Life Is Short; Forgive Your Family Members

Something About Nothing published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 25, 2017

The best career I have had in my lifetime is that of a mother. There will never be anything I do which will equal my feelings about being a mother.

I wasn’t always the best mother. We don’t have experience when we start, we gain it as we go and unfortunately for our children, at times, they are the testers for our parenting skills.

I have fought with my kids if I saw them making mistakes, especially if they were the same mistakes I made. I wanted to spare them the pain. They have fought with me when they thought I wasn’t doing the right thing in their lives or mine. That’s what families do, they love, they fight and they come together in good times or bad.

I didn’t understand when I was younger why my mother worried about me so much, or why we had to fight about certain things when I was a teenager or even a young adult. But I do now. As a parent and grandparent, if she were alive today I would ask her forgiveness for our fights and tell her I understand it was because of love.

As I get older I miss our kids. It isn’t because we don’t see them or they don’t share their lives with us, but because as a mother I still to this day at times have empty nest syndrome. I would love to be a part of their daily lives again. We live close — a couple of hours away, but we can’t have the day-to-day interaction, and it isn’t easy to go to all of my grandchildren’s activities and I miss that.

Because they are so busy with work and kids’ activities, they don’t get home very often. But the other night, my son shared a picture of him and his son engaging in a father-son activity. I realized while looking at that picture that now is their time together. My children are building their relationship with their children, just like my husband and I did with ours. They are making memories. It is the way it should be. They include us when we can’t be there by texting pictures and updates when they are at activities. I am thankful for new technology, but now is their time.

My heart was sad this week when I thought of some of my friends and relatives who are estranged from their children and grandchildren. For whatever reason, their children have cut them out of their lives and their grandchildren are growing up without knowing their grandparents and feeling their love. I saw the tears of hurt from one friend and my heart broke for her.

So, this column is for those children. As parents, we really don’t know everything, even though we pretend to. We are not always that brave person we appear to be. We get scared, too. We feel lonely. We make mistakes. We don’t always feel well and sometimes we whine. We give advice when it’s not wanted. We might not have agreed with your choices and maybe we voiced that too much. But right or wrong, as a parent we do that.

My friends and family members who are missing their children might or might not know why you no longer call them, come home or don’t bring their grandchildren to see them. That makes me sad. You might think you are different than your parents and you don’t want their influence on your children, but what are you teaching them about love and family? Will they ever feel if they do something wrong you will cut them out of your life, too?

In my own family, not my immediate family but my childhood family, there was a feud. Brothers and sisters didn’t talk to each other for years. After many years I don’t think any of them knew what they were fighting about, but they still held the harsh words they said to one another in their hearts until a few weeks before one of them died. They put their feud aside and spent the last week visiting. I felt sad at all the years they could have had.

As a parent, we don’t always wear our love for our children on our sleeves. We all say things in the heat of anger that we don’t mean, but it stays and festers and causes rifts in relationships. If you are estranged from your parents or Grandma and Grandpa is just a name on a card or a word that is never spoken in your household, ask yourself if it is worth it. There may come a day when you want to hear their voice but their place of residence is now an urn or place in a cemetery.

Look at your children and ask yourself if the same thing could happen between you and them. How would it feel? And then as you are telling yourself it could never happen, remember your parents said the same thing.

Life is short. I saw the love for you from my friends and family, which you were given when you grew up. I saw the happiness you exhibited when you were with your family. I can’t believe you don’t remember that love.

I feel blessed our children and grandchildren are a part of our lives because I know, being the opinionated person I am, that I have committed some doozies, and yet they overlook my faults. I love the quote by Byant H. McGill, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”

What will you choose?

Here Comes The Judge

From the column Something About Nothing in The Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel the week of March 20, 2017

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. 

There have been occurrences in the past few years in my life that have absolutely taken me down to my knees in prayer. If you do not believe in prayer or God, then please don’t read this column today. I seldom write about my beliefs, but this week with Lent and Easter approaching, I want to share some of my feelings.

After going through all the experiences and thought processes the past few years, I came to the conclusion it would possibly be easier to not care about anyone. In that conclusion, I knew if I chose the route of not letting myself feel emotion for others, I would have missed out on blessings in my life.

I have been affected by illnesses, divorces, accidents, addiction, to name a few. It has touched and hurt those I care about and love. People have let me down by their actions. I have been angry. I have been sad and I have also not been able to put a name to some of my feelings.

Over the years I spent time trying to figure it all out and cope with all the human emotions. Here is what I know in my life. We are all flawed individuals. We all hold secrets about ourselves no one else knows. We all disappoint others, and we all make mistakes that affect others’ lives, including me.

Holding on to anger only makes me an angry person. Only forgiveness frees me from my anger. I can’t judge another because I don’t have that right. It would be like the pot calling the kettle black. I sin, and I can’t say my sin is less than my neighbors.

I love my children, and I have always told them I will love them no matter what. I may not always like or agree with what they do or enable them if I see they are doing something that is causing them or someone else harm, but I will always love them. I hate the sin but love the sinner. That is the way I would like to be treated. And I extend that to my friends.

Perhaps that is why I feel uncomfortable with judgmental behaviors hiding under the guise of Christianity. I know even though I was brought up to know right from wrong, I am not perfect and I don’t feel comfortable when Christians judge one another and do not show another person caring, but judgment in a church society. I feel my judgement does and should come from God because He and only Him knows the entire picture of who I am. God gave us the Ten Commandments to live our lives and he will decide if we live our lives accordingly.

In a society we have laws and rules we also have to live by, and if we break those rules we are held accountable. But in that system something more needs to happen. Our prisons are full of offenders of what may be unforgivable crimes. These offenders may be a threat to our society. Yet, we have mothers who have forgiven their son’s killers. We have store owners who have forgiven their perpetrator’s crimes. They know the power of forgiveness over anger. And their forgiveness changed the lives of those who committed the crimes.

I have talked to friends who visit prisons and hold Bible studies or teach language and writing skills to prisoners who have felt worthless all of their life and were taught nothing but brutality and crime growing up. These volunteers are changing the lives of those who have not had anyone care about them before. It is not judgment but forgiveness that changes lives.

Those who are in prison are training service dogs, and these dogs are teaching the hardhearted to love. The dogs don’t judge, but they teach love.

This Lenten season in our churches we are learning the sacrifice Jesus made for us, all of us who are flawed.

It is hard not to judge. I have been a very judgmental person until I was taken down to my knees with experiences that taught me my judgment makes an enormous statement about who I am. It means if I judge, I don’t see my own sin. And I personally need that Christian place where I can visit, know I am a sinner, know I will be judged by my higher power and not others sitting in the pews with me. We are all in this world together. Let us pray.

Shredding A Life

Column published November 21, 2016 Something About Nothing

Grandpa thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

I shredded a life today. Piece by piece I dropped it into the shredder, pushed the button and ground it up.

This has been a topsy-turvy month that has swung from the uncertainty of the presidential election to honoring our veterans, to being thankful for all we have with the celebration of Thanksgiving.

This is the month friends and family are posting 30 days of thanks on Facebook, and I intended to do that, too. I have been hit and miss, not because I have not been thankful, but I found disorganization and weariness stopping me from taking the time to post. And so, I took some time to get rid of the past that is weighing me down.

As I was shredding the life, I realized that many of the details going into my shredder were not happy things and reminded me of a time when life was anxious and sad and filled with anger and hopelessness. The papers I was shredding were the papers documenting the doctor bills, nursing home bills and details of my mother’s last four years of life.

My mother died 13 years ago. Why I still had those papers might be a mystery to many people, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the final details that documented the last years of her life until now.

With her dementia she turned against me when I tried to help her. Always an independent woman, she didn’t want my help and didn’t think she needed it. She took care of her mother for many years and she always vowed she would not be dependent on me, her only child. Because of her stubbornness in wanting to be independent it made things harder.

Before dementia set in she set things up so that if anything happened to her I could legally take care of her, her property and her finances. When she developed dementia her mind told her different things, and I became the enemy. Because of this and outsiders interference I took everything to the courts so things would be documented and no one could accuse me of doing anything illegal. It was a stressful and hard time for both of us and our family.

As I shredded these court papers, I let go of the hurt and was thankful we did things that way so she would be taken care of and protected.

While in the nursing home, she broke her arm and also her hip. As I shredded the doctor bills, I noted how inexpensive things were 13 years ago compared to what the surgeries and doctor bills would cost now. Of course at the time we thought they were high, but compared to today they were nothing. I was thankful she had insurance to pay those bills.

As I shredded the nursing home bills, I remembered the wonderful people who understood her dementia and took care of her, along with caring for my emotional state. I was thankful for the doctors and nurses that found a medication to calm her mood and give me back a funny, caring mom. I never knew the sense of humor she now had. Life had changed her from when she was young. I was also thankful for an almost death moment during those years that brought about a talk of her hopes and dreams and her letting me know I would be fine without her but she would be watching over me. Her dementia diminished for a few days after the hip surgery, and we had normal days. I was thankful God gave us that time of healing.

As I was shredding, I knew the moments, good and bad, made up my life for a short time. During that period of time, it was hard to remember the good, but I could see it and feel it now, sitting right there intermingled with the bad. The blessings were there and now I could see them and feel them.

I loved my mom. My mom loved me. If I could go back, I would say many things that I never said. I would say that I now understand what you were feeling. I now understand why we fought so much. You loved me, and as a child and teenager you wanted me to have a better life. You wanted me to be safe. I wanted you to let go. I wanted to fly away and felt you were keeping me back. You were an older mom, and it felt like we were worlds apart.

I would tell her I was sorry I wasn’t always a good daughter. I could have done things differently, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would. I would be kinder and more understanding. Had she lived longer and I had been older with more life behind me I would have known that.

As the papers hit the shredder, the feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger went into the shredder too. There was much to be thankful for in those last years of her life, and I could see it now. Had we not went through the fire we might not have gotten to the other side where the last year was one of understanding and laughter.

Through it all, the love was always there, and that is why we kept fighting to get through the muck to the other side, unaware that is what we were doing.

It is Thanksgiving week. Being thankful does not always mean giving thanks for the good times. It also means being thankful in the fire of despair. It is the glimmer of thanks peeking through that makes up our lives and keeps us living.

Happy Thanksgiving.