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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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.

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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.

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!

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

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.