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Mentoring Monday: As the Kids say... "Epic Fail"

Welcome back, Aymee - to yet another Mentoring Monday post... we love having you :)
As the Kids say: “Epic Fail.”Dear Maddie,
Let's just start with--it's okay to make a mistake. It's okay to really mess up. And it's okay to fail miserably. The important thing is that you get back up, shake it off, and try again a little wiser. No one likes to lose, and it takes courage to admit they did. It's okay to regret something you've done. As much as feeling regret sucks, it motivates us to keep from making the same mistakes over and over again. It's an important process in growing up and, well…surviving. And isn't that what growing up is: surviving?
I failed miserably last week, quite literally. For the first time in my 26 years, I failed a class. For a life-long hard working student whose never had a GPA below 3.6, this was like getting sucker punched in my nerdy, squishy, post-partum stomach. It would have been expected if I hadn't tried; then I would have deserved it. But all semester-long, I constantly struggled with the class. I worked and worked in hopes of at least passing. But that wasn't in the cards. Instead, I became part of the lower fifty percent of students who take this class: those that fail (that's right, this class has a fifty percent fail-rate).
The weight of disappointment, frustration, sadness, and the desire to lose myself in an alcoholic stupor, all bare down on my back like a boulder. I am now fearful of the coming semester. Not to mention: I have no motivation to work like have in the past, which is a problem because now more than ever do I need to pull up my bootstraps and get to work.
Sure, feeling the shame and guilt from failure suck. Knowing you let someone down because you didn't succeed sucks. The fact that your best wasn't good enough f&*%ing sucks. But that's not the worst of it; do you know what the hardest part of failing is? Not becoming a whiny, sore loser.
Everyone is entitled one pity party--maybe a few more depending on the circumstances. But eventually, you have to dry your tears, stand up and try again. Try again, no matter how much you just want to stay buried under the covers and hide from the sun. You have to do this terribly difficult task because if you don't, nothing will ever get better.
So I will press on next semester, and the one after that, and so on--because I have to set an example for you; because I refuse to just lie down and quit; because it's the only way I'll get to where I'm going.
Love, Mom.

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Mentoring Monday: Children are Water, We are the Glass

As usual, Monday welcomes another post by new mama to Maddie, Aymee. Leave her some love!
Our Children are Water, and we are the Glass      H₂O: the single most important tangible substance for life on Earth. It is what allows all organisms to flourish. This naturally renewable source is a cure-all for when we are sick, tired, and run-down. Water is the most pliable element, taking the shape of whatever container it resides in. Take the simple image of a cool glass of water. What comes to mind? Rejuvenation, refreshment, mmm…a good feeling.
      If our children are water, then we are the glass that holds them. Some glasses are simple cylinders; some are artfully colorful or eye-catchingly shaped. But they all serve the same purpose: to provide a receptacle for water to do its job and reach its full potential. When one thinks of a glass of water, one focuses on the water. The glass is often taken for granted. But if the glass is structurally unstable (i.e. a crack in the side), precious liquid will helplessly leak out making a mess. Parenting is a lot like being a glass. We have a responsibility to stay structurally sound so our children can reach their full potential and fuel a better future.
      Originally, I did not plan to have children until I was finished with college. College-then-kids is the stereotypically expected plan in our culture because college-with-kids is damn hard. But late last year, a burning stillness rose within me to have a baby. Adam had been prodding for children for years. Six months into dating we went to see Jersey Girl in the theater. As the credits began to roll, he looked lovingly at me and said, “Let's have a baby.” --!!!-- “Get away from me!” I humorously thought. Working on my Associates degree, we weren't even married yet (not that you have to be married to have kids). I made him wait five and half years, and I'm lucky he's so patient. When I enrolled in school last fall, I still had every intention of finishing my Bachelors before getting pregnant. But in November, something changed within me. The time came, and I had a peace in my heart and my gut so strong: I knew I had to listen. My mom, who lovingly pressed me to finish college, softly questioned my judgment. “What about school?” she asked. In her head, it probably sounded more like, “ARE YOU CRAZY?! Do you have any idea what you're in for?” But I'm an extremely lucky individual. My mom is amazing, supportive, and keen enough to have always known her strong-willed daughter has to follow her heart, even if she sees otherwise.
      Following my heart paid off. As Adam puts it, “We hit the jackpot.” Our little girl is more wonderful in every way than I ever imagined. I like to think the stars aligned last November, my soul sensed it, and thank goodness I listened. Still, in the back of my mind I wonder if having my plate so full will have a negative impact on my parenting abilities? The conclusion I always come back to is this: the answer is up to me. The answer will lie in how I prioritize my obligations. It is a given that my child and husband come first. Then my job and school come next. And my sanity? Well…
      It would be easy to decline into a slippery slope of sacrificing my sanity for the sake of my responsibilities. But will that eventually make me a cracked glass? Certainly. In the circular method of doing what's best for my child, I have to take care of myself. The battle is figuring out how to deliver on all three planes without becoming overwhelmed and losing hope--but it's not impossible. At my college, forty percent of the student body are working parents. And like them, I am (somehow) still passing my classes and my child is thriving. Or take a lot of the working Moms on Etsy & Artfire: Brooke, Steph, and even our beloved Amber; multiple kids and successful stores they run by themselves. If they can do it and stay sane, so can I. With a positive mindset, it is amazing what we are capable of.
      I find taking pride in my struggle for Maddie yields further motivation. Taking comfort in doing the right thing for my family, regardless of how hard it may be, gives me the energy to press on. To get up before dawn, to stay calm when she's not, to attend class instead of go home and have a beer: all for my family. Yes, water fuels the future. But who knew it fueled the glass holding it?

Amber edit: Thanks Mee-Mee, this could have been more perfect today... today my friend, has been a total whirlwind.. cooking, cleaning, working, parenting, wifing, and i still have about 6 hours to go... its 7:30 (head/desk) doing it with my sanity? I dunno... some days (like today) I swear my heads gunna explode... other days? Piece of cake.. I just keep focusing on the next day... get as much done today because "the next day" will be easier... it seems to help me get buy and stay focused on the tasks at hand... if not, i get completely overwhelmed... i love you!
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Mentoring Monday: Daddy & Maddie Journal

Another amazing post by daddy, Adam.  Its been awhile... but well worth the wait!!
Mentoring Mondays Teaching you to be a Lady while you teach me to be a Dad. By-the-minute journal entry of Maddie and I earlier this week.

12:17 AM:  I’m on whiskey-number 4 and whiskey-number 5 is looking pretty good right about now.  Sure it’s late and I need to be up around 6:30 AM but what the hell?!  Taking care of a baby isn’t too hard.  She sleeps mostly anyway.  Might as well enjoy the night.
12:42 AM:  Whiskey-number 5 was just great.  Here’s to whiskey-number 6 and getting all nostalgic over old music videos on Youtube.
01:29 AM:  Bryan Adams is the most underrated songwriter of all time.  I’m sure of it.  Hang on, I’m going to call my ex-girlfriend, scream “bitch,” and then hang up.
01:31 AM:  Alcohol made me forget about cell phones and their built-in caller id.  This will be embarrassing tomorrow.
02:17 AM:  ….must…sleep….room…spinning….thank…god….I…don’t….have…to…work…until…five..tomorrow…kid?.. what…kid?
06:57 AM:  Baby crying.  Head splitting.  Momentarily try to think of child abuse statutes in my home state but my head hurts too much.  Baby still crying.  Must do something…
06:58 AM:  Pacifiers RULE!
06:59 AM:  Pacifiers SUCK!  They only work for a minute when she’s hungry.
07:04 AM:  Holding Maddie while feeding her.  She’s so damn cute, I momentarily forget about my mental-threat of child abuse.  Being a Dad ROCKS!
07:14 AM:  Maddie just threw up all over me.  Being a Dad BLOWS!
07:15 AM:  After cleaning up myself and Maddie, she smiles at me and coos.  Decide that Maddie can live a bit longer.
09:23 AM:  Maddie falls asleep in my arms while we are chilling on the couch.  She’s so beautiful and precious.  I feel lucky to be alive and am grateful for her and all that I have.
11:35 AM:  Maddie cuts a fart that would put the Blazing Saddles campfire scene to shame.  I momentarily marvel at the awesomeness of my daughter.
11:36 AM:  I check her diaper after the above mentioned fart.  Oh. My. God.  Screw that, there IS no god.  Nothing that foul can come out of something so small and cute.
11:38 AM:  Diaper changed and I am forever changed.  I now understand battle-hardened Marines and their thousand-yard-stares.  They saw it all and came back from the brinks.  So did I.
12:04 PM:  I get hungry and decide to make a sandwich.
12:05 PM:  Every time I walk away Maddie starts crying.  As soon as I walk in to where she can see me, she stops crying and smiles.  Too cute.  But I am hungry.  Back to sandwich.
12:08 PM:  After four minutes of back and forth from the kitchen to the living room and still unable to construct a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I slowly come to the realization that I’m being schooled by a three-month old.  I am shamed.  Maddie keeps smiling.
01:17 PM:  Maddie goes down for her nap and I hop on the internet to check my chances of spontaneous combustion.
01:18 PM:  Outlook not good for spontaneous combustion.
02:19 PM:  The wife calls and says we need more diapers.  I tell her that she’d better go and get them.  She asks me “what?!”  I say “nothing, dear.  What size?”  The wife then reminds me that this is Minnesota and that it’s cold out and that I need to put Maddie in her bunting.  I tell her that that is not an appropriate verb to use about our daughter.  She says “I said ‘bunting’ you idiot!  With a ‘b’ and not a ‘c!’”  A quick check from Google confirms this.  Again, I am shamed.  And apparently a pervert.
02:24 PM:  I finally get Maddie into her bunting.  Spend a moment marveling at how ridiculous she looks.  She looks like Ralphie from A Christmas Story.  She looks like something Lewis Carroll would’ve dreamt of while on copious amounts of acid.
03:30 PM:  In the past half-hour I’ve managed to feed Maddie, change her, take a shower and get dressed for work.  Spend the next seven minutes making sure Maddie doesn’t throw up on my pants or shirt.
03:34 PM:  Epic FAIL.  Must find clean shirt.  Hmm.  The one on floor next to the laundry basket doesn’t smell too bad…
03:37 PM:  The wife comes home and I leave thirty seconds later.
03:44 PM:  Creeping onto the highway at twenty miles per hour, I try to remember what my wife looks like.  But in my mind all I can see is Maddie.
04:46 PM:  Pull into the parking lot of Best Buy to start my shift.  I am beyond tired.
06:32 PM:  A customer seems upset that we don’t carry the type of guitar strings he wants.  I resist the urge to grab him by the shirt and scream “Hey man!  It’s no big deal!  They’re just guitar strings!  You wanna know what happened to me today?!  I got shit on, pissed on and puked on and I’m here smiling.  You, you’re all bent out of shape over guitar strings!”  But I say none of this.
07:11 PM:  Even after all the above-mentioned events of the day, I find that I miss Maddie.  I sneak out to call the wife to inquire about the baby.  All is fine.
10:36 PM:  Done with work.  My whole body hurts.  I’m so tired that even my hair hurts.  I stagger to my Mazda and drive home.
11:11 PM:  Home.  The wife is asleep on the couch with Maddie resting belly-down on her chest.  It is easily the most beautiful scene I will witness all year.
11:22 PM:  I make a light dinner, careful to not make too much noise and sit down to eat.  As I sit down the wife stirs and opens her eyes, sees me and smiles.  Now I remember what my wife looks like.  She looks like love and joy.  I remind myself that I am very lucky.
12:17 AM:  We put Maddie into her crib gently as to not disturb her slumber.  She’s a sleeping angel with light red hair, big blue eyes and  a mouth that can’t help but smile.  The wife gives me a hug and a kiss and thanks me for taking such good care of our baby.  Shucks Ma’am.  T’was nothing.

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Mentoring Monday: Two-Week Itch

Mentoring Mondays:Teaching you to be a Lady while you teach me to be a Dad (post by Adam)
We’re about 2 and half weeks from meeting, Maddie.  I can’t speak for you but I’m nervous and at times, a touch scared.  Nervous because parenting will be the hardest job I’ve ever undertaken.  Scared because there’s little room for error.  I’ve never been afraid of failing and I’m not too much of a perfectionist but the flipside is I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life than as I am about you.  
But I suppose this is where the whole “you mentoring me” bit comes into play.  I imagine how you teach me to be a father will be subtle and on-going and I may not even realize that it’s happening nor will you realize that you’re teaching me anything at all.  And that’s the sweet, subtle beauty of the whole thing, Pitseleh*.  
I suppose the bottom line is I haven’t even seen you and I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in my whole life.  Emotions that strong can be very scary because the price of letdown and failure are too high.  Well, I’m not going to worry so much that the fear becomes crippling and forces me into inaction (which is often far worse than making the wrong decision).  Just know that all the bands I’ve been in, all the songs I’ve written, all the shows I’ve played, the best thing I’ve ever created is you.  (Oh okay, your mom helped.)
This one’s a bit short but I’ve said all I need to say for right now.  I’ll let my actions do the talking for me.  I promise to be the best father I can.  Will you mentor me while I mentor you?  I promise we’ll have a good life.
I love you, Maddie.-Your Dad
* “Pitseleh” is Yiddish for “Little One.”
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Mentoring Monday: Tolerance

After a week off Aymee is back with another amazing post. She's so close to her due date! Can't wait to see Ms. Maddie next month!!Dear Maddie,              Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about two words: tolerance and respect. These are words that will play a part in important lessons for you throughout life. I’ve been chewing on these words because of two stories in recent news. The first being the efforts of Minnesota Pride Fest organizers to refuse entry to an “anti-gay evangelist” from passing out Bibles and preaching at the public event like he has done in years past[1]The second being the efforts of some to prevent moderate American Muslims from building a Muslim community center near Ground Zero[2]. What does the word tolerance mean, you ask? Good question kiddo. Tolerance is defined by the dictionary as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own…” Bigotry is one of the main downfalls in humans. It is an age-old flaw that to this day infects many in our societies, creating unrest on every kind of level. The more people who truly learn to be tolerant of others, the more we can achieve. Why be tolerant of others? Another good question! Answer: because it is respectful.You will encounter people throughout your life that will treat you or someone else unkindly. When you’re younger, these people are called bullies. When you get older, these people are usually referred to as a**holes. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe it’s just the Midwest in me; but I’m big on manners and showing respect to others, and I will teach you to do the same. Gestures go a long way: holding the door for someone and saying “Thank you” when someone holds the door for you; looking people in the eye; waving a “Thank you” gesture when you’re driving and someone lets you into their lane; saying “Hello,” and maybe a “How are you?” to the check-out clerk at the store; saying “Sir” or “M’aam” when talking to people—even in an informal conversation, it shows respect. Words and gestures are very powerful, and when used carelessly can hurt just as much, sometimes more than, a punch to the face. If you are kind to those around you, you will earn respect from others in return and attract true friends who will always be there for you. This is what truly makes a person rich in life. The opposite will earn you flakey “friends,” who will not be there when you really need them; they will only be around when they want something from you.Some call it “karma;” some call it “getting what you deserve.” Regardless, a life of disrespect will also reap a life of anger. If you regularly disrespect others, you will receive the same in return which will make you angry and bitter. No one aims to live like that. It is a slippery slope one goes down when they don’t pay it forward. This won’t always be easy. In fact, I think it’s easier to not go the extra step and hold the door for someone, or say thank you, or smile at someone. The same goes for tolerance. It is certainly easier to deny another what they want than it is to allow something you don’t agree with. It takes a little effort to accept someone who is different than you. Sometimes, it’s even more difficult to be tolerant of someone who acts or believes in a way that you don’t like. People like this might annoy, or anger, you. But it is important to think before you speak or act in instances like this.              Here’s an example: recently, I went to the store for my weekly grocery run. I approached the checkout area to find it packed; only a few lanes open and every lane had a long line of customers waiting to check out. I entered the shortest line behind a middle-aged man with a few household appliances in his cart. He quickly noticed I was behind him, approached me, and began spouting off his uninvited opinion about how terrible the store was, and then jumped into something about “scripture. He caught me off-guard; I didn’t understand what prompted him to step up on his soapbox. I had no interest in listening to his opinion, especially since I knew most of it was misinformation most likely collected from hot-head political-extremist talk radio. (only 10% of what he said was factual and not outdated). Nor did I have any interest biting his bait for a debate in the middle of a busy store checkout lane on a Saturday. Of course, my head was swimming with smart-a** remarks like, “If they’re so awful, why do you support them with your money?” But I said nothing. I’m all for intellectual discussions, but not with people who only want to hear themselves speak. I assumed he fell into this pool because he started this conversation without provocation. When he realized he wasn’t going to be successful in getting a rise out of me, agreement or disagreement, he left his cart in line, and walked two lanes over to try his doctrine on the poor sap waiting patiently in line like the rest of us. Did I find him annoying? Yes. Did I think to myself, “I wish he’d shut up?” Yes. But silencing him would not have been the right thing to do. Telling him to “shut up” would have been rude, and would have had the opposite effect. (Let it be said your punk-rock father would say otherwise; he would likely have told the man to piss off. That’s okay too. You have the right to, but know that it only eggs people like that on; they won’t find it respectful and will most likely react in a like manner. Choose your words with your desired end in mind.) Everyone should have their soapbox to stand on if they so choose, even if that means they break it out in the middle of the checkout lane on a busy Saturday afternoon. I don’t have to agree with him, and I don’t have to like what he’s saying. I don’t even have to listen. But I do have to tolerate him because he had every right to do what he did, and that right is a beautiful thing. Tolerance was putting up with him for the ten minutes it took to get through the checkout lane.Let’s take another example from the news stories I mentioned earlier. In both instances, we have two sides that don’t like each other’s point of view. Who’s right and wrong is for another discussion. The lesson I want to instill in you first is that both sides have a right to think and feel the way they do. But both sides should be tolerant of the other, even if it’s difficult to do so. This is a high form of respect. As long as neither side is violent or disruptive, this is healthy. It’s not easy for either side to do, but sometimes we have to do things that are hard for us, and we are stronger because of it. In the second news story, there was a great quote I wanted to share with you. It is a quote from Herbert Ouida, a parent of a 9-11 victim. He is speaking of the conflict in New York as to whether or not allow a Muslim community center to be built near Ground Zero: "I understand the anger, the bitterness and hatred, but it only generates more hatred." This quote reminds me of another that I love and believe so strongly that I had it tattooed on my arm: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Out of this light, this kind of love, comes the strength for tolerance.Sometimes, doing the right thing is hard or uncomfortable. But it is of the upmost importance that we press on, and do the right thing anyway if we are to live peacefully. The golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Bottom line: You, and no one else, should be the one to decide what you do with your body, who you love, what you believe, what you fight for, etc. and you should have the freedom to live according to those beliefs. But in order to achieve that, you must respect another’s freedom to choose differently from you. We all don’t have to agree with each other. But we must respect each other’s freedom of choice, even if we don’t like their choices. And the beautiful thing about America is we can disagree, have the freedom to say so, and have intellectual debates on why. That kind of dialogue is healthy. It’s not always easy to listen to why someone thinks you’re wrong. Sometimes you will be wrong. Sometimes you will be right and they will be wrong. And sometimes, you both must agree to disagree and move on. And you don’t have to listen to someone’s opinion: that’s your choice whether or not to listen. But as long as they aren’t violent or disruptive, you do have to allow them the freedom to voice that opinion.
[1] http://www.startribune.com/local/97237759.html?page=1&c=y[2] http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/07/new.york.ground.zero.mosque/index.html
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