Hard-Core Happy About Life

I watched an awesome video this week of my nephew, Sebastian, who had just learned to ride a bike.  My brother posted it on Facebook which allowed our family to share in the momentous occasion.  I miss my family and I miss my little Sebas; only just six years old and passionate about absolutely everything and I’m not embellishing, this kid is hard-core happy about life! 

What struck me like a big thump on the head (and the heart) was the way in which my brother handled Sebastian’s triumphant success on his bicycle.  You see, Sebastian was doing fantastic and then, as bicycle riders in training often do, had a bit of a nasty spill and hit the ground hard.  You could hear my brother in the background saying “Doing good, doing good….oh, and there he goes, takes a spill and keeps on going!”  And then you hear my brother yell at the top of his vocal chords…”You go Sebas, good job buddy!”  And off my nephew rides, so proud of himself and clearly thrilled that Dad was standing close to cheer him on. 

What I witnessed in the video was a father so deeply engaged in his child’s life that his six-year-old was able to recover from a disappointing fall, dust himself off and regain control of his bike.  No tears, no tantrums, just a face of determination.   Little Sebastian displayed pure confidence and resilience; two qualities found in children who are taught to believe in themselves and who watch their parents’ daily example of confidence and resilience. 

The bike wasn’t going to get the best of Sebastian and you could see it on his face.  At the end of the video, he looked up with a grin that spread from ear to ear.   It was beautiful and not just because it was my completely adorable nephew, but because you could see the future in that face…hard-core happy about life and the beginnings of a really great man.  

Good job little brother.

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Locked Inside the House of Fear

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” — Norman Vincent Peale

There are times in our lives when we reach a crossroad before us and we haven’t a clue how to proceed.  We are faced with a challenge, a difficult decision or a painful life dilemma and it lingers around us begging for answers.  We want out of the house of fear but end up succumbing to the safety net of not having to make a difficult decision because we are  afraid of the unknown, afraid of the obstacle and unsure of the path we should take.  We have all been at this point; however, what separates us from the rest is how we overcome the fear and conquer the obstacle that is keeping us from reaching goals or simply moving life forward.

Fear keeps us from success because it causes deep-rooted insecurity, anxiety and low self-worth.  This unfortunately leads to poor decision-making and/or ignoring the inevitable or on the flip side, ignoring the possible.

I was fortunate to be among a group of women at a professional women’s event recently where one of the speakers said something powerful that resonated deep inside, “If you must make a difficult decision, ask yourself this question, am I making this decision out of fear or out of courage?”  – Dr. Deborah German.  Dr. German’s point being, always make your decision out of courage, even if you fail.   The courageous decision will move your life forward, allow you to unlock the door and exit the house of fear which releases you from the anxiety and insecurity blocking your success.

Many of us find ourselves facing obstacles everyday, some more difficult than others; however, as women, as mothers, as friends we have the power within to fight back, be courageous, be supportive of each other and move our lives forward; leaving behind the house of fear and opening doors to finding success and pursuing wonderful new dreams.

Thank you & You’re Welcome

A few weeks ago, I witnessed how a friend of mine had so deeply instilled a sense of appreciation and gratitude in her children.  I watched and I admired love and graciousness and although the economic times had delivered a severe blow to their family, there were smiles, there were hugs for everyone, there was a sense of well-being despite the tough circumstances.  They displayed appreciation for their parents and the sacrifices they had made to make all of their lives complete…I thought to myself, these are good parents and we could all learn a little something from them.

Raising children who appreciate what they have been given can be a daunting task for parents these days.  Perhaps it is our incessant need to be their friend instead of their parent, perhaps it is a lack of time to invest in instilling gratefulness, perhaps it is easier to cater to their every need rather than say “no” and have to wage a battle of wills.

I’m the first to admit parenting is a complicated job because it requires not only our full-time attention but our emotional and mental strength and let’s face it, there are not too many of us with a lot of spare time in our day.  Whether you are a work-at-home parent or a work-outside-the-home parent, life is fast paced and full of  “gratefulness obstacles”.   Taking the time to teach our children to appreciate not only what they have, but to appreciate us as their parents is imperative to raising a well-balanced child who will eventually become a well-balanced and successful adult.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

 A child who is appreciative typically understands what you’ve sacrificed or given whole-heartedly as a parent (even if they are not willing to admit it).   This also creates respect, which is a key element to appreciation and gratefulness.  There has been enormous debate recently, regarding the Tiger Mom and her views on parenting and although this concept is from a completely different culture and not widely accepted or utilized among the typical American family, it does spark conversation on how we, as parents, can successfully instill responsibility and respect into our children.   I believe there is a middle ground out there that works but it is not without parental effort, dedication and follow through.

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.  ~Henry Clay

Through my parenting years I’ve learned that in general, children do not see past what effects their immediate world, which is a natural response, especially for the challenging teen years.  On the flip side, it’s important to consistently discuss gratefulness and appreciation with our children and provide examples of what it means and how it feels.  Asking them to write a thank you note for a gift, requiring them to say “thank you” every time someone, even a family member, does something nice or helpful, helping someone in need and even parental instruction, advice and rule setting can bring about a more grateful and appreciative child.   They may not see the lesson or the love as the instruction leaves your lips, but it will most certainly be heard and felt and it will provide a basis for gratitude because it shows you care.

I believe in asking our children to work hard for good grades, be responsible with their time, help with chores around the house, be respectful and loving to parents and siblings and in return, mom, dad or both provide the things they need and/or want.  When disrespect, ungrateful expectation and taking parents for granted come into the picture, it’s a red flag to take a step back and evaluate life in your home.  Raising children who appreciate their home and their surroundings, naturally brings with it loving side effects like graciousness, self-respect, self-confidence and overall happier children…that is well worth the effort.

I Have The Power To Change My World

“I have the power to change my world, to change my circumstances, to change myself, to make a difference and I alone have the power within to be happy.”

 

Some years ago, I sat at the top of the stairs in the home I had created and I realized, it was now just a house.  I felt alone and as if my feet were stuck in cement and I could not move myself out of my life drama.  Some years ago, I lost my HAPPY.  I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I tried.  Everything seemed cold, empty and pointless.  

Not too long after that deeply pathetic moment I discovered empowerment.  Mostly because, quite frankly, I could not stand the sad, needy, wisp of a woman I had temporarily become and I discovered that if I could find my HAPPY, I could empower myself to move forward, reach goals and see change.   

So how do you empower yourself to find your HAPPY and change your world you ask?   Hmmm…well, I put a lot of thought into that and tried a few things that worked and a few things that did not work.  However, I’ve narrowed down my recipe with three ingredients to finding your HAPPY and getting your self-empowerment and self-motivation back on track…here we go!

FEED YOUR MIND

We feed our bodies food and water, even vitamins so why not feed our mind, heart and soul?  When I was at my lowest point in life I became a ferocious reader.  I would take myself and my daughter to the library, find a stack of books for her and a stack for me.  I love reading from real books but audio books are good too, especially if you have a long commute each day. I read everything inspirational and instructional that I could find on those dusty shelves.  I drank in knowledge, perspective, instruction and guidance on everything that applied to my life at that moment.  I knew that if I could arm myself with information, I could begin to thaw out my brain and think things through on a different level.  It worked.  It was a satisfying meal for my mind.

FEED YOUR HEART

So, this one was tough because sometimes our hearts are cut and bruised and there’s not a band-aid in the world that stops the bleeding.  However, there’s no better medicine for a hurting heart than to do for others who have less.  YES, you heard me, give of yourself, your time, your expertise, your assistance.  I know what your thinking, “are you kidding me? I’m a mess!  I can’t help anyone!”  Okay, yes, those words crossed my mind a time or two and perhaps even left my lips as I was talking out loud to myself;  however, if you can find somewhere to volunteer and help make someone else’s life better, you will have provided your hurting heart the medicine it needs to recover and at the same time, given valuable and maybe even life changing help to someone in need besides yourself.  I’m not suggesting you spend all of your free time volunteering, but find something that will fit into your life and commit to it.  You will begin to discover that while you are helping the world around you, the cut heals, the bruising goes away, the starvation leaves and life begins to seem more beautiful.   And then…real happiness begins to enter back into your heart.

FEED YOUR SOUL

Feed your soul with something that touches you on a spiritual level. I’m a nature girl and I feel completely at peace outside with the trees, birds and blue sky. For me, long walks or runs in the outdoors takes my soul to a place that restores me on a level like no other. It’s my church. However, it doesn’t matter what works for you, a Catholic church, Jewish Synagogue, Mosque or traditional Christian Sunday School. It’s finding a place where you can quiet your mind and your soul long enough to hear God. I grew up going to a traditional Christian church and I remember what I felt when truly in the presence of this higher being. It still resonates with me. Feeding your soul is as important as feeding your mind and your body. I found this to be paramount to my empowerment and my well-being. 

Finding your happy is a continual process. It eventually leads to the deepest joy imaginable and you will soon realize that it’s a product of understanding the power you have to change your circumstances and thus the world around you. It’s a journey, so don’t sprint, take your time to walk the road, view the beauty, reflect and listen. You will begin to see a change and feel true happiness. 

This One’s for the Single Dad

 

Thank you to the Single Dad who gets it… 

Although he is not listed as the primary caregiver on the divorce papers, he never stops giving all of his heart and all of his soul to care for his children.    

Thank you to the single dad who wholeheartedly participates in his child’s life.  He conducts his share of the “pick up and drop off” at school, volleyball practice and Karate.  He learns to boil water, make an awesome hot dog, iron school uniforms and can’t wait to play wiffle ball in the park, because it means so much to be with his kids.   

A big thanks to the single dad who chooses to drive a car loaded with miles, weathered paint and worn out seats because that means there are no more car payments and it frees up extra cash to buy the airfare, hotel and rental car required to see his children as much as possible.  Thank You to the single dad living miles away who decides to use his personal days and vacation time to make the recital, the school play and a baseball game or two.   Thanks to the single dad who arranges a special “daddy/daughter date night”, only to spend most of it listening to his teenager talk incessantly about things he cannot really comprehend but tries desperately to understand, because he loves her.  Thank you to the single dad who understands that no matter what happened between the mother of his children and himself, his children remain his priority and he chooses to take the “high road” during angry confrontations or unfair accusations, because he knows the young tender hearts of his children could never comprehend the complicated emotions of adulthood.    

 

 Thank you to the single dad for not giving up on himself, his children or the world around him, even when his heart slowly breaks as he views a little league game in the distance, wanting nothing more than to be there with his own child.   Thank You to the single dad who understands how much his presence in his children’s lives contributes to their emotional stability and their happiness.   And although they may not know it now, his children will someday recognize the sacrifices, the unconditional love and the support that he generously and unselfishly gave from his heart.   Thank you to the single dads who have plowed through the negative stereotypes to be a force of strength, love, stability, reason, discipline and courage for their children and the children who will someday be our tomorrow.