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GRADUATIONS EQUAL TRANSITIONS

Graduations … wow. It’s that time of the year again. No, not Christmas. Not that yet. It’s that time for endings. Curious timing for an ending when you think about it – essentially in the middle of the calendar year. The real issue is less about the ending. It’s more about the transitions both students and their families must process before the start of the next school year.

Most of us remember the heart-palpitating excitement, increasing frenetic energy, and wide-eyed thrill of the final bell ringing out the current school year. We’ve forgotten the impact of those transitions. In spite of how ready we felt for the next phase, a low current of fear coursed through our veins as to what was next.

The fear of the unknown.

For us now as parents, we face a similar but different kind of fear. One not so much about kids, although that does exist, rather more about ourselves. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Graduations

Eighth-grade “promotions” were deemed important to note the imminent start of high school. High school graduations signaled permanently-changed family dynamics. One little darling left the nest, siblings, and the comforts of home. Chores and responsibilities were left to be reshuffled. College graduations are more the mental game for us parents, shocked that our offspring are allegedly prepared to take responsibility to begin the rest of their lives. 

Likely, we are more shocked that we could be old enough to have children going to and/or graduating from college. (We can cover weddings and grandchildren in a future blog. I’m not quite there yet. This educational transition stuff is enough topic for one post!)

I Get You

This year, 2018, my husband and I face several of these blessed events. Our “baby” graduates from high school; our next “angel” graduates from college; and our eldest “brat” marries between winter holidays. My mother has lovingly suggested I take up drinking more Red Red Wine  (original version) … too bad I’m not much of a drinker.

In addition, we’ve put our house on the market to downsize. Talk about change! I’ve run to hide and share this experience with you, all while I finish the second book in that trilogy – yes, finally. (Fear not! Book 3 will not take as long!) … But I digress.

Spending too much time mourning the loss of your little pumpkin? Think you’re woefully inadequate now that they’re gone? Consider something more healing and forward thinking.

In fact, let me empower all parents.

Consider Yourselves

What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still have “little ones” at home? Do you realize your role will change quickly? Ponder the possibilities. What does your kids’ post-secondary education picture look like for you? Determine what steps (if any) you need to take now to begin this major life transition. If you’re an empty nester and hadn’t considered a vocation beyond chief family cook and bottle washer, NOW is the time! If you’ve been petrified about this day for years but chiseling away at preparations, NOW is the time to take the next step!

Be like the amazing children you’ve raised: graduate. Transition. NOW is the time!

P. S. The above-mentioned transitions delayed this blog’s updates. My plan is to show up about once a month now. Of course, after I Cry Me A River (original version) and mourn at least one day (but not more than two) that my role as a parent has changed now … forever.

FATE? YES! COINCIDENCE? NO!

Coincidence or fate? Ever hear the phrase “everything happens for a reason”? Personally? I’m a passionate believer. Too many things have happened in my life for this to be anything but the truth. This concept appears in my book G.A.S.P. too.

Indulge me a moment.

SCENARIO 1

One of my daughters loved high school so much; she couldn’t even stomach talking about graduating, let alone college hunting. As she tearfully departed for that first day of her senior year, I prayed for an eye-opener.

Aware of a newly hired principal, I never expected relief on this front. Since Management 101 dictates learning about one’s new environment prior to making changes, I knew my daughter was about to enjoy “running” the school – as all seniors do. Thankfully, the new principal never took that class. FATE.

More on this in a moment.

SCENARIO 2

For weeks, life’s hectic timetable had controlled my novel writing schedule. I’d grumbled more than a few times, much to the chagrin of my family, about my frustrations. On one overloaded day, it was no different.

Headed westbound to drive the afternoon school carpool, I sat patiently at a major intersection’s red light. The freeway overpass hustled into action as the light turned green; traffic proceeded as usual. What wasn’t usual was the sedan making a left turn on red off the exit ramp, into three-lanes of oncoming traffic with the green light. I was in the far right lane when she hit me head-on. FATE.

I’ll circle back to this, too.

alaska-gold-nuggets-in-a-gold-panning-pan-bgk6fy

SCENARIO 3

My husband and I attended a wrap-up dinner the last night of a national catering conference. Informative sessions were over, and it was time to socialize and network. All attendees looked forward to this final event, as it reflected the flavors and fun of the hosting city. Quirky Portland, Oregon was ready to share why IFC show Portlandia, “Put a Bird On It.”  http://www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia

“My Semester-at-Sea experience led me to lifetime contacts around the country,” a young caterer shared, as we continued our bus ride conversation on the coat check line.

“So, who lives farthest from Atlanta (where he’s based) that you’re still in touch with?” I asked.

“One of my closest friends from that semester is a gold miner in Alaska—”

“Sorry to interrupt, but did you say a gold miner? In Alaska?”

“Yes! Crazy, right? Why?” He noticed the very shocked look on my face.

“The opening scene in my first novel happens in Alaska. Gold mining plays a big role in it as well.” FATE.

BRING IT FULL CIRCLE

Fate versus coincidence isn’t a new concept in books either. In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, fictional Professor Robert Langdon shared with one of his classes that “connections may be invisible … but they are always there.” Time to come full circle with my above-mentioned scenarios and exemplify destiny’s evident existence.

The new high school principal had so ignored the basic 101 class that my daughter’s tearful morning departure made an about-face by day’s end. She was on a mission after that to graduate and move on! At first saddened by the way this four-year experience would end, I saw Fate’s gift answering my prayers.

That head-on collision was Fate heeding my desire to finish my book. I needed a cleared calendar to recover from the accident (I’m healthy again) and find another car (mine was totaled). Her “gift” provided enough time to also finish G.A.S.P.

Regarding the catering conference: I needed to leave Arizona to attend it in Portland, Oregon to meet a young professional from Atlanta, Georgia to find a genuine Alaskan gold miner to authenticate storylines in G.A.S.P. as well as for books 2 and 3.

That’s FATE people!

P.S. G.A.S.P. main characters, Julie and Dane, are two ordinary people who cross paths after decades apart. They embark on an adventure that changes their lives forever. Fate or coincidence? Read G.A.S.P. and you decide. Let me know your thoughts, and I may use them in book #2 AND include you in my acknowledgements.

LESSON: DOG IS GOD SPELLED BACKWARDS

I love my dogs. Truth be told, I love animals. Dogs of all sizes and breeds, crazy and sane cats, skittish deer, quirky quail, freaky fish, lions and tigers and bears! OH MY! Remember my blog last week talking about relationships and how life is all about them? Besides love for our fellow human, name another relationship that teaches humans more lessons about themselves and each other?

Lemme explain.

398 MINUTES

So, it’ll come as little surprise that I was actually off kilter today upon my return home. After dropping off my two fuzzy kids at the vet’s for a dental procedure, I felt weird and lost entering my silent house. No tails wagged. No whiskers twitched. No furry lips turned up in smiles. I hadn’t anticipated feeling this way. After all, they were only going to be gone for a few hours.

Hours? HA! I counted the minutes. I counted all 398 of them, until they were back in my car heading home with me. I had such trouble focusing on writing, editing, whatever tasks required more than 76 seconds of concentration. Seriously! You’d think they were gone forever. Understand, I’ve been through that, too. The loss of a pet furry family member is brutal when there’s been an attachment. Anyone who’s cared for, fed, tended to, and, of course, loved a critter gets this. Am I wrong?

pets pic

GUARDIANS

My pooches through the years have always been my guardian angels. They’re my constant writing companions, doorbell alert signalers, and faithful protectors of my family and me. They are loyal … most of the time (except when my mom and sister visit. “I’m here to spoil my four-legged niece/nephew/grandchild,” they quip — we don’t see those two fleabags until they’re pouting that those favorite humans left); lick my cried tears; and put each of our kids to bed nightly. The lessons of kindness, faithfulness, and love are unconditional, generous, and consistent. Easily their unsurpassed adoration alone is cause to weep at their absence. Who loves you like that in your life?

LESSON

An invaluable, though painful, lesson for all of us to learn is one of loss. Sadly, because our time on earth is limited, we all experience it. Dogs teach us how to grieve and cope with loss. In the famous words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”   http://knowledgenuts.com/2014/02/05/tennyson-wrote-tis-better-to-have-loved-and-lost-about-a-man/

I grew up with three hunting dogs, two stray cats, and a salt-water tank of tropical fish. Birth and death happened often. Mom always held our hands and allowed us to grieve and eulogize; Dad helped with the burials. Still, the joy of healing broken hearts by rescuing another fluff-ball in need never eliminated the beloved memory of a lost friend. It merely softened the hurt.

Finally, as my own children grow up, move out, and care for their own fuzzy confidantes, I bask in their bonds and know they witness God in their own fashion daily. How else would we know how to raise us mere mortals? Ain’t it grand that lessons come in so many forms! Remember: dog spelled backwards is God after all.

P.S. Thanks to unisci24.com for pic.

LIFE IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

Life is all about relationships. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about babes or boys; beasts or broccoli; Broadway or baseball. How we relate or connect with our world as a whole is up to us. The real trick, sometimes, is to follow our kids’ leads.

“Malarkey! Sometimes things, kids, LIFE happens, and we simply have to react.”  Sure, it’s still up to each of us every day to choose how we react. Then determine if that reaction yields a positive or negative relationship. Let me show you what I mean.

KATIE, MICHAEL & USAIN

Recently Katie Ledecky, teenager and highly decorated U.S. swimmer, spoke of her Rio Olympic experience after a race. “I’ve just had a lot of fun this week not only in the pool but … with my teammates. The memories mean more than the medals to me here. I’m just so proud of my teammates and what we all have accomplished…” She embraced the entire exhilarating relationship (with her teammates as well as the competition) the same way she’s dominated her events since she was six years old: with youthful enthusiasm. It’s infectious, wouldn’t you agree?

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, said in interviews that Coach Bob Bowman is “a father figure to me … He’s helped me through some of the worst times in my life, and he’s been there every step of the way and I’m forever thankful.” Their relationship, while often called complicated, has worked. What “parent/child” relationship hasn’t been complicated?

Then there’s the relationship between Usain Bolt and his mom. For all his showmanship, he’s still human, still gets nervous. His mom’s shared the best way to calm her son is for her to be calm initially and to use humor. How’s THAT for relating to the fastest human ever recorded on earth?

 

ASPARAGUS, BROCCOLI & BRUSSEL SPROUTS

Allergies, bad childhood experiences and peer pressure all influence relationships. Using food as an example, though people can be substituted, too, we make choices to eat our veggies based on so many factors. Certain choices connect us, while others segregate us. Just like children, we may initially not care for one flavor, try it again weeks, even years down the road, and find we’ve changed our minds. Funny how relationships may evolve, isn’t it?

broccoli brussel sprouts asparagus

 

 

 

BASEBALL, OPERA & TECHNOLOGY

Whether you watch sports, prefer the arts or play video games, your relationship with any activities exemplifies how you connect or escape, relax or process, love or reject in your life. Kids’ (and adults’) games show us, again, all about relationships.

Relationships-Matter-blog-logo

 

Follow the leads of our children of all ages; choose to embrace (instead of blame) relationships on all levels; and something shocking happens. We focus more on using our energies for the betterment of all, because, even if selfish, we know we benefit.

So logically, since we’re all in relationship with each other, why not consider what we expect from our children at school? More peace than war and more love than hate for our shared planet. Imagine how we can affect our global relationships! Aren’t relationships fascinating when you’re open to learning from them. https://www.creativereview.co.uk/the-story-behind-make-love-not-war/

OLYMPICS TEACH DESIRE, PASSION, LOVE

Have you been watching? If not, I’m gonna challenge you to ask yourself: why not? And you can’t say, “because I’m not into sports.” Doesn’t everyone want desire, passion, and love in their lives in some way? I’m still talking about the Olympics here, folks.

DESIRE

You don’t have to be an athlete to appreciate raw ambition and sheer determination. When we turn on the Olympics, we turn on tremendous reminders of what hard work, commitment, and focus can produce. Ultimately, it’s an athlete’s desire to excel and the strength of their hearts that compel us to keep watching, rather than merely their sports. Consider the first ever refugee team, just for a moment with an open mind. Their personal stories are mind-boggling.

Sure. Go ahead. Try to argue that such global inclusiveness isn’t realistic. How do you think the Olympics have persisted over millennia? After all, why else would we allow over 6700 hours of TV programming into our homes and workplaces? We all have desires. The Olympics prove this.


PASSION

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, 31, the most decorated Olympian ever, used the word “passion” in a recent “Today” show interview. “I had to find the passion myself again … I (did) and I had fun.”

Another U.S. swimming gold medalist, Dara Torres, 33, also spoke to my personal spirit when she said, “Never put an age limit on your dreams.”

While U.S. beach volleyball gold medalist, Kerri Walsh, 38, added “Passion is a huge prerequisite to winning. It makes you willing to jump through hoops … to reach your goal.”

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit … The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” Wilma Rudolph overcame serious childhood physical disabilities to take U.S. track and field gold in 1956 and 1960.

Finally: “I think the way to become the best is to just have fun.” –Shaun White, 30, gold medalist in snowboarding.

Who said WE couldn’t tap into our unimaginable accomplishments? The Olympics show us how.Olympic rings:black background

LOVE

Everybody knows that to even make it to the Olympics is a remarkable accomplishment. However, for those disinterested in athletics, you’re missing out on a bigger picture. You see, when you look beyond the surface of sports, there’s something more remarkable going on in Rio.

Love someone or something in your life deeply? You’re thus glimpsing athletes’ bravery, positive attitude, and dedication. Like hard-core gamers deeply involved with the intricacies of their platform, musical recording artists seeking perfection in their sounds, and authors who strive for the “right” words to tell their stories, all started with love.

Love? Yes. Plain and simple. Love of their pursuits, love of excellence, perhaps just love of competition or love of escape. Whatever the reason, we each possess the ability to love big. Consider the powerful love of 10,000 Olympic athletes in this time of global chaos and confusion. Doing nothing is automatic defeat.

WRAP-UP

The Olympics spur viewers to stop seeking excuses and to start seeking empowering possibilities instead. As Ayn Rand wrote in The Fountainhead, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Usually, when we’re completely honest with ourselves, we know the answer to this question: we greet them every day in the mirror.

(WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMO ALERT) G.A.S.P. books Since the last Olympics, I published my first book in a trilogy (I’m over 50), and book 2’s rough draft is nearly complete. (See RJillMaxwell.com) I’ve found my passion again, regardless of my age, rolled with the challenges, hung onto my dreams … AND I’m still having fun.

In conclusion, watch the Olympics. Love yourself. Imagine your possibilities.

WANTED ALIVE: WOMAN, WIFE & MOM

As a woman, wife and mom I know I’m a wee bit … well, “off.” All moms are, if we’re honest with ourselves. Go ahead. Laugh! You know what I’m saying is true. Ever see a mom with her young children at the grocery store? Even when well behaved, kids bombard with questions and touch everything within reach … especially when least opportune. Like dogs and cats who get sick on hard-to-clean carpeting, lousy timing seems to be part of the “kid code,” an unwritten rule.

With that said, marriage and children have taught me tons about myself. I 100% believe I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) have learned otherwise. Here are just three:

1. Kids are underrated.
2. Be courageous in decisions.
3. Love multiplies.

KIDS ARE UNDERRATED

Nothing truly worthwhile in life is (always) easy. This goes for kids, spouses, marriage, AND one’s self-discovery journey (personally, professionally, etc.). Whoever told you to just put your head down, work hard and the rest will come lied to you! You’ve GOT to come up for air, get your bearings, make necessary adjustments, and THEN get back to it! Doesn’t this sound less frustrating?

To clarify, the under-21 set learns, tests, pushes, repeats. If we moms are honest, don’t we do the same?

* raising our children (try one method; doesn’t work; try again; or, if paying attention, adjust, retry)?
* evolving our careers (learn something new, repeat it; screw up; adjust; repeat)?
* nurturing ourselves (fight/accept weight or figure out what doesn’t work; adjust accordingly; retry)?
* growing our marriages (found “button” to push; is it good or bad; adjust; retry)?

Kids make mom learn ALL of that (and more) when we choose to highly rate them.

DECISIONS

Speaking of choices, we face plenty of those constantly. The myriad leads to decision-making, albeit some frightening (and unavoidably instantaneous); others ordinary (even dull).

I’m referring, however, to the decisions that take thought and long-term commitment, a.k.a. the really scary ones. They take courage. That:

heartbeat graph

* change in career you’ve been thinking about;
* getting married/divorced;
* having (or not having) children;
* going after something on your bucket list;
* even writing a book!

Do you know what happens when you make a genuine decision? You’ve actually been courageous. Why? Because you’ve cut off, eliminated even, all other options.

Here’s an example: by deciding to have children, you accept that another life will depend on you for years; you can’t go out every night partying like you used to; and that your money/time is no longer solely your own, etc.

Real life, love, and family decisions take courage … period. Guess what you’ll discover about yourself: you’re stronger, tougher, smarter, and more capable than you’d ever known. Pretty cool, eh?

LOVE

Then there’s this super cool component about becoming a wife/mom: learning that love multiplies!!! If you thought you only had x amount of one kind of love within you, you thought wrong! There are tons of different types of love, and they’re all capable of growing exponentially.  Click here.

 

There’s parental love, sibling love, spousal love, friend love … you get the idea. Are you considering having another baby? Have you asked yourself if you’re capable of loving another one? I promise you are! See? You’re multiplying your love and didn’t even know it! In fact, there’s always more than enough.

REWARD: I ain’t seen nothin’ yet!