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Friday, September 28, 2012

Reflective Parenting

It’s not him…it’s me…reflective parenting
A few years ago, someone provided me with their opinion about my parenting. From their vantage point, I clearly favored my daughter who is the oldest. The individual providing the advice felt that I didn’t give my youngest (my son) the same attention I gave his sister who was 14 months older. Most people would argue the case in the other direction. They would tell you that I baby my baby and have unrealistic expectations for my oldest. Regardless…
Two children, two different personalities, and yet I love each of them with 110% of my being.
That said – my son is very accustomed to getting his own way and he has my bad temper and short fuse. Today, I cut the bottom of his shirt off instead of arguing about the shirt being too long. It was then that I realized that it’s not him, it’s me. I give into him WAY more than I do with my daughter. It’s definitely not right and I will work on it. I’m all about root cause though – asking WHY – so…
Crystal – WHY do you give into your son?
Here’s the answer:
I’m tired. As much as I love having two children so close in age, I’m tired. I just went through whatever phase it is that he is going through. His sister just passed the same milestones he is entering into. I’ve already realized that arguing isn’t going to change the outcome, it is just going to change my outlook. It really doesn’t matter if his socks match or not…because I forced her to have matching socks and she isn’t any smarter or different than the children whose parents let them mix and match. I choose my battles with my youngest, and I don’t see so many things as being black and white. With him, I recognize the grey. With my oldest, it’s my first time around. Everything seems like a big deal. I remember thinking that if I sent her to the wrong pre-school she would be at a disadvantage and wouldn’t be able to fulfill her dream of going to Harvard. Now I know that it’s only pre-school and she likely doesn’t know what Harvard is – so I shouldn’t worry about things that may never come to pass.
Prime example – last year when my oldest was in pre-school, I was determined that she would have perfect attendance. I pushed her to go to school tired, sick, unenthusiastic, etc…and at the end of the year, no one noticed if she did or did not achieve perfect attendance. Here we are a year later and it’s my sons third week of pre-school and he’s missed four days. I kept him home for a runny nose. I kept him home on a day when I myself was too sick to get out of bed in time for the 8:15am start of class.
Someone told me once that over achievers are usually the first born – I wonder if it’s all the pressure we put on ourselves and that first little miracle? There’s something to be said for being an over achiever…but isn’t there something nice about being laid back and NOT creating stress in our lives?

For what it’s worth – these are my random thoughts for the day…and I know that I will be more mindful of my parenting. No sense making my daughter nuts with unrealistic expectations, and I should do a better job holding my son accountable. Sigh….but for now, I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and fold some laundry.

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and moments of reflection.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Flash Fiction - Fabulous? or Flop?

I'm not in love with this...but I'm also not feeling well at all. I am trying to write a flash fiction piece that is good enough for the fall flash fiction contest and I thought 'first date' would be a great idea...and it has to be 750 words or less...

I really need some feedback on it - love it or lump it?

Her headline on Christian Mingle was “Vibrant Teacher Seeks Great Communicator” – I remember rolling my eyes. Why would I even bother putting myself out there, much less with someone ‘vibrant’? I was picturing someone way too pretty for someone like me. For some reason I clicked the profile anyway. Yup, another dead end…she wasn’t just pretty. She was way out of my league. A cheerleader coach and an ex-cheerleader, flowing blonde hair, great smile, twinkling eyes…of course I was drawn to her. Somehow we were a match (at least according to the computer software or something). I scrolled down.

Favorite actor – Kevin James

Religion – Lutheran

Family – No children, wants children

Online now – YES

There were goose bumps on my arms. I remember them well because I watched my arm as my fingers moved without hesitation to start an online chat with Vibrant Teacher.
We chatted for nearly two hours and made plans to meet online again the next day. After three days of chat (not that I was counting), I gave Jennifer my phone number. I held my breath and looked at the cracks in the ceiling, the stains on the carpet, and I waited…and my phone vibrated against my chest. As I picked up the phone, a tear rolled down my cheek. I thought I would be in an unloving and unhappy marriage with Jenna for the rest of my life. If this was Jennifer on the line, it meant so much more…


“Phillip?” said the most musical voice I had ever heard.

“Yes – who is this?”

“It’s Jennifer! I can’t believe it’s really you. You have a great voice.”

We phoned or texted off and on for the next 15 days. We talked about our ex-spouses, failed attempts at children, pet peeves, and guilty pleasures. Her ex-husband cheated, she miscarried their child, the memory of him treating her like a piece of property on their wedding day… I told her about the early days with Jenna. My 14 years of loveless marriage, my desire to have a physical connection with my spouse, and my love of children. And of course, I had to tell her about Lisa.

In 14 years, I had seldom enjoyed a physical relationship with my wife. It wasn’t her fault, it was depression and health issues, but the rejection burned. It was hard for me to feel sexy and manly without anyone desire from a woman. Jenna has been my first and my only.

I had lots of friends and even some attractive lady friends. One of my closest friends was getting married and invited me to her bachelorette party (possibly out of pity, but I like to think it was because I’m fun). It was there that I met Lisa and she wanted me right away. Things moved fast and within days we were in the bedroom and I was learning about things I had only dreamed of with Jenna. I was losing interest in Lisa, but I was very much interested in the things Lisa liked to do. She didn’t take it well when I ended things…

Now here I am, telling Jennifer about all of this. Trying to explain how I went from being a virgin to being the kind of guy who you might consider ‘kinky’…and since I met her on Christian Mingle, how is she going to look at me now? She seemed to be nonjudgmental as I stuttered and stumbled through explanations, rationalizations, and stories. She said she appreciated my honesty and she would be open to trying new things with the right person, but she would really like to wait until she was married. She hoped I could respect that – and I did. Part of me was still very ashamed of what happened with Lisa.

It’s been nearly three weeks of heart to heart conversations. I’ve got a charm bracelet in a box in my pocket. I decided against bringing a red rose – too obvious (or so my female friends thought). My hands are sweaty, I can feel a trickle of sweat at the base of my spine, and I’m standing outside of Olive Garden waiting for my second chance. I already know I want to make her happy. I want to be the husband she deserves. I want us to create a home and a family. 

This night means everything to me and God has brought us together for a reason….I say a prayer and remind myself “Phillip, don’t blow this”

Monday, September 24, 2012

MOM? Who Would Have Thought?

Who Would Have Thought....

that I would so thoroughly enjoy being a mother? Yup - you heard life did NOT lose all meaning and direction when I no longer had a paycheck or fancy title. I now have the most rewarding title of all:


I learn something new every day. I am reminded to love more deeply. I am learning to appreciate our differences, embrace our quirks, and I'm finding more joy than I ever thought possible. Thank you to those who made this possible. 

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and little people (who are usually sticky)!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Does My Sparkle Amuse You?

If you were a boat, the following could be said: When the waves are tossing you about and the turbulence is more than you can bear you return to port. Returning to the safety of the harbor where you find refuge and safety among others of your kind.

Life isn’t entirely different than sailing. When a woman feels as if her very being is shattering – during childbirth – she calls out for her mother. Our natural instinct is to return home. Sometimes home is a town, a building, the loving arms of friends and family, and sometimes it is merely a smell or a memory. I place we long to be but can never find in the physical sense.
I feel that way myself from time to time. I seek the camaraderie of a particular melody or the words of a poem. Today it was the lovely words written nearly one hundred years ago by poet Amy Lowell. I have a delightful text book from 1923 that describes Amy in the following way:

No one has fought, in theory and in practice, the battles for the experimental artist, for a sider aesthetic appreciation with more determination than Amy Lowell. And no one has shown such ability to learn from her own experiments.
Maybe I feel kindred to her. Maybe I dream about being described that way in the future. Maybe I just find her words deliciously feminine yet admirably strong. Today she drew me in with a lovely poem titled: A Lady

You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune
Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.

In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of outlived
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.

My vigour is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust,
That its sparkle may amuse you.

In closing – I hope that I sparkle a bit, even though I am faded…and I hope that my sparkle may amuse you.

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and amusing sparkle!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

25 Years Later

A little flash fiction for this Sunday evening - enjoy (and there's  a bit of a lesson at the end if you're into that sort of thing) 

I dug my nails into my arm hard. I was hoping to draw blood. I wanted the physical pain. They were fighting again on the other side of the door. Daddy asked me to wait outside as things escalated. He knew I would be upset and he was trying to make things seem as normal as possible. Normal? Really? Even he didn't believe that anymore.

Tonight the fight began over the color of curtains. Mom asked Dad what color he thought would be nice. He chose blue and she responded by telling him how hideous blue would look. He threw his hands up in the air with a sigh "Why do you even ask? You know you couldn't care less what anyone else thinks anyway."

...and they were off...

She was upset because this and he was upset about that and they dredged up all the past fights and problems of the last few decades. Truth be told he gave her just about anything she wanted. He was a peace maker and she was best described as sad. Judging by the photographs, she had always been sad. No amount of love, attention, material possessions, or money seemed to cure whatever caused the sadness so deep inside. I know that now.

Back then, from the confines of the dark garage, all I could hear was the battle raging inside. I don't think she ever knew how much I had heard. I like to think she wouldn't have said it if she would have known. I heard her tell him she wanted a divorce. He asked what would happen to me...

"I don't really care. I never wanted kids to begin with."

"You know you don't mean that!"

"Of course I do - just get out and take her with you. She's nothing but trouble anyway."

I don't remember much else. I remember running, and my nails were still digging into my flesh. I craved the physical pain because the emotional pain was too hard to bear. I ran to my friends house. She wasn't home. I ran to the top of the hill by the woods near our house. I sat in the cool grass and prayed that the tears would stop. Dad was sick and not expected to live long and I was only in fourth grade. If she didn't want me, I just prayed that I could die. I knew the routine. They would make up and Dad would make excuses for her behavior.

"You know she can't help it. She didn't really mean it. She loves you. Chin up, you can forgive her."

If I protested too much, the lecture ended something like this:

"You know you need her and she needs you. After I'm gone, you've got to promise me you'll take care of her; you'll do that right?"

I wanted to holler back and remind him that she said I'm nothing but trouble. I wanted to remind him all the reasons why I was a good person. Of course, he knew. I did great in sports, played several instruments, went to church even when no one else would get out of bed...I'd get up and walk there by myself, I had lots of friends, I was pretty, I got good grades, and most people would tell my parents how mature I was. The well meaning compliments made things harder at home. People didn't realize she had always been jealous of me. The more nice things other people said, the more terrible things she would say when no one was around.

I didn't need a voice inside my head to tell me I wasn't good enough. I had someone reminding me every day that I was fat, had bad skin, was ugly, was stupid, would never amount to anything...and now...she didn't even want me. I promised over and over again to forgive her and take care of her and here she was, saying the words I had always felt...she didn't want me, she didn't love me, and she didn't want me around.

I must have wandered home after the tears stopped. I remember lying in bed and Dad came in. I asked if everything was going to be okay. He promised me it would be and said if things didn't work out, we would get a nice little place to live - just he and I. I tried hard to stay awake to hear what they were talking about. The muffled voices instead of the hollering was as sweet as a lullabye though - and I quickly fell asleep. They must have resolved things, because no one ever spoke of that dreadful night again.

No one knew that I had heard those words. The words were out there and can never be taken back. 25 years later, I hear them. I feel ten years old all over again - my heart braking -  I choke back tears at the memory. I know I need to take that pain and turn it into something good. I need to take that lesson and remember as a wife and mother that I cannot lose my temper. I cannot say things I do not mean. I must must must let my friends and family know that I appreciate them, I value them, and I want them around. That will be the good that comes from the pain that still shatters my heart. I am not angry at Mom anymore. I don't think I ever really was - betrayal is a far deeper emotion than anger...and yet I forgive...because I promised...

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and may you be shielded from betrayal and motivated by love.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Capturing Moments and Making Impressions With Oh Photography

The following conversation happened between Olivia of Oh! Photography and I earlier this week.

"Your wedding pictures are done and I'm so excited - you're going to love them!"

"That's awesome! Do you just mail them to me, or how does that work?"

"I usually meet with people in person would Thursday afternoon work for you?"


and we schedule a time to meet...we met downtown Manitowoc and after a big hug, Olivia hands me a heart shaped box.

"What's this?"

"These are your pictures?"

"What?" (I'm confused because I'm holding what you see below)

I had been expecting a silver colored CD in a white paper wrapper....and here is my new initial (O) in the middle of a hand made fabric flower wrapped carefully around gift box...this was not at all how I thought this was supposed to work.

I open the box (with tears in my eyes) and this is what I find:

2 hand crafted fabric flowers (one for my husband and one for me)
1 CD of our pictures, with our very own image etched on the front of it
1 release card so we have rights to print our photos

"Olivia - do you do this for everyone or am I special?"

"Crystal - you are special, but I do this for everyone...with a special touch for each occasion or each couple."

I'm speechless......

"Do you like it?" ~Olivia asks hesitantly....

"Like it? I love it - seriously? This is why we chose a date that you were available. I could NEVER imagine anyone else being part of my once in a lifetime 'happily ever after'"

hug hug sniff sniff

"Glad you like it Crystal"

"Olivia - I love what you and Oh!Photography stand for - thank you!"

And here they are - my moments captured for eternity. It took me a lifetime to find my price charming and our happily ever after, and now that we found it, we have frozen it in time with the help of Oh! Photography and the amazingly talented Olivia Brey!

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and moments worth capturing on film! ~Crystal