short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Friday, January 1, 2010

In 2010, Find Time for Family and Friends

The following essay, which comes from my book of vignettes, published in 2003, seemed to be as appropriate to beginning 2010 as it was to living in 2003.

The people who support and bring us the most joy are often the ones we most take for granted. At the end of their life, nearly no one says, "I wish I had spent more time at the office or on the golf course." Rather, most say, "I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends." I am as guilty as the next person of being a workaholic, but I have found some small ways to be with family and friends. I make sure that no more than a few weeks elapse without communication with each friend. I talk to my close friends who live nearby very frequently. They provide me support, and I think they do like to get that regular telephone call.

One way to find extra time with my family has been to involve them in my work. When my older son, Shane, was eight, I had to work some hours on weekends in order to get a textbook finished at work. All the children would come in with me. Shane, who seems to have been born with his fingers on a computer keyboard, would word-process the textbook, while the others helped with other things.

When Shane was in homeschool a couple of years later, he volunteered as a computer lab counselor-instructor at Doah's public elementary school in the morning. My boss learned of this and offered him an unpaid internship, consulting for her department in the area of computers. From this experience came some very funny situations, one of which was a visit from a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. Seeing Shane instructing one of the administrators in computer functions, the representative asked in surprise, "Do you teach children here?"

Without hesitation and without thinking how it sounded, the escort said, "No, the little boy is teaching the big man."

Clearly, Shane had become just another member of the staff. For me, it was a wonderful benefit of the job that my son could work and learn alongside me.

I have also taken my children on trips with me. In a large family, it is difficult to find time for each child, and at one point, we had seven children living with us. Taking one child along on a trip makes it possible to provide lots of individual attention, the effects of which can linger long after the trip is over. I took my oldest daughter, Lizzie, to Moscow, Leningrad, Akademgorodok (Siberia), Stuttgart (Germany), and Hawaii, and my oldest son, Shane, to Moscow, Kemerovo (Siberia), and Helsinki (Finland). Noelle, who has spina bifida, and Doah, who had a tracheotomy, often could not travel at the opportune time for medical reasons, but things did work out for California (before we moved here) and Hawaii for Noelle and for New York City for Doah. If I had not included my children in my work trips, I would not have been able to afford such family outings and such wonderful one-on-one time.

My husband does not travel like I do. However, he had a boyhood dream that he was finally able to fulfill in 1987: through-hike the Appalachian Trail. When Shawn first began homeschooling and was studying biology, botany, dendrology, and zoology, hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine seemed like a perfect applied learning experience. So, my husband quit his job and prepared to live his dream. He and Shane hiked daily around our hilly neighborhood, building up their endurance and trying out their camping gear. Taking the trail names of Huff and Puff, they set out for Georgia as soon as the trail opened to through-hikers in the spring. Huff and Puff, the latter at age 10 being the youngest through-hiker up until that time, soon became one of the trail legends of 1987. They were interviewed on Georgia Public Television, by Time-Life, and at least one magazine article was written about them. The other children and I got into the act by existing on peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese for the duration of the hike (the loss of Donnie's income required scaling back on food and I also had take on a second, night-time job). We picked out the trail foods we would package each week and send to the next post office along the trail and put out the weekly "Huff and Puff Trail Notes" for friends and relatives. Although Huff and Puff did not finish the trail, they did hike more than 1000 miles of the 1300-mile total before Huff (Donnie) injured his knees and had to stop. To this day, Puff (Shane) says that this is the most memorable part of his childhood.

I cannot say that Donnie and I spent as much time with our children as we would have liked or as much as they would have liked. It may be that children can never be saturated by parental attention where there's a healthy relationship. Other than the fact that Doah chose to learn from Beaver's escapades from "Leave it to Beaver" rather than from "Sesame Street" (which kept us busy keeping him out of trouble), I can't say that we had a Cleaver-style household, but friends and strangers alike have commented on the palpable family bond. Once, on a short car trip, when I was discussing child-rearing methods with a friend from a different cultural background, we got into a strong disagreement. Shane, then a 17-year-old college student and driving the car we were in, thinking that I was being criticized, spoke up, "If you ask me, I like the way I was raised." Right then, the whole car was flooded with the smell of sweet flowers.


Excerpted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.


  1. I love it...Shane taking up for his mom and his raising! Home school kids have a special bond with their parents or at least mine do.

    Hope you have a beautifully blessed New Year!
    Hugs and prayers,

  2. Thanks, Andrea. All my kids are pretty bonded, homeschooled or public schooled. I think home schooling does build a bond; my sister homeschooled both her kids back in the 80s and 90s. This was before there was much available to help, or even knowledge of how best to do it. We were always taking our best guess, so it was kind of a partnership with the kids. Shane and I would sit down at the beginning of the school year, look at the state standards that the public schools used, and come up with what he would use for books and what in addition he would like to study since the state standards were always too light for a gifted learner. My kids were bonded because of the clinical deaths of siblings (five for Doah, one for Noelle), not the way I would suggest doing it, but one takes the bad along with the blessings.


  3. What a colorful and adventurous life! It's one for the books, not just one book, but many. You have so much good things to share and to teach. Very inspiring!

  4. When I need inspiration, I come here.

    Thank you!

  5. This is a thought provoking entry. We all have to work with our families to achieve our goals. I'm glad to read that your husbband and son made it 1,000 miles.

    My son and I made it about fifteen feet.;)

  6. MaLou and Val, thank you for your kind words.

    Quietspirit, you made me laugh!

  7. You and your husband provided your children with some incredible experiences.

    A lot of character-building going on.

    I love how your son came to your defense.

    Once, when I fell out of my canoe, my son paddled back upstream to rescue me.

    What would we do without our boys?

    Sweet dreams.

  8. Yeah, Deb, there is a special connection between mothers and sons, isn't there? Paddling upstream -- that's some feat; I hope it was a slow-moving stream!

  9. Hiking the Appalachians, how awesome is that? Sounds like there was a great variety and lots of adventure...

  10. Your days are clearly filled with moments well-invested in the lives of others. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your stories with us. You inspire!


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.