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Moving Day and Other Big News

17 Nov

Today is a big day in my little world. Today I am launching a new blog called Where Karen Goes. I am also launching a new book called Happiest Holidays. it isn’t live yet, but I’ll be posting on Where Karen Goes as soon as it is. It’s a lot to take in, and I’ve been overwhelmed more than once, but sometimes when the only thing that keeps you from drowning is swimming, you swim. It feels different this time, though, for both the blog and the book. When I launched my first blog I was terrified because I had no idea if anyone would care to read what I wrote or would like it. Fortunately some people did. The same holds true for the books. The first two felt like a piece of my soul was put on display, and I was petrified that people would hate it, but they didn’t. This time while based on my experience and learning over the past 25 years it is much less personal. I have loved writing all three books and sharing on the blog, but someone else bought the domain name for this blog, so if I am going to be the professional I aspire to be, it’s time to move on, and today’s the day. This will be my last post on this site. All new material will be on the new site that you can follow by clicking here. The site is still under construction, but it’s live and I can post there, so here we go.  It has been my pleasure to share with you, and I hope you’ll move with me. If not, I’ve enjoyed the ride, wish you well and hope we cross paths again sometime. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Day After Election Day

3 Nov

Voting ClipartNext Tuesday is Election Day in the United States. Like many Americans, I am both relieved and worried. Living in Ohio, we are inundated by both candidates, and our phone is ringing hourly to tell me how horrible the candidates are. Every television break has at least one political ad and our mailbox is filled with flyer after flyer. Does anyone think that these efforts really change anything? It doesn’t for me, except to make me dislike the person who is wasting my time and flooding my home with their rhetoric. I know where to go to find out the candidates’ platform. I know who to talk to if I want the liberal or the conservative perspective. I have never been swayed by a piece of paper or phone call, but I have by a friend or family member who is more politically savvy than I am.

In the US, we have the option to vote early or absentee, and for the first time since college I would have opted for that, but I also have a first time voter in my family who wants to come home from his own college experience to vote in person at our polling place; so my husband, son and I will all go vote together. It is a right and a privilege we all take very seriously. Since I have been eligible to vote, I have only missed one day of voting because my husband was out of town, and we always vote together. I didn’t even realize it until I talked to him that night and he asked me how I voted. Unfortunately, the polls were already closed. It was mostly issues that time, but it still felt bad to have missed.

Nearly every Presidential Election year we’ve been told that it is the most important election ever, and maybe they’re right, but maybe that’s just the rhetoric we choose to believe. After all, the President doesn’t make the laws, Congress does. Does the President have influence? Absolutely, but the lawmakers of the land are the Senators and Representatives. Yes, we could debate how horrible each of the candidates is, but that isn’t the point of this post. The point of the post is that someone is going to win Tuesday night and the US will have a new commander in chief in January. Some people will be happy. Some people will be shocked, and some people will be sad and perhaps angry.
The other point is that whoever wins, that person is our president; the president of every American. You may not have voted for or even like him or her, but what if, instead of criticizing and condemning, you chose to pray for them to be wise and decent and to fulfill the office of President of the United States with dignity and grace? What if you prayed for them to surround themselves with wise and decent advisers? Not a person of faith? Send positive energy to that person instead. Send positive vibes to everyone who will support that new President. Not in this country? Pray for us to make the best choice not only for our nation, but for the entire world. Truthfully, many Americans feel we have little to no choice in this election. Many want to ask each party why they couldn’t come up with someone better, but someone who follows politics more closely than I do questioned why any decent person would want to run for President of the United States. The media will attack every word and deed and  spin bad situations in your past to make them look much worse and some outlets that call themselves news will publish rumors as if they are truth. What kind of people would want to subject themselves to that type of onslaught? In addition, you subject your family to that scrutiny as well, so unless they are also squeaky clean and have incredibly thick skins, they are targets for the media trolls too, and that’s not even including social media and the hate that can spew there. We’re one of the most G-rated family I know, and I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to deal with that.

Instead, I hope that whoever becomes President will work to heal the ugliness that has run rampant during this election. I hope that neighbors, friends and families can forgive one another. I hope that as the robo-political calls subside, we can all move forward in a kinder way. If I could, I would vote for that. Since I can’t, I will instead remind you that the book will be published very soon, and the new blog will launch sooner than that. I have no idea where it all will lead, but I plan to have lots of fun along the way. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

I Wish Someone Would Pay Me

27 Oct

i-wish-someone-would-pay-me

Recently one of my favorite bloggers, Shalagh Hogan, wrote a piece about what she wished people would pay her for and I found it fun and fascinating. I replied with the following:

I wish people would pay me to travel.
I wish people would pay me to write books that help people live happier lives.
I wish people would pay me to tell them they are special and wonderful and important in this world.
I wish people would pay me to make them soup or cookies or cupcakes or anything that soothes their soul.
I wish people would pay me to read blogs and books and poetry and look at the art my friends create.
This could go on for a very long while. Thanks for sharing.

Right after reading this post, I also read a passage in Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup that talked about the sweet spot in your life where your talents and abilities meet your passion. I talk about the sweet spot of your home being that place that, once you get it under control, the rest of the house seems to follow. For those who haven’t found it yet, let me assure you it’s there, and when you do find it, it’s like magic.

The thing is I love doing everything I put on that list and that is wonderful. Even more wonderful is that I’m finding ways to get paid to do the things I love and will be unveiling some new, fun things in the very near future. The thing about a fantastic life is getting paid to do the things you would do for free anyway. I’ve written for free for years, so getting paid to write books is a joyful bonus. I’ve finished and uploaded the Happiest Holidays book, so I’m just waiting for the editor to look it over who also happens to be the graphic artist that will be designing the cover. I’m excited and nervous as I’ve been with each of the other books, but I have let go of the negative voice in my head that worries that it’s crap and no one will read it because even if that happens, life will go on.

I was so excited about my first book that I bought dozens of copies to give away, and very few of the spines were even cracked. The second book I spent lots of money to have help getting it to market and the promotion that was supposed to happen on its release date got messed up. I was supposed to have a google hangout that never happened, and I felt like I had failed miserably because the person I worked with is well known for helping her clients become best-selling authors. She believes I was one of those people, but no one thought to get a screen shot of that. So, I could call myself a failure if I choose to, and others have, but none of them have done what I did. The ones who criticize are not the ones who have written books and put themselves out there. They do not understand the work that goes into even a 100 page e-book. They haven’t been through the editing and layout process, not to mention the marketing. That seems to be where it all happens. If you market well, you can sell anything, even a crap book. If you market poorly, you can’t sell a masterpiece. It’s daunting and scary, and the process can bring you to your knees emotionally.

People you think are your supporters laugh behind your back, sometimes loud enough for you to hear. People write things about you that hurt. As if a writer doesn’t ask themselves 1,000 times, “who am I to think I can write a book?” Others seem to delight in asking that very same question, but here’s my take on the whole thing. With the first book, I was sure they were right. I thought I was nuts to write a book about parenting. Who was I to do such a thing when my own children weren’t completely grown? With my second book someone wrote something nasty comparing me with another author who is a wonderful, bestselling author who has well researched topics and degrees behind their name. It hurt, but it made me think about why I write the books I do because you see, I’ve found my sweet spot. I am a storyteller, but not necessarily of the fictional world. I’ve loved biographies since I was a child and read every single one of the ones in my elementary library. When I realized that, I also remembered some family members who had told me that when I was much younger that I could tell a great story. At the time, I thought they might have been teasing me, but I know now that I do tell a good story. Not only do I love telling them, but I also love to share them through the books I write and the blogs that I post. Often they’re my own story because that’s what I know best, and I hope all the things I learn will lighten someone else’s load, but that’s who I am and what I am, and I am liking that person more and more.

So, what do you wish someone would pay you to do? Are you doing it for free? Maybe you love cameras and wish you could get paid to take photos. Maybe you are creative and wish people would pay you for what you create. Maybe you can cook and wish people would pay you for your culinary skills. Guess what? They will if you figure out a way to make it happen. Have I been paid to write, cook and create? Yes, I have. Is it enough to make a living? Not yet, but as I’m learning about the creative industry, I’m finding more and more people who are. It’s exciting and fun and who knows where it will lead. Right now it’s leading me to create a new blog page that will bring several things I love to do under one umbrella. I’m excited about the possibilities, and I’m hoping to share it with you by this time next week. Until then, enjoy what’s left of October, and if you celebrate the day I wish you a Happy Halloween, and even though it’s already sneaking in, prepare yourself for the holiday onslaught to follow. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

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!

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.

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.

May I Have This Dance?

2 Jul

Recently, I attended the wedding of my best friend’s son. I’m not sure where else this might happen, but in our part of the country, there is a moment in most receptions that the DJ or singer for the band asks for all married couples to come to the dance floor for a dance. During the dance, the couples are asked to leave the floor depending upon how long they’ve been married. Of course, the newlyweds are the first to vacate the floor, and then the rest of the couples are called out at various intervals. At this particular wedding, the dance floor was filled with married couples. A few couples left at 5, 10, 15 and 20 years, but when my husband and I left the dance floor when they called for everyone under 25 years to leave, over half of the couples were still left. Several left after 30, 35, 40 and 45 years were called, but there were still four couples left after 50 years. The final couple, who also happened to be the grandparents of the groom, has been married 58 years.

I couldn’t help but think what great role models for marriage this young couple has. Then I thought about all the people in this world who don’t have role models like this. I happen to be one of them. My parents said they loved each other, but they didn’t get along. I was born 10 months after my parents married, and I never remember feeling like they were a happy couple. Yes, they had their happy moments, but I never felt like theirs was a marriage that I wanted to emulate. Unfortunately, I did. My first marriage was very much like my parents’ marriage. We could never quite sync up. I felt abused and like I could never be good enough. It wasn’t until I was told I was no longer attractive at 5 ft. 7 in. and 140 pounds that I realized my marriage was in trouble. A week later, after I had lost seven pounds, my then husband commented how good a friend of mine looked because she looked like she had lost weight. I was devastated. I had done the very thing he’d asked me to do, and he didn’t even notice. That was when I knew my marriage was over, and although it might sound like a small thing, it was the culmination of too many small things over several years, and it was time for me to move on. I knew I would never be good enough no matter what I did. It took some weeks of counseling to work up the courage to leave, but I did it. I tell this story because I married again, and it has been wonderful for 23 years. I know what it is to be in the wrong marriage, and I fault no one for walking away from an unhealthy relationship, but to be at a wedding with that many people still married after all that time seemed extraordinary to me. I don’t know all of their stories, but I do know the stories of the grandparents who were the last ones dancing. I know they are older than they look, which is amazing to me because I know they were children in Eastern Europe during World War II. I know their stories, and although they are not mine to tell, I will share that no child should have to live through what either of them did. The most incredible fact, though, is that they have lived a beautiful life since. They raised three boys. They have traveled, and they still volunteer. They are such an inspiration to me, and I find it difficult to complain about my own life whenever I think of them as children.

In some way, they are the reason I am sitting at the keyboard today because this could be a week of self-pity. This week we found out our son needs surgery. For most it would be no big deal, but this is a person for whom a broken bone or needing stitches or even getting the flu can be life threatening. It adds stress, but life is always filled with choices. I could sit on the couch eating chips and/or ice cream while I think about how unfair life is, or I could do something productive that will help me feel better at the end of the day. I chose the latter. I started with calling in an accident claim because someone hit my son’s car this weekend. The good news is that no one was in the car when it was hit and the person who hit him came to the door to tell me. It is inconvenient, but it will be fairly simple to fix and then we can move on with minimal inconvenience. There is so much I could be doing, like every other person I know. I could work in the yard. I could clean the house. I could do laundry, but instead I am sitting at the keyboard because it helps me think and helps me clear my head.

Lately, I have been facing some of the emotional demons that come with setting new goals. I know some people don’t set them because they don’t want to be disappointed. I know some people find it difficult to get started; some find it difficult to follow through, and some get so scared of both failing and succeeding that they shut down from the overwhelm. I’ve experienced every single one of these, but I’ve learned with each goal, that the journey is always worth it. It can be harrowing some days and blissful on others. I’ve found that when we align with our highest purpose, life seems to open up in ways we never expected. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have challenges, but the challenges don’t derail you as much. You realize that no one became successful without some challenges. Nearly everyone knows about someone who overcame great obstacles to be successful. The list is endless; Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey, Steve Jobs and the list goes on. Now, I don’t aspire to have the kind of fame any of those people have, but I do want to make a significant impact with my life. Parenting is one of the ways I’ve made a contribution, and I truly want to help others make that same type of contribution as well. I also want to keep writing books and teaching courses, so I have to keep growing and writing and learning so that I can help others. It’s scary to keep stepping out of my comfort zone, and some days it’s downright frustrating, but those steps out of the comfort zone are helping me to become the person I aspire to be, although I mess it up frequently.

Yes, I mess up. I let days go by without writing or working on any of the other creative endeavors I’ve started. I get frustrated with myself or my family members, and sometimes I react badly rather than respond like the calm, cool and collected person I aspire to be. Some days the undone housework calls louder than the creativity, and sometimes the events of life do the same. This weekend, though, I realized that I have 100 days until my next book launch. It is a schedule that can change a bit, but there is so much to do between now and then. I’m working with a team of amazing people, but most of the work has to come from me. I recently joined a writer’s accountability group, and I’m excited to learn from them. I belong to a private creativity salon, and I am delighted and inspired by them daily. I have goals and dreams beyond anything I could have dreamed when I was younger, but I also have moments that stop me in my tracks, and I am reminded that this journey we call life is rarely a straight line. It is filled with hills and valleys and twists and turns and just when we think we’ve got it figured out, it feels like someone changes the rules. So what’s a girl to do? Well, today I’m putting one foot in front of the other and choosing to do what will make me feel better at the end of the day. I’m choosing to work my way through a to-do list that will make life better. I also put the kettle on and had a lovely cup of tea. It didn’t fix everything, but some days you just do the best you can. Right now doing my best means taking extra care to eat healthier, walk daily and get adequate sleep so that I can write most days and still keep up with the rest of my life. Our tentative date to launch a book about having an easier holiday season is October 4th. I’ll be starting a Facebook group for that soon with a working title of Happiest Holidays with a countdown and lots of extras along the way. Next Thursday, I’m due to debut my online course called Mom Mastery. It’s a four week course designed to help moms create a more peaceful and stress free life, so there’s much to do, and I’m loving life as much as possible while I am helping others to do the same. It’s a life I love and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I hope you’ll come along and join in the fun wherever it suits you, and if none of it does, I hope you’ll continue to hang out with me here. If you know my life, you know it’s rarely boring, and my motto is almost always, the more the merrier. For those in the US, have a spectacular holiday weekend. For those in other parts of the world, I still wish you a wonderful weekend. It just won’t be quite as long as ours. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Bigger than the Book Journey

9 Jun

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, partly because of a book launch and partly because of a crisis of faith; not the capital F type of Faith because as low as I’ve been in my life, that one seems to stay intact. Rather it is the little F of faith that has been shaken – faith in humanity and the goodness of others. For those who follow the blog or my Better Living Daily Facebook page, you know about the book launch last month. I am very proud of Everyday Heroes of Motherhood. For those who haven’t read it, it is a series of letters to those who have been a great influence on my own motherhood journey. It isn’t scientific or filled with facts and figures. It is a work of the heart to encourage mothers of every kind, including those who have not given birth, to understand that people do watch and appreciate moms who do their best, regardless of their circumstances. It was a labor of love to write the book. It was a series of huge leaps out of my comfort zone to bring the book to market, and it has been an incredible life experience to see the best and worst in others as they have reacted to the book itself.

Most of the response has been incredibly positive. I’ve been contacted by people I wrote letters to in the past who remember what I wrote and how it helped them in a difficult time. It’s nice to know that the letters fulfilled their intended purposes. Most of the women I included in the book were shocked to think I wanted to include them because they were doing what they do, not to be noticed, but just to mother the best they can, and that was what I found inspiring. Each letter is truly about how my life changed because of these people, and I can only hope that they will inspire others as much as they have inspired me. One person even told me that she is inspired to write a book about her unique mothering situation because of my book. I know what her situation is, and I am sure that she will be able to help so many people by writing her book, and that brings me to today’s blog.

Not all of the feedback has been positive. Some of it has been through innuendo and not so nice comments and some of them have hurt. I’ve hashed them over with my husband, who reminds me that none of the people who have been critical have actually written a book, much less published one. I’ve talked things over with a close friend who reminds me that if they criticize me and/or the book, they miss the point of the book entirely. And I’ve turned the most hurtful comments over to the Divine, who in subtle ways reminds me that those comments are much more about the person who espouses them than it ever is about me. The only reason for me to put any stock in them is if I agree with them, which in most cases, I don’t, but if I do, I can thank the person for showing me where I need to grow.

You see, I’m well aware that this is not the next great American novel. I never set out for it to be. I am aware that it is not some great scholarly work filled with charts and studies. I wasn’t reaching for that either. What this book attempts to be is a way to encourage moms in every life situation. I’ve been a mom for over two decades, and I dedicated my life to being the best mom I can. I’ve read books and listened to programs and taken classes along the way. I’ve spent my life improving myself to improve my parenting, and although I’m far from perfect, I have given my very best to my husband and children as I know so many others have. The amazing part of life is that my best mothering is so very different from what others’ best mothering looks like. It’s why I have loved writing the book and why I love working with moms who are struggling because I know we can always get better, whatever that means to each of us.

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned; that life is a choice. I read a challenge years ago to replace the phrases “have to”, “need to”, “ought to”, “should” or anything like that with “choose to” or “could choose to”. Imagine choosing to clean, do laundry, change the baby’s diaper, pay bills, go to work, or any other number of things we normally complain about. It was one of the most eye opening life exercises I’ve ever gone through. It changed my life because I realized nearly everything is a choice. We might not like the choices we are faced with, but everything is a choice. This morning I woke up to dog barf and dog poop in my house. Our dog is old, and she is sick. She has an inflamed gall bladder, but the removal of the gall bladder is costly and there are no guarantees that it will help her, and even if it does help her, there is no guarantee that is the only problem. She is twelve years old and coming to the end of her life. Truly, I have been cleaning up dog barf for most mornings during the past four months; thank goodness for piddle pads. Most days she hits the pad when she gets sick. We’re not so lucky with the poop, but luckily we have hardwood floors, so I’m not scrubbing carpets, and it is not a daily occurrence. I could leave the mess for one of my boys to clean. I could complain about it, which I do from time to time, but most days I choose to clean it up and just go on with life, knowing that the dog’s time to leave us is coming soon and being upset with her doesn’t help anyone.

I’ve tried to use this same lesson with the few negative moments with my book journey. I could choose to grouse and be upset and feel horrible about myself, which I have done on occasion. I am human after all. But the pity party is usually a short one because writing the two books that I have published has been an incredible journey of personal growth that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It is fueling the next two books and perhaps a course that will help others as well, and this time I get to work with some of my favorite people in the world to make it happen. At one point in this process I told one of my mentors that I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even see it anymore. Her response? Good, that’s where growth happens, and I have certainly done some of that. It hasn’t been easy because putting your words out there for a writer is like displaying a piece of your soul. I’ve done it twice now and the process was still difficult the second time. I faced so many of my personal demons, not about the content because I knew the stories were amazing, but about my ability to tell them in a way that would touch others as much as they touched me. I feel that with every blog post on some level as well because I want this process to be helpful for everyone who reads the blog or what’s the point? So, I hope this blog post has helped you in some way. This journey has certainly helped me define who I want to be and how I want to be in this world, and I am grateful that it has helped me be a more caring, loving and encouraging person. It is a wonderful way to live, and I am blessed to be on the journey with all who choose to come along. I am hoping to be more present with the blog now that the big push is over, but regardless, I wish you all a joy filled and peaceful journey each day. I also hope that each of you will find a dream that you are willing to pursue, one that stretches you and helps you become a better person because all those I know who have pursued a dream, especially those who have achieved those dreams, are the most supportive people of others dreams that I have ever met. I believe we need more of that in the world, and I am finding more and more people who agree with me on that, which restores my faith in humanity. Dream big, and if you need a cheerleader, coach or friend who will believe in you, you can find me here, on my Better Living Daily Facebook page or connect with me on LinkedIn as Karen Bemmes. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Letting Go of Expectations

4 May

13139360_1215188035166506_7683767955186777276_n[1]If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know how I love a good spiritual kick in the pants. Today I got it over and over, and I finally surrender to the message. The first thing I read this morning was a beautiful blog post by my friend Shalagh who talked about things being personal, until we took ourselves out of the equation. Kick number one and you can read her post by clicking here: http://shalavee.com/its-all-personal-until-it-isnt/. Then I read a blog post about how we distract ourselves and talk ourselves out of dreams, but there was a bigger message for me. I got a huge aha moment when I realized I was putting enormous amounts of pressure on myself to re-coup all of the money that I invested into learning how to launch this book and create my upcoming course in a single day. I’ve used that money over the course of a couple of months, and as I told one of my coaches, I am so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore. I realized this morning that I need to take a breath and let the Divine do its thing while I do mine, and it was this post that helped me get there: http://bemorewithless.com/dream/ . It’s time for me to grow and be willing to talk about the information I am sharing. It’s not about me. It’s about the information. In this case, it’s about moms and mothering and honoring those who do it well, including the ones you might never think of. Kick number two and it came with a bonus kick that the Divine’s timing is perfect, even if mine isn’t. Duh!

So the next few days, I will be dropping by and/or stopping to thank several people in my life. I am hoping to take a few pictures and share their stories but even if I don’t, I want them to feel appreciated. These are women who may or may not mother their own children, but they mother others. I’ll be at our local Children’s hospital today to thank the check in staff, some I’ve known for over 15 years, and to thank some of the nurses and clerical staff. Each has played a role in helping my son stay healthy and that’s why I wrote Everyday Heroes of Motherhood, why I am creating the course Mom Mastery and am co-hosting #LoveLetterstoMoms day on Friday. Today I’ll get a jump on it, but I hope you’ll find someone or maybe even several women to thank for all they do over the next few days, especially those who may not be recognized otherwise. Post it on social media and let’s start an avalanche of appreciation. Also, because of these two posts I’m asking you to jump on Amazon on Friday and purchase Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and hopefully you’ll be even more inspired when you finish reading it. Thanks as always for taking the time to read what I share. Thank you for being you and have a great day.

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