Friday, July 17, 2009


“I’ve been thinking about my future,” she said, chin tilted up to the left, eyes slightly narrowed. I could tell by her tone this was a serious moment. Cadence’s future is perhaps the hardest of my three children to foresee, mainly because there are so many places she could go.

“I don’t want to be the President of the United Sates,” she says, “because I think that is very complicated, but I do know that I want to be involved with public speaking.” Quick breath in and she continues, a clear monologue rolling in her mind. “But I don’t want to wait until I’m an adult and I feel very strongly about a lot of things and I would like my voice to be heard.” She says, ready to explain.

I am astounded, as always, that she is ten and that she is mine.

I grew up wishing to be invisible. I grew up always doubting my opinions and dodging the occasions where I may have to express them for fear they wouldn’t match everyone else’s. I grew up thinking of ways to never, ever have to speak in public.

“For instance,” she stands up from her place on the kitchen stool, momentum building in her like a race car engine, “Racism. People always think of racism as white people being prejudice against black people but it can be black against white or any race. I just wish we could all have green skin and people would stop seeing color as an issue.” We discuss some current events that are rumbling across the television screen in the corner of the kitchen and her conviction builds.

I think about the many gifts she possesses and the places they could take her as I wonder about her new revelation about her future.

Cadence has the gift of music. She is filled with music that permeates from her lungs and through her limbs. She has a Broadway voice and an MTV dance style that we have worked to keep a lid on. She writes beautiful music with her brothers and composes in her head, hearing the melody, the chorus and the parts of accompanying instruments. She loves theater and adores the stage and is never, ever intimidated. I thought her future was clear.

Cadence is a lover of science and her head swirls with questions and hypothesis. She has created life lessons out of baby powder and water and sees relevance in everything. She is in perfect rhythm with nature and can often be seen rescuing moths, spiders and all sorts of small creatures that get trapped in our home. She cannot tolerate irresponsible loss of life, no matter how small and won an argument with her grandmother recently about defending the most despicable of God’s creatures…mosquitoes. “Every living thing has a right to live and a purpose for being here.” She maintains.

“What purpose could a mosquito possibly serve?” Grandmother offers in defense for killing the little blood suckers.

“They are food for the bats.” Cadence answers. Case closed. Clearly her future lies here.

From the time she could talk, she has always expressed herself. Boldly. Clearly. Often.

It never matters if her point challenges the receiver or goes against the grain. I have always told her that she was given two very specific gifts from God: a big voice and a kind heart. “They must always be used together.” I tell her, “A big voice without kindness can be harmful and a kind heart that stays quiet is not helpful. You are not afraid to speak up and it is your job if someone is being left out to stand up and say that everyone should be included.” It is a job she has embraced and has a collection of friends that are the peripheral of the popular crowd.

“I need to find a way to discuss these issues with people now.” I mention student council, which Cadence points out at this age is mainly a popularity contest and we settle on exploring the internet.

“I don’t think I will start out with Racism, she strategizes, because it so… what’s that word?”

“Controversial?” I suggest.

“Yes, controversial.” She answers. “I will start with something that most everyone agrees on first, like animal cruelty.” Start on common ground, I think. Brilliant.

“Eventually I would like to be able to speak to people all over the world to help them understand that we need to get along. I like to think of the world as one big family and we can’t speak for only part of our family and ignore the rest.” She says, confident that she can make a difference.

“You know that if you become a public spokesperson, those who disagree with you will try to tear you apart.” I say, fearing for her.

“Oh that’s no problem.” She smiles, “I can handle it.”

Yes I believe she can, I think.

Undoubtedly… her future is there.

photo by

Friday, July 03, 2009


The previous post 'Nothing Is Impossible' is my 100th post!

off to celebrate..... :)


As a child, I loved the mystery of a gift.

Sometimes, opening the gift was a disappointment; not because the gift was unsatisfying, but because the mystery had ended. At Christmas time, the mystery was magnified by the number of packages and the length of time they laid beneath the tree, glowing in the shimmer of twinkling lights. I can remember sitting with my pile of gifts, picking them up one by one, imagining what was inside. I was never a peeker. That would ruin the joy that came with slowly opening the package when the long awaited moment arrived to reveal the truth beneath the wrapping.

I have come to realize that this process defines parenting.

Receiving the gift of a child all bundled and wrapped in sweet, soft clothing is a mystery that is revealed slowly over a long time. We pick them up and hold them, imagining what they will be, but it is time that reveals the truth of who and what is beneath. As parents, we see every little miracle and clues from the start that shows each child’s brilliance. We learn over time that the mystery we thought we figured out early on continues to have surprise twists and the unwrapping is endless.

My first born was an early-at-everything baby; walked early, talked early and excelled in all physical endeavors. I knew right away that he had the ability to be a mover and a shaker and a profound athlete. He had a vocabulary that was astounding and insight and perception beyond his years.

I am still unwrapping this one.

Over the years, difficulty with attention and anxiety moved him out of the middle and closer to the edge. Athletically capable, he lost confidence and eventually withdrew from sports. He struggled with attention and impulsivity and the scorn from teachers who assume all behavior is willful, eventually losing faith in himself. As the academic challenges grew, he tried less and less, resisted me more and more. He retreated into his music and his art. I ebbed and flowed as a parent between the shores of over involvement to the deep waters of tough love. He continued to make wrong choices and did not heed my advice. As his senior year inched along, I was uncertain that he would fulfill his graduation requirements. He had an abundance of credits, but needed one particular credit in order to graduate.

US History.

Our country’s story has only recently become interesting to me. I hated history as a teenager. I learned what I had to in order to get by and then left the learning behind on the high school floor; discarded and unwanted.

Communication with his teacher reveals that he will need to achieve an A the final exam to pull through a passing grade.

Ace the final in a class that he had invested nothing.

“You can do this.” I tell him. He looks at me with a ‘you’re out of your mind’ look and then down at the floor. His ship Is sinking and I begIn to tread water, hoping to shore up the battered vessel and plug up the holes of tough love.

“I will help you,” I tell him “IF you do exactly what I say. Bring home the study guide and we will make a plan." He sends me a text message from school after receiving the study guide. This is impossible.

“Nothing is impossible if you are willing to work hard,” I tell him “and even the impossible is worth trying for.”

He agrees to try and with him as a willing participant, I am hopeful.

With ten days to go, I designate the dining room table as study central and inform the family that all hands are on deck with the daily responsibilities. I cram all of my work into the early part of the day or late into the evening in order to clear the hours needed to tutor him. My background is in teaching and I know how he learns. I am tutoring a subject in which I know next to nothing and praying for a miracle.

We pour through the text book, beginning pre World War One and discuss and converse and take notes.

“What was the event that triggered WWI?” I ask.

“The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand.” He answers.

“Right, but remember, that is just the spark that ignites the war…there are four sticks of dynamite in Europe making ready for the explosion…what are they?”

Confidence fills his eyes “Militarism, Imperialism, Nationalism and Alliances.” He answers and goes on to explain each. I begin to believe my own words that anything is possible.

We take breaks hourly to let the new information settle and clear the path for more learning. “Can you believe the Germans sent a secret note to Mexico asking them to declare war on us to keep us distracted? And promised to give them some of our land in return?” I ask him, outraged at the news.

“What was that letter called, the “The Zimmerman Note?” he asks, checking his knowledge? Relief settles in my stomach. He is getting it.

Bleary eyed, we work our way through Hoover and the Great Depression. We wade through agencies, acts and programs with FDR’s New Deal. We watch as WWII wages in Europe and Dictators ruin the lives of their country’s people…Mussolini and Stalin and Hitler; the Great Famine and the Holocaust. The week is coming to an end and we are just reaching Pearl Harbor; days to go and we have much to learn before the studying can even begin. I begin to doubt my overzealous belief that he can learn a year’s worth of information in a week’s time.

On the last day, he tackles the two possible essay questions that will count for 45 of the 150 points on the test; a five paragraph essay with a thesis statement and all supporting facts to back it. He goes back to the drawing board many times until it meets my approval and then studies and re-writes from his head.

He takes his notes and new found knowledge Sunday evening to study with a friend. They pour over the study guide and he finds himself the teacher instead of the student, a process that I know will bring it all home.

We pull up in front of the school on Monday morning. Graduation is set for Wednesday. Everything rides on the outcome of this exam.

“Trust yourself.” I tell him “You know this stuff.”

He comes home feeling good about the test, but the waiting that day is endless. I prepare a speech in my head for either outcome, knowing that the more difficult one will be convincing him that the impossible is still worth fighting for, even if you don’t reach your goal.

I stand in the doorway to the family room where he is lost in playing the guitar. He sees me and freezes in mid rift.

“You know that you learned a year’s worth of information in one week and that it would have been easier if you had done the right thing all year.” I say, preparing him for the news.

He appears to not even be breathing and he is motionless. “I got an email from your teacher with your grade.” I tell him quietly. He swallows and says nothing.

“You got a 91. You are graduating. You did it!” I tell him.

His head falls back in silence, deep slow breath falls from his chest and his eyes close. All of the lessons that I have struggled to teach him about hard work and effort have finally made their way home in the very final hour.

As we sit watching the Graduates’ parade onto the green, the drizzle becomes light rain. I listen to speeches and see proud parents glow at the mention of their children’s achievements of honors and academic excellence.

Ours is a story different than most.

It is a story of struggle and despair.
It is the story of a near miss and an impossible challenge.
It is a story of hard lessons and obstacles.
It is a story of never giving up, reaching higher and harder and believing in oneself.

There is not a prouder parent in the audience.