Archive | August, 2013

The Perfect Summer Illusion

16 Aug

The Perfect Summer Illusion.

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The Perfect Summer Illusion

16 Aug

It’s the middle of August, that time when the back-to-school ads and sales are omnipresent and moms everywhere suddenly realize that the perfect summer they had created in their head didn’t happen… again. That illusion of a perfectly clean house, perfectly behaved children, a constant parade of fun activities and perfect weather has failed to materialize for the umpteenth time. It’s a time when so many moms beat themselves up for not being “better”. I know because I’ve had more summers than I care to count that have ended with me thinking I didn’t do enough. My house wasn’t clean enough. My kids didn’t have enough fun. I didn’t plan well enough, and even when I did, things didn’t always go the way I’d hoped. I have some advice for all of the mamas out there who feel like I felt in the past. Stop it! Stop doing this to yourself. Stop setting your expectations so high that you can never be successful. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else who seems like they’ve got it more together than you do. They might, but in my experience, everyone struggles with something, no matter how good they look on the outside.  The ones who look good are just better at hiding it.

 

Recently, my boys and I got to revisit our past. When my boys were much younger, we spent most of our summers hanging out with my sister-in-law and her two oldest grandchildren. We had annual passes to the zoo and the local amusement park, and my sister-in-law had a built-in pool. At least three days per week we would get together for lunch and an activity. Last week, for the first time in years, we met at my sister-in-law’s house for lunch and swimming. It was fun, but it wasn’t the same.

 

Last month we took a vacation to Florida. We spent a few days in Orlando and a few days at the beach. We’ve been to Orlando several times because I have a brother who lives there. We’ve been to Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, Gatlinburg and Washington DC. We’ve been to Yellowstone and St. Louis, Louisville and Clearwater and probably a few more places I can’t think of right now. We’ve seen and done some great things and I’m grateful for all of it, but as I look back I realize there something much more important than where we’ve been. The most important thing about every trip and every summer and every moment is who we’ve been with and who we’ve become on the journey.

 

There were so many summers when the kids were younger that I dreaded the first day of school because I felt like I had failed my boys, but talking with them about it now, I realized that I didn’t fail at all. The fact that we didn’t take trips to Europe or take a cruise didn’t matter to them because it wasn’t the big grand gestures that they remembered in the end. It was the moments of joy. It was dunking Oreo cookies in milk after swimming. It was having a picnic in the van to save money before heading into the amusement park. It was walking around the lake at the local park as a family. It was staying inside on a beautiful, sunny Florida day to do nothing but watch movies as a family. It was being given a budget and a shopping cart to buy food to cook for an entire day so I could have a day off while on vacation.  It was the simple moments of hanging out and just being together they remember most fondly. What a revelation!

 

Last Sunday we were supposed to have a family dinner. Because everyone had other things to do, we had to cancel it. I was disappointed because my oldest son leaves for college on Sunday, my middle son is in band camp and my husband is traveling for work. Our moments together are few and far between, and until I looked very closely at the schedule I thought we lost our last moment together. Luckily for me there is a small window this evening to spend a little time to have some dinner and some conversation. It feels like such a gift and I am so grateful for it. That gratitude is magnified by something I read on Facebook this morning as well. One of my Facebook friends, a young single mom in Europe whom I’ve never met, made me realize how precious every moment is with my boys. You see, she posted that her five-year-old son who has autism did something this morning he’d never done. He made the sign for mommy and gave her a hug.  Reading that status completely changed my day.  It made me realize how truly blessed I am to have boys who hug me regularly.  It really brought to light that the greatest gifts are sometimes the simplest ones.  It made my day of interruptions and lack of progress seem miniscule in the grand scheme of life.  Better still, it reminded me not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on the good and the beautiful in this world.

 

So here I sit in gratitude for my husband’s safe trip back home today, for the hugs I’ve gotten and will get from my children and for the time we will be spending together this evening. Our lives are not perfect but they’re pretty darn good. Our relationships aren’t perfect but they’re pretty darn good too, and as our summer time together comes to a close and I look at the pictures that other people post and the stories that they tell I’ll know that their summers weren’t perfect either but that isn’t the point. The point is that we spent time together with those we love most, that we created memories and that someday will look back on these days and realize how nearly perfect they were. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Ghosts of My Past

10 Aug

Last night my husband and I attended an end of the summer party. I’m a very social person, and I love parties. I love talking to people and catching up, and this party was a perfect opportunity to do that with some people I hadn’t seen in a very long while. My husband on the other hand is not a big fan of parties. He’s the guy you always see sitting in the corner just taking it all in. Fortunately for him, there was a TV with sports on that he could watch and chat with the occasional person who sought out his company. I had no idea when I walked into the party that I was about to reinforce some life lessons and confront some of the” ugly” from my past.

When I was 16 years old one of my grandma’s told me to treasure this time because they would be the best years of my life. I remember thinking at the time, “You mean it gets worse than this?” You see, the teen years were not kind to me. I had acne and nothing seemed to help. I was a very curvy girl at a time when being willow thin was the ideal. I got good grades, but they never seem to be quite good enough, especially for my dad. I was a lover of literature and writing in a house that valued science and math. I also had a boyfriend who reminded me I wasn’t as skinny as I could be and a mom who told me my best “asset” physically was behind me.  That translated into, “I’m not smart enough.  I’m not thin enough.  I’m not good enough at anything.”  I tried really hard to be everything I was supposed to be, and it always felt like I came up short, but at least I had the support of my friends, or so I thought.

When I was a senior in high school, in addition to ordering our yearbooks, which didn’t come until the following fall, we were able to purchase something called a memory book that gave us the opportunity to write notes to one another before we graduated since we wouldn’t be seeing each other in the fall. Most of my friends purchased the book and we traded them in class to sign. At the end of Spanish class one day, someone passed a book back to me, which I assumed was mine, and I opened it up to see who signed it. Inside the front cover, I found a note. It was blank on the outside so again I assumed it was for me. What I read in that note changed my life forever. The note was not to me but about me. It called me names. It said I was fat and ugly and a bitch, and if that weren’t enough, the last part of the note talked about all the things “they” were going to do to me ending with shoving my mother up my a$$. I could not have been more shocked or devastated, especially when I looked at the names at the bottom of the note and saw at least a dozen signatures including my best friends in the world. I felt betrayed, and I felt like my world had fallen to pieces. I looked at the book and realized that it belonged to one of my two best friends, and as that happened, that friend walked up to my desk and saw that I was reading the note. She told me that I shouldn’t have read the note because it wasn’t addressed to me, and in that moment I knew our friendship would never be the same. I handed her book back, took mine from herand walked out of the classroom.

Another one of my best friends, who I always walked to class with, came running after me and asked me what was wrong because I didn’t wait for her. I was so angry and hurt, and I looked at her and said, “Like you don’t know.” She looked at me like I had lost my mind and said she had no idea what I was talking about. I said, “The note.” She asked what note I was talking about, and I told her the one she had signed about shoving my mother up my a$$. She said she didn’t know anything about it, and that she didn’t sign anything. She even went as far as making our other friend tell me that she knew nothing about the note. It was a small relief, but the damage was done.  I left high school feeling like I wasn’t good enough for my parents and not really knowing who my friends were. I felt like there was no one I could trust, and college didn’t help. My sophomore year I roomed with someone I had become very close friends with my freshman year. We talked about everything, and I really liked her. We even made plans for me to visit her over the summer, and that’s when things changed. The night I got to her house, she confessed to me that she had lied about huge portions of her life. I won’t go into details because you just never know who might be reading this, but again, the trust was gone. It was very difficult to live with her that year knowing she lied to me and the rest of our friends. What was worse was keeping her secret out of loyalty and having our college friends choose to be friends with her instead of me because I looked like the bad guy in our roommate relationship.

Because of those incidents and the way I was brought up, you could say I have a pretty big issue with lying and dishonesty, and it’s cost me dearly in the friend department. It’s been interesting too though because people know when they ask me a question they will get an honest answer. I remember being asked once that if I were in a difficult situation, would I tell a polite lie or the impolite truth. Without hesitation I will always choose to tell the impolite truth with as much tact and kindness as I can muster. What I’ve learned over the years is that people don’t always want to hear the truth, but in the end they always appreciate it.

Last night at the party a few friends I haven’t talked to in a while seemed to be avoiding me. I know I can be overly sensitive to those kinds of things because of my past, but I also am pretty good about listening to my intuition, and it just seemed to be that way. In decades past it would’ve bothered me for days. In decades past I would’ve wondered what was wrong with me because they avoided me. In decades past I would’ve felt a bubbling up of all the past pain and betrayal and added a little more to it, but something has changed or rather someone has changed and that someone is me.

It’s taken me a while to get here, but I like who I am. It’s taken me years of listening to positive input, reading positive books and talking through difficult situations with the very few people I do trust to feel as good about myself as I do. I finally realized that the way others act says much more about them than it does about me. I’ve realized that only wounded souls are cruel, and those who lie, generally, are looking to make themselves or their lives appear better than they are. Were some of the people at the party avoiding me last night? Maybe. Does that have anything to do with the kind of person I am? Maybe.  The bigger picture has nothing to do with any of that. The bigger picture is that I forgive everyone in my past for whatever I think they may have done to me. Sometimes I forgive them over and over again because just when I think I’ve put it all behind me, something else sneaks up and I realize I have a little more forgiving to do. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart the forgiving people sets you free. No matter how horrible the trauma, forgiveness allows you to heal. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone the acts that you are forgiving. It just means that you’re ready to let go of the negative emotions that hold you back from becoming your best self and nothing is more beautiful than that.

I’ve recently started to light a candle every morning and say a prayer of forgiveness. I would like to share it with you in the hope that if you have someone to forgive that it can help you too. The prayer goes like this:

From this moment on, I forgive everyone including myself for everything we failed to know or do in the past. I release us all to our highest joy and purpose in life with love and appreciation for lessons learned.

Combining forgiveness with gratitude is really the key to it all. In all of the past situations I originally perceived as negative, I’ve found things to be hugely grateful for. The biggest is that each situation has illustrated very clearly to me the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person that I don’t. I may not be as well liked by others because I always speak my truth, but I like myself better and that’s what matters. I may not have as many friends because I won’t perpetuate a lie, but I live with a clear conscience and a lighter heart because of it. I am learning not to expect others to choose the path I’ve chosen, and I’m also learning not to judge those who have chosen to live differently than I do, but that big subject is a conversation for a different day. For me, today is about releasing on a deeper level the ghosts of high school and college. It’s about blessing those girls for helping me become the person I am today. It’s about being grateful that after I got over the shock and anger of what happened, that I became a better person because of it. It’s about taking the “ugly” of your past and making something incredibly beautiful out of it and being grateful for the opportunity to do that. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Whispers from the Divine

9 Aug

I believe that everyone is born with intuition. I’ve had “gut feelings” since I was a child. When I follow those gut feelings, things tend to go really well in my life. When I ignore those feelings, things tend to go a little wonky almost as if God/The Universe/The Divine is reinforcing how important it is to listen to that small voice that whispers the truth to you always. The ironic thing about intuition is that when you listen to it and follow the path you should, things go well, so you’re only indication that you’re not following your intuition is when things go poorly. That’s usually when you realize that you knew you should have done something differently and you just didn’t listen.

I’ve had several times in my life when I’ve ignored my intuition or talked myself out of something because it didn’t seem logical or normal. My first marriage was like that. Without going into too much detail, we got married because it was the next logical step. We dated off and on for about 10 years. We loved each other, and we got along, so why not get married? I think there were signs along the way that we weren’t meant to last forever, but at 25 and 26 years old, it was the normal and logical thing to do. Legally, the marriage lasted just over three years, but in my gut I knew long before the judge signed the dissolution papers that my marriage was over. I also believe, though, that every situation can have a silver lining, and in the case of my first marriage, I married someone very much like my father, and by living with him, I learned how to deal with my father on an adult level. That knowledge was priceless, and I’ll always be grateful for the lessons I learned.

Another time I decided to ignore my intuition was when my father was in hospice care. I visited my father three days per week when my oldest child was in preschool so my dad could spend some time with my newly born second child. We would also make a trip as a family during the weekend so that my oldest child could visit with his grandpa whom he loved dearly. Because the hospice facility wasn’t in the greatest part of town and because we had to park in a parking garage, we always went during the day. One night, March 31, 1997 to be exact, I had this feeling that we should go visit my dad after having dinner with my mom at my mom and dad’s house. It was after 6 PM and getting dark, so I shook my head, told myself how silly that was because we never went to hospice in the evening. About a half an hour later the phone rang and it was hospice letting us know that my dad had passed. If we had left at the time I thought we should go visit my dad, we would’ve been there for his passing. That was kind of tough to shake off, but I also think everything happens for a reason, so if I wasn’t there for my dad’s passing, there has to be a reason for it whether I figure that out on this earth or not.

Since then, I pay attention to my intuition most of the time. I turned down a job collecting rents because I dreamed, for three nights in a row, that I was shot by one of the tenants. I knew when I told the person who offered me the job why I couldn’t take the job that they would laugh at me and they did, especially when I told them which tenant I had dreamed about. They assured me, that this man would be the last person to ever shoot anyone. Less than six months later, that same man was arrested for domestic abuse. Would something have happened to me if I’d taken the job? I don’t know, but I’m glad I listened.

Unfortunately, I still occasionally dismiss my intuition, and the results of doing that are usually swift and very clear. Last night was a perfect example of what happens when I don’t listen. Last night I had chicken marinating for dinner. I love chicken when it’s grilled or fried, but I’m not a big fan of having it baked. My husband asked me how we were going to cook the chicken, and my intuition very clearly told me we should bake the chicken and perhaps fry it to crisp up the skin at the end. That sounded like a lot of work, and I didn’t want to heat up my kitchen since it was already hot and humid outside, so I ignored my intuition and suggested that we grill the chicken. My next thought had to do with my husband’s grilling skills. You see, my husband is very talented in the kitchen, and very talented with the grill, except when it comes to chicken. Almost every time my husband grills chicken, at least chicken with skin on it, he burns it. I know this. My intuition reminded me of this, and I ignored it.

I have no idea how long the chicken had been cooking when one of my children said, “what’s that smell?” I looked at him and then at my husband and said, “it’s the chicken burning.” What none of us knew until my husband walked on the back porch was that not only was the chicken burning, but the entire grill, which was sitting on our wooden screened in porch, had caught on fire. There was thick smoke and soot in the air, and I was really afraid the house was going to catch on fire. As my husband walked in and out getting water to put the fire out, the smoke came in the house and set off all the smoke alarms. We had to open the windows and use fans to get the smoke out of the house and had to hose down the porch to get the soot off the screens, the ceiling and the floor. My not wanting to turn on the oven and ignoring my intuition resulted in the windows being opened on a nearly 90 degree day with high humidity, a ruined dinner and an unhappy family.

Looking around my house today you would never know that anything happened. The soot is gone. The smell is gone, and the chicken is gone. What remains is the memory of not listening to the small still voice inside, and the near catastrophic results of that. I am so very grateful that the only things damaged were a few chicken thighs and a couple of egos. I’m grateful that we have the financial resources that we could order pizza, and I am most grateful for the reminder to listen and follow my intuition. So today I’ve spent time walking in nature, praying out loud and reconnecting with The Divine. I’ve done yoga, and I’ve meditated. I feel grounded and balanced again. I’ve talked with my husband, and we’ve worked through the bumps and bruises to our egos. We are happy again and a little wiser than we were yesterday. We still don’t agree on whether we need a new grill after yesterday’s episode, but whether we get one or not I can pretty much guarantee that chicken will not be on our grilling menu. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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