What kind of memories do you want to create?

Best thing about memories

Recently, my husband acquired some property that is in need of repair.  The previous owners were an old couple and we don’t really know a lot of details, but it seems that the husband passed away and the wife went to live with one of the children.  I assume that the children took whatever mementos, trinkets, and pictures they felt were necessary but I have to say, a great deal was left behind.

The house has been vacant for a number of years and there has been significant water damage to the lower level.  We have sorted through rooms upon rooms of mildewy photos, books, papers, sewing materials, and assorted household items.  In doing so, we’ve learned quite a bit about the sort of people they were; a well-liked, religious African-American family with several children and a penchant for learning everything about anything they could get their hands on.  The man was highly educated, eventually earning his doctorate in education.  I have to assume this was a real feat for him because he came up through the south, having been born in the 1920’s with very little, and during a time when higher education for blacks was not exactly possible or encouraged, to say the least.  The wife was educated as well, though I did  not find as much out about her as I would have liked.  She was, I believe, quite a bit younger than him and probably a homemaker for the most part.

They had hundreds of books, some were VERY old, ranging from great works of literature by Shakespeare, to religions of the world, to the history slavery.  Even the modern literature they owned were by novelists such as Toni Morrison.  There were no fluffy, beach reads to be had in this house.  I would dare say there was not one book there that you could NOT learn from on some level.

There were file cabinets solidly filled with newspaper clippings, cards and letters from friends and family, dissertations the man had written about his travels and his history.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Collection after collection that, to the untrained eye, would appear to be just a bunch of junk.  But as I was picking through some photos and saving out the undamaged ones (in case the family did not get all that they wanted), it occurred to me- they were hoarders of sorts, but not like the hoarders you see on television.  They didn’t have literal heaps of garbage laying around.  They were hoarding education and their own brand of memories I guess you could say.  They obviously thought the things they were saving were important, so why was I- a stranger- throwing away their prized possessions?

I’ll admit, I was angry at the children of these people.  Why didn’t they care about the things their parents thought were important?  Why hadn’t they taken better care of the place that housed their parent’s memories?  I thought about how I hope that when the time comes, my children will be sorting through my stuff and not some stranger.  I also thought about how I will not leave so MUCH stuff for them to sort.  I wondered what story the things I leave behind would tell my children?  If a stranger were to be throwing out of MY memories, what would they piece together about me based on their findings?

I have piles and piles of my children’s school and artwork saved.  I do throw

These treasures were just unearthed from our kitchen island.

These treasures were just unearthed from our kitchen island.

some of it away but a large portion of it I can’t bear to part with, it is far too cute!  I have a zillion photographs to organize.  I also have some special outfits that my kids wore when they were really little saved so they can share them with their own children.  My mother did this for me and when my daughter was born, I was able to bring her home in the very same sleeper I wore home from the hospital!  It really created a special memory for me and as she got older, she loved hearing the story of how we wore the same outfit.  I still have it tucked away and perhaps she or my son can bring home their child in it, provided they want to and it’s not falling apart!  I hope the items I have saved over the years will express to my children, or whoever, how much I loved my family and my life.

But beyond that, I hope it shows them that I valued creating living moments to remember and memories with my loved ones, not piles of papers and books.  Although the papers and books were interesting, I have to wonder how much of these people’s time was spent collecting these items?  How much of that time could have been spent creating an intangible collection of memories?

We can’t take the things we accumulate with us when we die and I know the last thing I am going to be worried about in my old age is having more “stuff.”  I want to create lasting memories with my family.  I want them to look back on our life together and smile at the things we did together, whether it’s a craft project, a trip, or just camping in the back yard.

Memories are a funny thing though.  I have 35 years worth of memories We don't remember days,stored in my head and sometimes I have a hard time recalling one if put on the spot.  Quick, what’s your favorite memory from your freshman year of high school?  Uh……um……can I get back to you on that?  I lived through it but I don’t remember a lot about it, and NO it’s not because it was so long ago!  If I sit and consider things, I am able to recall specific scenarios but it’s not something I think about often.

When my father passed away almost a year ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the thought that I had to remember every single detail about him; every moment we shared had to be logged daily so I wouldn’t forget him.  It tore me up that there were things I could not remember.  But as the days have passed, I realize that I don’t have to keep those memories at the forefront of my mind.  He enters my mind often, all on his own and there are things everywhere that remind me of him or call to mind a certain memory of him; an opportunity to play a practical joke on one of my kids or husband, a song on the radio, a “Remember the time when Papa” story from one of my kids, or my son’s favorite- the classic “Pull my finger,” trick that Papa showed him.

Scents, sounds, places, objects, and other memories can spark a recollection for me, and not just about my father.  I specifically hung metal wind chimes in the tree outside my home when I moved in because it reminded me of summers spent at my grandparent’s house a child.  They lived by the salt water and I spent a fair amount of days on their back porch, listening to the wind chimes and the waves lapping the rocky shoreline.  Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil, coincidentally, also reminds me of those days.  A whiff of Jean Naté body fragrance reminds me of my great-grandmother, who has also passed away.

It’s nice to have objects that you can take out and look at to provide you with

My father's guardian angel coin.

My father’s guardian angel coin.

memories; I have the tiny guardian angel coin that I bought for my father years ago and he proudly made sure to carry in his pocket with all his coins every day.  He would always take out the handful of change and pick through to find it and show me he had it with him whenever he saw me.  I can see and feel where the details of the angels face and wings have been rubbed smooth by his fingers and presumably, all those coins.  It means the world to me and I would be heartbroken if I lost it, but it’s not my father.  He’s in my heart and soul.  He lives there, not in some coin.

So, I will continue to collect my sentimental objects as memory keepers, but I intend to collect far more memories you can’t hold in the palm of your hand.  To me, these are the real crown jewels of my family.

How about you?  What will your collections tell people after you are gone? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

I want to  know what you think





Bulletin Board Themes

My previous post centered around creating the Community Corner and today I would like to share some of the themes I have used.  The kids look forward to the first day of the month because they know I will have made something cool and personalized!

I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would keep things real here and the reality of this post is:  I have lost some of the pictures I had of my finished bulletin boards.  I have no idea where they are since I had been saving them directly into my blog photos file.  It happens.  But to be honest, the ones I lost weren’t my best work!  I was just starting out and the more I do it, the better and more in depth they get.  I did make a really awesome one with hot air balloons that I no longer have a picture of and that makes me sad, but I guarantee you I will make a better one!  I already have an idea in mind!

So what follows is what I do have.  I hope you will find inspiration to do something similar in your own home.

I am going to attach the templates I used as well.  I tend to be a perfectionist, so when I made the rainbow  for the March board, I cut out the entire shape and traced it onto a piece of construction paper and then proceeded to cut out each stripe from the template and trace it onto the corresponding color.  I glued each color on individually.  I did the same thing for the leprechaun!  Even  the gold buckle and the black center is cut out separately.  A lot of people would probably use some fancy machine, like a Cricut, to do this.  I don’t have the money for one of those and I like to use what I have.  Crafting tends to be therapeutic for me anyway.  There’s something amazing about that crunch construction paper makes when cut by sharp scissors!  Yes, I have special craft scissors and I better not catch anyone using them for ANYTHING else!

If you would like to use one of the templates I have included, you will need to open up the gallery by clicking on it, next you will need to right click on the image, and choose to save it.  Depending on the size of the space you will be using, you may need to enlarge/reduce the size.

I will add new months as they come and repost!


Community starts at home!

Chaos reigned in the months after my 2012 divorce.  I lost sight of disciplining and as many parents often do, I felt guilty (a common theme in parenting!).  My daughter was fast approaching “tween-dom” and my son had just turned 4.  I saw the problems lying ahead but I felt bad for what they were going through.  I knew my daughter was hitting puberty with all the raging hormones that entails and they both were struggling to see where they fit in with all the changes.  I had just returned to work a few months prior to the divorce after having stayed home for nearly 3 years and we were all trying to get into the groove of a routine.

To be honest, I felt beat down and beyond tired.

Flash forward a year and a half…

All those problems I saw coming but ignored?  You guessed it!

There are HERE!

I don’t like it one bit but I have no one to blame but myself.  I think “blame” may be a bit too harsh.  I was doing what I thought was right at the time with the limited information, resources, and support I had.  And that feeling of being beat down and tired?  That seems to have multiplied with the ongoing struggle for power in our house.  I can remember a line from comic D.L. Hughley where he’s talking about his relationship with his children.  It goes something like “If I’m paying your bills, I ain’t your friend!”  How true is this?!  But how many of us have lost sight of that for one reason or another?

We tried taking toys and privileges away for bad behavior, rewarding chores, making lists of acceptable/unacceptable behavior, and yes, yelling.  Nothing seemed to work or last very long.

With an extreme lack of team feeling, my husband and I have been trying to come up with a plan to reconnect with the children and get this train back on track.  During one of our brainstorming sessions, my brilliant husband came up with the idea of a Community Corner.

Immediately, we thought “YES!”  What better way to teach being a part of the bigger picture than to show the kids that community begins at home!  All these thoughts of the bulletin boards at the grocery store starting popping into my head.  How could I make something like that and have it suit our needs?  I began looking around our home for things to re-purpose or re-use.  In our family, we are BIG on re-using things things and throwing away as little as possible.  I found a broken picture frame kicking around and some unused shipping boxes from the post office along with plenty of craft paper, stencils, and miscellaneous other items.

What we came up with is something I think the kids are going to enjoy because it gets us ALL into the game of life and we are focusing on positive instead of putting so much emphasis on the negative.  Our idea fosters involvement and has us all feeling like we are an important part of the team.

While we are still the parents and VERY much in charge of the household, it feels great to empower the children and get them working toward common goals with us.

It took me about a week to get the corner put together the way I wanted.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.  But once it was installed in the kitchen, I felt very proud that we are taking steps in the right direction for our family.

When we sat down with the kids to discuss this Community Corner, it was after dinner and nearing bedtime, so it didn’t go as beautifully as I had imagined.  Things seldom go the way we plan for them to in our head.  I have to remember this won’t be a one time conversation.  For it to really take hold and make change in our lives, we are going to have to discuss it daily, keep it fun and fresh, and most importantly, not give up!

Below is a detailed outline of how I created our Community Corner!

**NOTE:  I originally wrote this article nearly a year ago and since then we have had ups and downs but our issues are much more manageable now.  Our family isn’t perfect, but whose is?!  We try to hold monthly family meetings to discuss what we find in the suggestion box and how we can work them into the schedule.  We have recently added chore charts, behavior/reward/consequence charts, and  an internet rules and expectation chart.  I will create posts for each of these along with my monthly bulletin board ideas.

Click the pictures to enlarge and open the gallery.

How do you spell parent?

How do you spell parent?  Let’s be honest, for most of us, we spell it G-U-I-L-T.  And if you don’t, please, please, PLEASE comment and let the rest of us in on your secret!

Parent =Now I’m not saying I wake up every morning feeling guilty or spend my days in a shroud of guilt for my parenting shortcomings.  But there are spurts during almost every day when the guilt hits me.  Right this very second I am combating my “Mom Guilt”.

I’m in the process of creating a daily schedule for posting to my blog and for all the other things that must be accomplished in the course of a day.  Today, I let myself get way off track.  I did some important things, but not in a timely the manner.  I’ve told myself that I must post to my blog today and now my son is home from school and I have not written a thing.  Zip.  Zilch. Nada.

He, of course, wants to spend some time with me.  I oblige because I just can’t resist when my kids want to be with me.  I know the day will come, all too soon, when they won’t want to hang with lame-o Mom.  After a while of watching him play Minecraft, I am bored nearly to tears and the words I have yet to write are gnawing at me.  I feel guilty for not wanting to sit and watch video games and snuggle.  AND I feel guilty because in order to post the words I want to write, I will need to leave his room and sit at my desk.

The irony of my topic and my situation is NOT lost on me.

Luckily, I prefer to write my first draft on actual paper with an actual pen.  So here I sit, on the floor of my son’s room, writing while he plays a video game.  Compromise right?

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that being in the same room together does not constitute quality time.  But we are hanging out.  He’s asking me questions, showing me his creations, and I am engaging him as well; not just mumbling “Mmmhmmm” and “Cool kiddo”.

Is it ideal?  No.  Are all days like this?  No.  This particular situation is my fault.  I could have done things differently in order to have my schedule cleared by the time he got home.  Would I still want to sit and watch him play Minecraft?  Oh HELL no!  BUT I could be more available to entertain him in other ways.

Another situation I am currently feeling a lot of guilt about is my daughter’s basketball games.  We have had to miss a couple this season already due to some pretty major transportation issues.  It’s no one person’s fault, it’s just the way it is right now.  Last season I only got to watch the first couple of games and then had to sit out the rest because I was threatened with physical violence.  That is a long story but suffice to say, I had to make a hard decision to keep my family’s best interest on the front burner.  So every game I’ve had to miss since is like twisting that knife of guilt in my heart.  I want to be the mom who is at every game, cheering the loudest.  Sometimes that just isn’t possible.

As parents, we tend to want to give our kids the things we didn’t have whenguilt we were kids.  I know I’d love to give my kids everything they want ( I know, I know…), take them on cool vacations to theme parks or museums, or anywhere for that matter, but our current financial situation does not allow for that, YET.

I feel guilty because so many of their friends get to go places and do things that we can’t.  I have to remember that it won’t always be like this.  My children are still having an amazing childhood and there are many things we will get to experience together.  It doesn’t matter that I won’t be taking them to Disney for the first time (their father and his wife are) but perhaps it will be their NEXT trip to Disney and it will be new and different because I will be there with them!  I’m excited just dreaming about it!

Just leaving the house to go to work creates guilt in most of us.  We have to go to work to provide for our families but explain that to a crying two year-old who is clinging to your leg!  I have been lucky enough at different points in my kid’s lives to stay at home with them.  My most recent experience has been for the past two years. There have been extenuating circumstances as to why I get to be home and I wish things were different.  I feel guilty for not being able to provide for them in the ways I would like to, but we have learned so much about living within our means and what is truly important in life: our family values!  When I worked outside the home, I felt guilty leaving my kids with a babysitter, even if it was a family member.  I didn’t want to miss any time of their childhoods.

How about all the hours on the weekend that we spend cleaning rather than playing with our children?  Or the fact that we don’t feed our children a 100% organic diet?  What about the days when bedtime comes a bit early because you just canNOT make it through one more hour?  And let’s not forget all the times we raise our voices in frustration after vowing never to do it again?

How is this guilt that’s always lurking, waiting to pounce on us, helping anything or anyone?  It’s not.  It perpetuates a feeling of negativity and of not being able to “do it all”, which leaves you feeling like a failure.

The truth is, we’re all doing the best we can!  We’re providing our children with what they truly need: love, support, food, a place to sleep, and MANY wonderful memories, that may or may not include planes and vacations.  I am 35 and I’ve never been to Florida.  My parents “only” took us to a small water park a few hours away once, a hotel with a pool a handful of times, and numerous places in between.  They did the best they could and my childhood was not ruined because we couldn’t do everything we wanted. In fact, I have many great memories of growing up and I happen to think I turned out okay.

Every second, every minute, every hour of every day is a chance to do things differently!

Every second, every minute, every hour of every day is a chance to do things differently!

Today I could have avoided my feelings of guilt if I had done what I said I was going to do from the moment I opened my eyes.  We can’t let these feelings of guilt eat us up.  Our children need us in the “NOW” and if we’re lost in feeling guilty, that means we’re focusing on the past and the wrong things.

When I first had the idea to write about guilt for my blog, it was an obvious choice that I would use the “Mom Guilt” perspective, since I know it well.  However, the more I thought about it, the more unfair it seemed to me.  Especially when I thought about my husband and the hell and hard times he went through raising his children.  His experiences really opened my eyes to what caring, concerned, INVOLVED fathers go through.

So this post is dedicated to all parents, no matter your age, marital status, or occupation.  We’re all in this together so let’s try to make it a guilt-free zone!