Archive | January, 2016

The Morning That Almost Wasn’t

22 Jan

Yesterday was what I would call a plot twisty day. One of my favorite quotes is that when something goes wrong in your day, you yell “Plot twist!” and move on. Yesterday was full of those moments. While I was running the Swiffer like I do every day to keep up with the dog hair, I found a packet my son was supposed to turn in. He is struggling in that particular class and I had to go to school at some point to pick up some volunteer work, so I left my home much earlier than planned. This rarely bodes well for me on the productivity front. On the way to school, I remembered I only had four eggs. My son has become interested in cooking lately, and the weather predicted here over the weekend is not conducive to leisurely grocery shopping. Eggs, bread and milk supplies are all in jeopardy with the approaching winter storm, although I guess it could be worse. We could be in the Washington, DC area that is predicting up to 30 inches of snow; those of you in the DC area have my sympathy. So, I decided to run to Costco to buy some eggs.

On the way to Costco, I saw a sale. It was one of those pop up sales we have in the US that you find in empty retail locations. Some have Halloween goodies. Some have clothing. Some have home furnishings, and since we need a new floor lamp, I decided to check it out. An hour later, I had purchased $100 worth of clothing for $35. This is a big deal in my world for two reasons. The first is because I rarely shop for clothes for myself, and the second is that I rarely shop for that long. I usually throw my hands in the air and just give up because the clothes don’t look right on my currently larger than I would like shape or they’re too expensive. These fit well and were from those more expensive stores I refuse to shop in, but all of the items I purchased had been marked down to a price range that made me deliriously happy. Now it was time to get the eggs.

If you’ve ever shopped in the US before a big snowstorm, you know that the store will be crowded. If you’re like me and you don’t bring a list, you know things can get out of hand. I only went into the store for one item: eggs. I came out with two packages of eggs, a huge bag of baking soda (because mine could run out in the next week or two), minced onions (because despite the smaller container I purchased just the other day, I might need the giant one soon), dried pasta (because my husband mentioned that he liked the kind we bought from Costco) and a 6 box carton of organic chicken stock (because I was in the process of making chicken soup for my sick nieces and I ran out of homemade broth) . Not the quick trip I expected and another hour burned, but I was finally on my way home. As I was driving, I was thinking about our weekend plans. My husband and I were planning a dinner out because I will be out of town for a few days next week. With the weather, I wondered if it would be better to alter the plans, so we did. We decided to move up our dinner so we wouldn’t have to fight the weather and panicked drivers later. I love to cook, but I love a night off so this was a welcomed plot twist, especially since I had a volunteer commitment that evening. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing my best to write, interspersed with volunteer work, cleaning up the house and trying to get the chicken soup I was working on to taste better. I love making soup and find it bothersome when the flavor falls short, and the flavor was definitely falling short on this batch.

Sometimes when making soup, the best thing you can do is to add a few ingredients, turn off the heat, let the flavor build and heat it up later to see how things are progressing. As we left for dinner, I did that with the soup. I added some spices and salt and pepper and turned off the heat. We had a lovely dinner out, and my husband dropped me off to my volunteer work so I didn’t have to find a parking spot in a very overcrowded parking lot. My job was to sign up new members to one of our marching band fundraisers. It is a way for students to build up funds for our marching band’s trip to Disney World this year. Traditionally, incoming freshmen have not been able to sign up until they have started at the high school which only gives them a couple of months to build up funds. Our goal was to give them more time which, for some, could make the difference between being able to make the trip and having to stay home. Unfortunately, we had no idea the website would be blocked (plot twist yet again)so; I could answer questions but couldn’t sign anyone up. It was not the way I would have chosen to spend the evening, but I got some valuable information and ideas to help new people become more familiar with the program.

After I got home, I flipped on the soup and tasted it when it was warm. It was still bland. Ok, now it was a challenge to see what I needed to add to make this soup come alive. I decided to start with some chicken base that I buy in the natural section of the store. Maybe that would help things, and after it got incorporated, I could shut things down for the night and work on it again in the morning. It had been such an unusual day, I hadn’t given the soup as much thought and care as I normally would. Perhaps I could coax it along tomorrow. We set about our evening routine, rested a bit and got ready for bed. It had been a long day, and we all were tired. It felt good to get to bed fairly early, and I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

At 2:36am I woke up and smelled something. It was a horrible smell, and I knew immediately what it was; the soup. I grabbed my robe and ran downstairs to see the glow of the flame under the pot and the smell was even worse because there was also smoke to go with it. I turned off the stove. My husband had gotten up and joined me and suggested that we just put the pot on the back porch and wait until morning to open it. I agreed, thinking only of what could have happened if I hadn’t smelled that burning soup. In all my years of cooking, I’ve never done anything like this, and I wondered what was different this time. When I said to my husband that I couldn’t believe I had done that, he reminded me that he had shut down the kitchen and didn’t see the flame when he turned off the light. We both realized how close we had been to not waking up the next morning, and amazingly, all either one of us felt was gratitude. Neither one of us blamed the other one or ourselves. My family often makes fun of my extremely sensitive sense of smell and says I have a bionic nose because I can smell milk and tell you days before it will go bad; we’ve kept it to see if I was right and I was. I am offended by the smell of the trash can long before anyone else, and I can almost always smell something right before it begins to burn. I guess there is a delay when I’m sleeping because the veggies in the soup are burnt to a deep black. I’m not sure if the pan will survive, but I am so grateful that my husband, my son and I did. Last night, after we aired out the house a bit, we were lying in bed wide awake, and I burst into tears. Normally they would have been tears of regret and shame that I had “let” this happen. Last night, the tears were tears of gratitude for waking up. They were tears of joy that I would see my husband and children’s faces again. They were tears of humility and yet, the whole incident feels like a grace filled message. It feels like it’s time to put away false fears and drama. It’s time to step fully into my life, and today, that means telling the ladies in the school office how much appreciate what they do for our kids, which I did. It means thanking my son’s counselor for the incredible advocate she has been for my son and for seeing the potential in him, which I’ve done. It means telling someone I’ve worked with for years who has been told she is difficult to work with because she made people follow the rules how much I love working with her, which I have. It also meant holding my son’s and my husband’s faces in my hands before they left this morning and telling them how much I loved them and then texting my other two boys to tell them the same. Last night reminded me that life can change or end in the blink of an eye, and that I have much to do. I pray that I always remember and never need such a reminder again, so for those who love me, know I love you fiercely and sometimes too much but I’d rather love too much than too little. For those who are angry with me or are ignoring me right now, I love you and forgive you and wish you nothing but peace and happiness because we all deserve that and more. For those who are suffering, I am a fixer, and I love being that person. I am the person who will help you find the solutions if you want me to and sometimes when you don’t. If I overstep, you can say so. I’ll back off and appreciate your honesty and still love you besides. Today, I love life more than I ever have and though some might think that’s a bit dramatic after some burnt veggies in the bottom of a pan, the lingering smell that reminds me of what could have been and the memory of the look in my husband’s eyes last night tell me it’s not overly dramatic at all. It was a message and a gift, and it has been heeded. Thank you as always for taking time to read my posts. It means more to me than you know. Thank you for being you and have a great day.
Jamuary 22

Welcome 2016

14 Jan

2016 is not starting out the way I planned, but then, very few years do. I have big plans like I always do, and like always, the Divine plan supersedes mine. My plans include writing and publishing several books; I’m not sure how many will result from the incredible number of ideas I have rolling around in my head, but we’ll see. I want to keep up with, continue to declutter and improve the house. I want to lose a substantial amount of weight, and I want to be at peace and be filled with joy in the process. As I was thinking about all of that at the beginning of the year, I was reminded that one must be willing to receive in a big way to actually receive in a big way. Sounds simple, but is it really?

When I wrote and published my first book, I said if it helped one person, I would consider it a success. I got a letter, one letter, from a young woman who said my book changed her life. It touched my heart deeply, and I felt like I had done exactly what I set out to do. I know that sounds trite, but that’s what happened. I realized so much in my life and in the lives of others goes that way. You get what you are willing to receive. When I was pregnant, like most mothers, I just wanted my babies to be healthy. Two of them were from birth, but the third started life at a huge disadvantage. He was born with a compromised immune system and other issues. He spent 5 weeks in the Neonatal ICU and we made countless trips to doctors’ offices in his first few months of life. All I wanted for him was better health, and we worked hard to help him be as healthy as possible. Today, almost sixteen years later, his specialty doctors call him a rock star because he has been so healthy. He has had two hospital trips in his life related to his medical condition when most have three to four per year. Are we lucky? Maybe, but we were willing to let him be more than the experts said we could expect, and he is amazingly healthy for the most part.

It’s a tricky business to talk to people about this subject of receiving, especially when people are in circumstances that are less than ideal, but I’ve been there, and I’m still there in some areas of my life. It’s a process or growth and spiritual expansion, and for me, it was a matter of overcoming much of what I was taught as a child. As a child I was taught that you deal with the circumstances of life, you don’t create them. That’s God’s job. What if we actually have some control over life? How does that idea make you feel? In the beginning, that felt like blasphemy to me. How dare I think I could tell God what to do? How dare I question? I then heard a spiritual teacher say that we are all responsible for our lives, every bit of it, and I got angry. I wasn’t responsible for having a sick child or a husband with diabetes. I wasn’t responsible for how much or little my husband was paid, or was I? I married by choice, not because anyone coerced me. I chose to have a third child even though the pregnancy was unplanned. I chose to keep my child and refuse additional testing when I knew there might be complications from his possible premature birth. Perhaps most importantly, I chose, in the three minute span from being rushed from the delivery room to the operating room for my son to be born, to promise God I would deal with whatever I needed to if my child would just be born alive. It was gut wrenching and overwhelming to think about. Could it be that my life really was more about the choices I made than the circumstances thrust upon me? This thought changed everything.

Instead of asking why God was doing this to me in any circumstance, I could begin to ask what I was supposed to learn or how I was supposed to grow or what choice would be the best to make for myself, my family or my highest calling. I could stop blaming God or anyone else for my circumstances and get to the business of living my life better. I could take control, not of what happened to me, but of how I lived through it. I could take control, not of how people acted or reacted, but of how I dealt with them. I could stop being a victim and truly become the person I aspired to be, regardless of the circumstances of my life, and life began to make more sense. I began to see everything differently. Instead of a daily battle, life became more of a game. Instead of beating myself up and being angry at the world and God for what I couldn’t do, I began to focus on what I could do, and the most important lesson I learned was that when you truly shift your focus in a positive way, the Universe/God/the Divine will join in and give you the most amazing experiences. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with the good that came my way, almost to the point of embarrassment. I felt like I didn’t deserve the many blessings that came my way, and guess what? When I felt that way, they stopped. I began to notice the challenges. I began to be irritated with life and the people around me again. It was amazing.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through this process is to be grateful, always. I started learning this by keeping a gratitude journal. Every day for 30 days I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. If you really want to make this work, I would suggest that you pick five different things each day without repeating and that you do this exercise at night, right before you go to sleep. If you do it this way, you will find 150 different things to be grateful for in a month, although I suspect you will actually find more. Also, by writing it down at night before you go to sleep, you will go to sleep feeling grateful and you will spend your day looking for things to write in your journal. Continue this for a few months and you will have a habit of being grateful every day and looking for the good in your life rather than the bad.

The next greatest lesson I’ve learned is to eliminate complaining as much as possible. This is something I still work on because it’s so darned easy to complain and blame and be a victim. Years ago I took part in a challenge to stop complaining for 30 days. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I’ll let you know when I make it thirty days consecutively, because I have yet to do it. It is difficult to write that because I want to say I’ve mastered this, but the truth is that I still find myself in complaint mode now and then. The difference now, though, is that it is a moment rather than a lifestyle. The complaints are generally small and quickly become a question of how to deal with something rather than complain about it. It’s about taking action and thinking about how to make my life and the world a better place, and if I don’t feel passionate enough to do something positive about it, I choose to direct my energy elsewhere rather than spin my wheels mentally and emotionally. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a life that they feel is less than ideal. It will stretch you and help you to think in ways you’ve never thought before. If you would like help with getting started, I would recommend checking out http://www.willbowen.com/ to read about the challenge, and get started on your own journey.

So while I choose to work on being more grateful and complaining less, two other questions are also at the forefront of what I am doing right now. The questions I ask each day have changed over the years, but these are the ones I am focused upon right now. The first is: Who do you want to be? I want to be a fun, loving and supportive wife, mother, friend, mentor, and business woman. I want to be a writer, author and speaker who enhances the lives of others and leaves a wake of love and joy behind me. I want to be so successful in my own life that I can teach others to be successful in theirs. It’s a tall order, but one I am thrilled to pursue. The other question is: What do you want? This question is probably one of the most difficult because the spiritual teacher I learned it from clarifies what this question is truly asking. This question is not about how you want others to behave. It is not about how you want the world to change. This question is solely about how you want to be in the world. For example, you want your children to stop fighting. First off, you are focusing on the thing you don’t want, which is your children fighting, and by focusing on that, you give it more attention and essentially more power in your life. What if you thought about your children playing peacefully with one another, or better yet, what if you see yourself being so peaceful that you can feel that peace no matter how your children act? Have you ever thought about the fact that when you tell your children that they are making you angry that you give them enormous power and enormous responsibility? Are your children more responsible for your happiness and peace than you are? I know it feels like it some days, but what a burden we thrust upon our children when we do that. It takes practice, but I promise you that when you take full responsibility for your feelings, words and actions, you will find a peace and a power you never knew existed. You will think about the words and thoughts you put out in the Universe, and you will find yourself growing into a person you can love more than you ever realized. For me, the answer to what I want used to mean setting huge goals that I would ultimately never attain. I know goals work. I know several people who have set enormous goals and achieved them and live extraordinary lives. Huge goals are overwhelming for me so I find that it helps me more to be mindful every day of the direction I want my life to go, and it’s a series of little things that add up to big success. How is that different than setting a goal and going for it? Well, I have a brain that can get hyper focused on something I want to the exclusion of other things so keeping things in daily balance works better for me, and while some would say that type of focus is exactly what you need to be successful, as a wife, mother, Princess of the realm I call home, writer, blogger, author and aspiring speaker, focusing on any of these to the exclusion of others is a recipe for disaster. Add in wanting to be healthier and more fit, and I could drive myself crazy with it all. Instead, little bits of time on each endeavor work so much better because my mind does not get bogged down, overwhelmed or bored. It’s a system that doesn’t work for everyone because I’m surrounded by people who have laser focus and can work on a project for hours. I admire their focus and tenacity but while they’re doing that, I am making sure the laundry gets done, the house gets decluttered, the grocery shopping gets accomplished, my son makes it to and from school and dinner makes it on the table, all while writing and creating blog posts, book proposals, daily writing for pleasure and the occasional radio show. Small steps and small victories keep me motivated much more than spending several hours on a project like cleaning the garage that, once finished, I never want to think about again. Instead, if I work 15-30 minutes over several days or weeks, it never seems overwhelming and I still get to feel a sense of accomplishment.

So many years I’ve said this will be the year that changes everything. This is the year I’ll get it all together and become the person I’m supposed to be, and the next thing I know, the year is gone, and I feel like I’ve failed once again. This year, I still have high hopes like I always do, but I’ve learned to have much more joy in the journey. I’ve learned that “getting there” isn’t the important part. Growing and loving and becoming a better version of myself brings me the greatest joy and makes the world a better place. I’ve learned to ask myself every day what I want, and most days the answer is simple; I want to feel good. I want to be happy. I want to follow my highest path and create the best outcome of the day. That is success for me, and most days I am successful. I know the questions may change. I know my circumstances may change. I know I am blessed beyond measure, but if you are in a position to read this post, I’m guessing you are too. So, welcome 2016! I am looking forward to living you fully and enjoying the journey with you. I hope you’ll join me, and until next time, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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