Yes No and Maybe

20 Oct

10403387_10153084432873366_5861144938281823701_nEvery day we ask ourselves questions, and we give answers too. Some days you ask why in Heaven’s name did I do that? You answer, “Because you’re an idiot.” Some days you ask yourself if you’re stupid and you answer yes. Some days you ask if you can do anything right and you answer no. You can beat yourself up daily with the questions that you ask, and I was incredibly proficient at that when I was younger. Truth be told, I can still go down that road on occasion, especially when I’m stressed and under-slept and over-committed. Last week was definitely one of those weeks. I was feeling stressed because the book wasn’t finished. We were getting to bed late and because we were tired, we had a difficult time dragging ourselves off the couch. We had medical appointments, volunteer meetings and a little matter of making sure the family was eating every day. It seemed overwhelming and the creativity was sluggish at best. This week is different, all because of a few things we’re doing differently. This week we are more aware and making better conscious decisions.

Last week we were getting to bed late. We watched too much TV, and most of it was stuff we didn’t even like that much. We were on the screen too much avoiding the things that would make our life better because it didn’t seem like fun. I could go on, but you get the picture. This week we changed just a few things and the results have been amazing. We have turned the TV off by 9pm every night, which means we have been to bed earlier. Let me tell you something; this girl functions much better on 7 hours of sleep per night than six or six and a half.

This weekend I volunteered ten hours on Saturday and nine hours on Sunday at something called Wordcamp. It was exhausting and thrilling and scary because although I’ve been blogging for a long time, I have recently decided that blogging and writing are what I would like to do for my profession, and I have so much to learn. I can be certain that I won’t be a developer who helps people set up websites and blogs, but there is still so much technology out there to help people who write for a living and the ones who are the most successful have found programs that help them every step of the way. It was overwhelming at times, but if you are thinking about blogging or want to set up a website, I highly recommend that you attend a Wordcamp weekend. They are only $20 per day and range from one to three days. The networking alone is worth more than that.

The biggest revelation for me came on the Monday morning after Wordcamp ended. It was an exhausting weekend. The house was not in the greatest of shape. My youngest had no school and had someone coming over late morning. In days past, I would have slept poorly, probably after staying late fretting and fussing about the house and at my family, and I would have awakened stressed because of all I thought I needed to do to prepare for the day, the week and the guest. Happily, I went to bed before 10pm because I was tired and my husband was even more tired from having to work all weekend as well. I slept like a baby, slept much longer than I normally do and actually began writing this post because I thought it was important information to share.

I’m calm. I’m ready to face the day and the week. I have goals I want to accomplish, including finishing the current holiday book and beginning to transcribe an interview for another book. Years past would have brought me to my knees for days from exhaustion, which would have been amplified by complaining that I was the only one who did anything around my house and feeling like a complete martyr. This time, I’ve caught up on my sleep and made a plan to eat healthy this week to recover from eating foods this weekend that aren’t the best for me. I may or may not accomplish all I hope to accomplish, but whatever I do accomplish will be because I choose to and not only do I choose to, I want to, and that was a huge revelation to me too. In the past, I’ve done the laundry because I felt like it had to be done. I’ve cleaned the floors and picked up around the house for the same reason. It’s also probably why I’ve struggled so much with making time to write and create. It didn’t have to be done. It was extra-curricular and since I wasn’t finishing the curricular parts of my life, how could I justify doing the extra? It was an unhealthy cycle to say the least.

Now I see things differently. I want to do the laundry, clean up the house and clear the decks because I can think clearer without those tasks hanging over my head. It removes the excuses to creating and makes me feel great in the process. Does it help that I could sleep in for an hour because my son didn’t have school? Yes it did, but knowing that with a little effort and focus, I can have the house and laundry whipped into shape enough to have a guest in the clean but far from perfect house and be able to write for a few hours is priceless to me. Someone asked me what kind of blog I have this weekend, and I struggled to describe what I share. Many people assume I’m a mom blogger because I learn from being a mom, but this weekend I think I’ve figured out that my blog is very much like my life. It’s eclectic and different. It’s a mix of lifestyle and spirituality with a little adhd thrown in because that is my life. It’s about learning to become a better version of myself and forgiving myself when I fall short of my own expectations. It’s about a woman who is traveling through life and hopes to travel more through the world as she shares the journey and its wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful revelations. I attempt to be honest and fairly transparent because that is who I am as a person. I have some private struggles I choose to keep private for my sake and the sake of those involved, but in general, I’m pretty much of an open book because I don’t know any other way to be. That has gotten me into some big trouble in my life, but is it enough that I want to change that about myself? No, it isn’t. I love my life, most days, and I love the people in it, even when I occasionally don’t like them, and I hope they feel the same way about me. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t. Is it ok for it to be imperfect? Yes and because I can accept my own imperfection I can celebrate that in other too. I’m forgiving and learning that others are too. I’m doing my best and know that others are too, and I am honored to share the journey with all who read my blog, and maybe that is the best part of it all for me; that we get to do this crazy thing called life together. By the way, the book should be finished this weekend.  Stay tuned for the updated publication date and possible book signings.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Good Enough

6 Oct

A more than good enough place to write a blog post

If you’ve ever taken a class or read anything about becoming more efficient or effective in your life, you’ve probably read about time management techniques, but the most profound thing I ever heard about time management is that you cannot manage time. Everyone has the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds in each day, and although we each spend a different number of those days on the planet, in each given day, we all have 24 hours. The key, then, is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves during that time, and there are so many factors that can affect our ability to do that well. As I always do, I want to make it clear that I understand that people who have mitigating factors such as illnesses, physical challenges or who have other legitimate challenges may be an exception to what I’m about to share, but I think the information is quite relevant for the rest of us.

Have you ever heard the expression that if you want to change some things in your life you have to change some things in your life? I love that expression for its simplicity and truth, but sometimes we don’t know the things we have to change to achieve the results we desire, and that can be quite a problem. For years I struggled with cleaning and being organized. Truth be told, organizing still doesn’t come naturally to me (more on that at a later date). I tried being like my mom, my mother in law and a few other people I know that were really good at keeping house, and I failed miserably. I was nearly ready to give up when I found a system that worked for me. Why did everything else fail while that worked? For me, this system seemed to understand how I thought and helped me be successful being me, not trying to be like someone else. You see, the people I had tried to emulate before were good at cleaning. They are very task oriented people and the task of keeping up with the house came easy to them. I learned how to keep house from someone like me who found that more challenging. I had to learn how to manage a part of me I’d never managed before, and it was very difficult at first, but not only have I mastered the basics of that, I’ve actually learned to be happy while I’m working because I know it will only take a little bit of time to accomplish what I’ve set out to accomplish, and that may be the biggest accomplishment of all. You see, I used to hate cleaning because I was convinced I wasn’t good enough at it. I’ve never seen the point of scrubbing a floor with a toothbrush or having a perfect dust ruffle. I know people that take great pride in having homes like that, and I applaud them for that but it’s just not that important to me. Yes, my bed is made every day. No, you cannot bounce a quarter off of it. Yes, my home is mostly company ready on most days. No, the counters aren’t clear and yes, there are a few small piles of paperwork. I’m happy with my home and I’ve learned the concept of good enough.

For a good part of my life I never felt good enough. I was a good student, but because I didn’t get straight A’s all the time, that wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t thin enough, despite the fact that I had a 22 inch waist and 35 inch hips. Even when I cleaned up my room or the bathroom, I usually had more to do because it wasn’t good enough. It became a never ending cycle that I bought into and piled onto, and it made for some very tense times in my life when I was trying to be good enough knowing at the same time I could and would not be. It’s amazing when we believe this about ourselves how we attract the very things that confirm our beliefs. I dated men who didn’t always treat me well. I had jobs that paid me less than I was worth. I struggled to keep my home in shape, and I put on weight, lots of it over time. It wasn’t until I heard the expression about changing some things in my life that I began to truly change some things in my life, and as I changed the outside, I began to feel changes on the inside. As I learned ways to clean, I began to realize that I could keep a house; it might not be the way anyone else did it, but I could do it and I could feel good about it. I actually began to feel I was good enough at doing something, even if that thing seemed like a small thing in the grand scheme of life, and the real success wasn’t from learning or accomplishing anything. The real success was from the shift in thinking of myself as a failure to thinking of myself as capable and good enough.

It took me several years to get to that point, but since then, we have shifted our energy in so many ways. We used those same principles to pay off $30,000+ of credit card debt in three years and to send our children to college without debt so far. I used that thought process to write and publish two books, and let me tell you, there were some real battles there. While writing the books I found out so many areas I still had thoughts of doubt. I wondered if they would be any good or if anyone would want to read them let alone buy them. I even doubted whether I could handle my life if the book actually became successful as well, but I did it, and I survived it, and with the current book, I’ve been able to take it a step further. With this book, I liken it to a flower blooming. It takes a lot of energy and effort for a flower to bloom, but the flower blooms anyway, without pain or anguish and no matter what it looks like, some will judge it to be beautiful and some will judge it to be less than that. It doesn’t change anything about the flower whether it is a dandelion or a rose. I am aware that this book and the two that have come before it will never win a Nobel Prize or even a National Book Award. I write because I believe I was born to do it, and I love doing it, and hopefully it helps a person or two along the way. I don’t need the awards or even to sell a million books to validate anything about my writing anymore. Would it be nice? Of course it would, but that isn’t the point anymore.

So what do I get from this energy shift to good enough? I get peace and fulfillment. I am living my dream of being a writer by writing every day. It may not support me financially today or ever, but it does support me mentally, emotionally and even physically because of the way I’ve grown as a writer. It is ultimately important to me and not important at all to the world. To realize that you are merely a blip in the world of writing is incredibly empowering because it allows you to write your truth knowing the vast majority of humanity may never read it, and because of that, all you have to do is write or paint or do whatever it is you dream of doing.

Last year, a friendship I treasured came to an end. At the time, I was broken hearted and wanted so badly to find a way to make things better. I felt that if I could mend that relationship, all would be well in my world again. I was talking on the phone to my husband about it, trying desperately to figure out what to do when I literally got hit in the rear end by another car. I hung up with my husband and jumped out of the car to check the damage. The young man who had hit me was a young man of color, and we were in a part of town where the police were not known to be gentle to anyone of any color. There was a dent in the back of my minivan, but the door still worked and the boy looked scared. Truth be told, I was scared for him. He was the same age as one of my sons, and I couldn’t call the cops. I told the young man that I felt like I was supposed to ask him to turn down his music and pay better attention to the road, but that I was supposed to forgive him, give him a hug and send him on his way, so I did, and when I got back in the car I burst into tears. I called my husband back and hoped he wouldn’t be mad at me for letting the young man off the hook. Instead, he laughed and told me the Divine had figuratively kicked me in the behind to show me who I really was as a person. How could he be angry about that? It was then that I started to realize it wasn’t only that young man who I needed to forgive. I needed to forgive my friend for whatever I perceived she had done, and I had to forgive myself for whatever she perceived I had done. It took a while and much reminding of that accident to get there, but I did, and when I did, everything changed. My second book came together in just a couple of months, and my life has been amazing since. I hope it has been the same for my friend because I believe she was part of that lesson for me. I hope we get the chance to be friends again someday, but even if we don’t, I will cherish the friendship we had and the lessons and gifts it gave to me. For now that will just have to be good enough. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

When Priorities Collide

29 Sep

dsc_0075When I list my priorities, my marriage, my family and my spiritual health are all at the top. Not far behind is living up to your commitments. In our family we have athletes and musicians who are also students and employees, and we’ve had numerous discussions about which priorities come first. Every once in a while, we have to put those priorities to the test, or maybe those priorities put us to the test. This weekend was one of those occasions.

If you know me, you know that I feel like I hit the mother in law lottery. My mother in law does not fit any of the negative mother in law stereotypes. She loves my husband dearly and has been known to fuss at him on occasion, mostly because she would like to see him more, but she has never fussed at me. She has never criticized me or treated me with anything but respect. She has never told me how to raise my children, except to remind me that my time with my kids is limited and to enjoy them as much as I can. No, she isn’t perfect, but she never claimed to be, and because of that, neither do I. This past week was my mother in law’s 85th birthday, and Saturday was her birthday party. Both of my older sons came home from college to attend mass with their grandma and then attend her party. My youngest was there too, in spite of having a band competition, but that band competition became a lesson for us all.

A few weeks ago, we sent an email that my son would be missing that competition. One of the band directors met with my son and decided that he could go to mass and then he could meet the band at the competition, nearly an hour away. They did not take into account that my son couldn’t drive himself so he wouldn’t be the only one missing the party. They did not know that there would be pictures taken of the birthday girl and her family at the party and that there would be nearly 100 family members present. They did not know, nor did we, that by the time we finished the pictures and had a bit of dinner, the band would already be taking the field, but we made the decision that my son would stay with his family, and the band would have to compete without him. If you know anything about marching band, you might think about the fact that the band could have a hole in its formation, but my son is in the front ensemble. You might also think that the band might sound different, but our front ensemble uses microphones so they can adjust. We thought of all of that, but we also thought of something else. In ten years, no one will remember that my son missed that competition, and if they do, it will have no emotional impact; they might, however, remember my son missed the party and there could be emotional impact there. How do I know? Been there; done that people.

Nineteen and a half years ago, I became a mother for the second time. Four days after my son was born, I was coaching a club volleyball game. It was also my father’s 54th birthday, and his third week in hospice care. The tournament was supposed to be over by five, but it lasted until seven. We were an hour from the hospice location, and I was exhausted, as were my three year old, newborn and husband. I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday and to let him know we would see him the next day for his party, and I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I was so tired, though, that I couldn’t bring myself to make the trip. Instead we went home, collapsed into bed and had a great time at the party the next day. Less than three weeks later, my dad was gone, and I had missed his last birthday. Nineteen and a half years later, I have forgiven myself for a bad decision, not because I took care of myself that evening, but because I went to the tournament in the first place. I don’t remember much about the day, but I remember the phone call vividly, and I am teaching my children to have different priorities so they don’t have to forgive themselves for making bad choices like their mama did.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on time management and organization for bloggers and was introduced to the 10-10-10 rule. Basically, if you have a decision to make, you ask yourself, will it matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years if I make this decision? When I look at my past decision to coach rather than spend time with my father, I know I made the wrong decision for me. When I look at the decision we made this past weekend regarding my son’s band competition, I know we made the right decision for our family, and there’s a funny part to that. We are so conditioned to fear punishment that the threat of an unexcused absence from band almost made us make a different decision until we realized that an unexcused absence from band really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. We got so caught up in trying to be good that we almost made a decision that was not good at all, and we would have missed so much good because of it.

We would have missed seeing cousins we haven’t seen since their mother’s funeral several years ago. We would have missed seeing how happy my mother in law was to be surrounded by those who love her most. We would have missed getting hugs from our godchildren and seeing the expressions on our family members’ faces as my son, who is 22, grab a beer when they still think of him as a baby. Most of all, we would have missed showing our son that his crazy, huge family is important, very important, and today, I wouldn’t change that for anything.

For those who are following the journey, the book is getting close to being finished and ready for editing. I’m hoping it will publish in a few weeks. You can follow the journey on Facebook by joining our Happiest Holidays page. I’m also looking into starting another blog about travel because I was raised to have a bit of the gypsy in me and I feel the wanderlust rising again. Who knows where that journey will take me, but I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Until next week, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Little Changes and Better Results

22 Sep

Do you remember that I challenged everyone to choose their life this month instead of living by have to, need to, ought to or whatever “should” type phrase you use? Well, I did, and I had to remind myself of that today. Up until this morning, this week has been spectacular. I had been struggling with getting my writing accomplished because it seemed like there were so many more important things to accomplish or better said, I felt like I needed more hours in the day to accomplish them. This week I made a few small tweaks, and I mean small, and the days have been ridiculously more productive and easy. Want to know what those changes were? You may be disappointed by their simplicity.

The first tweak was getting fully dressed to shoes in the morning. Now, I don’t mean looking like I’m ready to conquer the world. I mean simply throwing on some workout clothes and gym shoes. It’s amazing how much more inspired to work I am when the slippers and robe are replaced with workout clothes. I can finish my morning routine in the morning. I have accomplished more by noon the past three days than I had by the end of the day for the past three weeks. I have even managed to take walks that were elusive and missing the past few weeks. The other thing I’ve done is avoid being online until I’ve finished everything I deem important for the day. This one is a bit more difficult for me because I have several groups and mentors online that have helped me so much in my journey toward a better life. I have a group that has helped me get a handle on my home. I have two that have helped me immensely with my writing, one local and one international. I have groups that help me spiritually and I have groups that help me with my parenting. While I know there is a mass of garbage in cyberland, I have found some amazingly positive places, and I love checking in on these I have come to care for deeply. The flip side of that joy, though, is spending more time online than I do offline and sometimes neglecting the things that bring me joy offline. This week I’ve found better balance because the tweaks have made better use of my natural energy flow.

You see, I am a morning person, or at least I’ve become one. When I was younger I would have definitely said I was a night owl. I loved the late night when all was quiet. I felt like I could accomplish more at that time because everyone was out of my way, and on the very rare occasion that I have trouble sleeping, I still love the quiet of the middle of the night and the peace of hearing the rhythmic breathing of those I love most as they sleep. I have found, though, that I have that same energy in the morning when I’m well rested. Imagine that. In a few hours I can write, exercise and keep up with my home and shower and re-dress, but then the afternoon slump comes, and I feel almost powerless to get anything accomplished. Part of the tweaking this week has included making peace with that slump and reframing it as downtime to go through paperwork, run errands, go through emails and/or play online without guilt. The results have been glorious, and I’ve been so happy with the results, until this morning.

This morning I woke up with a feeling of dread because the next three days are extremely busy. I began feeling like I couldn’t do the things I should do because I have to be out of the house earlier than usual, and I began to feel the panic and self-judgment that usually comes along with that stress for me, but I remembered the challenge I had issued, and began to think about what I wanted to accomplish. I realize that tomorrow will depend on what I accomplish today, so I tabled the stress about the next two days for now. I realize that the house is good enough and a shortened morning routine is more than good enough. I know my morning walks have helped me clear my head and get focused on writing, so I chose to take one, although that was shortened too, and I also am choosing to write this blog post because I promised myself to do at least one per week, and I failed to do that last week. I let the overwhelm get to me, and I failed to post. Guess what? We all fail, but this week I chose to approach things differently. This week I chose to act rather than let the overwhelm win. It’s currently 9am in my part of the world, and I am nearly finished with everything I wanted to accomplish before I leave. The only thing left to do is shower, and I will do that as soon as I finish typing. I’m actually going to make it, and that feels so good.

What I’m doing may not change the world, but it does change my part of it for the better. It helps me be a better wife, mom, writer and human being. I helps me focus on how I can change and grow and become a better version of me, and really, isn’t that the best thing any of us can do? Yesterday, I stopped at the grocery store around 6:30pm. A woman still dressed in her business attire was pushing her screaming toddler through the store. The little man desperately wanted to walk, and you could tell the mom was trying to get through the store as quickly as she could. She had her son strapped into the seat of the cart, and he was angry. He screamed at the top of his lungs that he wanted to walk, and she patiently sat him down every time he tried to stand up, but you could see the stress on her face. You could also see the stress on other shoppers’ faces as they looked at her, some in recognition, some in judgment and some in pity, but no one spoke to her. One older man tried to talk with her son, but it didn’t help so he walked away, and at first, so did I. But the longer I listened, the more I remembered what it felt like to be that mom. I remember feeling so isolated and alone when you have a screaming child in a store and everyone is looking at you. I remember feeling like I was hanging on by a thread to my sanity and my patience, and I was trying to be a good parent and still get the damned shopping done, and perhaps I was just failing at all of it. So, I stopped, turned around and looked for that mom. I walked up to her with tears in my eyes and said to her that just in case no one told her today, she was doing a great job, and we both walked away feeling better.

Now I don’t know if anything I have done to improve my life gave me the opportunity to do that, but I do know this: Because I did those things, my home was in order and I had crossed off most of my list which gave me the opportunity to go to the grocery store to buy items, not that I needed, but that I chose to buy to make my mother in law a special treat for her 85th birthday today. Had this been last week or the few before, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it, but because of what I have done, I was there. Because of those changes, the holiday book is closer to being finished. Because of those things, I am sitting her typing and choosing to be at peace rather than worrying about the fact that I “should” be in the shower if I want to leave on time to get to where I choose to be going next. I’ve chosen better. My life is better and for those of you who are not in dire situations where you really and truly have no control over your, I double dog dare you to choose better for yourselves too. It may not change the world, but I bet it changes you for the better in more ways than you can imagine. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Happiness Rebellion

8 Sep

You would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the craziness going on in the world. In the US, the election alone could send you screaming into the night. There are refugee crises around the globe. Human trafficking is everywhere. Drug use is rampant, especially heroin, the news says. The economy is in danger, as is our health and the list goes on and on. All of this could be and probably is true, but most of it has also been going on for centuries and yet, here we are, struggling with the same issues. What’s a girl to do in such circumstances? In my world, you stay relatively informed, which means getting most of my news online and checking sources outside of my country as well as within because sometimes you get a very different view. It means knowing that the issues exist, and it means doing what I can to help and letting go of the rest.

There are so many issues that one could give attention to. There are injustices and inequalities and poverty and need everywhere, which makes it very easy to be offended, angered and/or afraid, and many people are offended, angry and/or afraid. What if we choose differently? What if we choose to look for the opportunity to do and be good and to live in joy instead of surrendering to the ugly emotions? Don’t get me wrong. There are unpleasant images that will never leave my head from Columbine high school, from the September 11, 2001, from refugees that didn’t make it to Greece alive, but rather than let those images stop me from living, I use them as inspiration. I used Columbine high school to inspire me to become a better parent, to be more loving and patient as a parent, especially in the morning knowing that every time I said goodbye to my children, it could be the last time I see their faces. Am I perfect at it? Hardly, but I try. From 9/11 I’ve learned how important it is to understand those who are different from us. I don’t know as much as I would like to, but I’m working on it and will probably work on that one for the rest of my life. Finally, there is the refugee crisis, and while there are probably many ways I could be helping there, I am helping with issues in my own country with displaced people. Within a few hundred miles of where I live, tornados destroyed property and homes less than a month ago and a few hundred more miles away, the state of Louisiana has seen its worst flooding since Katrina. As I said, there is need everywhere. I help where I can and pray someone else steps up where I can’t. I don’t know if it’s enough, but the fact that my children wonder if we would ever be wealthy even if we won the lottery because I give so much away tells me I might be on the right track.

There was a time in my life I was consumed with anger over the injustices of the world. I was infuriated at those who perpetrated the ugliness and for those who suffered, but at some point I realized that those feelings weren’t doing anyone any good, especially me. I understand that some people use those feelings to spur them on to great action in this world, and I applaud them for that. For myself, I’ve found that getting peaceful and even happy allows me to find better ways to contribute to this world in a positive way and create change. That may sound trite to some, and I admit I hesitated writing this blog because I know so many people think that happy people are uninformed, stupid and/or so privileged they just don’t understand. I’m sure there are situations I’ll never understand because they are unfathomable to me, but there are many more that I do understand, and just because I don’t discuss them doesn’t mean I don’t understand. Some things are meant to be private, at least for now, and they will stay that way. Instead, I’ll share why I decided to finally write this post. It’s because of two books I’m reading.

For the past few months, I’ve picked up the reading habit again, and I am so happy. Every weekday, I set a timer and read for at least fifteen minutes. I just finished a book about healing ADD. I read books about the supernatural, and I’m currently reading the books, Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I usually read one or the other each day, but this morning, for some reason I felt compelled to read both. Now, if you read my blog regularly, you know I have a great love of the Divine. I believe there are messages from the Divine, if we are open to recognizing them, and I feel like I got a big one this morning. I was mulling over whether to share these ideas or not because philosophy of life can be a pretty sticky subject. I decided to read before putting hands to the keyboard, and I began reading Dying to Be Me. One line in particular stuck with me when Ms. Moorjani was talking about how much more powerful she is when she works with life rather than against it, and I feel like that line explains my life so well. I feel like so many people give their power away to others, not willingly or even consciously in some cases and then complain that that they have no control. I used to do that. I blamed my kids for my messy house, my inability to write like I would have liked and my inability to do anything about my weight, and I blamed my husband for his contributions to all of that too. You know what that did for me? It kept me stuck and kept me from taking responsibility for my life. Yes, when you have children in the house, there is more mess, but there are ways to get what you crave. Currently, my friend Shalagh Hogan from is conducting a 30 day creativity challenge while raising an 11 and 3 year old. I’m not sure I could have managed that when any of mine were three, but it has become a priority for her, and she’s doing it. Because of people like this and someone long ago who issued a challenge to stop complaining for 30 days straight, I learned to begin to take responsibility for my own life and choose to live differently. It’s a very different vibe when you choose to do laundry, clean and cook than when you do it filled with martyrdom. It gets done faster and more efficiently, almost as if by magic.

Speaking of magic, here’s something else. I have loved being creative my entire life, and it was about ten years ago when I began to see creativity in places I never had before. I remember being at a Halloween party for one of my kids and during the craft one of the moms remarked that she didn’t have a creative bone in her body. I laughed because I knew this woman was an accountant, and I asked her if I brought my taxes to her if she could find ways for me to save money and get more back from the government in my refund. Of course she said yes, and I told her I thought that was wildly creative because I couldn’t even begin to imagine how to do that. The one thing I couldn’t reconcile in my own life though was how selfish I felt being creative instead of being employed. I felt like I should be contributing financially to our home, especially when money was tight, and I’m sure my husband would have been happy to have more money coming into the house, but he also gave me the freedom to be exactly who I needed to be. What that meant was that he was happy for me to use my creativity to learn to keep a house the way that worked for me rather than how everyone else did it. It allowed me to make healthy meals on a budget, and it allowed me to be creative with our finances. When I finally let go of the struggle of that, everything improved. I was finally able to get our house and our finances in order and even find time to write. That’s a big part of the message in Big Magic, giving yourself permission to live a creative life. For a while I got caught up in what I should be writing about and being careful not to offend people, and I truly never intend to offend anyone, but authenticity sometimes means you offend people because your truth may not be the same as theirs. It sucks when it happens, but it does happen, and even an apology doesn’t fix it sometimes.

So the question becomes. Do you live your life in full on creative mode or do you censor yourself? While I would love to write things that soothe everyone’s soul, I know that being authentic is my first order of business, and I find I like me much better when I live that way. The days seems to flow better, even the challenging ones, because I have the grace to give myself and others space to be who they need to be. I am much more loving and giving and productive on every level. I feel like I am truly living and truly happy and who doesn’t want to feel that? So, this month I’ve challenged everyone to choose their life rather than let themselves be bullied and pushed by life. We can’t control everything. Some days it feels as if we control nothing, but we can learn to control how we choose to respond and today, that makes me feel incredibly happy. I hope you’ll join in The September Choosing Challenge and find your own happiness revolution. If not, I hope you find authenticity whatever your path may be, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The September Choosing Challenge

1 Sep

Some days I know exactly what I want to write about. Some days I struggle a bit. Today I seem to have bits of several posts knocking around my head and on days like that I sit down at the keyboard and let the muse take me wherever it chooses. This week, we are starting with a meeting I attended on using a Pinterest account in connection with a blog. I have been blogging for several years without monetizing my blog, and I’ve wondered if I should take that step to “up my game”. Because I want to write for a living, it seems to make sense. Because I am more focused on the journey and knowledge than the income, I hesitate hugely.

Recently, I began reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is kicking my butt and making me laugh out loud. One of the big subjects lately in nearly every creative community I’m part of is fear and doubt, and everyone experiences it. Creatives wonder if anything we create is worthy, and we can become addicted to likes and shares and sales to validate our existence, but when we do, we lose the essence of what we create and sometimes shut down our creativity entirely. I’ve been praised for how I write and the fact that I’ve published two books, and I’ve been insulted and ridiculed for those same things. As a human being, the praise feels really good and the ridicule has been painful, but both have taught me a great life lesson; neither the praise nor the ridicule have anything to do with me. It is merely the result of how someone experiences my creation, and sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like my creation.

Have you ever experienced being “in the zone” or that an idea comes through you rather than from you? That’s what the creative process is like for me. Some idea pops into my brain, and I know I’m supposed to make it come to life with my particular set of talents and gifts. Sometimes I go back and read things I’ve written and thought, “Wow! That’s really good. I wish I’d thought of that.” Some people think I did, but I know that I was just the messenger, and I was blessed with the ability to put those thoughts into words. It can be quite the spiritual experience because sometimes I don’t want to write what I feel I am inspired to write. I don’t want to reveal things about myself that sound weird and strange, but I do want to better the craft, so I write most of it anyway. I feel like I am failing to explain it adequately because there are times I know exactly where the inspiration for a piece comes from, often it’s a current event in my life or the world, but sometimes, it just shows up and it feels like I can’t type fast enough to get the words on the page and I’m as much of an observer as a participant. Maybe it’s like when an actor gets so involved in a character or scene that they forget the camera crew is there. Maybe it’s like when someone is working on a hobby and they are so entranced by what they’re doing that they don’t even hear someone walk into the room. Maybe it’s like driving along in your car and your favorite song comes on and you’re singing your heart out only to look out your window and see the driver in the next car staring at you in a most amused way. *cough, cough* *dozens of times* It is empowering and makes you incredibly vulnerable at the same time, and it takes courage to do it.

One of the things that I’ve been told by mentors and read in articles is that networking will boost every aspect of your writing career. As someone who has been out of the workforce for over two decades, that is some scary stuff, but I decided to bite the bullet and do it anyway. While I’ve maintained my safe and grounded connection to my online creativity salon, I also joined a writer’s accountability group. I’ve attended Meetups for bloggers in my area. I am volunteering with our local Wordcamp. I’m meeting so many new people and learning so many things, and at first it was intimidating and overwhelming because these people seem to know so much, but I am slowly learning that I do too. One of the most important things I know is what feels right and what feels contrived for me. I am learning that I would rather write with integrity than act without it. I learn something helpful from nearly every meeting about how I want to proceed and how I don’t. I have so many ideas for collaborations with people and ways to help one another be successful, and I can hardly wait to get moving on them, but first, I have a book to finish, and as much as it scares me, I’ve committed to having the manuscript finished by next week, and I’m spending time each day making progress and doing my best to have fun with it, because here’s the best thing I’ve learned or better said, remembered on this third trip to publishing; having fun matters.

When I stress over deadlines or what to write, I don’t write. I will find anything else to do to distract me from the task at hand. When I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and having fun, magic happens and things begin to line up and come together in ways I can hardly believe, so I’ve begun making that part of the focus of my day. Here is one of those places I hesitate to share because I know how people feel about affirmations and those who use them, but I’ve been asked how I stay so positive, and affirmations are truly one of the ways I do that. I have three that I’m using right now and I write them down every day. Here they are:
We have great fun living our very best lives and get better at it every day.
Our kind, loving and fun filled family supports everyone, especially each other, in positive, uplifting and empowering ways.
We recognize and rejoice in our constant miracles and blessings and eagerly welcome more.
Yep, I write and read those every morning before I dive into my day. Are they corny? Perhaps they are. Do they help? Yes, they do because they give me a direction and focus for my day. Am I feeling uncomfortable with sharing this very personal part of my life? Yes, I am, so why am I sharing it? I am sharing because this is one of the most powerful things I learned about changing my life. Words matter, especially the ones we repeatedly say to ourselves and say out loud. Changing your words will change your life. Recently, someone posted about getting the words “should”, “need”, “have to” and a few others out of their vocabulary and replacing them with the word “choose”. I was so excited for her because I have done that exercise in my own life, and it will change everything if you do it, so I am challenging you to do just that. Remove those words as well as “ought to” from your vocabulary and replace them with “choose” and if you really want to up the ante, add the word happily or joyfully in front of choose and you’ll really begin to look at your life differently.
Just thought I would share, that with that last paragraph, I finally understand what I am supposed to be writing about today. It’s a thrill and makes me laugh because writing so often takes me places I never imagined going, but this month I’ll join you and make sure that I’m choosing my best possible life every day. I hope you’ll join in and let me know how it goes. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Embracing the Blessings

25 Aug

12049231_10206140076553761_743071400173545284_nSo last week I wrote about feeling inadequate because of my lack of first day school pictures. This past weekend, both my older boys headed back to college, and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. My middle son moved back to school in stages which made the moving process easier. He’s close to home and we get to see him fairly often, so it isn’t as difficult leaving him. We will even be on campus this week for a local soccer club game and to watch his younger brother perform in a special football game being held at the college on Friday. We might get in a quick visit each night, especially if there is dinner involved, so, there will probably be dinner involved because this mom is not above a food bribe to get a quick visit. Sending the oldest off was a bit trickier because it was the last time. This is his last semester of college. He will probably be working out of town when he graduates. He will be getting married next year and there will be so many lasts. He laughs at me every time I cry and tells me it’s not like he won’t be back and asked me one time why I cry so much, especially over him. My answer is that every new thing that happens for him is an ending for me.

This week several friends and family members are sending their little ones off to preschool and kindergarten for the first time. There is so much nervousness, and I understand. My son was less than six months from starting full time school when Columbine happened. Up until then, we all thought that school was a safe place for our children; now we had doubts. My son was in first grade on 9/11 as I watched the twin towers fall and knew our lives would never be the same, and they aren’t. I thought about homeschooling my children because of those incidents, but I realized that was fear talking, my fear and my erroneous thoughts that I could somehow protect them from the world. Please understand that I know many people homeschool successfully, and I admire them greatly. This just means that my reasons would have been based in fear, and when I realized that, I knew it would be an unhealthy decision for us.

I remember dropping my oldest off for kindergarten like it was yesterday. He was so very excited, and I was so nervous. His classroom had a door directly to the outside, so the teacher met him at the door and told my son to say goodbye to us. He did and disappeared into the building. We had walked to school, and I made it all the way down the block before I burst into tears. My husband laughed at me and said, “You made it through the hard stuff. Why are you crying now?” I laughed and told him to shut up and give me my moment, and that was all it was, a moment. You see, I didn’t have the words for it back then and just saying that I was sad because my little guy was growing up seemed inadequate. I was excited for him because he was excited and ready for school. I was thrilled for him to blossom like I knew he would as he was challenged to learn more and more. I was amazed at how easily he seemed to manage, a trait I have admired in him over and over as he has grown into a very responsible young man. What I couldn’t grasp back then was how I could be so incredibly proud of him, how I could love him so much and how I could hurt so badly at the same time, but I believe now that it was the fear of change and more specifically the fear of the unknown.

When people move onto a new adventure, we can go along for the ride or we can resist what’s happening. When we can see the benefit for ourselves, it’s easier to let go. When seeing the benefit to us is clouded by what we think we are losing, we suffer. For me, the resistance seems to happen with firsts. I didn’t cry when my second and third children went to preschool or kindergarten for the first time because I knew from the first one that we would all be just fine. The same thing happened with my second book. I felt so much less fear because I knew that whatever happened, I would be fine, and I was. Now that I’m writing my third book, it feels like sending my third child off to school. We do the steps to get ready and we launch; easy peasy. So why did sending my oldest child off to college for the last time set me off? Like when he was in kindergarten, I have no idea what to expect next. He’ll be married by this time next year. He won’t be coming home for breaks and spending time with us like he has before. Our lives will change, and I don’t know if I’ll like the new arrangement. I’m afraid I’ll lose him, and there is the biggie. I’m afraid that the little boy who ran headlong into the preschool room and had to be begged for a hug goodbye, the boy who happily disappeared into the kindergarten classroom, and the boy who couldn’t wait to drive, travel to Europe and go away to college might not come back. I’m afraid that this piece of my heart will fly away and never return, and I have no idea how I would deal with that. It’s a feeling I don’t want to think about, but it’s one that I need to make peace with because when I do, the feeling will subside. Once, when this very brave young man was very small, he was afraid of thunderstorms. I asked him what the worst of the storm could be, and he replied that he could die. We practice a Christian faith, and I asked him what would happen if he died, and he said he would go to Heaven. I then reminded him that as Christians that is the ultimate thing we aspire to, so the worst thing that could happen to him was actually the best thing that could happen to him. He thought about that for a moment, and I could see the stress leaving his body and mind as he relaxed at the thought of going to Heaven. Then he looked at me and said very matter of factly, “but I still don’t want to die.” I laughed and told him I didn’t either but that when we make peace with the worst that can happen, we can move through the fear and he’s been doing that ever since.

Lately, that lesson seems to be coming back to me on a different level. You see, I am very blessed. If you read my blog regularly, you know I also have challenges, but I realized recently that I feel that I have to qualify my blessings with my challenges. It’s like I have this accounting system in my head that needs to balance the good with the bad, so others won’t feel bad about my good. I know I am privileged. I know I am lucky. I am also learning to stop being ashamed of any of that because someone else doesn’t have it. Instead, I intend to use my gifts and my privilege and my luck to make the world a better place in every way that I can because as lucky and privileged as I am, I work hard to make a good life better. I do my best to live with purpose and on purpose. Yes, I understand that not everyone has the ability to do that, but I also understand that many do and choose to blame others rather than take responsibility for their own lives and choices. I know children of World War II survivors whose parents came here with nothing. They taught their families to work hard and save well and now they are very well off financially and people call them lucky and privileged. I know immigrants from Asia that came here with nothing more than a skill to sew or cook and have made a very comfortable life. Many have sponsored others to come here, not expecting repayment, to allow others to live a better life. I know a family who lived in slavery in this country for years until they risked their lives to get free and now live a comfortable life and do what they can to help others. All of them know of others who were not as lucky as they were and are. None of them is ashamed of what they have, but they are grateful, and they inspire me constantly to be a better person. They also remind me that although I may shed a tear or two as my son goes off to college for his final semester, watching him drive away is a privilege, a blessing and a moment to savor. The difference isn’t that he is 22 rather than 3 or 5. The difference is how I choose to look at it, and that is a beautiful thing. I wish you all your very own beautiful things and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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