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Some things are more important

December 22, 2008

gordie.jpgWhile riding home from a ballgame the other night our twins (they are 16) started asking their dad some questions. Not the kind of questions they did when they were little, like where do babies come from? Or, is Santa real? But hard questions just the same. I stayed out of the conversation. Mainly because they were on a roll and I was enjoying the conversation but also because the pressure was on Bill. All I had to do was listen and relax.

“Dad, what was your favorite thing about when you lived in Detroit?”

“Going to the park with my grandpa.”

“Why did you leave Michigan?”

“Because I met your mom, fell in love and got married.”

“Where did you meet her?”

(They know all the answers to most of these questions, they just like hearing the story over and over)

“The Florida Keys. I was camping with some guys and your mom came down with some of her friends. They camped next to us and couldn’t put up their tent. I helped put up her tent and she taught me how to play backgammon. We played all week and when she left I told my friends I was going to marry her. I didn’t know it at the time but she’d told her friends the same thing.”

“But how did you date if she lived in Atlanta and you lived in Michigan?”

“For our first date I flew her to Michigan for a dinner at the hospital where I was working. I didn’t know it at the time but your mom is scared to death of flying. She must have really liked me to get on that plane.”

The boys got tired of hearing our romance story and moved on to something more interesting.

“Did you ever skip school, Dad?”

For those of you who may not know, I am a teacher. My mother was a teacher. Most of my aunts and cousins are teachers. I believe in the power of education with all my heart and soul. Skipping school is not something I would approve of and the boys knew it. They grinned at me when they asked their dad the question. They knew the answer to this one, too. He’s told them many times about some of his escapades when he was younger. Some of his stories I’d rather he kept to himself but unlike me he doesn’t believe in keeping all his past mistakes secret. My theory is I know my kids will make mistakes I just don’t want them to make the same ones I did. I think each generation should come up with their own. Bill believes that he can share his mistakes and that the boys will listen and learn from his experiences. Who knows which one theory is right? The one thing I’ve learned over the years about parenting is their is NO RIGHT ANSWER for every question or each kid. You do your best, say a lot of prayers, and let God and the child work it out. But back to my story….

“Yes, I skipped school,” Bill said. “I was in middle school and the Red Wings were practicing right down the road from my school. They normally practiced somewhere else but this one day for some reason they were right down the road. It was too big a temptation for me. I skipped school and went to their practice.”

“By yourself?” the boys asked.

“Yep. All alone,” Bill answered

They soaked that in for a minute. The two of them have participated in lots of mischief over the years, but with few exceptions they always get in trouble together. I guess that’s part of the joy of being a twin…sharing the punishment for your crime.

“So what happened at the practice?” they asked.

Bill smiled. He loves this story and he knows I don’t because it involves skipping school.

“I hung out at practice and after it was over I got a stick someone had broken and all the players signed it for me. Then I followed Gordie Howe to a coffee shop and sat by him. He ordered coffee and I got a hot chocolate. ”

“The Gordie Howe?” they ask. 

The boys know it was The Gordie Howe. Furthermore they know that Gordie holds records for winning goals (122), games including playoffs (1,924), goals including playoffs (869), career assists by a right winger (1,049), and career points by a right winger (1,850). He is the only player to accumulate more NHL records is the great Wayne Gretzky. They know all this because Bill is a life long Gordie fan and even though he married me and moved south he never gave up his love for hockey or the Wings.

“Yep, just me and Gordie swapping stories and drinking our coffee and chocolate.”

Then for the first time in all the years I’ve heard the story one of the boys asked the question I should have asked but never had. “Did Mr. Howe know you were skipping school?”

“Yes.”

I sat up straighter. Now was my chance to score some education points with my boys. Surely Mr. Howe had chastised my husband for skipping school.

“What did he say, Dad?”

I held my breath.

“I was eleven years old and I was holding on to the hockey stick the Wings had signed like it was made out of gold. I had two pictures of Gordie I’d cut out of the paper and asked him to sign. So when he asked me why I skipped school I just told him the truth. I told him some things were more important.”

“What did he say then, Dad?”

“He laughed and autographed my pictures.”

“Was that your best day ever, Dad?”

“One of the best,” Bill answered and he looked at me and smiled. “The day I met your mom and the days you and your brothers and sister were born were the very best.”

There was total silence in the van. My boys were enthralled with the story. Bill was still smiling, clearly remembering the event as if it had just happened.

I thought about telling the boys that while it was a good story they should definitely not ever skip school. I thought about pointing out the dangers of an eleven year old wandering the streets of Detroit. I thought about it, but I didn’t say a word. There are some things more important than school.

Influential People

July 20, 2008

Our preacher began his sermon this morning by asking us to make a mental list of all the people who had had a positive influence on our lives. At the top of my list was my mother. Without a doubt she was my biggest cheerleader and my best friend. She loved me even when I wasn’t very loveable. She was a wonderful Christian lady who practiced what she preached.

I still remember what I was doing the day I found out she had cancer. We were grilling chicken in the back yard and the kids were running around playing.  One phone call was all it took to change my world.  Momma was only 50 years old when she learned she had advanced colon cancer. Up until that point in my life I hadn’t experienced first hand what cancer can do. I wish I could still say that.

At the end of the preacher’s sermon he closed with the question, “Would your name be on anyone’s list of influential people?” I don’t suppose anyone really knows the answer to that question. I’d like to think I have had a positive influence, but I suspect that I could do better.

What do others see when they look at me? Can they tell I’m a Christian by the way I act? I sure hope so. If I really want to influence others then I need to make Jesus the most influential person in my life. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather follow.

And that’s another great thing about my mother, she taught me that too.

Women and the gift of gab

June 18, 2008

I love to write, but I have had to overcome a fear of public speaking. There is safety behind a keyboard. When you are up in front of a crowd and all eyes are on you the only safe place is in the women’s restroom and if you run out the door and go hide, I can almost guarantee you won’t be invited back to speak again!

It’s taken years but I am finally comfortable in front of a crowd. Here are some tips for anyone considering hiding in the bathroom when they are invited to speak to a group.

1. Prepare and practice - if you know what you are going to say and you practice (I suggest in front of a mirror) you’ll do a better job.

2. Know who you are talking to- how old are they? How many will there be? What percentage are men and what percentage are women? What you say will change based on who your audience is.

3. Know your environment- this isn’t always possible, but when it is find out what the layout of the room you are speaking in looks like. One of the events I spoke at last week was in a computer lab. Half my audience was on one side of the room, there were computers in the middle and then the other half of the audience was on the other side.  I had planned to use a powerpoint but logistics made that impossible. Which brings me to the next tip….

4. Expect the unexpected and go with it. Right before I went into speak I went to the bathroom and discovered I had worn leopard print panties under a dress that was too shear. The panties showed. Instead of freaking out I told the audience what I’d done and we all had a good laugh. When I finished my speech I told them I knew they were all going to be staring at my backside when I left the room to see if I was telling the truth and rather that there was no way I was going to give them the satisfaction. Then I backed out of the room. They loved it and I love the sound of laughter.

5. Remember your audience is people too. I don’t try and invision everyone in their underwear but I do remind myself that everyone out there is human just like me.

6. Pray. I always ask God for guidance and strength and He always provides.

7. Think of the worst thing you’ve ever been through and tell yourself that public speaking doesn’t even come close to whatever it was.  For me it was the last year of my mother’s life. Watching a loved one go through cancer treatment and lose their battle is unbelievably hard….public speaking no longer holds the power of fear over me because it’s not the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.

8. Speak clearly and enunciate. There’s nothing worse than having people watch you and they aren’t able to understand what you are saying.

9. Find two or three people in your audience who are responsive and make eye contact with them. Focus on the people who are really getting into what you are saying. The rest of the audience will follow, or most of them will. Some people are sour pusses and won’t ever smile.

10. Relax and have fun. If you do so will your audience!

A Woman’s Heart

May 18, 2008

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking to a group of women at Bowling Green Christian Church. Our topic was “A Woman’s Heart.” The decorations were beautiful, the food was wonderful, and the ladies were so warm and welcoming. The day was made even more special because my daughter was able to be with me.

Being with other women of faith is such a joy. We sang praises and prayed together and then I talked about the difference in a man’s and a woman’s heart (you did know men and women were different, didn’t you?)

One of my favorite verses about the heart in the Bible is the verse that says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.”

Keeping my heart pure is a daily task and so I pray that God will renew a right spirit in me!

Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

May 11, 2008

All right moms, today is your day. Reward yourself. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. I’m starting my day by eating donuts from my favorite donut shop. My husband surprised me with them. Yummy! I also have a bouquet of flowers on the table from one of my sons and a very sweet card. My daughter is driving home to go to church with me. After church we’re going to grill out. I know it sounds boring, but boring is good. At this point in my life I don’t crave any drama.

However you spend your day if you are a mom I hope you feel appreciated by your family. Remember God appreciates you. He sees all the big and little things you do for your loved ones and He knows your heart.

Rejoice!