Greener Than I Used to Be

Over the past five years I have made very small changes in our lives, slow changes so as not to upset the apple cart. First I started with recycling our bottles and slowly it has grown to the point where we have more recyclables than we do garbage come trash-day. The only bad thing I can find in this scenario is, the recycle truck only comes through our neighborhood once a week. I am sure I miss things which could be recycled so maybe I should find a bigger recycle bin.

Recently I have become more aware of many things we use around our home, wasteful choices we make and habits formed over a lifetime which will affect the world forever. That’s right – I said it. Choices I made even yesterday in the midst of my new awakening, will affect the world forever. What does this say about the years of choices I made while being unaware, or perhaps in denial, of my actions? Just like with all regrets, I will put this one behind me and move beyond it. In order to do so I will have to implement changes in our lives which will make a difference for future generations. How do I get everyone in my home on-board the Going Green Express? *Well, lucky for me I have a wonderfully understanding husband and if I can show him a reason why this is better for our family, make a flowchart and a list of easily followed instructions he will gladly follow suit. Our son is merely twenty-seven months old; he will become the man we raise him to be.

You can pick up any cleaning supply and read the label for yourselves; the ingredient list is long and filled with chemicals we have never heard of, much less can we pronounce many of them. We leave lights on around the house, TV’s blaring and radios playing in the background. We smoke our cigarettes and throw butts out the window while we drive down the road. They catch afire, flames burning out of control as they engulf trash along our highways. Diapers overflow from pails dumped into landfills, rotting with urine and feces, causing toxic gasses and disease. I suppose this list could grow on forever, but I think you understand where I am coming from.

So what changes have I made in our household and how far will I take the Going Green Express? I can honestly admit I do not know how far I will go. Sometimes I grab hold of something and I do not let go until everything is in line. I do need to be honest with myself; I am spoiled. I love air-conditioning. I love my SUV. I love packing my Prince up in his car-seat and taking a road trip. I love soft, fuzzy, clean clothes. On the other hand, I dislike so many things which have overflowed inside our home. I dislike plastic toys – but they are everywhere. When I look at replacing some of them with more natural materials, I am appalled at the cost. Disposable diapers – what a nasty, wasteful, unhealthy choice so many of us have made for generations. Household cleaners make my asthma kick in, making it difficult for me to breathe.   My hands are left dry and my skin cracks. I worry about Riley Jabe crawling, walking, running across the floor – bending over to pick up a piece of his fallen snack and plopping it in his mouth after it has laid on a floor cleaned with chemicals I cannot pronounce.

Is it enough to find a happy medium and will this suit our family better than a full on assault of “going green”? These are questions I will have to answer in time, as we learn a new way to live. To date these are the changes I have made (slowly) over the past five years and I do plan on maintaining within our home.

I must be honest here – while the Rockin’ Green does seem to get my laundry clean, it does not offer much in the way of “smelling clean”. Of course this could be the fragrance I picked, or I could simply not be using enough of it so I am going to keep on trying. If you have a “green” detergent you use and are happy with why not leave a little note in the comment section. I have the same issue with the wool dryer balls I am using BUT they do work. My clothes are static and lint free and since this is what we are looking for in dryer balls they find themselves in the keep drawer.

I also have to admit going green is not the least expensive thing I have ever done. However I have made the flowcharts, researched and penciled out the math. I honestly believe that while some things (like laundry detergent) are always going to be more expensive and I will have to purchase them at the same rate as non-green cleaners, purchasing other going green products will in the end save me money and even pay for themselves. For instance, the new light-bulbs claim to last for three to five years. Yes, they do cost me more now – but do you know how many times I had to replace the same lamp bulb two years ago?   This is not even to mention the difference in my electric bill; though it may only save me pennies a day per light socket, it does add up by years end.

I know we still have a long way to go on the Going Green Express,  just as I know the importance in making these changes. Do I believe my family and I can save the world?   No – but I do believe we can change our little corner of it.

 

For more information on recycling, going green and reasons you should, please follow these links:

©KLynn Miller

*I have been asked by DH to make a notation, so here it goes. He does not need a flowchart, but what he does need is to know the new products I fill our home with will work, without putting us into bankruptcy. Oh and, “Remember – sometimes you just need to bleach the crude out of things!” I can understand and agree with all of those things, if it gets him aboard the Going Green Express without too much fuss. (Don’t look now, but that bottle of bleach on top of the dryer, has been there for at least four years. The same bottle. Shhh – please do not tell him we are not actually USING the bleach!)

Twenty Years Ago – Fast Forward

Twenty years ago I was twenty-three years old and had just had my fifth open heart surgery.  I was sore and exhausted and having a toddler running around made for an interesting journey.  Oddly enough, it seemed she just knew my chest was no longer her playground and I do not recall a time when she dug her knees into my breastbone in an effort to climb on my head.  She was loving and gentle and kind.

Fast forward and I am forty-three and,  it has been almost seven years since my sixth open heart surgery. Our Little Man climbs on and digs his knees into my chest as often as possible.  The discomfort is psychological really, given the fact I have no feeling left in my chest.  He exhausts me daily, to the point I can be quoted as saying “I do not recall mothering a toddler being so exhausting twenty years ago”.  Of course I am twenty years older, so it could simply be a combination of my failing memory and truly, my age.  Or is it simply because he is a boy?

Twenty years ago I was chasing a twenty-two month old around; she was the sweetest and smartest baby I had ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She was my first and as it turns out, the only child I would ever give birth to.  This is the story of opposites, of how babies are different, yet not and how things change and stay the same no matter how much time goes by.

It is hard looking back and getting facts straight as so many years have passed since my eldest child was a baby.  She will be twenty-one in March and I am still left wondering where all the time went? Would it seem to have gone by so quickly had she always lived with me, had I not missed so many beautiful moments in time?  We will never know – but what I do know is the first eleven years of her life were amazing – she was amazing.

Fast forward and I am now chasing around a twenty-seven month old boy; he is the sweetest boy I have ever had the pleasure to know.  He is identical to my daughter in many ways and in many ways, he is so different.  I can only hope to share in all of his life adventures, to not miss years of his life and to teach him the lessons I believe are important….but for now, I will take each day of watching him laugh, run, jump, sing and play I can get.

My daughter started speaking at six months old.  Her first words were Batman, Panther (our dog), and butterfly.  By the time she was a year she was speaking in full sentences, by sixteen months she knew the alphabet by sight and by the time she was two years old, she would have conversations to rival any I have had with another adult.   And she loved books.  She could sit (and I am not exaggerating) for hours listening to me read to her.  God how I love those memories.

Fast forward and my little man is a late talker; we are lucky when we can understand half of one of his sentences.  Though he does know his alphabet and numbers by sight, he is not bringing me  a stack of books to read him while we sit together on the couch, or snuggled up in my bed.  Unlike my daughter, he loves to jump and climb, he is a pro on the balance beam and loves to hang from the uneven bars with the best of them.  He is the true definition of a “monkey man” and he is oh so much more coordinated than I or my daughter will ever be.

There could be several explanations for their differences, though only one for their similarities.  Genetics explains why our Little Man looks identical to my daughter, minus the differing body parts of course. Had we never cut Riley Jabe’s hair and I put their pictures next to one another with them dressed in the same clothing, we would have a difficult time telling them apart.

Could their differences also be explained away by genetics?  Biologically speaking, they have different fathers and different mothers.  My husband and I have had custody of our grandson since he was seven months old though he has lived with us since birth.  He calls us Momma and Poppa; he is as much our son as she is my daughter.   He is only a quarter of me, where she is half.  We have no idea who his other biological parent is, so there is nothing to compare him to in our search for answers.

Or is it something other than genetics which explain away their differences?   When I was pregnant with my daughter, I read children’s books aloud daily as I was babysitting a toddler during those months.  I read to her every day from the time she was born.  I held her for hours on end talking to her, looking into her eyes, telling her how very loved she was.  She was the center of my universe from the moment I found out I was pregnant  and more than anything, I was proud to be her mother.  I had a rule for myself, I would never tell her no I would not read to her.  I was a mother, a house-wife, she was my one and only priority – she was my job.  Trust me when I say she took full advantage of this rule from the beginning, which was fine with me because this meant I got to hold her, to watch her smile and hear her laughter.

Fast forward to when we found out she was with child.  She was eight-teen years old when she moved home to live with me; she was six and a half months pregnant with a baby she swears she did not know was inside of her and she was clear when she stated she did not want to keep him.  This means she had not been taking care of herself, or the baby.  She had not been reading to her unborn child, or talking to him.  She did not want to be a mother; thank God it was too late for her to make other arrangements to keep him from being born into our world.  My husband and I told her we would adopt the baby to keep him in the family should she change her mind.  I had so hoped she would do just that once he was born – after she held him and looked into his eyes.  I had Prayed for her and for Riley Jabe, so wanting her to feel the bond of motherly love which comes from giving birth.  Sadly for them both, this never happened.

During the first four months of his life I bathed, fed and changed him.  I woke with him in the mornings and in the middle of the night.  I pushed her to breast feed for the first two months, but it was so unbearable for her the stress was evident in our Little Man.  Though I tended to all of his needs, I purposefully did not hold him for hours on end as I had with her. I purposefully waited for her to pick him up to read to him, sing to him, to simply hold him.  It soon became evident not only was the natural bond not taking effect, she had no desire for it to develop.  She begged us to adopt him, she begged us for her freedom and she pulled further and further away from him – and from me.

When he was five months old I realized in my desire for her to bond with him, in my desire for her to be his mother, I too was neglecting the baby I told her I would adopt in order to keep him in the family. This being said I had to change my way of thinking.  I had to realize she was not going to magically decide she wanted to be Riley’s mother and she was not going to seek help to work through her emotions.  She had/has no desire to be his mother and the only way he was going to get the love, attention and maternal nurturing he needed was for me to give it to him.

I don’t want you to misunderstand me – there was never a time I did not love him, never a time when I did not hold him when he cried and never a time when he wasn’t cared for; I simply did not give him the same amount of attention as I had given my daughter when she was born, or the same amount of attention he would have gotten had I given birth to him.  Once I was able to look in from the outside, once I came to terms with the fact she was serious – she did not want him and no matter the amount of encouragement we gave her, she was not going to change her mind, I was able to release the maternal instincts within and open my heart up to being his Momma.

I can never make up for the lost time, for those five months I hoped she would suddenly wake to his cries and look into his eyes feeling the love for him I feel.   I can only hope in my desire for her to do so, I did not cause irreparable damage.  I can only hope my choice not to read to him for hours on end, did not stymie his intellectual growth.  I can only Pray the differences in his vocabulary compared to my daughters at this age are nothing more than the fact, all babies are different and girls learn at a greater rate than boys.

Twenty years ago I could not afford such luxuries as gym lessons for my daughter, or play time with Mommy and Me.  We did plenty of fun things, like going to the zoo and playing at the beach or the park, or simply taking a stroll.  Fast forward twenty years and I am financially able to supply Riley Jabe with the extras which help to build coordination, social skills, and pride from each new thing he has learned.  I know this is what has made a difference in his climbing, his jumping, his balance – because Lord knows genetically speaking, he did not get those skills from either my daughter or me.

Twenty years ago I loved my daughter more than life itself; fast forward twenty years and I still love her just the same.  The difference is, now I love him too.

Twenty years ago I was chasing around a toddler; fast forward and I am once again chasing a toddler.  I do not recall it being so exhausting, though I do recall the many rewards.

©Kesia L. Miller

The Age of False Entitlement

Does this sound familiar to you?  Perhaps your cousins children, your neighbors or God forbid, even your own children have grown to have a false sense of entitlement.  Is there a way to raise your children in a society where we are always trying to Keep up with the Jones’, without them believing they are entitled to the best of everything whether it fits within your budget or not?  Is it more important to raise well-rounded, honest, hard-working adults who appreciate what they have, than it is to be your child’s best friend?  Is there a way to do both?  These are the questions parents my age are facing as a whole generation of children become young adults – young adults who expect to be given everything their hearts desire.

I am the mother of three; their ages are almost twenty-one, fifteen and twenty-seven months.  To write this article I will first need to tell you a little about our history as a family.  My eldest child is my biological daughter and my middle child is my chosen, or as most would say, my step daughter from a previous marriage and my baby is biologically my grandson, though we have raised him since birth, giving us more of a parental love for him.  Though we have not adopted him legally, we do have legal custody and he does call us Momma and Poppa.  He is our son. I am going to keep the hardships to a minimal, as they are only slightly relevant to this article.

When my eldest child was eleven and my chosen daughter was six, my ex and I divorced.  This was a very difficult time for me, as he had controlled me and my actions for so long I did not really know how to function without his commands – not to mention he prevented me from seeing my youngest daughter from the moment he made my eldest and I leave his home.  During the first few months of our separation, I found myself slipping further and further into depression and the mixture of medications the doctors had given me were making me hallucinate.  Realizing this was not a healthy situation for my eldest daughter, I called my mother and asked for her help while I detoxed from medications prescribed to me.  Her answer to helping me was to take custody of my daughter and prevent me from seeing her until after her eighteenth birthday.

My middle child had never had a relationship with her biological mother, as she spent most of her life in and out of prison.  I have been the only mother she has really ever known, though she did know and spend a little amount of time with her biological mother.  Her father has spent time locked up as well and after we divorced he went back to prison.  This opened the door for me to have a relationship with my chosen daughter, through the love and understanding of my ex-husbands mother. So while my mother was keeping my biological child from me, my relationship with my chosen daughter grew stronger through the years.  Her biological mother passed away in 2006, which entitled my chosen daughter to social security monies intended for her biological mother.  These monies came at a good time, given the fact her father went back to prison for the second time since our divorce and he would therefore be unable to help with finances again.  This being said my chosen daughter has been paying bills and penny-pinching since the young age of eleven.

I must admit I have been guilty over the years of making sure my children had everything they needed and at times, many things they did not need.  Some of these things were given because the girls wanted them and some (like TV’s for their bedrooms) were given for my convenience.  If you have ever watched The Lion King for the millionth time in one week, you know what I mean.  Because I was not allowed to be a part of my eldest daughters life during the very important teen years, she did not get some of the lessons I taught – and life taught – my middle child.  These are important life lessons – ones which teach us to earn things we want because nothing is free and we must work to have a better life than the one we were handed by fate.

My eldest daughter returned to me four months after her eighteenth birthday, six and a half months pregnant with a child she made clear she did not want.  Apparently nobody was paying attention, as my daughter has stated not even she knew she was pregnant. (I promise we are getting to the point of this article – but this paragraph is necessary to tie our history up in such a way as to explain how it applies to my thoughts.)  It has become clear to me that my eldest child was not taught important life lessons which would have ensured she would become a productive  member of society. I can only think my mother, instead of teaching these lessons, was busy making up for all the things my daughter had lost. She was molding a  young adult who would have a false sense of entitlement through her desire to be her friend and to keep my daughter within her walls.  She filled her mind with untruths in regard to me, she closed her up in her bedroom hidden behind a computer screen, where my daughter would build her life and she gave her everything.   There were bi-weekly trips for a manicure and pedicure.  There were the monthly trips to the beauty shop to have her hair professionally tended to.  There was one of each gaming system and every game she desired stacked high upon her shelves.  Her laundry was washed, dried, folded and put away.  Her sheets were cleaned and her bed was made.   She was not expected to work on the weekends to earn her playing money, nor was she encouraged to take drivers ed so she could become an independent young lady.  She was not taught to prepare meals for the family, or made to do yard work.  The maid came in weekly to clean her bathroom and vacuum her floors. She was not taught to take responsibility for her actions, nor does it seem there were repercussions for untruths she may have told.  Simply stated, she was handed everything she required and desired on a silver platter. Ahhh yes, welcome to The Age of False Entitlement!

Now for the point of this article.  In my frustration I spoke to many of my friends, both in the real world and in the computer world and I found most of them have, or have dealt with young adults who live with this same sense of false entitlement.  I have read article after article, story after story and frustration after frustration in search of answers on how to reverse this way of thinking.  What I have found is the age-old adage of, “tough love”.   You do not need to be in my unique situation to realize how difficult this can be.  You need not have your child legally kidnapped and kept from you for seven and a half years and then returned to you with a sense of false entitlement.  You need not be a divorced parent, where your ex spouse tends to spoil and give in to your child in an effort to make up for their broken family. Quite simply, any parent in today’s world has the potential to set themselves up to raise children who then become young adults who believe the world should be handed to them on a silver platter, simply because they exist.  Are we so eager to not repeat the sins of our parents when raising our children, that we forget to teach them the most basic of life’s lessons?  Are we so eager to be our children’s best friend, that we forget to teach them how to lead productive, meaningful, healthy lives?  Are we so eager to provide our kids with all of their hearts desires in order to stay on their good side, that we forget what they really need is guidance to become  successful, hard-working members of society who have every right to be proud of their accomplishments?  I say yes, yes we are that eager.

Sadly it is our children who pay the price in the end; it is our children who wake one day disappointed in themselves, in the world around them – in us, their parents, for having failed them. We have raised their expectations so high, given to them so freely, without making them earn rewards, that one day they will have no choice but to fail because they will not have the required tools to acquire things they desire. Will they in turn raise their children to have a false sense of entitlement, or will they instead repeat the sins of many generations where children were put to work at an early age, where they were to be seen and not heard, where discipline was swift and hard in an attempt not to over indulge them?  Is there a happy medium?  One where we can be our children’s friends and still be their parents?  Is there a place where we can give them all of what they need, some of what they want and guide them gently in to becoming productive members of the human race?  I want to believe there is.

I am not saying we should stop rewarding our children, or praising them when they do well.  I am not saying we should not strive to be our adult children’s friends – the key words here being adult children. What I am trying to say is this: when our children are young they need our guidance, more than they need our friendship.  They need to know they can depend on us to be there to listen, to help them when they fall and to teach them how to work through issues which cause them stress.  They need us to teach them about friendship, loyalty, love and family.  They need to learn about trust and faith through not only our words, but through our actions as well.  They need to know they can rely on us to provide them with the necessities like food, clothing and shelter – while also teaching them that the comforts of home do not come easily, they are not free and we are not entitled to live with heating or air-conditioning simply because of the era we live in.

There is a time for getting down on the floor and rolling around with our children.  There is a time for finger-painting and dancing in the rain, a time for singing and cuddling on the couch.  There is a time for enjoying the beautiful beings we have brought in to the world and for applauding their accomplishments as we watch them grow.  And then there is a time for teaching, mentoring, molding and rewarding the gifts we have been entrusted with by The One I Am.  And finally, there is a time for basking in the light of the wonderful, well-adjusted, self-reliant, proud and accomplished  adults we have raised, which we can now call not only our child but also our best friend.  Is there such a time?  Such a place?  I want to believe there is.

©Kesia L. Shelton~Miller

A Very Pagan Christmas

Let me start by saying, yes I am a Christian.  I do believe in God and I do believe the Son of Man died for my sins.  I believe in all things good; I believe in sin and I believe we will answer for our wrongs on the day we face our Creator.  I also believe in Santa Clause!

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I struggle with my Christianity and my addiction to Santa Clause every year as most of society celebrates the birth of Christ on such an obvious pagan holiday.  We celebrate Christmas with our beautiful Christmas tree front and center, with our Santa’s on display and gifts beneath our tree.  We gather round with friends and family on the first Sunday of December for what my family has fondly dubbed Christmas Tree Day and it is by far my most favorite day of the year.   We call  it Christmas; we do not say Happy Holidays, we do not decorate a holiday tree and we never write “Merry X-Mas”.

It began as the Winter Solstice, which over the years became a celebration of different gods; for our purposes we will focus mainly on the Saturnalia .   The Saturnalia was the most popular of Roman holiday’s; it was a time in which families gathered in celebration, gifts were traded and large feasts were had.  It was a time when restrictions were released and public gambling was allowed.  It was a time when slaves were permitted to use dice and were given the day off from their work.   It was a time when they (slaves) were treated as equals, were given their master’s clothing to wear, and were waited on at meal time.   It was a time of honoring the sun-god, the god of seed and sowing.  Quite simply, it was a time when social order was inverted and drinking, singing naked and frenzied clapping hands were all a part of the grand celebration which gave homage to the longest night and shortest day of the year.

Saturnalia was officially celebrated on December 17th, however the merriment would continue a full seven days through the 23rd of December, though celebrations could continue until the 25th of December as this day signifies the end of the three-day period of solstice – meaning “sun stands still”.  What a delightful time of year, so much so, even the Christians were caught up in the festivity of it all.   Given the fact evidence suggests the Winter Solstice was celebrated during the Paleolithic Age, it could not be in recognition of the birth of the Son of Man.   This fact did not go unrecognized by the Church and there were many failed attempts to turn Christians away from joining this yearly observation riddled with pagan beliefs and songs written in vulgarity.  Though the Church could not agree Christ was actually born on December 25th, since none of the recorded dates coincide , they did finally concede to recognize the final day of the pagan holiday as the day of His Birth.

And so it came to be, in the year 354 AD, the Winter Solstice was first marked on a calendar as natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae: “Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea.” and would come to be known simply as Christmas in years following.  All of this just so we could ease our minds of the guilt carried by celebrating another god, other than The One I Am.  The earliest English depiction of Christmas comes by way of an anonymously written  carol which dates from circa  1458 AD and reads as follows:

Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christëmas, goday!

“Goday, Sire Christëmas, our king,
for ev’ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;
Goday!”

Santa Clause enters the picture when his name is first mentioned in American press in the year 1773.  He is the product of Saint Nicholas, Sinterklass and Father Christmas merging  into one.  He is the perfect combination of the Christian based gift giver and pagan folklore to cause a corporate explosion of indulgence and, the rest as they say is history.

Yes, I am a Christian and yes, I love Christmas.  Though I do not celebrate Christmas as the Birth of Jesus Christ, I do believe in Him and the Gift He brings to all of those who choose Him as their Savior.  I applaud the Church and Christians from days of yore for having the insight to incorporate the Birth of the Son, into the pagan celebrated birth of the sun-god, through acceptance and the power of marketing.   (Acceptance – if you cannot beat them, join them.) So thank you to the pagan’s of yesteryear, for celebrating in such high fashion our ancestors could not help but join in.  Thank you to my Christian forefather’s for changing the path of the celebration so we all may enjoy the merriment and thank you to my fellow American writers of 1773 for inventing Santa Clause and bringing joy to so many children over the years.

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I do Pray you had a very Merry Christmas and the New Year will treat you all very kindly!

©Kesia S. Miller

January 03, 2012

Why Not Write About It?

Writing to me is a form of escape, a secret journey into the mind of the author, a way to view the world through another’s eye.  I have written in one form or another for as long as I can remember – until about five years ago when my Muse suddenly decided she had nothing left to give.

 How could that be when so many wonderful, scary, beautiful, stress building things have occurred during this time?  I mean these are the emotions of parent-hood, right?  And I am a mother of three, so there should be plenty for me to share, to say – something someone, somewhere may find helpful, or funny, or sad.  There must be something inside me which will offer reassurance, questions, answers to someone else seeking their tomorrow.  To put it simply, I must still have something to contribute to the world, shouldn’t I?

 In a conversation recently I was asked when I would write again and how come I had not been expressing myself through the written word for so long.  The truth is I tired of writing of the pain in my walk, the diversity, the hardships.  But did I learn nothing from this walk?  Of course I learned many things and this is what I have decided to share with you here.

This being said, let me start by telling you something about me.  I am a forty-three year old, married mother of three.  To keep things exciting, their ages span from almost twenty-one down to two.  My middle child is my chosen daughter from a previous marriage, so she lives down in Texas with her father’s family and my “son”  is biologically my grandson, though my husband and I have had custody of him since birth giving us more of a parental love for him.  They all three call me Momma and this is a title I carry with pride.  There are a lot of other things I could tell you about me, things which have formed the person I have become – but I think I will save all of that for a future blog or two.  This is after all, why we are here.

The most important thoughts I will share will be of the blessings in my world today, the growth found, the trials left to face and the beauty of what lies ahead.  I hope you will join me through To Motherhood and Beyond and find something of value to take with you.  I will not profess to have all of the answers, nor will I profess perfection.  What works for me, may not work for you but I do hope you will enjoy the laughter I take along The Unforeseeable Journey using brutal honesty, sarcasm and the unrelenting realities we all face.

And now without further adieu I present you with my new blog – To Motherhood and Beyond; The Unforeseeable Journey!