Today was a hard day.

Today was a hard day.
Brutal.
The day, where character lessons are tested and parenting for the future over the indignity of the moment is crucial.

Where you want to rage over someone’s ineptitude because it cost your son his opportunity to shine.

Watching the shock of it wash over your son’s face as the unfairness settles in the pit of his stomach. While squeezing his heart into anxiety, at the reality, this chance denied at someone else’s hand is irrevocable.

Punished for someone else’s mistake.

Wondering, why, and whether he should have challenged the request but didn’t, instead trusting the authority.
Following the rules and being denied fairness.

Pride.
Respect.
Bittersweet.
This moment becomes the joy of years of hard work. The pivotal moment in his youth, where he shines. Watching your child’s character lead his response and actions.

He owns this moment as one hard lesson in life, sharing his part in the collapse, taking responsibility, then placing it in those internal boxes of lessons learned and stored.

Pride.
Respect.
Dignity.
As friends gather towards him commiserating, he tells them, its OK, lets focus on you. It’s over, nothing will change the outcome, I won’t be miserable, it will not gain me anything.

Determination.
Focus.
Selflessness.
As he gathers his character like a badge of honor moving forward to support his friends as their moment is yet to arrive, with grace and dignity.
When in reality, he’s disappointed, upset over disappointing his parents, school, friends and self.

Leadership.
Changing and adapting into the coach not the singular athlete.
The determination to stand among them, encouraging them to reach for their moment, cheering them on with the outward appearance of calm and happiness.

Learning.
Navigating.
Planning.
Executing.
Internalizing this moment for future campaigns. Cementing his determination, reorganizing his approach to prevent any one from derailing his goals by owning the responsibility: it ultimately lies with him, accepting failures with out bitterness.

Vulnerable, yet determined.
Respectful, yet responsible.
Stronger, yet humble.
Triumphant over disappointment.

This day, where character lessons were forged.
The day, where parenting for his future has persevered over the indignity of the moment.
This day, when he has shown his character is crucial to his success and he doesn’t compromise his dignity or self respect.

This day, where parenting is triumphant.

 

~ Joanne Roth Marino

Little boys blue

A Tom Mom, I am not.
However, I am fully entrenched in all aspects blue for boy and so far away from my girly pink upbringing that I feel blended into purple.
My word, I am.
I am Wildcat Purple.

This assimilation into the cultural world of Boys and sports is a gradual insidious brain washing. I am stunned. It’s a shocking realization, how unaware that I have become engaged in any sport currently viewed on our television, regardless of my understanding or genuine interest. It’s there, just beyond my conscious consent. I am at least peripherally aware and tracking the plays. It’s subliminal like music in the ears while reading a book,,except THIS listening against my will. UGH.
I have lost control of the remote.

Beware Boys.
Mama has a game plan, a new kind of family time: The Hallmark Channel.
Hallmark’s new winter line up premiere’s new movies EVERY Saturday Night in January.
Maybe, I am not so far lost that I can’t exact a glimmer of pink torture.

IF, all else fails, I’m cranking up the stereo system and going through our entire 175 CD collection, starting with Barry Manilow and ending with all things 80’s.

Yep, like Barry sings, “I write the songs that make the young girls cry”….well…this Mama WILL sing that song to make teen boys weep!

Maybe, hmmm, a even little dancing to Chaka Kahn, yes indeed, the possibilities are twirling and gyrating in Pink.
Get your game on boys, I’m ready to play and I have the remote.

Thank heavens, there’s still a strong glimmer of girly pink. Phew. ūüėÜ

(*The Wildcats are the mascots for our school district.)

-Joanne Roth Marino

Life in a testosterone fish tank

Some Moms have tea parties, I have Mine craft farts.

Life in a testosterone fish tank:

“KILL, KILL, no LEFT, my Left dork, GO, go, Awe, Dude, YOU KILLED ME, What the HECK!” ¬†frustrated son #1, gaming on line via the Xbox, while, simultaneously, in the family room on the laptop with his cell acting as a Kinect, son #2:
“No, No, A-man, KEEP PUNCHING! ¬†Aidan, seriously, FOCUS!!! Lord oh mighty, did you just Fart!? ¬†Sorry, Dude, my bad, Oh. My. God! ¬†go, GO!! CHOP! ¬†Run, kill the sheep. A-man, ¬†you need more dexterity DUDE, oh my gosh, just passed virtual Gas, it kills them everytime!”

Yep, no dolls here. Just those alien XY’s.

-Joanne Roth Marino

 

Easter grass, Glitter and Legos

A few of life’s truths, which I’ve found to be right on the money in accuracy.

1. Easter Basket grass will show up somewhere in your house months and even years after the basket has been emptied.
2. There’s alway that one elusive Easter egg no one finds from the hunt.
3. Christmas glitter lasts forever like that strand of Easter basket grass.
4. A parent can walk around barefoot finding that ONE missing Lego piece invisible to the human eye. Sometimes, even years after the little builders are teenagers AND presumably, all Lego’s were donated to Good Will.
5. Nothing, absolutely nothing hurts worse than stepping on that Lego piece in the dead of night.

Joanne Roth Marino

Learning lessons from Mr. Rogers and neighbors.

One of the very first songs, I remember being influential in my childhood, stemmed from weekly attendance at church with my Mum. We attended the Saturday evening Anticipated Mass at St. Basil’s Roman Catholic Church, where we often sung, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

A poem written by Jill Jackson, set to melody written by husband, Sy Miller.¬†The author said, “this poem was received as a song of peaceful fellowship.” Fostering an environment of understanding and peaceful calm in a tumultuous time. It became a mantra throughout the nation and the world.

“Let There Be Peace On Earth” personally resonates within me invoking a spiritual sense greater than my simple self. These words are core to my childhood memories and “my go to for mental comfort.”
 
“Let There Be Peace On Earth”
 

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With god as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

This song became the very first lullaby, I sung to my two sons as babies. A very essential part of the bed time routine, every night well into elementary school and middle school, too; but don’t tell them I told you. ¬†My youngest son found his night time comfort in¬†“You are my Sunshine” to be sung only by Dad and “Let There Be Peace On Earth” the most requested night time lullaby to be sung by Mom.

This is the one song, I try to sing out loud or in my head when I need to busy my tongue or slow my brain when I am being bombarded with verbal vitriol by a long winded deliverer. I’m not infallible, at times, I have forgotten¬†the message in the words.

All those lessons from parents, teachers, priests, some times do not come out first when I do speak. I try to remember. I hope to remember, how to speak when a disagreement deteriorates into a verbal word match. “Focus on the cause, not the person, Joanne. Be more concerned with what is right than who is right,” be careful your words do not incite a longer careless argument. These blended words from Mother, aunts and gospel oratory go running through my mind.

I remember my mom saying, we should “learn to handle disagreements peacefully. Even if, it means making a personal sacrifice or involving compromise.”

So hard to practice compromise when you are passionately defending your loudness.¬†When you are convinced there lies no other possibilities, the right of it favors you. In the arrogance of my youth, loudness equalled being “in the right.”

I am still learning, practicing and applying those maternal lessons. I want to be better. I try to do better but when I fail, I do it gloriously.

“It is hard for logic to prevail over emotion.” I don’t know who said this phrase first, but it’s the absolute truth. The original disagreement gets buried so far beneath the hotheaded words and actions are invoked. Pausing for cooler heads, calmer lips and distance to the problem will often serve to remind me, how far things may have spun off into unintended tangents. A little time walking away from the source, does wonders, never failing to remind, that I need to own my mistakes and apologize.

As a 49 year old adult, I’m much better at controlling my emotions and taking ownership. I am not perfect. There are some stressful days, I feel as if, it is only marginally better than when I was a teenager; ¬†where back then….not so much.

Sometimes in my youth, a swift tap on the lip or slap across the bottom brought me to heel, or least, got my attention that my MOTHER ran the show. Her child, her rules, her special blend of correction came when words failed. Mother’s hand was swift and bejeweled, never failing to reach her mark, delivering a quick corporal reminder to motivate behavioral adjustments. If all else failed, a disappointing look and total silence was devastating to me. I learned you could not shove the Jeannie back in the bottle. I failed my Mother. I disappointed a friend.

Once verbal battle ensues, breaching boundaries by weapons of rudeness, or meanest disregard to decency, bridges are often burned.
I discovered the possibility, my offered apology may not be accepted. There is only so much a heart will forgive because the mind never forgets.

On the flipside, when it was my due to receive apologies or remorse, they were not quickly offered in return. I was now on the inside of heartfelt injury. You may think this experience would serve as a poignant reminder of what should not be done in turn, but sometimes my memory was and still can be selective.

Flashbacks of lessons steeped in my Mother’s special brand of Catholic guilt trickle around my head while echos of my Mother’s voice whispers across my conscious like a broken record. “Be the bigger person, Joanne, turn the other cheek” or “think before you speak.”

As my Mother says, “two wrongs do not make a right.”
Change yourself. Learn to forgive others when it’s hard to do by accepting the responsibility for your part in arguing; in forgiving them, you will bring peace to yourself.

Easier said than done.

Ironically, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” was everywhere in my youth. It was the very first poem sung in my Girl Scout Troop meetings with Mrs. Violetta Clapfshenkel, my troop leader.¬†Mrs. Clapfshenkel and my Mum, thought this poem embodied the very foundation of humility, a vital cornerstone to civilized behaviors. These ideas were reinforced daily by Pittsburgh icon, Mr. Fred Rogers, who taught us kids “to love ourselves, love our neighbors.”

In my hometown of Pittsburgh, I lived well within local PBS limits, 4.49 miles from the famous Pittsburgh Point. Pittsburgh is a quilt of ethnic neighborhoods, a sprawling metropolis of skyscraping buildings lining traffic congested streets interspersed with old neighborhoods stretching far out before crossing into suburbia.

The Pittsburgh dynamic was a quilting of ethnic blue collar neighborhoods fashioned together into one large “small town” feel.

It was interesting times as a child growing up in a predominately Catholic family neighboorhood. No sins went unreported or unpunished, where many aunts, uncles, grandparents and neighboring eyes were watching us kids.

A seemingly small town life within a large city, coupling all those “villagers” rearing a child, adding in growing up before and after school with Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on WQED, Pittsburgh.

Mr. Rogers, was a¬†revered children’s evangelist for education,a family man leading the sewing together of good manners and social responsibility in Pittsburgh neighborhoods through public broadcasting.

WQED, the nation’s first community sponsored educational television station, was the very pioneer of all public broadcasting stations. Bringing diverse screening opportunities to everyone with a television to sit by with a snack and learn a lesson watching Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers was born outside of Pittsburgh, in the city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Mr. Rogers was very well educated. He was a very spiritually grounded man with degrees in divinity, music composition, and children’s education. Later becoming¬†ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

In all Fred Rogers notable accomplishments, too plural to list. The most valuable were those lessons he taught to me through his daily programming. Mr. Rogers approaches were positively affirming education and responsiblity at large through demostration of personal principled behaviors. I understood his simple kind words of insight as a child. I embrace these values highly as an adult, I call them “The Mr. Rogers Principles.”

Fred’s lessons and impact are noted best by the Fred Rogers Organization:

“Perhaps his greatest contribution is that he was able to translate complicated child development theories very into easy to understand and affirming messages – – life lessons that resonate with all of us, young and old.”

The key here is “life lessons that resonate with us all, young and old.”

Mr Roger encouraged appreciation and respect for others, he strongly endorsed every person’s individual work.

For example one of the famously quoted words he always said,
“Each one of us is valuable and there is nobody in the whole world exactly like you”.

Mr Rogers understood the need for respect and courtesy towards everyone with whom a person may interact.

“In effect, he consistently models the appreciation of inherent individual worthiness that is the cornerstone of it successful multicultural society. ” —source WQED.

Mr. Rogers’ strong morals, values and patience resonated through his songs and thoughts:

“Talk about what you’re feeling. If you know what to do with your feelings, you can do anything, it’s much more dramatic when people work out their feelings of anger then when they use mean words, fist or gun fire.” –Fred Rogers

Most persons in America can say they know or can sing these words:

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.”–Fred Rogers

Most importantly, the content of what Mr Rogers taught is crucial information for children and adults to emulate daily. His values and morals build strong foundations for life. Each daily show focused on one of many major issues, such as kindness, sharing, compassion, caring, peace, joy, love, confidence, success, forgiveness, trust, uniqueness, patience, and honesty.
Mr. Rodgers recognized children would imitate what they saw, heard or learned.

I often ponder at troubling moments:   When did we as adults forget these fundamentals? Basic principles, love all people, respect our parents, seek guidance from principled mentors, bestow kindness on our neighbors as like Mr. Rogers bestowed upon us?

Why have we forgotten the cornerstones of civilized interactions at church, in our homes, in our community, and within our treasured friendships? When did we shatter the boundaries of propriety, losing respect for others, property or law?

I still remember the principles from Juliette Lowe’s, Girl Scout law:

The Promise:
“On my honor, I will try: to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”

The Law:
“I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority use resources wisely make the world a better place and to be a sister to every girl scout.”

To those like Mrs. Clapfshenkel, my troop leader instilling on one young lady at a time, the singular mission of GS, “building girls to have courage, confidence, and character, who makes the world a better place.”

Fred Rogers, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and invaluable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – – or ever will have – – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

Nowhere in the lessons from my time in the Roman and Episcopal Catholic churches, or from my mother, Coletta Roth, or when watching Mr. Fred Rogers, or learning from Mrs.Violetta Clapfshenkel, was I ever taught to do harm through word, thought or deed. No where, EVER.

I need to remember its starts with me.

So, today, I am singing out loud, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Hoping this verse will instill calm within me. Enabling me, to think first and react later. I am guilty of striking quickly and sharply, I am not perfect. I am human, not God like. I am constant need of reminding:

“Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”

So we must raise our children with daily lessons in humility, acceptance, respect, patience and kindness. When vitriol spews from immobile persons or circumstances force your patience to be stretched and challenged, practice what you learned. Your response will influence your children’s behaviors and attitude through your reactions. ¬†Reinforce your lessons, back them up with positive actions, your children’s eyes will be upon you in those times of trial, measuring your every step and recording your failings.

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We can make better choices and we should strive to do so, thereby shaping good relationships with our children, friends and neighbors through guidance, humility and respect.

Let’s make this our solemn vow:

Let each moment begin with a considerate and thoughtful choice by you and me. Let’s be the best neighbors, friends and “brothers”.

Joanne Roth Marino

Late night talks with Ben

Challenges: Senior year

These late, late night chats, when my 17 year old, senior year child drops down on the sofa, pressing tight against my arm looking over saying, “I get to fill next year full of new people, places and choices.¬†(Still and silent pause) I¬†get to choose what and who to edit out. (Silence and staring outward.)¬†So much is changing next year, I’m suppose to know. What if I get it wrong, what if I’m choosing the wrong path? (college department) Are there enough choices within Tech?”

We go back and forth on career options.

“Mama, I will not enjoy my job if I’m sitting behind a desk without interaction with people. I need to interface, problem solve…you know…work it out, figure out solutions, wrong or right. Maybe I lead, maybe I don’t. I know I have to be part of the solution, you know a team. I can’t sit at a desk staring at a computer within a cubicle. I need to do.
What if I get it wrong, I will be miserable. I’m really scared. I’m sort of both sick and excited.”

Here’s what I told him:

“Well…what if you do “get it wrong”? ¬†What if? ¬†Would it be so horrible if you had to start again? No. It will not.¬†

You are only 17. It would be horrible, if you didn’t feel this sense of uncertainty.”

Here’s what I know, Ben:

“Uncertainty is a healthy reminder to be aware of opportunities and your choices. You will soar and you will stumble. If you never fail or sense fear, you will never realize your abilities to rise to situation at hand. Those qualities to figure out how to overcome the challenges stem from experience.

What if” is only a matter of possibilities. Sometimes you will choose but often times, life will choose for you. It’s how you respond, when facing those roadblocks. What you choose to do with forks in the road.
These occasions will strengthen your determination, they will build your confidence. These ongoing choices will determine your ability to persevere.

Change is ongoing. It is evolution of setbacks and achievements, which will bring forth pivotal growth and forge character by trial. You will grow into yourself every year a little better than the last.

Trial and error, proves what I already know: you are not perfect, you are not finished, you are a wonderful work in progress.

I am not afraid for you, son. I am excited to watch you discover those gifts within yourself. The essence of your character which will unfold everyday in unique and mundane ways.

I’ve been watching your determination build since your first struggle to crawl towards walking then into running. You were not afraid to struggle. You never stopped in the face of obstacles. You innately conquered through puzzling out ways around, over or through.

As a toddler, you were are already building a strong foundation for your purpose. Evolving with each choice, with every step as you struggled through every encountered opportunity and each successful failure. These experiences formed you into a capable functioning person.

Failure is never negative, its very nature will open different avenues of discovery. Alternate paths brought forth to consider when one choice was not the best direction to walk towards obtaining a goal.
Struggle is not harmful, it is a positive experience. It showcases effort and perseverance which  you will appreciate upon arrival at your destination.

Ben, remember those books by Shel Silverstein, we read to you? I remember a quote, about how to get through what you are feeling. It is what we all feel everyday at every age, even Daddy and I struggle with it at 49.”

“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
‚ÄėI feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What‚Äôs right for you ‚ÄĒ just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
— Falling Up, Shel Silverstein.

Smiling, my son turned to say, ¬†“Mama, Shel Silverstein said the same thing you just said in a thousand words and 15 minutes less!”

I rolled my eyes at him. My child rolled his eyes back at me, while smirking, my son told me he loves me. Leaning against my arm with his tucked under my elbow, he murmured “I get it”. ¬†A quick hug and buss on my cheek, he’s walking off towards his bed, saying, “still scared, Mama.”
Less than 10 seconds later, My son stuck his head back through the door way, pointed at me, saying, “I hope my brother appreciates my struggles when his senior year Mother talks are 1 hour and 15 minutes shorter.” Laughing he pauses to tell me, again: “I love you, Mama.”

(Little turkey. I hope he has all girls.)

Things my eldest son has taught me:

I believe this has been the fastest passing year, since his first year of life. I have never been more challenged as a parent to be silent and just listen than ever before in his life. He knows I am here. He is teaching me so much about himself in his own way, while assuring me, I can let him go.

He will be fine.

–Joanne Roth Marino