Today would have been my older brother’s 43 birthday.  While I can go on at nauseam about my relationship with him and why his life was cut so short, I only want to focus on one point today.  “Happy birthday, my brother.  My relationship with you made me laugh til I cried, cry til I hurt, scream til I lost my voice, shake my fists til I began to get arm cramps, and throw up my hands in response to ridiculous resolves.  Were they serious?  But the day I received news you had died….the shock, hurt, depression, and despair has yet to be matched.”

How many times have we heard others say, “I wish I had took the opportunity to just say this or do that…”  Well, I am here to confess that I never said those words after my brother died.  I saw his impending death coming.  My gut feeling and inner voice would bring my thoughts back to this point so often when he and I would be having tea on my parents’ patio or hanging out in the living room watching a television show.  The thoughts were not something I could share.  I mean, what would I say?  “Brother, I think you are not going to be with us much longer?”  Some days as quickly as those thoughts surfaced, other thoughts pushing them away as silly and absurd would come up.  One day, I woke up with a feeling so strong I could not rest until I had accomplished one feat…I had to take a drive with him to hear one thing come out of his mouth.  It was close to Halloween, and I wanted to take my 18 month old son to get pictures made in his Zorro costume.  I invited my brother along.  Though his typical response was one of resistance and disinterest, on this day, he relented, since he did love seeing his nephew.  While in the car, I asked him point blank about his own personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  We were brought up as Christians, but people’s feelings change all the time from childhood into adulthood when it comes to parental teachings and guidance.  Plus, I knew my brother had distanced himself from actually attending church for quite a while.  His answer was good enough for me!  He responded, “I believe everything we were taught to believe as kids.  I always have.  I choose not to go to church, because of the man-made aspect to all of it.  I’ve never stop believing though.”  This testimony was all I truly needed to know.

I never tortured myself with wondering about how differently my brother’s life might have been by revisiting the cliche, “if only I had said or done something differently.”  He was going to do what he was going to do, and my advice to live a better, healthier lifestyle would have fallen on the deafest of deaf ears.  I personally chose to keep my mouth shut when I witnessed horrific lifestyle choices and the consequences which fell as a result.  I knew it would have made no difference.  Call me scared to speak up or simply realistic in seeing things as they really are.  I choose the latter.  My brother was a smart, headstrong, incomparably artistic, loving, yet sometimes very hateful person who made bad choices.  He, like many others, was going to do what he was going to do. Sad, but honest.

So, why would I want to say these things in a personal blog on his birthday…because, although, he wasn’t perfect, he was my brother; and there’s not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t find him.


Still the double standard…

“Where is David tonight?  Did you leave him at home babysitting the kids?”

Why is it that when I go out with my friends, I get asked if my husband is babysitting our children?  My husband is a wonderful father who is always there for our children in every way a good daddy would be there.  However, when he goes out with his friends, whether it is to the local high school game or dirt track races without me, he is never asked if I am babysitting.  It is only casually mentioned I decided to stay at home on that particular night.

Society’s point of view about fathers really burns me up sometimes!  Why is it expected for mom to sometimes stay home, but fathers are considered “babysitters” if they choose to stay home?  Why are mothers favored over loving fathers during divorce proceedings?  Why are women looked at as complete victims in a domestic dispute if physical violence involves the women punching the man first?  (I know that’s another story for another day.)  Fathers are not second class parents, and they should not be treated as such.  The thought that women are more important than men when it comes to domestic attention and child-caring perpetuates two mentalities:  fathers are not as capable as mothers of nurturing, teaching, and molding children into successful adults; it is expected for women/mothers to be at home with the children, while fathers are given a second glance when doing so.

I challenge society to change the way men and fathers are viewed in everyday lives, and remember, they are allowed to play tea party with their daughters; be stay at home dads while their successful doctor wives bring home the bacon; and spend an evening at home with their children while wives enjoy a ladies night out without a curfew!


My 3 Sons (or daughters)

I have heard advice about how to raise, feed, put to bed, bathe, and teach manners to my children from day one.  My oldest child came into this world to a mother who was overjoyed and terrified at the same time.  All I knew for sure is I finally understood unconditional love and fierce “Mama bear” protection for this young being.

Sometimes the responsibility and late nights became very overwhelming, but the biggest source of my stress came from the outside world who came by my house to offer their congratulations and endless advice (which I never asked for, by the way!)   If I did not begin providing juice and baby cereal by a certain age, I was not helping my baby sleep through the night.  If I loved to snuggle my sweet infant as he slept, he would never learn to self-comfort and thus be very “spoiled.”  If he cried when I dropped him in a new nursery at church, it was vital I just drop him without so much as a goodbye kiss, again, he would be “spoiled” to much to me and not learn to get along with others.  If I had the audacity to pick him up when he cried out too long, I was allowing my child to “boss” me.

Let me introduce you to a Bible verse, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  (1 Corinthians, 13:11)  There is nothing wrong with holding a child if they are crying.  How do you know there is nothing wrong if you do not see a physical ailment?  Isn’t it possible their little tummies are hurting, or they have a headache?  Maybe they are like me.  I am in absolute pain and misery when I have an acid reflux flare, yet no one can see my ailment.  A baby who is unable to communicate with you about specifics of why they are crying, but I will always bet that the crying is a reaction to something.  Let’s look at fear.  Babies know their loved ones by tone of voice, smell, feel, etc.  There are is no comprehension of the words, “It’s okay.  You will be fine.  Mama/Daddy will be right in the next room if anything happens.”

I would like to ban the word “spoiled” when talking about a child under the age of 12 months.  They begin to understand certain words around this age, but never have I been to the doctor and had him ask me, “So is your child speaking in full sentences now?”  No.  My doctor asks, “Is he pointing at things he wants?” or “Is he picking up his food with his forefinger and thumb?”   I say that when using the phrase “that child is spoiled,” make sure you are talking about a child who can articulate, calculate, and manipulate a grown adult into getting what they want.  A baby can’t do that!  Just my perspective….


Continue…d Education

When I made the decision to continue my education, I was faced with a few naysayers who are notorious for bringing the negativity into my positive excitement. It would have been so easy to listen to their very true arguments: I have three children to raise, I already work full-time, my husband needs me, time is of the essence. Well, guess what? While all of those things were true, my heart and soul told me that I needed a huge change in my life. Working in the banking industry, which had turned from a beautiful customer oriented job into a fake smiling, back-stabbing, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get a sale and your money” job had turned my entire being into a blob of sludge who hated my very existence. The day I applied for graduate school to earn a teaching license and master’s degree, an exuberance radiated throughout my spirit. Yes, it was very hard to raise a family and complete a master’s degree, but my husband (who by the way is a partner who supports me in every move I make) never wavered with his devoted fatherly and husband responsibilities. The argument of “time being of the essence….” well, sometimes we think (and I did) that we are simply too old or to late to change our lives. That is a lie! Until we draw our last breath, if God lays a desire of change on our hearts, then it is never too late to act on that desire. Good luck and God bless you on your continued change!

ALL things will pass away…

I have been known to engage in “friendly” debates with people I know well or hardly know at all.  Over time I have discovered that engaging in these debates usually ends with a non-stop “chasing of a rabbit” each of us trying to convince the other to either agree with our point of view or be known as stupid for not.  Those debates abruptly came to a stop when one particular person really made me angry.

I remember the moment clearly.  This person will open her mouth and express her feelings about any given subject at any time with little to no filter, a trait in a person I truly admire.  However, when I noticed her deleting certain Facebook friends who held the opposite opinion, that admiration quickly diminished.  Ask yourself a question, readers?  Why are you expecting others to love you, accept you, and embrace you for being who you are without apologies, and yet do not want to do the same for others?

Here’s a piece of truth that everyone needs to accept sooner than later….when God says in His Word that “all things will eventually pass away,” your opinions will be included in this passing.  As human beings, we will all have our perspectives on how things should be, why our society should or not work in this way or that, and what every person needs to do with his or her own life.  In the midst of these perspectives, we must understand how other people who seem different are our brothers and sisters of the same God.  One of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave me is, “Amy, if we agree on everything, that means one of isn’t necessary.”  God created all of us on purpose and for a purpose.  Stop expecting others to share your perspectives and opinions.  More importantly, GET OVER YOURSELF.  Just because you think you are 100% correct does not mean you are.  There will never be complete agreement and harmony on everything.  Sometimes these waves allow us to be humbled.  If it has not happened yet, trust me it will.  You will not get your way all the time.

I will part with these words, “Therefore the one thinking to stand, let him take heed, lest he fall.”  1 Corinthians 10:12.  The phrase “foolish pride” is very accurate with so much self-righteous indignation existing today.  If you feel the need to prove others wrong and beneath you to lift yourself higher, God will show you how foolish you and your pride truly are in His world among His children.

I am not against medication, but

I was diagnosed with moderate to severe anxiety and panic disorder when my second son was about 14 months old.  I remember the slow incline from feeling fat, ugly, sad, edgy, and extremely irritated to a full blown panic attack, which required a 911 call.  My chest was hurting, my body was shaking, and my brain was telling me that I was surely dying.  It was one of the scariest feelings I had ever encountered.  So many people are very ignorant when it comes to anxiety and panic disorder.  I mean “ignorant” in the way in which it is defined in Webster’s dictionary, simply uneducated about a particular situation or subject.  While my doctor told me he could prescribe anti-anxiety meds, my gut feeling told me to get the bottom of why this anxiety began in my mind instead of simply trying to cure it with medication only.

My second son was born when my oldest son was two years old.  I had had C-sections with both.  My situation at the time consisted of a job working 12 hour days three days a week.  While that may seem like I have four days off, my four days off consisted of caring for an infant and a two year old while trying to maintain a 12 hour shift on about 5 hours of sleep.  However, since this was my second son, I felt like I had to be super-mom.  My house was neat, my children were always presented in the best light, and the smile on my face told the world that I was fine.  Here was my predicament:  my super-mom mindset resulted in me not resting and allowing my physical body to recover from my second C-section as I should have.  I rushed through my maternity leave, barely bonding with my new son and leaving my two year old with just enough attention to get through a day, because my perspective was, “I’m a working mother of two boys, and by God, I will prove how strong and hard-working I am.  Super-mom!!”  This perspective triggered my anxiety.  I would hold my emotions inside when I began to feel less than super.  Before I knew what was happening, I became a master of moving through my day with robotic like reflexes.  Oddly enough, my stress and anxiety was becoming apparent to everyone around me.  When others said I was snappy or really edgy when I spoke, I simply ignored them and proceeded my super-mom day with the idea that going home and getting some rest would make for a great day tomorrow.  Yeah, sleep with a new baby and a two year old!?

This nonsense carried on for the next year.  It slowly began to dawn on me that I was asking my husband to get up and go get the baby when he cried, because I could NOT get my body to physically go to his nursery.  When we had dinner as a family, I wanted the kids to sit next to my husband.  “Oh, you sit with Daddy, so I can watch you guys and get cute pictures,” I would say.  The truth was, I began to realize that I could not deal with my babies constant need for attention.  My nerves were shot to say the least.  Not resting after the birth triggered postpartum depression.  Not recognizing my depression setting in and trying to do too much too soon began to build anxiety.  The ever-building anxiety and tight hold on my emotions accompanied with my fake smile triggered more anxiety and panic attacks. Throughout this entire time, my doctor (who had seen me so often this year, because every day I felt like I was dying) continued to offer “stress” medication.  Again, my gut feeling told me to find another answer.

One day, the wrong person said something to me at the wrong time, and my anger exploded with tears and yelling in such a way that surprised even me.  I had reached my limit, and my physical being could hold no more.  Oddly enough, when my rant was over, the feeling of relaxation and relief could not be described in words.  A burden had been lifted, and an epiphany took place.  I went home and felt a strong urge to read my Bible.  I simply flipped open to a random page and began reading.  This is the verse that jumped out at me.  “Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure?  Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.”  Jeremiah 30:15.  While some interpret this verse to mean God will afflict those who sin against Him, and He will, I interpreted this verse at this stage in my life in a different fashion.  My emotions, mainly my guilt for not bonding with second son when he was a baby and disregarding my older son just after my new one was born, as well as certain emotional sinful thoughts and feelings I had held onto for far too long, had taken their toll on my emotional and then my physical being.  I did have “great guilt and many sins” which manifested into horrific anxiety and panic.  

I am not saying that all people suffer from anxiety and panic attacks for these reasons.  I am saying my reasons for not taking medication are because I knew in my heart that my affliction was going to be cured in another way.  We live in a society where all we hear is how this pill will cure that ailment.  Medications are awesome, but they are not always the answer.

I will write more about my anxiety and panic attack experiences in future blogs, but I want to close this one with a few tips which might help keep your anxiety and panic attacks at bay.

  1. Cry when you feel like it.  Crying is extremely healthy for men and women.  Women have hormonal days when we feel the urge to cry without understanding why.  Turn on the sad movies, sad songs, or think of a sad moment; and let those tears flow!!  You will instantly feel release and relief, as well as cleanse your eyes.
  2. Bad days happen.  VENT!  Do not hold negative emotions inside, even if they are painful to talk about sometimes.  Find a trusted friend.  Call your pastor and schedule an appointment to meet.  If nothing else, contact a free HOTLINE just so you have someone to unload your negativity upon and move forward with life.
  3. Pray.  Religion is a personal choice, and I am not one to tell anyone how to live.  However, I encourage anyone and everyone to pray to the God of their understanding.  Casting your cares upon your chosen Higher Power will bring a peace like no other.
  4. Let things go.  It is not imperative to have all of the floors vacuumed, the laundry completed, and the dishes washed every second of every day of your life.  Take a few moments for yourself if you simply need to take a break.
  5. It is okay to say no.  A very hard word to tell someone, especially those closest to us, is the word “no.”  However, if it is necessary to tell someone that you are unable to commit to their demands, then say “no” and get over it.  No need to feel guilty for telling someone that they will not get their way this time.

I hope this blog has helped someone. God bless!

Just a slight misunderstanding…

Taking care of your children is the hardest job, but it is also the most rewarding.  While we always say that we love our children just as they are, it is not uncommon for parents to feel twinges of guilt, uncertainty, and even jealousy when we are in the midst of parenting.  One major area of change from our parents generation to our children’s generation is education.  Our primary school aged children are expected to understand mathematical expressions and reading comprehensions that their grandparents did not learn until at least junior high school.  Not that our extended knowledge is a horrible thing, mind you.  Instead of a child who has special learning needs or certain social hindrances being labeled as a “problem,” schools today are able to utilize a special education department in ways like never before.  Even in my day, the children who were considered “special ed” were children had some sort of handicapped physical diagnosis instead of a child who had a hard time learning to read.  Lack of focus was reprimanded as “daydreaming,” and learning hindrances were passed off as “lazy children.”  What about our children who are very academically inclined, and yet still struggle in the classroom due to social immaturity?

My middle son is going to repeat 4th grade next year.  Why?  He is on the honor roll with the help of his inclusion teacher who helps him focus better on his school work.  He is in a regular general education classroom 99% of the time.  He only leaves to take tests with a smaller group of students.  My middle son is simply socially immature.  He is liked by his peers and invited to play at recess, but no real bonding takes place.  While other students are talking about sports they enjoy, my son is still wanting to draw pictures of certain cartoons he still enjoys watching on Nick Jr.  Due to his social immaturity, his anxiety level within the classroom has risen.  He knows how to do the work from an academic stand point, but it is not until he is working one on one with his inclusion teacher that his anxiety melts away, and his academics shine through.

My son was born in July; and as most teachers and moms will tell you, girls mature faster than boys, boys born in the summer usually need to stay in a primary grade such as kindergarten or first grade twice, and the majority of boys born in the summer have repeated a grade at some point.  I truly struggled with so much guilt about not having my son repeat kindergarten, since repeating at that age is the norm and usually does not cause too much of a disturbance in the child’s life.  However, since my son’s issue was social immaturity, which contributed to his classroom anxieties, we realized he had not bonded with his fellow classmates enough to care that most of them would be moving ahead while he stayed behind.  When my husband and I broached the subject with our son, he instantly agreed that he wanted to stay in 4th grade one more year in order to, in his words, “learn this stuff again, without so much worry.  I bet I can focus better next year.”  That was my sign from God that I had made the right decision.

Parents, we are always going to make mistakes by one person’s standards or another.  Heck, I have a family member right now who still holds true to the idea that students who repeat a grade are doing so, because they are not good enough or smart enough to move forward with their peers.  My son is in a regular general education classroom 99% of time, and he only has an inclusion teacher to help him stay on task.  His grades have never been the problem.  His problem is he is always the youngest child  in his class.  As his classmates celebrate birthdays and get older during the class year, my son turns the age most of his classmates already are and does not age at all during the class year.  Hence, he has a tendency to relate to students who are one year below him.  Another point to go along with my son’s birthday is the fact that children begin school if they are a certain age by September 1.  I argue that the September 1 date should be pushed back to May 1.  Think about it, there is a huge difference between a child who was born on September 2 and begins school at age 6 and a child who turns 5 in July and begins school within the next few weeks.

Holding my son back was a very tough decision, because the stigma of “my child has to repeat a grade” has clung to my psyche for far too long.  This decision is best for my son.  I want him to be healthy and happy.  Perhaps his need for any sort of help in the classroom will slowly diminish as he in placed with the class group I feel he should have been with all along.