Thursday Thoughts- A Beautiful World Awaits

“A beautiful world awaits you on the other side of fear.”

Well, ain’t that the truth.  I seriously believe this wholeheartedly.  

This summer, we were traveling to South Carolina by way of Tennessee and North Carolina.  Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina are mountainous with the Appalachian Mountains rolling through there- Great Smoky Mountain National Park is in Eastern Tennessee, and we drove right by.  If you’re not aware yet, I am somewhat anxious driving through mountainous areas.  By somewhat anxious, I mean very anxious.  And by mountainous areas, I mean southern Missouri.  But seriously- not my thing.

When Kareem found this out, he’s like wait but you climbed a mountain this summer.  Well, yeah.  And you drive all over and hike in mountains.  Well, yeah.  So you can’t be that scared!  Well, he found out.  🙂

Do I look scared?? I was terrified!

When we were planning our trip this summer, I almost changed the destination due to anxiety about the route.  Then we found a route that avoided what I anticipated being the worst of it, but it added several hours.  That was okay with Kareem, but while on the road, we kept getting delayed and we had an event and friends to get to.  So I took a deep breath, and said let’s just go through it.

Because at the end of the day, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you can’t go around it- you have to go THROUGH it.  As the bear hunt song says.  And it’s true.  

It reminded me of my divorce.  I spent lots of time being anxious about what was going to happen during and after.  I spent lots of time trying to prevent it from happening.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t.  I had to go through it.  And I’m way better for it.  I am not grateful it happened, I am not counting it as a blessing, but I learned and grew from it.  And on the other side- or at least further than I was at the beginning- it’s not nearly as scary.  I just had to begin.

These photos are from a trip I took at the time. This is my deep breath moment. When I finally thought, okay. You just have to accept this. You have to go through it. Let’s go.

So often that’s the case, right?  You just have to begin.  Can’t go under it,can’t go over it, can’t go around it- gotta go through it!  So let’s go.  

After we started getting through the mountains, I was amazed by the beauty.  I had moments that took my breath away- both from fear and from the magnificence. 

Sometimes, though, you make the decision to go through it and you lose resolve. You get scared again. Or you aren’t sure of yourself. That’s okay. There were moments in those mountains where I told Kareem he had to stop. He literally could not. There was nowhere to go. I had to take a deep breath and keep going.

It was worth it, in the end.  All the worrying wasn’t worth it.  And now I feel more confident for the next time.  The growth that happens through being courageous- being fearful but doing it anyway- well that growth is special.

That beautiful world awaited me on the other side of my fear.

Family Service Project: Confetti Foundation

If you are looking for a simple, socially distant, safe family service project that literally any age child can do, here is a fun idea!

We made birthday cards for the Confetti Foundation, an organization that supplies birthday parties to children spending their birthdays hospitalized, in pediatric oncology units, or hospice care. This organization’s impact is nation-wide, including in some of our own local hospitals.

Click here for information from the foundation about making birthday cards, including some instructions and where to send them. If you have very young children, you can even download and print out color-in birthday cards from their site!

Nick and Lucy really enjoyed this project. Nick, who sometimes does not want to participate in watercolor Wednesday, was very excited about spreading birthday cheer. I also loved hearing them discuss ideas and laugh and create together.

I know the power and impact that doing service together as a family can have on the family as a whole and on the individuals, so we make it a point to do service projects every week we are together. I am trying to share more ideas here! And I welcome your ideas please!

Let God Deal with the Things They Do

There is this Will Smith lyric I quote pretty often. My kids know it. Everyone knows it. I wholeheartedly believe it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being at Scout camp with my son for a few days.  In that time, I gained a lot of perspective on some things, but one of the most interesting things I got to do was be reminded of just how kind and loving my son is.  

There were several instances when someone was rude to him or left him out or whatever.  He did not typically respond in anger.  He did not respond by being rude back.  He almost every time responded with kindness and love.  And I thought, wow.  This child.  One time, he got pretty upset.  I was not with him, but it was reported to me by him and one of the other children’s grandpa.  We were talking about it and processing it, and during this, he quoted the Will Smith quote.  He also had a lot of grace for both the other kid and himself, and I was just so impressed with him.

Later that week, I had the opportunity to come in contact with someone who has been consistently rude to me and my children, as well as my husband.  The rudeness had culminated in two recent incidents in which she was more than rude, she had been mean to me.  I decided to ignore her.  Like, not just ignore her rudeness, but ignore her completely.  When she approached, I purposely engaged myself in other activities.  With my children.  As the time went on that she was standing there, I felt icky inside.  It did not feel good to ignore her.

When I was going through my divorce, I was devastated and sad and angry and grieving.  There were some times when I said or did things that didn’t feel good- I was acting on these emotions.  I started to learn how important it is to decide who you’re going to be and act accordingly.  I was learning through that experience who I was at my core, and that I am a kind person.  (I have a cousin who says I’m not kind and there’s nuance to this, but that’s another show….) And I need to protect my energy so that I can act in alignment with who I am.  I do not do this perfectly, but I consider it often.

Standing there, ignoring her, I did not feel good.  My kids were there and watching.  I thought, my son was such a beautiful example of this at camp- I have to do this for my kids!  And so I broke the ice and waved.  That simple act made me feel so much better.

I don’t have to let myself be walked on or treated poorly, but I also don’t have to be rude or mean.  That’s exactly the lesson I’ve tried to teach my kids, and this week, that’s one of the lessons my boy taught me.  I’m so grateful for his example and so proud of him.  

Lessons in Trout

You know that saying, “Rock bottom teaches us lessons mountain valleys never will?” Well, I like to say trout fishing teaches us lessons bass fishing never will. You feel me?

We got to take the kids camping and fishing this weekend on one of Missouri’s trout streams. Did you know Missouri has a lot of trout areas, including red, white, and blue ribbon areas that support naturally reproducing trout? We’ve got both rainbow and brown trout here! You can also do trout fishing throughout the year, though the trout park seasons are March 1 through October 31, with a catch and release season through the rest of the year.

Trout fishing is different than other types of fishing, and it’s my personal favorite! It’s very fast-paced and a fun challenge. Speaking of, Mo Dept of Conservation and Trout Unlimited put together this Trout Slam. I think it’s still going on, so if you’re into trout fishing, check it out.

The challenge transcends generations. My dad’s dad used to take him when he was little, then they took me when I was little, and now I take my kids.

It is a joy to watch my parents teach and help my kids fish! Jimmy doesn’t fish for too long, but he does enjoy it. Nick probably enjoys it the most, followed by Rami and Lucy.

Something else I love about taking them fishing is the lessons they learn about perseverance, patience, and personal responsibility. Nobody can do it for you. And if you want to catch a fish, you have to try and try until you do. You have to plan and make choices. You have to be patient. You cannot compare yourself to others. It’s all kinds of wisdom wrapped up in one activity.

I’m proud watching them work through these things. They may struggle or get frustrated, but when they are successful, it’s awesome. And when they are not, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to hear them reflect and say, well next time I’ll do this or that. Next time. They don’t give up. They’re ready to go back next time.

Brave Old World

This past weekend, Susan and I went to a Graduation Party for a fellow Doctorate of Education colleague of hers. It was a fancy party, black tie, everyone was dressed up so nice, in sequins and fitted tuxedoes. There was even a live band. We were one of the first ones to arrive- Susan is anything if not prompt.

There was trepidation in the air for us both as we walked from the parking garage to the one, then another elevator in this large venue. We both noticed that some people were wearing masks, as so many have been over the past year, while others looked as if the pandemic had never happened.

As we approached the banquet hall, several thoughts struck me all at once:Susan seemed nervous…

Nervous about her dress… she looked breathtaking!!

Nervous about seeing her cohort, her peers that were all Doctors now… I am so in awe of her!!

Nervous about “Is COVID over now??”… it seemed like a step in that direction.

Nervous about how the evening would go… it turned out to be the exactly what we both needed.

I started to wonder if I would embarrass her… She is a doctor now, she is beautiful, and she is a hell of a better dancer than me. Not to mention, my mind wandered to the fact that I had to buy a new shirt for this event, because I’ve gained weight in this past year and none of my old dress shirts fit me right. I wondered if I was the only person who didn’t rent a tux… I didn’t want to spend the money on a tux for an evening of celebrating someone I only knew through my successful wife. I felt incredibly inadequate.

I was here to support Susan… she had doubted coming and seeing her friends and colleagues all day. All the nervous things I listed above, plus probably 50 more things that I couldn’t even guess. I had asked her earlier: “Will you regret going?” her reply: “No”… “Will you regret not going?”… “Probably.” So here we are, and I have to remind her that she belongs here. That she is radiant and that even thought we are here celebrating her peer, this would also be a celebration of her accomplishment too… they did after all graduate together, and she did it with such style and grace.

I thought, “is this a trial run for her graduation party in a couple of months?” Different kind of party… Susan’s party is scheduled to be casual, with a lot of dancing, and family all surrounding her, honoring her accomplishment with laughter and joy. This party seems formal, and serious, even though we haven’t gotten inside yet, I fear that this will be a some kind of formal lecture, describing in great detail for family that already knows the honoree how he overcame his obstacles, and how he has reached his final destination.

Well, all of those worries and distractions melted away. First, we were greeted with couples photos, and a live band… I didn’t stutter… a live band!!! We haven’t seen a live band in over a year… Our excitement grew. Then she started to see the names of her pals… so many of her doctorate pals were going to be in attendance tonight. Then we saw the photo booth, and this suddenly felt like a wedding or something fancy but fun.

Every five minutes or so, Susan would see a dress she liked, or a pal she hadn’t seen since graduation which was virtual. She actually hadn’t seen some of these future pillars of education in person in over a year. I could tell she really missed them. I could also tell that she was as proud of all of them as I was of her.

Luxury St. Louis Photo Booth Pics by: @Megaluxbooth #Megaluxbooth

As the night went on, there were speeches, but not the kind of speeches I had dreaded, but speeches that were not about the honoree’s accomplishments but more hopeful about his future. This was barely a night to celebrate what the man had done, it was more of a celebration of anticipation of all the things he would now do with his influence and passion. It was just so hopeful…

and I paused and remembered that this is how I feel about Susan every day. So she has a doctorate… but she is nowhere near being done. She is just getting started. She will change the face of education, one child, one teacher, one family, one school, one district at a time if she has to. She and her cohort are a formidable group, a group of educators who are not willing to settle for the status quo, and are keenly aware of how change comes to be reality.

This was a revelation… coupled with the revelation that everyone was in fact vaccinated and had taken their masks off… The singer of the band got people dancing, and it was the most refreshing thing we’d heard in so long. Good Music, Wonderful People, and a Brave Old World to live in. While these titans of virtue planned a Brave New World for our Kids.