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Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category

B – Brothers

20 Apr

brothersI don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. ~Maya Angelou

(revised and reposted from February 2009 @ Breathings of the Heart.com)

I am not sure what I thought my relationship would be with my brothers at this point in my life, but I never dreamed it would be as it is. We are seven years apart which means that I am 14 years older than my youngest brother. Growing up I had little to do with my middle brother, and being so much older I was more maternal to my youngest brother (considering the countless hours of babysitting). With seven years between us, we grew up as three siblings – each an only child. Fast forward to 2013. We are all adults (at least by age). We each have distinct personalities and have become great friends. It is quite amazing, even surprising.

We are shared characters in a myriad of “growing up” stories. Of Marc, I remember that he spent much of his time alone in his bedroom playing with Legos. Once, I blamed him for pushing me over causing stitches; a lie which to this day he has difficulty forgiving. Evan was the baby, but in order to coax him to behave I would scare him into thinking the police would come take him away if he didn’t do exactly as I wished. Funny thing is – it worked. I haven’t tried it recently, but have great doubts he would be as gullible now.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently penned, “brotherhood is a condition people have to work at” and we have. We are three unique people. Marc is pragmatic, Evan idealistic and me – somewhere in between.  As in any relationship we have made many concessions, overlooked little annoyances (sometimes BIG ones), and continually committed to strengthening our bond.

I often wonder what makes my relationship with my brothers so extraordinary (notice I did not say “perfect”). I can only surmise it can be traced back to our parents and the principles to which they believe children should be raised. Having a strong sense self, cultivating an ability to articulate your views, loving people for who they are and a strong commitment to God were the foundation of our upbringing.

These tenets are now the cornerstone of the relationship between my brothers and me. It is through these principles that we are able to disagree, encourage, irritate and hold each other accountable. Laughter, sarcasm, along with deep theological and moral discussions often clutter our conversations. It isn’t that we always agree, to the contrary, we often disagree, at times are disrespectful and inadvertently hurt the other (although NONE of us would admit to this – being hurt that is), but there has never been a time where we have allowed anything to sever our bond.

Some say a sister’s bond is extraordinary, but I say give me brothers any day.

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On Turning 50

02 Sep

Since turning 50 on July 30, 2012, I have started to write at least four posts with the intention of reflecting on the experience. None of them quite “hit the mark”. This past week, my 6th grade students and I closely read the poem “On Turning 10″ by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins. So as a tribute to him, as a mentor text to my students and as a celebration of turning 50–here are my thoughts…

 

On Turning 50*

The whole idea makes me feel like I’m riding a jolting roller-coaster spiraling down the rails
or the rush of wind as it hits
my face and is suddenly gone,
a kind of haunting at sunrise
a spring in the middle of winter.
I know it is time to think of looking back,
but I know it’s too soon.
The dance is not yet
in it’s final moments.
But I find myself doing so
just the same.

At the dawn of adolescence
I reached for life
I dreamed.
At 20 I was newly married, at
30 a mother
At 40 experienced loss,
a solemn darkness
to overcome.

But now I am mostly dividing
my thoughts
Some yearning for what is in the past knowing the sum of life’s story somehow equates gratification. This is the beginning of life
in some sense.
Time to say good-bye to regrets and guilt.
Time to embrace the next chapter.
It seems only yesterday I believed that
life was boundless,
limitless
But now reflecting,
I know
it’s simply
splendid. I exhale.

*Inspired by On Turning Ten by Billy Collin

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Now Choose Life 2012

10 Jun

I was reading through my blog today and let myself go all the way back to my very first entry. Then I decided I would rewrite it from where I am today. 

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now CHOOSE LIFE so you and your children may live and you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” Deut.30:19-20

On September 29, 2005, my life, as I knew it, changed forever. I haven’t wasted much of my time with wanting to know WHY my 45 year old husband and father of my children was taken from me. I am not sure any answer from God would be sufficient anyway. The why was of little importance. It is the journey which has created character and given definition to who I am.

Seven years ago I lived through the darkest days of my life. When Don was taken from us I wasn’t sure how I would even begin to breathe again let alone begin to heal. Little did I know, God was preparing me for an amazing journey of healing and hope. Healing became a deliberate choice.

It has taken all of these years to realize that Don was never ours to begin with. We were blessed to have borrowed him for those short years. Not that our grief has past, as I suppose it never will completely, but we have the promise that the God who blessed the bright days of our past is still longing to be the author of our future.

My identity changed in a blink of an eye. I was no longer married; I was no longer someone’s wife and the secure identity I had owned for 24 years, was no longer mine to claim. A new identity defined me. I became a single parent; a widow. I was left with an identity that was awkward and uncomfortable, yet as I began to meet the challenges of “chapter two”, I began to realize that living was indeed about choice—-choosing life.

It was not an easy choice to make. There were many days that I would have rather chosen to be “stuck” in my misfortune – it would have been easier. This new life was not the plan I had for my life and though my plans were forever altered, I knew God’s plan remained intact. The reality was that my God was big enough to see me through raising two boys, educating 105 children each year, and paying the mortgage on time.

I couldn’t change my life history. I couldn’t change my life circumstances, but I did chose how the story would continue. I chose the life mentioned in Deuteronomy 30. Since that fateful day, God has blessed me along this journey. He has given me second love and a Godly man who has also walked the journey of grief, along with a myriad of opportunities to minister to others dealing with great loss.

The choices we make now, how we choose to live directly impacts those around us—especially our children. I still choose to lead by example – I want my children and step-children to know that God really is enough. I want them to know that “stuff” matters little compared to relationships, friendships and love. I want them to know that in the midst of it all—tragedy does not define you—how you choose to live does. Now choose life…

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Up for Another Challenge!

10 Jan

I am going to try this Photo-a-Day challenge I stumbled across on Amanda’s and Alicia’s blogs. I have tried the Project 365, but knowing my inability to sustain long term projects, I am certain 31 days is doable for me. I am starting 9 days late, but figure it’s just a reflection of my rebellious nature. What I am hoping is that this exercise will be the springboard to jumpstart a more disciplined writing regime.

Let the experiment begin–

DAY ONE -YOU!

This is the way you can find me most days after work. Once I get home, I love putting on sweats and a comfy sweatshirt (Nebraska of course) to begin my second job of mom and wife.

Lately, when I look into the mirror, my mother stares back at me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, it takes me by surprise when I recognize my mother’s features in my face or my mother’s mannerisms as my own.

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Growing Old–Gracefully?

08 Jun

I have been thinking about aging recently. I don’t do this often. I am not in any way obsessed with growing older, but there are times in my life when the inevitability of aging wears heavy on my mind and heart. It isn’t that the alternative is appealing either because I have no desire to relive youth, at least not without the wisdom I possess today, but lately I have been thinking about what it means to age gracefully.

I remember when my mother was the age I am today. I thought she was old. When my grandmother was my age—she was ancient, but when I look at my peers, they don’t appear old to me. On the contrary, I think my friends are more active and in better mental and physical shape than they were years ago. We hold memberships to the health club, or at least have purchased Wii Fit. We buy whole foods, and take a multitude of vitamins and herbs researched to make our lives healthier. On the other hand, we do converse more about individual aches and pains than we did when we were young, although we speak equally of current events, politics, theology and education. We read books about how to keep our bodies and brains active over the latest John Grisham novel, but even that is not unusual. So what’s the deal with getting older?

My mother turns 70 this year, which seems impossible to me. Her life is inspirational. At 70, she still teaches kindergarten at an intercity school that boasts a 98% minority/95% poverty rate. The only signs of aging I see in her are that she complains more about being “tired”—well, I think she has earned that privilege. She walks on a regular basis, reads veraciously and remains active at her church. At times, she has more energy than me. She just doesn’t seem old to me, perhaps she really isn’t. Maybe age IS relative.

I am a better mother now than when I was younger. I know I am better wife than I was in my 30’s, and am convinced I am more conscious about my health than I was then. I don’t; however, obsess about the outward signs of aging as much the internal ones like the inability to remember someone’s name I ought to recall or where I put my car keys.

Aging gracefully has more to do with one’s mind-set than anything else. Perhaps what needs to be measured in aging is the significance found in the now; those who are touched by how we live and the value we’ve added to the world. As Joan Baez so eloquently stated, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.” That’s aging—gracefully.

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In Honor of 70

18 Mar

My dad turns 70 today. It doesn’t seem like it. I used to think 70 was really old, but he doesn’t seem “old”; perhaps that is because he doesn’t act old. He still works a 40-hour a week part-time job. He plays golf. He keeps up with technology. He drives a convertible. No, he doesn’t act “old” at all.

More than these outward signs, he is still compassionate, articulate and witty. He truly cares about the folks he ministers to and loves the church, which he serves. Growing up in a parsonage wasn’t always easy. You tend to be put on a pedestal and required to live up to other’s standards, but my father has never thought like that. He has always been his own person and allowed us; even celebrated, our individuality.

Memories I cherish with my dad are as deep as they are wide. I remember going with him to watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium, or tagging along to church softball games. We’ve watched Cornhusker football together. He is the reason I understand golf and hockey. His one failure was attempting to teach me to drive a standard transmission; to preserve our sanity and relationship he was wise enough to release me into the hands of a friend for instruction.

I know he prays for us, he continually guides our family spiritually and then without fear has released us to become who God has intended us to be. He has always been and continues to be my best council, chief supporter and biggest fan. He has loved our mother in a way that demonstrates undying love. He cares for his ailing mother with compassion and strength. How wonderful is that? But the greatest gift my father has ever given to me is the capacity to love people, to forgive without requiring penance, and to be devoted to God first and foremost.

So today I honor his love, his life and his ministry. Happy Birthday Dad!

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Happy Birthday Mamaw!!

01 Mar

Grandmothers and roses are much the same. Each are God’s masterpieces with different names.
– Author Unknown

Happy 89th Birthday Mamaw!


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Posted in Aging, Family

 

Twenty Years Ago Today!

26 Jan

My son was born twenty years ago today. I can’t believe how quickly time has past. He was born at 2:43 in the afternoon, which no one I worked with will ever forget as it was the EXACT moment the last bell of the school day sounded, my favorite time of the day=) I remember both grandfathers scurrying around the hospital nursery, twenty-pound video cameras in hand trying to out do the other at the art of video-documenting this momentous event. You see Chad was the very first grandchild on either side of the family.

For choosing to get married terribly young, I did make the decision to wait seven years before starting a family. Chad’s father and I had the blessing of cultivating our relationship before beginning a family and when it was time for the arrival of our first child, we couldn’t have been more excited or more ready.

The past twenty years have flown by. I have had the privilege of watching my little boy grow into an amazing young man. Life has been blessed, but not always easy. Forced to become the “man of the house” way too young, Chad stepped confidently into the responsibility with honor. Through thick and thin, he has learned to discern and accept what life has thrown his way.

Watching as he maneuvers each life experience and as he melds his knowledge of the world with what is good and right, has been a journey worth experiencing. Chad explores wholeheartedly his future; never dismissing any of life’s possibilities. “Difficult” or “demanding” don’t seem to impede his vision. I also observe the way he loves, and am thankful for the years of influence his father obviously had upon the way he respects, honors and is devoted to another.

There is no instruction manual that accompanies children. You dedicate them to God in front of witnesses, knowing they aren’t yours to begin with. You do the best you can, hoping they grow into stable, secure adults. You cherish each moment and pray you don’t squander the limited time you have to guide them, yet all too soon they are grown up. Today, I honor my son on his 20th birthday: a man who is one of the brightest lights in my life. I am sure his father is looking down with pride, cheering him on and knowing the impact Chad will have on his world. That is his legacy.

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Letter to My Younger Self

11 Aug

In the new issue of Marie Claire, there is a special “promotion” section publishing selected letters written in a contest entitled “Letters to Your Younger Self”. After reading the letters, I thought this to be a valuable exercise on many levels. My challenge to you is for you to do the same. The rules (you know I hate them): choose an age in which you wish you could write a letter to your younger self and then publish it on your blog (but don’t forget to link back or at least let me know you accepted the challenge) or email it to me.

Marsha (Central Illinois), 46
Writes to herself at age 19.

Dear Marsha,
As you stand before the minister today and pledge your love to another, know that you are about to embark on a new and marvelous journey. It will take you to the heights of love and contentment. You will be fortunate enough to experience great joy, yet coupled with that happiness will come great sorrow. Your choice to marry young will turn out to be wise and providential, despite the reservations of others. Becoming a woman of strength and purpose will begin today; as you choose to unite yourself with someone else. It will be many years before you appreciate and honor the fact that your mate gave you autonomy to be yourself, even as you learned to be a wife and a mother.

The life you have been blessed to experience up to this point will simply be the precursor to the life you will experience from here. Choosing to covet the strength found in family, friendships and spiritual commitment will allow you to live within the parameters of some of life’s most cruel narrations.

You will find that values guide your life. Things like education, personal growth and a real need to make a difference will cause you to take pause and often take action. I know you have thought little about these things up to this point. You will not be forced to do so for quite awhile, but that’s ok. You are predestined to live your life by taking chances and encountering life’s curves as if you could withstand anything.

Your love for life must never fade away. Self-disciple may evade you, minor irritants may momentarily distract you, but pure determination will enable you flourish. Your life will be blessed, not more or less than anyone else’s, but you will consider yourself fortunate.

You must move on from today as if you never received this letter, as my wish for you is to simply experience your life—just as you were intended. Have no regrets; for then nothing in your life will have been in vane.

Many Blessings,
Marsha

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Look Good Naked

06 Aug

To say that I have body image issues would be a gross understatement. Sometimes I think I felt better about my body when I weighed 300 pounds than I do now. I am not sure why that is the case, because since my gastric bypass I have gone from super skinny size 10 (on my 5’10″ body), to normal size 12, to a few pounds more. All in all, I am still 130 pounds thinner than I was when I began. This fact alone should be enough to keep me confident with my figure, yet it eludes me on so many levels.

Tonight I watched Lifetime’s “How to Look Good Naked”. This is not your run of the mill “makeover” show. Instead Carson Kressley attempts to assist a woman who is dissatisfied with her “less than perfect” body. He then endeavors to create in her an acceptance of who she is. The poor woman must stand in front of a mirror in only her bra and panties, which of course, she has difficulty doing, but seems to humor him just the same.

One of the most interesting experiments occurs when Carson brings several women out in their underwear and the subject is to choose which ones are bigger and which are smaller than she. She appoints all the women lager, when in fact; they are ALL smaller than she. Chronicling the transformation of the woman from self-conscious to self-confident is quite astounding. Just being privy to the change in the way she carries herself is somewhat astounding. There was no liposuction, no “nip-tuck”, no drastic makeup or extreme hair makeover; she simply begins to accept her body–even appreciate it.

I know I have lamented ad nauseum about the fact that my newfound athleticism has not paid off with changes in my body. I find that I am much more confident on the bicycle, in the gym or in the pool, but that confidence doesn’t seem to carry over to the full-length mirror. How should I expect anyone else to think I am sexy, if I don’t believe it myself?

Why is it that women have such a hard time when it comes to our bodies? The men in our lives love them, why can’t we? Shouldn’t we afford ourselves the same admiration as those in our lives who love us? Even when I was obese by children would say, “Mom, you are not fat.” I would dismiss such comments as silly, when I should have embraced them as the truth.

In this episode of “How to Look Good Naked” the subject’s most significant “aha moment” comes with her words, “I feel liberated.” That’s what loving your body can do. It can make you not only confident, but liberated as well. So, take off your clothes and take a good look…liberate yourself—and—look good naked!

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