Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Short Guide For Parents To Get Through The Preteen-Teenage Years

Yesterday I reran this favorite post of mine about how fast time flies.

It doesn't seem to fly by fast though when we're living those days with preteens and teens in the house, so I think it's time for me to pass along my 20/20 hindsight wisdom to parents who are living these years now. I've seen a daughter and a son through them. She is now 31 and he is 22. Obviously, I let them live.

1. Remember your parents let you live through your preteen and teenage years. I wasn't easy and I bet you weren't either. We all have our moments. This, too, shall pass. Really. No fooling.

2. Decide to let your children live. It may seeeeem like she's been 11 for 20 years, but she really hasn't. It's been more like 30. (See. You CAN still smile!)

3. Yes, I know these years are full of trying to be King/Queen of the Hill. Temper tantrums. Tears. Slamming doors. "You can't make mes". Grabbing the car keys and screeching out of the driveway. Calm down. You're an adult and too big to keep doing that. (Smiled again, huh?) Seriously though, focus on the good in your child and not so much on the difficult. It's really there. Promise. These aren't easy years on your child either. Growing up is hard.

4. So help your child grow up instead of trying to balk at nature. YOU grew up. You couldn't, and didn't, stay the baby your parents wished you could stay. Your child has to grow up too and mature. It's not an easy process and that instruction manual you're wishing for doesn't exist. And if you have more than one child...guess what...they'll each be different! Scream now at that thought and get it our of your system.

5. Don't be afraid of your child. Stick to the rules that need sticking to and relax the ones that can be relaxed and throw out the ones that need throwing out. Pick your battles so your home doesn't become a war zone. There really are things that are NOT worth fighting over. Ask yourself, "Is this going to really make a hill of beans worth of difference in five minutes or tomorrow?" If not, let it go.

6. Let your child make mistakes and don't rush in to fix them. Let your child suffer the consequences. If he or she is on the team or in the band and doesn't listen to the coach/leader and has to sit out a game or concert, don't go talk to the coach/leader. Talk to your child. If your child earned that "D" or "F"...accept it even if it's showing up on a transcript. That's part of the adult world that your child is moving into. Teach your child how to be part of the adult world and work within it. Don't teach them that a good pout will send mommy or daddy rushing into "fix" their messes.

7. Love your child through this season and laugh with him or her as much as you can. There is much to love and much laughter to share. Talk with your child not AT your child as much as you can.

8. Remember this, too, shall pass. All of it. One day you really will look back on these days and smile and you'll be proud of the young adult that you navigated through these times. These days can seem to drag on forever, but the day will come, I promise, when you'll look back and see how fast they flew by.

9. And that's where I began this post. The most important thing you can do, through all of this, is pray for your child. Every day, pray. Pray for yourself. Pray for the other parent, whether you're married or divorced, pray for the adults that have input into your child's life. And pray for everyone else that has input into your child's life, even that friend of theirs that drives you nuts. Pray for them.

Pray, love, laugh, discipline, let go.

This child really is a blessing. Never let go of that thought.

And be grateful.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Can We Rally Around A Symbol, Melanoma Community?

May, Melanoma Awareness Month, is half over and already it has been a learning experience. Which I don't mind as I like to learn. It's what I've learned that bothers me and prompts this post.

What I've learned is that there really is no one officially recognized color that we in melanoma world can embrace as our own. Many of us claim black and it fits. It's even inherent in the very word itself. Melanoma means "black tumor."

But...not everyone, person with melanoma or organization dealing with melanoma, rallies around black. The American Academy of Dermatology launched its Spot Orange Campaign this year and asked people to wear orange on Melanoma Monday. They claim May for Skin Cancer Awareness and give melanoma the first Monday in May. Orange didn't go over well with many of us in the melanoma community.

Hotel Melanoma posted on Melanoma Research Foundation's Facebook wall about it and MRF responded with, "We've seen this question come up a lot recently, as you can imagine. It is our understanding that the American Academy of Dermatology was looking for a symbol to help raise awareness of all skin cancers, and didn't feel they could use black—the color most often used for melanoma. We have actually had a lot of complaints from the melanoma community about the color black, since it is often associated with death. It might be worth noting that for years the Melanoma International Foundation has used a bright green for their color in raising melanoma awareness. And, when Bristol Myers Squibb launched their Melanoma Exposed campaign last year they chose an olive green for their color. We understand the feelings of all members of the melanoma community. AAD's use of orange this month has spurred a great deal of conversation and that has helped raise awareness about melanoma and the use of black throughout the melanoma community. At the end of the day, anything that helps raise awareness is a good thing. Thanks for asking!" (red mine to make what I consider pertinent to this post stand out)

So, the AAD chooses orange (which is quite a tasteless color for SKIN CANCER and MELANOMA!), the MIF likes bright green, and then there's olive green associated with a company's campaign. Within the melanoma community, I've noticed a few groups that choose particular colors for their own group. 

But what really bothers me is often folks don't realize that this fracture makes a difference. I've seen many comments like the MRF ended the above copy/paste with. The idea that awareness is awareness and it's all good and what difference does a color make as long as there's awareness. 

But color does make a difference. It's a symbol for people to rally around. People don't rally around words the same way we do a symbol.

Take the most famous awareness campaign of all time, Breast Cancer Awareness. They staked out "pink," nobody dared challenge "pink," and "pink" it is to this day. And pink grows every year. It is so associated with BCA that all that is needed now on a product is a pink ribbon and we know. We know. We used to see pink and think of a little girl. No more. Pink Nation has done that good a job with color recognition.

People and organizations in the world of melanoma, it will help us a great deal if we can come together and agree on a color as our symbol and make that color ribbon ours. If people can come to recognize a black ribbon as melanoma awareness that will be huge and a great open door for us to keep talking. Yes, I'm assuming "black." But we need to stand united behind a color and work, together, to get our color recognized and make that part of our awareness and education package.

Where would BCA be today if a handful of colors could stand for BCA? Probably in a boat similar to ours. Where can we be in several years if we unite around a common color? Probably in a boat similar to theirs. I like their boat. And I want to paint it black.

Symbols and words go hand in hand in our culture and often it's the symbol that catches the attention first and opens the door for words to be heard. Often symbol and picture speak louder than words. A black ribbon stands for melanoma awareness just as surely as a pink ribbon stands for breast cancer awareness.

Or does it? Only if we lay aside other colors and stand behind black and make black the one and only face of melanoma. It works for pink.

Something to think about as we move forward.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Class of 2008, Baccalaureate, May 29

The following is the Baccalaureate speech I gave to the 2008 Class at Ridgecoft School on May 29 of that year. Feeling the need to put it out there:

Good evening Ridgecroft faculty and staff, parents, family, friends, and you, the Class of 2008.  It’s an honor to be speaking tonight at this auspicious occasion, along with Rev. Greg Barrick.  Congratulations to you, the Class of 2008!

As I prepared for tonight I thought back to when I was 17, 18.  What would I have wanted my Baccalaureate speaker to say that I didn’t already know?  That would have been a non-existent speech, because at 17 and 18, I already knew everything.  But if there HAD to be a speech, I’d want them at least to tell me the truth and speak to me as an adult!  Well, tonight there HAVE to be speeches, two in fact.  So I’m going to talk to you like adults and tell you the truth about some things.  Listen up!

Show of hands:  how many of you know, right now, exactly what you’re going to do with your life after graduation? You’ve got your plans for your future mapped out and you’re ready to begin?  How many, raise your hands.  Ok, hands down.  Everybody else that’s over 30, show of hands, think back to when you were 17 or 18 and ready to graduate from high school.  Try and remember, how many of you had your life planned and mapped out and you knew exactly what you wanted to do with your life and you knew exactly how your life would be?  Education, career, future family, and anything else.  Be honest!  Show of hands.  Now, for all of you with your hands raised, how many of you would say that those high school plans panned out just like you had figured? Put your hands down if life has not worked out just like you had originally planned.

Seniors, remember that.  Parents, remember that when your child comes home and says they’re changing their major and they’ll have to stay in college another semester, another year.  Remember that when they come home and say “I’m getting married…next month!” 

When I was your age, my bags were packed for Meredith College where I was going to major in Biology and one day discover the cure for cancer.  Before that first semester was over I was going to also take photography so I could take pictures for textbooks that showed stuff under the microscope…and…cure cancer.  By the end of my freshman year, I was making plans to transfer to Chowan, major in Religion and plan my wedding.  When I was 33 I got “the call” and I was going to do what I needed to do to be a prison chaplain rejoicing that God had NOT called me to the pulpit where I’d have to PREACH!  We plan and God laughs and he still gets laughs with that one!  It took several more years, but now I preach twice each Sunday, two different pulpits!  You will make God laugh!  I promise!  And that’s OK!

Don’t be so married to your plans that you don’t leave room for LIFE!  Keep growing and learning.  You’ll learn new things about yourself. You’ll discover interests and talents that right now you don’t know you have.  Life is in a constant state of flux.  Does that mean not to make plans?  No!  Absolutely not!  Make plans but don’t set them in stone and sign them with blood!  Allow for life’s twists and turns, because they WILL happen!

That well-known quote-meister, the Apostle Paul, once wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.”  Class of 2008, you are leaving your childhood behind and your adult years loom.  You’ve had people tell you that you are our future. Well, there’s something else you need to know, adult to adult.  You are our “right now”!  You always have been.  You don’t have to wait for some distant, magical time when you can, all of a sudden, matter in this world and make a difference.   Sometimes we older adults can get cynical and think one person doesn’t matter; one person can’t change the world.  Class of 2008, that’s so wrong!  You have the power and the ability to change the world, but first you have to CHOOSE to.  You have the choice of how to spend your time.  You choose whether to use your time constructively, destructively, or just waste it.  You choose whether to make someone’s day brighter, to lend a helping hand, to think beyond yourself, to be part of something bigger than yourself.  You choose!  And when you change just ONE person’s day for the better…you’ve changed the world.  You don’t know the ripple effect that will take place from one simple act of kindness.  You make a difference by being here.  YOU choose the kind of difference you’ll make.

I’m going to tell you something else, adult to adult.  You have a purpose in this world!  You weren’t put here because God had nothing better to do that day.  You’re here because God has a plan and you fit in it.  There are certain facts in this world and you can’t change them by simply saying I don’t believe and you can’t change facts because you may not like particular facts.  I’ve never understood why four plus four equals eight.  But it does.  Seems rather arbitrary to me.  Why can’t four plus four equal twenty-three?  I can go around saying I believe 4 + 4= 23 and I can live my life as if that’s true.  But I cannot change the fact that 4 + 4=8. 

No matter how you live your life and no matter what you may say you believe, you cannot change the fact of God’s existence and you cannot change the fact that he loves you, has a purpose for you, and wants to direct your steps and hear from you in prayer.

You are important!  Your life matters!  What you do with it now and in the future is important!  You graduate high school tomorrow and you will all be choosing different paths.  Some of you will go to college.  You may get a job.  You may get married.  You may join the military.  You may still not know what you want to do.  Look at the big picture; think with your brain and maybe sometimes your heart, but not with your hormones.  When you think you know all the answers, accept the fact that maybe you don’t and ask for help and wisdom.  Look at your parents.  They really do know a lot!  They really are in your corner!  They really do love you with every fiber of their being!  They really are so proud of you they burst every time they think of you!  They really don’t think they’re only here to annoy you.  They have devoted themselves to raising you and sacrificed to provide for you because they love you and want the best for you. 

As you take your place in the adult world, make them proud. Be honorable and honest, compassionate and polite, intelligent and disciplined.  Be adults.  Wear your seatbelts.  Pay your bills, live within your means, be responsible, take responsibility, don’t point the finger of blame.  Be an adult.  Don’t take your diploma tomorrow and rest on the laurels of that accomplishment.  Be an adult and move on to your next goal.

When I was your age I often asked permission to do things and sometimes my Mama would say, “No.” and my Daddy would say, “Bettie, we have to let her try her wings.”  I knew that meant I’d get to do what I wanted.  I never understood how hard those words were for my Daddy to say until I had children of my own.  It’s not always easy to watch you try your wings.  We, your parents, your grandparents, your teachers and Sunday school teachers, all those who have played a part in your life, know some of life’s lessons that you have yet to learn and we’ve tried to prepare you. 

The time has come for you to do more than just try your wings.  The time has come for you to fly!  Don’t just settle for “flying!”  SOAR!  Soar like eagles!  And when you look at us and you see a glimmer of tears in our eyes, know that they’re not tears of sadness.  They are tears that reflect the pride in our hearts.  The road hasn’t always been easy to get you to this point; there have been pebbles and maybe a few rocks.  But you will always be our children and we will always be here for you, encouraging your flight.  The flight won’t always be smooth; you will have times you swoop and times you dodge and times you have mid-air collisions.  Sometimes you’ll have to come in for a landing and re-evaluate your flight plan.  That’s OK.  We can let you take flight because we know the One who flies with you. 

You are each in different places on your spiritual journeys.  Some of you may have strong faith; some of you have doubts and questions; some of you have disbelief.  Wherever you are, God’s there and we place our trust and hope in Him. 

Soar.  Grow.  Dream.  Achieve.  And do it in abundance!  And may God hold you in the palm of His hand.  Amen.

Rev. Carol Taylor, Mom of James Mitchell Taylor, Class of 2008, Baccalaureate, May 29

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Put Down The Orange And Back Away

We take our Black seriously around here!

The color and our message are so intertwined
That to usher in Orange just blows my mind!
Melanoma's a Beast and Black fits it just so.
Orange is too cheery. It just has to go.

Orange is a joke, the color of fake bake.
It's the reason so many have drowned in our lake.
To bring Orange to our party is just plain wrong.
You sing WITH us or you're not singing OUR song.

The notes in our song? Well, they're all black.
They're the names of the ones who aren't coming back.
They're the notes of the info we put out to be learned.
They're the stitches we get after melanoma has burned.

They're the tumors that grow and they spread all around.
They're Black and they're nasty. Deadly. Not making a sound.
Except for the dark cries of pain and of death that can loom.
Black it must be for there is no Orange bloom.

Black is our color and that's how it goes.
But our color has Power and it grows and it grows.
We're coming together and we're doing it for you.
Because we don't want you wearing Black, too.

Join us May 6th, Melanoma Monday. The dress code is Black. But not our spirits.
We're determined and united. Melanoma is going down.
Paint it Black.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Grassroots Melanoma Community, or, The Power of Black

And again we find ourselves at the start of a brand new Melanoma Awareness Month. May 2013. This one is different. This year the online melanoma community is united around "Black," our color. And we are coming out in force. Can I say "awesome and amazing!"

We're having an event and it is HUGE! Join us on Facebook at this link. It's an open event and this is your official invitation to stand united and wear black Melanoma Monday May 6th. Yes, the melanoma community and many others consider all of May to be either "Melanoma Awareness Month" or "Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month." Not the American Academy of Dermatology, however. The AAD refers to May as "Skin Cancer Awareness Month" and they have deemed the first Monday to be "Melanoma Monday."

So, please educate people and wear black the whole month...the whole year for that matter. But please, join us in standing united, as community, on May 6th. Already "The Power of Black," as my dear friend Susan Hayes calls it, is making waves and history as we are joining forces, sharing stories, and making a difference.

Even before the event was started, Susan made placards that could be downloaded, printed out, we could write who we wear black for, and then post pics of us holding our placards. She did this back in April in anticipation of May. But once the event was started and her placard file was shared on the event page, Sonja Krueger took it and ran with it. She's giving her skills and putting our pictures in it with the info we want and then putting them back where we can use them as our Facebook profile pics, or any other way we wish to use them. People have claimed the event as their own, shared it, and it's growing beyond our wildest dreams.

We know there are many, many more people whose lives have been touched, and even devastated and destroyed by melanoma. We know there are people having to piece broken lives back together again because of this disease. We know there are even more people who don't have a clue what melanoma really is and don't think it can happen to them. We know there are many lies and misconceptions surrounding melanoma.

And we know it takes every single one of us to take a stand and make a difference.

Tell your story. Join our event. Educate people and don't apologize for it. Make a difference and maybe save a life or two in the process.

Even if it means you have to "come out of the closet" to do so. Closets are stifling places. If you've got melanoma, any stage, and haven't told people...we'll stand with you as you do.

Know The Power of Black.