Shower the People


I dutifully posted a reminder on my FaceBook wall to watch last night’s final presidential debate.

However, I didn’t watch it myself, and here’s why.

I had better things to do, and not in the snarky sense of “debates suck and why would I watch” but in the very real sense of I had a choice to sit and watch my daughter practice for a band competition or watch the debate and I chose my daughter.

I’m a band geek at heart, so having a child in the largest marching band in the country is pretty exciting for me. They are also deep into marching competition practices which means they are working hard and perfecting every section of their show. And my daughter is a great marcher. And I love her. And I want to show her how much watching her do what she loves makes me happy.

The Allen High School Band at their last competition a week and a half ago.

I am most definitely not one of those super self sacrificing uber-moms. I wish I was, but I care too much about my own life to be totally selfless. (If you’re a fan of the Divergent books, you know I would never be in Abnegation.) I do however try to find balance between the time I spend on me and the time I devote to the people I love, and sometimes, the issues of the world just do not fit into that equation.

As much as I believe it’s important to be informed and news savvy, I also believe in retreating to that little cocoon that is my husband and kids…the rest of the world be damned.

This weekend an acquaintance of mine lost a child to SIDS, and an acquaintance of my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. When things like that happens, it is human nature to stop and think about your own mortality and the mortality of the people you love. We can’t always live each day like it’s our last, but we remember to appreciate that the time we have together is limited and do our very best to enjoy it.

And that it why I spent my evening with friends and with great music instead of fuming over the TV.

And I don’t regret it one. little. bit.

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Not Sure if I Feel Old, or Invigorated


I’ll warn you that I’m in a sentimental mood.

I haven’t blogged for more than two weeks, for two reasons,

1.) I’ve been writing a lot for school which makes for less motivation to write for fun. (My first term is going very well, thanks for asking.)

2.)Politics has me down, and I am really not motivated to write about that. Between the commercials, and telephone calls I’m already getting, I wish I could wake up in December and skip this whole election season.

Saturday, I took a break from studying and news watching to volunteer for my daughter’s high school band‘s annual march-a-thon. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to volunteer very much during the school year, I consented to the job they have the hardest time filling, marching alongside the band for the whole route. Everyone told me I was crazy for doing it, but hey, someone’s got to.

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

First of all let me fill you in on the high school marching band in my town. The Allen Escadrille is the largest marching band in the country with over 800 (yes, 800) members including the color guard and drill team. Every year they hold a march-a-thon to raise funds for their spring trip, and march 10 miles in August in TexasYee haw, and God bless America.

Confession…

I LOVED every minute of it.

For as little personal musical experience and talent as I have, I still consider myself a band geek, so I thoroughly enjoyed marching alongside the kids, listening to them play and living a bit vicariously through them. 10 miles, and they spent every bit of it playing music and performing these little marching chants and laughing and being silly. People from town line the parade route to cheer them on and spray them down with hoses to cool them off. It’s an event with a lot of joy and great energy. (It didn’t hurt that it was only in the 80s and overcast. The joy probably wears off around mile 4 when it’s 110 degrees out.)

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

Another confession…

I’m really kind of a jerk when it comes to my tolerance of teenaged shenanigans. I’d rather have peace and quiet, which tend to be in short supply when a group of teenagers get together. I feel badly that I feel that way, but I do.

Today was a different story. Maybe because the march-a-thon is all about them. Maybe I was in band geek heaven so I was feeling in a particularly generous mood. Who knows? I just marched alongside them and soaked in the fun and free spirited vibe they were giving off.

Midway through the march-a-thon the kids get loaded up onto buses (23 of them) and travel across town to do the second half of the march. I happened to be the only adult aside from the bus driver on my bus, and I did my best to be inconspicuous.

The music was turned up and the kids were dancing in their seats and singing. I smiled to myself as I watched, remembering my own high school days (mostly) fondly. Remembering when I could be silly with my friends and sing at the top of my lungs in public without anyone looking at me like I was crazy (or at least not caring if they thought I was crazy). Watching the looks on their faces as they sang the un-edited versions of the song on the radio, that tiny bit of rebellion giving them an extra twinkle in their eyes…especially when Enrique Ingelsias’s “Tonight I’m Loving You” came on. (If you don’t know the real lyrics, I’ll let you discover them on YouTube or Google.)

Next up was the song “We Are Young” by the band fun., and the whole bus erupted into singing. Just unrestrained, unselfconscious singing. The girls and the boys both singing that anthem to youth and wild behavior, and I couldn’t help but sit there and think about how little they understand the freedom they have being the age they are. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young.

But, as I’m writing this, I surely do hope that every one of those kids on the bus carry the sentiment of the refrain of that song with them tonight, and every day and night for as long as they can.

And I hope that just a little bit of that rubbed off on me.

As a post script to this story, let me say that while I felt fantastic for the whole 10 mile march and from basking in youthful exuberance, I got home and dutifully sat down for about an hour to study. After which time I got up, or should I say, tried to get up from the couch. Every muscle was sore and tight…ah well, forty is a far cry from sixteen I guess, at least physically. All I can say is, thank goodness for Advil and warm soaks…but I’ll be back to volunteer next year, you can count on it.

“Love Actually” and other musings about emotional energy


In the introduction of the movie “Love Actually“, Hugh Grant muses about going to the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport, witnessing the reunions that happen there and how nice it is to watch. I got to experience that firsthand the other day when picking up my husband from the DFW airport.

I was surprised when I got there because I’d forgotten how crowded the international arrivals gate can be. There were families of all kinds; some holding signs, some holding flowers, some just bristling with anticipation. I was instantly energized and uplifted although it took me a minute to realize why….then I saw my first reunion. Two people obviously thrilled to be in one another’s presence again. Maybe they’d been apart for a few days, or a few weeks, or maybe even a few years….who knows? So I sat down and watched more closely.

The same thing happened over and over. A traveler walking through the door with a searching look on their face….the eyes widening….a grin appearing…..a new purpose to their steps until they physically met their loved one. There were children screeching, running and being swept up into the arms of parents. Not to mention hugs and kisses all around. The atmosphere was amazing, and indescribably beautiful which is interesting to me because picking someone up at the airport is really such a mundane task.

Yet, I found myself reluctant to leave once I’d reunited with my loved one…with all of the requisite hugs and kisses of course. The world we live in is short on overflowing joy and happiness and I wanted to continue to be a part of it. However, reality is reality and my poor husband had spent long hours on a plane to get back home. Asking him to hang out at the airport and bask in the glow of complete strangers hugging would have been a bit much I think.

That experience got me thinking about emotional energy and how we feel and respond to it. It’s one of those phenomena that is nearly impossible to describe, but my guess is that most people understand what I’m talking about. For good or bad, we sense the emotional energy around us. When we are around genuine happiness we are drawn to it. When we are around anxiety and fear, we tense up. We can get swept up in anger and indignation as well as relaxing in the presence of the truly peaceful.

Are we all just emotional sponges?

A friend recently commented about how she doesn’t watch the news because she becomes very emotional and didn’t want to expose her body or mind to that kind of stress. At the time I understood what she meant although I didn’t quite agree with it. After all, if no one pays attention to what’s going on in the world how can we hope to improve it? I think I have a deeper understanding of her point of view after my experience at the airport.

We watch horror on the news and we can’t sleep. I know that happened to me after seeing the Batman premiere early Friday morning, and arriving home to the news of the shootings in Colorado. So we feel grief and even visceral fear about an event that didn’t impact us directly

We get onto FaceBook and start steaming at the rhetoric of some of our “friends” about any number of things. Politics, religion, parenting…you name it.  So we don’t even need to be in a room with someone to feel their emotional energy. If they are angry, and we agree with them, we get angry. If they are angry and we don’t agree with them we get indignant at least and maybe defensive and angry ourselves.

What does this emotional energy do to us? I have to believe that there is an effect, and not just in the moment. We may not have figured out how or why but we do know that there is a link between our physical health and our emotional health. So maybe the best medicine is cultivating positive emotion in our lives while minimizing the negative. Maybe we learn to let go of the people whose energy seems to be unrelentingly  angry and tense.

And just in case I get really down on life and stressed out to the point where I lose my perspective on things, I can always go hang out at the airport. That is where the love is.

The Real Defense of Marriage


Today is my 18th anniversary, and I’m pretty damn proud of the years my husband and I have had together. Certainly not the “happily ever after” promised in all of my favorite Disney fairy tales, “just” two people trying to navigate through the twists and turn life has to offer, together.

I am a big believer in marriage, although it seems to be ever so slowly falling out of favor which is understandable given the statistics on divorce, and the growing social acceptance of living together and/or having children without being married. It’s like, why bother with the fuss of a wedding and changing names, paperwork and all that crap when there’s only a 50/50 chance we’re going to stay together anyway?

Well, in what may be my most conservatively held view, I would like to say that I believe marriage is important, and I think it’s different from other long term relationships. When you stand up before your family and friends or even just a religious leader or judge and declare yourselves bound to each other there is a shift in your relationship that goes beyond giggling every time you can use the word husband or wife to describe your partner, and extends into every aspect of your life.

I love a good romantic comedy. I also love wedding shows and “Say Yes To the Dress“. I will admit that I love the fantasy world of gowns, champagne, unrelenting passion and yes, “happily ever after”. I do, however understand, that this is fantasy. The reality, which took years of frustrated expectations to understand, is that marriage is a discipline, like a religious life, a regular exercise schedule or an alternative diet. You can live differently, but you choose and commit to putting constraints on your actions in the belief that those constraints will make your life better in the long term.

Fidelity, teamwork, support, physical affection and appreciation…..none of these are consistently easy over a lifetime. It’s not too difficult to let one or more of these disciplines lapse, and even more difficult is that marriage can’t be marriage without both partners committed to it’s discipline and like many other disciplines, there is a slippery slope of forgetting what’s important until you have fallen out of the lifestyle you once committed to.

I went to a Catholic High School, which is, in fact, where my husband and I met, and while I can’t say there are a lot of lessons learned there that I still remember after all these years, I distinctly remember a religion class in which the teacher talked about love and how it is not a feeling, but a verb. He admonished us to endeavor to do something every day to demonstrate that we loved our partners once we found them….a romantic gesture, a supportive hug on a bad day, a word of appreciation or admiration….anything that let him/her know that they were more than just a roommate. My husband and I  haven’t always been very good at this I’ll admit, but when we do remember his advice our marriage is a much more contented one.

We are very conscious of the fact that our marriage, besides being beneficial to us will have a lasting impact on our kids. We are trying to be good examples of what a marriage is and provide a stable and secure family for them to grow up in. We can either model healthy and loving interaction (even if arguing) or we can model anger, resentment and vindictiveness….because let’s face it, marriage is hard and we all have those negative emotions to cope with from time to time. The question is do we give in to our worst impulses or do we remember that the person who we may want to smack right now is actually our life’s partner and the one person we need to be gentle with, especially during those times it is hardest to be gentle. (A real struggle for me I admit.)

So, yes, I would like to defend the institution of marriage. I think it is a discipline which is beneficial to children and society in general. I do not, however, believe it should be limited to opposite sex relationships. The definition of marriage is in the discipline, not in the gender of the people committing to it. Any two people who are willing and eager  to enter this type of commitment, who love each other with the depth needed to spend a lifetime together, should have the right to do so. Period. End of story.

Today I’d like to say, “Happy Anniversary” to my husband, who has made me laugh on an almost daily basis, and who is supporting and encouraging me to pursue the dream of a lifetime.

I’d also like to say to all same-sex couples who are still fighting for the right to be married, that I support you completely and I hope that very soon the discriminatory laws which keep you from legally committing to your partner are lifted. Those of us who believe in marriage equality will continue to stand with you until that day comes.


That All Too Brief Time When You and Your Parents Are Friends


My parents were 19 years old when I was born which makes them much younger than most of my friends’ parents.  As young as they were, they were very old fashioned when it came to raising children and they never tried to be friends with me and my brother when we were growing up. As a teenager, I often lamented about this and was envious of my friends who seemed to have more of a friendship than a parent/child relationship with their parents. My mom told me many, many times when I was young that she was my mom, not my friend which hurt my feelings as a kid.

I know better now, with the benefit of experience. In fact, when I reflect on my own kids I find that my worst parenting mistakes often come when I’m trying to be a friend instead of a mom. That is not to say that I don’t hope for friendship in the future; I actually think (hope!) I’ll be great friends with my son and daughter when they’re adults. So while I’m knee deep in the jungle that is parenting teenagers, and waiting for that future friendship to begin, I have moved on to a great friendship with my own parents.

While we have the usual bumps in our relationship, we have moved beyond them for the most part. Many of you many have lost your parents at a young age, some of you have relationships that are too difficult emotionally to continue, some of you have hurt that is too deep to reconcile, and so can’t get to the point of true friendship with your parents. Because my parents and I don’t have that kind of baggage, we have been able to become friends and I know that that makes me very lucky.

They came to visit this weekend and it was a blast. You know you’re in a new phase of your relationship when you spend 4 days drinking and laughing, playing games and having deep conversations. Now that I’m in what I guess is early mid-life, and my parents are in late-midlife we have a lot to talk about and we’re more like peers. After a particularly relaxing day today, I was thinking to myself how precious this time really is.

There is only a small amount of time when your mom can ask what you’re reading, have you answer 50 Shades of Grey, and have her answer, “Ooh, how is it? I’ve been dying to start reading that one!” There is only a small amount of time when your husband and dad can talk about the challenges of raising a family over golf, drinks and cigars like buddies.

Eventually, our relationship will change again, and the roles of childhood will reverse. I will be watching out for them, acting as a protector, or advocate, perhaps I’ll turn into the caregiver. But for now, during this fantastic time, I will relish having my parents as my friends.

What Makes Us Hide Our Needs?


This article isn’t political or activist in nature. It’s just another one of those serendipitous instances where I had a conversation with a friend which made me think long and hard and then got a different perspective from an unexpected source.

The situation that got me thinking was this. An acquaintance was at my house last week and we were chit chatting when she mentioned that she had been dealing with a significant medical diagnosis, one that had required surgery and was pretty scary. She hadn’t told anyone about it because she didn’t want anyone fussing over her or to feel obligated to do anything for her. She was my third such friend or acquaintance in the past year to do that. All three keeping their diagnoses secret because they didn’t want the attention or the pity or to rely on anyone else for help.

And I really, REALLY don’t understand that. I am lucky enough to have never had a debilitating or life-threatening illness, so I guess I don’t truly know what I would do in that situation, but isn’t one of the wonderful things about friendship that you know you’re not alone in the world and that you have someone you can share your thoughts and fears with and know that they will do what they can to help you through a hardship?

No Man is an Island...Shared joy is a double joy: shared sorrow is a half sorrow~Sweedish Proverb

I’m busy and overstretched, just like most moms. The responsibilities of work, kids, marriage, school, etc, etc often leave me overwhelmed and I don’t know how I could possibly get it all done. But I consider the opportunity to show a friend how much they mean to me a gift, not another burden. Whether that means a visit, a lunch to talk, or making a meal for their family…..it all seems like a small way to show the gratitude I feel for their friendship. Truthfully, I find it sad and a wee bit hurtful when a friend doesn’t give me that opportunity.

When my daughter was about a year old my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through  a year of radiation treatments and generally felt awful all of the time. No one, except my grandmother, knew what he was going through and apparently the only joys in his life were babysitting my daughter and his weekly trips to Foxwoods Casino to play video poker. An intensely private man, he didn’t want his kids and grandkids to worry or fuss over him. I’m sure thought he was being selfless by bearing the burden of his illness alone, (forcing my grandmother to bear it alone is another story.) but I think what he did was incredibly selfish. He denied his family the chance to show him how much he meant to them and how much they loved him. He denied them the chance to try to give back to the man who had given so much to all of his family, and it felt like he didn’t trust us to handle his diagnosis in a way that would have been helpful to him. If he had died as a result of his cancer, we would never have gotten the chance to help him in that way.

At it was, he recovered from his prostate cancer, and I think when he saw the shock and hurt he’d caused by keeping this secret from his children, he was taken aback and then he was able to look at his decision from a new perspective. When it came to his many future illnesses and health issues he was never a complainer and while he always maintained his dignity and his spirit of independence, he was also more open to allowing his loved ones to demonstrate their love through actions.

James Taylor’s Shower the People is one of my all time favorites.

As I was mulling over these thoughts and how to best put them into an article I heard that unmistakable ping which means I have a new e-mail. One of the blogs I follow, The Grome Soapbox in an interesting mix of writers speaking on the subject of atheism. My favorite of the group, Larry, is funny and a bit irrevent without being cruel or demeaning. In one of Larry’s last posts he introduced me to a poetry blogger that you can find at http://www.patcegan.wordpress.com, and I do highly recommend you check her out. Her poems are short, simple and amazingly powerful and here is the one that spoke to me on this subject. Read it slowly and carefully.

Don’t Be Silent

Cry out your pain.
Let others know your need.
Do not be stoic, silent–
lament, cry as a baby cries
and releases the milk in its
mother’s breasts. There are
helpers in the world waiting
to hear those in need. Bless
them by giving them an
opportunity to help you.

Let others know your need. Bless them by giving them an opportunity to help you.

I would love to hear different perspectives or affirmations of my thoughts here so please comment. If you like what I’ve written, like or share the blog today and don’t forget you can also like me on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to read. Go show someone how much they mean to you.