Monthly Archives: July 2015

Best days

Along with my girls, I enjoy listening to Taylor Swift. My very favorite of her songs has nothing to do with romance, heartbreak or drama. The Best Day is a sweet and poignant song written from the perspective of Swift’s 5,13 and 3 year old self and sung to her mom. My girls know that this song can make me cry.

Recently, I experienced five of the best days with our older daughter. This child is an often quiet soul who easily gets drowned out by those around her. We do our best to give her voice and choice along the way, but it doesn’t always happen. With her dad and younger sister off visiting family, the two of us had time and space to connect and enjoy each other on a different level.

With the age of thirteen on the not too distant horizon, there are shifts in her focus, interests and at times attitudes. Personally, I remember being a pretty miserable and confused adolescent girl. There are two books I have recently read that address the challenge yet importance of remaining connected to our children during these sometimes tumultuous years. Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld  and Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong Through the Teen Years by Eliza and Sil Reynolds are encouraging and hopeful works on the whys and how-tos of maintaining healthy relationship with teens. These are not works that instruct in helicopter parenting but rather in how to encourage and maintain healthy connections while also letting our children branch out and separate from us.

51zPxCeuI2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Both books make the solid argument that strong attachment figures are needed as our children tackle the daunting task of figuring out their identity, values and place in this world. Even though this is often a time when parents feel pushed away, we should not surrender our role as chief attachment figure in the lives of our teens. Because of the prominent role of technology and social media and the ability for teens to be connected to one another 24/7, there are many teens who look to each other for attachment needs – and as both of these authors point out, teenagers make horrible attachment figures. They are simply too self absorbed, inexperienced and immature for the job.

When our kids pull away, stop talking to us and act as if they don’t need us, we can’t take that to heart. It simply isn’t true. But it does take a level of intentionality, along with a vow not to take things personally, to realize what is going on and to come up with healthy ways to stay actively bonded and engaged throughout what is often a rocky time in life. Both of these books offer great suggestions on how to accomplish this.

During our recent time together, my girl and I made great memories, shared deep emotions and laughed and connected in significant ways. Mothering and Daughtering provided a structure and springboard for deeper communication. She got to tell me what I am doing well and where I can improve. I shared with her stories of my growing up days and relationships. We binge watched Once Upon a Time, cooked and ate delicious food together, got green and purple pedicures and talked about the specific ways that the two of us can stay connected in days and years to come.

IMG_1488

We took a day trip to a nearby city, hung out with people we love and then she indulged her old mama as we together went to see the show “Three acts, two dancers, one radio host”. Ira Glass of This American Life is one of my favorite radio personalities and seeing him up close and in person was a delight. Though it wasn’t her favorite evening out, she made me laugh out loud with her reflections afterward. “I got the references that were from my century”.  “I think it was intended for people born in the 1900’s”. She does have a point – we were born in different centuries.

There was another aspect to our time spent together as we worked side by side. While watering plants for a neighbor, we put our heads together to figure out how to leave a spider and her web intact even though we needed to pass through the area. How to honor her work as we did our own. These five days together also included the laundry changing of the guard. I instructed and stood alongside as she learned this new responsibility. Next year when her sister crosses this milestone, my husband and I will only carry half of the family laundry load. Sharing chores is another piece of the family bond puzzle.

IMG_1480

I am so very grateful for this time together and imagine that in days and years to come when things shift and change and sometimes get dicey, we can both look back and know that this time together was important. It is a launching pad for more regular connecting times – we now have a 5 minute a day and one hour a week plan to keep our relationship a priority. On the third day into our retreat, my daughter came down one morning singing and humming The Best Day song. My heart swelled and I just soaked it in without saying a word. I look forward to other best days in the years ahead.

Being trill

For mother’s day, I received a public Facebook message from our eldest child. He referred to me as “trill”. After I consulted my handy google urban dictionary to determine if this was an insult or compliment, I realized that this was high praise. “True + real = trill. Meaning someone that always keeps it 100 at all times, stays true to oneself and stays real no matter what happens to the end.” Wow, what a compliment and standard that in daily living I struggle to embody.

Our family has recently celebrated, documented and shared with joy the wedding of our son and his beautiful wife – and often in a very public way. Social media has added a whole new dimension to the meaning of sharing your wedding pictures. There was a rehearsal video that documented the growing up and meeting up days of Joel and Madeleine, set to the sentimental songs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “How Sweet It Is”. A gifted and creative photographer artistically documented the big day from getting ready to sending off moments and then the wedding videographer generated a beautiful and emotional highlight reel of the event. These are all treasures that we will enjoy for years to come. But they are not in fact the whole story.

As an insider of one of the families joined together on that day, I know more of the complete story, the trill story. It is emotional and easy to watch the baby to married child video and gloss over the ups and downs of the journey to reach that day. The bumps and bruises of the body, mind and soul as well as relationships all along the way are an integral, true and critical piece of this story. Videos set to music do not in fact tell the entire true and real tale of two lives joining together, and they certainly don’t address the real work required for a long term marriage.

This gloss over and romanticizing of others’ lives seems to be one of the dark sides of social media. There is a danger inherent in our Facebook, instagram and beyond interactions. We can filter and choose to present a glittering image when our reality is always much more complex. And as I scroll through the seemingly picture perfect lives of others, it can sometimes leave me feeling empty and left out. For the record, the Wilson family photos often present partial truth – yes, we have fun times and laugh and enjoy each other, but we also argue and yell and get irritated with one another. We struggle as individuals and as a family just like everyone else out there.

I recently got together with a friend who shared that she was seriously considering leaving her husband. Three days later, she posted a positive, heartwarming social media message about how wonderful it was to be with him. One of our daughters recently bemoaned the fact that the sisters in another family seemed so close and loving while she was feeling some distance from hers. I know some of the extremely painful reality and backstory of the sisters that she was comparing herself to, and it is filled with hurt, anger and a slow reconciliation. They presented a very different image in a party situation.

There are both healthy and dysfunctional reasons that we don’t show our true and real selves in all situations. For me, the first step is to be mindful and aware of what I am doing and how the photoshopped world of others affects me. For Joel and Maddy, after the emotion of the beautiful day and all the excitement dies down, I wish for you grace and love and patience as you move onto the joyful yet hard work of living and growing and doing life together. For my daughters, I hope for you to learn how to navigate this social media saturated world with confidence and with understanding of yourself and toward others. For myself, I wish to more fully live up to my mother’s day compliment and keep it trill – in my everyday and online life.

A random blog

It has been over a month since I last took time to put into print the swirling thoughts that dance through my heart and mind. It is not due to a lack of dance partners but a result of very few chunks of time for writing. This past month has been a negotiation between participating in joyous events, doing the myriad details and tasks needed to host these affairs and making time and space for self care and important relationships along the way. Blog writing had to go. It is nice to be back.

Rather than focus on one topic, this will be a brief recap of some of the thoughts and feelings that have cried out to me over the last month. Some are personal and some are communal. Some are light and others heavy. Both my own personal life and the life of our nation seems to be moving at a rapid pace. When my husband announced to me this morning that 2015 was half over, I felt a jolt of surprise. I still pause when writing a check to remember if it is 2014 or 2015. It is difficult to keep up with the swift pace of life.

Introductions: Though at first a bit awkward and surprising, I have taken great delight in the transition of introducing our newest family member as “my son’s fiance” to now “my daughter-in-law” to neighbors and friends. We spent a recent morning together, just the two of us. We discussed what might become “our thing” and agreed that eating out is a passion we share. At a nearby local and delicious Mexican restaurant, we began our new journey of connection around good food and conversation.

Haley Jessica photography

Haley Jessica photography

Baby steps: I grew up in South Florida which makes my upbringing neither northern nor southern. Though I have lived in “the south” for almost all of my adult life, it is still often a foreign land to me. I vividly recall the first days at my North Carolina liberal arts university as there was much talk of north vs. south and bizarre times of frat guys riding around on horses waving the confederate flag. Wasn’t that war over more than 100 years ago? What in the world is the Mason-Dixon line? I just didn’t get it…and I still don’t.  This flag is a sign of a sad and oppressive and ugly part of our country’s history. To me, it stands for white supremacy, hatred and a shameful time when our country treated people of color in a disgraceful manner. My wish is that its’ removal from government property will be a baby step in the direction of respectful listening to the voices of those who have experienced great pain and suffering.

A Confederate flag flies outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2WFA2

A Confederate flag flies outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane 

Shoe overhaul: There comes a time in the lives of most women when high heels are a thing of the past. That time for me, is now. I gathered up a large shopping bag full of beautiful yet impractical shoes to pass on to younger feet. My new best shoe friends include Dansko, Naot, Chaco and Teva. Two back surgeries seven years ago combined with three recent trips to the podiatrist convinced me that taking care of my back and feet are important parts of the foundation of self care needed to live a long, satisfying and active life. A few wedges made the cut, but the stiletto heels are definitely out. Goodbye old friends.

FullSizeRender

Rapid change: The SCOTUS has been busy and stirred up a great deal of heated discussion from many fronts. From gay marriage to the Affordable Care Act to lethal injections to redistricting and beyond, rapid fire change is in motion. These are not topics that are discussed well in a facebook status or a tweet, though many are choosing that route to air strong emotions. It feels like a lot of shouting and screaming with an extreme lack of listening or respect for “the other”. As I recently told a 70 plus year old friend and mentor, “I just want to live each day and each moment with grace, compassion and a wide open heart – no matter who I cross paths with on a given day.” That is sometimes a challenge in this divided, intense, sound byte, choose your side world in which I move and live.

We each have a story that deserves a chance to be heard and received. Thank you for so often  listening to mine. And may we each be open to receive the story of another – especially an other who is quite different from ourself – with true presence, compassion, grace and love. It seems to me that only then can we step in the direction of true change in this world.