Thursday, June 26, 2014

What a Wonderful Life

Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World is one of my all time favorite songs. It just makes me so grateful for this thing called life even with all of its bumps and bruises.

Last night at the farmer's market, the air was balmy, families were out and about, vendors had the best food and fruits and in the midst of all this there was an artist singing her rendition of this song and it put me in an even more pleasant frame of mind. I had just completed a 3 mile run with a running group. My girlfriend and I did it together - it was a new experience for both of us that turned out pretty well.

Life has been wonderful of late even though I'm still job hunting and have been dealing with some things on the personal front.

I have dear friends in my life; really true and deep good friends and though they all  aren't physically close when we speak, I am refreshed. The friends that I call friends respect me and respect my faith to the point where I'm often asked to lift up needs in prayer. I don't mind this at all because there's an acknowledgement of something greater, and who knows what they've seen reflected in my life.

As a family we have been having quite a pleasant time of late. We're having more deep and fulfilling conversations, laughing more and even started walking together in the evenings.

So at the farmer's market last night, when I heard this song, I thought, What a Wonderful Life.  Things could be worse, they always can be, but right now it seems wonderful.

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Life is hard, but please choose to see the good in this wonderful world we live in. 

Have you ever heard this song? What's wonderful with you?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Reflections

I'm grateful to my father - for he was the first reflection of what I thought a father should be. As an adult, I've had conversations with my father about parenthood. His love was unwavering, but looking back there are always things one can do differently, as he has said.
Be that as it may, I have a distinct memory of my dad and I going to McDonald's together during the 84 Olympics. I was 18 at the time, and I'm not sure what prompted the occasion. What I do remember is us being at McDonald's together, sitting, talking and laughing. They had these tear-off games on the fries where you could win additional prizes. My dad was smiling and encouraging me to play. I think I won another order of fries, which we shared.  This memory is in direct contrast to my years growing up with my dad, because he was the disciplinarian, and as a child I could not appreciate this role. I actually did not know what to think of him, but that day at McDonald's made me realize that he was all right. It probably was one of the only times that we have done something like that. Still makes me smile when I think about it.

Memories make an impression. I couldn't articulate to anyone what I was looking for when I found my husband but I am certain he had to possess certain qualities that I had seen reflected all my life. Qualities like:

  • A strong faith in God
  • Quiet yet outspoken
  • Wise
  • An appreciation for life

I found these and more in my husband and today I am glad for the father he is and has been to our children. I am so grateful that they see strong quiet leadership at home. That they see someone who always tries to walk out what they preach. Someone who is silly. Someone who is sensitive. Someone who has shown my children what it means to be a father and a husband.

When I read the Bible I see many imperfect fathers. I also see where God intervenes. Fathers aren't called to be perfect but they are called to be responsible for their offspring...and as my father would say, "to raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 1 Corinthians 6:13The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.; Psalms 103:13

He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Thank you Father.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If a Child Lives With......

On a recent episode of Chopped, one of the contestants was so scarred by his childhood, that even as a professional chef he never felt he was good enough. He was harder on himself than the judges and the irony is that what he was presenting was really good.  He won the competition that night.

I felt sorry watching him because even though he appeared as an adult, he presented himself as a child still waiting on his parent's validation. His back story was that he had a military dad who was very hard on him; nothing he did was good enough. He left home at 17 and never looked back physically, but was always looking back mentally. He never blossomed.

Parenting is hard. There are guidelines and principles but then each child is different. Sometimes as parents we think we are doing right by our children, but if we stepped back we may see that we are not. Times are different - when I was coming up I felt I had no choice but to do what my parents wanted. However my personality is and was such, that I never felt beaten down or less than by their demands. I did hate getting a beating, so I made sure that I avoided this punishment as much as I could. When I became a parent, it became apparent to me what my parents in particular were dealing with and what it means to be a parent in general. Parenting is hard.

There is a poem called Children Learn What They Live and there is one line in particular that resonates with me, which I've highlighted below.

Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte (1924 - 2005)
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
BUT (I've inserted the but since positive attributes are highlighted from this point on)
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
The need for encouragement never ends for both parent and child. I have realized this as I see my young adults navigate this world. And if it is all I can do to encourage them, then that is what I will do. I know how good it feels to receive encouragement; as a parent I will do my best to encourage my children.

What have your children lived? Does this poem challenge you as a parent?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Body and Soul

Every time a shooting tragedy occurs, one of the phrases and causes bandied about is usually "mental illness". Mental illness seems to be an enigma that no one can get a handle on. While I always feel bad for the victims, my brain often wonders how the parents of the shooter felt. As a parent, watching a child wrestle with mental illness has got to be a challenge. In some cases the parents were aware, but nothing they did seemed to make a differences. In other cases, it became clear at the instant of the tragedy.

I think one of the things that sets mental illness apart from other ailments is the inability of the sufferer to recognize his mental impairment. Dr. Woods, a forensic psychiatrist sums it up in this question: I'd want to know, what kept you from having the insight to say, "This is a problem for me, I need to get some help?" Usually, once a person becomes aware, it's the first step in addressing a problem.

This was one of the better articles I have read on the subject of mental illness, and I learned about Dr. Woods who I had not heard of prior to the article. Dr. Woods is a Bay Area forensic and neuro-psychiatrist who consults in courts of law across the nation about his understanding of mental illness and crime. At UC Berkeley's law school, he team teaches a class in law and mental health, and he teaches too at Morehouse College's medical school in Atlanta.

I won't pretend to have any solutions, because I don't. This is an area that concerns me greatly and sometimes weighs heavily on my mind. If you're dealing with what may be a mental illness, there is no shame as we are body and soul intertwined. Just as the body may be come sick so too can the soul. I know pray is not the only resolution, but I believe its a great place to start. I'm not attempting to over simplify what is very complicated, I just wanted to bring it to the forefront of your minds.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

What are your thoughts on mental illness?