Life After Kids, Cowgirls ‘n Angels

One of my biggest fears is having my children grow up, move out and leave me behind. Marriage and parenting can take our all, every day, every week, every year. And then poof, just like that it seems they are grown, gone and testing their wings.

What then?

A lot of women fall apart at this stage in life. So do a lot of marriages.

I made a choice a few years ago.  I do not want those things happening to me. I do not want to wake up six months from now without a clue of who I am. Or worse yet – I do not want to wake up six months from now, look at my husband and think “who are you and what are you doing in my bed?”

Just like weening a baby off the breast, I have to ween myself off the “mom roll” and come back to the woman.

It’s not easy to do. Actually it is very painful at times.

It takes soul-searching work, bravery, and conviction.

There is a fun side to testing my own wings and seeing what I’m made of beneath the sweat suit and pony-tail.

One of the fun things is watching this movie trailer and seeing myself in the crowd scenes during the trick riding. – I even got paid to be there when they filmed last summer.

A release date has not yet been set, but I can’t wait to go see it.

Life doesn’t have to end when our kids grow up. We can begin to prepare by getting to know that woman in the mirror again today.

Take some time and get to know her, who knows maybe she’ll surprise you.

Love you guys!

Things a Mom Says

My boys are making a video over Spring Break. Charlie is playing with his new Mac Imaging Software and Dillon is enjoying the ride. Making videos is nothing new for these boys. I bought Charlie his first video camera when he was 13 and they have been making movies ever since. His love for filmography, writing, and editing is in part what led him to major in broadcast journalism in college.  He’s smart, good-looking, and funny. I think he’ll do well.

I was listening yesterday to my boys discuss a scene which would involve Dillon flying through the air, suspended (I’m assuming) by some sort of wire and harness. My maternal-protection instincts kicked in and as nonchalantly as possible, I interjected my two-cents.

“We don’t have the budget for special effects.”

I could see the wheels turning in their creative brains. Their eyes danced and as soon as they made eye contact, Charlie blurted out the inevitable.

“I got it. Yes we do!”

I can only attribute what happened next to the fact that I’ve been their mom for 19 years and I know how they think.

“No. You cannot hang your brother from the roof with the dog harness.”

QUESTION: Mom’s say the craziest things, what crazy thing have you said to your kids that makes you laugh?

25 Random things about me.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. I was born near Syracuse NY and raised in: Buffalo NY, Bridgeport NY, Endicott NY, Cleveland OH, Cincinnati OH, Columbus OH, Atlanta GA, Fort Walton Beach FL, Detroit MI, Southfield MI, Redford MI. – I’e also lived in Sweden, IL and OK.

2. I’m an artist – I love scrapbooking, photography, and designing jewlery.

3 – I have a knack for speaking first and thinking – eventually – making my husband laugh from under a lot of tables and my pastor to hang his head and blush. – I call it being a UFO – Unintentionally Funny Orator. Basically that little filter from the brain to the mouth – doesn’t work.

4. I met my husband at work in Chicago 20 years ago and wouldn’t go out with him until he told me that he played guitar in a rock band – true story.

5. I love a lot of people but don’t get to spend nearly as much time with them as I would like.

6. I used to be an actress, my “claim to fame” was a Work Place Issues video filmed while I worked for Williams Companies. Depressing really, but I still have the video. It was my only paid acting gig, ever.

7. I used to think I knew who I was until I realized that I spent the first 40 years of my life defining myself by how I thought others saw me. I lived to please others, and hurt myself a lot in the process.

8. If God lined up all of the teenage boys in the world and told me I could pick whichever two I wanted, I would pick Charlie and Dillon every time.

9. I love God with everything I have and I‘m learning to believe that the feeling is mutual.

10. Raising boys is harder than I thought it would be. I find myself saying things I never dreamed would ever come out of my mouth – phrases like “No you cannot drive your go cart off the roof to make it look like it’s flying for your video.” and “No you cannot send that frog into space. Please untie the helium balloons and use a GI Joe instead.” There are other phrases, but you get the gist.

11. I have a half sister I never really knew.

12. I left corporate America to be a stay home mom, and learned that staying home is harder than working for a corporation – but the benefits are fabulous and I’d do it again in a heart beat.

13. I am a bibliophile and have a room in my house dedicated to books and reading. I want to be an author and study other authors to learn how to write better.

14. I’m a really good cook – but don’t take the time as often as I’d like.

15. I actually love public speaking – I’m not sure if it’s because I was raised an only child by a single mom and think it’s all about me – or what. I tend to crave attention – mostly though – it’s just really fun for me today because it used to scare me.

16. There was a time when speaking in general terrified me, even if it was just to say hi to someone. I used to be so shy and so scared that I would literally shake in new situations. I preferred to be invisible, but secretly wished someone would notice me. Learning how to overcome that took years of prayer and practice.

17. I love facilitating Beth Moore Bible Studies (personal hero)- and I love going to our Mom’s Group at Church (Bad Girls of the Bible) and just hanging with my friends.

18. I love praise and worship music and I love the old hymns. I believe that both bring pleasure to God. He looks to the heart of man, and I’m thankful for that because my singing ain’t all that great.

19. I wasn’t raised in the church – and when I finally joined one, it took me years to get over the fear of being kicked out. – That’s what happens when you look through broken glasses. – I didn’t really know what Grace was until I experienced a personal failure and then got drowned by Grace in ways I still cannot put into words. – I actually turned in my ministry resignation to God that year – funny thing is, he acted like he never saw it and just kept pouring out more and more gifts and opportunities to serve. I’ll never figure him out.

20. When I was growing up I wanted to be, a circus clown, an actress, or married to a rock star. – uhm.. Goals were not my strong suit. – so I married an up an coming rock star – who is now a praise and worship leader on top of his full time corporate career – and is strongly studying to be a worship pastor and I’m thinking God has an amazing sense of humor.

21. I love Oklahoma, but wish we did not live so far away from my family. We’ve been here for 16 years and we didn’t’ get to see our nieces and nephews grow up, and my boys don’t know their cousins. And I think that’s sad.

22. I have the heart of an artist – and weird (eclectic) taste in clothing.

23. I sometimes miss my corporate job – I audited line costs and kept track of regulatory pricing, negotiated local contracts with Bell Companies, designed long distance circuit layouts, and installed switches. I felt smart when I worked there – I have had to remind myself sometimes that smart is smart no matter what you do and a career does not define my value. But I still miss it.

24. When I was 15, I wanted to be an exchange student. I didn’t’ think I could, but I applied any way. The essay question was tell me about your life. I wanted to throw it away but an adult friend told me to tell the truth and turn it in. I lived in a single parent home, my mom only made about $10k per year and she was a recovering alcoholic. I’d moved almost 15 times in my life, my grades were B’s, our house was only about 1,000 sf – I knew the competition – kids from two parent homes with stay home mom’s and straight A’s. – I didn’t think I stood a chance. He knew all the lofty “right” answers – his favorite author was Shakespeare and mine was Erma Bombeck. I really thought there was no way.

After the essay – I was first runner up – then came the interview – this is what they told me – “Because of what recovery has done for your family, and the life issues that you have overcome, which have made you stronger – we believe you are the right candidate” – And just like that I got to be a Rotary International Exchange Student and live in Sweden for a year and they paid for the whole thing – I even got to go to the Nobel Awards and meet the King (which would be when I told him he was shorter than I thought he’d be. ) That’s when I really learned that my past can be my greatest asset.

25. For this decade in my life, I’m exploring the world God has called me into – studying everything I can get my hands on – learning public speaking, writing sketches and learning stand up. I’m learning how to find the courage to say “I want to learn from you.” I’m learning about who I am – and more and more about who He is – and I feel like I’m falling in love all over again.

When Staying at the Hospital with Your Child

Hospital trips are never fun even when they are planned. If you ever find yourself with a planned hospital trip with your child, young or old here are a few ideas for you to take along.

1. Handheld games such as video games of all sorts – Dillon owns a PSP, but any hand held will do. Toys R Us and Wal-Mart also sell those $10 hand held type games for all ages.

2. A favorite animal or blanket. While Dillon is too old for a stuffed animal or security blanket, he does have a throw that my mother made him several years ago. Hospital blankets are actually very thin and the room can be cold. Having that extra throw helped keep him warm and did provide a sense of normalcy and home.

3. Art supplies. Younger children can be kept entertained with a coloring book and crayons. Dillon (my artist in the family) has his own sketch book and charcoal pencils. This did an excellent job keeping him occupied and giving him something productive to focus on rather than the wires glued to his head. It also provided a bonding opportunity between he and the medical staff – giving them something tangible to talk about other than his medical condition.

4. Books are always a favorite, unless you are 15. Most children’s hospitals have an excellent selection of books for your child to read while they are there.

5. Snacks – The hospital only serves three meals a day and let’s face it while the food is nutritious , tasty it isn’t. I could not get Dillon to really eat any of the meals they served even if they were “kid friendly.” We brought with us things like trail mix, fruit snacks, Jello/fruit cups, string cheese and slim jims. The floor had a family kitchen with a refrigerator. Be sure check with the nurse or doctor before allowing your child to eat them. Dillon was placed on a special diet our second day there (no sugar) and he could not have most of what I brought for that one day. They did however allow sunflower seeds.

6. Toiletries for both you and your child. Children‘s rooms are usually private, they also supply little bitty towels and baby shampoo. Thankfully I brought our own. While Dillon could not take a shower until the last day due to the EEG, he was much appreciative of having some personal comforts from home such as adult shampoo. If you do forget something from home, such as a toothbrush, you can find them in the gift shop at the hospital.

7. Do not forget money for meals for you. Dillon’s food was covered on our three day stay, mine were not. The hospital cafeteria has changed over the years offering a wide variety of excellent meals, but plan on spending no less that $7 per meal.

8. Some rooms come equipped with DVD/VCR players (at least in the kids ward.) so we brought different videos from home to keep entertained during the daytime. The hospital also had a child resource center that allowed us to check out movies and even a Wii Video game player with Wii Sports.

9. Cell phones and laptops if you have them. – Dillon and I both brought our cell phones with us. Since we have unlimited texting, he was able to keep in touch with his classmates during the stay. This was very comforting for him and it helped me stay in touch with my husband when phone calls just were not feasible. I brought a lap top just in case we had Wi-Fi access. The floor did indeed allow wi-fi, but most pages were banned from their server. Still I was able to access blogger as well as yahoo mail. This enabled us to keep in touch with friends and family who wanted updates during our stay. It also came in handy when I wanted to research medication suggestions or tests they were running.

10. A folder and a notebook. Being in the hospital means being inundated with facts, figures, information, and what not. There was absolutely no way I could keep all of the information in my head. Write down what they tell you so that you can look it over, and mark any questions you have for when they come back. I had a notebook folder that I was able to put all of the fact sheets and whatnot the doctors and nurses gave us while we were there.

I don’t suggest bringing unrealistic expectations, such as you and your child are going to get along wonderfully, that they are happy and compliant to be there or that you as a parent will handle every situation perfectly. Hospitals are a scary place and children will communicate that fear in many different ways. A normally talkative and enjoyable child can suddenly start acting out and withdrawing emotionally. Don’t force a kid to be happy to be there. Give them honest and age appropriate answer to their questions. Be there with them, love them, and keep your boundaries. Sometimes a child will test to see “How sick am I?“ by seeing how much they get away with. The more a child suddenly gets away with, the more sick they will believe they are. Remembering that will help a lot. And remembering to take breaks will help you a lot as well. Parents can be scared too, but we try not to show it because we don’t want to scare our kids. Be patient and understanding of yourself as well.

I brought Dillon’s homework with him thinking he would be able to work on it while we were there. This child was so sleep deprived, because of the type of testing we were doing, that he wasn’t able to work on it. And that’s okay. Work with the school and teachers for an extension on missed assignments if need be.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself. Most of the people on the ward were locals and had multiple families members there to help them. That isn’t always the case, and sometimes you’ll find yourself the primary caretaker while your child is in the hospital. Don’t be afraid to take walks from time to time (just check with the nurse first) or to eat downstairs. Mom’s and Dad’s need quiet moments too. What parents are offered to sleep on might not be the best accommodations (I had a hard mat-like couch thing) but do try to sleep or rest. I know it’s hard, I spent more time laying awake listening for Dillon than I did sleeping, but do try.

And take advantage of the things the hospital does offer. The child care people offered to come in and play games with Dillon to give me a break – but I didn’t take advantage of that. Hospitals also have chaplains available to talk too.. Just to talk to if you need a spiritual pick me up.

It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a new diagnosis or a long term issue, every step, every test, every something new brings it own challenges, fears and / or joys. Have a support group of friends and family to talk to and lean on. Don’t be super Mom (or Dad) and think you have to do it all by yourself. You don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

A Mother’s Guilt and God’s Grace for Parents.

There is nothing that shows the truth about relationships like being under video surveillance for 48 hours – with a teenager to humble you – or me rather. What on earth made me think I could handle that trip alone is beyond me… That was mistake – and a good experience all at once. It didn’t matter what I did – I felt guilty. I hated making him be there, but knew we had to be. I hated leaving my oldest behind – but knew he could handle it. And I hated watching my baby go through things a mom doesn’t want to happen. I felt guilty when I stayed, when I corrected unacceptable behavior and I felt guilty when I left the room for walks, or coffee or whatever. I only left him alone maybe three or four times a day. I needed those quiet times to pray or find other parents who were also someplace they didn’t want to be, looking for answers and healing as well. But I still felt guilty. False shame hits the best of all of us some days.

Dillon and I spent three days in a Fort Worth hospital, trying to find answers for his epilepsy. Neither of us wanted to be there really. Who would? I wanted answers and was willing to stay to find them. Dillon just wanted out of there, and definitely did not like the sticks (5 in all) , the wires, the food, or the camera. Or sharing a room with MOM of all people for three days straight. Not only did the staff get to see his seizures and eeg activity – they got to see the honesty of how a Mom and teenage son relate during three stressful days of constant activity, boredom, and no sleep. Oh yes, we gave them a great stress study. Mom’s and sons can get snippy with each other. 😉 Even snippy, they still love each other. Though I will agree that special needs nurses do not necessarily have a sense of humor. There were jokes that we shared that he thought were funny, but no one else did.

They don’t have many teenagers in that ward. Mostly they deal with young children – thankfully there were staff who had teenagers, and they understood the looks, the sighs and the breaks.

I can think of 100 things I could have done differently – but really, I’m just trying to change the reality of his being mad about being there. He had the right to be mad, and I kept the line of being mad is okay, taking it out on others is not. The rules at home still apply. I needed to let go of making it all okay – because it really wasn’t. Not for him anyway. There was no way Dillon was going to talk to me about what was going on in his thoughts and emotions while the camera was rolling. Conversation was not what he wanted. He had my company though – he knew I was there for him and with him. I did succeed in getting him to play with the Wii – I was so bad at the pool game he just had to help. Score one for mom. Mostly though, he drew – or watched a sports game or played on my laptop – he found a games web page. He wanted to speak to no one..

What they didn’t see – was the ride home. About halfway home tensions released and our relationship showed the other side – the best parts of honesty, communication and love. A child who will allow me to touch him and tell him I love him – but only when no one is looking. I would try to touch him in the hospital and he’d pull away in anger and teenage disgust. And yet riding home, listening to a metal station for part of the ride and comparing it to the rock music of my day – we find a middle road and grace in a changing relationship. Riding home, away from the cameras – he could find his voice and feel my touch.

Raising boys, is harder than I ever imagined it would be and yet God’s grace is sufficient and never ending. And his love – like a mother’s – knows no end.

No Pictures MOM!

We arrived at the Cook’s Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth at about 11:15 yesterday morning. It’s a 5 1/2 hour drive from Broken Arrow.

I am presently sleep deprived so I apologize now for all typos and grammatical errors. 😉

I wanted to document this trip a bit, but Dillon won’t allow pictures. I don’t blame him really. He thinks the fewer people who know we are here, the better. I, however believe in the power of prayer. And we have friends who genuinly care and want to stay updated.

There was a time when Dillon would laugh and joke about epilepsy. “What does a seizure look like? Well, ever catch a fish and watch it bounce on the deck? Kinda like that.” but at 15, after years of hoping, wishing, and praying this would go away, his sense of humor is gone. He’s turning bitter over this, and I’m presently at a loss as to how to teach him to find the humor and joy in the midst of it all. But we keep trying.

I did discover last night that they do have wi-fi afterall. Facebook and myspace are blocked, but blogger is open. So I’ll post my updates here. Facebook feeds from here so I’m hoping this works.

Yesterday was a normal day as far as registration and such went on. Cooks is much larger than Saint Francis and finding our way through the castled walls (Yes, it looks like a castle for the most part) took some time. But we found our way with a little help from our friends on staff.

The staff here is excellent. Our first person to meet was Donnie our paramedic. He plays soccer just like Dillon does. That helped bond them a bit while Donnie took his stats. Our Day nurse Jenn, is a young gal, full of energy and has a small stud on her nose. Dillon liked her pretty fast. I’m feeling my age. I look at these “kids” on the floor who aren’t much older than Charlie and remember they’ve already been through college and know far more that I ever could about medicine.

I forgot the name of his eeg tech, but she will be back today. She is about 47 and has – SIX kids of her own. Born and raised in the Fort Worth area. The fact that I try to hold conversations with everyone I met yesterday – drove him insane. By the end of the day, he was ready to disown me. Conversing was not what he wanted with anyone including me.

After meeing Doctor Malik and his nurse practioner Esther (I love that name!), I felt a little more confident in this trip. Dr Malik has ordered not only the video EEG, but also an MRI, Cat Scan and PET scan. The pet scan sounds the coolest. Modern technology is great. They will put Dillon on a no caffine and no sugar diet for Wednesday thus depriving his brain of sugar. Then on Thursday they will inject a dye that mimics sugar to the brain. The parts of the brain that are not effected by the seizures will soak up the sugar/die. The parts effected by the seizures will not. Is that not cool or what? For the first time in eight years, we will be able to find what parts of the brain are effected. Normally they guess at it, buy the seizure types and what part of the body is impacted. It’s a mirror. If the left side of the body is what is moving, then the seizure is usually in the right side of the brain. Now we have a shot at getting more information.

his night nurse is Kim – another Mom like me. Closer to my age, maybe a little older. Very warm and very kind. And very nurturing. Telling me to make sure that I also take care of myself and that they will take care of both of us while we are here, not just Dillon.

They took Dillon off his meds yesterday, and true to form he did have a seizure at about 6 am. They caught the whole thing on tape and on the EEG. I’m thrilled. The staff came in and the nurse spoke to the camera about the stuff the camera couldn’t see. normal stuff really. The only thing that caught me was “His lips are gray. He’s not breathing well.” It was over almost as soon as it started, and he came to looking for me.

I do get to sleep in the same room. They have a couch/bed thing with a hard foam mattress. Sleep is not really the right word – it’s more like lay down, close your eyes and listen all night. That and jump five feet when they come in to take his stats. But I think I got a couple of hours, so we’re good.

Not much more to write at this moment. I’ll post more as the day or week progresses. God bless.

Things a Mom Says

I wish I’d written them down. You know those things you wind up saying as a mom that you can’t believe you’ve ever said? Those really weird phrases that go beyond the momisms like “brush your teeth and sit up straight” to the realm of “wow, blue hair. Nice. Yes you can keep it for the summer.” And “no you cannot get your (fill in any body part except ears here) pierced – you’re 12!”

I’ve said a lot of things over the years I can’t repeat mainly because my boys trust me and they are too personal. (They save the really shocking and personal stuff for when Dad is out of town. I return the favor by being equally shocking, honest and personal back. It’s fun.)

There are also other times though that invoke a different type of communication from me. Some of this communication involves my screaming and scrambling behind my sofa (snakes in the house) and others bring out simpler questions like, “So are you trying to kill yourself or did you just want to give me a stroke?”

I have actually learned phrases like “Is there blood? No. Then you’ll live.” And so will I.

And yes, I’ve even said over the years – “Just how stupid do you think I am?”

Never ask a child that, they might tell you.

This weekend, I added two new phrases to my book of I cannot believe I said that statements.

1. “No, you cannot climb onto the roof to make your go-cart look like it’s flying away.”


2. “You cannot send a toad into outer space with helium balloons, let it go and use a GI Joe instead please.”

It’s all in a day’s work.

Speaking of a days work, Anita Renfroe (one of my favorite women of all time) put together a video clip of everything a mom might say in a day to music. Enjoy.

Blogging updates

I’ve been using myspace to blog this year and while it *is* a blogging tool, it really isn’t. Aside from my caretaking responsibilities and being a SAHM, I’ve also started two key projects that I promised myself I’d write about. So, for those of you who followed me here from myspace, thank you. If you see some re-written stuff please stay with me while I write through the gardening and remodeling adventures from a new angle. Thanks.

This was my blog from May – revisiting a promise I’d made to myself. I’m learning – Thelma told me not to parrot, I read somewhere “don’t be a spiritual bulemic”, and Carol and friends taught me about aim. Juggling all of those have given me writers block. The good news though – the fog is lifting and even though my writing has been in my journal and not here – it is getting better and once I take the time to edit before I put it up, the results will be worth it.

May 31, 2008
You know, I’d promised myself that I was going to take more time in my writing, and stop this off the cuff stuff and really write again. I haven’t done it. I also promised I’d lose weight, get organized, quite smoking (fat chance), be well… more like Donna Reed (fatter chance) and edit my blogs before I publish them to check for typos.

To those to young to know or care who Donna Reed is… think Martha Stewart minus the OCD. Donna Reed was one of those wonder moms on TV, always looked nice, always had the right things to say, her kids never swore at her or any of that. Donna was cool. I’m not Donna – I’m a cross between Erma Bombeck and Rosanne Barr – only better looking.

Anyway – this is one of those, I’m writing to write days.

My garden gave me the beautiful gift of a climbing rosebush in bloom. I have over a dozen roses ready to pop at any moment. A few already have and they are the most beautiful shade of salmon pink I can imagine. I love it. That makes up for my now completely dead front rose garden – it seems I moved four roses bushes that were contaminated with FireBlight and well, killed the whole kaboodle. oh well. At least I have my climber.

I wrote a beautiful rant today about tag ripping and so called signature tag artists who take our work off of photobucket – remove our watermarks, copyrights and licences and have the nerve to add their name to it. It was great, and it’s lost in cyber space… guess myspace wasn’t in a rant allowing mood today.

I love being a jewlery artist (A PAID ONE NOW BTW _ THAT MAKES ME OFFICIAL W00T!) – I love learning how to create signature tags and work with commisioned artists and I love keeping the laws and rules surrounding thier work.

Why? Beacuse I want people to do the same with me, and with my husband (Song writer / Singer) – It’s just stealing otherwise. Artists work hard to create their work – we spend hours on our stuff – a piece of our souls goes into everything we create.

Even when I did comedy – I tried really hard not to be a hack – (Someone who steals and uses other people’s jokes) and did my own. I’ve written jokes on here from time to time – but I always gave credit. It’s the right thing to do.

I’ve learned a ton in the last few years – studying comedy, working on my art, planting a garden that I really hope doesn’t die, and trying to write. I like some things enough to keep at it like jewelry design (I’m getting really good), I like some things enough to simply watch – like stand up – laughing at a joke is waaaay more fun to me than telling one.

I also learned a few weeks ago that I do not HAVE to pray with everyone who offers to pray with me. Someone wanted to pray with me and jeff and in her prayers asked God to return the love to our marriage. I almost smacked her.

There are good prayers – and there are mean prayers… to pray something like THAT uninvited with no real knowledge of the relationship or the people is just wrong. Her pray implied that love had left, which is far from the case.

And I learned that the pain caused by my people pleasing – (makeing myself smile and not hit her) far exceeded anything I would have experienced had I simply spoken up and said “WOW, that was out of line.” Why? Because I would have gotten it out that minute and not still harboring it three weeks later. That’s why. People pleasing silence leads to poisonous resentment in me.

And on an up note, I learned I really do not want to witness my son’s root canals ever again. (He’s 15 with his first real cavity and it needed a root canal, poor guy) They brought me in yesterday for moral support. I found him laying on a vibrating chair, with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and cartoons to watch over head. He was fine.

Me? They stuck me in the corner in a straightback chair with no sedation (yeah make a mom watch someone drill in her kids mouth and not sedate her – smart move doc!) and nothing to watch but my son so that I could pounce on Mr Endonstist the minute my son shows any pain whatsoever. He didn’t and I got bored. The doctor had fun watching me curl up in the fetal postion and hide my face from time to time though – I was little queazy. Yep – that was a fun way to spend two hours.

Gotta go.. my peanutbutter chocolate chunk supreme frozen cookie dough is here. I know Donna Reed would have made her cookies from scratch. But hey, at least I’m making cookies for boys! It’s a start.

My Son’s Search for Manhood

“Boys will be boys” or so the saying goes. But I’m struggling with what that really means right now. My boys are “almost 15” and 17 and both seem to be asking the same questions, “Am I a man?” when I’m still looking at them as my boys.

My youngest just finished Middle School – thank God. And I’m torn between giving myself a medal for surviving it and more truthfully – giving him one. Middle School is rough – Lord of the Flies rough. And somehow kids survive. My oldest survived by internalizing his emotions and my youngest – gives voice to everything, every change, every annoyance, every joy. I’m grateful for his transparency and really want to treat his adolescence as more than something that needs to be endured until he “out grows it.” I’m not raising boys, I’m raising men and I have no clue how to do that – why should I? I’m a female. Their world is so much different than mine. But I am trying to learn.

We got called into school last week because my youngest had come in under their radar. They wanted to know if he was happy – he’s been moody this year – and if there was anything going on that they wanted to know. Where do I begin? He’s struggling with his grades and afraid he won’t be allowed back for high school (he’s been accepted and is happy now) Girls are becoming more of a romantic interest than a platonic one, and he wants freedom. He’s looking for a rite of passage.

For three years (6th grade twice, and 7th grade) he was the smallest and weakest – THIS year puberty hit and he’s grown 6 inches, gained 20 lbs of solid muscle – the girls in his class have gone from mothering him to trying to romance him and he’s just taking it all in. And he’s re-merging with the boys in his class who are rough and tumble and learning how to effectively stand his ground in their midst without being over aggressive and overly passive. Granted he’s doing it with the grace of an elephant in toe shoes – but he is doing it.

This rough and tumble age of aggression with the boys has me startled and amazed. They “play fight” – poke and jab, punch and pinch until someone gets mad and someone gets hurt. They have a code that even I can’t break – they won’t “tell” because some how that effects their peer approval and disputes are “handled” among themselves. No one is getting stuffed into lockers, but someone was “almost” given a swirly. They are brutal with each other in PE – “Racking” is the newest game that is totally unacceptable to me – but part of what they do? I don’t’ get it. Apparently pecking order is being determined among themselves. No one person is bullying anyone else – it’s not like that. I can’t even really describe it. This particular group of boys seems to be navigating this time of transition with their own rituals and discoveries. Despite the apparent violence – both verbal and at times physical – these boys have been together for the last three years – they trust each other in ways I don’t understand. They have each other’s back in more ways than one.

Even though our church offers a religious right of passage in 6th grade called confirmation, I firmly believe that our society has become overly civilized and as a result forces our boys to create their own rites. In my Indian heritage on my maternal mother’s side – young men were sent into the wilderness to survive for several days on their own and to hunt. When they returned with their prize – either a bear or a panther or whatever there was a ceremony and they were accepted “as a man.” We really don’t do that today.

I should be grateful – adolescent males can make other rites of passage – in looking to the “Am I a Man” question – they’ll start smoking, use drugs, drink alcohol, or become sexually active. These things aren’t happening in this group. They are more aware of their surroundings and each other. Their morals and beliefs are still firmly grounded in Christ – and I’m happy for that. They are aware of how their behavior effects others and they are understanding cause and effect and consequences.

This is an age where these boys need strong male influences. While I’m a good one to bounce things off of, and give comfort on the increasingly rare occasions that I’m asked – this really isn’t my world. I feel lost more often than not.

My oldest – chose not to fight his way through this stage of peer development – he was the new kid in 8th grade. He had enough to content with what with his school closing and being forced to leave his friends behind. He simply chose to passively accept his place as low man on the food chain. For him – he didn’t come into his own until later in high school – and only after we changed schools. He’s settling in now, but to be honest – I kinda feel like I failed in the navigation with him. I’m glad though that he is finding his way and learning not only where he stands, but how to stand.

We are looking for ways this summer to help our youngest find these answers in healthy ways with safe boundaries. And true to form – I’m going to be reading a lot.

Some things I’ve found so far: _Am I a Man?

Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa pointed out that all children, regardless of ethnic milieu, come to a watershed moment, during the teenage years, when they begin looking beyond themselves. In a very real sense, they awaken to the rest of society. This awakening is a time to celebrate their gifts, look for ways to fit into their community, and grapple with how to make the world a better place. But adolescence is a delicate time, far more tender, in some ways, than early childhood. The boy is not a child any longer, and he is not a man. Developmentally excluded from the community of childhood, ambivalent about adulthood, he faces two choices: to join the ranks of responsible adults (provided such exist!), or to band together with his peers in an alternate society, parallel and in many ways counter to the rest of the culture. Without guidance, too many of our boys choose the second option by default. While some traditional societies mentor the young through these “years of change,” in ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America this most important life passage is often treated like an extended period of sickness, to be endured with much complaining on all sides until it (hopefully) passes. (Scary thought – Deana)

ReadStart reading about rites of passage. It’s too easy for us to hear a concept, and rather than search it out, to start planning a meeting or an event. Resist doing anything until you start reading about ministry to teenage boys. Read before doing anything else, let it slowly simmer, then allow it to boil. Here are some of the top ten resources I’ve read this year (in no particular order) that might be of help to you.
Passed Thru the Fire by Rick Bundschuh (Tyndale, summer 2003), suggests that we get boys connected and integrated with godly men in the church. This is a fun, fast, and excellent book. He has created a outdoor event for males to be published by Standard Publishing called The Passed Thru Fire Experience.
Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis (Tyndale, 1997), has been an extremely popular book that focuses on the relationship between father and son. Lewis suggests a public ceremony for the teenage male before friends, family, and a community of men.
Professor Richard Ross pleas for a Christian Bar Mitzvah. He has created an experience for a parent and a youth that flows across 30 evenings as a prelude to a Christian bar mitzvah. Check out his Web site at
A Tribe Apart by Patricia Hersh (Ballantine, 1998) suggests that American teens today are “more isolated and more unsupervised than other generations,” and need mentors. A provocative and shocking book.
Richard Dunn’s Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students (Intervarsity, 2001) identifies teenagers’ alienation and disconnection with significant adults and calls for adults to “pace” and then help shape teens’ lives spiritually.
Wild at Heart (Nelson, 2001) is John Eldredge’s challenge to give up making young men “good boys” and recognize that boys were created with a “desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” Eldredge states that boys are meant to be “warriors.”
Michael Gurian’s A Fine Young Man (Putnam, 1998) is a compelling resource dealing with developmental issues of adolescent boys. Gurian has done extensive homework on each stage of adolescence and uses terminology like “journey” and “pilgrimage.” His view of ages 9-13, called “the age of transformation,” is particularly fascinating.
Young Lions: Christian Rites of Passage for African-American Young Men by Chris McNair (Abingdon, 2001) is an outstanding resource to enable African-American youth to “be the men that God created them to be.” This school-year mentoring program is extremely practical.
Spiritual Milestones by Jim and Janet Weidmann and J. Otis Ledbetter (Cook Com, 2002) deals with celebrating the various spiritual passages with your children and youth.
Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage, edited by Louise Carus Mahdi, Nancy Christopher, and Michael Meade. (Open Court Publishing, 1996) is a detailed work of various rites with a wide range of sociological and theological world views.