Monday, December 17, 2012

Picking up the Pieces

Usually, I try to keep things light-hearted. Not because crap doesn't happen, but because I prefer to focus on the positives. My family has learned to laugh at life's misfortunes instead of allowing them to weigh us down. But there is nothing to laugh at when it comes to what happened last Friday.

I do not believe that there is a single American who was not affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. We don't need professionals to tell us the shooter was mentally disturbed. Anyone with a conscience can tell you that. We don't need the media to tell us that it was a horrific tragedy. Anyone with a heart can tell you that. We don't need correspondents or spokespersons to tell us the victims were too young to die. Anyone with a soul can tell you that.

What most of us want to know is the answer to the age-old question of Why. But we may never know why. We may never understand the darkest regions of a mind so obviously filled with anger, hate, selfishness, and rage. We may never understand because we have something - whether faith, hope, or love - that prevents us from being able to think in such a way.

We are powerless to change the events of the past. But we do have the power to change ourselves.

Life is full of decisions. As my hubby says, "You decide what attitude you wake up with." And as a parent of a young child, I can decide to allow fear to take over, or I can resolve to take over the fear.

So here are the decisions I am making in the wake of tragedy:

I will not allow fear to control my life. There were a lot of fearful parents sending their kids to school today. Parents who would rather keep their kids at home and hug them all day long. Yes, I fear for my child's safety at school, but I also know that tragedy can strike anywhere. Our car ride to school is more dangerous than his sitting in the classroom. He could be taken from me by an accident, a drowning, or disease. I cannot possibly protect him from every possible tragedy. I'm not saying I will not have fear. I'm only saying that I will not allow the fear to take over.

I will not allow myself to make knee-jerk reactions about my child's education. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increase in homeschooling after this, but I am keeping my child where he's at. I'm not against homeschooling - for some families, it is absolutely the best choice for their child. There are families who excel at homeschooling, and there are others who are not successful with it. Be honest with yourself before making that decision. Don't base it on fear.

I will allow myself to grieve. I do not know any of the families personally, but that doesn't mean I don't feel grief over what happened. Those children were filled with potential. Who knows what they could have become or what great things they would have accomplished. Those teachers were heroic. The world needs more people like that. It's a loss that deserves to be mourned by all.

I will not allow fear to hover over my child. Children have enough fear in life, real and unreal. They don't need more. My kid doesn't need to know what happened. He doesn't need to worry about his safety at school. It's someone else's job to worry about that. And he doesn't need to pick up on my fear. Kids are good at sensing those things.

I will allow myself to enjoy every day with my child. Unfortunately, there are many parents who are not allowed that luxury today. Each day I have with my son - even if that day is filled with frustrating moments - is precious.

I will not allow what happened to push me to religious intolerance. Religion? you ask. But this wasn't a religiously motivated massacre. That's right. As far as we know, it wasn't. But because it happened at a public school, there are many well-intending Christians getting up on their soap boxes and shouting that you shouldn't ask "Where was God?" because we threw Him out of school. This angers me.

God is not bound by our rules. Jesus was a rule breaker. God will continue to be in schools as long as He is in the hearts and minds of the children and adults there. You cannot check your beliefs at the door. (Just as you cannot expect God to show up simply because a building has the word "Church" on the door.)

I will allow myself to ask God the hard questions. There is nothing wrong with airing your opinions/grievances to God. He already knows them. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to take our worries and fears to Him. Sometimes that means crying on our knees and sometimes that means shaking our fists in the air. He's been there. He knows our frustrations and anger. You won't surprise Him, I promise.

I will not blame God for what happened. Jesus told us "Sh*t happens." Seriously. That's my own paraphrase of John 16:33, when He said, "You will have suffering in this world." Plus, the Bible tells us that Satan is the one who causes crap to happen, not God (1 John 5:19). Stop pointing fingers. We see the tragedies that happen, but never know how many others were prevented.

I will not allow myself to use what happened to promote political propaganda. This is a tragedy, not a bargaining chip. These were lives, not political pawns. Whatever I believe about the 2nd amendment, religion in schools, mental health care, or other aspects, they need to be dealt with clear minds. Now is a time to mourn. It will be time to talk when we are level-headed.

I will allow myself to reevaluate my political stances. Any time something horrific happens, we need to reevaluate where we are headed. That's true whether it is something small and personal or something large and public. No matter what stance you have taken in the past, whether left or right, you need to be willing to see if there is a way to work together for the sake of a common goal.

I will allow myself to remain emotionally vulnerable. My instinct tells me to separate myself and not think about the things that break my heart. But shutting of those emotions would deny myself my own humanity. Pain and confusion are part of the human experience just as much as love and hope are. Building a wall around my heart to keep it from getting hurt, will also keep it from caring. And that is NOT what we need. We need to connect with each other. We need to care more... not less.

The holiday season is about faith, hope, and love. It's a time when we're reminded to think more about others and less about ourselves. It's a time when we reflect on peace and goodwill. It shouldn't take a tragedy to remind us that we are all human beings living in this world together.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Christmas List, part 2

So I already told you that the top of my Christmas list is to spend more time with my family. The next two items on my Christmas list may seem like they conflict: Have More Adventures and Relax More!

In my mind, those two actually go hand-in-hand.

Adventure should not equal stress. Yes, it sometimes accompanies adventure, but it shouldn't have to. Sometimes an adventure is simply allowing yourself to get lost and find your way back. I have my dad to thank for that lesson.

We went camping with my parents for Thanksgiving this year and I was reminded of all those times camping with my dad when he would just drive and sometimes we wouldn't know exactly where we were. He would just smile and call it an adventure. We explored the road less travelled and sometimes had to double back or take some unexpected detours. But it was fun and he didn't seem to stress over it.

Sometimes an adventure is trying something new. My hubby didn't grow up camping like I did. So our Thanksgiving camp out was an adventure for him. And he actually wasn't stressed. It was our first time using a camping trailer and he handled it like a pro. We hiked (and purposely got "lost"). He built a fire. He tried something new.

Sometimes an adventure is eating something new. Little Dude can be a picky eater. Sometimes I get frustrated with that, but then I have to remember that a lot of foods are still new to him. For instance... S'mores! He wasn't sure about it, but he tried them.

Sometimes an adventure is to be had in acting like a kid. My mom reminded me of this. During our 3-hour "lost in the wilderness" hike, she spotted some interesting, frilly, white plants by the riverbank. Like a kid in a candy store, she asked my dad to get one for her. He climbed through the thick brush to get one and she was so happy! She played with it for the rest of the hike, pelting us with it causing it to dust us with pollen. She was having fun.

I heard a quote about Thanksgiving that said something like: "We spend one day with others being thankful for what we do have, and then we spend the next day trampling others for what we don't have."

How can I not be thankful for a family that knows how to be goofy, how to relax, and how to enjoy what we have around us?

It sure makes the holidays sweeter!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Christmas List, part 1

Oh, the holidays. They have a way of completely taking over your life. For a few days of celebration and joy, we spend a month or more driving ourselves absolutely crazy trying to make everything perfect. Gifts, parties, travel, finances, cleaning, coordinating schedules - it all leads to stress, moodiness, and a general desire to ram your shopping cart into the person who suddenly decided to sign up for the store rewards card at the register in front of you. (Or is that just me?)

It's not always easy to sit back and enjoy what you have. But, I'm behind on my photos so it forced me to take a break and reminisce.

When I was a kid, Christmas was about the presents. Sure, there was the whole "baby Jesus was born today" thing. And I totally understood that and respected it. But seriously, if there wasn't something for me under the tree, I would have been devastated!

Now, it's really not about the presents. (And I do spend more time celebrating baby Jesus!) This year, my hubby and family kept asking what I want for Christmas and, honestly, I couldn't think of much. Because the truth is that I have a wonderful family. No gift could ever beat that!

So the top of my Christmas list is: Spend time with my family!

I have a family that I enjoy spending time with. I have a family that tolerates all my quirks, my total OCD moments and my mild insanity. Sure, sometimes they laugh at me, but most of the time they're laughing with me.

First, let me tell you about my in-laws... They are top-notch, the best in-laws I could have ever asked for. I love this group!

Look at those smiling faces. The day I took this photo, I unintentionally led them on an wild goose chase. We had plans to go to a pumpkin patch at a botanical garden across town, only to find out when we arrived, that it was for the following weekend. Blondie, here didn't check the dates! Oops! They were probably laughing at me when I snapped this pic outside of the botanical garden, but they were still game to try another place. (Have I mentioned that my mom-in-law is a very positive person and keeps me upbeat despite my mistakes?)

So we drove way out of town to a farm that we've never visited before and had a blast!

I'll be hanging with this bunch for Christmas this year and we'll have a blast! I'm so thankful that I get to celebrate holidays with them.

For many, holidays can be weird/difficult/all the above with in-laws because each family is different. Your family is not usually like your spouse's family. Each family has their own traditions and their own way of doing things.

Hubby and I enjoying each other's families. And we have fun merging the way we did things growing up and creating our own traditions. The best part is that both of our families encourage us to find our own way.

So let the holidays begin... er, continue!

I'll have to add to my Christmas list later.