Remembrances and Winding Country Roads

remembranceswindingroads10My son and I are driving to Meramec State Park on a sultry day. Windows down, Hank the Cowdog  audio book streaming from speakers, happiness floating from our throats.

We are traversing windy country roads dotted with homes tucked between tree groves, limestone cliffs covered with vegetation, rolling hills softened by grass and trees. Two hours and one wrong turn later, as well as a stop to relieve growing bladders, we turn onto a stretch of roller coaster road. Not the adult ride, but the dips of the juvenile coaster.

We get about 3 miles down the road and suddenly thoughts, no memories, overtake my brain. Hank and his trying to solve the mystery of the windmill are tuned out as my body stiffens.

remembranceswindingroads6remembranceswindingroads4Our family had been driving back from Meramec State Park a few years ago, after spending several days together with another family. We had gotten to that up and down stretch of road, about 15 minutes from the park, after tearful goodbyes and jubilant waving of arms, and the man of the house had turned to me and asked why I hadn’t packed anything to drink for the canoe trip.

I was puzzled. I had remained home with the mother and baby and not gone canoeing that year, but I had packed water for the trip.

Then he asked where were the sandwiches?

I told him I had made them that morning and I had tucked them in the lunch for everyone.

He insisted they were not in the lunch. That they had no water or much of anything to eat during the long canoe ride.

His words stung. Hadn’t he seen me making lunch that morning for everyone?

Back and forth words poured unfiltered. Finally, I had set there quiet and hurt and he had sat there angry and hungry from lack of lunch.

The words, tone, and anger sloshed through my mind as I re-drove that road heading back towards the park for the first time since that fight. Suddenly the road had lost some of its charm and sunshine.

I confess I felt anger and then sadness cursing through my veins. And then I remembered that the family had sent an email that evening explaining that when they were packing to go home they had found all this food and the water that somehow had failed to get into the canoes. It was, of course, the missing lunch items.

remembranceswindingroads7remembranceswindingroads9Smells can bring recall memories, especially of childhood. But so can sight and location.

I thought about how caustic words can be, even when we don’t mean them to be. And I wondered if my caustic words had soured an experience or place for others. How often did unpleasant memories wash over my husband or children because of things I had said to them?

I wondered if instead of sitting in silence that day after the fight about the missing food and germinating our bad thoughts, if we had been quick to apologize and offer forgiveness would my memories be different? I think so. It would have cleansed the self-righteousness between us. Restored our relationship to rightness.

remembranceswindingroadsquote1How quick we must be to say we are sorry if we are to avoid silence and moody feelings and the back and forth game of guilt and blame. 

If a certain location can remind us of negative words, the opposite is also true. Words of hope, love, and kindness can make a place come alive and color a memory good.

I can still remember standing in the kitchen, hands juicy from cutting up fruit, my mind busy with daydreams, and dad, who was passing through the kitchen on his way outside to one of his never-ending chores, came up and hugged me and kissed me. Then he looked me in the eyes and thanked me for making supper. Thanked me for being his daughter. I won’t forget that. That location in the kitchen is brighter in my memory than the rest of the kitchen.

remembranceswindingroads11remembranceswinding-roads12remembranceswindingroads5I want to make good memories. Wash out the bad memories. So as we ride the up and down road to the park, I think of my husband and our awkward first meeting, and how he pushed his brother aside to introduce himself to me. And then in the silence that followed, he was trying to say something funny to get me to laugh, but it was so awkward and his joke was so pitiful and hopeful, and I was so shocked at this bold boy. In his complete nervousness he attempted another quip, this one even worse, that soon we had to laugh or the floor might have swallowed us both. Who knew we would soon be unable to live without the other?

I zoom up a hill and then down a little bit faster.

“Mom!” my son says in surprise.

And I grin at him; Hank is still blaring and my son and I start laughing and the road seems now like a bright beginning. A trail of love.  

“The tongue has the power of life
and death, and those who love it
will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

 

Lord, help me remember that my words bring life or death. Create good memories or bad. Spread hope or fear. Instill pride or shame.

For Discussion:  Do you find memories and words tied together in your life? What are some words that spoke to your heart and brought forth life and hope?

Joining the Leaf Crazies

leafcrazies2leafcrazies1Do you ever remember something you said, or perhaps did, and get embarrassed? You inwardly cringe or give a nervous giggle? Or maybe you wish you could go back and change time with just a little turn or a small eraser?

Well I do that, sometimes. Especially this time of year.

It’s fall and the deciduous leaves are changing into crayon box colors of brightness and I remember our trip back east and cringe just a bit.

leafcrazies5I was in my twenties, our daughter was 3, maybe 4, and we were on a plane from Seattle to Boston. It was fall, end of September, beginning of October and we were heading back for a week and a half to attend a conference and sight see and explore.

There we were on the plane for hours and I was busy trying to entertain our daughter and read my book and control my excitement.

I finally settled down to read and as I am opening my book my ears perk up at my neighbor’s conversation.

“So why you headed out east?”

“To see the leaves.”

“Me too.”

“You ever seen them?”

‘No. You?”

“No, but people say it’s an unforgettable experience.”

leafcrazies3 leafcrazies4The leaves, I thought, and started laughing quietly. Who were these people who were flying from Seattle to Boston to view leaves? Botanists? Leaf Professors?

I casually observed them. Yup, they were definitely too old for very much excitement. Maybe colored leaves was all the adrenaline shooting excitement their poor hearts could manage.

I glanced down at my book. Then my ears pricked up again. This time the people in front of us were talking. And if it wasn’t the exact same conversation. People going out to view leaves. A little later I heard people talking behind us about the same exciting thing. Leaf viewing.

Who were these people, I wondered? Was I on a plane with a bunch of crazies who were spending money and traveling across the continent to see a few leaves when a drive into our mountains would have been a much cheaper alternative? Did they have so much free time they were filling it with leaf study?

We landed, and while we were standing in line waiting for our rental car, I told my husband about the loonies on the plane who had flown all this way to look at leaves. “Who are weird these people?” I asked, poking fun at them.

Now Seattle has mainly Evergreen trees that stay a dark green year round and don’t provide any spectacular color anytime of the year. Although they do drop ugly sharp dead brown needles that are annoying. In the mountains, there are patches of more deciduous trees that turn color in the fall and this is the place people around Seattle go to see color.

I had been into our mountains in the fall numerous times and I couldn’t even fathom someone spending money to see mountain fall colors thousands of miles away.

leafcrazies6We checked into our hotel for the night and collapsed from flying exhaustion.

Next day we were driving to Lowell and I saw this brilliant purple tree aflame in a leaf color I had never seen. It was so bright I practically needed my sun glasses.

“Stop the car!” I shouted.

Then I ran out and took some pictures and picked up a few leaves.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” I asked hubby. “Purple leaves?”

Frankly, I ended up eating crow. We didn’t go back specifically to see the leaves, but they ended up becoming a main part of our focus. We skipped part of the conference and drove through lower Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York just marveling in the beauty of the leaves. The sheer number of deciduous trees. The colors that were so bright and bold and so unlike trees we had ever seen clothed before.

Suddenly what the people had said and that I had been laughing at, made sense. I became one of those leaf hunting, searching, gazing people who were pulling off at overlooks to just stand and stare in awe and take pictures. I also was collecting and pressing leaves in a book.

It was so beautiful we talked about moving back east, and then a native reminded us that it only looked like this a few weeks of the year.

leafcrazies7 leafcrazies8A few days after we had landed and became enthralled with the leaves, some family flew in and we were having dinner with them. They asked what we recommended for sightseeing, and we gushed about the leaves. On and on we talked, and they looked at us with blank expressions. Clearly we were now the loonies.

“Seeing the leaves is spectacular,” I tried to explain, “like experiencing an optical orgasm,” I gushed, then blushed.

Two of them choked on their dinner and almost needed the Heimlich maneuver. My husband raised his eye brows and nodded at our daughter.

Okay, maybe I had become one of those crazies on the plane who was searching for the leaves of all leaves.

Here I was gushing about leaves, these unexpected blessing, when days earlier I had been laughing and thinking arrogant and judgmental thoughts about people like who I had become.

I think about this experience every fall and think it would be fun to head east again and see the florescent leaves, and then I laugh and remind myself not to make the same mistake again.

I am learning that it often better to just nod, smile, and maybe ask a question when someone says something I think is so outrageous that I want to burst out laughing from the ridiculousness of it all.  Especially when it is about something I have no experience with.

Yes, I am trying to remember that sometimes it is best to reserve judgement until I have tried it. Or at least learned more about it.  

Because I never know when I may join them in their ridiculousness and even later recommend it to others.

leafcraziesquote

Join the Discussion: Do you have a similar experience? Have you made fun of something and then ended up liking it?


Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holly Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart)

Yay for Mistakes! Part 3, Responding to Our Children’s Mistakes

Many of us are afraid of making mistakes because we associate making mistakes with something bad. Something to be avoided at all costs.

I developed this attitude as a child. I lived in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Of making a mistake and people not liking me. Of embarrassing myself. Of my pride being hurt. And worst of all, of not being loved.

It took years to realize that I was not my mistakes. That my worth was not dependent on what I did or did not do. It took making lots of mistakes to see that making mistakes is a natural part of learning, living, and being human. I had to learn to quit beating myself up and quit equating mistakes with sin. Over time, I began to start seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity.

Remember it is not the mistakes that matter, it is what we do after our mistakes that is important.

As a parent, I want my children to have a better life than I had. I also want my children to not be afraid of making mistakes. I want them to be able to stand up and yell, “Yay for mistakes.”

So how can we give our children the freedom to make mistakes, teach our children that it is alright to make mistakes, and show them how to learn from their mistakes?

First, we need to start being role models We need to quit beating ourselves up for our own mistakes, and instead learn from them. Laugh at them.

When we talk about our mistakes and what we learned from them, we are showing our children how to approach their own mistakes. When we laugh at our mistakes and not let them ruin our day, we are communicating that mistakes don’t have a lot of power over us and that it is alright to make mistakes.

Here are some things I am trying to teach my children about making mistakes. How to learn from mistakes:

Making mistakes is a normal part of life and learning.

 

A toddler can’t learn to walk without falling a lot of times. An artist will have to draw hundreds of hands before they master drawing them. No one can learn to play the piano without hitting a plethora of bad notes. The first attempt at cleaning the toilet will not be the best. A first interview is often like a bad movie and lingers for a while.

When our children start beating themselves up after a mistake, remind them that they need to make a lot of mistakes to learn something. Remind them that mistakes are a big part of learning.

Sometimes I just shout, “Yay for mistakes!” Yes, it seems silly, but the point is to break the mood. Maybe we start giggling. The point is to remind them that mistakes don’t have to be these serious things we need to be afraid of. Mistake are evidence of trying.

It must be sinking in because sometimes when I make a mistake, my children will remind me that it is all part of learning and it is alright. “You just pulled a Theresa,” they say.

Is it a mistake or lack of knowledge?

 

Sometimes we get more upset when we make a mistake doing something we know we are good at than when we make a mistake at something we are not good at.

I have a child that is great at math, but can get frustrated when he gets a problem wrong. I like to say, “Yay! A learning opportunity! Now let’s put our detective hats on and discover where the mistake is.”

We both look at the problem and either he will find it or I will. Often it is a silly mistake, a step inverted or forgotten, and I will say, “Oh, look at this silly mistake. You inverted the steps. Silly you.” On a good day, he will see it and we both laugh. “You know how to do this problem, you just made a silly mistake,” I say.

He corrects his problem and off we go.

Sometimes he makes the mistake because he doesn’t know how to do the problem. Then I say, “Great! An opportunity to learn. How exciting!” And then I figure out what he doesn’t understand and reteach him.

Now this may seem silly, but it works in our house and communicates to him that mistakes are alright in school work. In fact, I will remind him that when we make mistakes and correct them, we have less chance of making the mistake in the future.

How many of us got a word wrong in a spelling bee and when we heard the correct spelling we kicked ourselves in the brain? But the thing is, we have never forgotten how to spell that word again. Realizing our mistakes and correcting our mistakes cements that learning into our minds.

That is what life is about – learning. That is what school is about – learning. If you are learning, then you are on the right track and doing what you are supposed to be doing. No matter how many tries it takes. No matter how long it takes.

Ask what they can learn from their mistake.

 

If your child comes home disappointed because they received a C on the last science test, now is the time to ask a question or two, not jump on them for their low grade. Asking, “Why do you think you got a C?” gets the child thinking about what they can learn from their mistake and then do differently. It also gives them power to change the future.

Maybe your child doesn’t know why they got a D. Throw out some questions. Did they think they were prepared? Were they especially nervous? Had they read the chapter? What did the other students get?

When your child identifies the reason and takes responsibility, this empowers them to focus on the future. Awareness and learning start to occur here.  We can’t change the past, only the future. This is why lecturing, guilting, and shaming don’t work.

If your child confesses they didn’t study, then say, “If you want a better grade next time you know that studying will help. Let me know if I can help you study for your next test.”

Praise them for trying and doing their best. [Not for being perfect.]

 

No one is perfect or can perform at a high level forever. Don’t just praise your child for getting A’s or winning an award. Instead, praise them for doing their best. For trying. For their perseverance. For their good attitude. For not losing their temper when it gets hard.

When my children feel bad about something, I ask, “Did you try? Did you do your best? Then quit beating yourself up. Your dad and I only ask that you try and do your best.”

If they didn’t do their best, then remind him there is a next time and ask what they can do to improve next time. The whole goal is to get them to learn from the experience.

Focus on what happens after the experience more than the experience itself.

 

Our children can get disappointed when they mess up. Remind them of what is most important.

One morning my son was lamenting about a back and forth exchange with his dad. I reminded him that it was more important what he did now, than their earlier word tussle. If he could admit his part, do the right thing now, and learn what to do and not do before the next time he and his dad went at it, then it will have been a valuable experience.

In order to change, we need to first be self aware and identify the problem. Then we can focus on steps to solve the problem. We as parents can help our children in this way by guiding the conversation by asking questions. Not lecturing or us doing the talking, but listening and asking questions.  

Grace and understanding go a long way.

 

Teach your children to forgive themselves and spread grace on their wounds. Remind them that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone.

If they are beating themselves up, ask them what advice they would give their best friend if they did what they did. This may show them that they are holding themselves to a higher standard than they are their friends.

Try different methods.

 

Say your child is making mistakes in forgetting to do their chores. Brainstorm with them ideas to help them remember. Pictures on their bathroom mirror. A chore chart on the fridge. It takes more time on my part, but if I make a list of tasks, the success rate jumps much higher at my house than when I just bark out tasks.

Asking their opinion about what would help them succeed, gives your child power and helps them learn about themselves. Are they a list maker? Does setting a timer and playing rousing music help cleaning go quicker? Perhaps listening to a book on tape helps them not get sidetracked in a chore.

Figure out how their brain is wired and discover their learning style.

Communicate unconditional love.

 

Remind them again and again that their mistakes do not determine their worth. Their day. Or even how much you love them.

Communicating to our children that mistakes are just a part of life and another way to learn is an ongoing process, but think of the rewards.

Our children may not be as afraid of making a mistake as most of us are.

Join the Discussion: How do you help your children deal with their mistakes?


Articles in this series on mistakes:

Part 1 of  Yay for Mistakes! What do You Do?
Part 2 of Yay for Mistakes! How to Respond
Part 3 of Yay for Mistakes! Responding to Our Children’s Mistakes
Part 4 of Yay for Mistakes! How to Let Our Children Fail and Make Mistakes
Part 5 of Yay for Mistakes! Quieting a Myth of Mistakes
Part 6 of Yay for Mistakes! Mistaking Our Worth
Part 7 of Yay for Mistakes! Mistaking Paradise
Part 8 of Yay for Mistakes! Some Mistakes are Really Blessings in Disguise
Part 9 of Yay for Mistakes! Dealing with Real Big Mistakes
Part 10 of Yay for Mistakes! Letting Go to Make Mistakes
Part 11 of Yay for Mistakes! Dealing with Critical Words From Mistakes

Accompanying this series, Life as it Comes, a story podcast, takes a humorous look at making mistakes in episode 31, “Have You Pulled a Theresa?” 

For another voice on the benefits of mistakes read The Value of Failure at (in)courage


Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart)