She Made Broken Look Beautiful

I read a poem several months ago that stayed with me, haunted me actually. I found it when someone I loved passed and I wanted to find a way to immortalize her life with one single social media image. This is not an easy thing to do, at least not for me. I hesitated to post it but I knew she was here somewhere, watching over us and most likely smiling at all the fuss we made. She didn’t like fuss, but I could feel her warmth and hear echos of her sweet southern voice carried on the breeze around me and I knew, this was it.


She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings. ~Ariana Dancu

After pausing a moment from the daily chaos and noise, I had an opportunity to consider how blessed I am to have so many amazing women in my life. And she was certainly one of them.

I’ve felt compelled to tell a bit of her story ever since I read this quote because I admired her so much for the life she led. She was an angel with a broken wing but defied her life circumstances every step of the way.  She had such tenacity and she never really knew it. And something else, something we could all learn from her. She was always grateful. She would point out the bright side of life even when darkness was staring her directly in the eyes and challenging her spirit. I’m convinced her continual sense of gratitude was the key to her happiness.

She was born into a coal mining family in the Appalachians. Married at 15 and a single mother by her early 20’s. She kept herself and her family moving forward despite her circumstances. She went back to school, raised two sons and completed a nursing degree.

She was 78 when she passed and I bet she’s just as feisty, strong-willed and lovely on the other side as she was here on earth. I smile when I think about some of the things she would say in her charming, sweet southern accent, “life is what you make it baby girl, you just have to believe it’ll all work out as it should”. There was an innocence about her even at the end. Although, I’m not sure if it was an innocence or simply the way she chose to see humanity and the world around her. She was accepting of the parts of humanity she didn’t understand and proud of the things she had learned to understand. This was true throughout every step of her life.

She wasn’t famous or wealthy but she was a superstar in my book. Even when she was broken she pressed on; no complaints, simply gratitude for the opportunity to be more than what was expected or what life gave her. She divorced twice and married the love of her life at 75. She never lost hope or let age get in her way of living life to its fullest. Even when the Universe was heavy on her shoulders, she flew as gracefully as anyone I’ve ever known.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we celebrated women all over the globe. It was heart-warming to see social media light up with tributes to my gender. Had she still been with us, she would’ve been right in the middle of it all, even if she didn’t know how to post on Facebook.  So, here’s to you my dearest Mimi, may your example of gratitude, acceptance, kindness and tenacity be evident in all of us who knew you and loved you.


And Take The Rest As It Happens

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
~ Epictetus

No one ever told me how emotionally devastating it is to send your child off to college.  I’ve watched it portrayed on television, in movies and I’ve watched my sister struggle through the emotional circus but I just never expected it to feel like this.   There is this quiet understated connection and bond between a mother and her only child.  I’ve never expressed this to anyone except my husband but I knew when I had my daughter those 18 years ago, she would be my one and only.   We would navigate life together.  And we did.

I love our relationship.  It’s honest, sometimes complicated, and sometimes tumultuous but mostly its loving, full of trust, respect and mutual admiration.   Most who know me will tell you I was a strict momma.  I’d like to think I was a fun mom as well but I have to admit, I had rules.  I believe in guidelines, boundaries, cultivating self-respect, self-motivation and self-confidence.   I was criticized at times for those rules and guidelines but in the end it paid off and I’m sending a confident, motivated, kind young woman into the world.   She will make her own way, create her own success, make her own mistakes but I know she has the inner strength to make it on her own and I will be there when she needs a hug and little support.

I can’t keep her at home for forever but there are days I wish I could.  I will miss how she fills every space she enters with light and warmth (except in the morning because she’s not a morning person).  I will miss her sassy personality, her smile, her laughter but I won’t miss her dirty room.

We are blessed, the two of us, because what seemed like a road we were destined to travel alone became a road traveled with a family.   We’re blended and we’re awesome…two big sisters, one little brother and a very cool step-dad.  God gave Aubrey and I each other and life gave us a whole family.

So, despite the fact that I am not ready to let my little girl go, she’s ready and as we face this new road together, I’m grateful for all we have been given and all that will come.

Image 506ca290b046e4fee68d16913ac0ba31fImage 1

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.

My Finish at the Half-Marathon!

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.