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Joy

The Hunger Years

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The Hunger Years

When I first met you I was in awe of your hunger for nourishment and comfort.  I still recall the countless hours you relished being held and cuddled while beaming your glorious smile of gratitude when you felt content.  Your love warmed my heart.

When you were a toddler, I was amazed by your hunger to entertain a room.  The star of the show everywhere you went, you loved to take in the laughter and praise of all those who were in your presence.  You wanted them to see you for the bright and engaging child you were and succeeded every time. Your sense of self made me smile.

When you started school, I was thrilled with your hunger to learn.  Every project, every opportunity to grow you grasped on to.  Your desire to find the power in knowledge was one I hoped you’d discover.  Your thirst for that power made me proud.

When you began to make real friendships, I was impressed with your hunger to express affection.  Your innate ability to befriend anyone you meet has always been strong.  The way you put out your hand and offer your heart is beautiful and inspiring.  Your gift of friendship is one I pray you always see the value in.

As you grow into yourself I can see the very young woman you are becoming, naturally full of life and passion with a strong desire to please.  Your hunger to live and thrive is one I greatly respect and share.  Yet the way you sustain yours is done with a grace I have yet to achieve.

So giving of yourself and your talents, your ability to love is extraordinary.  Although it is my job and my goal to teach you, I learn more from you than I will ever be able to share.  I would not be who I am without you. You are my heart, my pride, my daughter and I am grateful for every moment I’ve had you in my life.

Happy 11th Birthday to my incredible girl!

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Learning How to Fall in Love With Yourself

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Learning How to Fall in Love With Yourself

I am addicted to salt baths. I realize that DCF could show up at my house now that have stated that and its misunderstood…but I really mean salt baths, not to be confused with bath salts. I mean really, how many disastrous drugs can kids come up with these days?

But I digress, which is why I take so many salt baths. They help me focus, reconnect with myself and always, always provide some sort of epiphany or inspiration while I’m meditatively soaking. And today’s inspiration needs to be shared.

One of the intentions I set for myself for 2014 is to fall deeply in love with myself.  I thought it sounded nice and fairly important, but honestly, I wasn’t even sure what that meant or how to do it. So I asked myself what it means to be in love and I think of all the people and places and things I love in my life.

What does it mean to be in love?  To me, it means to adore and admire the attributes a person or place holds.  Its a feeling of being drawn in to what they have to offer, wanting to spend time in their presence, enjoying their company and how I feel around them.  When I leave someone or somewhere I love, I feel more peaceful and content.  It literally nourishes my soul.

And I find it easy to make a commitment to someone I love. If they need something, I want to help them with whatever it is as a return favor for the joy they bring in my life. I want them to feel joy, happiness and contentment.  I also want to them to feel loved and appreciated, because seriously, what’s better than that? I will take steps and actions to add this to their life and I will do so easily and with a giving heart.  And the bonus, it feels awesome to me.

So, if its so easy to be in love with someone else, why does it seem like such a challenge to fall in love with myself? How is it that I deserve any less than what I give to someone else? Turns out, it doesn’t need to be.

I know exactly how to love another which means I can do the same for myself. I know the steps it takes to build a relationship and the commitment involved. I know how to support and show appreciation and I know just how awesome it feels to get it in return. So why not fall in love with myself and treat myself with the same respect and admiration I do for everyone else?

Welcome to my inner thought process….

We all know and have heard that we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.  We nod in understanding when we hear the words, but the part of us that we put on the back burner says…”yeah, ok, I’ll fit it in…maybe.”

Why don’t we prioritize ourselves the way we do our children, our partners, our jobs?  What makes us so less important than anyone else?  What would you tell your child if you saw them treating or neglecting themselves the way you do yourself??

If we nurture ourselves, we will be able to nurture others more efficiently. If we respect ourselves, we will know exactly what it means to feel respect and be more open to giving it out.  If we embrace our less than pretty side and accept it for what it is, we will be less inclined to judge the less than pretty side of others.

Falling in love with ourselves allows us to fully appreciate the value we bring to the table…to everyone’s table!

And so begins my love affair with myself. I have a date day with me coming up and I’m not even sure what it looks like yet, but I know its going to be filled with things I like to do and be, impressing myself the best ways I know how. And yes, a salt bath will surely be on the agenda….

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20 Reasons to Live Today

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20 Reasons to Live Today

Today would have been my mother’s birthday and this year I feel like celebrating her life as opposed to remembering she left too early.  In fact, I just feel like celebrating life in general!

So in honor of my mother’s life and how awesome life is, I will share with you an activity I just did with one of the fabulous teenagers I work with.

Recently, said fabulous teenager was approaching a planned death date she had selected a year ago as the day she would take her life.  As the date became closer she was apprehensive as to how she would respond to the day.  She has come a long, long way since planning that date, but still it loomed and with it, her concern.

To acknowledge its passing, we decided to celebrate after the date by each coming up with a list of the reasons to live.  We multiplied my favorite number with her favorite number and we had to come up with 60 reasons of why life rocks.  It was a quite a list and it was fun!

We shared our lists with each other a few days ago and I have to say , not only was it a great experience to write the list and focus on all the good, but to share with someone with 23 less years of experience than I do and discover we all have way more in common in our perspectives when it comes to appreciating life than we don’t, was very cool.  I will be doing this same activity with my own kids and can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Without further ado,  I share our favorites from our lists. Can you tell which belongs to who? I even changed up the order. 🙂

Food. Food is awesome. Every flavor teaches us something about what we are drawn to and what to steer away from.

Kids. You can raise another version of yourself and love and care for it.

Clear, starry nights. A reminder that the world is so much bigger than we see.

Laughing. Nothing feels better than a big, belly laugh.

Falling in love. Love is so amazing and a crazy feeling.

Family. You can’t always choose them, but you can choose what role they play in your life.

Quotes. They are something I can relate to.

Friends. Trusting in another is like finding a second version of yourself that doesn’t make you feel crazy when you talk to it.

Be a Role Model. Knowing someone looks up to you.

Hugs. Connecting to people feels good. Unity feels awesome.

Dance Team. They are my family, my support, my girls.

Fall leaves. The reminder that change is inevitable and transition can be beautiful.

High School Reunion. I can show them that THEY WERE WRONG.

Cars. Much faster than a horse and keeps you dry in the rain.

Making someone smile. I feel happy that I made someone feel good.

Rainbows. Nature’s way of saying there is always hope.

Moonlight. The light that beams through darkness without expectation of being turned off.

Fireflies. Because they are magical bugs.

Make someone proud. It is the best feeling in the whole world.

Honesty. People are drawn to honesty and the truth. You speak it and they will listen.

 

What are your reasons to live?

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What Would Jeannie Do?

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What Would Jeannie Do?

Growing up I never imagined myself with children. I saw myself living in a high rise penthouse apartment in New York City using my expert arguing skills working as a lawyer and making tons of money while I waltzed through life with no responsibilities other than myself and whatever whim I had at the moment.  That dream changed when I fell in love for the first time.  I no longer saw my future as alone and independent, but with a companion to keep me company on my journey towards whatever dreams I’d conjure up next.  But still, no children in my future. I didn’t think I had it in me. No mothering instincts to speak of, no draw towards children, no inkling to take on any additional responsibility I didn’t know how to manage.

I remember the ride home from my mother in law’s house the day I invited in the idea of having a baby. I had just met a beautiful premie and held her in my arms gently and wondered what it would be like to hold my own. But I was terrified. I was clueless.  I had no idea how to be a mother.  I didn’t even feel comfortable around babies.  But being who I am, I made up my mind and was pregnant with my baby girl very shortly after that day. I spent my pregnancy listening to advice, reading books and then putting them down when it became overwhelming. I studied the mothers around me and watched what they did as though they carried the secrets of the universe in their interaction with their children. I prayed I’d figure it out. I did not want to screw it up.

I looked for models of what I wanted to be everywhere I went. I took memory shots of experiences I wanted to have and listened for words I wanted to use with my own child. I studied the behaviors of children I worked with and kept a mental journal of characteristics I hoped for in my own child and what I hoped I could steer them from.  I grieved the absence of my own mother and felt the void of experience I’d never learned from her. But I knew, somewhere, I’d find a match for me of who I wanted to learn from.

In retrospect, I couldn’t have been any luckier to have met my teacher.  Not only did she parent exactly the way I thought I’d want to, but she was beautiful, incredibly smart, insanely funny and had a heart like I had never seen. In so many ways, I wanted to be her. I loved the way she talked about her kids, the way she challenged herself regularly and her views on life nearly matched mine perfectly.  Being in her presence was calming, rejuvenating and inspiring. There was never a doubt that she was The One.

I feel so fortunate that her kids are a few years older and I have been able to watch her navigate through the trials of parenting at every stage up through high school graduation so far.  I have seen her dip into doubt and frustration and bounce back with an understanding that she is doing the best she can at every stage and that no “mistake” can ever overshadow the good that is consistent and true for their family.  I have seen her humanness and struggle in deciding what’s “right” and then make decisions she never thought she would. I have seen her build a suit of armor to protect her children and then take away the shield when she thought they could use the reality check of a quick jab, just enough to hurt, but not enough to harm.  And in case I ever needed proof to see if her “tactics” were effective, I have had the luxury of watching her children grow into amazing human beings I feel proud to know and simply like to be around.

I can not count how many times in the past 10 years of my parenting life that I have asked myself “What would Jeannie do?”  And each time, my inner Jeannie gives brilliant advice whether she knows it or not.

It will never stop amazing me how many incredible teachers we have in our lives when we ask for them.  When we step back and look at who influences us, who inspires and helps us develop into who we’ve always wanted to be, there is such a sense of gratitude and awe that accompanies that knowledge.  I can think of nothing better.

I hope to be half the teacher for others that Jeannie has been for me. In this month of thankfulness and gratitude, I give thanks to all my teachers that have helped guide me along the way, with special appreciation for my parenting guru and her parents who influenced her the way she influenced me.

Who is your parenting model who influences you the most…and when is the last time you thanked them?

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Taking Our Life Back

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Taking Our Life Back

It’s time to take back your life.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  You know the life you always talk about? The one with the free time? The one where you see your friends, read a book, take a bath, journal, go for a walk, drink coffee in quiet.  It’s your life I’m talking about…and mine.

We are in this together, this life of ours.  We cry at the same movies, watch the same news reports, empathize with those in pain and laugh at the same jokes.  Maybe our level of acceptable is different, but humor is humor and pain is pain, no matter the degree.

I know it’s time for you to take back your life because it’s time for me to take back mine.  And of course, we’re all connected, so I know you are feeling the strains and aches and pains and heartache and joy and peace.  Maybe we feel them at different times, but we still feel them. All of us…every single one.

But today, you take our life back.  Today you will make a list of what its’ going to take. On that list will include making a date with a friend.  On that list will be drawing up your vision of your dream vacation. On that list will be exactly when you plan the time and day you will sit alone for 10 minutes and drink that coffee, tea, or chocolate milk by yourself in silence and breathe this week.

On that list, you will come up with the ideal job where someone pays you to do what you love.  On that list, you will write the names of all the people you want to thank for making your life special and filled with joy. On that list you will add one dream you can’t let go of and why. And on that list you will tell your significant other just what that dream is…and if your significant other is currently you, tell yourself.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. But today is the day. Its Go time.

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The Little Potato That Could

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The Little Potato That Could

Every year, my friend and colleague and I co facilitate our school’s anti bullying program and each time, I am reminded of why I love working with teenagers and all the goodness that comes with them.

Last night, we held our first training and one of the diversity exercises was to get to know a potato up close and write a story about their life.  They were quite funny and insightful, but one in particular touched my heart…so of course, I have to share.

“Once upon a time, there was a demented potato that no one would buy.  Every day the potato hoped someone would buy him.  One day, a woman was making some potato salad and needed five potatoes. She picked out four, admiring them delightfully. But when she got to the demented potato, she winced in horror. “Hideous.” She shook her head.

The next day, a blind man felt the potatoes and the demented potato thought, “Yes! This is my chance!” However, the blind man shunned the potato for its big holes and bumpy stature.

Finally, a little boy ran up to the potato stand and picked up the demented potato. “This one Mommy!” he said excitedly.

“No honey, that one is a dud,” she replied.

“But Mommy, they all taste the same!” the little boy exclaimed. And with that, the demented potato was on his way home with them for dinner.

 

Through the eyes of a potato and its teenage friends.

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

Remember high school girl drama?  You know, “I heard you were talking about me.”  “No I wasn’t.” “Then why did Betsy say you called me a slut?” “Maybe because Betsy told me you were talking about ME and YOU called ME a slut.”

Okay, there aren’t many Betsy’s in high school anymore, but for real, they still talk like that. It’s BEYOND painful. Be-yond. And they mean it…and Betsy really did tell her she called her a slut, to both parties, I’m sure of it.

Girl drama drives me nuts and yet a I have a bizarre love for teenagers. I find great joy in working with them because they are just hitting the cusp of adulthood. They are still listening even when they are pretending they are not. They want your opinions and approval even though they won’t ask for it, and the best part…I am not their mother, which means I can say whatever I want without fear of them not loving me and causing long term damage to both of us. But honestly, they are just simply kids, trying to figure it out and needing a little bit of help…or A LOT of help along the way.  As they sort out how they feel, what they think they should feel and what they think they shouldn’t, they get sidetracked on where they stand. As parents and adults who care about them, our role is to redirect and help them navigate which way feels best for them. This can be a challenge, because lets be honest, they can be stereotypically stubborn and extremely annoying. Extremely. But work we must, to assist them to the finish line of adulthood, without tearing out every last one of our pre gray hairs.

Listening to teenage girls hash out their differences can be exhausting. Often, I find myself walking away with a tension headache and a realization of the intense fear I have of my own pre teen daughter growing into adolescence.  I may have even said a few silent prayers to the Universe asking that my daughter be spared of raging hormones, latent insecurity and a need to be liked by anyone other than herself.

And like an Irish prayer (because my daughter is Irish and I think I am–even though its only true on St. Patrick’s Day) I pass on my wishes and lessons to the pre teen girl, as she works her way into blooming adolescence…

At the dawn of transition, may you find the truth in these lessons:

May you notice that for every one person you think doesn’t like you, there are 25 more who are so thankful to have you in their life.

May you learn that when your heart feels broken, that feeling of sadness will only be two blinks worth of time in your life span.

May you recognize that everyone has an ounce of pain in their life, if not more. When you think you understand them, ask again, they may only show you what they want you to see.

May you have an understanding that you are NEVER in control of what other people say and do. You can manipulate those who will buy into it, but they still call the shots as to how they will respond.

May you taste the words that are sweet and the words that are bitter as they come out of your mouth, so you know which ones feel better to use.

May you realize that your brain is by far the most attractive thing about you, because when you use it openly, suitors will follow you around and recognize you as the Goddess you are.

May you always know the difference between the story to share and the story to keep to yourself.  In the world of friendship, it is the sacred keeper of the stories that holds the key to real trust.

May you see that relationships are more about how you see yourself than how others see you.  When you see the beauty in yourself, truly see it, it won’t matter who sees it as clearly as you.

May you remember that the love you give out will always be the love you get back, but the way you define love may fluctuate.

May you experience that every ending is simply the beginning of something else to learn.

May you discover that the only limitations in life are the ones you create.

And may you always know that the earth will continue to rotate, the stars will continue to twinkle and the sun will continue to rise each day, whether we choose to see it or not. But when we choose to see it, life is so much more fun.

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The Day the Grass Grew

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The Day the Grass Grew

The week after my husband moved out, I knew the real test would begin and the questions were always the same, “How are you and the kids?” And my answer equally consistent, “We are fine.”

All my fears of being alone and how I would manage as the parent they lived with showed their ugly faces and challenged me head on. I waited for Incompetence to settle in next to me and remind me of my weaknesses.

I looked for Incompetence when I first changed the light bulb to the exterior light fixture that I had been holding off on. Nothing. I expected its presence when I changed the water filter in the basement, but it didn’t show up when I walked away dry. I knew for sure it would make an appearance when I started digging up the overgrown landscaping, but it turns out my kids know how to use a shovel and so do I. Little by little, I picked tasks I shied away from fearing that Incompetence would surely give me the lesson I needed and put me in my place. Working, making “healthy” dinners on the fly, and chauffeuring the kids around to different sporting events daily, while working my ass off trying to figure out the inner workings of my brain, feel my emotions and keep myself together, I knew Incompetence was lurking around the corner.

Six weeks later, it showed up in my back yard after I dug up the last portion of overgrowth, and decided to plant grass. I did not want to plant grass. I was terrified to plant grass. I KNEW that grass would not grow because despite the fact that I was doing it, I was living this life I feared, I was navigating through the sadness and loneliness, I was keeping tabs on my children and their well being, I was working and paying the bills and staring uncertainty in the eye…I still knew the grass would not grow because I did not know what I was doing. Insecurity told me so, fear laughed at the thought of me having a green thumb and even my intelligence doubted my ability to do it even after being given clear instructions and told it was easy.

But thankfully, I’m stubborn, so Incompetence stood by my side and whispered in my ear as I threw down the topsoil, spread the seed, covered it with hay, and walked away. Screw you Incompetence, what do I have to lose?

It rained for the next five days and when I finally made it to the backyard to consider removing the hay, I noticed a blade- or 100! Grass!! Beautiful, healthy looking grass was coming up! Pride came jumping through and knocked any sign of Incompetence right out of the way. Hope walked her pretty little self in and said “I’ve been here all along if you’d notice” and Joy gave me a high five and reminded me I’m always a rock star when I allow myself to see myself as such.

Just like the grass, we don’t need experience to help us grow and flourish and remove any threat of incompetence. Doubt and fear are only residents in our lives when we welcome them in and give them a place to sit.

And even though we know it…we always know it, we can all use  the reminder that a little Hope, a little Pride and a lot of intention to find the Joy will always get us where we need to go. Even at times when our lives feel in constant transition and we are not always nourished, encouraged and cared for by ourselves in the ways we’d like to be, the stability of knowing we are loved by someone…anyone, will keep us growing even when we think we may not.

And that is how I know, without a doubt, that we are are just fine.

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Facing the Fear of Parenting- A Celebration of Mother’s Day

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Facing the Fear of Parenting- A Celebration of Mother’s Day

Just a few days ago I found an old journal I once pretended to use. I’ve never been a good journaler and had about a dozen long, detailed entries over the course of a few years. Two of the entries that stood out were when I was finally considering having children and when I was pregnant with my daughter (which incidentally was the last entry).

I never had an urge to have children right up until I did. Truly, it was out of the blue- I was ready- but I was terrified!

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a person grow inside me.  I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be completely responsible for someone else. I couldn’t imagine loving someone more than my husband and sharing myself to yet another person.

I read my words of fear- and that fear was intense.  But some part of me encouraged myself to face it- after all, everyone said having children was the best thing ever. I felt like I needed to discover why for myself.

I also had to face my fear of how my body would react.  My mother’s first mental breakdown came shortly after I was born. I worried that the hormonal changes would result in the bloom of a looming mental illness that was developing without my knowledge. It didn’t matter that I had no signs or symptoms, I was afraid it would all change.

Fear- lots of it. But I wanted this experience and the only way to live it was to walk through the fear and do it anyway.

Had I not faced that fear of the unknown, of taking on the highest responsibility possible and allowing myself to be open to the deepest love I might ever know, I would never have experienced what came next—even more intense fear!

During pregnancy and after their births came more fear.  The fear of not being able to care for them well, the fear that they might feel pain and I couldn’t ease it for them, the fear that they might get sick, the fear that they could be hurt by someone else and God forbid, that they might grow up one day and leave me!

All this fear came in after I’d discovered that I could not stop myself from loving them. I could not avoid it. I was exposed and none of my normal tactics of defense would come close to protecting me.  I had fallen in love with them without boundary and that put me at high risk of getting hurt as well.  All this risk, all this fear, all because I faced my initial fear of bringing them into my life.

So when I nervously drove my son to the emergency room yesterday because his asthma reaction was more than his inhaler could handle, I again challenged myself to face my fear of lack of control in their lives, and in turn, my life.  Because he is my strong and positive little man, I asked him if he was scared, expecting his normal “No, I’ll be okay” response. Instead, he said, “Yes, I’m scared I’m going to die and I’m scared that I’m too young to die. I’m only 7.  I would think I’d be at least 20.”

I fought my instinct to melt into the fear of his words and unhinge and responded with an assuring, “There’s no way you’re going anywhere, sweetheart, I need you with me….and 20 is not old!”  And I meant it, I need him with me, and 20 is not old.

Instantly, I felt thankful for this fear experience, for not knowing what’s next or how to fix it, but having the opportunity to find out.  I felt thankful for all the pain they’ve created in my life and the panic and the annoyance and the frustration and the exhaustion.  I felt thankful for exposing my heart to them, wide open, so I know how to live despite fear, and love despite risk of loss.

And as I lay next to my son last night, keeping my hand on his chest while he slept to ensure he was breathing okay, I was thankful for the fear that I walked through before his existence that allowed me to feel this fear, more powerful, more risky, and one that led me to a life more whole.  I welcome the fear of loss because with it, comes the realization that I have walked through all the other fears to gain a love so pure and beautiful, I can’t fathom its absence.

So on this Mother’s Day, and many, many more to come (well past when my son is 20), I applaud the bravery of mothers everywhere for facing their fears to bring more fear into their lives and do so without hesitation- all in the promise of continued frustration, annoyance, anxiety and more love and laughter than our hearts are designed to hold.

Cheers to us!  Happy Mother’s Day!

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A Decade of Joy

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A Decade of Joy

There is a reason you were given to me first. I needed a child with patience and faith that her mother would do the right thing for her, even when she wasn’t sure what the right thing was yet.

There is a reason you have so many features of your father. To remind us that although you grew in my body, he played a role just as prominent as mine.

There is a reason obstacles have been created in front of you.  To show you that you could jump over them and know that nothing will ever get in your way.

There is a reason you were given so many words. To show you that you have a voice to ask for what you need, but also to speak for those whose voices are quiet and words are few.

There is a reason you are so sensitive. To feel the pains of the world around you, but to find the strength to rise above them and see the joys that lie ahead.

There is a reason you were given so much intelligence.  To teach your wisdom with clarity and allow us to view the portal into your heart.

There is a reason why you were brought into my life.  I prayed for light to guide the way and you showed up on the doorstep of the darkness.

There is a reason it seems I can’t love you more than I already do.  My heart would burst and flood the streets and envy would strike the land.

There is a reason I am thankful every single day….because I have you to love.

Happy 10th Birthday to my Beautiful Baby Girl!

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