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At 20, when I became a mom, I had a very distinct picture in my mind of what a family should look like and what the mom/dad role should be. At 23, when I became a single mom, I had to let go of that picture. It took me a lot of years, though, to be okay with the new view of my life. It probably wasn't until pretty recently that I truly came to terms with the different roles people play in my children's lives and that it's "okay" for those roles to not fit in the proverbial boxes I had planned out for them. I was angry for so long at my ex husband for not playing the "dad" role the way I wanted him to or felt that he should. I realize now that at 21 years old he had a hard time figuring out exactly how to all of the sudden be responsible for other people's lives. He barely had his own life in control. When I remarried, I think the lines got blurred for him as to where exactly he fit in the picture anymore. After all, this wasn't how he'd imagined his life either! I think I spent years being upset about things not going how I thought they should instead of being thankful for the tremendous amount of love and support my children have been blessed with!! My husband is a rock. He came in to our lives and never treated my oldest two kids like anything less than his own. He brought stability to our lives and gave my kids the security of knowing he would be here no matter what. He also has given my oldest two the amazing blessing of knowing what it means to be chosen by someone. I've yet to meet a man I respect and admire more than my husband. He is big and quite threatening looking (which is nice in the feeling protected end of things) but when it comes to the people he loves, especially his girls, he's really a big softy. There's no one else in the world I'd rather my son take notes from on how to treat a woman. My ex-husband brings a breath of fresh air to my two oldest children's lives. He's funny, affectionate, and always fun to be around. My husband and ex-husband may very well be polar opposites as far as personality, but it means that the kids get the best of both worlds. I know my ex-husband and husband will never be best buds, but I have a lot if respect for them both when they swallow their pride and can do things like both be at birthday parties and both be referred to as "Dad," either taking on or giving up roles and duties according to what's best for their kids. Then there is my dad. Pa-Pa. I've always adored him and I've never once had to question his love for me. He's filled in the gaps for my kids over the years and there sure have been gaps on the way to where we are now. He guides in such a quiet way - in the way you can only guide without words. I know he keeps my family covered in prayer. His life is a legacy he's leaving for his kids and grandkids, although he's very humble about the role he's played. Both my parents are. But over the years I've come to realize how blessed I am to know truly unconditional love. And, my children know it, too. From every angle! For all the mistakes we make as parents, as humans really, if we can say we've shown our children what real love is and how to love others, then we've canceled out a lot of the bad. The failed marriages, the lost tempers, the things we look back on and wish we would have handled differently. Because "love covers a multitude of sins." Sometimes your love covers your own mistakes, and sometimes it is covering someone else's. God has a plan for each of us and to watch that plan play out in your children's lives is amazing, albeit painful at times. He has every detail planned out before we're even born, and we have to trust Him because He is the ultimate picture of what a father is: loving, consistent, corrective... Sometimes He has to give us more than one "Dad" in our lives to paint the right picture for us.

Christin is a mother of 3, early childhood professional, and accidental agriculture enthusiast. Writer at heart! www.okieagmom.com www.walkingthewriteway.blogspot.com

My life is a great tale of many fantastic journeys filled with wonderful memories of a very loving and wise Mother, 2 elder sisters, and 5 of the most fantastic brothers a younger sister could ask for. My brothers steered me in the right direction in life in so many areas of learning; from learning to swim, tie my shoes, to riding a bike and more importantly....how to deal with men, how to love a man, and how to allow men champion a woman to becoming her greatest self. My brothers always felt it was their responsibility to keep their the females in our family safe. We always felt safe having our brothers around. Everyone knew we had the best brothers in the neighborhood. They worked and went to school. They had mad respect for Mother, and they respected their sister, all the elderly women in our family and they bounded with the men of the family. I particularly loved..seeing my brothers with our uncles, cousins and other relatives, "talking men talk". Uncles would always admonish brothers, "take good care of your women folk" "Women, depend on and need the men in their family to look out for them"!. These talks must have stayed with our brothers, because they always did just that. Even when our eldest brother moved away from home, he would come by often to check on us, and see what mother needed. I have never heard my mother complaint about any of my brothers, and I can remember them always bringing a smile to her face.- Now that Mother is no longer with us, I understand what that smile was about- "My mom, was so very proud of her sons. That was the look of a very proud mother and a very happy woman. No we did not have a father in the home, at least not during my time growing up. My grandfather had passed on, and the dad of the family passed on. Being the baby sister, my brothers always let me know that I was special, smart and beautiful. My Mother, always encouraged me, to strive for excellence. She instilled great values in all of her 8 children. We all knew the importance of an earnest dollar. Everyone of her children cherished the values of a good education - (even the ones that did not finish high school went on to earn their GED and go on to higher academic accomplishments). I love this most importantly, that Mother helped her children to understand what it menas to give bak to the neighborhood, because she would take in homeless people from the neighborhood, and housed htem until they found jobs and could get back on their feet- Mother always fixed extra food, her reason; "You just never know who God is going to send by for dinner, who hasn't had a decent meal"! and the fat that mother always took us to church (especially the girls) but she also took us to the nursing home to learn to serve the elderly in spiritual ways- We would sing to them, brush their hair, and run errands for them- They were always glad to see us when we came. Mother knew she could never teach her sons about being a man, so she always kept very positive role models around (uncles, cousins, relatives, grandparent siblings, godsons, godbrothers,etc), and she would always tell each of us - "BEING A RESPONSIBLE PERSON MAKES YOU A RESPONSIBLE ADULT, MALE OR FEMALE!". My brothers are always my heros. They have never failed me in the area of being respectful, kind, considerate, caring and nurturing. They lead with compassion. After I became a young woman, once I got very ill, I can remember my brother coming to my home to cook and clean for me. Also once when my daughter got very ill, it was my brothers that called me and encouraged me to know "God had plans for my daughter, and not to give up hope"!. When I would be struggling financially, my brothers always, always came to see about me, sometimes I would wonder.., "how they knew" because I never tell about my financial struggles - from this I learned that 'FAMILY BONDS=LOVE UNFEIGNED, which translates into, "You may not tell your family what you are going through, but somehow, they know"!....I think it's God who tells them to check on you. My encouragement to women everywhere, is listen to your brothers about men- They will tell you the truth, because they are men, and they know men inside and out. You can't have better teachers, instructors than your brothers. They listen well, they will never reveal the secrets you tell them, and they have your best interest at heart. Your brother, will keep you from a many heart-aches as a young woman or any woman...if you just listen and pay attention to what they can teach you. Brothers give the best advice I have ever received. My brothers, taught me how to think like a man, while being a man (I knew these lessons, before Steve Harvey wrote the book, thanks to my brothers) because....I listened to my brothers. My brothers are my very first male role models, from them, I learned how to know when I was in the presence of a respectable male, and how to handle myself always with men. Such as being courteous, because "men, always give you back, what you give them" and if one doesn't, get away from that man, as fast as you can, because he is not a man, he is grown-up but has much to learn. My brothers made great father figures- because they genuinely cared. I am certain there are plenty of women struggling to understand the roles men play in our lives, I invite you to "adopt a brother" for mentorship and learning if you do not have a brother of your own. Men are not shy about giving the best advice to women- They are really our protectors if we women, will allow them.

Shar McCoy is the author of THE TRUE ART OF SISTERHOOD and attended Loyola University Chicago as an honor student with her degree in Mass Media Communications & Marketing Management. She furthered her career by attending AIU (American InterContinental University Georgia) and also studied for the NASE (National Association Securities Exchange) Worked in Financial Analysis, Worked as an educator/case manager in the public school system. She has written programs that assisted students in learning and behaviors accolades. She has worked as a Dean Of Students for Linda C. Shearrill Bible College and Seminary. She is invited often to lecture on women topics as well as men topics for all men groups, retreats, conferences, church and charitable organizations as well as for children and teens. She loves people and she knows that life is purposeful but we must include the passion within our lives, to fulfill our purpose! - I Live, Love, & Laugh with purpose!

Next to my parents, the most influential people in my life were athletic coaches. Both made it perfectly clear I was responsible for my actions. Not once in all my years did I hear them say the word “accountable.” But looking back, they used more synonyms than I could count describing accountability. Take care of your position first. Don’t let your teammates down. Don’t make excuses. The list went on and on. My high school in Texas was fairly big—3-A based on student enrollment—and the second largest at the time. Fortunately for me, we had a winning tradition in all sports, especially football. Over a thirty-year period, before I started school and after I graduated, we won around eighty percent of our games. Winning was expected . . . every year. One day I came home after practice and plopped onto the couch, dejected because I wasn’t getting enough playing time. Dad sat in his chair, smoking his pipe. I can still smell the aroma of cherry blended tobacco. As usual, he was reading the paper and barely noticed. After several deep breaths and loud exhales from me, he lowered the paper, looked over the top of his bifocals, and took the pipe out of his mouth. “Something on your mind, son?” That was my chance to vent. “The coaches are being unfair. They’re playing a junior ahead of me. I’m a much better player than that guy. How could they do that?” My cocky, know-it-all sophomore persona boasted. As I spouted my woe-is-me story, Dad slowly nodded like he agreed. Sure the coaches would get an earful tomorrow, I moved to get off the couch. “Here’s how I see it.” Dad’s direct look pushed me back into the cushions. “You have two choices. Quit the team or get better and beat out that junior.” Then he leaned toward me with a glare that would stop the heart of a lion. “Don’t come home and complain about this sort of thing again. Do you read me?” “Yes, sir,” I sheepishly whispered. Dad put the pipe to his lips, gave a couple of hard puffs, and picked up the paper as if nothing of importance had ever happened. Accountability Lesson 101—Don’t make excuses. Our school locker room had a sign over the chalkboard. Winners never quit. Quitters never win. As players, we understood we were accountable to give the effort to win. The coaches told us this. “Do the hard work in practice that unsuccessful teams aren’t willing to do. Get better every day. Strive for perfection.” What they meant was pay the price in practice to earn the victory on Friday night. This one principal alone applies to any situation in life. Accountability Lesson 102—Outwork your opponent. I interviewed for a job once that I thought was a done deal and was turned down. If you’ve ever been rejected, you know that feeling. But humility is not a bad thing. Let it teach you to be a better person. How you face your problems, and what you learn from failure, can sometimes teach you more than winning. Just don’t make losing a habit. Channel your mind in a positive direction after a setback. Accountability Lesson 103—Be humble. Life’s not easy. It never has been and never will be. Be accountable for your actions and don’t make excuses. Work harder and smarter than your competition. Learn from your failures and don’t expect anything to be given to you. Appreciate and recognize those who helped you along the way. I don’t know of a single person who has accomplished his goals without the support of great parents, grandparents, coaches, or mentors—so pass on what you’ve learned to others and be a role model they want to follow.

Bill Briscoe is the author of Pepperman’s Promise: Prequel to The Pepperman Mysteries and Perplexity, Book One of the series. Both are available through Amazon at amzn.to/2hlk0Qx.To follow the release of Bill’s next book, sign up for his newsletter at his website www.billbriscoe.com.