Sunday, March 31, 2013


This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 1st week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thinking about my teenagers and how they are going to fair when they "launch" is a preoccupation of mine. How will they handle the inevitable emotional, physical, and psychological tests of life?  I recently read an article on the issue but as it relates to whole families.  The Family Stories That Bind Us
describes how Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University and colleague Robyn Fivush tested their theory that family stories build resilience in children.  They created a series of 20 questions linked to their families and how history, good and bad, got communicated. The result was that the more children knew about family stories the better they did when they had to face difficulties.
 The questions about their families were simple, basic things. From the article, " Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?"

Within the group of children that knew their family history, the best results for resilience came from those who told what Duke called, an oscillating family narrative.  The oscillating stories go like this,  "Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family. ”

When I worry about the heartache, cruelty and suffering that is possible in the world and how it might brush up against my sons, what I'm really thinking is "do they have what it takes?"  Have I shared enough to help them understand that the good AND the bad don't last forever? Do they know that their family will be a constant in the midst of whatever success or failure comes their way?  As parents, as people, we need to retell the stories of resilience so that we can repeat history (in a good way). 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Prior to our first born son's birth my family hosted a baby shower for us. In the midst of  Goodnight Moon and hand crocheted blankets was a time capsule. The time capsule actually looked like one of those big, tin, popcorn containers. Inside was a memory book that you could fill out and document the music, history, fads, and prices of the day. The main accessory of the capsule was stationary.  The idea was that we would ask all of our friends and family to write letters to Levi, sharing their feelings about his birth and their hopes for his future.  We collected them all and then "sealed" it away for some future reveal. 

Love Bomb
Love Bomb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday was that future day. On his 16th birthday we unearthed the canister from the depths of my closet (more hidden and forgotten than any underground treasure chest) and presented it to him.  We cheated a little. Right before his birthday we invited others, who didn't know us or him at the time he was born, to also write letters. Friends for whom he now babysits, a third grade teacher, friends from our old church and neighbors all joined in and shared their wisdom, admiration, and love.  As the day came closer to present it to him, I started feeling like I was preparing a LOVE BOMB.

As he opened the container and saw the newspapers from the week he was born and the book of memories (gas cost a $1.39!) he was excited and curious. Then he picked up the pile of letters. It was thick. He was speechless. He picked up one from a neighbor, and then from a good family friend and then from the friends who he also serves as babysitter.  He saw that there were two letters from his great grandmothers, both now deceased.  It started sinking in. "Oh my gosh, this is the most awesome present ever!"

At 16 he's looking at colleges that will take him away from his home base. He's figuring out how to break away from us, his parents, on a daily basis. He's working out the parts of us he'll keep and the new ideas and experiences he wants to pursue. It felt like the perfect time to remind him of the deep pool of love that he comes from and that he can access.

I recommend  LOVE BOMBS for everyone. 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

My Spring Break

A little over  a week ago I did a very unusual and wonderful thing.  I took a vacation, by myself, to a place with palm trees.  I've never gone on a real spring break where you dip your toes in the surf and reacquaint yourself with the sun, in the middle of a midwest winter. (Except, I realize, just last year.)  In practice, it felt  decadent and fabulous and left me with just a few moments of guilt pangs.  The guilt over leaving my children and spouse behind in relentlessly grey Chicago, was overcome by my complete rejuvenation.  Who knew that natural vitamin D could change your attitude so much!?                                                                                                                                

All of my little concerns and frustrations remain but now I have the memory of a brilliant sunset, palm trees and pink succulents to balance out my funk.  I learned that sometimes it is good to just runaway and get a new perspective.  I remembered that when I take care of myself, everybody in my life ends up reaping the benefits and there's no guilt in that! Spoiling myself a little, surrounding myself with dear friends and taking a break from my normal responsibilities was exactly what I needed for a "reboot" to occur in me.

Take some time today for yourself. Really. Figure out a way to put yourself first.  One of my awesome days included a drive to San Diego, a bowl of margueritas with girlfriends, a palm reading from a psychic and a gorgeous drive watching the sunset. Mixed in was uninterrupted talks, gorgeous scenery and dark chocolate. We are all worth it. Whoever helps take care of people deserves to be cared for in return.  Do it!