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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Happy New Year – Advent Style

Our homily in Church began this morning with the priest saying, “Happy New Year!” Today is the beginning of the new liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advent.

As he talked about time passing, I saw living examples of his message throughout the congregation. My husband and I were there with our daughter before she returned to school on Christmas break, while our son was out of town.  We’re on the cusp of an empty nest.

This Advent is very special to me because last year, on the second Sunday of Advent, I missed Mass because I got sick, had a heart attack, and was then lying on an operating table during an emergency procedure to put in a stent and clear a blocked artery. When they started the procedure and went into my artery, I flinched. The cardiologist told me, “If you move like that again, you will die.”  So I didn’t move. At one point during the procedure, I knew something wasn’t going well but didn’t know what. They told me to cough, and those in the room seemed to relax. They later told me that the tension I sensed was because my heart rate dropped dramatically.

I didn’t know if I would live till Christmas, let alone for another year.

I was struck during the homily that having that heart attack was one of the best things that had happened to me in years. It reminded me of the miracle of life and to savor every moment, even the bad ones.

Life is beautiful, even when it is dirty, painful, and messy. We are all in our own chapters of our stories, and stories always include struggles. As I looked through the congregation, I saw families each in their own stories.

  • There was the young couple with the wife who was sick and her husband, who silently helped her stand when she needed help and helped her with medication.
  • There was the little boy with his parents, playing with a rosary and pretending it was a lasso.
  • There were the teen-aged siblings who teased each other during parts of the Mass, enjoying and irritating each other as only siblings can do.
  • There was the family preparing to move, to venture to a new home.
  • There was the older couple who go to Mass every day and are utterly devoted to each other.
  • There was the couple who helped their mother as she continues her determined walk with a walker.

Some of these stories have similar chapters in my own book. Others are unique.

Whatever the chapter, I realized we have all been given a gift today…a gift of life.

When I hear Christmas carols this year, they sound more precious because each is a celebration. I’m still here. You’re still here. We’re here together. And I want to make the most of it.

So if you see me singing in my car, or if you see me standing in line at a convenience store while the store pipes in Christmas carols, don’t pause if I start to dance a little jig in my place in line or start singing the carol.

I’m happy to be here. The songs I sing are part of my victory dance with life because I got another year with the people I love the most.

Happy new year. Let’s make the most of it.

 


Managing With Respect

I’ve turned into one of those grumpy old school people.

We were at a hotel, and I asked the front manager how we would get a shuttle to the airport. She buzzed their driver. When he came and pulled the car up, she scolded him in front of us because he failed to keep the engine running. He went to turn the van back on and as he left, she rolled her eyes at me behind his back.

He was a nice guy doing a hard job on Black Friday. In addition to driving people to the airport, he was responsible for keeping the breakfast room stocked. She not only treated him with disrespect but did so in front of customers.

He did not respond in kind.

He took us to the airport, and we worked to generate conversation with him. When my husband found out how badly the manager treated the driver, he added to the tip. An hour later, he picked us back up from the airport. We learned about his family, where he traveled and more.

I made a point when we returned to tell her how good a job he did and how much we appreciated his help.

The world is a better place when you treat the people around you like people instead of chattel or objects.

The manager who took pride in her efficiency must have been absent the day they taught leadership. Maybe she never had the dirty job where someone mocked her in front of a customer. I don’t know.

A manager may keep things going ok. But a leader, a true leader, not only keeps things going but inspires everyone to work harder, give more, and respect each other.

Her bad behavior also made me appreciate the office where I work now. Everyone is part of the same team. We will do what it takes to get the job done. And if we have some fun along the way, so much the better.

When you treat those you work with with respect, they will go above and beyond, and you will all do a better job.

Maybe you have to be a crusty old lady to see that.

And now I’m pondering whether I should email this blog to the manager involved. I have her business card.

Update on December 3: I received a heartfelt apology from the manager. We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve made them. I am glad her hotel was as responsive as she was.


Thanksgiving Menus

I usually post Thanksgiving menus. The challenge this year is what to fix after a heart attack to keep family traditions. So we’re doing a mix of cutting certain items, adding others, and swapping ingredients to lower the fat content.

Menu:

  • Broccoli salad, made with broccoli, sunflower seeds, diced almonds, dried cranberries, and a red onion, mixed with my own fat free creamy dressing and sprinkled with low-salt turkey bacon.
  • Cranberry salad, made with pureed cranberries, apples, oranges, and walnuts and mixed with raspberry Jello.
  • Turkey
  • Dressing, made with whole wheat bread and celery and onions cooked in chicken broth instead of margarine – no margarine will be used in this dish. And the chicken broth is home-made, to lower the salt content.
  • Mashed potatoes, made with freshly dug potatoes, using olive oil and garlic and mixed with the skins still on them to increase the nutritional value.
  • Sweet potato casserole, made by my daughter. I don’t know how she’s making it.
  • Corn casserole, made with olive oil instead of margarine. The rest of it is pretty much like the traditional recipe.
  • Gravy, ok – I’ve got to keep gravy.
  • Mini pies, made by my daughter. They are miniature blackberry and cherry pies, baked in a cupcake pan for individual servings.

I skipped any type of bread or rolls. There are plenty of starches in this menu, and I didn’t want to add another temptation. We’ll see how my substitutions of olive oil for margarine play out with my family.

Update: success! It is possible to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with no margarine or butter.


How We Teach Our Kids to Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I’m transitioning to a different phase of parenting as our nest grows closer to being empty. Now, I see the lessons I never knew I was teaching coming to fruition. The character lessons of the ones we teach by example, without realizing that’s what we’re doing.

Now I see the best lessons we taught were during the toughest times our family faced. As a mother who was homeschooling, I was concerned during crises how I would teach my kids their school work and struggled to find ways to make it happen. The schoolwork did happen. But now, I see the real life lessons that happened by doing are what really counted.

When Nick was 3 and in speech therapy 4 mornings a week, Elizabeth and I sat in waiting rooms waiting for him, and we made that our special reading time when she read to me each day. For variety, we played with a reading music board where she played with magnets and learned to read her music notes.

When Nick was 5 and Elizabeth was 7, 2 weeks into our school year, our home and business burned. By some miracle, their school books were saved. We lived in an apartment while our home was rebuilt. Maybe the first lesson we taught was the morning after the fire, when we knelt in prayer in church, with all of us wearing borrowed clothes and none of us knowing where we would live or how our family would survive or what would happen to our 1-year-old business.

During the rebuild, the kids’ school work was scaled back to basics – reading, math, and writing. Friends took them in and taught them the first two weeks of pack out and demolition. My heart broke as our kids lost their every toy and learning game I had so painstakingly purchased and organized.

Their school days began at 6:30 a.m. so I could work with them and then work with the contractors on the construction site. They played in the back yard each day while I supervised the rebuild. I remember working on a bedroom and telling Nick to read books aloud to me while I worked – both to keep him out of trouble and help him build his new reading skills. In the car each day, from our apartment to our home, I had the kids do mental math.

I pondered over putting them into traditional school because our schedule was so tough. A schoolteacher friend of mine reassured me, telling me that when kids go through such a tremendous loss, wherever they go to school, teachers try to just get them basics because their hearts and heads are completely filled with survival first and learning second.

At the same time I worked with that, the kids saw Richard, who converted our bedroom in the 2 bedroom, 800 square foot apartment insurance rented for us into a temporary office where he worked and we slept.

We continued violin lessons during the build as well. One week, as I drove the kids to their group lesson time, I hit a 12-point buck who rolled off my car and ran into the woods. I didn’t want to miss the violin time we had already paid for, so we continued to the lessons, with deer fur and blood on the front of my car.

To help with purchasing their books for future years, we took on selling historic fiction at homeschool conventions. The kids helped us set up, sell, tear down, and inventory books. They both learned at an early age to calculate sales tax and make change. Our sales gave us many adventures. One of my most memorable was waiting in line to unload our books at a large convention center. As our car was stopped, we decided to try unloading our cart on the sidewalk. The kids helped me push the cart, with all our books into the center,  while Richard waited for a place to park. Of course that was a 1-block adventure uphill. We got checked in and completely set up by the time Richard reached us.

Now, my kids are at an age where they increasingly make their own decisions. The flip side of that is I see them encounter their own set backs. It’s ten times harder to see my kids face a big blow and loss than it was to go through it ourselves. I hope their lives involve as few tough challenges as possible. I just want them to dance their way on a yellow brick road to happiness with sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.

But that’s not how life works.

When we searched for scholarships for my daughter, at one scholarship contest she faced some terrific setbacks. But she didn’t quit and kept going. The person awarding scholarships saw how hard she fought to keep going, and I wonder if that’s one of the reasons she won it.

Now, I see my son tackle challenges. He’s the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. If a glass has half an inch of water in it, he’ll say “It has just enough.” And with him, he’s right. He will take whatever hand he’s dealt, make the best of it, and good things come of it.

During those tough times, as I struggled for them to get the basics, they got them. I now see that the living, and the struggling, are the real lessons they learned while I fretted whether or not they were learning anything else.

When I see that, I think of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

If you can keep going when parenting your kids through the toughest struggles, you’ll have taught them what they most need to handle life.


A Biker’s Mother’s Prayer

1097803_10151873672680439_312540868_oWhen you have a baby girl it’s easy to imagine firsts – first steps, First Communion, first time riding a bike, first dance, and more.

Then reality knocks on the door of our fantasies and sends us to unexpected firsts.

Like first motorcycle.

That was one I never imagined. But we live in the world that is real instead of a sand castle in the sky. God has called her on a different journey from mine.

So now each time I see a motorcyclist anywhere, I pray for the biker and for my daughter….

Please God keep them safe.

Let them exercise caution and make wise decisions while riding.

Help the other drivers around them see them and exercise caution.

And above all dear Lord,

Bring her home safely, without injury.

So when you see that biker on the road this Labor Day weekend, give extra room and leeway and consider it a personal favor to moms like me whose children ride motorcycles.

And if you’re so inclined, say a little prayer for those bikers. And their mothers who pray daily for their safe travels.

 

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream of Jesus

My surgery went well, and I’m on the path to recovery. A few nights ago I had the most profound of dreams.

I was returning to once again teach children in a large group. What lessons would I share? What was most important for them to learn? How would I design the lesson plan?

When I stood up in front of them, I knew I was to forget about math, reading, history, and science. Those were not the first lesson to teach.

Instead, I told them, “What’s most important for you to learn to do is to talk to Jesus. He always listens and is always there.”

After I said it in the dream, I was utterly overwhelmed with the recognition of how much Jesus Christ has been and is there for me in my own life.

I didn’t know if any of the children in that dream took my message to heart. But they had heard it. So I had done my job.

And I marveled at how Divine Providence had cared for me for a lifetime. I told the kids, “Jesus Loves Me is more than a song. It’s real.”

With that message shared, my task with the children was complete.

And it was time to share that message with others.

Jesus does listen. He does care. He will carry you through the darkest pits and share a light with you you never imagined possible.

And I know that for me, there is one thing to remember above all.

Give. Me. Jesus.

 

 


Update on Summer Break

I have not posted much here because of time spent with summer business and family obligations.

Last week, I had surgery which went well and am still recovering. As I increase my energy and recover, I will resume posting.


I Dream a Dream of Life Gone Right

There was a time a man was once unkind,

His stories soft, his voice was lying.

There was a time when a child was crying,

He left her world a broken pile.

At that one time,

It had all gone wrong….

 

I dream a dream of life gone right.

Of second chances, new hope in trying.

I’ve lived a dream of life gone right.

Freed from past sorrow through forgiving.

When I was young and most afraid,

I never dreamed beyond tomorrow.

 

Then a quiet man came into my life.

His manner soft, quiet, and tender.

As he built my hope and taught

Me how to rise and stand.

 

He spent a lifetime at my side.

He filled my days with fun adventure,

He’s raised our children by my side,

He stayed there when the fires came.

 

I live a dream he’s here with me,

We live these years together,

Thank God I’ve been set free,

Whatever the storm I know we’ll weather.

I never dreamed my life could be,

So different from the hell I once lived in,

So different now from what it had been.

 

Now life has surpassed the dreams in me.


His Name is Holy

I’ve been covered up with family and personal obligations for several weeks, without time to blog much. As my family meets challenges this week, we’ve met them united together in prayer. And in the process, we’ve seen the hand of God at work. I marvel at Divine Providence and pray that I learn as much as possible from each challenge and experience.

This morning, I woke with an abiding peace. With all our distractions, what matters most is love.

 

His name truly is holy.


Baby Can Walk Out of the Corner

The reason the movie “Dirty Dancing” resounds with many people is the single line, “Nobody puts baby in the corner.”

It echoes with many women who feel they have and are put into a corner where they have ideas and values, they say what they think, but they are never noticed. Their ideas are ignored. They feel unheard and invisible.

Good news.

Baby’s not chained in that corner. She doesn’t have to wait until some guy calls her out to leave the corner.

Instead, she can walk out of the corner and find another table where she is heard. There are places in this world where your ideas matter and people actually listen to you because they want to hear what you have to say.

Don’t fall into the trap that what you say or think doesn’t matter. It does.

When you find a table where people do listen, remarkable things happen. You feel better about yourself and discover that when your ideas are taken into account, good things happen sometimes. Maybe not all the time.

But that’s because it takes practice.

The most important thing is to resolve not to waste your time or your life in the corner mute and invisible.

Instead find a table where you have a seat and are a valued part of the conversation.


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