Help us find a home for Charlie!

Please help us find a home for Charlie!

Charlie is 11 years old, neutered, and spends most of his time just sitting at your feet and hanging out. He also loves to chase and play outside, and he thinks birds are really fun to chase, too.

Unfortunately, we are unable to give him the love and attention he deserves – and it breaks our heart to see those eyes begging for attention from this very on-the-go family. Technically, he belonged to our oldest son, who recently moved to Colorado. My son knows that we are looking for a new home for Charlie and agrees that it is for the best. Can you take him in?

He can speak, sit, lay down, and jump on command (as long as you’re prepared to give him something yummy).

Charlie’s favorite dog food is Ol’ Roy Dinner Rounds, but he also eats leftovers, so things definitely don’t go to waste at our house. He’s a gentle giant – has a great bark (strangers at the door may even think we have a Doberman!), and he’s excellent around babies and children. We have 7 children, and we’ve had him for 7 years, so he’s had lots of experience with every age group, from newborn to adult and everything in between. One of his favorite people is grandpa – he’d make a great companion for a senior, too.

Although he generally gets along with other pets, we want him to go to a home where he will get plenty of attention and nurturing through this difficult transition.Think of it like bringing a newborn home from the hospital. It’s challenging but VERY rewarding for anyone who embraces the opportunity to make a loving difference.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We found a new home for Charlie a few days ago, but after his first night, his new owners were worried that he wasn’t happy because he cried through the night and wasn’t himself. We picked him up but we really don’t want to put my kids through another false placement.

So, before contacting us to inquire about Charlie, please know this: Basset hounds are known to whine when they want something, but all the more so if they’re truly sad or worried. After a move, Charlie will probably avoid food for a while, and will probably whimper or moan until he feels adjusted. The Basset Hound rescue organization says that it can take a few days or even a few months for a Basset Hound to be completely back to himself after an adoption.

Lastly, you should know that Charlie is considered a “senior” dog. Seniors tend to be more mellow and easy going, which is a wonderful advantage for someone just wanting some good old-fashioned canine loyalty, without the stress of potty training and furniture or shoe damage that often comes with younger dogs. FYI, the life span of the average Basset is 12 years, but they can live as much as 18 years or more.

We hope to find a home not too far away, in case the kids can still visit him once in a while. We live in North-East Mesa, AZ.

If you are interested in adopting Charlie, please reply to this message below with your contact information and why you think your home would be a good fit. Your reply will be sent to me for ‘moderation’, but it will never be posted for public view.

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AP Chemistry and Forest Fires

Positive Thinking Tip: Life’s disasters are like forest fires: they release new seeds, and always mark an exciting new beginning.


This is the third installment of my personal exposé that began with “Getting Personal Here” and which continued with “Something’s Gotta Change“.

In my last installment, I ended with:

“It’s nearly 3 am again – I’m eager to share what those extra lessons turned out to be, and you’re probably wondering, ‘so, what about the debts?’ or ‘what are you going to do with your business now?’ but I’ll have to save those details for next time.”

It’s finally “next time” so, here we go…

About those lessons learned, no doubt I haven’t learned all that I need to learn, and I’m sure there are more to come, but to this point I’ve learned a few:

For one thing, I recognized at least one huge blessing that was contained in my timely meltdown. As I said in the first post, I dropped off the map in May.  From May through October, my husband and I reassessed our roles, and found a more workable long-term plan for our family.

By November, I was breathing again, just in time to shift my attention to helping my oldest son prepare for a full-time 2-year service mission for our church.  He applied to serve and was assigned to a region that includes Northern Colorado and Southern Nebraska/Wyoming, and he was to report for training on February 8th, 2012.

To help him prepare for this assignment, we started gathering some serious winter clothing (seeing as how we didn’t really own any), there was a ton of paperwork to complete, and countless appointments to get all the doctor’s and dentist’s permissions and medical records turned in.

It doesn’t sound all that time consuming in hindsight, but it was a feat of ginormous proportions while I also worked to keep up on all the other children’s activities, needs, Christmas concerts, preparations for Christmas itself, and especially trying to help my junior survive AP Chemistry.

(At the same time, there were some business commitments that I still needed to fulfill, so once Christmas was behind me, those took center stage.)

Once my son was all settled into his missionary assignment, I was able to reflect on the timing of my meltdown and recognize that it gave me the space I needed to have some very special, meaningful experiences with him before sending him on his way. It’s possible that he has left the nest for good, and I feel so much gratitude for the sweet memories we were able to create with him those last few months.

Another lesson I learned had to do with letting go. 

To explain, let me share an experience I had with my 16 year-old son:

At the beginning of the school year, I encouraged him to sign up for AP Chemistry because he had enjoyed regular Chemistry, and because he had demonstrated an increased commitment for doing well in school and an increased willingness to study hard.

It seemed like an amazing opportunity, because his teacher had been the recipient of a national award, and so I pictured my son having an experience something akin to what was demonstrated in the movie “Stand and Deliver” with the dedicated and heroic teacher, Jaime Escalante.

I believed that with hard work and with my son taking advantage of ALL the help his dedicated and award-winning teacher would have to offer, my son could pull it off.

What I didn’t bank on were the unexpected challenges. Had we known that these issues were going to be part of the equation, I certainly would have thought twice:

  1. His teacher is rarely available outside of class.  There are two lunch periods, and my son’s lunch hour is during one of that teacher’s regular classes. He was invited to come in at lunch anyway, working independently while the other class is being conducted, with the plan to get some help here and there as time permits… but it never really worked. The teacher often taught right up to the bell and then it was time to go. He couldn’t help before school, because he was busy with an A-hour class. And, he was not available after school, either (I’m not sure why).
  2. There was a mentoring program at the school where students were paired up with other students who could help with a certain subject… however AP Chemistry was not one of the available topics. None of the volunteer mentors knew the topic well enough to help anyone.
  3. The students were required to use an online homework assignment program called WebAssign, and sometimes it rejected even the right answers.  One time (after beating our heads against the wall for HOURS), we called his teacher at home to get help on a problem, and his answer was, “Oh, yeah, that one is kind of buggy. You got the answer right, but for the online program you have to put in this other number [which was a wrong answer] to get it to accept it.”
  4. Another time we were stuck and his teacher said, “Have you tried Yahoo Answers?” (That’s where some other desperate, struggling student has copied/pasted the WebAssign question on Yahoo and a kind stranger has responded with an answer. To survive the class, students went looking for the answers on Yahoo, without really learning what’s going on and how to come to the answer… and because our award winning teacher is spread so thin, he even began to encourage the resource.)
  5. We hired a professional tutor to help my son with the class, but she couldn’t get the WebAssign to accept her answers, either.
  6. We hired a fellow class member who seemed to be understanding it a little better than the others, to help my son learn as they went. But sometimes he was not available, and ultimately began to get just as stuck as everyone else.
  7. The teacher told my son, “If you find yourself spending more than x minutes on any one problem, call me!” Well, that’s nice and all, but the fact of the matter is, under the circumstances, my son would have been on the phone with his teacher for HOURS at a time each night if he had had the gall to take him up on it.  My son did timidly take him up on the offer a few times, but rather than working to discover the gaps or mistakes in how my son was trying to solve the problems, the teacher just quickly rehearsed the process like he did in class and sent my son on his way. Sometimes he just outright told my son the answer so we could all get off the phone and move on with our lives.
  8. Oh, and the last time he told my son that he should call him at home, he added, “I’ll probably be grumpy about it, but then I’ll help you get the answer.”  Well, my son was already feeling like a huge inconvenience, like he was the one student who was struggling the most in that class, but in spite of that, he mustered the courage to call one more time, only to get the teacher’s voicemail, and days later, the teacher still had not returned his call.
  9. We recognized that this was a college level course, but at least in college, you can go to the science lab for help when you need it!!

Even though he was in danger of failing, and in spite of all these ridiculous obstacles, he managed to hang in there and keep a passing score.  I know it wasn’t an “A”, but the fact that he was passing was enough for me to be one seriously PROUD MAMA!

Then, on one particular day as I was experiencing some massive stress over this class from h***, and just as it was looking like my son was coming out of the woods, I got a phone call from his math teacher. She told me she was concerned because he was failing her class.

MATH?? Seriously?? That was one of his best subjects!  Because of his comfort level in math, apparently that was the class that was getting the neglect, just to save his bacon in Chemistry.

I sighed. Here we go...

I asked, “So… are there any assignments he’s missing that he can make up?”

“No,” she said, “we don’t accept late work or retakes. Department policy.”

Well, that was the last straw. My blood began to boil (I was a secondary math teacher in my former life, and could not fathom denying a student of the opportunity to fix past mistakes. After all, if it takes time for them to want to learn it better, thank heavens they want to learn it at all! Let them learn it! Better late than never! If they’re having to do homework-triage to stay afloat in a potentially college-credit bearing class, give them a break!)

She continued, “He’ll just have to do really well from this point going forward. Now, if he would like to come in at lunch to get some help…”

Lunch?? He was already expected to be spending lunches in his Chemistry room hoping for some help from that teacher. He didn’t need math help, he just didn’t have time to keep up.

It was in that moment that the impossibility of the situation sunk in. We had been fighting the Chemistry battle for seven months, always thinking that there MUST be a way to succeed, but suddenly the reality was clear. After all he could do, it was still not going to be good enough. The resources I had assumed would be available to him just weren’t there, and left to himself, it was just too much.

(Because of what I teach, I believed it could still be conquered, but it didn’t matter what I thought, it only mattered what he thought... and he had lost hope. Who could blame him?)

In that moment of peak anxiety, as I stressed like never before over what I could do to help him conquer, an impression came to me, quiet and serene, that said, “Let it go. There’s a better way.”

I caught my breath and pondered the impression. For the first time all year, it suddenly felt okay to consider having him withdraw… that it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and that in every life experience there is a valuable lesson to learn.

Some words from my mother came to me. She had said, “Leslie, if he has to retake a class, even that will be a valuable life-lesson. It’s all going to be okay.”

I realized how attached I had become to the perfect, ideal outcome of his school year. He had chosen to take the public-school path, and I had determined to support him in that. In doing so, I had locked on to the expectation of nothing but success and it only aggravated the matter.

My tenacity (sometimes a good trait when applied to one’s own goals) blinded me to a potentially better alternative within the framework of the path he had chosen.

I was reminded of the principle of agency, and that we are free to succeed but we’re also free to fail. Some of our greatest life-lessons are gained through our failures, and it was being revealed to me that I really wasn’t at peace with my children experiencing failure like perhaps I thought I was… and that needed to change.

A good parent has to detach themselves from certain outcomes in order for the child to experience the full lesson it contains for them. The agency, the accountability, the contrast, the lesson. I was feeling how important it was for me to let go of the outcome, and be a steady force for encouragement and also unconditional acceptance of my son, no matter how he chose to cope with the mess.

The next day he texted me from class: “Mom, this class is killing me, I can’t take it any more!”

So when he came home from school I shared with him the sense of peace that had come over me – how I felt that God was helping me see that it’s okay to look for and find a better path. We talked about what it would mean if he failed the class, what he’d have to do next year to make up for it, what his other options might be, and what it would mean to withdraw and have a study hall for the last few months of school.

His countenance lightened significantly, and after a meeting with his counselor to find all the options and consequences, he, of his own decision, determined to hang on at least for another two weeks until the end of the quarter, and then reassess.

Freedom to choose is foundational to a person’s happiness – and sometimes the fetters we feel aren’t visible. I had been holding him back, without even realizing it. Much of his stress had been coming from my unspoken expectations, and once he felt released of them, he found the strength within himself to make a courageous choice completely independently.

What does this have to do with my May meltdown, and what’s happened since? I think I had been feeling fettered, too. I needed to reclaim my agency and really find out if I still had any.

Like I said, a good parent has to detach themselves from certain outcomes in order for the child to experience the full lesson it contains for them. Perhaps that is what God was doing with me. He let me feel like it was finally okay if I wanted to stop teaching the principles. He set me free, and I truly feel more free than I’ve ever felt before to do what I choose. I feel His encouragement, and His unconditional acceptance, which is now allowing me to feel more joy in the work when I do choose to spend time with it.

That I’m not conducting teleclasses every week, or traveling for speaking engagements twice a month, the business income has declined. We’ve had to sell assets, and are preparing to downsize if that becomes necessary, too. But I wanted to breathe more than I wanted the money. Sure, I still insist that “there’s always a way,” but sometimes the objective, I’ve learned, isn’t always worth the sacrifice.

On the other side of these lessons, as I’m finding my breath again, I’m feeling more joy, too. I’m not numb anymore. There is tremendous joy in lofty achievement, but there’s also a sweet joy to be found in what is, just as it is right now.

I’ve been feeling greater joy again in the little things. I’m getting to know my kids better, too. My days are filled with conscious concern for each of their needs, and my time is spent setting goals and carrying them out for the purpose of addressing those needs.

It’s a leap of faith to focus on my mothering role more than my business roles, but it’s coming more naturally than ever before, and that’s a dream come true. I have no regrets over the way the last 10 years were spent – it was right for us at the time – and this change is right for us right now.

I’ve discovered that my teenagers need my attention a whole lot more than they did when they were little. With that in mind, I’m grateful that the bulk of my work was completed while they were young… a work I can return to more actively as they grow and leave the nest. I still work it now, but only a little bit each week – a perfect pace for our family in this stage of our development.

As for our debts, we started talking again with each of our creditors about what we could do to get them all paid. I was in contact with every one of them, some on a weekly basis, not because I really had anything to work with, but because I wanted them to know of my commitment to making things right. I began calling them faster than they were calling me, and found that most of them were more accommodating than they had been two years earlier, back when the pinch was the tightest.

It was interesting, because more than once I called a creditor to say, “I can’t pay what you’re asking, but I do have ‘x’ that I can send you right now…” and they’d say, “No, keep it… we’d prefer to settle with you when you have a larger chunk to lay down.”

So, I’d tell them what business activities were on the calendar and promised to let them know what we had to work with (if anything) after each event.

Long story short, as with my son’s Chemistry class, after all we could do, our efforts and intentions were still never enough. But once you know without reservation that you’ve done all you can do, and it still isn’t enough, there’s a sweet peace that comes over you and assures you that everything is going to be okay – that there’s a better path, and that it won’t be much longer before you find it.  As with my son’s class, maybe it means coming to peace with the idea of “withdrawing” from “class” (abandoning a goal) and finding a more realistic pace you can live with. After all…

Life is not a sprint.

We’re still finding our path, but we’re gathering clues along the way and we definitely feel guided.  A refinement is in process and we know it’s good.

Every life lesson is valuable. It’s all about finding joy in the journey. Our successes teach us a little, but our failures teach us the most. In a way, my husband and I are starting over, but this time with more wisdom, more experience, and more clarity on what we really want together. We feel more patience with ourselves and each other. Our long term goals don’t need to be realized in three months… after all, they’re long term goals.

And having reached our breaking point and finding out that we’re still alive, and can still think and do and make choices, we feel greater freedom than perhaps we have ever felt before.  The bank account may not reflect financial freedom yet, but we believe it will. We’ve shaken off societal expectations, we’ve unfettered ourselves of the need to “look successful”, and we’ve exposed, identified, and eradicated many of the unfair expectations we’ve had on each other.  If it had to take a major financial setback to bring those issues to the surface so we could address them, then how grateful I am for those setbacks.

Life is sweeter, our relationships are more tender, our family is stronger, our future is brighter, and best of all, it feels like our relationship with God is more alive and present.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the peace I felt about the prospect of my son failing Chemistry is the same peace I feel from my Father in Heaven about our financial failures: it’s going to be okay.

It’s all just a spider that showed up and is moving us to a place (figuratively speaking) where we can, I believe, receive greater blessings in the long run. As such, it will be fun to see where this leads us.

To wrap up:

I’m grateful that I was able to let go of the impossible expectations on my son, because it freed him up to discover his agency, and enact some new levels of personal leadership. They had been stifled as long as he had *me* to answer to for his performance in an impossible class. Whether he fails or succeeds, it’s okay, because I know there will be another new day, either way.

Just the same, after dropping off the map in May, my Father in Heaven helped me finally feel permission to release all the impossible expectations of myself, and it has opened the door for me to rediscover my free agency, and new levels of personal leadership.  (They had been stifled so long as I wasn’t letting up on myself, either.)

Through this metamorphosis, I’ve gained valuable wisdom, and an increase in happiness, especially because I’ve felt the Lord’s assurance that my failures aren’t fatal.

My disasters are simply like forest fires: they release new seeds, and always mark an exciting new beginning.

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Gurus are Human

47tips-gurus-are-human

I received an email this week that spawned an interesting conversation. I’ll share it here. Hector wrote:

How are your teachings different from all the dozens of gurus advertising out there?  I’m genuinely confused by inconsistencies from the gurus.

For example, Wattles wrote books about health and riches and then he died at 53, lost his bid for public office and to my knowledge he was still scrambling economically.

The author of Science of Miracles, Max Long Freedom committed suicide due to leg cancer while his group was in disarray and his wife left him.

Arthur Ray is in jail.

I honestly would like to come to terms with these inconsistencies.  Can you help me?

I didn’t verify his facts, but here was my response nonetheless:

Hi Hector,

That’s a fair question.  I think the bottom line is that each one of them is doing their best to make sense out of life and how it works, and they enthusiastically share the nuggets of wisdom they find along the way.  But just because you gain wisdom, it doesn’t mean you will always be the perfect example of how to live by that wisdom.  If gurus waited until they had perfected a principle before they shared it, only perfected people would have anything to share… and I think we know how many perfect people in the world there are not.

We as students need to separate the principles from the person sharing them or we will quickly become disenchanted, no matter who we choose to listen to.  I’ve been mentored by many a guru, and I’ve seen more than one fall off the pedestal on which I placed them – but that does not remove the value from the truths I learned from them.  Life has a way of delivering tougher and tougher challenges – when we’re ready for the next “lesson”, life delivers experiences to help us overcome and learn.  All the big gurus are still members of the human race, and will continue to face greater and greater challenges until the day they die.

You may solve the money problem, or you may overcome a health challenge, but growth only comes through opposition in one form or another, and frankly, we’re here to grow.  The answer is to learn all the wisdom you can, and apply the principles to your best ability, so that those challenges refine you and strengthen you instead of defeating you completely.  To get up every time you’re knocked down is success.

About each of the gurus you mentioned – only God knows how they faced, or are facing those challenges. The ultimate measure of success is whether you can find serenity and happiness in spite of the challenges that rage around you.  Whether or not you’re teachable enough to grow and learn and become a better person on the other side of the present challenge.

People think they need money to be happy.  People think they need to be in perfect health to be happy.  But the fact is, it’s happiness that is the goal – and some of the greatest people who ever lived were successful at finding happiness no matter what. I’ve had a lot of people go through my programs and find out that they can actually have what they want, and then they go get it, and then they discover that what they wanted didn’t bring them the happiness they thought it would, so they use the programs and principles on more carefully selected goals… and the good news is that it works for those, too.

We can be so quick to judge a person by their bank account, or their outward appearances – there will always be those in the media who love a good hero-to-failure story, but if we jump on that bandwagon of criticism, chances are, life will bring us through experiences of our own that teach us empathy instead of criticism, and to be more forgiving in our judgment on others.

We must try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Any more, when I hear a story of a fallen guru, I immediately wonder about the “rest of the story” that the media isn’t sharing. I wonder about the person’s internal growth and what lessons they learned in those final days.  I feel that I could probably still learn something valuable from them, and how I would love to pick their brain and learn from their errors rather than wind up repeating them myself.

Anyway, some of the greatest lessons come from our failures, and God bless the man who shares those lessons in spite of his imperfections.

In answer to your other question, to find out how I’m different from other teachers, you see an article I wrote about that very topic at http://www.positivethinkingtips.org/human-empowerment-in-perspective/

Hope this helps,

Leslie

His response:

Leslie,

Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful reply. I still remember when doctors endorsed cigarettes in advertising. That didn’t take away the value of medicine.

I am going to reflect on all the good advice I give to others and to my children, but I don’t follow myself. This is going to be my task for the day.

Without coming to terms with the gurus’ inconsistencies I mentioned to you, I’m always going to poison my progress with doubt and cynicism. I have been infamously good at that all my life and it’s time to change it.

Thanks again.

Hector

PS: I finished the Rabbit book and watched your movie yesterday, and I’m registering for the 12 week Family Course Today.

I congratulate this reader for his astute conclusion. Gurus are human. I’ve shared plenty about my own challenges, even in spite of the pedestal on which some of my readers have placed me, and hope this conversation helps others view leaders in the proper light.

We should learn what we can from them, but ultimately we must all learn to enlist and trust the guidance that comes from God directly. Sometimes that guidance leads us to a guru – but I don’t think that it was ever meant to be a final destination. Each mentor or guru is there to help us get past our present obstacles, or move us through to the next level of happiness or success.

Whatever the case may be, trust that when the student is ready, the teacher will always appear. As students, it’s our job to keep growing, learning, and preparing ourselves for our next teacher.

Isn’t life FUN?!  It’s an adventure for sure!

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Releasing Bitterness

I received a letter that I don’t want to lose, and it has some valuable insights in it, so I’ll just post it here. My friend began her letter with a quote:

“It is my opinion that many really good teachers do not come from joyful households where all was easy. They come from a place of much pain and suffering, and they’ve worked through the layers to reach the place where they can now help others to become free. Most good teachers are continually working to release even more, to remove ever-deeper layers of limitation. This becomes a lifetime occupation.” Hay, Louise L. (2011-11-07). 21 Days to Master Affirmations (Kindle Locations 240-243). Hay House. Kindle Edition.

Leslie,

While I was reading this, I thought of you and all the times in the past year that you have mentioned in my hearing of your struggles to keep going despite the personal struggles you have had with the program and principles you teach.  Louise is the first “self-help” writer I ever read who actually HELPED me, when I read You Can Heal Your Life.  It was nearly twenty-five years ago, and I was becoming very ill.  I did not heal my body, but many things in my LIFE healed through what she taught me in that book.

I felt similar changes within myself when I began studying with you.  That is why I continued, why I pursued my Mentor Certification, why I continue to study, search, practice, and what Louise calls “release”, to move forward in my own life so I can learn enough to teach others with my own voice and not just parrot what I have learned.  Not that what I have learned is not good 🙂 you know that.  But you didn’t want “clones” to come out of your class, you wanted individual teachers who can help others.  Which is why I am still studying, expanding, searching.

I recently crossed paths with a young man in a parking lot.  We hit upon the topic of “bitterness” in our lives.  It made me realize that I still have a LOT of forgiving to do (my “hit list” of people I must forgive in order to free myself from the pain that holds me back in my own progression), and at age 60, now, I’d better get on with it! 🙂

Following the example of Goal Statements, I wrote it down.  I felt my pain pour out onto the page as I thanked God, in advance, for freeing me from the pain and bitterness of the memories I hold like a viper to my breast about these people.  It reminded me of the saying “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.”

I know I’m not totally free, yet.  It’s a list of four people, and two of them are still involved in my life as they are closely related family members.  But it was a start, and it felt SO GOOD!

Thank you for teaching me a way to start this!  If you ever need encouragement to keep going, please, please, PLEASE keep teaching, Leslie.  Our world needs what you so very capably teach.  I can’t imagine us without you.  I can’t imagine me being able to teach without you.  I can’t imagine how I would ever have healed as much as I have in the past two years without you and all I have learned FROM YOU.

If ever I can guide one other person onto this path of healing and peace for themselves, I will feel as if I have done you justice.  I do my best to give a “Jackrabbit” lesson to everyone who gives me the opportunity to work it into the conversation.

My usual signature to people I care about is “Love and Hugs,” but I want you to know that with this letter, it is so much more than that.  I just don’t know how to say it.

Love and Hugs,
Jan 🙂

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Spring Cleaning and Notes on Homeschooling

What began as a repository of thinking tips, this blog of mine is now becoming a catch-all for many more thoughts and ideas that I personally want to capture.

So today, I’m doing some spring cleaning, and as I find notes that have inspired or influenced me, I’m copying them here to not feel so guilty about throwing them away.

About seven years ago, I decided to take the plunge and try a homeschooling experiment for just one year with just one child.  At the time, I picked the child I knew I couldn’t ruin, because she was already demonstrating a sense of self-motivation beyond her years, and an innate desire for excellence. (Besides that, she was about the only one of the bunch who was game.)

I had been thinking about homeschooling for ten years already, but because I had been a product of the public school system, and because I had excelled, and loved the challenge it had been for me, I really had a hard time believing that anything less (or different) than that could possibly be remotely adequate.  I was such a fan of the system, in fact, that I went on to get my degree in secondary education, and taught mathematics in public and private schools for a number of years.

Because of my fear of doing “my own thing”, I took that first step by signing up for the public school district’s distance learning program. That way, I could be giving my daughter the same curriculum at home, accomplish it in a fraction of the time (like I had been told is common for homeschoolers), and have her tested at the end of the year with all the other public school students to see how we did.

That was a safe segue, in my mind.

My daughter and I loved our time together. We dabbled in some of the materials they had sent home with me, but pretty much just did whatever it was that caught her interest at the time.  She was in 2nd grade and did a lot of cooking, and child care for her younger siblings. She loved being my little helper, and reveled in how important it made her feel.

In January, I realized we were on the down stretch of the school year, and that I should probably open up those lesson plans to see what it was they had been expecting us to do. I told her, “It’s time to get caught up with the rest of the kids at school, so let’s take a look…”

I opened the packet and began to look over the daily lesson plans.  Sure, we had been doing the fun pieces, such as the online math games, and language development activities; but looking at what else we were expected to have been doing all those months put me in an instant panic.

The daily lesson plans were so detailed, so spelled out, that it would have literally taken us 6 hours a day, one-on-one, to do everything they expected us to do.

I called the head of the distance learning program at the district level in a panic. “I don’t know what to do! I think I’ve made a big mistake! We’ll never get caught up!”

She calmed me down and finally responded, “Oh, don’t worry. Just pick up right where you are; she’ll get it ALL again next year.”

R-e-a-l-l-y.

I was flabbergasted. I thought to myself, “You mean, we can blow off an entire 6 months of school, and even the DISTRICT isn’t worried about it?? When you’re enrolled in the public school, you can’t miss more than 9 days without getting a nastigram and a visit from a police officer.”

That’s when I learned that in grade school, they introduce a concept one year, and then repeat it all over again the next.  Then they introduce some new concepts again, and repeat them all again the next.  What I learned from this experiment is that when a child is ready and wants to learn a topic, you can share it with them just once, and they own it.  It’s when they’re not interested, or partially tuned out, that you have to keep repeating it for more than 600 days… it’s really the only way the school CAN do it – in hopes that during those 600 days, each one of the 30-34 students will tune in long enough to get it.

Related: A Vision for What’s Possible

Over the next few years, one-by-one each of my children were given the choice to come home or stay in school, and last year we had all but one home with us.  I believe in the principle that there is genius potential inside of each child, and sometimes it can only be discovered when he or she is permitted to get bored long enough that they dig down and find that creative genius.  For the first two months of the detoxification period, there was a lot of complaining, a lot of boredom… they were worried because mom wasn’t standing in front of a grid of desks at home, teaching them something important.  I knew we had turned a corner when the complaining stopped, and the laughter and creative chatter began, as they collaborated together on how they were going to build a fort out of the discarded refrigerator boxes in the back yard. They had finally discovered their freedom to think for themselves and create their own learning environment.

Related: Looking at Life with New Eyes

For several years after beginning my experiment, I continued to have my children take the standardized tests at the end of the year. I wanted to see if our new approach – letting them live in a culture where they were expected to think and choose for themselves what they wanted to be learning – was ruining them, or what.  In every case, I was shocked but grateful that their test scores came back as though they had sat in the classroom all year long.

I remember one defining moment when my daughter was the age of a 6th grader, and we hadn’t formally talked about math all year long.  We had solved incidental problems together that had come up in natural life, but there had been no real ‘math lessons’ to speak of.

To get her ready for the standardized test that year, I bought her a math workbook for her grade level, and said, “Just see how much of this you can do. Let me know if you get stuck.”  A few times she brought it to me to get some clarification on what they wanted her to do, but she had the entire workbook completed in a couple days.  Because she wasn’t drilled on it every day of the year, she actually found it interesting, challenging, and fun to do.

I believe we’re all born with an innate desire to learn all the things we’ll need to know to complete our ‘life’s mission’.  We’ll naturally be drawn to the interests that will play a part in our life’s work, and we’ll naturally get frustrated when we don’t know what we need to know. Suddenly, in a situation like that, the knowledge MATTERS, and we are hungry to learn it because it already has application for what we want to be doing. That’s how I learned to build websites. That’s how I learned to publish books. That’s how my husband and I tripled our income. That’s how I learned marketing and how to become an internationally published three-time best selling author and speaker.

My two oldest were in junior high when I made the switch, and were simply not interested. I didn’t push it, I knew they were in a groove and enjoying their experience in school.  But last year my oldest was a senior. About 3 months into the school year, he listened to a lecture on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, and something shifted.

He was so completely engrossed with what he was learning – outside of school – that before long, his new addiction to studying American History was all he wanted to do. A math teacher challenged him on some of his facts, and the game was on. He’d stay up late into the night researching, finding sources, pulling together a persuasive essay that he couldn’t wait to share first with his math teacher, and then with the world.  He did all this, not for an American History assignment, but because he loved the subject and wanted to teach others what he had been learning.

We recognized the spark to be what other homeschooling families had described when the child enters a scholar phase – naturally.  We encouraged it, and provided opportunities and resources to keep the flame alive.  School began to be an inconvenience to him. His regular homework began to seem so trivial, and he became frustrated at the irrelevance of so much of it in contrast to the importance of the topic that had captured his heart.

In January of that year, just 4 months before his graduation, he said he was ready to come home. I was upset! I said, “I’ve been inviting you to come home for six years! YOU chose this path, I think you need to just finish what you started…”

His reply: “But Mom, I’m too busy studying to do my schoolwork.”

I almost couldn’t do it. He was so close to finishing the path he had chosen all along; but if I were to stand by the principles I had been teaching my family – to let them follow what interests them and find and fulfill their life’s mission – then I had to support it. He wanted to be homeschooled.  He had been given an opportunity to go abroad and participate in a historical dig in Israel during that final semester of high school, but it would mean he couldn’t “graduate”.

Before pulling him out, I contacted the different universities that he was interested in attending, and was amazed to discover that they didn’t need him to graduate before they’d accept him. All they cared about was whether or not he had taken the ACT (which he had done the year before), and they even found him to be a very attractive candidate for demonstrating so much drive to do something this unusual.

You should have seen it – when I pulled him out so close to graduation. The administration couldn’t understand it, and had a hard time believing that the colleges did not CARE if he had a diploma or not.  Instead of getting his diploma, he found himself in a new position of responsibility as the Regional Director for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Studies (Restoration Generation).

The travel abroad experience was canceled due to unrest in the middle east, but we have not regretted the decision to let him leave high school early.  He does not regret it either.  He didn’t “walk” with his friends but loved his choice more.  And just to check it off the list, he went ahead and aced the GED last fall.  Not because the universities needed it, but just to officially close that chapter of his life. He ended up earning full-tuition scholarships from his University that helped him stay out of debt as he worked toward graduation.

What about the other kids? Each year I discover something new about them and their inborn talents. They stay active and involved in a number of extra curricular activities and have friends all over the valley who share their unique life’s experiences and interests.

Related: What the district head truancy officer told me

My 12 year-old son Jared is being mentored by a computer programmer – a teacher at a nearby college – who was also homeschooled and loves Jared’s passion for programming. (He wanted to learn the Python programming language but I couldn’t find a class for him to join. The only thing I found was a group that could be hired to come in and train your employees for a large sum, so instead I had to find and hire a private tutor.) They are presently working together on building an application that will help our business clients.  He also plays trombone in the school band and is involved in an after school club for smarty pants.

My 13 year-old daughter is volunteering her services for handling some of the secretarial responsibilities of a national organization with which my husband works.  She is also involved (with most of her siblings) in EVMCO, a choral organization which just released an album last fall that hit #1 on the Billboard charts in the traditional classical category. She just hosted an “Oh Stuff and Nonsense” party for other 13-15 year old homeschooled girls in the area, and is an avid reader.

My younger children have taught themselves to read, tell time, solve math problems, and just recently we all became fascinated with the strange characteristics of prime numbers – including my 5 year-old, right there along side her older siblings.  Give her a pile of beans representing a certain number, and in a few minutes, she’ll tell you if it’s prime or not.

Each morning we study scriptures, read selections from American History, have breakfast and do chores.  The rest of the day is wide open for exploration, or just enjoying each others’ company.  No more 7:30 am chaos, no more 4:00 pm competition for Mom’s attention… no more homework sessions that interfere with family dinner, and best of all, plenty of time to think and receive inspired sparks of curiosity that lead each one to ask the right questions at the right time, to help them prepare for the life’s work they will be most uniquely prepared to fulfill.  It’s a lofty ideal, but I’ve seen it in action.  (I’ve illustrated how this phenomenon also happens for adults in Portal to Genius.)

In spite of all I’ve said so far, I will add that I DO love the education I received through the public school system. But I love more what I’ve learned since… and I hope to keep learning new and amazing things from now until the day I die… and I expect, beyond.

9/17/13 update:

Had an interesting conversation with Jared the other day… this boy refuses to work on Math. I have not been able to get him to do his lessons, so at age 14, he still hasn’t learned about fractions and decimals. Scary, right? Well, he called down from the loft where he was working on a computer program and said, “Mom, I’m trying to make this ball speed up as it gets closer to the hole. Any idea how I would program it to behave that way?” I said, “Hmm… sounds like an inverse relation… you’d use a fraction…” and as I was trying to remember how the formula would go, he hollered down again, “Never mind! I think I got it – I tried something and it’s slowing down as it gets closer, so now I’ll just try it the other way.”

Once he had it nailed, I said, “Did you know you just did Algebra?”

He said, “Really?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what Algebra is, finding an unknown value…”

He replied, “Then I think I’m going to love Algebra.”

“Um, well, then maybe you should get busy doing your fractions and decimals…”

He groaned.

A few weeks later, I brought it up again, just wanting him to finally get through his fractions and decimals books so he could move on to Algebra (because he was looking forward to it), but he’s been bored to tears just at the thought of drudging through that book.

So, because we’ve been having a hard time getting him to do his basics, I thought maybe we’d just go ahead and jump to Algebra and then go back and fill in the gaps as they come up, because he’ll be more interested in those more basic concepts when they’re actually relevant to what he needs at the time.

But then he asked what Calculus was, and I said it had to do with rates of change and … I didn’t remember what all, so I said, “Do you want to see what it’s like?” He said sure, so we pulled up a Calculus lesson and watched the first 11 minute video together. It was on limits, and it used functions, and algebra, and decimals and ALL of those things.

Remember, he had no training in fractions or decimals, but instead of being overwhelmed by his lack of knowledge and formal experience with the ‘pre-requisites’, he lit up like a light bulb and got excited, because it looked so much like some of the things he has done, or tried to do, in his computer programming, and it all actually made sense to him.  I had been a math major, but had forgotten most of what I learned in Calculus and yet he was fully understanding the very things that no longer immediately made sense to me.

He paused the video several times to just digest what had been said, and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! So that’s why graphs are useful!” and he threw his head back and sang “Ahhhhhhh!” like a chorus of angels. “You know how some things just make you happy? This makes me SOOO happy-happy!!!!” His eyes literally started watering and he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

He’s 14, completely ‘behind’ on the basics, but totally in love with calculus.

Crazy, huh? Then without being asked, he got on the computer and spent a few hours honing skills and learning new things. I love it. They always told me that this would happen when you approach education in the unconventional way that we do… it’s just nice when we see it actually happen.

05/16/14 update:

Life has a way of opening doors and leading us to amazing opportunities when we let go of societal expectations and fearlessly follow our dreams. ~ Me

My oldest son (who ‘dropped out’ during his senior year) called me from college. He had been there only three weeks but had an announcement to share:

Because of his desire to get involved, and after exploring some of the campus clubs (and planning to start one of his own… who does that?? Such a thing NEVER would have crossed my mind when I was in school), one thing led to another and he was asked if he’d be willing to be one of two students who would be responsible for training the team leaders for next semester’s “Get Connected” event.

(Get Connected is basically the Freshman Orientation program for incoming students, who get divided up into groups for games and activities to get to know each other before classes start.)

So my son and this one other person are now charged with training approximately 300 group leaders who will direct 6000 freshmen next semester.

What??

My son has only been a Freshman himself for three weeks!

I happen to think that his opportunities for leadership (this hasn’t been the only one) were set in motion ahead of him as soon as he made that courageous decision to think differently his senior year, when he stepped away from what was “normal”.

So don’t be afraid to do something different than what society expects from the masses. It opens doors. When I have more time, I’ll update again to describe the doors it opened recently for my 16-year old daughter and my 12 year-old son…

09/20/16 update:

When that 12-year old son (Jared) turned 15, I had an urgent sense that I needed to change something up. Where previously, his free time had been spent learning and growing, it was now being squandered, and I saw college on the horizon and a need for more guidance and structure to help him prepare. His interest in math hadn’t gone anywhere, and he still enjoyed coding, but the work in Khan Academy and his more formal math training had taken a back seat, with quite a few gaps left unclosed.

My search for what I was to do next was difficult and wrenching. It began with an investigation into where I might be able to put my 7th grader into a band. He had played with a local elementary school before our move across town, but I hadn’t found a junior high that would allow part-time enrollment for only band.

That’s a long and painful story. I’m not going to go into it here. But ultimately I found a charter school that would allow his participation with NO strings attached. The principal told me, “I think homeschooling really is the best thing for kids; I’m just grateful that a lot of parents see us as a good second alternative.”

Wow! I felt so at home and respected. He invited my band son to take anything else at the school that interested him. So in 7th grade, he was the only student on campus with something like four electives. Fast forward two years, and our family has fallen enough in love with the school that everyone is now full-time. They provide education the way I remember it in the 70s. They don’t teach to the tests. They haven’t changed anything to adjust to common core. They know that their method works, so why change what isn’t broken? At the end of the year, the students continue to test extremely well.

As for Jared, he is now a senior in high school. At least according to his age. He does not have the credits he needs to graduate, but that’s okay. Colleges don’t need a diploma to accept you, they only need to see how well you did on the College Entrance exams (ACT or SAT). He will get a GED if he chooses to. He did well on the ACT, so he’s being courted by several universities now.

But here’s the point of my update. Last year, he wanted to be in the same math class as the other kids his age, which would have been at least Algebra II. However, he still hadn’t completed his fractions and decimals – but we moved on and figured he’s fill in those gaps as needed along the way. He worked hard to catch up by studying Pre-Algebra and Algebra I online over the summer, on his own. He joined the Algebra II class that year, and aced it. In fact, after a few months of demonstrating a quick mind and aptitude for it, his teacher asked if he would be the TA for the later hour. (He was available since he wasn’t taking all the required classes for graduation – I think he only took 4 classes that year, so there was room in his schedule to be a teacher’s assistant.)

He didn’t want to take English or History at the school but agreed to join Speech and Debate, and Yearbook and Journalism. For his outstanding marks and reputation as a good citizen overall, he was chosen to represent his high school and honored by the mayor as student of the month.

Having completed Algebra II with flying colors, he was motivated to get into Calculus for his Senior year. However, he had not taken Pre-Calculus, and even though his teacher had seen how quickly he had gone from Pre-Algebra to Algebra II, he did not recommend taking the jump to Calculus.

Well, Jared was not going to be told no. So he spent his summer teaching himself Pre-Calculus and showed up ready to go on day one.

It’s been 3 months now, and he has been scoring at the top of ALL the classes at the school on those Calculus tests. He loves what he’s learning, and the other kids flock to him when it’s time to study for the next one. He’s even been known to catch errors that nobody else catches.

Oh, but he won’t be graduating 🙂

And he’s okay with that. I’m very proud of him for thinking outside the box and thriving. I’ll take a kid who loves learning and spends every waking moment honing his skills over a kid who jumps through all the hoops to get a diploma but remembers school with disdain. Jared will have happy memories of learning, being involved, and developing thinking skills that will serve him the rest of his life.

Update 5/20/2017 

Oh man, I have so much to say but need to keep it short. Jared’s last semester at his school (senior year) was amazing. This is the child who was completely content to sit at a computer all day, but reluctantly agreed to take some more classes at the charter school last fall. Some back story: he has flatly refused to take any English courses his entire schooling career, but at the last minute let me and his former Speech and Debate teacher talk him into signing up for AP Literature. (Due to his aversion to formal English classes, I had previously steered him toward Speech and Debate, Yearbook and Journalism, and two years of Latin, so that at least he could be linguistically functional in the real world.)

English is Important but Math is Importanter. Yes, I bought him the t-shirt.

In the spring, he surprised us by going out for the high school musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This is the boy who has musical talent but no interest. (He was about 14 when we stopped expecting him to attend all his sibling’s concerts, and he was about 15 when we finally let him quit the Millennial Choir for good.)

As for the play, we found out later that the directors had trouble deciding between him and another student for the lead part of Adam. Thankfully the other kid got the lead, because Jared was only semi interested in being a part of it anyway, and was thrilled to get a part that didn’t require a giant amount of time. He still got a small solo and enjoyed the participation, without the heavy responsibility of learning all the lead lines, songs, and carrying the success of the whole show.

In February I got a call from the school letting me know that he needed to be withdrawn at the end of 3rd quarter. The counsellor told me I agreed to do this when they agreed to let him come part time three years ago. I didn’t remember this at all – but the point is that if he finishes his senior year without graduating, it shows up as a “dropout” on their records and affects their official school reputation. With a small student body, every ding makes a big difference. I was shocked and angry – here he is finally having the time of his life at a school he wasn’t excited about in the first place, and they’re basically kicking him out. The irony is that he had recently been awarded Student of the Month for a second time, was loved by everyone who knew him, was acing his classes, and was still preparing for two AP tests and the school musical. They were going to kick him out before he could take the tests and perform in the play.

As frustrated as I was, I couldn’t be angry at the school. I understood their dilemma and didn’t want to throw them under the bus. It wasn’t their fault he didn’t have enough credits, and we have all been SOOO grateful for all the school has done for our family. It has been an excellent and extremely rewarding experience. So I talked with the administration and we came to a compromise. They would let him stay until 30 days before school ended (instead of much earlier, at the quarter), and he would be allowed to return to take his AP tests, and to perform in the musical.

A few weeks before his days were over, we received an invitation to the Semper Sersum awards banquet, and also the regular awards ceremony. Both were scheduled to take place after his withdrawal date, but they allowed him to return for these as well. He was awarded for academic excellence (overall GPA) at the ceremony…

….and was somewhat expecting an award in Mathematics at the Semper Sersum banquet. He’s known school-wide for being a freakish math genius and for being the only one to spot errors in the teacher’s work, and the fact that he went from Pre-Algebra to Calculus as quickly as he did (excelling all the way), led us to believe that would be his recognition that night.

Each department selected one Student of the Year for each grade, but he didn’t get the Math award. We were shocked when he was instead given the only 12th grade Student of the Year for English award, especially since his AP English class was the only formal English training he had since 2nd grade, and especially since he’s historically had such an aversion to the subject.

She said:

Good Evening. My name is Jessica Kasten and I will be presenting the 12th grade English award tonight.

As I’m sure you could guess, teaching seniors is often challenging 🙂 Many 18 year olds believe that they already know everything there is to know, are far too tired to read, and can’t  be bothered with grammar lessons. But some are different and tonight I have selected one student who has risen above senioritis and has eagerly devoured every piece of information I made available. It is students like him that not only make my job enjoyable, but push me me to become a better educator.

This student embraces the rich and challenging curriculum we offer. In fact, I overheard a conversation he was having the other day where a few of his classmates asked him why he wasn’t upset [about not graduating] and he responded, “I guess it depends on what your goal here is – I came to Benjamin Franklin to make friends and learn and I have achieved those two things.”

To me, this student is a true representation of a Charger and certainly exceeds his classmates in all things English. Not only does he have a positive attitude day in and day out, not only does this student thirst for knowledge, but he also understands the value being an educated person.

I’m proud to have helped him meet his goals this year, I’m proud to have taught him, and I am eager to see what great things he goes on to do in the future.

The 12th grade English award goes to Jared Householder.

As each of his teachers learned that he was getting “kicked out”, there was a lot of heads shaking – that of all students, this was the kid getting kicked out?? I got a phone call from the soon-to-be valedictorian of the senior class on Tuesday of his last week. She said that the senior class didn’t think it was right he wouldn’t get to walk at graduation with all his friends, so they were planning a special ceremony just for him, and she wanted to invite me.

So on Thursday, they surprised him by gathering in the gym, giving him a cap (from ASU, borrowed from a students’ older brother), lining up on one side of the gym and having him walk from the other side, escorted by his parents, while they played the graduation anthem. His math teacher helped the students pull it off, and another teacher (professional photographer) took pictures. He was stunned. I cried. The valedictorian said “We LOVE Jared and wanted him to be recognized.” Then they presented him with an engraved frame/class picture that said, “Class of 2017”.

I’m so glad I felt that urgent sense that I needed to change something up. This was definitely a Mom pay-day.

Update 10/7/2017

Someone celebrate with me – Jared just got accepted to BYU provo! He wasn’t expecting to hear back until Oct 31 but they just notified him early, congratulating him on being such a strong candidate. Mama’s breathing a big sigh of relief because it’s what he really wanted, but seriously he didn’t hit scholar phase until the last minute. When he was 15, I felt an urgency to change things up a bit because he was disengaging and getting more lazy. I wanted to find something that allowed him to attend some fun classes part time somewhere, just to add some additional structure to his day. A new charter school nearby let him do just that.

The next year he wanted to be in the math class with his peers, but he was several years behind. Suddenly he cared. So he spent the summer on Khan Academy catching up, and ended up going from pre-Algebra to AP Calculus in 2 years, finishing Calculus at the school with a grade of over 100%. Since he was only part time, his teacher asked him to be his TA, helping other students understand the concepts. For his last year, me and another teacher convinced him to take his very first formal English class ever: AP English Literature. He hated English, but consented. (As he likes to say, “English is important, but Math is importanter.”) He ended up acing it though, and earned the English Department Student of the Year out of the entire Senior Class.

But get this – right before his final quarter, the administration reminded me that we agreed to withdraw him at the end of 3rd quarter, since they allowed him to come part time, knowing he would not receive their diploma, and to avoid a “drop out” on their record. They had been so good to us, we didn’t want them to get a ding on their reputation for something that was not their fault. But you should have seen his teachers when they heard he was getting kicked out before graduation. Face Palms all around. “Of ALL KIDS!” they’d say. This was a kid who had been nominated at age 16 by the principal to represent the school and be recognized by the mayor for outstanding citizenship… now getting kicked out. If it wasn’t so amusing it would have been painful.

Several teachers tried to find a way to let him walk with his peers, but no go. So two days before he left, the entire Senior class put together a surprise mock graduation ceremony for him, and the Valedictorian gave him a shout out in her official graduation speech two months later. Plus, the administration let him return for the school musical (he had a part in it, after all…) and for his AP exams. It was such an interesting and rewarding year. I share all this to just let you know that taking the road less traveled can be crazy and nail-biting at times, but it has been worth it. He knows how to learn. He has been allowed to pursue what interests him most, and he has LOVED being an interesting conversation piece among teachers and friends at school.

Thank you, TJEd for giving me a vision of what was possible when I began this journey back in (I think) 2006. His goal now is to do a year or so at BYU, serve a mission, and then transfer to MIT. Best of all, he believes he can. PS. About the picture of the backpack – this funny kid used the same backpack from age 6 until he was 18. He never let me replace it. It was seriously falling apart, but he liked telling people about it. He has also never had a hamburger in his life, not because he wouldn’t like it, but because he likes being different. You have to beat him best out of 3 at his favorite game, and he will eat a hamburger. Nobody has beat him yet.

_______

Here’s the ‘note’ I stumbled onto in my spring cleaning that spawned this whole post in the first place.  I’ll post it here, and then get back to work.

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Cherishing Those Teenage Boys

I have mixed emotions right now – thought I’d write to try and sort it all out.  I’m going to be working with a woman soon to help her with her book as part of my Profitable Author Coaching program, and in preparation for my first call with her, I’ve been reading her blog http://theemptybed.blogspot.com.

I’m a little concerned that this may be one especially difficult project for me, because as much as I look forward to helping her achieve her goals, the topic is tough.  She lost her 16 year-old son to a heart disease less than 2 years ago, and her book and her blog is all about going through the grieving process and coming out on the other end okay.

As I read her posts, I couldn’t help but feel fearful that I’m not doing enough to cherish the time I have with my own children, especially my teenage sons.  In less than 5 days I will be sending my oldest son Jacob (age 19) to a 2-year church service mission, and it’s impossible for me to imagine how I will do without him for that long.

I’ve thought it will be a piece of cake, because he’s always on the go, always busy, and I hardly see him now as it is, but the closer it gets, the more worried I feel that I haven’t done enough to savor the time we’ve had together.  Reading about this woman’s son who has passed on is making it especially difficult.

Additionally, my sixteen year-old son Nathan was also born with a heart defect (TAVPR), and underwent open heart surgery as soon as they discovered the total lack of connection between the veins coming from his lungs and his left atrium, as well as an obstruction that complicated matters.  It was repaired, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine – in all the thousands of years that humans have been on the Earth, it’s amazing to me, and it brings me much gratitude to think, that had he been born some 50 years earlier he probably would not have survived.

Even still, I remember over hearing the doctor tell the intern at his 3 month check up: “Children with his defect AND obstruction don’t typically make it past 3 months, even after surgery” – but here he was growing, thriving, and ready to take on the world in spite of it.

Now he’s 16, singing in the choir and playing tennis every chance he gets.  Am I making enough memories with him? Am I living life in such a way that I will have no regrets? Is it even possible? No matter how well we live, and how much attention we give our relationships, will we always find something to regret?

One thing I know is that there is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. Without sadness we could never understand happiness. I’ve lived with my Jacob for 19 years and don’t know what it’s like to live without him. Perhaps sending him on his way next week is the only way I’ll really come to understand what we’ve had all along.

I love you, Jacob and Nathan – I’m so proud of you both and pray that you’ll feel the depths of my joy that you are mine now and forever.

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