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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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!

Mom, Your Child-Like Spirit Was Genius

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity – Aldous Huxley

When I was about nine I remember my mother strapping on roller skates and taking me for a spin on the carport that sat just below our house.  I also remember her taking my sister, brother and I to the top of our motor home,  in the middle of the desert, with canvas and paints in hand so we could paint the sunset.  How cool is that?  At the time, I couldn’t appreciate her child-like enthusiasm for life but now I draw upon it as if it were a part of my very existence.   I love these memories of my mom because she was so unconventional and she didn’t think like a grown-up.  I’m certain her child-like enthusiasm gave me a piece of my inner self that otherwise would not exist.  Whether I knew it or not, spending this kind of play time with her was a huge confidence booster and made me feel secure inside. 

This brings me to one of the core pieces of the H.A.P.P.Y. plan, “Playful Parenting”.  I think most parents naturally play fun games with their kids but this is a subject worth revisiting because we live in a crazy busy, high-stress world with computer games, movies-on-demand, Ipods, Ipads, etc.  and the child who may be struggling with a family related crisis could definitely benefit from a dose of play-time with mom or dad.

Over the weekend I attended a friends baby shower and the group was asked to individually fill out a card with a bit of parenting advice for the new mother.  I spontaneously wrote down an idea for a really fun kitchen game that I used when my daughter was  between the ages of 3-6.   I would spread a large piece of wax paper on my kitchen counter and pour prepared chocolate pudding on the wax paper.  We would then begin drawing the most wonderful pudding art in the world that was spectacular if I do say so myself.  The best part was licking the pudding off our fingers while we were painting!  I was kind of proud of myself for remembering this idea, after all, it’s been quite a few years since my daughter and I spent the afternoon making pudding art.  What I remember most, however, is how much fun we had.  As she became older our playtime changed; there were Barbie’s, American Girls, bike riding, roller blading and now it’s “family game night” or “girls night out” (which is a great excuse for getting dressed up for dinner and a movie).  

Spending time with your child regardless of age, creates security and stability and eventually shows up in their self-confidence and self-esteem.   And as it turns out, it’s not only good for your kids, it’s good for you too.  If you’re in the midst of a family crisis, whether its divorce, financial problems or some other issue, you can bet your child is feeling the stress of the situation.  So dig deep, find your inner child and become a playful parent today…relax, enjoy and give them the most valuable gift you can give – your time.

Be Careful, Contents are Fragile

After a conversation with a friend of mine this week,  I was reminded of how fragile a child can become when managing emotions and life while their parents go through a divorce.  This was one of the subjects that prompted me to even begin working on H.A.P.P.Y.   I found I had come in contact with many other single mom’s concerned about this same issue and quite frankly, we were all muddling through and hoping we were handling things well.   

Most children enter and exit an extremely fragile state while trying to navigate their emotions during divorce.   So our jobs as mothers becomes even more demanding as we find ourselves the key to helping our children overcome this fragile state and move into a more secure and stable emotional place. 

Now that I’ve revisited this subject, I thought I’d send out a bit of mommy wisdom for those of you that are in the same situation I was in a few short years ago.

If you are a single mom reading this and asking yourself, “is my child still in this fragile state and if so, how do I fix it?”   I’m not a family counselor so my first recommendation is to see one.  I believe in getting a good family counselor that you can see on a regular basis or when you feel everything is becoming too much to bear.  A good counselor will guide you through helpful steps specifically for your family needs.   Secondly, there are a few basic things that you can do at home that I found effective with my daughter as we were trying to adjust to divorce.  

I 100% believe in the power of a positive attitude (Go Zig!)  So #1 is as expected:

1.  Keep a positive attitude or as a very good friend of mine always says…”keep your head high” (which is her German version of stay positive)

I feel this should be repeated because a healthy attitude and positive view on life is good medicine.  I don’t want to oversimplify the situation and I don’t expect anyone to glide like a ballerina around the house singing “Zippidy Doo Da” ; however, it’s like baking a cake, if you use quality ingredients and follow the recipe to the best of your ability, you will have created a beautiful cake that is ready for the frosting.  Your child (the cake) will be ready for life (the frosting).

2.  HUG ME time…refer to my earlier post on this subject.

3.  Turn off TV, phones and computer and have dinner together.  Talk, laugh, tell jokes, whatever it takes to focus on them for at least 30 minutes.  And don’t talk to much, let them do most of the talking; listen as much as possible.  Listening to your children tell stories and showing interest in what is important to them will light up their little brains and their hearts.

4.  Go to Church, Synagogue, Mass, Temple, etc.  Take them to a place of serenity, respect and quiet even if it’s just a few times a month.  This is not only a benefit to them, but to you as well.  There’s just something so peaceful, enriching and calming about spending a few moments listening to spiritual instruction and participating in spiritual reverence.  It rejuvenates the soul.

5.  Don’t tear down your Ex in front of your kids. 

Our little guys and gals can only handle so much, so if you fight with your ex or display your anger in front of your children on a regular basis and say things that tear him down, your child will potentially do one of two things; retreat or rebel.  Both are equally serious.   If your situation is dire, go see a family counselor and vent to them, not your children.  I’ve witnessed the damage of a newly single mom who cannot seem to wrap her arms around her situation.  My heart hurts for her because I’ve experienced the same feelings and I understand the frustration but at some point we have to pick ourselves up and move forward for the beautiful little people in our lives.  It’s ultimately our responsibility to be sure their hearts and their minds are healthy and maturing at a normal pace.

One last recommendation is a book that I’ve found to be extremely insightful and helped me to understand my daughters emotional behaviour and needs.  I recommend reading The Five Love Languages of Children and/or the Love Languages of a Teenager by Gary Chapman.  I’ve recommended this book before because it gave me important insight and ultimately helped me as I parented my daughter through divorce.

Keep in mind all situations are different, some more serious than others; however, these five simple steps worked for me and my daughter.  None of us need to reinvent the wheel, so try them on for size and see how they fit.  You may find your home a happier place and your children loving life just a bit more.

For Cecelia

I completely and wholeheartedly love being a mom.   I love everything right down to the complete exhaustion I feel at the end of a very, very long day.  I know this sounds crazy, but I  try to soak up all the moments I have with my child because I want to remember them for as long as I possibly can.  Why, I wonder?  Why is motherhood so fulfilling, so satisfying, so completely wonderful?   Why do we, as women, get to a point where we want to mother something?  Why am I able to push myself as hard as I do and still come home to simply do it all over again and be content with that?  It’s because I’m feeding and tending a beautiful garden of life and I get to be a part of watching this garden of loveliness grow into a beautiful young woman.  And at some point, if I’ve done my job well, she will enter the world and the world will become a better place because she is in it. 

I cherish the thought that every single day I get to teach her, love her, share with her, dream with her and show her how to be the woman I know she can be.  It’s not a simple task; it’s complicated and time-consuming, but the reward is so great that its difficult to put it into words.  There are times when I feel as if I might have failed her or myself, but then, miraculously, she does something that makes me realize I am indeed doing things right and she is listening.

There really isn’t anything else in this world that gives me the same kind of satisfaction as watching my child exceed at life.  I watch her navigate through troublesome teenage dilemmas, learn how to manage her time, pursue her dreams, develop friendships and gain confidence.  It’s not easy allowing her to do things on her own, I guess its normal to want to do things for her but I force myself to let her be and let her discover her true abilities and reach her potential.  Sometimes she interprets this as my lack of interest in her life but I know deep down I’m doing what needs to be done; making her test her wings so that someday she will fly on her own.

I’m writing this mostly because I’ve been reflecting on motherhood quite a bit in the past week.   Someone I love lost a very special mother and my heart is hurting from the inside out.   I sat silently and watched closely, through my tears, as each of her children paid tribute to her; their rock, their center.  One by one, the memories were recalled as they came together and remembered her strength, her love, her care;  they knew, they had each become the people they were today because she was their mother.  She gave the world nine of the most beautiful souls on this earth and she was delighted by each one of them every single day of her life.

So tonight, as I recall her sweet face and the love in her eyes every time one of her children called or came to see her, I’m inspired.  Inspired to be the kind of mother Cecelia was to her children.  The kind of woman who understands the gift she has been given and the responsibility of it all.  The kind of woman who counts her blessings and appreciates the goodness of the children she raised and the lives they chose to lead…because she was their mom.

  

It was as if she was an angel that landed here on earth

Her eyes sparkling with a mischievous light

And her laughter full of mirth

A gentle spirit with a loving firm hand

A wise woman who loved a good man

Who gave her all that he could give

And showed his love in the courageous life he lived

A home full of children and warmth she did bring

Nine smiles and nine faces of happiness ring

Through her love shining in the lives of her nine

Their goodness and success her sweetest wine

An angelic smile and gentle ways

Her love of life, her hope to stay

As strong as she could forever be

To watch it grow, her family tree

She was a mother, first and foremost

Her heart with each one and her voice always close

She will be greatly missed but loved again and again

And all will listen for her wings in the wind.