Special Perspective – guest post by Gini Florer

Today, I’m so thrilled to share something written by my friend Gini Florer. She’s been such a sweet encouragement to me and to pretty much anyone who knows her.

Ten years ago Sunday, Gini & John’s road took a detour, in the most wonderful and uplifting way – adjectives that at the moment were a bit hidden behind a veil of unexpected. As this couple held a new baby in their arms, they began a journey down a road that didn’t quite look like what they imagined. But who knew, that in the midst of different, joy and happiness and contentment would come with a special life.

Gini, knowing my beef with comparison and interest in contentment, told me I could share with you the following update she posted to her Caring Bridge yesterday. I hope her words encourage you in whatever place you might be – whether you have a kid who’s normal is a bit different (btw, everyone’s is) or whether you’re just tired of trying to measure up.

Thanks for pointing us to consider perspective, Gini!

… and thanks for walking the road with me.

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Today my “special” turns 10. I coined the name for him before The Lego Movie came out because he truly is “the special”.

Life is funny. John Lawson seems to have accomplished more by being able to do less. The world wants faster; he is slower. The world wants giant leaps; he takes small steps. But, oh, is he an inspiration to so many. In so few words he conveys such a great message – a message of joy, a message of perseverance, a message of triumph, a message of hope.  And in his simplicity, he has a direct line to the One who created him – of that I am sure.

Is John Lawson more the way we are supposed to be: totally dependent, totally trusting, totally free to be who he is without care of what others think about him? Maybe.

Consider these gems – at what age do we start the comparisons that can steal our joy if we are not careful? My answers for John Lawson don’t fit in the box (and it is in my nature to love boxes!):

  • “When did John Lawson take his first step?” 3 Years Old
  • “First Word?” 4 Years Old
  • “Potty-Trained?” 8 Years Old
  • “Move to a Big-Boy Bed?” 10 Years Old (1 week ago today!)

John Lawson’s life has changed my perspective, taken me out of my box. Maybe that was part of his purpose.  We will see clearly one day – all the questions answered.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. 1 Corinthians 13:12

And John Lawson will be made new – or maybe we will be made new. Whatever the case we will all be whole.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. Revelation 21:4

We all have a purpose – even if not in the eyes of the world.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Romans 8:28

God smiles, I think, when He turns the ways of the world upside down. It is what He came in flesh to do.

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord”. Isaiah 55:8

Thankful that He cared enough to turn mine upside down 10 years ago today with the birth of our “ordinary miracle”…Watch and see what He has done:

Detour Driving

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Sometimes life happens and the road on which you were so happily traveling takes a detour.

Detours, in the form of change, are part of life. And the way we handle them has a huge affect on our outlook. We can either be miserable, frustrated and complainy… or we can make the detour a high-road excursion. Unwanted change doesn’t have to land us in a ditch.

On Tuesday, Fury stepped on a bee. He screamed and wailed so loud, one of the neighbor kids told me yesterday, “Yeah, I heard him from my front yard.” (Embarrassing.) Fury is actually a pretty tough kid. But, that bee nailed him right in the tender spot on the bottom of your foot; and the sting just kept coming.

I quickly removed the stinger and put a baking soda paste on the spot to calm it down. We tried to distract him with a game of Mexican Trains. And all seemed well. In fact he was quick to join some friends at Little Ninja Gym, our new favorite Staycation outing, soon after.

But, later that night, in the middle of the night, when he stood next to my bed begging for help with the pain, I knew the road might be a little different than a simple sting. And, by the end of the next day, it was clear we needed to visit the doctor. Not only was he having an allergic reaction, he had an infection. Thankfully, we have access to great medical care. The kid is on antibiotics and will surely be on the mend soon.

Still, the incident has sort of ruined his plans for this and next week since he can barely walk, let alone run and play. So, he’s on a bit of a detour. Of course, I hope he will use the time to finish Summer Reading. (doubtful)  But, he’s bummed. And though he just might be insufferable by next week, he’s meeting it head on, hopping around with very little complaining – despite the pain and plan changes.

On the flip side, yesterday afternoon I was with another one of my children, who has also been dished a plate of change. This kid is facing a school year that will look almost 100% different than what he hoped for and expected his Senior year to be. A couple of our kids attend a small school where they enjoy the pleasure of close relationships with their teachers. So, in May when change, in the form of faculty departures, was announced – one of mine took it especially hard.

On the positive side – I’m moved that a kid could share such deep and meaningful relationships with teachers. On the reality side – what can you say … but welcome to life. Life changes. Get over it and embrace the new. So I said the latter and added a lecture. Isn’t that part of the mom job?! Life lecture? … Probably not, but I do it anyway… and wonder if anyone is listening.

After acknowledging his sadness and unmet expectations, I told him it’s time to move on. Accepting unexpected circumstances is part of life.

“There are a few things in life that are certain,” I told him as we sat outside Chipotle. “One of them is change. Some of it’s good and brings with it a load of happiness. Some of it is challenging and not quite what we expect or hope. But, you are not a victim. It happens to everybody, every day.”

Then I add what I really hope he could hear, “You get to choose your response. And… the way you handle change will be a determining factor in your happiness.”

I think it really is.

Detours occur. Change is inevitable. My perspective, my attitude and my response are key. I can choose frustration, anger, disappointment and wallow. OR I can meet change head on, treat the symptoms, get help if needed, accept what I can’t change … and hop around until my foot returns to normal … aware that I might have to get used to a new normal.

One thing is for certain, worry and anguish don’t offer much in the help category. I was reminded of this last night as Jon & I enjoyed one of our favorite movies. The main character, contemplating a crisis, quoted from Baz Luhrmann’s song, “Sunscreen”. The entire lyrics, based on a commencement speech by Mary Schmich, are worth the read, but here’s the quote:

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.

Change is harder for some than others. For all of us, it’s fertile training ground for trust.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

 

Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen song and “video” – made in the early 1990′s, it was a chart-topping hit in the U.S. and Europe.

Required Summer Reading … and other product-pull that can sap joy from the process

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It’s that time of the summer – at least for homes with school-aged kids. These are the days when we look up and see Summer’s end creeping ever closer. (boo-hoo-hoo, sob, sob, sob!!)

And I watch my kids try – okay I chide them to – complete their Required Summer Reading, I know that a lot of the wonder that could accompany such a task gets lost in the completion of it. “Required reading” tends to be done rather than savored => product over process.

The books my kids have on deck this year are actually terrific. Each of them, in their unique genres, has something to offer any reader. I picked one of them up, The Sufferings of Young Werther, and have found myself annotating. I know I’m a complete geek. I’ve even had to order that kid another copy since I’m now keeping his.

But will he savor it the way I am? Will be able to move beyond the task and enjoy the process?

Summer reading, at the onset, was never meant to be a checked box. The impetus was simply to keep kids involved, encourage brain exercise during time away from formal learning. But here’s where we can witness up close and personal the issue of making a task about completion rather than the process.

If my kids read their books to check a box, i.e. completion of the requirement – performance based on an audience made up of his/her teacher and their peers – then they don’t get much out of it. But if by some chance my child picks up the book, reads it, wrestles with it, goes so far as to consider the meaning behind the writing, there is a high likelihood that something of worth might occur in the process. Something that means so much more than a box-check. I don’t want these books to be lost in my kids’ lives because they were a task.

And, I wonder, what else is being lost in our obsession with product.

Summer reading is one of so many areas in life that promotes checked boxes. We have countless tasks to accomplish that added together supposedly get us to where we need to be. Sometimes I find myself getting lost in the product, too.

I’ve noticed product-pull in my writing effort. It’s hard to avoid being tripped up by tempting likes/shares/publishing awareness. It’s a challenge to stay true to the process, (i.e. writing, in my style, about topics that interest me) rather cater to a desired result or a hoped-for product. Because if I give into product-pressure, the end result almost always seems lacking. It can feel forced. It limits authenticity. And it lacks depth for everyone involved – me and the reader.

And, product-pull sucks the joy out of the process.

Interestingly enough, product-pull bleeds into almost every area of life, not just our work. If I stop long enough to consider, I can see it almost everywhere. I can even have product pull in relationship – because relationships are “supposed to” look a certain way. See also: marriage, family, friendships. Even my relationship with the Lord. Do I read Scripture to know Him? To sink into and relish its beauty and promise? … or to check a box… make it about prescriptive/measurable standards related to arrive at a hoped-for product.

In education, we’ve become so driven by Blue Ribbon and top-tier lists, the love of learning gets lost along the way, shoved behind loads of good intentions. In business, we’re driven by stock price and the ever-changing consumer preference, and forget about creativity. Because creativity is always accompanied by its annoying, yet best friend and teacher – failure. And no one likes a failed product. In politics, we are slaves to instant polling and public opinion, and have lost decorum and leadership. In the race for product, we lose sight of relationships that form as people join forces to forge the way together. But that method is slow… and can be messy.

Product-pull might be the fiercest as it relates to raising kids … probably because we care so deeply about the kids. Sure I strive to do well in other areas; but my kids – I desperately care that they come out okay. And blinded by such hope, I can lose sight of the process in my effort to get to the product.

Kid product-pull comes in many forms. For me, today, I seem to be fighting against the college application current. I don’t want the kids to have their lives be about a resume, but society lures me to believe it is. We herald the resume:  community service – “for the hours” rather than the joy of serving; summer jobs – “looks good on your resume” “shows initiative”, clubs – “communicates your well-roundedness”, athletics – “that you’re a team player,” etc. It is a game. It must be played. Which is fine … as long as we don’t sacrifice the process for the product.

So, as I watch and chide, I wonder … will my kids finish the task of churning through hundreds of pages so they can check a box? Or might they, just of a moment, lean into the process –opening the book and turning pages – and learn something. Something that might promote consideration of the world around them. Something that could provide insight into life, moral dilemmas, purpose, suffering, humor? Something more than a Summer Reading Requirement.

Here’s hoping I do the same, savor the process with each of them rather focus only on the product. The process just might be where joy resides.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Photo Strolling Perspective

This morning I got a tiny bit side-tracked.

I sat down with my cup of coffee before anyone was awake. And what do you know, but my computer was right at my fingertips. So I opened it. And I remembered something I needed to do. But, I opened iPhoto instead. I’m sure I had something of great purpose on my mind, but in true Motherhood-Induced ADD, I saw something that grabbed my attention. Then that thing led to something else – then to another something else – and before I realized it, I was lost on memory lane – completely oblivious to whatever task started the trek.

Oh – but it was such a sweet road to travel. I relished in

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the stuffed animals,

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the missing teeth,

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more silliness even at special locations (outside the West Wing)

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very special & fun friends

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so much love

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and smiles (well, smiles and a couple lame Halloween costumes!),

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tender together,

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and gum.

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I smiled remembering the day when a little girl asked Santa for a violin (even though she didn’t play the violin) – and believed he was real when that toy instrument showed up on her bed (since somehow “Santa” forgot to put it by the fireplace where “he” normally puts  special presents.)

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And family,

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family,

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family,

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family.

I was good at memorializing birthdays.

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And I was surprised (grateful) to have been in more than one photo.

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But more than anything, I was encouraged. Because during today’s stroll down memory lane, in the midst of all the photo clicks, was life … the good, the bad & the ugly.

Maybe a memory lane stroll is just the ticket to remind me:

  • of the good in the midst.
  • that we survived… that we more than survived even when it didn’t feel like it.
  • of all the smiles and laughter. Those moments were/are like medicated band-aids that healed the hurts below their surface. And the smiles more than dried any tears.
  • that friendships endure. In photo after photo, images of literal lifetime friends prove that relationships weather the storms … as long our priorities are in order. And just to clear any confusion, the priority is people.
  • of all the love and all the together – even though the togethers sometimes bickered and fought and maybe whined a teensy bit.
  • that my outward appearance wasn’t quite as questionable as what I thought in the moment. I look at pics and find it hard to believe I would have ever wasted a moment being less than satisfied. And I wonder … am I going to look back ten years from now and think the same thing? Then why not be satisfied today rather than waste time wanting.
  • to never, ever, never ever wish any moments away … NEVER, EVER, NEVER!

More than anything, these pictures gave me hope and perspective.

Looking at those photos, I could be tempted to think that everything was rosy. But those happy days had struggle, too. The truth is, I landed on one first-day-of-school pic that I had to skip because the memory of that year is still too painful. I don’t know if I’m harboring resentment, if I’m still angry, if the hurt needs more time to heal, if I’m forever in the faith part of that journey – putting my eggs in the “sure of what I hope for” and “certain of what I don’t see” category. Trusting that the Lord does as He says. Because I know from Scripture that God promises “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Each and every captured moment – even (…ok, especially) the goofy selfies …

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provide a glimpse that proves to me, smiling/good/GREAT exists in the midst.

And I can know with certainty that the same can be said for my today. A today that presents something different than lost teeth. A today that will involve college visits and driver’s licenses. A today, that may be filled with carefree laughter, or might threaten another beginning of a trial to end all trials. It won’t matter.

Tapping into perspective, in the form of that photo stroll down memory lane, reminds me that the worries and the cares that tempt to captivate my thoughts today aren’t worth much attention. Instead, here’s to living life to its fullest, focusing on the smiles and laughter in the midst … resting in faith.  And here’s to capturing pics along the way. Then, one day, maybe years from now, I will do the same photo stroll and be as grateful as I am today.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

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The littlest guy on Day 1, hidden in the arms of a sister…

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and today … on top of best friends – who happen to be family.

A reminder to savor, because time flies fast.