Waiting to Fail – Advice from A GenXer

I’m a GenXer…raised in the 1980s. The generation of “Latch Key Kids.” We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes, or elbow pads when we roller skated, if we had done so, our friends would have laughed at us. Our parents didn’t hover over our grades, they didn’t blame our teachers when we failed a test. We got our driver’s license the day we turned sixteen and had a part time job the very next day. We drove used cars, usually the cast-off family car, and we didn’t have GPS. We used a telephone and if we wanted to have a social life, we had to actually got OUT of the house to create one.

And we failed. A LOT.

Somewhere along the line, and I’m not really sure where, because there are still a bunch of us trying to raise our children the same way, things went haywire.

Somehow, we were convinced that our kids needed to have it easier. It started with “time out,” and making a child think about what they did wrong instead of paying a consequence.

And then we decided that if they weren’t doing well in school, it was the teacher’s fault for not teaching them. I’ve raised my kids in two different school districts, so I can attest to the fact that not every school district is created equal. Our current school district is far more superior than our previous district. But that comes with different pressures too. If you don’t fit in the “STEM” box , you’re going to have a tough time in school.

We decided that it wasn’t possible for teens to both have a job AND go to school at the same time. We made it harder for them to get real life experience. Having a job early on allows you to learn responsibility, with showing up and with your money. It’s also the ONLY time in your life you will get to PLAY with your money. You have no debt to pay off, you have no real bills. My first big purchase as a teen was a pair of black suede boots that reached just over the knee and laced all the way up the back. I still remember that they cost $135.00. I put them on lay-away at “Wild Pair” (an awesome shoe store from the 80s) and paid them off little by little until they were mine. And then I took care of them because I worked so hard to get them.

I had several jobs when I was a teen (at different times) because I could change the job when I got bored. I wasn’t locked in. If you wait until after you’ve gone through college, and trained for a career (which is a great plan), but then can’t change the job because you can’t find another one and are locked in because you owe so much on school debt, then no wonder you’re miserable. You never had the chance to PLAY with your money and fail. You can’t afford to fail now.

We had friendships and relationships and realized what it meant to have a good friend that would stand by you no matter what. That would get into trouble with you (in a good way, of course), but you knew what to expect from them, because you had created a face to face relationship. Your friendship was tried and tested. You cried through the bad times and laughed through the good. I know, I’m old and I don’t understand, but on-line relationships don’t provide that same closeness. They just don’t! I have “on-line” friends, to some extent, and they don’t measure up to the friends who have hugged me through break-ups and loss, who have celebrated births and marriages and achievements. It’s different. Read the research. This on-line generation is one of the loneliest, depressed and anxiety-ridden generation of all time. That’s not just my opinion.

“But you don’t understand,” is what I hear. You’re right. I don’t. But you also forget that we were young once too. I grew up under the fear of nuclear war. It was a real fear. But instead of withdrawing, my friends and I made a plan that in the event that they dropped “the bomb,” we would all go outside, put on our sunglasses, sit in our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. It was how we coped…with sick and twisted humor.

And financially? We get it. My family was caught up in the Aerospace crash of the 80s. My dad was an Aerospace Engineer and had a pension plan. He was set for life…until the aerospace companies crashed and took away everyone’s pensions that they worked for their whole life. My family was devastated. I get it.

But I think the biggest lesson that GenXer’s we’re good at was “failing.” We learned skills to cope with failing. You get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. It was just a given. Was there anxiety? Sure. Was there depression? You betcha. But that was just a diagnosis, not an excuse. We figured out how to deal with things. We didn’t have time, nor was it acceptable, to give up. “Just Do It” was what we lived by.

My advice to the younger generations?

Work now, so you can play with your money.

Get a job, so you can figure out what you like and don’t like before you get all the way through college.

Get out of the house. For goodness sake, get a gang of friends that really know you. Go to concerts (and DON’T RECORD THEM), just enjoy them. Go bowling, go hang out at a friend’s house, go to the mall, and talk to each other.

Pick up a phone…and CALL someone. Don’t just text them.

Do something for someone else…maybe even one of us “old” people. Do it for the human contact, not because you need “volunteer hours” to graduate.

Be still. Sit in awe and wonder at the world around you. Know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

And don’t be afraid to fail.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison.

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Everyone Has Something…

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(This post was originally posted in 2016)

As a society, we’ve become masters at “labeling.” We know all our disabilities, all our flaws. We’ve given them names and can diagnose them earlier and earlier. But I’m not so sure that’s always a good thing. Sure, early diagnosis can help, even save, a large amount of people. But sometimes giving it a label predestines a person to limit themselves, to limit their life in ways that they may have pushed through had they not been labeled. Because here’s the thing: Everyone has something. Everyone!

Next time you’re in a crowd, even a small crowd, look around. Statistically speaking, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that crowd has something in their life that they find challenging. A limitation. Sometimes they wear their challenge on the outside and it’s easy to spot. But more often than that, it’s hidden. It’s under their clothes, it’s under their skin, it’s in their brain. And it’s unique to each person.

Even the people that appear to have it all together, they too have something bubbling just under the surface. No one is immune.

One of the most valuable lessons we can give to our peers is to learn to push through challenges. No matter what life has dealt you, you can use that experience to build or to tear down. And everyone has something.

I think our beauty comes from those “flaws,” from those experiences, and from those challenges.

I think it’s our job, as parents, as teachers, as mentors, to help our children and those around us, with our flaws and our challenges, but don’t stop there. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to show them how we push through our challenges and don’t let them limit us. To show them that even though we have a disease, disorder, or disability, it doesn’t have us.

People watch our every move, our every reaction, especially our children. They look to us for examples of how to handle the stuff that makes up life, both the good and the bad. A parent with a challenge has to shine through their disability, and show their children that it’s not something to stop them from doing what they want in life.

Even when we think our challenge is too big to get over, we can still show our kids what it means to HOPE. But hope isn’t necessarily proactive. Being hopeful can change your state of mind. The lesson is in how we ACT on that hope.

Think about some of our most inspiring people. Why do they inspire us? Usually it’s because they’ve achieved something IN SPITE OF or even BECAUSE OF a limitation. They’ve overcome and made things better for themselves or for those around them.

Everyone HAS something, but not everyone will DO something. How are you going to use your limitation to inspire those around you?

The Problem with Being A “Fixer”

 

I never thought of myself as being “controlling.” I don’t “bully” people to get my way, I’m not abusive, I don’t have combative relationships. If anything, I run from conflict.

But I am a “Fixer.”

What is a “Fixer?” Well, if someone comes to me with an issue or a problem that’s plaguing them, my first instinct I to “fix them” or “fix it” for them.

The car is broken? I find a way to “fix it.” The doctor over-billed me again? I “fix it.” Kids need help with a personal situation, I’m the mom to ask. Husband wants a better paying job? Let me help you find one. Friend is buried in emotional turmoil? Let me help you find the right professional to call. I mean, if they’re asking for help and can’t see the forest for the trees, then they need someone to help them, and I’m that person, right? Not necessarily.

What’s the problem with being a “Fixer”? I mean, it’s just wanting to help, right? Well, there are a lot of problems with being a Fixer.

First and foremost, it’s emotionally exhausting! Taking on other people’s problems as your own only adds to your own laundry list of problems.

Secondly, not everyone WANTS their problem fixed. Not everyone wants to even recognize their problem (including the fixer). Sometimes, someone just needs you to listen.

Another problem with being a Fixer is assuming that you have the answer or are qualified to give one. I certainly don’t pretend to know everything, and I do research all the time to find solutions for my own problems. Why shouldn’t I do the same for you? Sometimes it just isn’t any of my business. Some problems are too big for someone else to fix. Some problems can’t be fixed at all.

I recently joined a study at church where we are working through the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. What an eye-opener! I wasn’t even aware I had boundary issues. I mean, that’s something you have with a mom that won’t stay out of your business, or for people who don’t know how to say “no.” Trust me, I have no problem saying “no” to people. And I’ve learned to “handle” my mom in recent years. How was I to know that I was the person with the boundary issues?! LOL

I think, as a Mom, it’s an easy trap to fall into. We generally run the household: we decide on the weekly menu, we make sure homework is done, we make sure people get up in time for school in the morning, we watch the clock like a hawk some days because if we don’t, no one else will! The responsibility falls on our shoulders. If we don’t help our kids “succeed,” then we’ve set them up for failure, right? And who wants to be THAT mom?! Who wants to be the mom that didn’t have her act together to give her child every opportunity possible to be the best they can be?

Who wants to be the mom that doesn’t dry the tears, give the hugs, fix the hurts, celebrate the joys?

Who wants to be the mom that FAILS HER KIDS?! Not me! And probably not you either.

I can’t speak for your situation, but for me, being the “fixer” hasn’t made my kid a straight-A student. It hasn’t made them the happiest kid in their class. It hasn’t kept conflict out of the house or their lives.

True, there’s a point in their lives when they rely completely and totally on us for everything. But we have to learn to let go of the rope a little at a time…to set boundaries. Otherwise, we end up hating ourselves for every time they fail, asking what we did wrong when they do the exact opposite of what we taught them.

In actuality, they’re pushing back is a completely natural response. It’s what they are supposed to do when they get to their teen years. They don’t WANT us to fix ANYTHING for them at all. And if that’s the role you’ve set for yourself, “The Fixer,” then what are you supposed to do? What is your role? I ask myself these questions on a daily basis.

So, as my kids go through their teen years, and I reach my 50s, we’re both learning to redefine our roles, to set up NEW boundaries…not walls. Boundaries are made to go through with permission, not shut out completely. And I’m not going to lie to you…it’s a very hard thing to balance. It’s a tightrope that is constantly moving. But I’m learning. And I pray…A LOT.

So being the “Fixer” is not all it’s cracked up to be. You don’t have to “fix” them to still be their hero. You don’t have to “fix” things to still love them. “Fixing them” won’t “fix” anything. It’s an illusion, something we’ve built up in our minds as our role as “Mom.” But it’s not true.

Now as situations arise, I try to pause and ask myself if they need a “fixer” or a “Mom” because the two are not synonymous. I’m finding that they need a “Mom” more often than they need a “Fixer.”

How about you? Are you a “Fixer?” Do you have to stop yourself from “fixing” everything? Please tell me that I’ not alone. LOL

To the Mom with the Fussy Toddler

 

I was working at the Grocery Store when you came down my aisle. Your toddler was fussing, and you trying desperately to calm your child. You seemed embarrassed when I smiled at you. But I want you, and every other mom who must shop with a fussy toddler, to know that it’s okay. I get it.

All of us moms have been there.

There are going to be times when your toddler is not going to cooperate with you when you need to get your errands done.

I remember those days.

The child arching his back making it impossible to strap him into the stroller or car seat.

Bargaining with the child that they can have the treat if they just make it through this one more stop. Trying to hurry, and forgetting half the things on your list, just to avoid the dirty looks from the clerks, or worse, from the other mothers who don’t seem to remember those days.

I remember apologizing as my child knocked over a display while I tried to help clean up and wrangle my child simultaneously.

I remember thinking I had done something terribly wrong, and that my child was going to behave like that forever. And then being jealous when they didn’t behave that way for other people. Those days were long and frustrating, but they will get better.

I remember wanting to avoid social situations that I knew would take too long, and then I’d end up walking the halls, or pacing outside, while I waited for my child to “get it together.”

I am thankful for my tribe of moms (and some dads) who would see my frustration and offer to entertain my child while I finished a cup of coffee.

So, to the woman in the grocery store with the screaming toddler, I get it. It won’t last forever. It is a season and it will get better. I know you’re doing the best you can. And I smile out of empathy. I wish moms had a universal sign to show solidarity and understanding. Maybe we need to invent one.

Rest assured, you aren’t doing anything wrong. Your child is doing just what they are supposed to do: asserting their independence. They just don’t know anything about timing. LOL

And I hope I get the same sympathy when you see me struggling with my teenager as they give me an attitude when I set boundaries for them. Again…we need a universal sign.

It gets better.

I Choose Hope

I posted this graphic to my Instagram yesterday. I’m not sure why.

I’ve been avoiding the news like the plague lately. It seems it’s never anything good.

I’ve tried to steer clear of the debacle that’s happening in Washington right now (not that today is any different than any other day in Washington).

And when I looked at Facebook today and saw New York’s heartbreaking decision that caused them to light up the Empire State Building in pink, I wanted to cry.

Add to that the Covington students’ controversy, and I just can’t stomach it any more. Any of it.

It isn’t healthy, and I feel powerless to change any of it. Truly, I do.

The only recourse I have for my own well-being, and that of my family’s, is to hope and to pray for something better.

As a human race, I know we can do better. I know we have it in us to reach out instead of push back.

There is so much to hope for, so much good in the world that goes un-noticed because we’re too busy screaming at one another and standing our ground. Forgiveness has been thrown out the window completely.

So, here’s a list if you’d like to join me with some good news for a change:

  1. Watch an episode of Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor on Facebook. There’s a new episode every Tuesday and it will lift your heart and give you back some hope for humanity.
  2. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  3. Pick up that piece of trash on the sidewalk that’s been there for the last three days.
  4. Say “thank you” to the salesperson who may be having a bad day.
  5. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  6. Pay it forward – pay for the cup of coffee or fast food of the person in the drive-thru line behind you.
  7. Turn off the news when you feel yourself getting angry…especially if your kids are in the room. If it angers you, think of what it does to them.
  8. Put down your phone and be present with the person you’re with.
  9. Call your friend instead of sending a text.
  10. Look around and see what you can do to make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it’s a small thing.

Choose hope instead of despair, love instead of hate, words that lift up instead of tear down.

It starts with the person in the mirror. I know we can do it, because we are better than the media wants us to think we are.

Best wishes and blessings to you all.

What are you going to do today to make this world a better place?

Never Buy a Model Home

This is a bit off topic from my usual posts but consider it a tongue-and-cheek PSA from someone who made that mistake. On the surface, buying one of the models in a new home tract seems like a bonus. It’s move-in ready, right? Well, not exactly.

We sort of “fell into” buying our house. We were renting, and our landlords offered it to us for a great price. Since we were looking to buy, we were familiar and happy with the area, and not having to pay to move was a huge plus, we decided to jump in. And for the most part, it was a good decision.

But there was one main drawback – it was originally one of the “model homes” for our townhomes.

That means a few things, which I’ve learned along the way.

The first drawback is a term I learned almost immediately. EVERYTHING IS “BUILDER GRADE.” And I mean everything! Every home repair person we’ve had to the house grimaces when they see what they have to deal with. In fact, just today, I went to clean out the p-trap under the bathroom sink only to find that it doesn’t have a nut on the p-trap which could be easily removed. Our p-trap is GLUED TOGETHER!  A short cut the builders took to hurry up and get the model home done first.

Now, getting the model home did mean it came fully decorated, which, at first glance, looks fabulous. But the more we started looking at details and corners, the truth started to make itself apparent. We have crown molding in several rooms. But where the crown molding ends and a new room begins, for example at a corner, they didn’t bother to miter the corners. The molding just ends…chopped off…sometimes before the end of the wall. This would have frustrated my engineer father to no end.

Let’s talk appliances…all builder grade. Not just the cheap built-in microwave and stove either. We’re talking toilets, faucets, shower doors, bath tubs, and garbage disposals. Not a single brand name.

And counter tops? Tile? Granite? Soapstone? Marble? Not even close. Try plain white laminate that stains the MOMENT something like a drop of red juice is spilled on it. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is my new best friend.

Can we talk cabinets? Not a glimmer of chrome or brass hardware on any cabinet in the whole house. Not in the bathrooms and not in the kitchen. But they did remember to use industrial strength magnets to keep the cabinets shut. If only there was a handle to open them up!

Now there is one thing that none of my neighbors have. We ended up with what only a handful of the neighbors have…a two-car garage. Apparently, after they made our model, they decided that a two-car garage would not let them cram as many places in here as they could. So, they got rid of the two-car garage option.

Oh, we also have a fully painted and dry-walled garage complete with green trim and a small closet. It seems that our garage served as the “front office” for the complex. So at least our pipes in the garage don’t freeze every winter. And there were heating ducts in the garage when we first moved in until we sealed them up because having heating ducts in a garage that is attached to the house is potentially lethal. (Something the inspector missed, by the way).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am eternally grateful for our home. I love it and know that we are very blessed to be able to own a home. I just want others who may be looking to buy a home to be aware of what it means to buy a model home.

If you buy a model, just be prepared to make a lot of upgrades and get used to the term “Builder’s Grade,” and the pity look the repay people will give you.

What is the worst or quirkiest thing about your home?