Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When another door closes....

Our last child at home is graduating from high school this week.  We have been very busy with all the things that come with graduation.  And most of them involve "last times",  We have had baccalaureate, athletic banquet and senior night for softball.  Those doors have closed and there is only one more step to bring this forgone academic journey to a positive end.

For most people, there is some sadness when the last child prepares to leave the nest.  It's not like this situation is unique to us.  But truly, we are feeling somewhat "different".  Of our six kids, Madison is the only child that had both parents full-time.  She is the "ours" of our Yours, Mine and Ours" family.  What a blessing it has been to raise a child with a full-time partner in crime.

Having been used to making decisions for our kids as a single parent, we both had to make some adjustments in our parenting style.  Of course, Madison never knew any different but I assure you, the rest of the kids did.  I like to think of our combined parenting style somewhat like the well-known parents (eventually) in "The Sound of Music".  While I may be the only parental singer in the Von French family, (you know how I am), I also like to laugh and have fun.  Don't get me wrong, Terry never used a whistle to get the kids attention, but push-ups were (and still are) popular when you need to make a point.

So we have this final door closing.  Another benefit of being married is that we both are closing the door together.  We have spent many hours over the almost 20 years sharing our thoughts, feelings and ideas on so many different things, including all six kids.  This is no different.  Yet it is.  My dad used to always tell us five kids, "you only have one mom and one dad".  But, you can never have too many people love you.  So, regardless of the love shared for all the kids, a step-mom/step-dad never take the place of original parents.  And that's okay - we all get to share our love for Madison together.

Last Athletic Banquet=three winners!!
So while this door is closing, we see many windows opening.  The new adventures of "Madison in College" and the equally exciting journeys of the Von French couple.  I see dancing lessons, travel abroad and couple's cooking classes in our future.  Full disclosure - Mr. French does NOT see the same things.

But what fun it will be to continue to share our ideas, thoughts and feelings (I am more the feelings person and Mr. French has many thoughts - we hope to meet in the Ideas category)

Until next time,

Your pal,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Love you more.

Like most of us, I love many people.  And I love each of them differently.  I wish I could say I love all of them unconditionally, but that is not true.

Relationships are a funny thing.  Whether it be a significant other, a parent, sibling, child, cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend, etc. each relationship comes with baggage, shared history, preconceived notions, etc. etc.  And just like people, they all look different.

I can't remember how old I was when I realized "love with expectation" didn't work for me.  By that, I mean "I will love you, if...."  If anything, this made me less likely to WANT to be loved by that person.   The next realization was that there were some people that I loved more than they loved me. Ouch.  Or maybe it was the recognition that love is cyclical, ebbing and flowing for each of us; and I was on the receiving line of "ebbing".  That might be it, too.  When I was younger, I might have retaliated (also know as cutting your nose off to spite your face).  Now, I just
Gift from Terry-common theme!
make informed decisions.

When Madison was little, we had this word play:    Mom-I love you.  Madi-I love you, too.  Mom-I love you more than crummy old that. Whoever says the next line first: Infinity and beyond..done, "wins".    Either one of us could start, but the winner obviously loved more.  We also communicate our love via a series of hand squeezes (I started this with Megan and used the "code" with all the girls).

If I believe I am in the "Love More" category, then I need to decide how to show that love.  This is tricky.  I have reached the point where if I am currently loving someone "more", I have to decide what I need to do for me, so I can continue to love and enjoy that person.  

That might mean I go see them, regardless of how many times they come to see me.  I call them even though they rarely reach out to me.  I quit keeping score and just do what I need to.  This allows my love for them to continue (maybe even grow), without any expectation of return.  Because this is what I need to do to be happy and keep them in my life.  (And you can love someone without liking them - but that is a whole other Oprah.)  

Unfortunately, I know of other relationships where the opposite is true.  Somber Sue may love more than Jaded John will ever return, (son, brother, parents) so Sally's plan now involves calling less, visiting next to never, only acknowledging birthdays and Christmas (with a card).  And guess what, the end result is Sally is angry and sad.  Angry because she can't make John respond as she  "wishes"  and ultimately sad because now she has less than she did before.  Meanwhile, John Doe is oblivious to any of this.

What is wrong with this picture?  All that Sally has done is to emulate John's behavior.  Remember, John  did not seem to need the relationship as much as Sally (at least at this time),  Who is Sally hurting?

I don't know a lot but this is what I do know - we have a choice.  We can't choose for anyone else.  I choose to love....regardless (unless you fall in the "conditional" category, and then I will cut you off like a gangrene arm.)

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What a difference a face makes!

Did I mention you can color?
I don't know what we did for entertainment before we had our mobile amusement centers.  There are so many app's available with new ones being developed every day.  How did something that originally started as a telephone progress so far?

Quite frankly, if I receive too many calls I resent the intrusion.  Texting has become the new way to communicate and one this introvert falls into naturally.  I was talking with a girl at work the other day and we are both guilty of returning all voice messages with a text (if we can get by with it).  I am not talking strangers, I am talking loved ones.

Our technology has evolved to a point of on-line access for appointments, pressing numbers for automated services, etc.  Now don't get me wrong, I do have a few phone calls I make every week and I truly enjoy them.  But these are planned and scheduled.

But I am digressing from my original thought.  From all appearances, when my daughter is on her phone, I think she is "Texting".  Not. So.  She could be on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,(just to name a few) or more likely "Snapchat".  Apparently I didn't fully appreciate this app until I was indoctrinated by Madison.

I want her nose!!!
Snapchat is what you do when you aren't talking, Face-timing or texting.  You send updated pictures of yourself back and forth to one or many.  It's your call.  Now if that wasn't fun enough (??), you can decorate or distort your own face (so many options) or ...and this is my new favorite - SWAP FACES WITH SOMEONE ELSE!!!  This trick is hi-larious!!!!!!  

Now the next logical observation is how easily entertained I can be.  Madison will send me different "snapchats" throughout the day that make whatever current meeting I am in, more enjoyable.  Luckily I haven't been called out when my face breaks into a big ole grin (and many times I am stifling guffaws).  

The greatest challenge is now to subtly return the snapchat with a face of my own.  Some of them call for you to open your mouth which raises the ante.  I can hold my phone as if I am just looking at it just as expertly as the next person, but if I start raising my eyebrows and opening my mouth (without words coming out), this could be a deal breaker.

So this is what I know.  We can all have more than one look.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What is your Alpha and Omega?

Recently I heard a pastor share reflections at a fund-raising lunch I attended.  She referenced "the Alpha and Omega" (beginning and end) as we know it as Christians, but also talked about how we all experience the Alpha and Omega in our own lives.

Our Alpha is pretty concrete.  We all know our beginnings.  Some of us have more solid beginnings than others, but if you have reached the point where you are reading this blog, you survived your beginnings and know the story of "you".  You can recite a date that is celebrated (or acknowledged) annually and look forward to a repeat performance in the years to come.  The Omega is a different thing.

None of us know our ending.  Not only are we clueless about the date, time and means of our Omega. many of us live as though this outcome is optional.  And how about all the times we have wished our life away (specifically those Monday's where we get up and already wish it was Friday).

The "Beginning" of the evening
Last weekend, Madison went to her "last" Jr/Sr. formal.  She has already experienced the end of her basketball season and we are now in the playoffs for softball.  Graduation looms in less than four weeks.  The "Omega" of high school is coming.  Yet, four short years ago, she was at the Alpha of all her high school experiences.  Not knowing what the outcome would be, (and only vaguely acknowledging that at some point it would be over), she and her classmates excitedly began this time of life.

It is the same way with marriage.  When we commit to a beginning with someone, it is assumed that we will be with them "until death do us part".  As evidenced by statistics, death morphs into divorce for many and comes at all different times in a marriage (with as many different reasons).

Yet we begin each new venture as if there is no end in sight.  Which is as it should be since we want this to be a marathon versus a sprint (by God's Grace).  Nothing would ever get done or be successful if we were already planning on an "escape" plan.

However, regardless of outcome, it is important to note that with each ending, there comes a new beginning.  Madison will go from a high school graduate to a college freshman in the fall.  Everything is new and the possibilities are endless.

Even when a marriage ends. the affected couple begins life "anew".

I don't know what my Omega looks like, but I do know that this place we are in (wherever it is) is not our last stop.  I am thankful for all the positive experiences that began with such hope, and maybe even more thankful that negative experiences finally ended.  Even as each day ends, a new one begins.

Until next time,

your pal,

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion! What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the...