Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mission Statements

Molly came on down the  back drive for a chatty visit while I was working in the yard.  She is an occasional companion on my exercise walks but on those days not much chatting  happens.
I am too busy trying to keep everything properly oxygenated to expend the O2 on chat. At 14, Molly does not have that problem.  She can power up hill and chat. I can listen, nod, smile, but chatting is beyond me on the uphills. Some days Molly needs more interaction than the walks accord.

I fixed her some lemonade and handed her a pair of gloves.
This last bit she questioned with a tilt of eyebrows in that especially irritating way only teens have.
I countered with one of those don't cross that line Mother looks and resumed weeding. Molly smiled.
She likes it when I  "act like a Mom".

Molly is the grand daughter of a neighbor. She and her Dad are staying there, for now, while her Dad is seeking a career change. Molly's mother "was called to Heaven" when she was just 9. All of their worldly goods are sitting in a PODS container in the grandparents driveway. Becase there are so many unknowns, Molly was not enrolled in the local middle school. Instead she is being home schooled by her Dad and a laptop. It seems you can be home schooled online now.  Because she has never lived in this town, she does not have a circle of friends other than the church youths she encounters on Wednesdays and Sundays.  This is a tough reality for a gregarious teen.

Once we were settled into the weeding and the generalities had all been spoken Molly asked,

" Do you have a personal mission statement? "

I smiled at her and asked a question of my own,
 " Are you studying Steven Covey?"

" Sort of. Not really. But I do have an assignment to write my personal mission statement."

I wondered if I had a personal mission statement when I was 14. That was back in the days when I went for early morning joy rides in my moms 500, when learning the latest dance steps seemed important and when a new zit was the emotional  equivalent of a  disfiguring plague all over my face.

" Are you seeking to define a mission statement for yourself? Or just to meet the criteria of the assignment?"

        Clearly this very question was why Molly had mosied down the driveway. I suspect she has a seed of awareness that her Dad may have never had a clear path. That he responded to life as it arrived at his doorstep but did not have a master plan.  My guess is he is the middle son who always did what was expected of him and never defined what he wanted or expected for himself. In fact, here in mid life, I think he is just arriving  at that recognition. As the home schooling parent this may actually be the reason Molly was given this assignment.  To spare her the same reality. Go Dad!

After an increase in the pace of weeding and a lengthy pause Molly said,
" It's a mess! If your Dad and your grandparents are your teacher how do you write a mission they might not like? What if it isn't noble?"

" Noble?"

" Yeah!
Like I am suppose to give my life over to pink ribbons and breast cancer research because of my Mom."

" Is that what you want to do?"

" No! And to tell you the truth I already have been started on the annual testing to see if I need to have all my girl parts removed . I know my reality. All of my years with a mother were ruled by cancer. I watched her die year by year. I hate the disease. I hate the subject. And I really hate the idea of it ruling the rest of my life too".

I looked at this pretty child, sitting in my garden trying to struggle her way through tough, tough issues.
I marveled at her bravery. To put into words that which was hugely painful and suffocating.

" Molly, is there some not noble thing you really want to do?"

I saw a shrug, caught part of a mumble  and then Molly said,

" I really want to know if you have a mission statement and if you do what it is."

So we chatted a bit about what a mission statement actually is. Is it a map? A vow?  A promise? A purpose. A statement of intent? I told Molly I could remember promising to do my best to always follow the 10 commandments before making my first communion. A sacrement . So yes, I do think that was a  mission statement.  I also took a vow when I married Blowfish and that too was a mission statement.
I made a promise to myself when I started on the path to a career in design. That too was a type of mission.  Becoming a parent is a mission.  Opening a business is a mission. Being honorable in all things is a mission.

Molly asked what I had taught Mermaid on this issue.
I told her Mermaid had taken an elective course on the Covey approach to life management.
An entire semester in the 9th grade. I thought it had been a fine thing for her. But Molly pressed a bit to ask again what had I done, as a mother, to guide Mermaid in making a mission statement or life map.

I do not remember ever telling Mermaid she needed to define a mission statement for self. I do know I tried to provide guidance by teaching her to love truth. Even hard truths. I did write on our family message board/ calendar things like, " The difference between a dream and a goal are: a timeline and an action plan".
We did have discussions on having a dream and having a purpose. You might dream of one day being a great chef but first you have to cry your way through peeling and chopping quite a few onions. You cannot become a great chef just  by reading cookbooks. At some point you have to get in a Kitchen . It is necessary to  be purposeful about acquiring the skills and knowledge of a great chef. It is necessary,on any chosen path, to always pursue more.  Stagnation is always foul.

I told Molly that upstairs in Mermaid's bathroom there was a message written in marker on glass. It's been there for a decade. It says,
"In order to 'live your dream' you must first prepare for the dream of your own choosing".
After reflecting Molly asked,

 " Is that all?"

I did explain that in order to prepare for your chosen dream you had to first define it. Once it was defined then real plans and timelines could be applied. It was never sufficient to say " I want to have a good life".
You have to define what, for you, would make a good life. You cannot plan to win the lottery,  travel the globe in your personal yacht and dance in the moonlight of the Greek Isles. You can plan on  going to engineering school as a foundation for your desires to be an inventor with the goal of one day earning your way to the Greek moonlight.  I explained many a life started out with the  dream of becoming a great inventor but the reality was the life was lived as a successful engineer. Is this a failure or a success?

Molly still looked dissatisfied.

" I'm asking you again. Do you have a mission statement?"

" I actually like the one for the Army. You know, 'Be all that you can be',  is more than a jingle on a recruiting commercial. It is a fine concept. We should all be striving to be all we can. When I was a child my third grade teacher encouraged me to ' use fully and share generously the gifts with which I have been blessed'.  I have tried to always do that."

" Mrs. Fishy! Do. You. Have. A. Mission. Statement?"

" Don't get lost".

" What??????"

" Don't get lost"

." Don't get lost? That's your mission statement !!!!!!!!"

" Are you judging me Molly?"

" Well duh, it doesn't sound too exciting"

I would not have thought so either at 14. From my current age, it seems pretty challenging. I know now how easy it is to  get separated from self. How hard it is to sometimes live an authentic life of your own choosing.  To live a life in truth. To live a life which honors all vows and promises to self as well as to others. To live 'happily ever after' or to 'live the dream' .  How even with maps and gps people still  get lost.  How all your  personal resources can be expended meeting the needs of others.  How it is damn difficult to make a joyful noise or be creative on demand when your life is diverted by  a broken body or an unstable heart or a dying loved one or a crashed economy or  a need to seek order in chaos by doing laundry.  Or maybe because your mom died or your Dad has lost his way or you live with your grandparents and stare at your life in a PODS unit.

" Maybe not,  but this is what I have written on the mirror in my bathroom:
'There are only two reasons dreams are abandoned .. the first is because it might be realized, the second is because it might not... without the dream you are lost'.  I do try Molly, to not get lost."

Molly shrugged, put down her glass, shucked off the gloves,
 " I better be going now".
As I watched her trudge up the driveway I felt regret. I had failed to give Molly information she could use.
Maybe one day our converstaion would rebound in her memory and do some good. I could pray. Then I heard a loud " Hey!" and watched Molly reverse her steps and head back down the drive. As she got closer she walked faster until she was close enough to grab my hand  and stare into my eyes to ask,

 " If I want to be a fashionista, live my life for me and all the girls who want to feel beautiful and alive, and  not in service to my mother's death or disease is that not getting lost ?!?!?!?!?!?!!!"

Go Molly!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I thought it was a tad strange at first, but then I remembered I had one by 14.


fishy said...

Sex education
as a valid life mission?
There's a word for that!

Seriously, there are young trolls in your family and youths in your church that look to you for guidance. What do you advise?

Jenny said...

It's clearly a different world for 14 year olds nowadays. I don't think I thought about things like this until I was much older.... however, it sounds as if Molly has already lived a lifetime. :-(

I use the word "Constitution" instead of Mission Statement, but it's the same. I love the Constitution of the U.S. It's a living, breathing document that (in most cases) has successfully been interpreted by many generations. I think religion helps shape who we are and what things we would put down in our statements. When you don't have that, or life has sucker punched you at 14 (like Molly) then it's more difficult.

Bless her for just wanting what she wants and bless you for giving her a safe place to express her true feelings.

I hope she comes by often this Spring and Summer. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Sex Education? What?

My mission statement wasn't about sex!

Sharon Rudd said...

A charming and thought-provoking post. Although I certainly feel for Molly. I think you two are good for each other.

moi said...

She must be awfully smart to have even an inkling at her young age that she has a right to be happy, to live for herself, and not to let potential tragedy ruin her life. I hope she doesn't lose that feeling.

@Troll: What, then?

fishy said...

it does seem as if childhood is abbreviated in some ways, extended in others. I am positive I was not required to have a "mission statement" by age 14 !

Do you have a pocket constitution? It's a great thing to have and I adore your statement. I think soon, many of us are going to have to take to the streets to defend our constitution.

clarifications are welcome!

Do you have a mission statement?
For those who follow Covey it is not about working toward a goal. It is about declaring the objective and working back from that point. An analogy might be to decide on a menu then working toward acquiring all the necessary components and equipment to produce the menu vs the make a meal from what you have acquired along the way.

Her mother's physician provided her Dad with info on a program for young women who have the genetic risks for hormone based cancers. So once she entered the hormone zone she had her "life camp" weekend. By my observations this program must be amazing. And yes, it is remarkable Molly can stand up and recognize her needs. Her Dad is a youth counselor and I do believe he has made a tremendous effort to arm Molly with every tool possible to approach life with a winning attitude. God bless him! It can't be easy to think of facing this twice.

Molly gives me advice on how to deal with losing your mom. Her advice is always good, often funny, but I still cry.

So do you have a mission statement?
Do you think most of us do?

Jenny said...

The chocolate fish is on the way to you and my Constitution is;

"Do no harm"

fishy said...

Chocolate FISH en route?!?!?
I LOVE this news.

moi said...

Sometimes I think there is definitely a downside to all this science. How awful must that be, living with knowing your genetics could time bomb on you at any minute? The women who opt for full mastectomies because of it? Yikes. That takes guts.

I'm afraid you'd think me terribly superficial if I told you my Mission Statement, but here goes: "Have fun, fun, fun, 'til my daddy takes my T-bird away." I've had my share of deep, dark, crap-ass thing happen to me in life, but I've always seen that stuff as the exception, not the rule, and I've been pretty single minded in pursuing happiness more often than not. With the caveat to, as you say, not get lost along the way. I think for women especially, who are told from a very young age to live for everyone and to do for everyone else BUT themselves, this is important.

Buzz Kill said...

Your Molly seems very mature, probably because of the crummy life experiences she's already had. But I think girls in general look more to the future than boys who mostly live in the present.

I've been having similar (although not as deep) conversations with The Boy as he prepares for college. He knows what college and major he wants (political science), I'm not so sure it will provide a job and career that he can start at graduation. But it's his choice and he will be footing 1/2 of the bill that he will need to pay back after he graduates. I'm hoping he gets additional career guidance from his college advisor.

As for a real mission statement for his life, I kind of think he needs to focus on education, come out the other side of it, then decide where and what he does.

My mission statement - To do whatever the Mrs tells me to do.

Pam said...

A 14 year old kid does NOT need a mission statement. What they need is someone in a parental role (be it one or two parents) who is strong enough to provide a foundation to fall back on when they inevitably go off the rails from time to time. It is the job of a 14 year old to test the boundaries of wild-oat sowing so that by the time they reach college age they know a better life is available to them if they seek it and it is not going to be provided by a Burger King job.

Her father should make sure she has plenty to occupy her rather than worry about breast cancer. It should be HIS mission to keep her occupied with things OTHER than what happened to her mother.

This just kind of makes me angry, in a way. Having lost a family member (my bro) while his kids were still young, I know how one young girl turned out because of a WEAK parent.

Mission statement? Here's one. Life is for the living. (and that means living it up as well as those folks still on the earth)....

I saw this quote on a friends FB page recently:

Life's journey is not to arrive safely at the grave in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out, shouting "Holy Cow, What a Ride!"

My own mission statement to my daughter at this age: Be good, and if you can't be good, be careful.

And for my life now: "Our plan is to have no plan"

Unknown said...

I always come back to this....

"Look me in the stars and tell me truly men of Earth if all the soul and body scars were not too much to pay for birth"
Robert Frost

I suppose it doesn't count as a "constitution" or a "mission statement", but it does serve to keep one balanced I think. <3

fishy said...

"the pursuit of happiness" is a fine mission.

The science doesn't have to hang heavy over the next generaiton. The knowledge has the potential to free them from fear and save their lives.

LOL I do not believe your statments about your Mrs or your Boy. Scouts all have a common mission " On my honor..." and so forth. It is a grand mission to pursue an honorable life.

As for school: Do we send our children to college to get an education or to get a job? That has flipped a few times. I think broad education is THE thing because this generation is highly unlikely to stay in one career path . Estimates are for about 3 distinctive careers. Honor will be appropriate in all of them :-)

Sorry about your brother, and your neice. Those are tough watermelon in the throat situations.

LOL about the slider into Heaven. I had a great Aunt who was fond of saying, " We ARE commanded to live between the ashes to ashes".

I think we are back to the definition of what is a mission statement? I think this is an assignment to teach goal setting. I am one of those who believe that should start by the time they can walk!

Love it when you come splashing in the home Pond. Frost over Covey? I'm good with that. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on all the other comments .... maybe on our Easter picnic? XOXOXOXOXOX!!!!!

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Aunty Belle said...


Mis Molly had a dolly that was sick sick sick so she called up the doctor who came quick quick quick--youse a good doc, Fishy.

fishy said...

Welcome Aunty!
I'se glad to see you are out and about. I know that Miss Polly's Dolly song! We must have children of a similar age cause I don't believe they sing that song in the grammar schools any more :-)

It is also pretty rare this day and age to meet a girl named
"Molly". That is her given name too, not a nick name or family joke. And it's a good fit as she is sort of like the American Girls doll without the glasses.

Thanks for your kind words, I would hope I have helped her.