Moments Matter

Confessions of a Recovering ‘Bad Neighbor’

As a child growing up on a farm for the first seven years of my life, I hadn’t a care in the world. My days were spent running barefoot through wheat fields, chasing beautiful strutting peacocks and feeding scratch to our chickens.

We lived in a little red house with a large wooden porch and a barn nestled next to a busy highway on the outskirts of town. Being a young child, I was always told the highway was very dangerous. The extinction of my precious, beloved animals confirmed this month after month, year after year. It was even dangerous to pick up our mail. To retrieve mail we had to walk up a long cement driveway, open a large wire gate, then walk up another short hill. The mailbox sat on the edge of the highway with trucks and cars blowing past.

Occasionally, we’d bump into our neighbors riding their horse in the canyon, or picking up mail. My parents would chat for a bit about the weather, property issues and animal annoyances.

Hitchhikers were commonplace in the 1970s, and often came by asking for food and water. My parents rarely turned anyone away. We slept with our doors and windows unlocked most nights.

Which brings me to my point: my parents considered everyone a neighbor.

Consider that for a moment.

My parents rarely turned anyone away. Our home was a blessing to anyone who needed love, who needed a blanket, food or water.

My parents (middle and far right) during the 1970s with someone who started as a stranger in need, and later became a friend.

An old photo of my parents (middle and far right) during the 1970s with Dave. Dave was a stranger in need, and later became a friend.

#LWYL Revolution
Now as an adult, I look around my suburban neighborhood. The picturesque cottage homes sit tightly one next to the other. Lawns are neatly cut and the black paved streets are flawless. Yet, behind the doors there is happiness, laughter and joy. There is also anger, pain, sadness and depression. There are neighbors who embrace each other, while others won’t even wave.

The concept of loving our neighbors, city and community is a recent theme at Mariners Church headquartered in Orange County, California entitled “Love Where You Live” (LWYL). In a nutshell, the series cites the plethora of benefits to communities and the world if we loved our neighbors more. After all, would Jesus turn away from a friendly wave, or reject a complimentary plate of food?

No, He would not.

Please bare with me as this post is not one of being preachy, but rather a deep, personal inner reflection.

Evolution of the Bad Neighbor
During my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to live in a diverse number of areas – from the city, beach towns, farms, small towns, mid-size cities, mountain towns, to a suburban community. Even though each area had its own ups and downs, I feel that through the process I became somewhat jaded in loving where I lived.

The fear of going close to the highway mailbox had grown exponentially bigger.

For years, I lived in the city and I would pull my car into our condo garage and then quickly shut it to avoid talking to our neighbors. Another time, I recall driving home from a long day at the office, and impatiently honking my horn at the traffic on our urban street only to realize it was a fire truck with Santa greeting small children at Christmastime.

What had I turned into? Not a good neighbor that’s for sure. That little girl from the farm who gave water from a garden hose to strangers had faded.

Could she be revived?

Being a Good Neighbor, Again
After moving into the suburbs nearly 10 years ago, I was hardened and bitter. I had built huge walls to avoid developing relationships for fear of dangerous rejection and being hurt.

It has taken the encouragement of my social, extrovert husband and kids to pull me out of my shell. I am not saying now that I’m Mrs. Super Friendly neighbor, but I have taken chances to show my neighbors love. However, being a good neighbor has a deeper meaning than courtesies and friendliness. How about telling a neighbor you are praying for her during her upcoming surgery? Or, giving a neighbor a hug when you can see the type of day he’s having?

I now love where I live. It took the LWYL series to remind me of my roots of love and that same love that Jesus showed to complete strangers. Once again, my parents had it right: we should treat everyone like our neighbor.

What a beautiful, life-changing thought.

Do you Love Where You Live? Why? Why not?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

#lwyl

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Backing Out: A Parent’s Confession of ‘Helicopter Parenting’

You want to protect your kids from being hurt. Check each blind turn and corner.

Even though my eldest daughter is about to turn 10, in my own mind, she’s already driving a car. You’ve seen those TV commercials where babies or small children are driving cars, using a cell phone, or making a financial trade.

Yep, in my mind, she’s about to be handed the car keys.

Each time I back out of an especially tricky parking spot, I just can’t help but think that she’ll be doing the same dangerous maneuver someday. She’ll be plagued with blind spots – points where she won’t be able to see a speeding car or passerby.

37aI remember my dad instructing me in how to back out of my first parking spot.

“Go nice and slow, real slow, Kristal. Take your time,” he said in his deep voice. “Now, look through the window of the car next to you so that you can get a better view. Use the reflection,” he guided.

Continuing to back out slowly, I glanced in the side and rear view mirrors. Suddenly, I heard a honking horn from an oncoming car. I slammed on the brake and my head bounced off the headrest. I could feel my heart beat out of my chest and fingertips tingle.

“What did I say, Kristal?” my Dad scolded, while slapping his hands on his lap. “Look both ways again and again, go real slow and use the reflection and windows. Even though you can’t see, use what you have to make the best decision at the time. Okay, let’s try it again,” he said.

In the coming years, both my daughters will need to back out of parking spots alone with blind spots.

And, I’m petrified.

Helicopter Parenting
I had a conversation with a friend about the topic of helicopter parenting the other day. We pondered: Are we harming our children to a certain extent by being so involved?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term helicopter parenting it is a “parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters they hover overhead.”

Guilty as charged.

So how do I work on not being that overinvolved, overprotective parent? Instinctively, I want to fix and protect my sweet children from the harsh big bad world. What’s wrong with that?

Well, lots could be wrong with that.

Studies find that helicopter parenting may weaken your child’s ability to problem solve, creates a disconnect with natural consequences, fosters dependence rather than independence and so on…

Nearly 10 years ago when I became a parent for the first time, and was stressed and exhausted because my newborn would not sleep, my mom gave me some a simple, yet powerful piece of advice that I never forgot: “With five kids and three jobs, I just couldn’t get too involved in micromanaging you kids.”

I’m not saying, we shouldn’t not engage and communicate with our children. What I’m saying is that we (I) need to listen more and advise and fix less. (Hard swallow)

I know my girls will not only face blind spots, but they’ll be sideswiped more than once in life. The best I can do is to teach them to use those external and internal reflections to make decisions.

I just hope they hit the brakes in time.

How did your parents raise you when it comes to micro- or macro parenting? Do you have characteristics of being a helicopter parent with your own children?

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Fighting Collateral Divorce Damage

I remember the ugliness of it. The loneliness. The desperation. The loss. The pain.

She acted out to fill the hole now permanently left in her heart. She began to smoke and drink alcohol. Took pills. She snuck out her bedroom window at night to find anyone or anything to fill that void.images-1

Kim and I were neighborhood “friends,” but I tried to keep my distance. Even though her pain was spilling over, and I wanted to be there. I feared that she’d bring me down with her.

I had enough of my own problems.

As teen girls, we were neighbors for a short time. She was new to our junior high school. Her parents were “newly divorced.”

And there was the catch: Divorce.

Praying for Divorce

Even as a child, I prayed my parents would divorce. The fights at night could be unbearable at times. I would hide under my covers in the top bunk bed and pray they would just end it. “Why God? Please!” I would plead.

Divorce at the time seemed to be the better of two evils for my parents. And yet, my parents stuck it out for 44 years.

They didn’t give up on their marriage in the darkest of times.

And here was my lost, pained neighbor friend who was a casualty of divorce. The worst part of divorce is how it effects the children.

And why is divorce on my mind?

Divorce Rears Its Ugly Head, Again

“He told me it’s over. He doesn’t love me any more. I’m crushed…please pray.”

This is the message I received a few months ago from a good friend.

What’s the collateral divorce damage for her family? One little girl, one little boy, one dog, a parakeet, and a man and a woman who once loved each other…devastated.

Nearly 30 years later, I felt yet again the pain of another friend in the battle of this ugly thing called divorce. Rather than pulling away this time, I’m emotionally strong enough to support her in prayer and lending a listening ear.

My own husband and I are shocked by how many of our friends and neighbors are divorcing. They reach the 10, maybe 12-year mark, and then call it quits.

What happened?

Phil Donahue Sheds Some Light
There is no single answer. So long as people get married, there will be divorce.

Sadly, the previous 50 percent divorce rate is a distant, lingering memory. In California, divorce rates hover around 75 percent, and even higher in Orange County according to 2012 statistics.

In other words, a mere 25 percent have a chance at marriage in California.

I recall watching a “Phil Donahue Show” television segment that focused on divorce during the 1980s. In his trademarked closing message  the camera zoomed toward Donahue’s face. His blue eyes now serious behind the oversized spectacles, he reached into the rooms of viewers to share his painstaking insights about marriage and divorce. One line resonated with me as a teenager: “Marriage takes hard work by both partners.”

Regardless of whether I agree with Mr. Donahue’s political point of view was irrelevant. He knew these words all too well as a liberal divorced Catholic talk show host who was making a go in his second marriage. He had his own five “divorce-damaged kids” to prove it.

What’s Love Got to Do?
Now as a woman married for 13 years, I understand it takes a commitment to another person even when they are driving you crazy. It’s about patience and acceptance of each other’s flaws. Yes, it’s about love. But at the core, we wake up each day, hit the alarm and go about our day. Sometimes our marriages fall by the wayside because life gets in the way. We disconnect from one another. And before we know it, there is a stranger lying next to you. You are next to a person you once loved.

You wonder what happened. Life happened. You both let it get away. You let that love fly right out of your heart. I think Mr. Donahue had it right: It takes hard work to keep the sparks of marriage alive. To my knowledge, he has remained committed in his second marriage for the past 30 years.

After reading this post, I’d like to be all a rah-rah cheerleader and let’s stop this divorce rate in it tracks. I think the first step is admitting that we are broken, and we can’t do this thing called life alone and be happy. I would give anything to avoid the millions of troubled teenage Kim repeats, but I think the first step is admitting we are flawed, and we need to open up the conversation about divorce – it’s just not worth the collateral damage.

I leave you with video from Casting Crowns that speaks perfectly to the topic…”Broken Together.”

God bless.

 

 

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month Repost: Live Another Day

Editor’s Note: The post below was written last October. However, I find myself once again with the same dreaded thought as I lay on the exam table just a few weeks ago. The cold hands of my doctor pressing and pushing. Stepping away from the table I pop up while pulling the open gown over my breasts. I ask in a half nervous jest, “So, I need to have a mammogram again this year, right? Because of my risk?” I knew the answer. She quickly turned her head while at the sink, her eyes unflinching. “Yes, you need to do it,”  she said. I am once again facing the same fears, the same procrastination with making my mammogram appointment. Here’s to facing down fear.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Rossevelt

 

It sits idly. The letter. My heart beats another day. I feel the sunshine on my face. I listen to the doves nestled on my backyard fence. I envelop the smells of my daughters. I think about the letter, and what I need to do.

What I have to do.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Mason Photography.

Living another precious day with my family. Photo courtesy of Jenny Mason Photography.

Hundreds of miles away a woman lies on a cold exam room table. She holds her breath while the black marker tip lines her breasts and under her armpits. She tries to think of her daughter who is starting college, and her son’s football game.

But she can’t force out the thoughts that she could die of breast cancer. She could lose it all.

I pulled out the buried letter, and I was reminded of that brave friend. I was also reminded of my Aunt Diane, who underwent a double mastectomy.

I can’t wait any longer. It wouldn’t be right. Staring at the letter, I pinpoint why I am delaying the inevitable mammogram appointment.

The answer is pure and simple – fear.

So, I do this for my brave friend on the exam table. I also do it for my Aunt Diane – and for the countless number of families who lost the battle. I also make the appointment for those who are fighting breast cancer at this very moment.

Most importantly, I am doing it for the two little girls who call me “mom,” and my husband and best friend of the last 20-plus years.

As my husband encouraged me the past months: “Do it to live another day.”

I plan to do just that.

At this time last year, I wrote about my first mammogram, and my family’s history of breast cancer in a post “A Letter Like No Other.” If you haven’t made your mammogram appointment, call today. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for someone else.

God Bless.

imagesOCTOBER IS NATIONAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated in October of each year to raise awareness for the disease that will affect approximately one in every eight U.S.-born women in their lifetimes.
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