Thursday, June 20, 2013

For Luke on his 13th Birthday

Of all of our kids, you were the most excited about all of our changes this past year.  You couldn't wait to move, you couldn't wait to get married, you couldn't wait to make new friends.  Interestingly, as excited as you were, you seemed to struggle some in the beginning.  I think with a personality as big as yours, you felt like you should hold back a little until you got to know some people.  And feeling stifled isn't really something that fits into your personality.  I hope you know that you never need to hold back and the being yourself is all you ever need to be.

You also struggled a bit with needing to know the whys and hows of decisions and needing to feel that everything was fair.  It is not easy merging two families, and sometimes we have to do what is right for each child individually.  Often it is not fair, but it is necessary.  We had some good talks and you understood.  I think you learned that sometimes while things may not seem exactly fair, they can still be right.  That is a big lesson in life and I am proud of you for knowing it.

This year my hope for you is that you continue on your path with patience, understanding and the willingness to listen to others.  You are one of the most empathetic people I know.  You are also one of the most gregarious.  If you can learn to merge those traits and become someone who can listen as well as he talks, then you will have accomplished something good.

I hope that you continue on your path of excellence at school and continue to learn and improve at lacrosse.  I feel like you have found your place in our new town, and you will only become more a part of life in Spanish Fort as the years continue.

I hope you always "stick to my plan" as you do even when there are bumps in the road (or a girl dumps you, heehee).  Keep your focus, make good choices and be yourself...and you can't go wrong!

And LAX ON! (I know, It's dorky, but I thought you'd like it!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Beautiful Day for a Beautiful Girl

Hannah's 15th Birthday Sunset Picnic

We got a perfect evening in Gulf Shores for Hannah's birthday picnic.  She wanted chicken salad, pita chips, sour dough bread, lime chips and chocolate cake.  It was the first thing we did together when Donald and I introduced our kids to each other, and it is something we still love to do.  I am so glad that Hannah picked that for her celebration.  And she even got to wear her adorable new 40s-style swim suit that makes you want to hide her from the boys!

We got the beach around 7 pm, ate dinner and cake and then watched the kids play together.  They cartwheeled, flipped, wheelbarrowed and ran in the sand (every last one of them).  It was the joyful noise of summertime with laughter, shrieking, waves lapping the shore and wind in your hair.  

As the sky darkened, we took a walk (a noisy walk) down the beach to watch the sun set, see the people crabbing with their flashlights and feel the waves on our toes.  Donald and I watched the shadows of the children walking and took turns holding hands of the younger ones who would come to talk to us.  

The ride home was filled with music, games, stories told in odd accents (some good, some just plain weird).

It's times like those when your cares melt away and you are just happy to be with your family.  It was a perfect day.  

For Jake on his 15th Birthday

During this year, I worried about your transition the most.  You were moving, starting high school and leaving friends you had known since kindergarten.  We both know that change is something you don't love, and as angry as you were about moving, you rallied.  You accepted it, you embraced your new band over the summer and by the school year had made some really good friends.  You found your place with music and your programming club, and I am proud of you.  I think a lesson you can take from this experience is that you are actually pretty good at change, and it doesn't have to be so painful after all.  This is an important lesson since the next phase of your life will be filled with change as you transition to college and on to independence.

I hope a couple of things for you this year.  I hope you find acceptance of those who are different from you, and I hope you find drive to accomplish things that not only inspire you, but also those that do not inspire you.  Often in life you will encounter people or jobs that are less than fun.  It is how you handle these situations that will define your character and success in life.

You are a smart guy.  You are a talented guy.  And you know it.  The thing is, there is confidence, and there is arrogance.  The difference between confidence and arrogance is that one believes in yourself, the other looks down on others.  I want you to be confident and move through your life with the certainty that you can do anything you decide to do.   But be careful in life to respect everyone around you.  You will encounter those that differ from you in everything from politics, to religion, to intellect, to talent, to drive and on and on.  You must allow people to differ from you and still respect them as people.  You must allow for the fact that your ideas are not always right.  Every person you meet has something to offer and something they can teach you.  Everyone has flaws and everyone has gifts.  Look for the gifts.  One who may not be as smart may be the kindest person you ever meet.  One who may not be as talented may be the hardest worker and succeed beyond their talent.  If you recognize others' gifts then you will see the value in everyone you meet and that fosters mutual respect.  

You are driven. You are driven with your music and it shows.  You are driven with your programming and I am amazed at what you can do.  What I hope you learn this year, is that the same level of drive you apply to the things you love needs to be applied to the things you don't love.  There are jobs everyone must do to accomplish their goals.  Along the path you choose, everything will not be fun and everything will not seem purposeful.  But those things are purposeful in the big picture if they help you end up where you want to be.  Success is not define by intelligence and talent.  It is defined by hard work and perseverance.  And to me, the definition of character is doing the right thing even if no one else is looking.  If I can teach all of my children that lesson, I will have succeeded.

I know that at 15, you are discovering a new level of independence and responsibility.  We are here to guide you, and while you may not always understand why we feel the way we do, know that we are only looking out for your best interest...even if it doesn't always feel that way.  I know you believe that and I know that you know we are making decisions for you and with you out of love.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

For Hannah on her 15th Birthday

The nature of being 15 is not a comfortable one.  It is a time when you are trying to figure out who you are and who you want to become.  It is a time of testing the boundaries of your own abilities and learning to make your own decisions.  Often, this testing bumps up against the boundaries of the adults in your life.  This is a very normal and universal experience.  Adding some pretty big changes to an already challenging age made for quite a big year for you.

I have to admit, I was surprised when you seemed to be the one that experienced the most difficulty in adjusting to all of our changes this year.  But the more I thought about it, the more I understood.  You are like me in so many ways.  When I was your age, I felt things intensely. I worried about everything.  I loathed the idea of making a mistake or worse, someone knowing I made a mistake.  You want people to see you as one way, but often you don't feel like you are that way.

I used writing to vent and quell the intensity of my feelings, and I think that is what poetry and writing does for you, too.  I think it is a great outlet and great way to navigate all of the twists and turns of a life in transition.  I hope you are careful with that though.  There is a danger in dwelling on all of the ups and downs and difficult feelings rather than relaxing and enjoying the happiness that surrounds you.  I am as big a fan (or bigger) of writing about the things that are good and make you feel grateful as I am of writing about things you need to release.

If I could tell my 15 year-old self anything, it would be, "Lighten up."  Everything doesn't have to be intense.  Everything doesn't have to be analyzed.  You don't have to decide just exactly how you feel about everything.  You can just be.  You can just be who you are.  And that's ok.

My hope for you this year is that you will find joy.  I want you to feel safe and secure and loved and peaceful wherever you are.  I hope that you will learn that love is exponential, not limited.  There is no such thing as competition for love because it grows as you allow it to grow.  I hope you will learn that even when others are different from you (intellect, religion, politics, personality, perspective, background, speech) they still have value and can teach you something.  Rarely is there anyone in your life who is all good or all bad.  We are all flawed and we all have gifts.  A person who can learn to accept others' flaws while celebrating others' gifts is one who will love and be loved by everyone.  I hope that you will be confident in the things that you know and will become a strong young woman who will speak for what she believes and stand up for what she knows to be right, particularly when others can't speak for themselves.

I hope that you learn to trust that we value your happiness, and sometimes that means saying no.  When the boys were little and confused, I used to ask them if they trusted that I would always make decisions in their best interest even if they didn't understand.  They always said, "yes."  It's easier when you are little.  But I hope that you will learn that I, along with your dad, will always make every decision in your best interest...and trust that even if you don't understand.  My goal for all five of you kids is for you to be healthy, happy and make good choices as you begin to carve the path for your future.  It is hard for us as parents to watch you gain independence and allow you the choices that you are mature enough to make.  You and Jake are our first, and we may make mistakes, but everything we do is done with love.