Haven’t done one of these in a LONG time. But this one has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Might have something to do with the fact that my youngest daughter just spent her last summer break living under my roof. Six days before Christmas 2015, she will become “Mrs. Hendrix.” So weird to enter this phase of life.
Confession #1 – I am still, at the age of 46, learning how to schedule my time to do all things I need to do and hopefully squeeze out some time for things I WANT to do. As my absence from this blog can testify, I didn’t do so well through July! Might have something to do with the fact that both of the Youth Theater shows were that month with two tech weeks happening just three weeks apart! The summer program is over and life has slowed down . . . sort of . . . or at least, looks like what “slowed down” is around here! Hopefully I can nudge “post on the blog” up the priority list!
Confession #2 – I know that I need to make healthier eating choices, but I get so overwhelmed with the contradictory “healthy eating” information out there – no carb, low carb, low calorie, high protein, low fat, exercise more but only interval training works, lift weights, etc. – that I have to fight a serious urge to give up and just go eat a bowl of ice cream. Or two. I’m not giving up on the healthier eating goal, but I’m not making as much forward progress as I would like!
Confession #3 – Many, MANY years ago, when I got married, I bought into the unspoken but carefully taught lie (the media, comments of other women, etc.) that every husband is a project. They need cleaned up or dressed up or fixed up by their far more capable wives. I didn’t set out on my marriage with the sole purpose of “fixing” my husband but I definitely understood it to be one of my “jobs”. How did I learn that you ask? Simple. Every husband/father on sitcom television was a moron, incapable of having a thought that his wife didn’t carefully and systematically trick him into having. (Don’t believe me? Watch old episodes of The Cosby Show. The man was supposedly a doctor but teachers wouldn’t trust him to have a conversation about his kids and his wife was CONSTANTLY scheming with her kids to manipulate him!) The other “teacher” of this attitude was the way married women I knew spoke of their husbands.
“How many kids do I have? Well, I’ve given birth to three and I’m married so, really, I have four children” at which point all the other women in the group would chuckle knowingly as if some great secret of the universe had been shared.
“And he let her go out of the house wearing a polka dot top with a plaid skirt! But what can you expect, he’s a man!”
You get the idea. It’s taken time, but thanks to some wonderful counselors and, most recently, some FABULOUS accountability partners, I’ve learned to focus on the things about my husband that are amazing. He never shies from physical labor and is VERY quick to help me whenever I ask. Even if I say “whenever you have the time,” he usually jumps up right away to help. He is a passionate pastor and I LOVE to hear him preach. He is a committed golfer – and is actually getting REALLY good at it! – and I can say from personal experience that he is a VERY patient instructor to a total novice on the driving range and is EXTREMELY encouraging (even when said novice somehow manages to bruise her own forearm with her golf club!). He loves to make me laugh, is my biggest fan when there is a theater or music performance I am somehow involved and certainly is my biggest encourager in life.
As I’ve focused on seeing the things about him that are good/positive/amazing I’ve discovered something quite fascinating. We were complete opposites in high school. I, the triple nerd status performing arts geek – band, theater, and choir – and he, the year round athlete. (I hesitate to say “jock” because the man is also extremely smart and doesn’t fit the “dumb jock” characterization at all!) And like many young women, I had this picture of what my “perfect man” would be like. But I”ve learned something. My idea of that “perfect spouse” fell so far short of what I really needed. I’m still WAY more into the performing arts than he is. But he’s tried out for a couple of plays at the local theater. Won an award in the first one and will find out this weekend if he’s been cast in the other. And me? I’ve actually swung a golf club a few times. As for my skill . . . let’s just say I won’t be winning any awards any time soon. Probably ever. But we’ve each managed to step into the others passion a bit and found the experience to be a rather fun one! (And he truly is the most patient instructor ever for a totally uncoordinated clutz swinging a golf club!)
That fascinating thing I discovered? When I learned to value my husband for his character and his drive and his passion, I was thrilled to discover that he really has been my “perfect man” all along. His strengths shore up my weaknesses, his level-headed, analytical approach to things keeps my tendency to respond emotionally from running away with me. He loves to make me laugh and smile as often as he can and frequently tells me I’m beautiful. As if all of that isn’t enough, he tells me “no” when I need to hear it – whether it’s in relationship to finances or my simply trying to get him to do things for me that I really should do for myself! He let’s me babble on about my latest theatrical endeavor and has learned the art of simply listening when I’ve encountered a situation that leaves me needing to vent.
He may not be the man I THOUGHT I wanted. But I am so thrilled to say that he is exactly the man I needed as a partner in this crazy ride called life!
An Open Letter to My Children
Just to give you the background, I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about parenthood lately. And it’s mostly motivated by a comment I heard recently. While out running errands a few days ago, I overhead a woman venting to her friend about the tribulations of motherhood. I SWEAR I wasn’t eavesdropping. This woman was VERY frustrated and her volume had risen accordingly. From her comments (while she and her friend were waiting ahead of me in the checkout line) it became clear that she had kids and one of them was a daughter somewhere around the age of 12 or 13. I’m not going to lie – that is not exactly a “fun” age with girls. This mother kept . . . oh, let’s be honest and call it what it was . . . she was complaining. Just as the friend finished paying for the items she had purchased, the cranky mother said something that has stuck in my brain – “After all I’ve done for her, that little brat owes me. Big time.”
That stuck with me. And not in a pleasant way.
So I’m taking this chance to make myself ABSOLUTELY clear:
Esther, Margaret, Janessa and Jay, I want to say to all of you – categorically and without any misunderstanding – that you owe me absolutely NOTHING. Nada. Zilch.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve just known I was going to be a mom. And God got crazy with the blessings and gave me four of the funniest, most creative kids any mom could have. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games. Being up repeatedly with a newborn made for some very tired days. Four children so close in age made the schedule a little crazy at times. Sick kids, cranky toddlers, stubborn temper tantrums, mouthy attitudes, teen-aged angst . . . there were moments that made me want to scream or pull my hair out or put myself in time out just so I could get my head back on straight.
But none of that matters. You don’t owe me a thing. I did not become a parent as a way of setting up some sort of “savings account” that I could tap into down the road. I didn’t create a score card on the day that you were born so I could start tracking the time I spent being a mom. Being your mom has been a privilege. It has allowed me to learn about myself and to grow as a person. It’s taught me that I can solve problems creatively, that my “mom instincts” are pretty good and that the simplest solution is sometimes the best.
I did not do what I did as your mom to “earn points” or set you up for a big payback down the road. I chose to have children and I chose to love each of you unconditionally. Watching you grow, learn, try and fail and try again . . . all of it has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. There are many parts of my life that I have loved and many experiences I will cherish. But next to being married to the love of my life, being mom to the four of you is the richest blessing I could ever have hoped for.
I make no pretense about my “mothering skills” – I’ve gotten it wrong as often as I’ve gotten it right. Might have even screwed up MORE. But you have been loved since before I met you and nothing will ever change that. I love you “to the moon and back.”
“Love you forever, like you for always.”
Every so often I have those days where a number of thoughts chase one another around in my brain. None of them overly profound, some of them just general thoughts, others related to specific events. Today has been such a day. This may be one of my more disjointed posts, but I would like to eventually sleep tonight and getting those thoughts written down somewhere – even if that somewhere is the internet! – is usually a good way to get my brain headed in the direction of quieting down.
Sometimes, at work or in a volunteer setting, you find yourself inheriting a “system” set up by someone else. This system may be extremely complete and efficient or completely a mess. Doesn’t matter. You have to make sure the system works for you. And sometimes that means re-working the system – throwing out what doesn’t work for you, tweaking the organizational system, etc. – and that’s okay! Doesn’t mean you don’t respect what came before – just means you want to do the job well!
Occasionally you find your opportunities changing. Sometimes the change doesn’t feel too good. There are times that such a feeling doesn’t ever change – sometimes it stinks from start to finish. But other times?! What seems to be a negative thing, opens the door to possibilities you hadn’t thought of before. It’s not that you didn’t love what you WERE doing. But you can quickly learn to embrace what WILL be happening!
Self-doubt is never productive. Ever. Everyone has bad days, everyone wants a do-over every now and then. But starting to focus on the goofs and the screw ups is never a good way to spend time. Admit mistakes, learn from them, make the necessary changes to move in a more positive direction – but don’t get mired in negativity. It isn’t good for you or those around you.
Regardless of age, we all need that one place we can go, walk through the door without knocking and say, “I’m here cuz I’ve had a lousy day and I need a hug.” We were never meant to do this circus called life alone and it can get to be just a bit too much to handle from time to time. It’s important to find that small circle of super-close friends/family/adopted family that will be there with a hug, some tissues, and your favorite ice cream flavor.
A Thankful New Year
So far, I’ve spent about 21 hours getting assignments, assessments, discussion questions, group discussion topics, exit questions, and “tech tool of the day” stuff ready for the Spring semester. New textbook (yay!) meant time for an overhaul. Have to edit assignments since I teach one section in a “normal” classroom setting and teach the same class in an online, self-paced setting. But I’m so glad I work part-time in the education industry with it’s cushy hours and vacation times where I have all this time off from anything work-related! I’m just kidding. Most of the people I know are very intelligent and realize that good teachers do not get all of Christmas Break completely “work-free”.
But seriously – loving the way that the semester is shaping up. And I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I am heading into the Spring of my FIFTH year teaching at Iowa Central Community College!! My tenth semester as a College Professor. Wow!
December 30, 2014 was the fifth anniversary of the day we moved into Fort Dodge, IA. There are times that I think, “Has it already been five years?!” Other times my brain runs in the opposite direction – “We’ve ONLY been here five years?”
Maybe it’s because so much has happened in those five years –
- One child graduates from Cosmetology school
- Two children graduate from high school (to be followed by the last child in the family this Spring)
- One child graduated with her A.A. and will complete her B.A. in May
- I’ve directed 5 shows at the local high school (with number six auditioning in late February!)
- I’ve taught nine semesters as a college professor (starting number 10 in 11 days!)
- I’ve played in the pit for 3 shows at the college (and the fourth starts soon!)
- Hubby has done a number of weddings and, sadly, funerals.
- Eldest child has gotten a full-time job and moved out on her own.
- One child is engaged and getting married before 2015 ends
And my list could go on. Have there been negative experiences? Sure. No human being alive is completely free from frustration or difficulties. But there has been so much about our time here that has included really good things! So happy anniversary to my family and I! Can’t wait to see what the next five years holds!
Out With the Old . . .
I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I am all for trying to improve oneself. But setting goals for an ENTIRE year seems a little overwhelming. Instead of setting myself up to fail, I tend to reflect on the past year’s experiences – lessons learned, joys, frustrations, big moments, etc. – and then focus on writing down goals for the next weeks/months. Short-term goals, long-term goals, whatever I need to move into new habits. I revisit them every so often and “tweak” as necessary. I may discover that I have reached a goal earlier than expected so I take that one off the list and add a new one!
With December just days from being over, I am still in “Reflection” mode. I will move forward into the goal setting stage soon but for now, taking hold of lessons learned is the focus.
I was one of several people who took the “100 Happy Days” challenge. This was an online campaign that encouraged people to use their social networking platforms and a “custom designed” hashtag to share the moments in their day that made them happy. So I went to the site, registered my hashtag and spent 100 days looking for reasons to be happy. Some days were busy and I missed posting so I caught up the next day. On some days it was EASY to find things to post about. Almost too easy – I had to narrow it down to just one or two things. Some days were accompanied by a photo, others weren’t. But on some days I had to looked hard – REALLY hard – to find one thing to be happy about. But over those 100 days something interesting happened – I was happier! Not goofy, laugh out loud, super perky kind of happy. Maybe the better way to describe it was “joy-filled” or content. On those days when almost everything went wrong except for that ONE happy moment, the old me would have grumped about all the bad. But somewhere in those 100 days – which ended in late November – and in the days since, I look at the rough days, find the “happy” and think to myself, “It was a tough one today, but there was this! This one shining moment in all the ick. Today was happy.” I cannot speak for others who took the challenge, but it definitely had an interesting impact on how I look at my circumstances.
Phases of Life
In the summer of 2014, my baby turned 18. Every child in my family is now an adult. The eldest is renting a place with a friend and working a full-time job (she’s such a grown up!), my second born is in her Senior Year of college and applying for graduate school next fall, my youngest daughter (child number 3) is in her Sophomore year of college and just recently got engaged (wedding in December 2015), and my baby is an adult and a Senior in high school. For 23 years I have been a mother with dependent children living in my home. That reality is shifting and hubby and I will soon enter that phase of life known as the “empty nest.” It’s a bittersweet time. The purpose of raising children is to see them spread their wings and fly. It is what they are supposed to do. And I am BEYOND proud of them for chasing their dreams. But I do miss having them around. I look at pictures from when they were little and get a little teary-eyed. I know they need to move into their independence. I WANT them to move on. But I will miss them when they are gone! It’s not bad. Just different.
Choosing Who to Hear
I know I am not unique in this – I am so much quicker to hear and believe the negative things that people say about me than I am to hear and believe the positive things people say. But the recent counsel of a friend drew my attention to that in a unique way this year – if one person criticizes something about me and five people pay me a compliment about the exact same thing, why on earth would I give more weight to the minority opinion?! I didn’t have a good answer for her. Thanks to that conversation – and a couple of others – I have been carefully choosing how I spend my time as far as the people I seek counsel from, those I interact with online, and those I spend time with. Let me be clear – one negative comment does not get a person cut completely out of my life! I do NOT want to surround myself with those who will not correct me when I need it. But a pattern of negativity just might be a deal breaker. It should not be a surprise that being selective about those who have access to my life has made a significant difference in my attitude, my focus, my emotional energy . . . I just feel better about life in general. Thanks to some upcoming projects, I have been able to practice being selective and am committed to working with people who will hold me accountable, encourage me, challenge me, and hold me to a standard of excellence.
2014 wasn’t perfect. The beginning of the year found me in a work situation that drained me emotionally, mentally and physically. That situation has changed and I am absolutely IN LOVE with my work situation. I have had the opportunity to work with local college, high school and middle school students in the performing arts and that is my FAVORITE thing to do! Don’t get me wrong – there have been challenging people I’ve had to work with along the way. But the joys far outweighed the frustrations and I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences for anything.
I’m excited to see what 2015 holds! The baby graduates high school, my second born will start grad school, and we will add a son-in-law to the family just before the end of the year. I have some short-term plans and long-term plans that I’m working on the details for. There is also a project for Easter that involves working with another church here in town (which also means working with the Pastor’s wife, a darling woman named Toni who is becoming a treasured friend!). I feel more emotionally and mentally sharp and focused than I have in years. Maybe in forever. This year I’ve had the chance to grow, succeed, fail, learn, try new things, take on new responsibilities, let “old things” go . . . I like where I am right now and look forward to what lies ahead!
Best Christmas Gift Ever!
The beautiful young ladies in this video are my daughters. (Ignore the close-up moments of a teary-eyed me; my son was under strict orders from his sisters to zoom in on my face because they knew it was highly likely that I would cry!). The song comes from a movie called “The Chipmunk Adventure” that was a childhood favorite of my girls. The movie stars the Chipmunks – Alvin, Simon and Theodore – as well as their female counterparts, the Chipettes – Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor. My girls watched the movie CONSTANTLY and loved this song. And each of them can tell you EXACTLY which Chipette is “theirs”.They decided to surprise me by performing an original three-part arrangement of the song for Christmas this year. My youngest daughter arranged the piece – with some helpful tweaks from the oldest – and they rehearsed in secret when the two younger girls were home from college for Christmas break. I am blessed beyond words and humbled that they felt I was worthy of such a priceless gift!
It's the Little Things . . .
This summer has been a big one for me on a personal level. I’m very aware that what feels monumentally huge to me is, in reality, not a major crisis by any means. But it is a very clear sign that the next phase of life is upon me, like it or not.
My oldest landed herself a full-time job and took on the responsibility of renting a house with a roommate. She moved out in the late Spring just as my two college students were coming home. We went from four living in the house during the school to five over the summer. The two ducklings in college will leave in just about a week to head back to campus. Today, I was hit with a reality I hadn’t really thought of yet – we will be a family of 3 living in the house. The Laupp family hasn’t been that small since 1993!
As if that wasn’t enough, my baby turned 18 this summer. Yes, my youngest duckling is now a legal adult – a fact he takes great joy in reminding me of often! He will be a Senior in High School this year. That means that by this time next year, I will not be sending ANYONE to a K-12 educational institution. *gulp* Since 1996, the fall has meant that is was “back to school” time. My son – my baby – was born in 1996. When he graduates next Spring, life changes for us. After 19 years of sending kids back to school, they will either all be working full time or heading to college.
At times like this, I cannot help but wax nostalgic; maybe even a little teary eyed. As I think about the last 23 years when most of my energy and time was focused on being “Esther/Margaret/Janessa/Jay’s mom”, it’s strange to realize that the time is coming VERY SOON that I won’t be needed in that capacity as much. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done what I think is a decent job of developing my own interests so that I won’t be at a total loss when they are all gone “for good.” But this “new normal” feels weird.
As I think back, I realize it’s the little things I’m going to miss.
It’s knowing that we will watch Anastasia and Swan Princess on every road trip. And there WILL be singing along. Guaranteed. Even in their late teens and early 20’s, this is the norm.
It’s the fact that they always requested food like pudding cups, animal crackers, fruit snack, and goldfish for their snacks on road trips. And they had better be animal CRACKERS not animal cookies. I only made that mistake once!
It’s knowing that my oldest and youngest daughters will pack nearly their ENTIRE wardrobe when going on a vacation because, as they say – “I don’t know what I’m going to want to wear!”
It’s the random quoting of movies at any given moment (consider yourselves warned!).
It’s the bursting into song – usually a musical theater number – inspired by the most random of statements.
It’s the annual trip to Cedar Point and always making sure we caught the ice show!
It’s the random imaginary worlds or completely off the wall stories they create all while laughing themselves silly.
It’s the random ponytail holders and bobby pins EVERYWHERE. (I’m pretty sure they multiply when we aren’t looking!)
It’s the informative conversations with my son about video games I understand pretty well now but have never played.
It’s knowing that mac and cheese MUST be served with hot dogs because . . . well, that’s just what we do!
It’s the stain from swing chains that I can never get out of a certain child’s clothing because . . . well . . . she still goes to the park swinging on a REGULAR basis.
No parent gets all the way through the experience of raising kids without wishing that life provided a few do-overs and I will be the first to say that I was FAR from a perfect parent. But I have been blessed to watch some creative, talented, imaginative, smart young people come out of my home and I could not be more humbled to know that I was chosen to be their mom. To my ducklings, “Love you Forever, Like you for Always”. To the moon and back.
My hubby is kind of my hero right at this moment. I mean, he does little heroic things for me all the time and can be quite the Prince Charming! But there is a very specific incident from today that has me admiring him quite a bit.
We are both in our mid-40’s – he is nine months older than I am . . . but I digress! At this stage in life, it’s easy to settle into a rut. A routine! Settle into a routine. Not a rut. Because ruts are boring and . . . where was I?! Oh yeah. My “stage in life.”
Let’s be honest, the older we get the harder it is to motivate ourselves to try new things. We don’t want to look foolish. When you are young and try a new hobby, people excuse the foolishness because you are young. Being young and foolish is acceptable. Being middle-aged and foolish?! Not so much.
In high school my hubby was a year-round athlete. I was a performing arts geek. Apart from a few months of piano lessons as a kid, he never dabbled in the performance realm and I ran exactly one year of track and was over the sports thing for good.
But today hubby did something that I never – and I mean NEVER EVER – thought he would do. He tried out for a play. Yes, you read that right. He went down to the local community theater and auditioned! The Hawkeye Community Theater is doing “A Few Good Men” in June and hubby LOVES that movie so he thought it might be fun to give this acting thing a shot.
There is still one more night of auditions yet so the cast list is still a few days out. But I could NOT be prouder of any human being than I am of him. Talk about taking a step outside your comfort zone!
Now, in all fairness, he was all but committed to audition but just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger for some reason. I asked him why he thought he might be hesitating. It basically came down to “I’ve never done this before” thing so I made him a deal – if he would take a deep breath and try something new . . . so would I.
For years he has tried to convince me to learn to golf. He loves to golf and would LOVE for us to be able to do it together. The sweet thing is he actually thinks I am capable of learning! I’m afraid I’m going to hurt someone but that’s an issue for another time. I promised him that if he would take a chance and step outside his comfort zone then I would to. He auditioned which means he gets to teach me (or TRY to teach me) how to golf.
Regardless of what caused that final push, the fact that he even considered stepping into something new, something that was a bit of a leap outside his comfort zone, is one of most heroic, admirable things I think I’ve ever seen anyone do! And he’s all mine!