10 Life Lessons I Want My Children To Learn

PAY ATTENTION. The world has a lot of offer you. From the vast unknown out in the universe to right in your backyard. Your father has lived a very interesting and diverse life. He has so many talents to teach you if you pay attention. He’s an expert carpenter and handyman. He’s my modern-day McGyver and has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that will save you a lot of money down the line before you call a repair man. He will teach you how to install a Wood Stove, chop wood and save your future family thousands of dollars in heating bills down the line. He can fix that squeaking sound on your washing machine and even teach you how to build a deck or an entire house, if you want. He’s done it all. He also holds a degree in Business and History and can teach you in the importance of investing your money wisely, as well as how to learn from the world’s past mistakes so that we don’t repeat history. He has a vast knowledge in hunting, survival skills and raising animals on a farm. As a former police officer, he is an expert marksman and knows all the rules and regulations of the law. Ask him questions. Use him to learn, and pay attention.jeff-working

RESPECT & KINDNESS. Respect and kindness will get you farther in life than you may ever realize. Speak to authority with respect. When I got my license my father’s only advice was to be as respectful as possible to fellow drivers, and especially law enforcement. If you happen to ever get pulled over, you should always use the words “Yes Sir/Ma’am” when addressing a police officer. Same goes with teachers and anyone in an authority position, as well as  anyone are not on personal terms with, especially elders. You’ll be surprised where it gets you. 

Respect women. Always remember that “No” means “No”. Alternatively, don’t let anyone force into doing something you don’t want to do either. The first time you meet your girlfriend’s parents, make sure to offer a strong handshake, look them in the eye, and call them Sir, Ma’am or Mr. & Mrs. Wait until they correct you and invite you to call them by their personal name. Until then, stick with the formal Mr.& Mrs.  The first time I met your grandparents, they immediately stopped me in my tracks and said “Oh please, don’t be silly, call us Bev & Lou.”  Your father, on the other hand, is still calling my father Mr.Devaney, because even after ten years, he has never offered your father to call him by anything else. Life is funny. People are funny. You’ll figure out what makes people tick by using these respectful tricks, and in turn, gain their respect.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Even though you should be respectful to law enforcement, my father reminded me that it is your right to not give consent to let them to search your car. You have the right to refuse.  This may end you up in more trouble down the line, but you do have the right to refuse.  Your dad can help clarify this for you.  You also have the right to say no to anything at anytime to something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you find a time where someone is doing something or speaking to you in a way that makes you feel weird, you can say NO. It’s OK. I make this promise to you…you will never get in trouble for saying no to something you don’t feel is right. Your father and I will have your back no matter what.  When you get older, and find yourself in a situation that suddenly becomes too much, I give you full authority to use me as a scapegoat. “No, I can’t smoke that pot with you… my mom will drug test me.” Make me the bad guy, I don’t care.  Then call me, and I’ll be happy to play whatever “mean mom” role you need me to play in front of your friends to get you out of that situation… I don’t care if it’s 3 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.  I have your back. The teenage years are tough; this way you can save some face, get out of a bad situation and blame me.  (I have a secret to tell you… I don’t give a shit if your friends like me… especially any so-called friends trying to make you do something that you don’t want to do.)  While on this topic, Here is a tiny little tip… I was a teenager once as well… and my underage drug and alcohol detection skills are KILLER. Don’t believe me? Try me. Don’t forget this. Oh yea, and your dad was a cop… if you think my detection skills are on par… he is the King. I wouldn’t test us.

FAMILY LOYALTY. Your family should always be top priority; whether you are 10 years old or 56. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  At the end, all you will have will be your family by your side. Treat them well, and they will treat you well. Stand up for your siblings. Protect your siblings. Watch out for each other in life, in school and later on in life. You will need each other at different times in life. Be there for each other, without question.  Visit family members in the hospital, send cards of encouragement and make an effort to call your parents and grandparents. One day, you will meet someone who you fall deeply in love with and decide to spend the rest of your life with. Treat them with respect and treat them kindly. They will be your best friend, your ally, and will most likely be there for you during the most difficult and elating moments of your life. Don’t spend more time working than with your family.  Your children won’t remember the times you weren’t home, but they will remember those bedtime stories you read to them, the snuggles, the hugs and the words of encouragement you offer them.  Genuinely apologize when you mess up; really mean it, and make an attempt not to do it again.  Be good to your family… even when it is hard to be. Disagreements will come and go, but the cornerstone of all relationships and family is LOVE. Always bring it back to love.

LOVE.  This is simple. Do what you love, find someone you love, act out of love, and love will come back to you. When you’re married one day, a simple act of love may be helping your spouse wash the dishes. It’s as easy as that.  I’m jumping the gun a little, and before I get away with myself , when the time comes, I’ll share some mama knowledge with you… the cliché saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is true. Learn to cook. I will teach you. Learn to do your own laundry. I will teach you that too… ask your wife if she needs anything from time to time. THIS, my friends is the secret to a happy marriage. Appreciating each other and helping each other out with acts of love. Do this, and you’re golden.  You will thank me one day for these words of advice.

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SELF AWARENESS. Throughout your life, you are going to continually change. I am watching my little boys play with logos, dinosaurs and trucks right now.  In a few years, you will be onto new interests… then you’ll become a teenager and have an entirely new set of interests. I look at myself, and almost don’t recognize the person I was in college. (My wise cracking sarcastic attitude was and will always remain with me), but I have little interest in the life I lived then than I do now.  It’s alright to change.  Just make sure you stay true to yourself.  Deeply ingrained in you are a set of morals and values that will lead you in the right direction. Listen to those voices, deep down inside and make sure that regardless of what your interests may be at the time, you are always following the right path.

SAFETY. I don’t have much to say in this area. This topic is complex because you are so young now, but you are growing up so quickly.  For now, don’t run in parking lots without holding my hand. Cars can’t see your tiny chubby bum and I’d hate to see something bad happen.  As you get older, protect yourself. I’m going to leave most of the Birds and the Bees to your father later on… but I’ll be on the other side of the door to make sure to interject if I feel the need to. CAR SAFETY.  This is hilarious, seeing how I am quite possibly the worst driver in the world, but actually, none of my safety tips have to do when the car is even in motion.  Maybe it’s my city upbringing, maybe it’s the fact that I am a female and girls are told these things more often than boys, or maybe I’ve seen too may mob movies…. but here is the low down with the car.  When out at a mall or shopping place, I instinctively always try to park as close to the door as possible. Your father assumes this is because I am lazy. Contrary to what he thinks, it’s a ingrained defensive mechanism within me. When you return to your car, you don’t have to walk with a million bags in your hand, in a dark mall parking lot, distracted, trying to find your car.  Exit the store, look around for any shady characters and get to your car as soon as possible.  Don’t text, don’t get distracted and pay attention. Now here is where my city girl and female upbringing is really going to sound a bit crazy. Use your common sense. Before entering the car, check the back seats. Check under the car, get in, and lock the doors. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen too many mobster movies to NOT check the backseat of my car before getting in. (I’ve also been diagnosed with Anxiety and OCD, so this may have something to do with my car routine haha)- regardless… listen to your mama and just do it please.godfather-goodfellas-scarface-560

BE A LEADER. Don’t be a follower.Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and speak your mind. This doesn’t mean to bully people into believing your ideas, but offer them.   Don’t feel pressured to the “coolest kid”… I’ve learned after many years in High School and College that many of the “cool kids” later in life end up to be deadbeat balding men. Be your own person, a good role model, try your hardest at everything you do, and I promise you will succeed.  Believe in yourself.

REMEMBER THAT MOM & DAD HAD A LIFE BEFORE YOU. You are without a doubt, the best thing that has ever happened to us, but we weren’t the boring old parents you see now. We were silly, crazy and always had a good time.unnamed

It’s important for us to spend time together…alone; to go on dates together and spend quality time with each other. The stronger our marriage is, the stronger our family will be. And remember….we always come home after a night out… and the first thing we do is go into your rooms and kiss you goodnight. We both love you from the bottom of our hearts.

DON’T EVER FORGET HOW MUCH WE LOVE YOU. We absolutely love you from here to the moon and the back…. and we always will.moon

 

A Woman To Remember

It’s funny how life works out. Sometimes something tragic can turn into the biggest blessing. Today marks the 15th Anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Born in 1921, she would have been 96 today. She lived through the Great Depression and was in her twenties when brave soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. She witnessed the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski a year later. 

She raised four children: 3 boys and 1 girl;  as television sets entered American homes, JFK was shot, the first man landed on the moon, and Martin Luther King Jr was killed. She survived the 60’s with teenagers, and was either cool enough (or clueless enough) to let her 17 and 13 year old attend Woodstock. (Her 11yr old begged to go but she said he could go “next year”). 


Reverting back to how a tragic situation can sometimes turn into a blessing is that my Grandmother, Grace Strachan; a young girl in her twenties before all of this, was engaged to one of those brave boys who went to war to defend our country. She was broken hearted I’m sure, when he did not return. This young man, who I do not know by name, changed the course of my life. He gave up his, defending our country and led my grandmother onto a different path. Without this sad course of events, I would not be here. There would be no 4 children to raise, and no one to debate over concerts with in 1969.

My Grandmother graduated from Mt.Holyoke College in 1943. This single fact is amazing. At the time, 3.8% of the American women were college educated. Can you believe that?! Throughout her time in college, until the day she died; she served as Class President. She met and married a college educated Dentist (who had also served in WWII), a decent and sweet man, who swept her off her feet and gave her the new last name of Arnold. From then on, they were Johnnie & Gracie- inseparable.


Despite her college education, my grandmother was a proud housewife, who was happy to stay at home to raise her four children…. and discipline them when they needed it, as well. 

A favorite family story is that when my uncle John was in jr high and Uncle Bob was still in elementary school, they had walked to the Jr High to see a basketball game. On their way home, John & Bob, and a few friends started some mischief with grocery carts at the parking lot of the grocery store. When the cops came all the older boys got away and the little 5th grader Bob got his ass hauled to the Police Department. They called my grandmother, who went right down and without any explanation went right in and smacked the crap out of Bob. When the Chief tried to explain the situation, she asked to use the phone. She called my grandfather who was home with John, who had innocently just walked in the door. My badass grandmother told her husband to tell John to wait for her… and to take his glasses off. She meant business. She promptly went home and clobbered him for leaving his little brother on top of causing mischief. As a mother, she didn’t take any shit. 
We recently found a letter, dated midnight in the winter of 1966, written by my grandmother, after arriving home to a mess in the kitchen.

To the Waldorf! Good for her. As a New Jersey native, she knew where to go, and how to make a point. I’m pretty sure she didn’t find the kitchen in such disarray again.

She taught my mother to be a lady, yet to stand up for herself. My mother is a phenomenal cook and baker; trades she both learned from her parents. As the only girl, my mother had a special bond with my grandmother. I know that to this day, there isn’t a day that goes by that my mom doesn’t think about her, or want to share something with her. My mother is married to a wonderful man. An avid golfer (just like my grandparents), he treats my mother with the respect and affection that she deserves. He takes care of her and is a true gentleman. After a tough marriage with my father, I wish often that my grandparents could see how happy my mom is now. Then again, there is a part of me that knows that they know- cardinals frequent their yard and I have no doubt they are looking down, smiling at how happy my mother is right now.

I met my Grandmother in 1983, the year I was born. The first grandchild, she was over the moon. I think of how much technology has changed since then and now. My children Facetime my mother on a daily basis and we live 10mi apart. In the early 80’s, she was lucky if she got a photograph from time to time. 

As time went by, she watched her family grow, and was not only the mother of four, but grandmother of twelve. Every single one of us were the apple of her eye- even my two cousins who joined our family when we were little and not blood related to us. She adored  us all and we all loved her.

I was the first grandchild to meet my grandmother, and the last grandchild to see her before she passed. I was living in Washington DC in college at the time and she stopped by with my grandfather and uncle on their way to Florida. I could tell she wasn’t herself. She barely ate at lunch and seemed out of it. I recall calling my mother after our visit to tell her that I was worried.

They made their way to Florida, and as the story goes, for three nights in a row, while she and my grandfather laid in bed, she made a point to tell him that the past fifty years of her life (yes they had been married 50+ years) had been the best of her life and she loved him more than words would say. She repeated this each evening. She knew the end was coming. She passed on that fourth day, after my grandfather had taken her to get her hair done. It was the right time for her. She died looking fabulous and telling her husband she loved him. She was a gem; a diamond actually. SHE WAS THE BEST.

15 years have flown by, and yet I still feel her presence. She is out there, watching over us all. I know she’s waiting for us. Until then, Gramma, you will forever be in my heart.