Why Do You Do It?

Why do you do it?  What is your definition of volunteering?  Do you think that if you volunteer at your child’s school that is volunteering?  Do you think helping out in your child’s Sunday school class is?  What does volunteering mean to you?

As I have matured, so has my view on volunteering.  I use to think that doing things at my child’s school was volunteering.  Maybe you did (or do) too.  But my thoughts have changed.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t do things at your child’s school, you should.  As a matter of fact, I think that doing things with your child’s school or activities they are involved in, is just part of being a parent.  Not volunteering.

My definition of volunteering is someone who is unpaid, and does something without benefit to self or family.  How many people do you know who only help when their child is involved?  Now think of someone you know who helps just because.

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by just such a group of people, like the woman who started a place for grieving children when she lost one of her own.  Imagine being surrounded by death everyday when you have lost a child and you do it because there is a need and you want to help or the group of people who I serve with on the board for Fourth Street School.  This is a school for special needs children.  Not one member has a child in that school or even is connected to a special needs child in anyway.  These people who I admire, volunteer because they want to help others, they want to make a difference, because it’s the right thing to do.  These are the kind of people I want to surround myself with, these are the people I want to be like.

Many times it is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of our days and say we don’t have time to volunteer.  That we are too busy and even if we had time, can one person make a difference?  Don’t think you have to change the world, just make the place you live, better.  By doing that, who knows how you can affect the world.  Have you ever heard of the book – The Five People You Meet In Heaven?  By the title you might surmise that you might meet Jesus or some other famous person from the Bible.  That is not the case.  It is about people whose lives have been touched by the main character and he doesn’t even know it till he meets them in heaven.  He doesn’t know how he has changed their lives.  Volunteering is much like that – you don’t even know who you will make a difference to.

I volunteer for a variety of reasons.  I feel it’s my responsibility to help others, I want to make a difference in someone’s life, and I want to offer hope – because I know what it is like to feel hopeless.  And for a very selfish reason-it makes me feel good.

So, why do you do it?  Or perhaps the question for you is, why don’t you?

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Parenthood

My husband and I were out to dinner one night before we had kids.  We were sitting at a restaurant eating dinner when all of a sudden a pacifier landed in my nachos.  The mom quickly came over and apologized.  I could tell she was embarrassed.  I told her that it was all right and not to worry.  After she left, my husband and I talked about how some parents just don’t control their children and that our children would never do that because we would be better parents.

When we would go to our friends’ homes who had small children I would notice how they took all the stuff off the coffee table.  Dave and I knew that when we had kids we would just tell them no and they would leave the things on the coffee table alone.  Yes, I can imagine what you are thinking, but we were young and inexperienced.

You always hear that being a parent is the hardest job.  I don’t think we really realize how hard, till we become one.  If we put an ad in the paper advertising for parents what would it say?  24/7 job available.  No nights, weekends or holidays off.  No pay, you have to pay to take the job.  No sleep.  You will often be taken for granted and disliked.  Many times you will hate this job and want to quit.  There will be moments of joy interspersed with all the drudgery.  This joy will make the rest of it all worth it.

When I first became pregnant I dreamed of being a stay at home Mom.  I was fortunate to have this dream come true.  I didn’t know that sometimes (often) this could also be a nightmare.  I didn’t know that sometimes I’d resent my husband because he got to go to work.  He could talk to grownups all day, and when he ate lunch no one threw food at him.  When he would complain that he had to travel and stay in hotel rooms, I would think, “what’s the problem?  You get to be in a room by yourself, you can read, watch TV or (my personal favorite) sleep and no one would bother you.

I didn’t know that you could be home all day and not get a thing done.  That one or two (or four) little people could generate SO much laundry.  No one told me that I would often wonder when I was nursing my children, why I even bothered to put a shirt on.  Or that some days it seemed so overwhelming I would just sit on the floor and cry.

I didn’t know that when I became a Mom I would have to be a mind reader (why is that baby crying?), or that I would have to give up for awhile, most of the things that made me, me.  I would wonder all the time if I was doing it “right”, I would see those Moms who had it altogether (you know the ones), they were well dressed and had makeup on.  Their kids were clean and dressed so cute that you immediately hated them all.  You would be left thinking, “how come I can’t do that?”

You might think by all that I have written, I don’t like being a parent.  Not true, I love being a parent, even when I think I don’t.  Do you think the guys who climb Mt. Everest love the whole climb?  Nope.  How about the marathoner, do you think he loves the whole race?  Don’t think so.  But they love what they do and the moments of joy outweigh the discomforts or pain.  And when they have climbed the summit or finished the race all the bad stuff is forgotten.

The thing about being a parent is the even when it seems the whole day has been difficult; you have that moment that erases all your frustration.  A moment that is sweet and tender. It maybe when it is at the end of the day and bath time is done and your child is all sweet smelling and you are settling down for an adventure with Winnie the Pooh. It could be when they bring home macaroni art, it spells out I love you. Or maybe when they get older and have to write a paper about their hero, and they chose you, So many moment to numerous to count, Moments that fill you up in a way that nothing else can

So don’t worry if you sometimes think, (and I know you do) why did I have kids?  It’s okay.  You will be fine and when you reach the summit or finish your race, you will look back and remember all the joy and happiness.  You will remember how you love being a parent.

One Word For Love

LOVE.  Such an interesting emotion, people have lied, cheated and died for it. Some even have wasted away from the lack of it.  It seems that in some way that emotion is somehow involved in all we do.

If I asked you to say in one word what love is to you, what would you say?  What would your answer say about you?   Would you say, selflessness, caring, hope or maybe even security. There is no wrong answer because it’s how you view love, not me. Our life experiences shape our view of love, as mine did.

As many of you know my husband died sixteen years ago.  I chose not to date or remarry, to just focus on my four children.  This gave me many years to reflect on love and what it means to me. Aside from the obvious, what thing or things was I missing? I surely missed the gentle touch of someone’s hand in mine, a shoulder to lean on when I was feeling blue and the sound of my name spoken with love. I missed a thousand things that I had never paid attention to when I had love. Someone to eat with, go to church with, to walk with me down the bumpy road of life, Someone to love me even when I am sometimes unlovable.

Sixteen year gave me time to find my one word for love. – Sharing   Are you disappointed?  For me, if you look at all the things I want from love, they are all tied to sharing.   I want to share my life, I want to share the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly.

Sharing can take a great experience and make it more vibrant – more colorful and it can take a devastating one and make it more bearable. Being able to share our lives with someone is a gift.

So, you might not be impressed with my one word for love, but for me if fits perfectly and if you want I can “share” it with you.

The Power of Words

I have always loved words. When I was young the words in a book took me places that I had only dreamed of.  I went on adventures and became people that otherwise seemed out of reach. For me words painted a picture that was so vivid, so real, that for a while I was someone else.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really understood the power of words. How words can unite people, start a movement, bring hope and yes, hurt. That once a word is spoken, it can’t be taken back. That people will believe words that are untrue and give life to that untruth.

Words are so powerful that they can ruin a career, or make one. Many of us speak without thinking. Not realizing most of the time how words impact people. How a thoughtless remark can bring pain or a word of encouragement can make someone’s day.

In my own life I try to be aware of this fact.  I try, I said try, to think about my words. Speaking without thinking is kind of like sending a email. Once its gone you can’t get it back and it’s out there somewhere, where anyone can see it.

I have had my share of words that I wish I could take back. But the older I get, the more I think about the reasons I want to say something. Is it to help or hurt? Will it change anything or will I just be venting and perhaps ruin a relationship.

Words are emotions put to sound so we can share them. Before we utter a word emotions are just ours. We are alone in our anger, misery, grief and happiness.  Speaking the words changes our aloneness.  Words put to music become songs, words on paper become books and the spoken word can define us.

Yes, I really do love words, for nothing can replace the intimate conversation between lovers, a comforting word from a parent or words of support from a friend.    Three little words can change a life “I love you” and one word can destroy “hate”.

Words are powerful Perhaps words should come with a warning – use with caution. However you use your words, I hope that more often than not you use the power of the word to bring comfort, to uplift, to teach.  Wield the power of the word carefully, I know I will.

Imperfectly Perfect

My daughter is Autistic.  Four little words that can hurt my heart in a way nothing else can. Words that I never can get use to.  Four little words that killed my dreams for my child, at least that’s what I use to think.

How can I fully express how I felt on the day I realized my precious, long awaited, baby girl was not all I hoped she would be.  She had ten toes and ten fingers perfect in every way that I could see.  It was the unseen imperfection that would crush me with the weight of it.  Imperfection is a harsh word.  We know that none of us are perfect, yet this is the standard we are all judged by.  When we see people who we perceive as imperfect, we criticize, we judge and we decide based on that judgment if they are worthy of our attention.  That was me.  Not something I am proud of, but it was true.

I didn’t know at the time, that we could be glorious in our imperfections.  That it is the imperfections that make us perfectly perfect.  Would my friends know me if I could do math without a calculator?  If I could cook a gourmet meal?  If I could remember something you told me last week?  They would not, those traits are me.  They make up who I am.  This is the lesson my daughter Emma taught me.

In my processing of her diagnosis, I thought all my dreams for her were gone.  I was sad, mad and hurt.  How could this be?  But my Emma would not have any of that.  She pushed, pulled and dragged me to a new way of thinking.  A new way of looking at things.  She taught me that my dreams for her had not died, they just changed.

She teaches me everyday the meaning of perseverance.  That it’s not how well you do something, it’s that you did it at all.  That sometimes you just do something that you love even though people might think you’re not good at it, just because YOU love it.

In all her imperfections, she is the person I wish I could be.  She never says an unkind word about anyone, she is never afraid to try anything, she loves you in all your imperfections – unconditionally.  She forgives without question and enjoys the little things in life with such joy.

I am a better person for knowing her. I’m not saying it is always easy.  It’s not.  Some days seem endless and fraught with unseen problems.  But those days are lost in the memory of the sweet times.

I have had two kinds of grief in my life.  The first was the loss of my husband.  This grief is powerful and evens out over time so that it is not so all consuming.  The second is my grief for Emma.  This is a grief I face every day.  I must fortify myself against the onslaught.  I hurt for Emma when people call her stupid, my heart breaks a little more each time she asks why she has no friends.  In my grief I feel sorry for myself.  Then I think of Emma.  She has to deal with this too and does so with more grace then I can seem to muster.   I stop to ponder how I could have even thought for a moment that she was imperfect.  I would not change one thing about my imperfectly perfect girl.  No lost dreams here, just new possibilities that I never even considered.