Praiseworthy Boys

Praiseworthy Boys
Eagle Scout by Joseph Csatari.

I was watching my teenage son wrestle with his emotions as he grabbed his kid brother a little too roughly by the collar to pull him out of the way. A skateboarder, a few years older than him, was flying by. We caught his breeze as he launched himself up onto a empty planter next to the Department of Health and Human Services building in Washington, DC.

By now my little one was whining.

“Mom! He pulled me too hard!”

“I know, I know. He was just trying to help. Give me your hand.”

Meanwhile, my oldest was off on his own train of thought, a bit of a tirade.

“Mom! They’re destroying government property! They are NOT showing respect!”

He was right, of course. There are black treadmarks and dislodged pieces of pavement all over the area because skaters have made it a playground. And there appears to be little resistance to their doing so.

I didn’t get into the whys and wherefores right then – the complexities of urban life and how he (my son) has opportunities for education and to expel energy that others don’t. But I understand his frustration. I hope and pray he’ll grow up to be someone who will contribute solutions.

My husband and I try to give him tools. We’re trying to get him ready.

Be prepared. It’s the motto of the Boy Scouts of America and a darn good one at that. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that my oldest son is a Boy Scout and has been moving up through the ranks, starting as a Cub Scout, for the last 7 years.

Scouting provides unique opportunities to gain leadership skills and self-confidence while teaching the importance of service to nation and community. I have also seen the ethical values my husband and I are trying to instill in our children at home – such as hard work, courtesy, trustworthiness, and honesty – reinforced through the activities and actions of individuals committed to this organization. It’s a group I believe is a force for good in our country.

In 2015, 54,366 young men became Eagle Scouts – the highest rank of Boy Scout. That amounts to 6.57 percent of eligible Scouts (defined as registered Boy Scouts or male Venturers who are under 18). It also marks a 4.9 increase in new Eagle Scouts from 2014, but 7.3 percent fewer than the all-time high of 58,659 in 2012, when the Boy Scouts celebrated 100 years of the Eagle Scout award and many young men pushed to attain it, along with a special centennial Eagle Scout patch.

Young men who earned Eagle in 2015 together recorded 8,503,337 hours of service on Eagle projects. That’s an average of 156.4 hours of service per Eagle project!

An Eagle project is generally completed in the community where the Scout lives, and is designed for that community’s benefit. Eagle projects can be found in places you probably frequent on a weekly basis, such as churches, parks, and schools. In 2015, the Corporation for National and Community Service valued volunteer time at $23.56 an hour, which means that while working on these projects, the Eagle Scouts and the volunteers they led contributed more than $200 million worth of time in their service.

This is of course after years of service on other, smaller projects, and after having acquired prerequisite skills in leadership, civics and citizenship, personal management, family life, and general health and well-being.

Young men who are giving of themselves to their communities in their teenage years should be thanked and praised. They are a source of hope to our nation – which often complains of its self-absorbed youth.

There are more than 50,000 new Eagle Scouts on average each year. This, I think, is good news.

Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it. – Proverbs 22:6


Statistics for this piece are from “Eagle Scout Class of 2015, by the numbers” by Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, and senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, and well as from Independent


4 Steps to Draw Closer to Your Kids

4 Steps to Draw Closer to Your Kids


I’ll never forget the very first time I apologized to my oldest son. He was three and we were in the parking lot of Sam’s Club. (Strange how I’m often schooled at Sam’s Club.)

I had been pushing his limits for an hour or more. We’d had playtime with friends in the morning, followed by a quick lunch out, and then errands. At age three, he wasn’t napping every day but he definitely needed one at that moment, and as I parked the car, his rageful crying should have been my cue to turn the car around and head home. But I desperately needed milk (or something else I’ve forgotten these 10 years later) and I wasn’t backing down. So I forged ahead, yelled at him to stop it, and hopped out.

With jerky movements, I opened his door, pulled him out of his car seat and then – Grace grabbed me.

I looked down at his little body in a white t-shirt with a blue shark on the front, shoulders slumped and tired, blond hair tousled from frustration, face red and wet with tears. The sight literally brought me to my knees. Right there by the wheel well.

“Buddy,” I began, “I’m sorry.”

And that changed everything.

Then I told him I could sympathize and why. I shared myself.

He calmed down.

He hugged me before I reached for him.

And I realized he wasn’t the only one who was tired. We both needed a break. And we needed each other.

In the years since, I have followed that first success with many more, and though I’m not perfect, I’ve found that these four steps help me reconnect with my kids when we’re out of whack.

Step One: Get down on their level – literally – and look them in the eye. If they are standing, stand. If they are sitting, sit. If they are lying on the floor, make like a pancake with them. Get close. Sometimes just this one thing is enough to release the tension in the air, and positional differences can subliminally indicate authority or power that we need to de-emphasize momentarily.

Step Two: Tell them a story about yourself. We’ve done more living than they have, and we have material – experiences that our kids will find interesting, simply because it’s about us. We can use it to teach them the values we want them to learn.

Don’t be bound by fear in this effort. Don’t think you need to reveal your most egregious mistakes or all the gory details of an embarrassing memory. Just be genuine and age-appropriate. Our kids love us for who we are. So be yourself and share your ‘take-aways’ – the lessons you’ve incorporated into your life. What makes you who you are. Ask God to help you find the right words, because He will.

Step Three: Within reason, do what they want to do for a little while. Have a catch. Play tennis. Watch the new dance she just made up. Go to the pool and swim with them. Listen to their terrible music. Ask what they’d like for dinner and then make it. Whatever. Just hang with them and appreciate life from their point of view.

Step Four: Be silly. Do the unexpected. By this – I absolutely do not mean buy them stuff. Instead, figure out your child’s sense of humor and be willing to be self-deprecating in order to make them smile.

My mom used to dance once in awhile and I claimed I hated it as I stood there – smiling. Guess what?Sometimes, I dance while I make dinner and my kids laugh at me. (They probably have good reason. No one ever said I had rhythm.) But after a minute or two, they usually dance along with me.

And we’re in relationship with one another. And that’s the whole point.

A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones.

-Proverbs 15:30

Holy Moments – Day 19 – Grandma’s Wisdom

Yesterday, when I was brooding (if you’re so inclined, you can read that post here), I heard my Grandma’s voice talking to me. I am so very, very blessed to still have her. She is 93 and breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see in this photo taken of her last year.


She lives on the opposite coast – in Seattle, Washington. So I don’t get to see her nearly enough. But I try to call her as often as I can.

She is more precious to me than all the jewels in the world. My love for her is boundless. Today, just for a moment, I’d like to celebrate her wisdom.

When I was 11, my parents divorced, and my grandma and grandpa asked that my sister and I come spend a substantial part of our summer with them in the Pacific Northwest. They were boaters, and for several weeks in June and July we toured the San Juan Islands, stopping in Vancouver and Victoria, and dropping anchor overnight in tiny coves, where we watched the Orcas jumping playfully around the boat and listened to their calls in the darkness. It was there that my grandparents let my sister and I discover the freedom of a rowboat, and introduced us to the thrills of catching and eating Dungeness crab. One summer led into a few. They were the joys of a lifetime.

But during that very first summer, there was a cloudless day when Grandma came up to the flying bridge and sat opposite me. She was pensive, and told me she wanted to talk to me for a little. I said sure. She simply asked how I was feeling about my parents not being together anymore. I don’t remember what I said. I just remember that she was the first person who had asked me how I felt.

My world was falling apart, but she was willing to open herself up to whatever might come hurtling out in that moment. After whatever it was I managed to say, she smiled gently. “Well,” she said, “I am here if you ever want to talk about it,” and didn’t belabor the conversation.

My grandma opens doors and leaves them open. This is how she loves others so well. She listens with undivided attention and does not judge. Never once in my entire lifetime has she said anything negative about either one of my parents. And only one of them is her child – my dad. In fact, every time we talk she still asks me about my mom, and cares deeply about her welfare. The two of them visited with one another last summer. People matter to Grandma, because she is wise. She knows and trusts that Love is bigger than human failings. 

I heard her voice yesterday as I was cleaning dishes – again. I had once lamented to her that I couldn’t get the house in order – that it never seemed to be as neat as hers. She laughed and said, “Well, the work is never done.” Right there, she put it in perspective. Orderliness is a temporary facade. It will all shift soon.

So, I honor my grandma with this section of Proverbs from Chapter 8, “The Discourse of Wisdom,” which personifies wisdom, which comes from God.

Those who love me, I also love, and those who seek me find me. 

With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

My fruit is better than gold, yes, than pure gold, and my revenue than choice silver.

On the way of duty I walk, along the paths of justice,

Granting wealth to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

– Proverbs 8:17-21

The fruit of Grandma’s wisdom is my family’s unequivocal affection for her. She is a light we are drawn to because she exemplifies honorable character. And I look forward to hearing what she might say the next time I call her – today.