me, but I’ve already kept you too long.  Plus, my attention span is shorter than a middle schooler’s.  I stopped listening to myself  after the video.

I don’t know if these tips will help.  I know sometimes the best laid plans can’t overcome a down trodden school system, mean spirited bullies or addiction.  But we can keep trying, right?  Because sometimes trying IS the point.


43 things I Have learned in 43 years

I know.  That’s a lot of things.  I was trying to think about how to commemorate another year on this Earth.  What I thought of was a really, really big surprise party.  I mean, I’m simple. So, not a formal black tie thing.  Just a couple hundred people (or so) waiting to surprise me  at a fine restaurant.  Special people from throughout my 43-years will be there to offer their kind tributes and special memories.  We’ll have a table set up for gifts and money.  A really big table.

I tried organizing this thing, but it’s weird.  No one was calling me back.   I have a sneaky suspicion they’re organizing this whole thing without me. They probably don’t want me to lift a finger.  I get it.

I keep spying on Scott when he’s on the phone, to see if I can catch him in the act of making plans for my party.  He’s so good.  He always makes it seem like he’s talking to his assistant coach about wrestling.  He’s very convincing.

While I’m waiting for the gala to get off the ground, I thought I’d make a list of 43 things I’ve learned during my 43 years on Earth.  If you don’t have time to read the list now, don’t worry.  I’ll read them out loud for everyone at my surprise party.  You’re invited…to organize it.

43 Things I’ve Learned:

1. Keep your expectations for birthday’s and other holidays low.  Then, you’ll be happy with whatever you get.  I always do this.

2. Beans make you toot.  (I’m sorry.  It’s just that I’m scared I won’t be able to think of 43 things. I thought I’d start with the basics.)

3. Exercise helps almost everything.

4. So does a positive attitude.

5. Exercise outside whenever possible.

6. Being outside helps when you’re sad.

7. If you’re sad all the time,  something is wrong.  Address it.

8. People who know you shouldn’t have to worry about what kind of mood you’re in.  Be predictably pleasant.

9. Happiness = gratitude

10. Gratitude = liking the way God made you, and what you have already.

11. Don’t be hard to please.

12. If you’re thinking a kind thought about someone, tell them.

13. If you’re not thinking kind thoughts, ask yourself why.

14. Hear people.

15. Don’t interrupt.

16. Always bring more than your fair share.

17. The only right place to brag is on your resume.

18. Be curious.  Try new things.

19. Figure out what comes naturally to you, what you’re passionate about. Embrace it.

20. People want you to listen and care.  They rarely need your advice.

21. Root for other people.

22.  If you don’t like Doctors and taking medicine, eat real food.  Don’t eat more than you need. You don’t need as much as you think.

23. Don’t spend more money than you make.

24. Be organized.  If it’s hard for you, you can teach yourself how to do it.  Pinterest.

25. Work hard.

26. Being nice isn’t the same thing as telling people what they want to hear.

27. Be quick to forgive.  Don’t hold grudges, especially against yourself.

28. Say you’re sorry.

29. You know  you’re with good friends when it feels effortless.

30. Read.  A lot.

31. Look your best.

32. You can’t look your best with no effort.

33. Don’t be easily offended.  If things bother you a lot, that’s not things, that’s you.

34.  The more you talk about religion and politics, the less likely people will be to listen to you.

35. Don’t say mean things.

36. Don’t believe mean things you hear.

37.  Some people will never like you.  Like them anyway, and let them go.

38. Figure out what you believe.

39. Little kids and pets.  The best stuff life has to offer.

40. Laugh every chance you get.

41. Wearing fancy name brands for others to see.  Joke’s on you.

42. Quality over quantity.

43. Beans really do  make you toot.

This is my list.  I doubt these things have ever been said before.  I know what you’re thinking.  It’s like you just heard from a modern day Socrates.  I’m not trying to be a control freak about this surprise party, but you might want to think about mentioning the Socrates thing  in your tribute.  Just a suggestion.  But, really, do what you want. Remember? I’m not hard to please.

P.S. I asked Zeke and Scott to listen to my blog as their Birthday gift to me.  I’m not sure those two guys even know I write a blog. Well, they listened, and they gave this post the thumbs up.  Almost.  Scott said he had some slight reservations.  He said he really just doesn’t think beans do make you toot.

Then, he wanted clarification.  Scott said, “I mean, are we talking green beans, black beans, what kind of beans? Because, I’m not sure you can just simply say beans make you toot.  How do you know they do for sure?”

P.P.S. I’m not going to read Scott any more of my blogs.

P.P.P.S. Zeke didn’t like #31.  He thought it was weird that I said looking your best was something I would say I learned.  That IS weird, because mostly I’ve told my kids it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

I told Zeke that I thought looking your best gives you a psychological advantage.  And, I told him it’s good for a marriage to…

“Stop, Mom.  I don’t want to hear another word.”  Zeke interrupted me.

P.P.P.P.S. I didn’t enjoy reading the list to those guys as much as I thought I would.

Your visits here helped make my 43rd year AWESOME! That’s your gift to me, and I want you to know I’m grateful!  Here’s to 43 more great ones, and to staying the heck away from beans.  Tooting jokes always kill.

Birthday 43

I’m actually 43, not 34. I just wanted my age to be perfectly clear to my dyslexic friends.

Being Nice

In some ways, things become simpler as you get older. At 22-years-old, I was pretty predictable. At 42, you can go ahead and set your watch by me. It’s okay. I don’t mind. If you need me I can be found in one of only five places: at work, at home, at the grocery store, at church, or at the gym (Not exercising, silly. Watching my kids.)

My social interactions have also simplified. I communicate face to face with with my work associates and clients, other bleacher parents, people at church, my family and all those folks at the grocery store. And THAT, my friends, is my exciting life. With daily adventures like this, it is really no wonder I blog. People who aren’t comfortable with risks themselves, can live through me.

Can we talk about the grocery store? Since one-fifth of my life is spent there, I’ve had time to learn some things. Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned: baby carrots taste kind of like bleach, and they’re overpriced; you’re risking your flippin’ lives when you buy them, people! Sometimes you just have to create your own excitement, you know? That’s not really what I’ve learned (although regular sized carrots really are the way to go.) Here’s the real thing I’ve learned at the grocery store: being nice matters.

Let’s be honest with each other and admit that most of us are not our best selves when we grocery shop. Most of us are usually racing against the clock. We’re shopping and simultaneously working through a mental check list of all the other things we need to get done. For most of us, grocery shopping is done in a state of automation.

I don’t love admitting this, but occasionally (let’s go with 1 out of 60 trips) I walk into the grocery store with a heart that hurts and holding tight to a bunch of unshed tears. Just once in a while, you know? Not a lot. Seriously. Just when I get weary of battling, and feel like a broken heart will always be my lot in life. I would guess on any given day there’s a handful (maybe more) of these kinda folks walking the aisles. People are tough. They can carry around some pretty heavy stuff: their marriage may be falling apart, they just lost someone they love, they’re being abused, they’ve recently been diagnosed with something terrifying or they have a child who has been sick for most of his life, and no matter what they do he just won’t get better.

THOSE are the days when I realize this: being nice matters. When the teenager behind the meat counter is super polite and says, “please, take your time.” I appreciate his patience.

When the arthritic cashier works hard to lift her hand high enough to give me my change, and then smiles and tells me to have a nice day, I feel it in my heart.

When I see the Asian woman who I’m pretty sure works seven days a week stocking the health food aisle. She speaks broken English. When she sees me she asks with a smile and gentle voice, “You have nice holiday? It good to see you again. Stay warm.” I want to do something nice for her in return.

And, when the neat and tidy elderly women bags my groceries. She smiles at me with her light blue, crinkly eyes. She pats my arm while looking me straight in the eye and says in the sweetest grandma voice, “I hope you have a good day, dear.” I may just go ahead and shed one or two of those tears on my way out; I feel like giving that little lady a hug.

Nice is not just an adjective. Being nice is a verb. Being nice is an action with consequence. Being nice can change things. Being nice can provide comfort and relief. Being nice can alter emotions and mood. Being nice can restore. And you just never know when being nice will deliver a little warmth in to the broken heart of a random grocery shopper. I really want to be nice.


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