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When Priorities Collide

29 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

An Inadequate Mom

18 Aug

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

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

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

Living Differently Revisited

11 Aug

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

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.

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