Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Vacation can do a mind and body good. I just returned from a few days on the beach, and I feel rejuvenated. I felt worry-free for a week…almost.

But before we went, my teenage daughter was about to drive me crazy checking the weather. Every time I turned around, she was checking the forecast for our destination, and she kept announcing to me that it was supposed to rain every day of our vacation. Finally, after days of hearing it, I said to her, “Keep checking the weather if you want, but knowing the forecast isn’t going to change it. There’s nothing we can do about it, because we are going.” She knows I’ve preached a million times about worrying and how it can just eat you alive. She knows we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.

In my youth, I was a worrier. Somehow, in college, I managed to change all that. I don’t know what happened, but at some point, I realized all that worry was just a big waste of time and energy. Truly, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of something, I should turn over all that worry to God. In fact, worrying is sinful. We are supposed to cast all our worries on the Lord. That’s one way to stop worrying…realize it’s sinful.

If you’re worrying about something you can control…like an upcoming college exam…stop worrying and do what you can to control it. What can you do? Study! Meet with your teacher! Become prepared. If you are prepared for something you can control, then worry should go out the window.

My daughter got into the car one day after school and told me she was afraid she had messed up a test she had taken that day. She had a pained look on her face. I looked at her and said, “Stop worrying about it. It’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it now…let’s celebrate the fact that it’s over.” She laughed, but she knew I was right. I’m not always right…many people will tell you that…but on this matter, I was right. We went to get ice cream to celebrate the fact that the test was over.

As for the vacation, once we got there, my daughter stopped checking the weather. We had mostly beautiful, sunny, worry-free days while we were there. In fact, I can’t think of anything vacation-related that worried me. I did have a couple of aggravating moments when our accountant kept messaging me about tax-related stuff…not what I wanted to discuss while I was on vacation. I’m thinking my husband should have asked him to wait till after I was home. I’ll need to remind him of that next time.

Other than the tax stuff, I could have been walking around singing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I was very happy, and somehow I’ve managed to be very relaxed even after returning home. Since we were in swimsuits most of the day, I haven’t had tons of laundry to do. I’m still in vacation mode, in fact.

My mother was a worrier. Daddy, not so much. I like to think I’ve broken the familial cycle of worrying passed down by my mother. My brother certainly isn’t a worrier. Generally, we’re the kinds of people who “cross that bridge when we come to it.” We just don’t sit around worrying about what could happen, what people think, or negative outcomes. Sure, I worry about my daughter, and if there are health issues with anyone in my family, I worry about that, but I had an uncle who once explained it this way: worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things. If there is something that is out of my control, and I find myself worrying about it, I give myself ten minutes to ponder it. After that, I hand it over to God and forget about it.

Wise words from my uncle. Personally, I like that approach, and it’s the approach I choose to take. Don’t worry, be happy. And if you are having trouble with it, download Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry Be Happy to your playlist and enjoy. It will help.

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Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

 

 

The Wisdom of Mad Men

I’m behind the curve. I just started watching Mad Men a couple of weeks ago, and I’m into Season 5 of the seven seasons. Mad Men premiered in 2007. I was busy with a toddler in 2007 and didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV. The series ended in 2015. After watching the first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently, I was in the mood for a show set in the early 60s, and someone recommended Mad Men.

If you have never seen it but think you would like to, purchase it on Amazon Prime Video. It’s about men and women working at an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s…their professional and private lives, but it is centered around the life of Don Draper, the creative genius behind the agency’s most successful ad campaigns.

The late 1950s/early 1960s are the era when television was becoming influential, and the general public was just starting to enjoy air travel. We were beginning space exploration, and everyone was looking to the future. The cold war was in full swing…and Vietnam was real. Lots of it reminds me of my own childhood in the late 60s and early 70s.

And it is good…really good. The characters are well-written. The sets are glorious. The storylines are intriguing. And even though it is the 1960s, there are so many things happening in these people’s lives…they could be our friends, our neighbors, or even ourselves.

I love it for any number of reasons…the dashing, charismatic Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm; the storylines; the wardrobes; the incredible 1960s sets; New York City; and the wisdom…yes, the wisdom.

Since I wasn’t born until 1967, I wasn’t alive in the early 60s, but it still seems familiar. The console televisions…and when they turn them off, the screen shrinks down to a dot of light. The smoking. The beautiful ashtrays that were sometimes a freestanding piece of furniture and sometimes colorful decor. The green and orange sofa pillows. The rotary dial telephones. The wood paneling. The green kitchen appliances.  The old automobiles. The office politics. The constant day drinking. The social climbing.

But what has surprised me most is the wisdom of some of the characters. It seems Mr. Cooper, the head of the agency, is a wise, well-read and well traveled man. Many of the quotes I love can be attributed to him. Yes, I know he’s not a real person. I know the show’s writers actually write the lines I love so much, but nevertheless, I find some of them to be enriching.

And here, some of the wisdom of Mad Men:

  • “You haven’t thought this through. When you threaten someone in this manner, you should be aware of the fact that if your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” –Don Draper to Pete Campbell, an account executive with the agency, after Pete tried to blackmail him. I really love this one. It might just be my favorite quote from the series so far. I think this is a quote everyone should ponder…especially before they try to manipulate someone else. You want to get a reaction from me? It might not be the reaction you want. Trying to blackmail someone? They might just kill you instead of complying. I will definitely use this quote at some point in my life! I can think of some instances I should have used it in the past!
  • “Don’t waste your youth on age.” This was immediately a favorite. It is the wisdom of Mr. Cooper. One night, another partner, Mr. Sterling, has a heart attack at the office after hours, and Mr. Cooper calls in the office manager to help send telegrams to clients. She arrives at the office with an older gentleman in tow but quickly tells her companion to leave. She and Mr. Cooper send the telegrams, and as they are leaving, he imparts this bit of wisdom on her in reference to her date. I like to think he’s telling her to spend her time doing youthful things while she’s young.
  • “I know people say ‘life goes on,’ and it does, but no one tells you that’s not a good thing.”–Betty Draper, Don’s wife. This quote is from an episode in Season 1. Betty lost her mother a few months before, and her father has just introduced her to his new lady friend. Anyone who has lost someone understands this. Yes, life goes on, but there are lots of times life’s progression without our loved ones is difficult…we wish we could turn back time.
  • “One never knows how loyalty is born.” –Mr. Cooper. This is another one from the old man, and I like it. I don’t even remember to whom he was speaking or what it was about, but I liked it enough to write it down. It’s true, though. I’ve found loyal friends in the least likely places, and sometimes I’ve learned about their loyalty in the strangest ways. Sometimes we find out about a lack of loyalty in the least expected places too.
  • “The faintest ink is more powerful than the best memory.” –Paul Kinsey, quoting a Chinese Proverb to Don and Peggy in a meeting about ads for telegraphs. While memories are fantastic, proof of those memories is even better, because it solidifies them for us. It makes them permanent. I have childhood memories of being at my grandfather’s house, but when I look at pictures from the era, it backs up my memories. I have cards and letters from my mother. I can’t converse with her, but I know she wrote the messages in those cards and letters. They are permanent.
  • “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.”–Don Draper, in his memoirs. Oh my, this is so true. Throughout my life, as I’ve met people, they have told me their flaws early on, but often, I’ve chosen not to believe them. I’ve chosen to think those flaws don’t exist, when in reality, they do. Therefore, when I tell you I often say the wrong thing, and I’m often way too direct, believe me. And if you’re single and dating someone who tells you their flaws up front, believe them! Do not think they will be different with you.

There are also so many scenes without great quotes that communicate “wisdom.” For example, the horror on Pete Campbell’s face is obvious when a coworker says, “Harry told me you said I married for money.” Pete didn’t say it, but Harry did…and he put his words in Pete’s mouth. Any viewer could see through it, and hopefully, we all thought of ways to prevent it from happening to us in the future. The disappointment displayed by Betty Draper in Season 5 when she realized her attempt at revenge on Don and Megan…telling her daughter about Don’s previous marriage to Anna…had failed. Don and Megan taught us all a lesson about how to handle that type of thing…don’t give them the satisfaction of getting you upset. Megan was right when she reminded Don that if he called Betty, he would be playing right into her hands…she would get the satisfaction of knowing she had upset him…because sometimes, the best revenge is living well.

Oh…so much wisdom…

And these are just from the first few seasons. I’m sure I’ll garner more wisdom as I continue to watch. I am absolutely enthralled. If you can’t find me over the next week or so, it’s because I’m still watching Mad Men.

 

***Photo from the Huffington Post***

 

 

 

 

My Daughter Is Starting High School

As the mom of a rising 9th grade girl, I have lots of things swirling through my head, just like most moms of children who will be entering high school in the next few weeks.

On one hand, I feel a sense of relief. We survived middle school. As it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, but maybe it’s like pregnancy and childbirth…we forget the bad and remember the good. Having a daughter in middle school was stressful at times, but it was a lot of fun too. It was all about survival. They played sports. They had social lives…real social lives they planned themselves. They had drama but solved it themselves. We survived. My daughter even told me recently she loved middle school.

On the other hand, there’s excitement. My daughter is starting high school. I feel like she’s ready. I hope she’s ready. I pray she’s ready.

And while I’m nervous and excited and worried at the same time, I know high school is her job, not mine. My job is to give her the tools to make her successful at this job, but ultimately, it’s her job.

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So, I’m arming her with some tools. The first tool she has is experience. She earned experience on her own. You can’t hand your child experience, and there’s only so much they can learn from their parents’ experiences. Besides, they have to go to school, so they all get their own experience. Simply by making it this far, she has experience from which she can build. Hopefully, she has learned and will continue to learn what works for her and what doesn’t. Of course, I will share my own experiences with her, and maybe she will hear some of it.

Another tool: encouragement. She shares with me what her goals are, and I encourage her to do everything she needs to do to accomplish those goals. Let’s say she wants to try out for a sports team. I provide encouragement when she needs it. I tell her I love watching her play, even after a terrible game. When the coach is not happy with her play, I continue telling her I love watching her play. I encourage her to work hard and play hard. I encourage her to be the best she can be. The same can be applied to schoolwork. History test coming up? It’s her job to study and be prepared. I’m not a mom who helps with homework. I usually don’t know what her homework is…and that’s how I like it. But if she comes to me and tells me she is studying hard for a history test, I offer encouragement. I tell her I know she can do it, because I do know it. I remind her hard work is her friend. She is more likely to make the grade she wants if she studies efficiently and works hard. I encourage her to set aside the time to get the work done and get it done well.

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Unconditional love is another tool. It’s an important tool, in my opinion, as the parent of a teenager in high school. We hear it all the time: teenagers’ frontal lobes are not fully developed. It’s true. They can’t always reason through things, and sometimes problems appear larger than they are. They need us. They don’t need us to make problems go away. They need us to love them through their problems. My daughter needs to know I love her “no matter what.” That doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. It means she knows I love her even when I’m angry. Sometimes, when we’re riding in the car or sitting at the dinner table, I will say to her, “I love you all the time. No matter what, I love you. If you have a problem, come to me first. Things aren’t always as bad as they seem.” That’s what I want to give my daughter: unconditional love.

Another tool? A bit of wisdom: Get to know your teachers. I tell her the story of my freshman year in college. I had done well my first semester of Calculus, but about two weeks into the second semester, I was struggling a bit. I made an appointment to meet with my teacher, and we set up regular times to meet, so he could tutor me through his class. I had a low A going into the final, but then I bombed it. I received a B in the class, even after bombing the final, and I know it was because of my effort. After seeing my final exam score posted, I stuck my head in his office, and he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I told him I had seen that, and I was sorry to disappoint. When I asked him about my grade, he replied, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” You do good in long journey has been one of my favorite quotes since then. My daughter has heard that story many times. From that, I hope she learns to know when she needs help in a class and “nip it in the bud” by meeting with teachers for extra help.

What more can we provide?  Freedom…freedom to make their own decisions…bad or good. Good decisions can propel them forward, and bad ones can help them learn how to make better decisions. We can provide them with independence. We can provide them with the opportunity for lots of rest. We can provide them with the opportunity to enjoy their social lives. And we can provide them with plenty of study time and a good place to study. We can provide them with healthy meals and with a home in which they can be themselves. But we have to give them the freedom to make their own decisions about all those things.

Is it going to be easy? Heck no! It’s going to be difficult, but together, we will get through it, and we will both enjoy it from different places.

Let’s do this high school thing!

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