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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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.

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.

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.

Spread the HAPPY and Don’t Wear White After Labor Day

 At my house we give these awesome little “Happy’s” to each other.  Not all the time, just now and then and I think it’s such a cool idea (which I cannot take credit) that I wanted to share it with all of you today.  I really love this…here is how it started. 

During my first job out of college I met one of my dearest friends, Susie.  She was (and still is) a lovely, gracious and beautiful Southern Belle with perfect skin and hair (of course).  I, on the other hand, with a lot of the SoCal girl still in my blood and a love for all things a bit left of center, flip-flops and my Jeep, didn’t exactly scream “Debutante”,  but hey, I managed.  Anyway, I think she was the first person to embrace my somewhat offbeat personality and I think I might have been the first to admire her complete sense of style and total togetherness.  It was then, and is still today a relationship that I treasure.  Not only did I learn more than I ever thought I could learn about the appropriate wardrobe for good Southern girls (like never wearing white or patent leather after labor day (which was never and is still probably not a rule in California), she taught me a little something about spreading happiness to the ones you love.

     

A “Happy” is a little surprise gift you give to a friend, a loved one, a spouse or a child.  It’s a simple gift that says “you’re important to me”.   A “Happy” doesn’t have to be expensive or a one-of-a-kind treasure, just personal; no breaking the bank on this one.  One of my first “Happy’s” from Susie through the years was a necklace.  It was not just any necklace because it had a little glass bird charm on the chain and she knew I LOVED birds.  How thoughtful, how very cool it was to have her sunshiny self drop by my house with a “Happy” for her friend.  It meant so much to me and made me feel so good that she thought of me that day and she didn’t even realize it had been a difficult week.   This was the little ray of happiness that gave me a smile and made me feel like things were looking up.   

I adopted this creative gift giving ritual and use it with my family.  Although sometimes a “Happy” in our house is simply bringing home their favorite ice cream and movie, It’s also finding my daughter a fun set of earrings and wrapping them up in a colorful bag and placing it on her bed so she will find it after school or surprising my nieces with cool and colorful flip-flops.  It’s a small gesture that delivers a big dose of wonderful. 

So here’s a challenge; think about a little something special you can bring home tonight to your kids, the hubby, significant other or a fantastic neighbor and start spreading the “Happy” beginning today!