Strained Potential

My Running Partner, Wrigley

I went for a run a few weeks ago, I love to run, and after training for and running in a recent half-marathon, was feeling p-r-e-t-t-y good about my 40 something self.   I started running when I was 14 and although I went through periods where I didn’t run at all, I always came back to it.  Running is a gift to myself.  I feel strong, I feel empowered, I feel beautiful and I feel in control and that makes me happy.

I started on my run with my favorite tunes in my ear, a little Lenny K, a little Uninvited, a little Pitbull and I’m rocking’ the miles away.  I began to feel the burn in my thighs, the heat on my shoulders and the hot wind in my face.  Yes, I’m killing those miles in my big, baggy running shorts, my old gray tank and my lucky Chicago Cubs ball cap.  To complete my glamorous athletic look, I have short hair so if you live in my neighborhood and see what appears to be a young boy with a red face running down the street, it’s probably me.  Nevertheless, I’m still running those miles and mentally patting myself on the back for pushing my body to this level at my age.  My head was high and my spirits even higher.

And then, out of nowhere, in about mile three, with sweat dripping like a water faucet from my forehead and the sound of a horse pulling a plow in a heat wave coming from my upper body; a beautiful 20 something girl with the grace of a Gazelle and the body of a Greek Goddess breezes by me in what resembled a lovely little booty short and sports bra ensemble.  Shit!  Really?  Now?  While I was in my non-glamour power mode?  I believe I then subconsciously lifted my shoulders high and strong, wiped the sweat off my face, took a deep breath and acted as if this was a Sunday afternoon walk.  I ran so hard and fast I thought I might faint.  Miss booty shorts was obviously running my same route so after considering my ever climbing heart rate, I conveniently took a side street detour and doubled back at a slower pace.

I ran another mile and stopped to laugh. I laughed at myself and at how ridiculous I probably looked but inside I felt great.  I’m no longer a svelte 20 something, but I am the 40 something I want to be.  It’s hard work but the benefit overflows into other parts of my life.  I think it makes me a better mother, a better wife and a better professional at my job.  I read a quote recently that in many ways sums this up…

“I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy”, Og Mandino.

Now go find something that will strain your potential ladies and don’t worry about the booty shorts.  Inside you will feel like a sexy 20 year old with the world at your fingertips.  Baggy running shorts and all.

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My Finish at the Half-Marathon!
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Transitioning With Your Teen

Our relationships with our children follow a natural path of growth and transition as they grow older and frankly as we grow older…oh how I miss those days when my daughter would wake up and crawl into bed to snuggle with me. Her petite face pressed against mine and her tiny arm gently draped across me as if to say, “I love my mommy soooo much”. Well the times are a changin’ that’s for sure.

I miss those days but I completely adore the young woman she has become and though I wish for more snuggles and warm hugs, I understand her need for independence. The affection comes in very different ways now; we talk about school, friends, her future aspirations, getting ready for college, cars, boys, etc. I get long hugs (that I cherish) when things aren’t going her way and only a hug will make it better. It’s a hodge podge of emotions and topics in our house but I embrace all of it trying to pack it into the files of my mind so that I can bring them out to remember when she is off on her own.

I think it really hit me this year when Halloween came and left and we had no little ones to walk down the street in their scary array of Halloween garb and bags rustling with loads of cavity causing edibles. I admit my eyes did get a bit misty over it all but its part of the transition and although my little girl is transitioning, so am I.

I’ve decided to embrace this transition because as sad as I am at losing my little girl, I’m thrilled to be gaining a beautiful new friend; I am blessed to be the one to walk beside her and support her as she follows her dreams and becomes the woman she wants to be.

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.

I Love The Person She Has Become

I watch her as she handles life, friends, school and responsibility and I think to myself, “I love the person she has become.” 

As a mother, one of our many worries in life is who our children will grow up to be.  Will they aspire to greatness?  Will they know happiness?  Will they be good people?  Will they be the amazing and successful individuals we think they can be?  These are normal parental questions that we all ask ourselves at one point or another.  And, there are times, let’s just get this out there, that we want to simply close our eyes from the sheer exhaustion of it all and hope for the best…especially when they become adolescents!

My sister, who raised an adolescent before me, told me once, “Relax, she’s an adolescent and adolescent means to simply to be immature…you can’t expect someone in the throes of adolescense to do everything you want them to do, it’s just not going to happen.”   Wise words from someone who did it before me and very good advice because I found myself in a constant state of worry that my child would not make good decisions or display some long-term effects from the stress of divorce and a strained relationship with her father.  I worried that every pull away from me was a signal that something was wrong. 

What I’ve learned is that parents who are engaged in their child’s life will innately know when a pull is just a sign of independence or a sign of a problem.  Our children will absorb our guidance and our love even if they do not express it; they pay more attention to us than they want to admit.  I’ve also learned that my child is who she is, she’s not me and that difference is something that a parent needs to consider.  Our children will most definitely approach life with a different view or tackle an obstacle in a way that is completely foreign to us but that’s okay, because they are who they are and that should be celebrated.    

I love who she’s become and I’m even more excited to watch who she will eventually be.   I am discovering there is a fine line to walk, as a parent, learning to allow our children to be whom they want to be while at the same time guiding them towards their potential.   What fun this is, what beauty unfolds everyday; it’s like watering an exotic plant and waiting to see it in full bloom.

A Bitter Pill

One of life’s most bitter pills to swallow is the realization that perhaps you haven’t quite conquered the pain of your past demons.  Sometimes these pesky guys find a way into your everyday life no matter how hard you have worked to overcome them.   At that moment, your heart splits wide open as your mind beats you up for momentarily losing the battle.   And then a sobering sense of reality falls upon you and allows you to acknowledge that you are only human and recognizing the pain from the past makes you stronger as long as you leave it there. 

Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.  ~Euripides, Alexander

Leaving the past behind and learning to get rid of the clutter the past can sometimes deposit into our brains, is a healthy step to keeping a life full of love, peace and satisfaction.  It is not that any of us, including myself, wish to have these moments clutter our lives and make our hearts more vulnerable and insecure.  Most of us just want to move on and feel the freeing sense of peace that enveloped us when we made the decision to move our lives forward in the first place.

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.  ~James Thurber

It seems the first step to keeping ourselves from having to swallow that bitter pill more than once in a lifetime, is to acknowledge the past for what it was but never allow it to control us, our lives, our hearts or our minds.  Leave it in the past and know that who we are today is a stronger, better version of who we were then.  The second step is to surround ourselves with those who will love us unconditionally; however, will not allow us to fall into the trap of dwelling on the past.  Sometimes “tough love” is the best kind of love for those of us who have worked diligently to leave the hurt behind but find ourselves in a moment of emotional self-destruction.  These individuals, who love us for who we are, provide us with the compassion and honesty that are key to our success.  Sophocles said it beautifully…

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is LOVE.”

If you are struggling with hurt, insecurity or another demon from the past, embrace the NOW and those you love who are in the NOW with you.  Leave behind those things that weigh you down and keep you from living the productive and happy life you were meant to live.  Embrace the beauty of the present and look forward to the joys of the future.

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.