Sunday, December 16, 2012

Honor the victim of the Newtown Elementary School tragedy by remembering their names

Below are the names of the victims of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.  We are all grieving and searching for a way to honor them.  We can do so by praying for their families, the Newtown community and for the safety of all our children.  We can also help by ALWAYS remembering these innocent angels.  Please select a name to remember and always carry in your heart.

The names and birth dates of the victims:
Charlotte Bacon (2/22/06), 6 years old, female
Daniel Barden (9/25/05), 7 years old, male
Rachel Davino (7/17/83), Staff member, 29 years old, female
Olivia Engel (7/18/06), 6 years old, female
Josephine Gay (12/11/05), 7 years old, female
Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06), 6 years old, female
Dylan Hockley (3/8/06), 6 years old, male
Dawn Hochsprung (6/28/65), Principal, 47 years old, female
Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06), 6 years old, female
Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06), 6 years old, female
Chase Kowalski (10/31/05), 7 years old, male
Nancy Lanza, 52 years old, female (mother of shooter Adam Lanza)
Jesse Lewis (6/30/06), 6 years old, male
James Mattioli (03/22/06), 6 years old, male
Grace McDonnell (11/4/05), 7 years old, female
Anne Marie Murphy (7/25/60), Staff member, 52 years old, female
Emilie Parker (05/12/06), 6 years old, female
Jack Pinto (05/05/06), 6 years old, male
Noah Pozner (11/20/06), 6 years old, male
Caroline Previdi (9/07/06), 6 years old, female
Jessica Rekos (5/10/06), 6 years old, female
Avielle Richman (11/17/06) 6 years old, female
Lauren Rousseau (June 1982), Staff member, 30 years old, female
Mary Sherlach (2/11/56), Staff member, 56 years old, female
Victoria Soto (11/04/85), Staff member, 27 years old, female
Benjamin Wheeler (09/12/06), 6 years old, male
Allison N. Wyatt (07/03/06), 6 years old, female
Please pass the names  of these angels on to others for prayer and remembrance.  God bless these angels and their families.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown Elementary School Tragedy: When Will There Be A Safe Place For Our Children

I'm searching my mind for an appropriate prayer but there is none. Our bodies are fragile and sometimes our minds are fragile. It is hard to confidentially move forward following this elementary school tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut that claimed so many lives.  My heart is heavy and there is a sinking feeling in my stomach.  It feels like there is no safe place for our children.

Last night my son was crying because the spaghetti on his plate was touching the peas so he didn't want to eat it.  Normally, this would prompt a stern warning to stop being silly and just eat but I just hugged him. It reminded me that these beautiful children who died were young and innocent with no real worries; they just wanted to learn and play and be loved.  They want to exist in a safe space.  Every child should be guaranteed these very basic wishes.  Our hearts are mourning for these innocent children, their teachers and their parents.  Please share your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Poem: My Heaven

My Heaven
by Janet Autherine

I believe in heaven but

If this life ends and there is no mansion in the sky and
I just return to the dirt when whence I came,
I want ashes to ashes, dust to dust to be a song of joy and revival.

In this life

My heart gave more love than it could contain
My soul was a conduit for spiritual and physical love and harmony
My mind expanded beyond the text books to the endless possibilities of the universe

My hands reached out indiscriminately to help family, friends and strangers
My body was a vessel to be treasured but not an obsession
My feet were never too tired to dance or run the last mile.

You see, I have always been in my heaven but now I am one with the earth again.

Grass happily grows on me without the need for fertilizers
Roses and hibiscus plants flourish and bloom beautiful flowers in my soil
Organic vegetables thrive as nature intended and nourish the world

Happy couples sit on a bench over me and feel the love that I carried inside of me
The elderly are comforted even knowing that they may be joining me soon
My loved ones rub me between the palm of their hands and find peace.

A well-lived life on earth is the beginning of my heaven.

©Janet Autherine but please feel free to share with attribution.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Virtuous Woman and Mother

This past Sunday, I read Proverbs 31 in its entirety for the first time in many years.  Although some of it would be considered "dated", it is a beautiful piece that reads like a song.  Below are the words that inspire me the most.

"Who can find a virtuous and capable woman?
She is more precious than rubies.
She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
Her children stand and bless her.
There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise."  Proverbs 31: Excepts from the New Living Translation.

This describes many of the women and mothers that I know. They are strong, hardworking and always ready to extend a helping hand to her family, a friend or a stranger.  There is rarely any public reward; the reward is in a child's smile, a hug from a grateful stranger or the silent whisper of "well done" that God places in our hearts.  You may not feel strong or wise or even kind every day.  You may even want to flee from the term, virtuous but on your best day, you are all the above and so much more.  Claim it for yourself and one day you may be surprised to receive a very sincere, "You are the best mom, ever!" compliment from the child who you think is not fully engaged. 

Is there a bible verse, a poem or a song that inspires you as a woman or a mother?  Please share it with us.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

40s - Time of Self-discovery and Self-realization

A few months ago, I told my mother that I had taken an action based on her advice.  I actually thought that it would make her happy to hear that I still listen to her and respect her advice.  I was surprised to hear her say, "You are a grown woman now; you make your own decisions!"  What?  When did that happen?

In your 40s, your life rests squarely on your own shoulders.  The time to blame others for your problems or your parents for a less than ideal childhood is long gone.  Friends have their own challenges and don't have time for the long heart to heart talks that we use to have in our 30s.

I will be honest, the past year has been challenging.  My father and my beloved cat Rudy passed away.  I went through the stress of negotiating the purchase of a new house and moving.  My family was in a pretty scary car accident that totaled my car and then I made an impulse purchase of a new car that wasn't the right fit for our family.  I was blindsided by major family drama.  Finally, like many Americans, we are going through the stress of a job loss.  The years when I was just juggling work with raising three active boys now seemed pretty easy.   But isn't that what life in your 40s is about?  It is a time of great joys and great disappointments and everything that we have learned in the past 40 years is tested. 

I now see the 40s as a time of reflection, self-discovery and self-realization.  Here are a few things that I have learned over the past  birthday year.

  1. What I know for sure is that I do not know anything for sure but based on my life experiences, I do have confidence in a few things.  I am confident that there is a God and that love can solve almost every problem that we face. 
  2. We have to understand the past to make sense of our present.  Trace your roots and speak to your elders about their experiences.
  3. I am optimistic about life and sometimes my head is in the clouds. I can live with that; it is pretty up there.
  4. You might as well embrace your parents because we either marry a version of our parents or we become them as we get older.
  5. Death is final; only our memories remain, so make good memories.
  6. When someone that you love dies, you only remember the good times. Try to focus on their good qualities when they are alive.
  7. Behind anger and hate is pain and fear.  Keep that in mind when you are angry at someone or someone is angry at you.  Try to dig deeper.
  8. Not everyone will agree with you; that does not mean that they are wrong.  You may be dealing with someone whose reality is just very different from yours.  
  9. If you lose your way in love, stop, breathe, center yourself and take direction from your heart.
  10. Create your own family with the people who consistently show you love through words and deeds.
  11. It is possible to feel both love and pain in places within you that you didn't even know existed.
  12. We were perfectly made by a wonderful God. We all have a purpose.  Our natural tendency is to love; every negative energy is unnatural and will eat away at our soul if we don't let go of it.
  13. When you are feeling down, see your way out by helping or inspiring someone else.

Every day is another opportunity to learn and grow.  We have a wealth of knowledge and we are blessed with  a healthy range of emotions, however, we are just raindrops in the sea of life.  Embrace the joys and the disappointments; there is so much more to discover.  I step into 43, somewhat nervously.  I am hoping for a smooth ride this year but whatever happens, I am ready to own it and learn all that I can from the experiences that life brings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to School Prayer and Blessing for our Children

I walked my kindergartner to his class a week ago and handed him off to a lovely stranger.  He has always been my "hip" baby so I thought that he would cry.  He did not.  He gave me a long hug and settled in his tiny chair.  I pressed my nose against the window and watched him for a few minutes and then left him in the hands of his teacher and God. 

As parents, we can all relate to separation anxiety.  We wonder if we prepared them enough to face the challenges of the world and whether they will remember all the lessons that we thought them over the summer.  I was comforted by a recent sermon of Dr. Sharon Carnahan, titled, "What is in your backpack?"  As we send our children off to school, she suggests that we place a few reminders in their backpacks.   (1) Place a copy of the Bible in their backpacks or download it to their phone or iPad.  (2) Remind them that they are a child of God.  (3) Remind them that God wipes their slate clean every day and every day they can choose to be a better person.  (4) Remind them to be kind to and to interact with kids who seem different or have a disability.  (5) Remind them to take a stand when someone is not being treated kindly.  

My advice to my five year old was simple; smile, be nice and make a friend. 

Dr. Carnahan also shared this lovely, thought-provoking prayer by Ina Hughes, titled, "A Prayer for Children."  

We Pray for Children - who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
who don't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
who never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and
whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children
who want to be carried and for those who must,
for those who we never give up on and
for those who don't get a second chance.
For those we smother with affection and
for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it
Blessings to you and your children on the first day of school and every day.  Squeeze them tight and then let them go so that they can soar.  Celebrate the kids that they are today and who they will become tomorrow.  Remind them to smile

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Burden of Laundry Inspires a Return to the Simple Life

There is something about laundry that puts everything about life into perspective.  After spending a few hours doing six loads of laundry for my three boys, I started to reminisce about my own childhood growing up in Jamaica. All my clothes could fit in one drawer.  I had two shoes - the first was my school shoes and the second was my "good" shoes.  I wore the good shoes to special occasions, such as weddings, funerals and other special events. 

The same was true for clothes.  There were quite a few dresses that were not worn because they were being saved for a special occasion that did not come. Sometimes, shoes were saved for a special occasion only to find that it no longer fit my growing feet.  I was not alone; most kids in my community were having the same experience. We knew that we didn't have it all but we were grateful for the few things that we could call our own.

How did we handle laundry? Well, that one, maybe two school uniform was hand-washed and pressed a few times per week and I went off to school looking clean, neat and wealthy in spirit.  Conventional wisdom tells us that more material things result in happier kids and a easier life for parents.  If the kids have a different outfit everyday, then the parents will only have to do laundry once per week.  If the kids have more toys, they will be happier.  Well, my kids are blessed with a room filled with toys and they ignore most of them and concentrate on one or two.

The kids return to school in August so August is a great time to return to the simple life.   All the toys that have not been played with over a two week period will be given to charity.  If they only play with a few toys, why not give another child the opportunity to play with the rest.  Recently, I have attended  a few birthday parties where the kids (likely with the nudging of the parents) asked for a donation to their favorite charity or supplies for a charity such as the Ronald McDonald House.   I have mixed feeling about this so I usually bring supplies for the charity and a small gift for the child.  However, I do believe that this is a step in the right direction.

As for clothes, I am seriously considering giving away all but eight days worth of clothes.  We probably do not need more clothes that what we would take on a week's vacation.  Frankly, I don't know if this will make the kids any happier but it will definitely make this mommy's life simpler. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Letting Go Of Fear And Living A Purposeful Life

I don't enjoy flying. Yes, it gets me to my destination quicker than driving, it is safer than driving and the sky is absolutely beautiful. I don't like flying because I feel powerless. I have just turned my destiny over to a group of strangers. I don't have control of the wheel like I would in a car and when there is severe turbulence, all I can do is sit helplessly and suffer through it. 

Florida has been hit with with heavy rains due to Tropical Storm Debby and there are large puddles of water on every street. However, I am a great driver and I am behind the wheels of a solid car. I am in control. Imagine my surprise when I drove through a puddle of water and my car hydroplaned into the left lane. I felt like I was on a water slide at Disney. I had absolutely no control and just had to let it run its course and then steer back into my lane.  I slowed down and it happened again. Even though I hydroplaned into oncoming traffic, thankfully there were no cars in the left lane. 

There is a lesson in every incident, big or small, good or bad, that happens in our lives. Sometimes we  discover the lesson right away and sometimes it takes weeks or months. Here are a few that I have pondered on over the past week.

  1. We have freewill and some control over our lives but God has ultimate control.
  2. Don't hydroplane through life; be purposeful about what you say and do.
  3. We are fragile beings. We are strong in mind, heart and soul but all are housed in a fragile shell.
  4. Say your goodbyes every day, not just in words but by showing love and kindness to those around you.
  5. If you are going down the wrong road in life, it is not too late to change course.
  6. Rational people can have irrational fears. Just let go of your fears and let your mind soar. 
  7. Every day bad things happen to good people. We may get a reprieve but we are not immune.
  8. Don't get distracted by the small things, focus on the things that are meaningful to you.
  9. Life is not about how long you live; it is about what you do with the dash in between life and death.
  10. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. It all starts and ends with love.

I am letting go of my fear of flying. I am controlling the things that I can and leaving the rest to God. What I know for sure is that if I live a purposeful life and focus on the things and the people that are important to me, my life, short or long, will be well-lived.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Mother's Day Gift Only You Can Give - Inner Peace, Kindness & Charity

A mother = a GOOD mother, at least 90% of the time. Believe it! A bad mother generally means abuse, neglect and systematic unkindness. If this does not describe you, then breathe a sigh of relief, take yourself off the hook for all the parental guilt that you have been carrying and that society has placed on your shoulder and just go back to being the loving mom that you. How many times have you felt insecure about your parenting skills because you missed a program a school, brought store bought, instead of home made cookies to a school function, forgot that it was pajama day at school so your child is the only kid wearing regular clothes, gave you child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner or have your toddler sleep in the bed with you? We can all spend hours trading stories.

Yes, mistakes will be made in parenting but in most cases the kids will be alright. Ignore all the chatter about moms who work outside the home vs mom who work inside the home or bottle fed babies vs moms who nurse until the chid is six or moms who send their kids to private vs public schools.  This is often useless chatter that just keeps moms feeling needlessly inferior to other moms or with a false sense of superiority. This Mother's day, let us give ourselves the gift of inner peace regarding our parenting choices and offer kindness, not judgment to other mothers who may be struggling or who have made choices that we wouldn't necessarily make.

This post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers. Kristen wrote writes at Rage Against the Minivan, wrote a wonderful blog entitled, Where is the Mommy - War for the Motherless Child? Please read her post and pass it on to other mothers who are tired of the "mommy wars." There are so many children in need and so much that we can do to help.

As Mother's Day approaches, let us change the conversation. Let us support each other in raising healthy, happy, loving, kind children. Our plates are full, but if we have the time to criticize the choices of other moms and hand-wring about our own choices, then we have the time to lend a helping hand to a child in need. 

Although I am not able to adopt at this point (I hope to do so later), I support children in need through Women to Women International and Compassion International. Take a few minutes to surf the web for a reputable local or international organization that could benefit from the awesome mommy that you already are.  Mother's Day is still a few days away but if we practice claim our inner peace, it can come early for you, a mom who is struggling or even a child who may need someone to call Mom this Mother's day. For a child who needs you, you are a great mom today and everyday.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

14 Years of Unconditional Love - My Beloved Pet Rudy

On Sunday, April 15, 2012, my beloved Rudy passed away peacefully in my arms while I rubbed his head. He had an enlarged liver and spleen and had not been eating or drinking much for about 2 weeks. The veterinarian encouraged me to put him to sleep but he wasn't in obvious pain so I couldn't bring do it because if I was in his shoes, I wouldn't want to be assisted in my passage. On his last day, he was clearly struggling and I was distraught at the thought of his passage. As I was struggling with difficult thoughts about the sanctity of life, how one should transition to death, whether another ultrasound or an operation would help....all the thoughts one would have about a human being,

Friday, March 2, 2012

From Chrysalis to Butterfly - the Wonders of Nature

The cycle of life is amazing! Just look at the awesome transformation of the Monarch butterfly.
Our Monarch butterfly in Chrysalis form.

The transformation.

Our beautiful butterfly.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Honoring Whitney Houston's Memory - The Greatest Love of All is Inside us to Live & to Give

As I listened to the Whitney Houston "Home Going Service" today, I was struck by the wealth of love and support in the church.  I wondered if she knew how much she was loved. I wondered how many attending the funeral called her on a regular basis to say, "I love you, I am thinking of you, I am praying for you or how can I help you.  Sometimes, we just assume that our friends and family members will reach out for help if they need it. If a friend has a good job and a nice house, we assume that they have a great life. We measure happiness by beauty, money and fame.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

25 Instructional Bible Verses for Children and Parents

The Bible is a fantastic teacher! As good parents, whether we consider ourselves religious, spiritual or even a non-believer, we all have common values that we want to share with our children. The principles of love, obedience, patience,   kindness, forgiveness and peace are all covered in beautiful poetic language. I get excited when I am in a stressful situation and the perfect bible verse comes to mind. Wouldn't it be great if our children could find that internal resource in good and bad times? 

Here are a few of the verses that I learned as a child, which have sustained me into adulthood. Although children may pretend that they are not listening, they remember the words and values that we share with them. We can share them at bed-time, in the car on the way to school or just in daily casual conversation.  

Lesson: Instruction/Obedience
  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6  
  • “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” Proverbs 1:8
  • Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the lord thy God giveth thee.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finding Your Happy Place During Stressful Times

How do I handle stress? I eat my favorite comfort foods, which is a grill cheese sandwich and Cherry Garcia ice-cream. Who doesn't love a good grill cheese sandwich and although I am a 95% vegan, there is something very comforting about dairy. I also listen to my favorite music (gospel and reggae) while tackling a huge project, the more stress the bigger the project. This weekend, I was trying to handle my father's illness without having a major meltdown in front of the kids so I decided to renovate the kids's bathroom.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Damn it, I am Alive and I am Happy!

Tree of Life
Are you ready to be happy this year? Are you ready to truly embrace life? I made one resolution this year and it is to write the children's book that I have been resolving to write for the past 6 years. My happiness does not depend on this; if on December 31, 2012, I realize that I failed to get even 2 lines written, it would still have been a happy year.  Happiness should come from just waking up in the morning and finding that we are alive for another day. We should wake up and yell, "I am alive and it is going to be a great day!" Our happiness has become so dependent on whether we accomplish our resolutions or check off all the things on our daily "to do list" that we are constantly waiting to be happy or to find someone or something that will make us happy.
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