A Sash and a Tiara

An afternoon text from my daughter…

Daughter:  MOM!

Daughter:  MOM!

Me: What? You ok?

Daughter: I just found out I have to cheer on my bday!!

Me: Is that good or bad?

Daughter: OMG MOM!

Me: What?

Daughter: I can’t believe I have a game that night! It’s my bday!

Me: Oh, wow, okay, well we can celebrate on the following night.

Daughter: Yeah, I guess so. But if I have to cheer on my bday I’m requesting a Bday Sash and Tiara!

Me: You go girl!

I can’t believe it took so many text messages to get to the bottom of this exchange but I’m sure any mom reading this can completely relate. I mean, I was in the middle of some intense work meetings and conference calls and then to get the proverbial panic text from my non-dramatic teenage daughter (not) about having to cheer on her birthday, well, you have to love motherhood at that moment, am I right?

Aside from my first inclination to be irritated, I was outrageously amused. When I had a few minutes to really review this text all I could do was smile and giggle at the wholehearted sincerity of her feelings. She was so definite about her value in the world. “I’m going to request a birthday sash and a tiara”, because, you know, if one has to cheer at a game on her birthday she’s going to damn well make sure everyone knows it’s her birthday! I loved this! I was all of a sudden, at the most inconvenient time of day, reading a text from my teenage daughter, who at such a young age, totally realized her value.  Not only as a part of her cheer team, but as a person. She had such self-confidence about how she wanted to feel on her special day.

In the scheme of things, this was a small issue, however, it was huge to her and it should have been. She deserved to celebrate and to let everyone know how excited she was to have made it through another year.

I remember closing my computer and thinking how much she had taught me in this single (although semi-panic ridden) moment.  I. Have. Value. We all have value but as moms, as women, we tend to press on without celebrating our value to ourselves and the world around us. I think it’s simply a part of motherhood, a part of our social norms, we do things without being thanked or noticed because it’s simply what we do. We have an innate need to be sure the ones we love are fed, clothed, cared for, feel loved, celebrated and secure. And yet, we fail to celebrate ourselves and each other.

What if we put on our own sash and tiara’s (figuratively, of course) and encouraged each other to do the same? I wonder, would we all feel more supported? I think so. I challenge each of you to post a #asashandatiara moment on social media and celebrate a fellow mom, and woman. Why? Because it’s time to feel, know and share our value with each other.

 

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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.

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.

No Whining…Please

 

I’ve been wondering this week why I’ve noticed so many books, movies and women trapped in what I’ve decided to call, “the whining mode”?  I’m not sure why it’s bothering me so much but it’s like someone scratching a chalk board or chewing on tin foil…I’m really annoyed by all this seemingly female whining.  I think I have developed a low tolerance because I’ve been there, right smack in the middle of total chaos, where the world seemed to be chewing me up and spitting  me out, coupled with emotional turmoil that was attempting to hold me hostage for forever, all while raising a child on my own.  I was, where a lot of single moms are today; feeling alone, desperate, financially strapped and my future completely on hold and quite frankly out of reach.   I have been at that very place and managed to pull myself back into the world of the living and the productive so, I say this with much love in my heart…stop whining, please! 

“Adulthood is defined by the willingness to accept full responsibility for where you are at in life; no longer blaming others or circumstances.” — Joe Westbrook

A few months ago I discovered an amazing home for single moms who had previously been homeless, sleeping on the streets or in their cars with their children.  You think you have it bad?  These women were some of the unfortunate recipients of the demise of our American economy.  They were the hard-working moms who washed the towels from your luxury hotel room and scrubbed the floors of your class “A” office building.  They lost their jobs and then they lost their homes.  There are over 900 homeless children in Osceola County, Florida alone which is astounding to me.  These women are living in the depths of poverty, lost in an emotionally taxing maze and not complaining, just trying to get through it the best way they possibly can.   The home I visited had a caring staff dedicated to helping these mothers and their children get back on their feet and into new jobs and new homes.  They are provided with what most middle class Americans would consider “the basics”, but to them its gold.  Shelter, food, clothing, safety and someone to help them in their quest to change their lives for the better.  I admire them, these beautiful ladies who have a large cross to bear and are willing to work diligently to change the future for themselves and for their children.  No whining,  just hard work, graciousness, humility and love.  We can learn from these mothers and their dedicated focus to change their circumstances. (www.osceolahome.org)

I usually like to focus on the positive, but today, although I have many glorious friends that I admire for their courage and their fortitude (you know who you are) I’m really just giving a shout out to all of you who are in “victim” mode.  C’mon ladies, reclaim your dignity, pull up those boot straps and save yourselves by learning to take each day at a time and focus on taking positive steps towards rebuilding your life and a healthy productive life for your children.  It’s a tough place to be, I understand that, but at some point we have to move forward.  Take your first step today and then tell me about it.  I’d love to hear from you.

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” —Frances Willard