Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why I didn't buy a lottery ticket this week

Everyone has been buying lottery tickets this week. The multi-state Powerball jackpot had risen to more than $1.5 billion. Yep, BILLION. Like you don't know that. Unless you are living under a rock with access to no media of any kind, you heard about the jackpot. And you likely went out and bought a ticket - or many tickets - even if you don't play regularly. Or you got in a big workplace pool. Or something like that.

And then yesterday I saw that a Facebook friend posed a question on her page. Who HASN'T bought a Powerball ticket? And why not?

A dozen or so people responded. I was one of them that responded. I typed in a simple "Nope." I didn't elaborate on why. I had to think about it for a minute.

When we were growing up, my mom always played faithfully each week - the same numbers. And she always told us that if she won, she'd split her winnings equally among her kids, so I guess I always figured I didn't need to play since she plays for me.

I've bought tickets for gifts over the years, but rarely buy them for myself. When I was working in an office I did put in a weekly five dollars into a pool with co-workers. One year the jackpot was huge and my friend, MaryAnn, and I chatted one day and fantasized about what we would do with winnings. We said that we'd gather up all the homeless people we could find in Chicago and take them to a fancy spa where they'd get make-overs. And we'd shop for them on Michigan Avenue and take them out for dinner at a swanky steakhouse and then put them up for a while in nice downtown hotel rooms. We'd donate some of it to schools and charities. We'd buy things for our family members. I don't remember us even discussing what we'd get for ourselves. It was fun to dream. It's always fun to dream.

But, this time as I heard about the prize money going up and up and up, I really didn't feel the urge to go buy a ticket. I really feel that winning an amount like that would be more burden than blessing. No one needs that much money. Even someone who plans to go a lot of good with it. First of all, your name would be publicized as being a winner and that would be the start of an unpleasant road. Giving it away would be fun, but can you imagine being inundated by requests and the consequences there may be by those who feel entitled to some of it. It would most definitely cause a change in lifestyle, but not necessarily for the better. It would give you more freedom, but would it all be worth it?

I'd love an extra million as much as the next person. It would enable me to make big improvements in my life. A new house, the opportunity to travel, the relief of worrying about how to play for my childrens' education. It wouldn't necessarily mean I wouldn't have to work for the rest of my life. It wouldn't mean that things would be perfect. But it would be more than enough to ease the daily stress of paying bills. Truth be told, we have enough. We work hard. We struggle often. But we have enough. We have a roof over our head, warmth in this cold weather, shoes on our feet, food in our bellies and a house full of sons (who don't always get along, but who - when the going gets tough -would be there for each other.) We have healthy children and the security of having our whole family here at home each night. We are far from rich, but have the things that a million dollars couldn't buy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Half way there

Ya know. I think I've hit mid-life. If you look at the numbers, I have. I'm 42. I am most likely at the half-way point, give or take a few years. I intend on living to be a sassy old lady in my 80's who still dances on tables at weddings. I say this as if I have ever danced on a table at a wedding. I envision my old self as myself now, but way cooler.

This realization brings with it certain questions. Like have I learned from the first half? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? What's left that I want to do? Is it too late to do some things? Am I doing the things I really want to do or am I doing them for other reasons? What else do I feel compelled to do? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Am I making a difference in this world? Have I done anything of importance? Have I failed at what I've tried to do?

I think I'm kind of feeling that I'm in this weird space where I accomplished a lot of what I wanted to do too early. A lot of people fall into volunteering later in life when they have the luxury of spare time during their golden years. I started getting involved in my community and doing a lot of volunteering in my mid-20's. Now I'm getting burned out on it.

I wanted to become an author and I've so far authored six books. I should feel accomplished having met that goal and gone beyond it, but I feel like maybe I should have gone about it differently. I feel like the books should have been more successful or that I should have done more to make them more successful. It feels like it was so much more work than it should be for such a small return. Everything feels like so much more work than it should be.

It feels like at this point in my life I shouldn't have to work this hard for everything, but I feel like I'm working harder than ever to keep up. I don't want to have to work as hard hard in the second half. I want to have the luxury of time to do more of the things I really want to do and not what I have to or what's expected of me. But, you know how goes...if you have the time to do what you want, you don't have the money for it. If you have the money to afford to be frivolous, you don't have the time for it. And there's the whole anything worth doing is worth doing well and you don't get it without putting in hard work and sweat and tears....yadda, yadda. I don't know what's in store for part two as I go along, but I look forward to do. There's both a peace at this stage of being more relaxed about things, yet also a sense of urgency of running out of time. It's time to put all the cards out on the table and decide what I want to keep in my hand, what I should be holding onto tighter and what I don't mind letting go of.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Moving on

Wow. Just wow.

I now have a 21-year-old.

And I now have a 16-year-old.

When people tell you that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, they're telling the truth.

My two oldest sons have both hit major milestones this month.

My two sons are 5 years and 5 days apart. I can remember so well the day I went from being a mom of one to a mom of two. I still had a week of work to go before maternity leave. But, as I got up to go to work that Monday morning, my water broke. Uh, oh!

While I was trying to scramble through the house between contractions gathering things I hadn't packed yet, all I could think of was that in an effort to get things all squared away at work, I had important confidential files sitting at home that I had been working on all weekend that had to get back to the office and spreadsheets that had to be finished. My wonderful friend and co-worker stopped by on her way to work so I could try and go over them as best I could in four to six minute increments until I'd have to stop and do some deep breathing.

Later that morning, following some difficulties during labor, my second son was born via emergency c-section. I wasn't awake for it, so the first glimpse I got of him was as I was being rolled down the hall after recovery and they brought him out next to me. He looked just like his big brother and his big brother couldn't have been more proud.

At that time, I had no inkling that the 5 year span between the two would mean that one day I would be celebrating such big birthdays for them at the same time.

Maybe it's my longevity as a parent or the fact that I went on to have three more boys after them, that the milestones don't seem to be hitting quite as hard as they once were. I can remember sobbing at first days of school and watching one pedal down the sidewalk on a bicycle for the first time.

This year it's less sadness and more shock that I now have a full-blown adult child that can legally do anything I can. It's less teary eyes about my son driving alone for the first time and more anxiety of him driving for the first time, combined with anxiety over the insurance bill along with relief that it may lessen the load on me of driving him everywhere.

It's part of life. It's part of parenthood. The kids are growing up and moving on. It's just more of many milestones. Sometimes those milestones mean taking a first ride on a bike, other times a first time driving a vehicle. Sometimes it is a taking wobbly steps across a room, others times it's wobbly steps after a grown-up beverage. It's never easy, but you get more used to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The best thing a father can do for a child is to love their mother

When we were kids my mom had a plaque hanging that said something like "The best thing a father can do for their child is to love their mother." It was fitting for my parents, where there were very frequently shows of affection. Like any couple, they didn't get along 100% but most of the time they were very loving. It was a great example for us.

They've now been married for more than 50 years and it's obvious that can drive each other a little crazy at times, but they are still crazy in love with one another. And that's been one of the biggest takeaways from their years of parenting my sisters and brothers and I.

As a parent I still believe in that saying that mom had displayed in the living room. Although we have no daughters, it's just as important for sons to see their father taking care of their mother, treating her with respect and being loving towards her. There are a lot of kids who don't get to see that.

And it really goes both ways, kids need to see that love on both sides - from father to mother and from mother to father.

Mother's Day just passed and that is a time of year when naturally a husband will do something kind for his wife. However, it's the kind things that happen spontaneously that also have a big impact. Like when my husband went out to exercise his new hobby of taking nature photographs and he returned with a handful of wildflowers for me. Or when he noticed a restaurant I like had a favorite soup on the menu and he drove there to pick some up for me. Or when he notices my car needs to be washed and spends a Saturday morning in the driveway scrubbing it. There are so many other things I could list. Some get noticed more than others.

I, in turn, reciprocate, although it's not something where you keep score. But I try to be thoughtful of him and do little things for him, too. I'll make a favorite meal of his. I'll give him a shoulder massage after a rough day at work. Honestly, I have an easier time coming up with nice little things he does for me than I do for him and I need to work on that.

Anyway, it's crucial that kids witness those nice things. It's also important that they see you holding hands and enjoying each other. When they see the love between their parents, it can make them feel more secure, more confident, more prone to repeat that behavior.

I have the luxury of being in a long-time marriage and I know that there are a lot of parents who don't. It doesn't mean that kids can't still witness little bits of kindness toward the other parent. While you may not still be in love with that person, displaying kindness toward one another can still have a lasting positive effect on the children.

Take those opportunities while kids are watching to display love toward the other parent. Show them what a partnership should be when everything isn't focused on feeding and changing and caring for kids. Give them a little glimmer into your relationship. And let them see that it's a two-way street.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dears sons: Have respect

Dear sons:

(Letter #25)

This is the 25th letter added to the blog. I got the idea years ago from another writer and have added a few letters to my boys here as things arise that I think they should know. Maybe one day they'll look at these and realize that all of mom's advice wasn't that crazy and unimportant after all.

So, my thought for you today is to have respect for others. In life, you're not going to like everyone you come across. They won't all like you. You'll meet people who will have very different opinions than yours. That doesn't mean they are wrong. It doesn't mean you are right. It means that you have each had different life experiences and different influences that have shaped your opinions. You can still co-exist peacefully. That starts by having respect for the other party.

What is respect? When I looked online most of the definitions were along the lines of admiration for someone.


a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Besides being a feeling, it's a verb, too. It's an act of showing admiration.

  1. 1
    admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

You may wonder how you are supposed to admire someone you may not agree with. It doesn't mean that you give in to their beliefs. It doesn't mean that you try to convince them of yours. It doesn't mean you dismiss their way of thinking. It means you don't assume yours is superior. Part of the beauty of this world is that we aren't all the same. We think differently. We see differently. We feel differently. And despite, that we can still get along.

You can look at someone with a completely different attitude, yet admire how much passion they have for that cause. You can look at someone who does something well, even if it's not something you're interested in, and admire the work they put into getting good at it.

Showing someone respect involves listening. It means not assuming you know better. Not cutting them off and telling them what they're doing wrong. It means giving them the benefit of hearing them out. It means allowing them to express what they'd like to express just as you would like to do the same. It means not making them feel like less because you may not agree.

It applies in so many aspects of life. School. Work. Relationships. Social circles.

You don't always have to be right. And sometimes learning that you aren't can be refreshing and eye opening. Don't have negative feeling toward someone who is different, admire them for what it takes for them to take that path that may be different.

As you grow, remember that respecting others also means you are respecting yourself. It can make your world so much bigger when you respect others enough to listen to their views and open up your own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A hometown parade tradition

One of my favorite things about the spring and summer season is parades. I love them. I go to all the ones I can - Memorial Day parades, 4th of July Parades, Flag Day parade and Labor Day parade. Then there's some of the other fun parades in the region, like the Pierogi Parade that's part of Pierogi Fest in Whiting and their downtown Christmas Parade. But one that I have gone to every single year for at least 25 years is Lansing's Good Neighbor Day Parade. It's a fun parade that was started 48 years ago by the Chamber of Commerce and highlights the businesses, non-profit organizations, schools and churches in the village and surrounding towns. It's always the first Saturday in May and while Memorial Day is the traditional kick-off of the summer season, around here it's the Good Neighbor Day Parade. Just thought I'd share a few visuals of this fun event that has been a family tradition for us. Every year for the past many years there's at least one person in the family in the parade. This year two of the boys were involved.

The Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard always starts off the parade.

Not far behind them was the Civil Air Patrol color guard. My middle son is part of that group.

I always love the marching bands. There were three this year.

Among the other entries were firetrucks, emergency vehicles, horses, tractors, motorcycles, antique cars, clowns and lots of other fun stuff. The theme of the parade was "Alive with Music" so there were a few bands on floats, also.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cherishing our mutual love of the game

Every year my dad and I go to a Cubs game early in the season. That usually means opening week because we can't wait to get there after a long fall and winter without our favorite past time. Dad grew up in central Illinois surrounded by Cardinals fans, but fell in love with the Chicago Cubs as he listened to the broadcasts of them playing in the 1945 World Series and read about their victories in the pages of the Chicago newspapers that were delivered to his home via mail.

Dad passed on his love of the Cubs and his love of the game to his kids and now I'm doing the same with mine. My oldest really took to it. He's as big a fan as my dad. They've been to lots of games together over the years and several Cubs conventions. I love to hear their little chats about the latest trades, the merits of the bull pen and how the season is shaping up. Somehow, the younger four of my boys just don't have that same affection for the game. My youngest one gets excited about the games, but it's as much for the cotton candy and nachos as it is to watch the team I love so much in one of my favorite places.

This year as Dad and I looked at the schedule, we noticed there were way fewer day games this season. Heading to the ball park in April is brutal enough during the day, but head to a game at night in those first couple weeks of the season and you are almost guaranteed to need eight layers of clothing. Since I couldn't find a day game in April that would fit into the schedule, we had to wait for May. I'm glad we did because we couldn't have ordered better weather. It was about 80 degrees, very bright and sunny for the first few innings and then a little overcast, but still a lovely warm day.

We always get tickets from my sister who has been a season ticket holder for many years. We love the upper deck seats that are under the big awning that keeps us dry when it does rain and that I can spend the day outside and never even have to apply sunblock. Those seats are where we reminisce and lament over teams of the past, missed opportunities and team curses. It's where we swell with optimism and excitement discussing the newest crop of big league players and the talent in the Cubs organizations' minor league teams. It's where we share a bag of peanuts in the shell and contemplate if we want the bare bones dog from the vendors who walk the crowd, a dog with grilled onions from the stand around the corner or if it's worth the trek down under the press box to get one with freshly chopped onions. It's where we bond over a mutual love of the game and a fondness for this team and this ballpark that has given us so many memories.