Fatherhood Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Parenting

The Camera in My Mind

I often look at my children and am amazed at how time has changed them… their faces no longer pudgy with baby fullness; their tiny hands bigger- some bigger than my own; their voices deeper; some are taller than I am and others are still growing, but none fit snuggly into the crook of my arm anymore. It makes me sad that in a blink of the eye their childhood zooms by. I still have some who are rather young, but I can look at them and know that before I know it they too will be like their older siblings- grown and moving on with their lives.

I have often said I wish I had a camera in my mind that would take a snapshot at any given moment so that I could relish that time over and over again; a camera that could bring me back to a precise time to smell the smells, see the sights, and feel the feelings I had then- to place me directly in the moment again.

As I age it becomes even more important to me to remember all the details I can. My memory, while still amazing, isn’t as good as it once was. It hurts my heart not to remember all the intricacies of each child when they were babies or even when they were older. I want to remember every detail and I want to be able to share them with my children. I try not to worry about this too much, but still, it lingers on my heart and in my mind.

There isn’t much we can do about our children getting older. It is how life works and how it should be. We don’t want our kids to be young forever and we definitely don’t want them to be dependent upon us forever either. We want and need to raise them to be mature adults who will contribute to the greater good of our society… people who are kind, loving, faithful, responsible, and caring. This is how it is meant to be. As parents, our children are only ours for a short time.

The fact that we only have them for a short while is reason enough to want to remember every moment we can. But how do we do this when time seems to get the better of us and slowly robs us of those precious memories?

I think the most important thing we have to do is to just continue to make as many memories together as we can. While we may not remember every single one of them later down the road, the feelings we had of being together will always remain with us. I think about my kids begging for family game night or family movie night; they may not ever remember the movies we watched or the games we played, but they will remember us being together, laughing and loving. I will have those memories too. Being together and doing together is most important. The things we do on a regular basis are the things we will remember the most. The more we do and be, the more we will remember.                                                                                                              

Aside from continuing to make new memories, what else can we do to help remember those times? Using social media to record and share our times together is also a great way to keep track of those memories. Facebook, Instagram, blogging, and other social outlets are fantastic ways to record those images, times, and feelings. I first started blogging in 2004 after my daughter Anna was born. While that blog is no longer public as I maintain a newer blog, I sometimes go back and reread those memories and cry, laugh, and simply shake my head in amazement over the things we have gone through. So many of our trials, our good times, and the cute things our kids have said through the years would be lost had I not started blogging so long ago. Because I wrote in such depth, including all the feelings I was experiencing, I can be transported to those times in an instant.

Another great way to preserve those memories is to scrapbook or to create digital picture books online. We are all guilty of taking hundreds or even thousands of pictures and yet we simply leave them in our phones or on our computers. What good does it do to have them there? Sure we can thumb through them when we have a spare moment, but to put them in a book to share with others, to write down what was happening, and to make a memento for years and years to come seems like a wonderful way to safeguard the memories that are so dear to us.

Finally, one of the very best ways to protect and pass down the memories which we hold so dear to our hearts is to actually write them out- yes, with a pen and a paper. Buy some pretty stationery (or use whatever you have if you can’t get stationery) and write out what is going on, what you feel, and what you wish to remember. Write a letter to your children, to your grandchildren, to your spouse, or your friends. Write a letter to yourself even. The physical act of writing not only helps to seal something to our memories, but it also creates a keepsake unlike any other. It is incredibly personal and is guaranteed to be cherished for years and years to come.

Letter writing is a lost art. Don’t worry about your penmanship, your spelling, or even how to say what you want to say. Simply write. When you are done sign your name and place it in an envelope. If you don’t wish to give to the person, put it in a pretty box and set it aside. You can read the letters later if you wish. They become a part of history and when you or others read those letters later, history will come alive.

In an age where everything comes at us so quickly and we have many ways of saving information, sometimes the most important memories and feelings end up not being registered or remembered. Our lives are busy and there are many demands on our time. What can seem important today with work and meetings and busyness, won’t be so important tomorrow when we suddenly feel the need to slow down and enjoy the moment we are in. We can’t allow all those time stealers to come in the way of what is truly important.

Before it’s too late we have to make the choice to cherish the time we have with the ones we love. We have to capture the moments that are special to us and we have to record them for the future. Unfortunately we don’t hold cameras in our minds that take snapshots of the important events we attend, the feelings we feel, or the words we hear. Instead, we have to be active in our pursuit to make memories and to remember them.

One of my goals for the New Year is to make each moment count, to make amazing memories with those I love, and to record the memories that change my life- whatever they may be. I used to be pretty good at doing that but I haven’t done a good job of any of those things recently. I want to do better… not only for my own sake, but for my family as well.

Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Mindy Sacraments Spiritual Growth Vocations

Five secrets to a strong marriage

7 marriageRecently, I had the privilege to interview Gil and Sandra Cragen, honored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the longest-married couple among nominees in the state of Alaska.

That interview will appear in the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage’s Archdiocesan newspaper, next month. But I thought I’d share some bullet points about their marriage and what has made it so successful.

I know that simply being married 54 years does not equate to a good marriage. Yet, from the moment I entered their home, I felt blessed by their mutual love and warm hospitality. Sitting there eating homemade cookies and sipping lemonade, I not only felt physically but emotionally and spiritually nourished. So, I think these tips are worth sharing. I have also newly committed to praying for and striving for these qualities in my own marriage, and those of my friends and loved ones.

1) Commitment. It sounds silly, since marriage is a commitment, right? But in this day and age, one shouldn’t take for granted that both parties bring a strong commitment to the table. I myself did not understand that marriage is a lifelong commitment when I got married. My husband taught me this through his example, and showed me where the error was in my thought process. A lot of people have an attitude these days of, “I can always leave when things get tough and I’m no longer feeling happy.” I speak from experience.

2) Communication. Wait for the spirit of anger to dissipate, and then find the time and a way to communicate. It doesn’t have to be talking. The key is to prioritize mutual respect and tenderness for one another, as well as patience and compromise. This is probably the biggest challenge in my marriage–not the respect, tenderness, patience and compromise part so much as the time part. Between my husband’s work schedule and raising 9 children, time is often in short supply.

3) Intentionality. Strong families don’t happen by accident. When you think in your mind of what looks like a strong family, what is important to you? Do strong families eat dinner together at the table, for example? Do they read the Bible together? If you are not doing these things you wish you did, start! The time is now. There will never be a better or more right time.

4) Church. Raise your children in the Church. Show up frequently. Go together. Pray together. Practice the faith at home, exercise faith in your lives. Be the example.

5) Love one another. If there’s one thing that was supremely obvious from my time with the Cragens, it is that they dearly love one another. They do it through their tenderness in speech, their patience while conversing, their mutual respect for one another’s viewpoints.

What has worked for you? If you feel you have a particularly strong marriage, we’d love to hear what makes it so. Thanks for sharing!

Allison Motherhood

Potty Watch

This afternoon found all of us except the baby huddled around printed pages ~ pointing, snorting, and laughing. What was this literary masterpiece that captivated people from four to forty-five? The One Step Ahead catalog. Every time this thing arrives in the mail, we know we are in for a treat of sarcastic proportions. Scanning its collection of infant and toddler “must-haves” is an exercise in insanity, perpetuating the myth that it is so difficult and so expensive to raise children. Read with us:

We found special shoes that emit a two-toned squeak so that the parent (or “caregiver”, as they say) can be assured the child is learning the proper way to walk (heel to ball). “We never had those shoes, Mom, do we all walk wrong?” asked my ten year old. “However did people learn to walk correctly without the squeak?” wondered the twelve year old with a roll of her eyes. We found shoes billed as “Perfect for the daycare set ~ easy on and off.” Because we all know that kids who are home with their mothers and a gang of siblings have neither the need nor the desire to do things on their own since they’re spoiled and anti-social (I think I may have laughed tea out my nose at that one.). There were many manifestations of antibacterial liquids: pump gel, purse spray, mini wipes, dipping bottles, treated bibs and placemats, and even playground equipment.

potty1Today’s favored item, however, was a potty-shaped, potty training watch. This programmable thing beeps every thirty, sixty, or ninety minutes to remind distracted toddlers to try to go potty. A teenaged boy, to whom potty humor is still a viable form of entertainment, loved this. Being that kind of mother, I took the opportunity to make sure the children understood the complexities of potty training (sensation recognition, large-motor activites of getting there and adjusting clothing, etc) in my most solemn voice. “So,” said the aforementioned son with a naughty twinkle in his eye, “It’s possible for a man never to learn that recognition stuff if the watch constantly reminded him when he was little to get up and try without paying attention to his body feelings, huh?” The possibilities of an executive in conference whose beeping watch prompted an excuse to colleagues to gotta try the potty was just too much; we dissolved into giggles as the hypothetical examples of adults tethered to potty watches grew more and more fantastic. Our old couch rocked and rolled for 20 minutes.


I’m not really sure of an inspirational moral from this afternoon’s antics; all I can come up with is more giggling and tea-spilling. Perhaps I could use a beeping watch as a reminder to cultivate a more sweet and genteel spirit.