They Won’t Let Me Play With Them

Oh, my dear Miss Bennett. Unfortunately, this is a tough lesson that every kid goes through. And we have to go through it so we know how to handle it when it happens in adulthood – and it will.

There are a million reasons why kids choose to leave out other kids, and to take what kids say about you to heart is a grave mistake. The truth is most of the time kids don’t have a good reason for leaving other kids out, it’s a power struggle. For some reason when we are young we feel a strong need to be superior or powerful over others, either physically or emotionally.

Most kids do it once in a while, trying it out on different people, and they, too, get left out and cast aside from time to time.

The thing is that at some point, everyone experiences being the ‘odd man’ out.  It’s hard to understand at 7 years old why someone is your best friend one day and the next won’t even talk to you. It’s hard for me to say this, but you might have done this to someone a time or two and just not realized how badly it can hurt.

There’s two things to remember here: 1. If it ever becomes more involved and hurtful than just saying they don’t want to play with you – like if they start being really mean or start hurting you physically, then you need to definately let a teacher know right away. Bullies can take things way too far, and you don’t need to be standing in their line of fire. 2. If you don’t feel threatened, but your feelings are hurt I want you to take a deep breath and simply say to yourself you wish that person happiness. You wish them happiness like what you experience every day. Then thank Jesus for living in your heart and for helping to guide you through your sad feelings.

And then forget about it immidiately and move on to something else. Dwelling on someone else’s behavior and wondering why they act the way they do and expecting them to change if they see you sad or crying is like expecting to be able to congtrol the rain. It just isn’t going to happen.

You can’t control other people and how they feel and what they say. As long as you know that you are wonderful, you feel love in your heart, and you are kind, then that is all you can do. You control your thoughts and your feelings and what kind of energy you put out into the world.

So, when you are in a moment that doesn’t feel right and people aren’t being kind to you, that is when you have to step up and be kind to yourself. Just because they don’t want to play with you doesn’t mean you aren’t a worthy person to play with. You don’t have to believe what they say just because they said it. You have a choice to see yourself through either loving eyes or judgmental eyes.

When in doubt I want you to look at yourself through my eyes, and tell yourself what I tell you every day: You are funny, creative, brilliant, helpful, kind, and you are beautiful, however your soul is a thousand times more beautiful than your outside. But, honestly, none of that matters. When you start to put value on what people compliment you about then you also put value on what people don’t like about you. And none of it matters. What matters is what you think of you.

As long as you lead with love, treat all with kindness, and live courageously, then you don’t need anyone’s approval – or disapproval. You will just be the best you that you can. And who wouldn’t want to be around a person like that?

I love you my Miss Bennett and you are always my hero.

ove, Mom

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The Importance of Being Mathematic

Oh, my goodness, my beautiful daughter, I need to let you know a little secret of mine. Only those closest to me know of my inner, deepest struggles with this. The pretending all the time, the lying and hiding, the shame, the sleepless nights, and exhaustive days just trying to hold it together one more day. Oh, there’s help for people like me. Special places we can go and get help from people who have made helping people like me their life’s work. We can confess our struggles with walking around daily needing it, craving it, and knowing that we can’t live without it – yet having it? Having it almost kills us!
Math, I must confess, and possessing the knowledge of figuring out this language, has been my nemisis my whole life. Oh, how I wish my parents had educated me on math and how integrated it is in a person’s daily life! (and in all honesty, I could just be blocking out their efforts)
When you are young, at least my friends and I believed that you were only going to use math when you grew up if you were a doctor, an astronaut, or a math teacher. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh how wrong we were!
True story: My freshman year of high school my algebra teacher, Mr. Brokaw, was quite happy to see another Keck kid. The previous three had been so engaging in his class and were ‘A’ students. While, I was able to stay on his good side with my sunshiny personality and an occasional German-chocolate cake, I skated by with a ‘C’ – lowering the ‘Keck’ reputation a few points. My junior year came and my Algebra II teacher had the same initial thought about me. The 4th Keck to grace his classroom – Yes! Clearly, the Keck reputation for math brilliance had preceded me again! Damn my smart siblings! My teacher noticed within the first month that I was ‘different’ from my brother and sisters and suggested maybe I come in after school for about 30 minutes for some extra ‘help’. After all, he would tell me time and again, in his ….however long he had been teaching there at that time….years there he had NEVER approved someone dropping his class. Never? I thought. NEVER! So, what started out as extra help every day until 4:00 pm soon turned into everyday until 4:30. Then every morning starting at 7:30. Yes, daily I went and worked on math from 7:30 am until 8:20 when the bell rang for first period, and then after school from 3:20 till 4:30 – every stinking day! The week before Christmas break that semester, my teacher, Mr. Mohrman, suggested that I go ahead and get a drop/add slip from the office. He would sign it. Maybe I could take an art class. (The art and anything crafty gene escaped my DNA makeup, as well – not the other 3 Keck siblings – just mine. But, that’s another letter!:)) So, I got an early Christmas present and was able to drop Algebra II and breathe a big sigh of relief! Whew! I had gone to hell and survived to tell you about it.
My point is….from retail transactions ,figuring out your household budget, taxes, math is a part of everything! And I have yet to come across any job that you will NEVER use math in. You could also grow up to have genius children who, when teenagers, would rather stay home on a Saturday night and debate the various definitions of numbers in math – who knew there were so many? – and not be able to get in on the heated debate because for all you know they are swearing at each other in some alien language disguised as math talk!
Study it. Study it again. And study it again. You have already shown signs of a similar struggle to mine during this past year in school. We were able to get you a tutor, but unfortunately it didn’t help much.
We have looked into an after school program that specializes in math and reading tutoring and is very successful. Someday we will be able to get you into that program, that is a promise!
But, for now, try to not be intimidated by it. It’s just numbers and moving them around. Nothing to be scared of. (Although, I am secretly scared everyday at my job!)
But if you are afraid of it, if you let yourself be defeated at an early age then, quite frankly, you will set yourself up for financial problems for the rest of your life.
Get to know math. Get a positive attitude about it. Dive right in and submerse yourself with math. It will be woven into most facets of your life – so get happy, get comfy, and get MATH!

I love you very much, and remember that your gifts and brilliance are not measured by math knowledge alone – if at all. You are wonderful and I honor you!
Love, Mom

A Temple

My Dear Miss Bennett:
I was 21 years old the very first time my body experienced fully what it was made to do…have a baby…and I was too young to even grasp but a smidge of what an honor it is.
Our bodies are designed by the heavenly Father and are perfect! An orchestra performing a second by second never-ending symphony as we move through this world oh-so-seemingly effortlessly. Even the stars that take center stage – our hearts, brains, lungs – don’t really get any direct credit, unless something goes wrong and then right again.
The fact that women even get pregnant is a miracle in and of itself. Did you know that, my little Miss Bennett? It’s true! Our bodies start attacking the sperm the moment it enters us. That fact alone should be the sole reason for zero depression. You won! You were the fastest and strongest swimmer! Yay you! What a trophy you have – life!!
Yes, we all have troubles, but look at what half…just half of you went through, fought through, and survived just to get here! Amazing!
So, I want you to at least look at your body from that perspective, because until you are a mother – either by nature or by nurture – you just won’t get how awesome we humans are.
But – you need to GET IT! So many of us need to get it!
When our cars are broke – we fix them, and we make sure to take care of them so they don’t break again. When our computers are slugglish we take steps to make them run faster and better. When our electricity goes out – we pay the bill. WE take care of our surroundings. We are careful with them, and for the most part we keep them in good working condition.
A lot of us don’t do that with our own bodies. You are off to a great start, though, I will say that! You love water and refuse to drink Pepsi – no matter how much I do! (You could work on your vegetable consumption, however.)

But, for most of us adults – and teenagers – we don’t watch what we put into our bodies. We are careless with what we let our eyes witness. We don’t censor what our mouths say near enough. We are willy nilly with where we let our feet take us. We smoke carcinogens or herbs that melt our minds, we soak our organs in alcohol, we consume sugar like it was water. We have over-flowing cupboards, yet complain there is nothing to eat.

By exercising, eating healthy daily, and not putting drugs or alcohol into your body you are laying the foundation for a life-long healthy body. By watching what you say and how you say it, by watching what you watch on television, your computer, and the internet, by being very selective as to the type of music you listen to – you are laying the foundation for life-long emotional and mental health. This is so important, not only because of all the body and brain functions that benefit from it, but also because you will have a healthy slate to start with should anything bad creep into your cells and start a biological war inside you. If your body is healthy, your mind clear and free from toxins of all kinds (even too much sugar), then you will have a great chance at winning.

Oh, my dearest Elizabeth, you have a tough job ahead of you. With the technology we have these days, you are going to have so much thrown at you, from every angle. My advice to you, sweet one, is to treat your body like a temple; the guard at the gate to your soul.

Your body and soul are magnificent creations from God and you will live a long, healthy, happy, blessed life if you are thoughtful about what you put into it, what you let your eyes witness, what you let your hands touch, and where you let your feet go.

Take special care because the decisions you make now at the beginning DO affect your life throughout the journey. DO worry about it now. DO take care of yourself, please. It took God and myself 9 months to make you and you are more amazing, my dear Miss Bennett, than words can say. You are worthy of healthy treatment from yourself.

Do this, my dearest, and you will soar!

I love you more than words can say –

Love, Mom

The Truth About Mr. and Mrs. Darcy

My Dear Miss Bennett:                                                          Andy and Chris

In the book Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy go back and forth with having romantic feelings for one another at different times, and through several trials and errors finally end up in love at the end of the book. And everyone lives happily ever after, right?

Well, in real life, things go a bit differently. When you do find someone you want to share your life with you need to go into it with both eyes open and be able to be honest with yourself about your habits and behaviors just as you will want your new spouse to be honest with himself about his behaviors.

There are a couple of important things that I have learned over the years. I am just going to simply state what is the norm. I am sure there are marriages and men and women who take exception with this generalization, however, I think for the majority of all couples – if they are truly honest – would agree with what I am about to tell you: Something I wish someone had told me.

No one ever pulls the blushing soon-to-be bride aside and asks, “Are you ready? Are you really ready to have 80 full time jobs at once? Do you really, truly know what you are getting yourself into?” Think of all the things you have on your mind to do right now, at this moment, and multiply it by – realistically – by 50. That is how many things are on a wife and mother’s plate at any given time of any given day. We are the heavy. Even if we are lucky enough to have a husband who actually listens and helps when we delegate, it is still on our platter to finalize.

I think the maddening part for most women is that there is another completely capable, able bodied, able minded person living with us that could absolutely jump in at any moment, and they don’t. Some would say it’s not their fault. Some would say that they are men and they just don’t ‘see’ the mess, or they aren’t good at making appointments or buying valentine’s. (Last time I checked there wasn’t a standard for either) I don’t know. I guess it can be, possibly true that they don’t see or look at the house and kids and all of the responsibility the way we do. However, with how intelligent they are and how aware they are of their own personal priority list, I think I have to call BS on that one. I feel that the truth is much simpler – and, again, I am just saying what I believe to be the truth – I am not trying to put men down in any way – just keeping it real. I believe the truth to be that they really just don’t care if their kids get haircuts or if the dishes that have been in the sink for 3 days get washed. They KNOW that at some point you will do it. Even if you ask for help they will have something come up that stops them from doing the thing you asked and then – coincidentally enough – when you go to do the task and are either partway, halfway, or have the task completed they suddenly say, “I was going to get started on that when I finished this!” And I am sure they really mean that with the best intention. You know what they say about ‘intention’ don’t you? In a marriage, action speaks volumes, not intention. This will improve over the years, though, if you hang in there and keep having open communication about it. It will get better.

Here’s another truth: Most times when you ask for help with something his answer usually involves his parts, you, and time you don’t have because you can’t get anyone to help you with what needs to be done!

Over the years I have seen many news magazines do segments on postpartum depression and how new mother’s aren’t interested in sex. How it is hormones and exhaustion and getting used to a new baby that has her in this state. What the f***?? Hell yeah! We are exhausted, depressed, and doing our best to get used to taking care of this new little person, and all of the others in the house if there happen to be any! I just squeezed a county fair award-winning sized watermelon of a human being out of my yoo-hoo and am up at all hours of the night and someone is suckling my breasts until they are so chapped they bleed and someone else is standing in line to do the same and all I want to do to him is something, in all honesty here, violent. Not horror show violent, but small town drunken bar brawl violent – like throwing a beer at his head. I have felt this way because, the other able bodied, able minded adult in the house seems to be completely clueless as to what needs to happen unless I bring it up! Of course women have postpartum depression! I can’t believe every woman on the face of the earth isn’t diagnosed with postpartum depression!

I also find that I am completely awestruck at the ability of my husband to just go off to the bedroom for a nap or say he needs to go to the store quick – without telling anyone or making sure everyone has what they need – when I can’t even go to the bathroom for 30 seconds by myself! How does that happen? (Again, things do get better with his age and the age of the marriage)

So, while he thinks that making all of your bedroom fantasies come true will solve all of your stress problems – and that does help for a bit -you really just want to scream at him, “Just do the dishes without me having to tell you and then wait three days for you to do them! Just take out the trash without me having to tell you! Just brush the kid’s teeth  before bed without me having to actually say – “Hey, will get the kid’s teeth brushed?”  That’s all we want. It’s pretty simple.

Jennifer Garner, one of my favorite actresses, recently was upset at the media because while she and her husband, Ben Affleck, were both doing strings of interviews for movies they had coming out at the same time, the interviewers were only asking her how she juggled working in the industry and being a mom, however, no one asked him that question.

If her husband does things for their house and their kids without her prompting him – like for example if he takes them to their doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and knows when the school’s Valentine’s day parties are for all of their children and either makes or buys valentine’s for all of their kids and sits down with them and addresses them without her having to say anything, then that is awesome! But, if he isn’t like that, then that is why they asked her.

But, I do think there is a mistake that some women make. Once he is helping you, leave him alone. Just let him do it. Let him do it his way. Just because it is not your way doesn’t mean that it is wrong. We get so used to being in control of everything that we either don’t think to let go, or we are afraid of things getting out of whack if we let go a little bit.

Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am just trying to be honest about marriage and what really happens. I know this because I am on my second marriage. Your father and my first husband are completely different people, personality wise. However, men, fundamentally, are all the same. I know, you are never supposed to generalize. And I have no doubt there are men out there who do things without their wives telling them. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they exist. I don’t think they are the majority, though, and I take this from both my experience and the countless discussions I have had with other women over the last couple of decades. If it wasn’t so common then there wouldn’t be generalizations or common topics for women to discuss every day at break.

Now, on the flip side of that – women have their quirks, too, with marriage. We can take things way to personally.  We can take one single thing he says in an argument, start a completely new argument and never, ever let him forget that he said that one small thing that he probably thought had really no bearing on the argument to begin with. We are always wanting to talk about feelings when all he really wants to do is eat a sandwich and play video games or go hunting or fishing or whatever hobby he loves to do. Men need that. They really, really do. They need time to do their thing. The problem comes in when they spend more time with their hobby then they do with you. For the most part, though, most men just want to adore you on their time and give themselves time to unwind.

They think about a ton of stuff, too. Stuff we don’t even consider – like everyone’s protection in the house, at all times of the day. They think about their kid’s education and their future and how can they best get them their. They think about being a good role model. They do have a method to what we perceive as madness, they really do. I just have no clue as to what that is.

But, I do know this: The thing you really need to do is make sure you find someone who loves and adores you as much as you love and adore them. Because marriage is hard work. If you find that someone though, you’ll know it, because they will rub your feet after you’ve had a long day at work without you even asking, they will brush your hair for an hour just because they know it’s your most favorite thing, and they will go out into the black-of-night back yard, without hesitation, just to check out the sound you heard, which turned out to be an armadillo rooting around.

Your father still opens the car door for me, every single time we go somewhere together, and every other door for that matter. He doesn’t do it because he thinks I’m weak or because he is on a power trip, he does it because he honors me. So, yes, while I have the platter and he has the plate, he also has me, my feelings, and my needs on that plate.

I wish for you a love that does indeed last a lifetime. And that is why I am writing this to you. Please take what I have learned, and go on the journey of finding the love of your life, and enter into marriage with open eyes. Marriage is a wonderful adventure – if you find the right partner to share it with.

I love you, my Miss Bennett,

Love, Mom

I Don’t Want Two Moms

My Dear Miss Bennett:

After I talked to your older brother, Ian, today you asked me who Pam is. When I told you she is Ian and Alex’s stepmom, you then asked me who Paul is. I reminded you that Mr. Paul is Ian and Alex’s dad.

Then you went through the usual run down about how Paul and I used to be married and how Daddy and Skyler’s mommy used to be married. You asked, “What are you to Skyler?”

I explained to you that I am Skyler’s stepmom. You thought for a moment and then asked, “Am I going to have two moms?”

I told you no, most definitely not.

You looked down, bit your fingernail, then looked at me again and said, “But you and Mr. Paul broke up. What if you and Daddy break up?”

I tried to explain to you that Mr. Paul and I had a very different relationship than Daddy and I have. Daddy and I are friends and we enjoy talking to one another and spending time together. These are important characteristics of having a healthy marriage.

“But, I don’t like it when you fight.”

I then let you know that it is perfectly natural for people in any kind of relationship to have disagreements. I reminded you that you and I fight sometimes. And we still love each other very much.

Then I told you something that I really wish someong had told me. Some people will probably think this is common sense, but for me? I just really had no clue.

Here’s the thing to remember:If you don’t feel good about yourself when you are with them and you aren’t happy at least 90% of the time then you probably shouldn’t marry that person. If the person you are thinking about marrying makes you feel bad, uncomfortable, or you think you can’t talk to them about absolutely anything in the world – then you should not marry that person. Just because you love the person they are and can see all of their special gifts, doesn’t mean they are going to love you back. When you marry a person who doesn’t really truly love you, it oozes out in every conversation, every single encounter you have until only disdain and resentment are left. That is what happened with Mr. Paul and me. That is what happened with Daddy and Skyler’s mom.

Marriage is tough. Even the healthiest relationships are tough! Your dad and I do love each other. We also annoy each other. We support each other, and get mad at each other. The thing is though – I love your dad! All of him. All of his wonderful, awesome talents and gifts and the ways that he makes absolutely everything better! I am crazy about him! But, I take all of him. The things that I don’t like about him, and the things that irritate the crap out of me. Those things, however, are very miniscule. They are just very, very small bits of our marriage. Every other part of our marriage overshadows the annoying stuff I don’t like.

I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. I’m sure you haven’t noticed this, because I am your mom and I am your hero – but, I can be kind of dorky from time to time. Oh, no, it’s true. And I can be a really big baby. And I whine a lot when I am tired. And I’ve recently realized that I have muppet hair. And your dad loves me in spite of all these not-so-flattering traits. He takes me as I am. He loves me, supports me, takes care of me, and makes me laugh every day.

I really don’t think you will have another mom, unless, as you and Logan fully believe, I die soon. Then your dad, even though he says he never will, might find someone as dorky as me to share the rest of his life with. As for us getting divorced, though, I don’t see it happening.

So, while Ian and Alex have an awesome stepmom in Miss Pam, and Skyler has an awesome muppet-like stepmom in me, you my dear will just have me.

And since I am a baby when it comes to sharing, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I love you, my sweet Elizabeth.

***And in case I kick off before you get married – if you want, you can wear the dress I wore to marry your dad – it is beautiful!***