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Children

smaller coyoteI am over my worry allotment for this month. It’s not without some very good justifications. My mother, Tina died suddenly at the age of 86 in April and just like that all of the older generation that I knew is gone. There are still relatives out there but we haven’t traded even a Christmas card in too many years to count. I have a feeling that to my son’s generation of twenty-something’s I am now firmly in that older generation anyway.

Feeling out of kilter from the loss of a parent, no matter the age is normal. The grief comes in mostly small bits and pieces and creeps up on me. Things that I can usually roll with, like a snarky comment from a coworker get under my skin more easily these days.

It’s odd what has left a hole in the routine of my day.

In the last months of my mother’s life we were mostly talking about television and weather, which was fine with me. It was about the connection, no matter how momentary. My son, Louie who’s 25 does the same thing with me when he calls to tell me about the overturned car on Clarke Street or the coyote he just rode by on his bike. I call it the news of the day and having someone who will take those calls every time reminds us we’re tethered to the world. No matter what happens there’s someone who cares.

However, there comes a point when something reminds us that it’s all very temporary and for a moment I’ve lost my footing. When that happens there are ripe opportunities for change in some very different directions.

I could have done some serial dialing and lamented to everyone who would listen that I had lost my connection to something important. There would have been some sense of kinship for a moment but in the end I would have felt worse.

The other obvious choice to me was to make changes based on what I really wanted to be doing in the first place. The phrase that keeps running through my mind is to run my own race. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a terminal cancer survivor of just four years and three years over my expiration date and counting. No doctor can explain it, which is fine.

Surviving a terminal diagnosis should have been enough for me to really be bold and make some daring changes and it did to a point. I started eating right and exercising more and lost 86 pounds. That’s noteworthy but for the most part I was grateful to have my old routine back.

But then my mother died, quietly in her sleep and there was no one in my life who I could call and comment on the rain without an awkward pause.

One of my mother’s last comments to me though was odd because we had ventured into newer territory. She asked me how the crowd-sourcing was going for the new thriller. I was raising funds from family and friends to venture out into self-publishing for the first time in 20 years with the fourth book. She said, “You’ll be fine. That’ll be easy for you, no problem.”

I’ve been coasting ever since on that off-handed confidence my mother gave to me about my ability to not only write but market a book. Every decision I’ve made since that moment and in particular, since April has come with this other idea. In the end, what will be left are the people I love and the things I’ve created.

Traditionally, I’ve wanted to gather a lot of professional opinions and sift through all of them to discern what would be the next move. There have been very mixed results.

The new thriller, The List, the first in the Wallis Jones series is coming out in November and it’s been easier to make decisions about what to do next without all of the normal hand-wringing. There’s a speaking tour in the works to benefit some readers’ local charities and we’ve been busy contacting book clubs with offers. There’s more clarity and even more fun this time. After all, as my son said, “let’s get clear about two things, it’s just a book and you’re still alive.” The news of the day. More adventures to follow. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know what changes you’ve been making in your life. Sign up for special offers for The List and announcements for upcoming events!

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Mom Leontine (Tina) Elaine Carr: June 1, 1926 to April 18, 2013

On Wednesday night my mother, Leontine Carr, Tina, died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 86 and finally got to dance with my dad, Dabney Carr again. He had gone ahead of her in April of 2005 to get things ready. That was their usual system but she had missed him every day of those eight years. She was happy and having a good time right until the end, always entertaining someone with her stories and more and more Mom was remembering her younger days like what it was like to have a grandfather in rural Georgia who owned a candy store or to be a young mother with so many kids. There are five of us and my oldest sister, Diana did a great job of looking after Mom these past eight years, Linda and Cary kept in constant contact and sent presents along with my brother Dabney and we all visited and made sure she knew we loved her. She made a point her entire life of telling everyone else how much she loved us. In the end, that’s all there is. Dance with Dad in peace, Mom and we’ll do our best to honor your life in the way we live ours.

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America is doing a better job at raising children than you may realize (Photo by Teddy-rised)

Let’s spread some good news around this week. Summer is just about over and we could all use a little something to cheer. There is actually something in America that we’re doing well these days and with less taxpayer money. However, very few voters are aware its still happening.

Imagine that in the age of the internet and Twitter and a desperate need for good news but its true.

Well, here it is. Our country is sending more children who grow up at U.S. orphanages to college than from the general population, significantly more children. Yes, orphanages still exist in the U.S. but are now known as residential education facilities or REF’s due to the myths surrounding the term orphanage.

As usual, we keep better track of our cars than we do the 600,000 children in need of a loving home but the individual homes see each child as a family member, of course, and 80 percent of the kids head off to higher learning.

Just so we can get past the images of Annie that just popped in your head let’s set the record straight right up front. A U.S. orphanage resembles an upscale boarding school with all the amenities. They have a staff that generally devotes their entire career and their life to the children who come through their doors. Lil’ Orphan Annie landed in a group home, which is vastly different and fictional by the way.

Now, here’s another statistic from the well respected Pew Report on the U.S. foster care system. If that same child were to end up in foster care in our country they’d have less than a 50 percent chance of graduating from high school and an increased likelihood of having periods of homelessness and unemployment in their lifetime. The factors surrounding the child’s background are the same so it’s not the child who is failing; it’s the system.

One more fun fact to really spell it out. The Pew Report also found that a child who ends up in an Illinois children’s home from social services has been on average through 9 foster care placements. That means that nine families said we can’t handle this kid and the child packed up everything they owned and headed off to yet another stranger’s house. In Virginia the average was found to be five. Talk about potential abandonment issues. There aren’t many adults who could handle that much change with any grace or without losing hope.  [click to continue…]

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The Carr's in the '60's. That's me in the blue velvet.

A child needs two parents who care about them and show up for them in all aspects of their lives. When we do that we let the small fry know that the world’s a safe place in the small moments of sitting next to them in church, cheering them on from a variety of sidelines or holding our children close when they’re not feeling well, inside or out.

It’s the biggest opportunity for an adult to be accountable and learn that very little of life is really about us at all. That’s a good thing.

But somehow in the mix of trying to figure out how we can lead more authentic lives a lot of us forgot about that axiom and started acting like our needs came ahead of everything else.

However, there’s no time like the present to try a contrary action.

Our children need balance in their lives just as much as we do and a new study released last week backs up that idea just in time for Father’s Day. A study out of Australia says that letting Dads roughhouse with their children improves their emotional health and rate of development.

It’s the balance between a mother’s nurturing hug and a father’s nurturing toss in the air. One tells us that there’s a safe place to return to and the other lets us know that the world can be a little rough but on the whole it’s a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid to get knocked around a little because what you learn will be worth it.

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