The Beauty of Nature (and Ourselves)

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When you are out in nature, hiking in the woods, walking along a trail, you look around and you drink in the divine and the beauty of creation.  The colors, the smells, the silence, the air, it all amazes and delights you.  Nature, creation, is beauty and ‘perfection’ and you feel blessed to be surrounded by it, all of it.  What we fail to recognize and internalize is the fact that we are not just surrounded by it, we are it!  We are creation.  We are nature.  We are beauty.

But we get so caught up in perceptions, in expectations, in what someone says we should be, that we are blind to our own internal and external beauty.  Nothing else in nature, creation frets and worries about how they look.  Not the trees, grasses, flowers, animals, birds, sky.  They just ARE.  And they are beautiful! You know they are.  They don’t look at themselves and think, “Oh my, the third branch on my trunk grew in a strange direction.  I need to change that.”  They don’t point fingers at another plant and say, “You’re looking old.  You should color your leaves so you look younger.”  They are who/what they are, living in harmony with themselves and each other.  No criticisms or comparisons. 

We need to learn from nature, from the creation that is all around us, how to BE.  Right here, right now.  Happy with ourselves and our beauty.

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.
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Our Own Journeys

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All of us have our own journey. Sometimes the direction of that journey changes as we reassess and reevaluate who we are, where we want to go, what we want to achieve, what is important to us. We all do it. Every once in a while or even sometimes on a more regular basis. It’s called life. We all live it, to the best of our ability.
Our true friends, our real friends, are the ones who accept our journey as our own, who love us and support us as we follow our hearts, who can accept our change of direction sometimes and still give us a hug and their love. Because they understand that they, too, are on their own journey, that they have their own questions and challenges and that we will be there for them as they journey on their individual path of discovery and life.

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.

 

The Spin Cycle of my Life

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I just need to find a way to slow down, to not feel this constant pressure of having ten million things to do. There may be the stray day here and there when it doesn’t seem quite so oppressive but that’s a rarity. My heart flutters with angst and honestly, terror. How to get it all done, where to find the time, how to breathe in the midst of it all and when, oh when will it stop? It’s the little things. It’s the big things. It’s all the things in between. The constant go and run and and hurry, faster and faster. I didn’t audition for the part of a juggler but somehow I got the job but I fall very short of living up to the demands of that position. I make the to do lists, I check things off, but as quickly as one thing is accomplished, two or three more are added. It’s never ending. Around and around and around she goes and where she’ll stop nobody knows. The definition of my life in the spin cycle.

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.

The Dreaded EOGs

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My children, as well as all the other students across the state North Carolina and probably the nation, are once again undergoing the inane and dreaded EOG (End of Grade) testing for their schools. As my oldest son says whenever we get on this subject, “Oh, don’t get mom started.” And he’s right. This whole system, which does little, if anything, for the students, is an outrage in my opinion. For over the past month, the teachers have hardly been teaching the kids anything new. Why?
Because they have to prepare them for these tests, because they have to ‘teach to the test’. Why? Because their jobs, their pay, the funding their schools receive, are all dependent on the results of these tests. So for the last two months or more of our children’s school year, they learn very little new material. And, yes, our tax dollars are paying for this insanity. We should all be outraged! The teachers, the school administrators, have to, for job security, for funding, make sure the students do as well as possible on these tests so they must, by necessity, teach mostly what these tests will entail in order to prepare the students for them. Wouldn’t it be more logical, as well as more educational, to teach them, throughout the year, what they need to learn and not have to jump through the mandated EOG testing hoops at the end of each year? (Not only do they have to spend time at the end of the year doing this, but they also do practice EOG testing at the beginning of each year to see where the students stand ahead of time.)

The pressure all this nonsense places on the students, the administrators and the teachers is absurd. We still, as a country, as a state, have a ridiculously high drop-out rate. Our schools are still very underfunded (just watch the news. More and more educational budget cuts are expected in every year. It makes me so sad. Let’s cut the money going toward educating the future generation. Yeah, that makes total sense. NOT! Our children’s future depends on this; OUR futures depend on the children in school today. ) Then you take into account that the schools that do struggle with ‘making these marks’ are generally in areas that have a higher poverty rate and fewer parents at home to help with homework issues (because they’re working two plus jobs just to get by) and lower teacher salaries. So, they don’t make the mark, they don’t get the funding and they fall further behind. And, the cycle continues.

There must be a better solution. I have no idea what the cost to the states, to the government, is to put out these EOG tests, to pay for the grading, to pay for the results, to keep track of all this, but my guess is that it is pretty darn high. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put that money into the educational system in a more constructive way? Maybe something like paying our teachers a better salary. Maybe like not having our teachers live under the constant threat of budget cuts and layoffs? Maybe allowing teachers to actually teach new material over the last two months of the school year? Maybe something like putting more money into special services and/or tutoring for those students that are struggling with keeping up? What happened to teaching the basics? To administering finals at the end of the year to see if the kids learned the materials they were taught in the classroom and basing their academic acheivement on that? It seems to me that when we were growing up and going to school, our teachers taught us the basics, we learned them and we moved on and educationally, we were a strong country (keeping in mind that I am 45 years old).  What happened? And why, oh why, do we have this insane and inane EOG system going now?

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.

The Family Dinner Table

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For our grandparents, our parents and even for some of us who are a bit older, it used to be that this idea was a given. We all sat down together for dinner! What else were we supposed to do? Where else would we be? We probably did not realize how that time together was part of the glue, the very foundation that held our family life together. It was simply something we did every night after everyone was home from school and work. It was a part of our daily lives. A time to share and break bread and reflect together on the things that had taken place in each of our days.

Sadly, nowadays this is not a given. Of all times when this tradition should be vitally important, it is often ignored. In this modern age where we communicate so often through technology, be it cell phones, emails, social networking websites, etc., basic face to face, eye to eye, human contact is not experienced enough. But we are social creatures; we need, desire and crave that human touch, human interaction. We desire to look into someone else’s eyes and see their soul reflected there. It’s all well and good to express your feelings and talk about your day’s happenings in a quick post on Facebook or Twitter, but let’s be honest, are we completely honest in those posts? Do we really want to share with all those people our most intimate and private thoughts and feelings? I don’t think we do. And even if we do, something, by the very nature of such communication, gets lost in the translation. A smiley face cannot possibly express true, unabashed joy. In the same way, a sad face doesn’t express the true depth and breadth of sadness. Is it just a little ouch or is it gut wrenching sobs?

Who is better than your family to share these most honest feelings? Whether gathering around the dining room table or sitting on a blanket having a picnic, the mere act of sitting down with each other, passing the potatoes and breaking bread can be a healing part of our long, often arduous day. We can let our hair down, smile across the table at our spouse or children, refortify our beings-both physically and emotionally, by simply sharing that little half an hour together.

The key here is to do this without distractions such as a television or the interruption of phone calls — we turn our phones off during our meal. This is a time to focus on one another, on our family, to let each other know that the other people are more important to us than all those other things that so often clamor for our attention.

A dear friend told me a long time ago that one of the things that her grown children always reminisced about when they got together later in life was how important that family dinner time was to them in their memories. They recalled that how no matter how crazy their day had been, they knew that at dinner they would all gather and there would be someone there who cared about them and would listen to them.

Those are the types of things I hope my children remember most.

So often, we get caught up in thinking that what will matter most to our children when they are grown up and on their own will be their memories of material things we were able to give them. But when you think back on your childhood, do you remember what you got for your 12th birthday or do you remember the times you and your family were just hanging out, being together? Those happy and warm memories, they are the ones that fill you with those warm, fuzzy feelings of yesterday.

We all need a little time in our day to reconnect with other people. Life can get crazy busy, schedules often get so heavy we don’t know how to find the time, but let’s try to remember how important those face to face connections are, for ourselves as well as the loved ones in our lives, and make time on a more frequent basis, to sit down at the family dinner table together.

dinner 2

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Children

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To my wonderful children: Thank you for being my children and thank you for letting me be your momma. You are all my heart and soul, the essence of my being, my greatest joys. I can’t tell you how my heart soars when I hear your voices call me mom, momma, mommy. My deepest wish was always to be a mom and the five of you made that dream come true in such amazing ways. When you smile and laugh my heart soars. When you are sad and hurt, my soul yearns to erase any pain. Each of your accomplishments fills me immense pride.
Thank you, each of you, for allowing me to feel a love, every moment of every day, to nothing else can compare to, that fills my soul and brings me such joy.
I love you beyond measure, James, Meghan, Topher, TJ, Frankie!!!

Mother's day 2016

 © 2016 therealityofraisingafamily. All rights reserved.