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Bucket List Mania

I downloaded some worksheets that included some prompts to help me create a bucket list.

The first worksheet I read was titled, “100 Things to do before I die.”Cover of "The Bucket List"

The Cornell Legacy Project found that the “wisest elders” among us say that creating and pursuing bucket list goals is something that brings nothing but rewards throughout life. But, not having one, results in regrets and missed experiences.

I felt like I needed a bucket list because I certainly cannot live my life regretting my missed experiences.

The first prompt said, “What are 10 burning desires you have for yourself?”

Of course, my first response was the same as it always is — lose weight. Then, I scratched it out and thought, “Come on, that’s a lifelong battle. Toss that relentless irritation out of the mix and have fun with this.”

scaled
(Photo credit: wader)

Then, I asked myself questions about where I’d like to go, what I’d like to do, what experiences I’d like to have before I die.

I waited for all my urgent desires to surface.

Nothing came.

How about Machu Picchu? Doug’s always wanted to go to Peru and experience the mystical ruins. But, that’s Doug’s dream, not mine.

English: Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu
Early morning in Machu Picchu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided to stop thinking so hard about my bucket list and just put it in the back of my mind and let ideas percolate more naturally.

Yesterday, Doug and I were walking along the beach and I thought about my bucket list again. I told him that I must not be a very ambitious person because I can’t think of 100 things I want to do.

We discussed the pros and cons of goals and both agreed that while they can propel us forward in life, they can also create unneeded stress, unreasonable expectations and feelings of failure or discontent.

As we walked along the beach, listening to the waves, observing the weather worn pier, and running up the dune to avoid a crashing wave, I said, the truth is that while I want to do a few fun things before I die, I really won’t regret not going to Machu Picchu or any other worldly thing because my true bucket list is not defined by questions of things to see, people to meet, and new things to try.

Outer Banks, Corolla, North Carolina

If I am honest about what I want before I die, my wish list is deeper and more personal. It’s less about stuff to do and all about people to love and the fullest life to live.

Of course, I want to continue cancer-free living. Who doesn’t?

I want my daughters to live happy, fulfilled lives. I want them to experience all the love and success they want in life. I want healthy, happy, grandchildren. (No pressure Sara and Annie!)

I want to take my expanded family to Disney World and watch all their faces light up with excitement when they see Buzz Lightyear or Cinderella. I want to gather them all together and look into their bright faces and marvel over the miracle of life and how it goes on and on forever with one generation after another adding to a family’s heritage and history.

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt D...
Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to spend time with my friends, laughing and making new memories. I want to keep enjoying being me, truly me without pretense because there is so much freedom and joy in not worrying about how I should be.

I want to spend as much time with my mother as possible and have her teach me how to be more like her. I want to learn from my brothers and the wisdom they’ve gained in life. I want to see my nieces and nephews marry and have children. I want to be a great-aunt over and over again.

logancmabreeIn the end, I guess I do have a bucket list. It’s just not the adventurous parachute-out-of-a-plane, scuba-dive-in-the-red-sea variety. It’s more about getting the best out the life I already have with the people who matter most to me.

 

Family, From the News, Parenting, Relationships

Trying to Find Words of Comfort

Last night I heard on the news that a post office box has been set up to receive condolence letters for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

I felt like I should send notes to the grieving parents. But, what could I possibly write?

What words of condolence could I share that could uplift these heartbroken, bereaved families?

On September 11, when I heard that terrorists had attacked our nation, I immediately drove to the elementary school to pick up my children.

The principal met me at the door and asked me to let them stay in school because it was the safest place for them. The school was in “lock down” mode and the principal wanted the children to stay in classes and return home on the bus as usual. Then, parents could explain the events of the day to them after they’d had time to process it themselves.

I saw the wisdom in the principal’s words and went home without my two daughters. They were in the safest place for them at that time, I kept telling myself.

Those words have haunted me for the past week because the children in Sandy Hook Elementary were thought to be in one of the safest places for them. Most children spend the bulk of their time at home or in school, and both places are supposed to be safe havens for them.

Parents worry about their children every time they walk out the door — even when they leave for school. But, for most of us, school shootings of the magnitude experienced in Newtown, Connecticut are beyond our fears because they are so utterly evil that we can’t let our worries even go to that extreme.

So when I think of those bewildered parents in Connecticut, and see them on television or read their words in the newspaper, my heart literally hurts. I know what it’s like to have your normal breathing pattern halted, and I wonder when they will breathe normally again, and when will their goals of survival stretch beyond a mere second at a time?

I want to console them but I am lost for words.

We went to the Kennedy Center Monday night to see “An Enchanted Christmas” performance by The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
As we sat in the Concert Hall listening to and singing Christmas carols, I thought of the peaceful feelings and the spirit of warmth that enveloped that beautiful roomful of strangers.
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Then I thought of the people in Connecticut and wished I could transport the sweet serenity that fell upon us in that Hall to Newtown, and just wrap the entire town up in a cocoon of safety and love.

Yesterday, we went to the White House and marveled over the gorgeous holiday decorations and listened to a children’s choir sing “Still, Still, Still,” one of my favorite Christmas songs – “Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…”
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As we left the White House, we noticed all the flags at half-staff, and again I wished so deeply that just one of the peaceful still moments I’ve experienced this week could float in a cloud to Connecticut and hover there for months to come dropping heavenly dews of tender mercies on the heartbroken, devastated people there who are just trying to get their bearings.

US Navy 040609-F-3050V-009 The U.S. flag atop ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance…”

Deliverance is what I want for them.

I guess if I were to send a letter to the new post office box, I’d say something like this:

“To all the families, friends and loved ones affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy:

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I won’t pretend to understand what you are going through, but I want you to know, I love you. I pray for you. My heart breaks just knowing of your unfathomable loss and acute sorrow.

I know the deep, unparalleled love that parents have for their children, and that just the fear of losing them is unbearable.

So, my urgent and heartfelt prayers on your behalf are that during this time of sadness and bewilderment that God will swoop you up and cradle you like a child in his arms, just like he is cradling your little ones. And, that you will feel his love, warmth, understanding, and compassion and know that his heart beats in sympathy with yours.

I know your lives have been permanently altered, but I also know there is a God who lives and loves you, a God who can and will carry you through this, a God who welcomed your babies home and healed their wounds instantly, and one who will heal yours too.

While I’m sure you feel utterly alone, there are good-hearted people all around the world kneeling in prayer and pleading with the heavens on your behalf.

I wish my words had the power to elevate your grieving souls and to assure you that while your heads hang down in sorrow now, they will rise up in joy again. You will be reunited with your children one day and your joy will be exquisite. I hope you will all faithfully live for that day.”

Sometimes our words are all we have, and yet, they are so inadequate and can seem so empty at times like this. I can only hope that when I send my words skyward that God will hear them and send these dear families the healing balm that they so desperately need.

Check out this beautiful piece by Jeff Benedict http://www.ldsliving.com/story/71249-jeff-benedict-witnessing-grief-and-compassion-in-newtown

Family

The Joy of Giving

My mom called me last week to see what I want for Christmas.

When asked that question, I instinctively think, “What do I need?”

Then nothing comes to mind.

I don’t need anything.

But what do you want? Mom asked.

Doug’s Dad says you should never buy people what they need.

christmas-gift
(Photo credit: top10things)

Instead, he believes you should give impractical, unexpected gifts.

(Note: This comes from a man who also believes you should fall asleep every night savoring a piece of milk chocolate because “There’s nothing like sleeping with your throat coated in chocolate.” He also has false teeth, so take that into consideration before following his advice.)

Chocolate Kiss
Chocolate Kiss (Photo credit: alykat)

So, what do I want for Christmas that I don’t need?

I couldn’t think of anything I wanted that could be presented to me in a box on Christmas morning.

I decided I wanted my Mom to buy a beautiful wreath and place it on my Dad’s grave with a note that said, “Merry Christmas, Dad. Thanks for teaching me the joy of giving.”

She resisted, saying that wasn’t a “real” gift for me.

But, today, when I talked to her, she told me she gave me my gift.
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She went to the cemetery and displayed my wreath, and will go back tomorrow to attach my note.

And, I believe, somehow, my Dad will know it’s there, and he will appreciate it.

When I was a little girl, my Dad was the Jaycee president.

I thought he was famous because everybody in town knew him and he always seemed to have his picture in the paper.

He also managed to orchestrate the most amazing, magical arrival of Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.

He had him land in the middle of town in a helicopter!

Santa arrives in New Orleans
(Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

One night before Christmas, Dad came home and gathered our family around the kitchen table and told us about the Sub for Santa program.

He had a piece of paper with the name of a family on it and listed the gender and age of all the children and what they wanted for Christmas.

“We need to help Santa this year because this family can’t afford Christmas gifts.”

I will never forget the feeling I had that night as I listened to him tell us about that family.

I loved the idea that we could secretly help Santa Claus and make another family happy.

We all excitedly talked about how we could help.

I went into my room and found a brand new doll.

I wondered why I never played with her.

I decided it was because she needed to be saved for another little girl who might need her more than I did.

I ran back downstairs and showed her to my Dad. He agreed that maybe I’d saved her because someone else needed to have her more than me.

He showed me the little girl’s wish list and said she was my age.

He asked if I could go shopping with my mom to get the other gifts she wanted.

I couldn’t wait. The idea of helping Santa made me want to burst with excitement.

Sub for Santa became a tradition in our family, and one way or another; we always found ways of giving to others.

The first thing my Dad did on Christmas morning was make secret deliveries to people in town who said were “down on their luck.”

We waited for him to come home and then ran into the living room to see what Santa left for us.

My parents taught me that the best gifts are often the good feelings that come from our own giving and not just from the gifts we receive.

I’m happy my Mom agreed to my Christmas request and delivered the wreath and a note on my Dad’s grave.

That is a true gift to me.

And proof that the best gifts don’t always come in a box.

Change, Family, Parenting

Letting Go

As a mother of two college students – one of them only two weeks away from graduating –I am continually asking myself, “What would my mom do now?”

I want to be the kind of mother she’s been.

The area that needs the most improvement lately is trying to be a better listener.

Sometimes, I am more of a fixer than a listener.

When my daughters call and tell me their concerns and problems, I instantly, naturally want to fix everything.

I get worked up in my here’s-what-we-need-to-do speech, and then I think of my mom and an inner voice yells, “Shut up Laurie! They only want you to listen, not try to make everything all better! Think of Mom.”

Annie called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that she’s going to Uganda for a service mission with HELP International.

http://help-international.org/uganda

African child

It was an awkward conversation as I felt this rising, confusing objection, and wanted to say in a scolding mom voice: “Ah… no, you are not going to Africa. You are coming home, getting a job, sleeping in your bedroom down the hall from me. You are going to sing in the shower, bake cookies, have parties, and    scatter your clothes all over the floor, and play the piano for me. …just like you’ve always done.

I stammered a bit and kept thinking of my mom, and what she would do.

Just listen.

I calmed down as the conversation went on, and I told her she had to be patient with me as I got my head around her new, exotic, and oh-so-foreign-to-me plan.

In a moment of weakness, I blurted out, “Annie, I am just not ready for you to be this grown up. I know you have an adventurous spirit and I am trying to be supportive, but I am fighting some powerful mom instincts here that make me want to fling my arms around you and keep you close to me forever. I still see you as a little girl, not as a world traveler and humanitarian!”

I reminded myself of Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when his daughter, also named Annie, told him she was in love and wanted to get married. He looked across the kitchen table and saw those grown up words coming out of a little girl’s mouth.

While it’s a hilarious scene, it’s also painful to realize I’m Steve Martin.

I’m not transitioning well from seeing my daughters as my little girls to seeing them as independent, adventurous women whose passions are taking them in directions that feel further and further away from me.

Cover of "Father of the Bride (15th Anniv...
Cover via Amazon

And, I know they need me to listen more than advise.

They need me to support more than protect.

Yet my adviser and protector instincts are not easily tamed.

In my conversation about Africa with Annie, I vacillated between being supportive and curious and treating her like she was 10 years old, when I would have said, “Well, you certainly are not going to Africa. Now, finish your homework so we can get you bathed and ready for bed.”

As I navigate the new waters of parenting adult children, I think of my mom constantly and wonder how she did it.

I call her often and say, “Mom, really, how did you do it?”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I think the real answer is that she did it a day, and a conversation at a time just like I am.

I hope my daughters can understand that this “letting go” part of parenting is not easy.

help letter annie

But, of course, like me, they will only really learn it when they become parents.

Then,  I hope they’ll call me for advice and say, “Mom, how did you do it?”