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 Shalavee.com 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.

An Inadequate Mom

18 Aug

There is nothing like the first day of the school year to make you feel inadequate. I see pictures of everyone’s children as they wait for the bus or car pools or are ready to drive off to their first day, and as much as I love them, they make my heart hurt because I have never been that mom. Not once have I ever been prepared enough to have my boys line up and give me their best smile as they head into a new year. We have had a special breakfast here and there. We’ve occasionally had our lunches pre-packed. We’ve had years when I’ve not been hurrying them out of the house so we can beat the rush of the drop off line, but never have we been so ready that we have taken pictures, and sometimes it makes me feel like an inadequate mom.

The first day of school is also when I realize we didn’t have the summer I hoped for. We didn’t have fun every day. We didn’t engage as much as I would have liked. We didn’t travel together like we love to do, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, my oldest son will finish college after this semester without any college loans and my middle will have finished a year and a half without debt as well. My youngest had his best year so far in school last year, which gives me hope for this year. We’re planning a wedding for my oldest and not only do I love his fiancée, but I also love her family. I also happen to like my other sons’ girlfriends as well, and nothing makes me happier than having them all in my home, laughing and having fun. I wish it would happen more often, but I’ll take what I can get. This week, they all go back to school except my oldest son’s fiancée. She is working full time and is also helping me with my next book about the holidays, which I hope to have published in about 45 days. Will we make it? I don’t know, but I’m giving it my best. I am so proud of these young people, and I feel privileged to be part of their journeys. Do they make me crazy sometimes? Of course they do, but all in all, they are an amazing blessing, and I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them, and maybe that’s why the first day of school is so difficult; I’m going to miss them so much.

The funny part about school starting back up is that I’m so much more productive. When I sat down to write this post at 10am, I had finished my housework for the day, decluttered some paperwork, figured out how to fix my fitbit because it wouldn’t talk to my account, and I had taken a shower. It has been months since I’ve been that productive and part of me loves that. That part of me realizes how good routines can be for me and how much easier it will be to finish the book now that everyone is getting back to their school routine, even if I’ll miss them while they’re gone. That part of me feels like a ninja mom for having my dishwasher unloaded, laundry done and home tidied up before 10am. That part of me feels renewed and ready to tackle the day and all of the unfinished projects, especially the book that will make way for bigger and better things. The other part of me that adores my children and is so very aware of the precious little time I have with them as “mine” is mourning the end of this less than perfect summer and the opportunities we may have missed to be together, to travel and to savor every moment. Some days I think I’m going crazy being so happy and so sad at the same time, but as I talk to other parents, especially moms, I know that so many feel the same. I’ve never wished that my children would stop growing because I lost one that will never grow up and gave birth to one that needs medical intervention to grow. I’ve found joy in every age, although I admit age 3 and ages 9-11 with each of my boys was more than I thought I could handle some days. I love who my boys are, most days, and feel honored to be their mom, but that doesn’t mean that all the days are easy. In fact, some days still take every ounce of maturity I have not to have a complete meltdown, and occasionally I fail. I was on my way there this morning when the fitbit wouldn’t work, we forgot to start the dishwasher last night, I didn’t feel prepared this morning, and I felt like I had fallen short as a mom this summer. As I was putting the load of laundry in the washer this morning, I could feel the downward spiral coming; that spiral that would mean nothing would get done and I would spend the day on the couch feeling upset and depressed and like a failure, and I stopped. I closed my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, and I called on the Divine to help me and then chuckled over what I probably looked like, worshipping at the altar of the washer. I walked upstairs and apologized to my husband and admitted I was feeling inadequate as a mother and a human being. He assured me I wasn’t, and the tide began to turn. I helped my youngest get out the door on time. I silently thanked my husband, who was waiting in the car, for driving our son to school so I didn’t have to. I silently prayed that this would be a great year for my son, for me and the rest of our family, and I dove into the day with much more gratitude. I know this year won’t be perfect, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that while I am amazed that some moms are able to get first day pictures of their kids, some do not. Some moms do other things like make a great breakfast, write letters to their kids or maybe just thank the Divine that they got their kids out the door with clothes and shoes on. Some moms are also teachers, and I cannot imagine what the first day is like for them. I’m betting that even those moms with the great first day pictures feel inadequate some days because none of us is on point every day. So, today I tip my hat to those who do the first day of school well and offer a virtual hug to those who find themselves feeling inadequate. We’re all in this together and doing our best, whatever our best may be. Wishing you all a happy school year, rest of the year or whatever kind of happy you need. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

Living Differently Revisited

11 Aug

When your memory on Facebook gives you the perspective you need to move on with your day, you share it.  http://wp.me/p27MVl-7U

Routines, Jealousy and Minding My Own Business

4 Aug

full tableMonday brought a return to routine, sort of. Band camp started for my youngest, so we’re going to bed earlier, getting up earlier and things are beginning to fall into place. While I’m not a fan of 12 hour days for band camp, I am a fan of the good things that are happening in my home. The house looks better than it has in weeks. My weight seems to be heading in the right direction again, for the most part, and the heart of my home is getting clearer and clearer. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know that the heart of my home is my kitchen table. It is covered with stuff. Some of it is easy to address and some will take more time. There are forms to fill out for school, which I’m finding are causing me more aggravation than I would like to admit. Maybe it’s justified. Maybe I’m a weirdo. Maybe there are people who actually enjoy this activity, but not me. I only have to do this two more times and I will be celebrating when I am finished for life next year.

That is one of the things that I feel like makes me a weirdo. I tend to celebrate endings like this. I know people who cry when their youngest goes to school for the first time. The first time I took my youngest to preschool, they literally had to peel him away from me, and I walked away without a tear. I love that kid more than I can express, but that morning, I was ready to walk away from nine years with a full time child for two and a half hours alone and kid free. I felt the same way when my youngest went to kindergarten but cried when I dropped my oldest off at college. That oldest son will graduate in December, and I have no idea how I will react. I am proud of how hard he has worked in school to get good grades and in jobs, co-ops and internships to help pay his expenses. I know this young man will do well in life, but the fact that he is getting married next year could complicate that emotionally. Life will change for him, for me and for our entire family. I remember this time of life when the world is full of possibilities, and you feel like your time is unlimited. I still believe the world is full of possibilities, but I am much more aware that my time on this earth will have an end, and it changes how I live.

Last month sucked. My youngest had surgery. I put on five pounds, and our dog passed. In the grand scheme of life, these are not huge things. My son’s surgery went fine. I know what to do to reverse the weight gain. Our dog passed peacefully, and it was her time to go, but I let those things throw me off a bit. I seem to have that problem every July, and I finally figured out why. I’ve been too long without routines. Understand, I have a love-hate relationship with routines. If I feel like they are controlling and keep me from living my best life, it will be a struggle. If I feel they are life enhancing, I’ve learned to embrace them. It took me years to come to peace with my routines, but once I did, life got better. When I learned how to infuse some fun into them, the progress got even better still. It’s not just the routines, though. The bigger part of the success is because of minding my own business. Isn’t it interesting how that phrase has developed such a negative tone? Telling someone to mind their own business is nearly akin to telling them to go to hell. Ironically, it’s precisely when we stop minding our own business that we often end up in a hell of our own making.

This week I read a post on social media that made me very jealous. This person was about to accomplish something I desperately want to accomplish. To protect their privacy, I won’t even reveal what the accomplishment was, but let’s just say it brought out the green eyed monster in me. Understand that I didn’t want to take away their accomplishment, I just wanted to have it too, but I’ve made different choices in my life which has led me in a different direction, at least temporarily. Fortunately for me, someone also posted a video by Chelsea Handler about jealousy this week, and it was beautiful. Chelsea isn’t known for her sage eloquence. She is known for her quick and sometimes cutting wit, but this video was fantastic in a different way. She tells a story about another female comedian getting something she wanted and how she felt jealous. She called her sister and confessed her jealousy, and rather than condemning her, Chelsea’s sister said that her jealousy was understandable. She also said, however, that acting upon that jealousy would be wrong, and that, to me, is the power of the video. We all have negative feelings. We get angry and jealous and offended. Unfortunately, we have become a society that thinks when we feel these feelings, it’s ok to lash out at who we think caused them rather than ask why we feel that way in the first place.

Everyone has a go to negative emotion. Some people get sad, which can lead to depression. Some people get angry, which can lead to aggression. Some people get jealous, which can lead to retaliation. Some people get offended, which can lead to isolation. We all do it. Confession? My go to negative emotion is anger. When I’m out of balance, I am quick to anger. My fuse has gotten longer as I’ve gotten older because perspective is a beautiful thing, but it still happens. What my family has come to learn is that my anger is usually short lived. I forgive when someone has made me angry, and I apologize for things I say that might be hurtful. I’ve also worked on not saying things that hurt others. I still do it on occasion, now without intention, but I do what I can to make amends. I’m far from perfect, but we all need things to keep us growing, right? If you have the chance, please take a moment to google Chelsea Handler and jealousy. I hope it helps you as much as it did me.

So, now that I expressed my jealousy, and I did, to my husband, poor man, I am ready to mind my own business again. I spent hours going through and following through on paperwork yesterday, and I made progress. Today I will again spend hours doing the same. I don’t know if I’ll finish today or not, and from the picture, I’m sure some of you wonder what the heck is taking me so long, but it is. Instead of moving the piles, I’m addressing them, and as I do, I feel better and better. I feel like I’m in control of my home again, and I feel like I can move forward with more ease. I begin to see my blessings as I pay bills, make donations and finish the school forms ahead of schedule. I can concentrate on my creative endeavors and let go of the guilt that the piles have caused. I can let go of the jealousy of someone else’s success because I am focused on my own, and I feel freer and am having more fun than I have in a long time, just because I’ve returned to routines. For a girl who used to hate routines, I find great humor in that, but I am also incredibly grateful because I can pay it forward and share it with you. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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