End of the Day…

At the end of the day, when we’re slipping away,
I wonder if we’ll wonder what we did today.

My daddy always asked, did you leave it better than you found it?
When I’m hurtling to my death, I’ll wonder that. Did I leave this earth better than I found it?

If we all leave this earth better than when we found it, this world would be a lovely place.

What am I doing right now to leave the world better than I found it? What did I do today? We all know that the sum of our days equals our life. Each day left unchanged will one day equal a life without change.

So what on earth did I waste my day on?

Three Myths About Marriage

So before my husband and I were married, we went through two rounds of marriage counseling (not by choice or because we had doubts, FYI), and, of course, people give you all sorts of advice when you’re getting ready to get married. We’re cruising into our third year of marriage now, and here are 3 things I’ve found to be false (and the truth in them). 

Myth #1. Everything changes after you get married. When people would tell me this, I had visions of Matt and I doing an about-face and becoming just like our parents. 

I didn’t want that. 

Fortunately, and logically, this usually isn’t true. You are who you are, and marriage doesn’t change your core personality or values. Don’t expect it to, and don’t be afraid to get married because of it. 

Now, here’s the truth in that. Instead of the usual focusing on each other so much like you do when you’re dating/engaged, you get down to the grind of life together. And if you let it, you can loose sight of each other and start to take the other for granted. You’re spouse becomes a fact of life, and the light they provide becomes normal. 

Myth #2. Your relationship becomes less romantic after your vows. If anything, for us, our relationship got more romantic! We had our first kiss at our wedding, and had never gone beyond hugging and holding hands. I don’t know if that was a contributing factor, but Matt is much more physically affectionate and romantic than he ever was when we were dating. My only regret is that we don’t write each other notes as much as we used to, but we do on special occasions. 

Myth #3. A successful marriage requires a good housewife and a male breadwinner. Ha! I’m a terrible housekeeper and although I do like to cook, I make a mess I don’t clean up when I do! 

I know, I shouldn’t be so messy. But hey, it works. Matt cleans up, generally makes house decorating decisions, and can be an amazing cook when the need arises. We both freelance from home, and the division of labor is pretty awesome. When he has an urgent/big project, I pamper him and do as much food and cleaning as I can to help lighten his load. And when I have a big/urgent project, he does the same for me. I don’t see that changing even when we have kids, I want to keep working and so does he. 

A Final Note. Marriage is a union between two unique individuals. Consequently, take marriage advice with a grain of salt and a pound of grace. You’re marriage will be different from any other marriage you know, because you and your new spouse are unique. Everybody likes to give marriage advice, but only really take seriously people who know you both and are wise. 

Why I Loved Being Homeschooled

Homeschooling let me do what I really wanted to do. I was a very independent, quick learner. Homeschooling allowed me to learn at my own pace, then, when I was finished, I could learn about stuff that interested me. I wrote my first book and query letters to publishers, for example, when I was 15, simply because I had the time to go to the library and check out a stack of books on publishing and how to get published.

My mom was really good with all of us. She was sensitive to how each of us learned and was able to teach us how we learned best. So, for example, I was independent, but motivated by a finishing line and competition. So she let me do my school by myself, except when I needed help, and she let me advance through grades as fast as I could go through the lessons. My sister, on the other hand, loved sitting by my mom, having her right there for questions. She liked talking through problems. That was how she learned best. In a public school, we probably both would have struggled. I would have gotten bored because I couldn’t advance as fast as I wanted to. I’d be a trouble maker because school wasn’t challenging enough. My sister would have been diagnosed with ADHD because she usually can’t sit still and had to talk out problems. As it was, we both learned what we needed to learn and graduated college with honors.

Now, one thing I was so scared of when I entered college was that I would have missed out on some vital bits of schooling or cultural references, and I’d be left behind. But I was perfectly competent and even a step ahead of most of my public-schooled peers in academics. As far as cultural references, yeah, there were a lot of jokes or references I missed, but it didn’t bother me. And my real friends thought it was cool that I didn’t get a lot of the crude stuff and made me a schedule of movies I’d missed that were actually worth seeing. I eventually learned the big things, mostly how not to flip people off accidentally. But there wasn’t anything important that I missed by being homeschooled.

This isn’t everyone’s experience. And there are thousands of kids who go through public school and are more talented and developed than I was. Pretty much all of my great college friends were public schooled, to the best of my knowledge. And every home-schooler’s experience is a little different, based on their parents’ income and priorities. But this was just my really positive experience.

Unintentional Parenting

A little boy once told me he was afraid to go to the bathroom at night because his mom didn’t allow it. Later I found out she had never banned it, she had simply spoken harshly to him after he had woken her one night going to the bathroom. But he was so scared of making her unhappy that, instead of padding down the hall quietly to the bathroom, he was peeing in his Lego container in his room and emptying it whenever he could sneak it out. I don’t think she ever realized how much she hurt her little boy, just by those few angry words. The problem was, he lived to please authority, it was just a part of his personality. But that was also crushed easily. And she crushed it. She hurt him over and over again and, instead of living in harmony, she ended up sending him away to a boarding school. They only saw each other once a year, if that. They were never the mother and son they were meant to be.

Simply because of a misunderstanding, because their personalities never learned to listen to each other.

This is a true story. 

My parents did an amazing job at watching us, learning who we were, and acting accordingly. My and my sister’s punishments were different, because we were different. She was extremely sensitive to what people thought of her. Consequently, simply the threat of displeasure would drive her to doing what my parents’ asked. On the other hand, I was really independent. I didn’t care what my parents thought. I’d rather do what I wanted or what I thought was right.

As a result, strong punishments like taking toys away or spanking or even strongly worded lectures would drive my sister to hysterical tears. So she got very mild punishments and they were enough to get her to change her ways without throwing her into hysterics. On the other hand, I didn’t care if my parents talked their mouths off. They could take away almost everything and it didn’t have much effect on me. It took a lot more work for my parents to find things to make me do what they wanted.

(Neither personality is right or wrong, I would add. Even though my sister was a lot easier to parent, she is also more easily influenced by peer pressure. On the other hand, I have a really strong inner compass. Independent children can be a pain in the butt, but once they know what’s right, they’re also hard to dissuade).

Some parents think they need to treat every child exactly equally. This is totally wrong, in my opinion. Now you should try to be fair, of course. But everybody is different, and treating children exactly the same is a lot less effective then figuring out what makes them tick and using it in your training. Punishment should fit both the child and the crime.

So here is my challenge: find out who your kids are. Are they strong? Sensitive? Independent? Remember what your own parents did well or badly. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Remember what it was like. Observe how you deal with them. Watch how they react. It may make a HUGE difference in the long run.

P.S. In the news recently, there was an article about a 15 year old girl who, along with her 11 year old sister, shot their abusive older brother and ran away. Their 3 year old sister was also in the house. Their parents were away, driving truck. They apparently started the solution of locking the 15-year-old in her room for weeks at a time when she would misbehave. She had also attempted suicide several times.

Usually, with murder, I like to punish the murderer. But this case, to me, is a little gray. Obviously, there was a lot going on in this girl’s head. And her parents weren’t paying attention or didn’t care enough to address the issue or at least look into why their daughter was trying to kill herself. This makes me blame the parents more than the girl for the murder. She had obviously cried for help thousands of times. And nobody pulled their heads out of the sand long enough to look around and see that something was wrong. 

I could have been that girl, if my family had been different. There was even a period in my own childhood that I thought about suicide, and if abuse had been added to the situation… my story probably would have gone the way hers has… And that makes me really sad. Take away God, the morals He gave me, and a great family, and instead of a promising young charity worker and author, you would have a wild, depressed, reckless young runaway. 

Why I Made a Mess

kirstenWhen I was a little girl, about 8 or so, I really wanted an American Girl doll, Kirsten. I carried around the magazine for months, open to the Kirsten page, where it showed a full layout of the doll.  I liked her dress, I wanted one like it, and I liked her little bonnet. I thought she would be so fun to play with. My parents eventually got her for me. When I first got the box, she was perfect, just like the magazine. My mother encouraged me to keep her hair in braids, because if I took it out, it would become a mess. Of course, after carrying her around for a few weeks like a baby, I got tired of one hairstyle and took it out. What’s the use of having real hair on a doll if you can’t play with it and put it in different styles?

Kids don’t thrive on visual perfection. As adults, we like to keep things perfect and clean. But kids like to see different things. They like to see what they can do to change what’s already there. Once we’ve seen something, it gets boring. Having that thing re-arranged is a great experience. Visual perfection isn’t something that gets our attention, unless it’s exceptionally grand or different. But we get used to it really fast.
Also, as a kid, I was a designer. I loved creating new things and touching new things with my hands (kinesthetic learner?). My doll fell into that realm of creativity. I loved what was there, but I wanted to see how I could make her beautiful, too! My parents may not have seen what I saw, but that wasn’t important. That trait has developed into a job as an adult, and I still love it as much as I did then. Creating, as a child, gave me practice and helped me develop that side of my brain.
So, if today your kid is making a mess of a collectible doll, maybe he or she is just a designer!