Check Your Ego at the Door

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The Ultimate Example of Giving

So much grief in our human experience could be avoided by doing one simple thing: putting ourselves in someone else’s point of view. If we remove our ego (our sense of self), set aside all of our self-ish tendencies and think for one minute, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of this action?” Would we live a little differently?

Would we be more thoughtful? Would we try harder to go the extra step because sometimes it’s so pleasantly unexpected when someone does that for us? Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge each other, to assume that everyone is out to get us. Maybe we’d do things with greater love, everything from donating our time or money to those less fortunate to bagging our own groceries when we see the cashier is slammed because she doesn’t have a bagger.

The bigger point to be made here is sometimes, it isn’t all about us. Strike that. Sometimes the benefit isn’t meant for us. There is always something to be earned, even by letting go of our pride and realizing that it is more important to find growth in not always getting things exactly our way.

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is guilty of this. Every day. I know I am. A part of me expected Scott to notice that I shoveled the driveway today even though my back has been hurting this week. I expect my kids to see how hard I work to create an ideal childhood for them each day by doing little things like writing hearts on their snack bags or setting their shoes out by their backpacks in the morning. I know they won’t think of it now, but at some point, a part of me wants to be recognized for all the things I did “right.” The reality check is, that day may never come.

The secret to happiness is that the only TRUE JOY in this world is to give everything we possibly can and expect nothing in return besides the joy of giving. We cannot do anything in life and expect to be acknowledged by other people. That’s not to say we never will, but the odds are not usually in our favor. There is one who sees it though. And those acts of kindness, understanding and consideration do have a ripple effect. Even if you’re not a big believer in divinity, those times when we do the right things even when no one is watching are what make miracles happen.

This is the magic we possess, realizing that our human experience isn’t about “ME.” It’s about all of us. So I am challenging myself to start living more consciously, to keep my eye on the horizon of humanity rather than my own day-to-day struggles. I know it won’t be easy because I have a temper and I often think something is owed to me, but I am going to try to look at it all differently. And I ask you, what if you found joy simply in creating happiness for those around you? Would you do more and expect less? I’m certain that “heaven on earth” concept will be much more of a reality than we feel it is now.

I’m Trying for Cool…For Now.

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An open letter to my children, who still at this point see me as sort of cool:

Dear Noah, Luke and Grace,

I am trying for “cool” every day. I want to be the coolest mom you know, but with that, I also have to be the “mom” part of that which sometimes means not being so cool in your mind.

Luke, today you had show and tell and the letter of the week in your classroom this week is “H” (I hope). The obvious choice was “helicopter,” wasn’t it? But who likes to go for predictable? Now, I had the added challenge of you and your brother running late today because in another attempt of “coolness,” I let you sleep in an extra fifteen minutes. So I literally had a minute and a half to come up with an “H” object to meet your approval (the plot thickens).

I scanned the play room, and thank God I had given in to a garage sale purchase back over the summer; for there in an obscure corner of the room, heaped together with a bunch of little toys that never got put away, was a McDonald’s Han Solo toy. I hesitated though, remembering a conversation we had last night. You informed me that you were kind of over Star Wars. You said you liked “Sonic” now. I think my response was “What?! Sonic?! Like the hedgehog that Steve Urkel did the voice for?”  You had just stared at me blankly and all I could think was, “You are Luke, for crying out loud! Just like your hero, Luke Skywalker! You have loved Star Wars since you were in three-year-old-preschool and we wouldn’t even let you watch it yet!” I was taken aback to when Noah told us he no longer liked Thomas the Train but preferred Ninja Turtles. I won’t lie, boys, I have been a little crushed each time you’ve made these announcements. Just another thumbtack on the timeline string to let me know we’re moving along whether I’m ready or not.

But anyway, back to the show-and-tell debacle. I snatched it up and carried it apprehensively to the kitchen. Would my suggestion be met with enthusiasm or disdain? I was justifiably nervous. I knew the object wasn’t a hedgehog, like Sonic, but I hoped it would be acceptable since we’re only a day or so past your Star Wars obsession.

I tried to play it up a bit, as if I’d found something only slightly less exciting than the bones of a real Wookie. “Luke! What about…” (dramatic pause then whip the toy out from behind my back and wait for half a breath to whisper-yell) “HAN SOLO.”

A moment to process the discovery and then your merciful reaction: your eyes light up and you say, “YES! That’s perfect.”

Dad even chimes in, “Good one, Mom!”

Phew! Cool points before 7:00 a.m. That is the beginning of a great day. And maybe I have a little more time to bask in the joy of your Star Wars days. A kiss on your forehead, one for Noah, and a smooch on the lips for Daddy and you guys are out the door for school.

I know days are coming in which I will be a lot less popular around here. “Mom! Everyone has a cell phone! Why can’t I?”

“Mom, you are so lame. Everyone goes on spring break without their parents. You’re so paranoid!”

“Mom, I was only fifteen minutes past curfew! You are overreacting.”

How do I know these things will happen? Because I was young once too. And I now understand that all these “lame” decisions my parents made were not to thumb me down, but were made out of love. And someday when you’re holding your first baby at three in the morning, in that mental fog between love and delirium, you will swear to yourself, to God and to that baby that you will never ever let anything bad happen to him or her. And you will know how mom went from being the most wicked awesome mom in the world to being the most terribly mean and strict beast of a mother you’ve ever met.

I will be incredibly uncool if that’s what it takes to keep you from getting hurt. But I will also [reluctantly] let go of Star Wars and embrace Sonic if that’s what it takes to make you happy.

I love you, my angels,

Mommy

Halloween

My sweet Obi Wan, sassy R2D2 and the ever-lovable Darth Vader

 

Surprise! You’re Invited!

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When I walked into our den to write this, an ornament spontaneously fell off our Christmas tree with a solid thud to the floor causing me to jump a mile. I thought it was so fitting for what I intended to write this evening.

Not long ago, I was at an event with a friend of mine and there was a guest speaker there who shared a profound concept to consider. What if we woke up each day not dreading the events that would come, but looked at each day as a surprise party? Because, as we know, the most ridiculous thing any of us can do is to try to plan our lives. Somehow, something always manages to go awry. There is always some incident that will come our way and cause us to have to change our course slightly.

Christmas Eve, Scott and the kids and I loaded into our minivan to go to church for Christmas mass. We were actually on time, for once! We had managed to eat an early dinner and had avoided any spills requiring outfit changes. Everyone was in a cooperative mood. It was all too perfect, of course. That’s why when Scott started the car and the check engine light came on and started flashing, I had to laugh. Once again, God, or the universe, or whatever it is we believe in, is always quick to remind us, we are not the ones in control of our lives.

The kids are always a surprise party. No matter where we go or what we do, one of them is ready to shake things up and make life really interesting.

Gracie has begun this “charming” habit of identifying people by their color. Sometimes it’s the color of shirt that they are wearing or sometimes by the color of their hair or skin.

We recently had new refrigerator delivered to our house. The delivery men came right at lunch time and I was in the kitchen making a grilled cheese when the doorbell rang. Gracie raced to the door to peer through the window. I couldn’t leave the stove immediately because it was seconds away from burning. Then my sweet two and a half year old shouted to me from the front hall, “Mom! The brown guys are here!” I cringed and prayed that they had kids and know how good children are at creating awkward situations as I hurried to the door to see the delivery men who did in fact have brown skin standing on the porch trying to conceal laughter.

Always quick on my feet, I resorted to my inner Jewish grandmother and said, “Hi, thank you for coming. Are you guys hungry?”

One of the merciful men said, “You know what? I am. What are you cooking? It smells really good.”

I was caught completely off guard by the response but went with it gratefully. “I was just making a grilled cheese sandwich. Do you want one?”

“Would you mind?” he asked.

“Oh, of course not!” I said. “Give me a second.” I went to the kitchen while they pulled the enormous refrigerator into the house and I whipped up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches.

I laughed about it to myself the rest of the afternoon. Kids are the ultimate equalizers, aren’t they? They make us take a hard look at ourselves, at our expectations and prove over and over, it’s not up to us, how this day is going to go. The only thing we can control is how we handle it.

Life isn’t about changing the hearts of others. It’s about changing our own so that we find gratitude in every moment, even the tough stuff, realizing it brings us closer to understanding who we are meant to be.

As I stumble awkwardly into 2016, my only intention is to act with as much grace as I can. I am looking forward to another 366 surprise parties (It’s a leap year!). Knowing whether I am ready or not, every day will be filled with personal lessons. Instead of dreading that alarm clock each morning, I am going to do my best to view it as a wake up call to unrevealed opportunities.

Welcome to the party, everyone! Have a blessed and happy New Year!

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Luke drew this picture earlier in the school year. When I asked him (nervously) how he felt when he drew the picture, he said he was sad. But then he pointed to the two green figures over his shoulders and explained the one on the right was his guardian angel and the one on the left was Jesus. Maybe something good to keep in mind for all of us on days that we feel like this.

Birthday Letter to Noah

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Our printer hasn’t worked in over a year. As a writer, this makes me crazy. I am always worried about losing my work if my computer were to take a dive. I have things backed up to something called Google Drive, I think…I’m not very tech savvy. But it looks like something is saving there when I am done working on a piece. Anyway, there are three folders that I think I would cry for weeks if I lost them. They are birthday letters I’ve written to Noah, Luke and Grace. Each time one of their birthdays are approaching, I really reflect on them individually and write something for them. My plan is that when they leave home to join the big world, I will give them each their letters. It will probably have to be after college, too because I don’t think we ever fully appreciate our parents until we are paying a mortgage, experiencing the joys of marriage and/or holding our first child.

Each letter I write to the kids, I try to share some small insight with them so they’ll understand not only what they were like, but what their life has meant to me up to that point. Someday, they might want to understand “why Mom seemed so frustrated all the time” or “why Mom always tried to embarrass me by hugging me in front of my friends.” So maybe these letters will help them when they go through it themselves.

I wrote Noah’s last night and while it’s very personal, I know many people may find it rings true for their own lives. And if for some reason I’m not around to tell my kids when they’re older and Google Drive does bomb out or my house goes up in flames taking all of my work in the inferno, someone can vouch for how much I loved my kids even if I’m not here to tell them myself. I know, very dramatic for a Thursday morning. Maybe we just need to buy a new printer…

Dear Noah,

Tonight as I was tucking you into bed, I sang you a song and the whole time you wanted to be tickled. Normally, I try not to let your last burst of nighttime energy irritate me, but I was getting frustrated thinking of the dishes downstairs to be done and your lunch which needed packing for tomorrow and I snapped and said sharply, “Noah! I need to go downstairs!”

You started sulking and rolled to your side and said, “I don’t think you love me! You used to lay down with me to calm me down at night and you never do any more.” Well, that did it. You broke my heart in two because while you’re so wrong, you were right that I haven’t been the best about showing you how much I love you.

Buddy, we’re approaching years when you are going to test your limits. You are going to start getting louder and stinkier and sassier. You are going to make me want to yell at you. A lot. I can already see it now. You will find a noise that you like making and will do it repeatedly until I can only scream “Shut up!” to get your attention. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ever say that to you.

When you grabbed my arm tonight and begged me with those big, hazel eyes of yours to stay and lie down with you for a minute, I remembered, you are still my baby. You are still that big-hearted, wide-eyed boy with more energy than God knows what to do with. You still like to watch Thomas the Train sometimes. You still won’t eat a raw tomato to save your life. You still get nervous of thunder storms and windy nights. And every once in a while you still need me.

And truth be told, I need you. I need your calm, big brother ways with Luke and Grace, always finding ways to keep them entertained even if it means making a giant mess. I need you reminding me where I leave things when Dad isn’t around; you always know where I put my phone! I need you to remind me when we’re getting low on snack foods in the pantry, because God help us if we’re only down to pretzels, cheez-its, goldfish and fruit snacks. I need your missing tooth smile greeting me every morning and every day I go to pick you up at school. I need your hugs, your furry little arms wrapping around me and your sweet voice saying, “I love you, Mom.” You know, you’re the first person to ever say that to me? I need you, my angel. I will need you all my life.

So you’re about to turn seven. Can you believe it? Well, I’m sure you can. Time seems to move extremely slow when you’re a kid. But for me Noah, I can’t believe it was seven years ago you were in my belly and I was waiting to meet you for the first time. For seven years, you’ve taught me something new every day and I know we have a lot further to go. But I promise you, no matter how crabby I get, I will love you with all my heart and soul.

Not so long ago...

Not so long ago…

Thank you for choosing me to be your Mommy. And yes, I’m still Mommy.

Love,

Mom

Does It Serve You?

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“Does it serve you?” If we examine aspects of our lives that make us feel bad, we should ask ourselves this very important question.

Many things hold us back in our lives. Often, it’s something we hold on to very tightly basing a significant part of our lives around. Wealth, power, pride, bitterness, anger, greed, sadness and fear are all things people use as background colors of the tapestry of their lives.
I look back on most of my twenties and I can recall significant life events which left me feeling empty and hollow. At their core was insecurity. That was the theme of my twenties. At that time, I worried constantly that I was being left out or that I wasn’t enough to matter to anyone. The problem was, I was always looking for others to validate my self-worth rather than looking within. Perhaps motherhood and the mellowing of age have brought me perspective and clarity of my place in the world. It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with my insecurities at times, but I don’t feel as if they rule me anymore.
It is a very freeing and powerful thing to let go of emotions that no longer serve us. When I realized insecurity was my issue, I remember quite clearly waking up shaking with the thing that had possessed me for so long and I thought, “I’m tired of this. I don’t want to live this way anymore. But how do I stop? I don’t know any other way to be.”
Desperately seeking an answer, I sat very quietly staring out the window of my bedroom in the calm of surrender. I felt the answer wash over me within moments. “You are enough.” I felt my body soften to the realization. I felt the tension melt away. I began to cry tears of relief and happiness. I knew it was true because I had never even considered it before.
I did what I always do when inspiration hits me. I grabbed a pen and wrote the following message from what I could only describe as a divine source: “You are enough! You have always been enough. I’ve been waiting for you to remember this. You are here to bring forth change. Every person in this world has a great purpose for their soul. You only need to listen for it and be open to it. You are now. Hello again.
“Let your heart be open to people. Share your truth. Inspire others to look within. This is a time when people are forgetting who they are because they live in a state of not-enough-ness. Social media has only enhanced the problem. People think they need to be keeping up with one another and they are losing sight of their own personal journey. Please, help to shine the light of truth for those lost in the darkness of their fears; Every person on earth has tremendous power and an important mission. No one’s path is the same, but the destination for each is.”
I could barely recall writing the words. They flowed out of me with such ease. I know there are some who will not believe my story. It isn’t the way every one will come to their own truth. But for some, it will touch their hearts and resonate and they will know, “I am enough.”
You really are! You matter to someone and because of that, you matter to everyone. We are all connected by the same spirit. Some call it God. Some call it The Source. Some call it nothing at all but simply feel there is something bigger than themselves. What we often fail to see is that it’s not only external. This thing is inside of each of us. It is divine. It is Love. And it is real.
So now, ask yourself, “Does Love serve me?” If you imagine this divine power, this blinding love being the core element of your being, do you have room for your anger, for your sadness, for your fear? If you feel the power of Divine Love within you, all those other emotions will become reduced to ashes. You can look at any question in your life and Love will make the answer perfectly clear.
For Christians, we see this is how Jesus lived every day of his life. He was Divinity made human, just as we are, but he chose love every time. He felt the same emotions we do, but he knew that love was greater than any fear he felt. He died on a cross to prove this. He forgave those who put him to death. He asked God to forgive us. If this man could do this, why can’t we?
We can! We can choose love every time. Skeptics will ask, “So why are we given any choice at all? Why can’t there just be one way of living life to avoid all the misery we face each day?”
One of the most powerful quotes I can think of, and I know he was channeling Divinity when he wrote it, was when C.S. Lewis said, “Why then, did God give them free will?” Then he answered the question, “Because free will, though it makes evil possible, it is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
This is our truth.
Here’s a fashion tip as you dress today: Your best accessory is Love. You can never go wrong with it. Love is the new black.

Lily Pads

Painting by Cindy Rashid

How to Be the Change You Wish to See

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A few years back, before Noah and Luke were born, I worked for a non-profit called The RARE Foundation. Its goal was to inspire young people to see the presence of Everyday Heroes in their lives. The founder of RARE was an attorney, Gil Cox Jr. He decided to start the foundation when he saw that athletes and celebrities, usually glorified by the media and in turn idolized by young, impressionable minds, were often the ones making such poor life choices. He thought, “We need to show young people that there are real heroes to look up to who have stronger ethics and moral fiber. They may not have a Grammy or a Super Bowl ring, but they are the people making a positive difference in the world.”
So Mr. Cox and other sponsors funded a project partnering with Detroit Newspapers in Education in which elementary students participated in a writing program that encouraged them to recognize and celebrate the everyday heroes in their own lives. I had the honor of joining RARE about ten years into its efforts and the joy of implementing a new program; a scholarship contest for Michigan High school graduates. In the first year of the scholarship program, I received over 300 essays from students all across the state. Each student was hoping to win a $1,500 scholarship to a Michigan college, university or a post-secondary education institution. I had the unfortunate luck of only being able to award four of them. It was such a challenge, especially when I read the soul-baring stories of many of those kids. I loved reading those essays more than anything I’d ever done at a job before.
When those crumpled, ambiguous orange/tan/yellow manila envelopes crossed my desk, my heart swelled. As I read each essay, a voice would come to life telling a story about his or her life and the “average” human being whom they looked up to. Of course none of these people were average. Among some of the most touching stories were those of cancer survivors, victims of domestic abuse, entrepreneurs who started their own organizations to help people in need, missionaries, and reformed drug addicts who help others suffering with addiction. I often sobbed as I read the stories of these souls who had overcome amazing adversity and found incredible purpose within their lives. And while my hope in humanity was revived through these stories, the ones that often touched my heart most were the stories I read about young people admiring their mothers and fathers.
I would giggle at the opening line of nearly every essay, “Many people think a hero is someone who flies or wears a cape…” But as I read on, four out of five essays were students saying that their parents inspired them more than any other individual in their lives.
WHEN WILL WE GET IT? These kids look up to us! Everything we say, everything we do. We are shaping their perception of the world. Jim Henson once said, “The attitude that you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them.” Our attitude affects them: How do we make our children feel? Do they feel loved and accepted for who they are? It applies to our significant others: Do we choose our words toward our partner as words of respect and love or do we degrade and criticize? How do we talk about the people in our lives? Do we gossip and spread rumors, or do we refrain from judgement realizing that we are not in the shoes of others and do not know how they feel? THESE are the things our children will observe and adopt as their methods for facing the world.
Last week, I was horror stricken at the images of innocent children washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Syrian refugees, desperate to be free from a country of tyranny and oppression, a place ravaged by fear and war. These people consider themselves already dead but pray somehow their children may live and may make it to freedom. My heart is broken for these people…
Who is responsible for saving the world? I know many times, I catch myself thinking there is nothing I can do to change these tragic events. I have young kids. I can’t fly there and physically be there to help. I have responsibilities here. I mean, I can give money, right? I can collect supplies and send it overseas and that will be a temporary fix. But how do we change the fundamental problems that exist within the government and belief systems that perpetuate these events? How do we prevent these things from continuing to happen?
The answer is quite simple. We need to realize that we are not human beings living a spiritual life, we are spiritual beings living a human life. There is so much untapped potential and greatness within all of us. But we are numb. Many of us go blindly through our days in a series of motions thinking we are nobody of importance, we can’t change the world. But what if we all believed we could instead of thinking that we couldn’t? What if we pass that attitude to our children as well and BELIEVE it. We can make a difference. We will and we MUST.
We need to share the spirit of love with humanity. It’s not “us over here” and “them over there.” We are all pieces of God. We recognize the divinity within the ordinary. Everyone is special and no, that’s not just a way of saying no one is. We all have it in us to be “heroes.” Let’s raise a generation of kids who feel empathy. Let’s teach our kids that compassion and selflessness are the characteristics of substance. If we chase wealth and fame and physical success, they will learn to do the same. Ask any “rich person” how much happiness monetary wealth has bought them. Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The way to find purpose in life is to serve others and not to expect anything in return. Believe it or not, there is receiving in giving. I was thinking about all of this today because it’s my mom’s birthday. And like those high school student essays I used to read years ago, my own essay would look very similar. My mom is my hero. She’s not a celebrity (although she is a

My hero: my mom with my sister and me.

My hero: my mom with my sister and me.

wonderfully talented artist and is winning awards left and right). But what I admire about her most is the way she steps up to help anyone in need. She doesn’t ask for any recognition or praise. She lives to serve. And what’s even more incredible is it doesn’t make her boring. It makes her beautiful. She has a light that glows from within. People tell me all the time how beautiful my mom is. Living a life rich in virtue does more for your physical appearance than any plastic surgery. You radiate love and joy. People are inspired just by the presence of those who share their inward light; their divinity.
This is what I hope I can pass along to my children. I want to leave them a world of people who see their greatness and won’t stand for injustice or intolerance. I always see the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I love it, but sometimes it feels vague. After all, what can I really do to change the world?

Well, to start, I can serve others; any act of kindness will do. Whatever is in my power this minute is an opportunity. Everything from holding the door open for someone to flying to impoverished parts of the world and handing out clean water is demonstrating an act of God. What’s our moral compass? How do we know what to do? Everyday, we are given choices between love and fear; the way we talk to our children, how we treat our friends, it all reverberates from our thoughts, our words and our deeds. The only thing anyone needs to be a hero is the ability to act with love.

All You Need is Love.

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Early this morning, before the sun had even risen, my boys clunked around the lower level of our house, proudly breaking in their new school shoes not yet smudged and stained from the adventures that awaited them on their first day of school.

Noah entered first grade and Luke began half-day kindergarten. Noah was dressed in the official school uniform, complete with shirt tucked in and a belt around his waist, notched at the loosest possible hole (might be time to buy him a new one, but that one will work for now). And I just watched them both with a big grin glued to my face.

Last year, on the first day of school, just as each year before, I was a ball of nerves. I jumped at every chime of my phone; would it be the school telling me to come right away? Something had gone horribly wrong…but no. That call never came. I just worried every day that it would.

Instead, for the first time on the first day of school, I felt quietly reflective. After I kissed their fuzzy little heads good-bye, I sat on the couch and watched the sun rise over the trees in our backyard and felt joy in just being. I also feel a sacred part of my own journey has begun, not only as a mother, but as a human being. I finally feel I understand what it means to choose to live a life of love. I know it may seem to many of us that we are living a life of love. I thought I was before, too. But now I know I wasn’t because I see how much fear and anxiety ruled my emotions. Even my most joyful moments, I nearly ruined because my next thoughts were often, “Okay, but what is going to go wrong?” It was almost as if I didn’t think I deserved to be completely happy.

But I do! We all deserve to be blissfully, stupidly happy, even those of us who struggle with challenges of health or circumstance. We are NOT OBLIGATED to “get through” the days of our lives. We are given the OPPORTUNITY to choose love instead of fear to meet each day, regardless of what situations the day greets us with.

And in truth, I love, love, LOVE being a mother. All of it. I recognize that my Truth is to love who I am right now, in this minute. I love that my kid dropped the F bomb the other day. I love my daughter who even after six weeks of being potty trained, crapped her pants yesterday while watching t.v. I love that my boys will not eat any vegetables and I can’t bribe them with all the ice cream at every Dairy Queen in the U.S. to try a piece of broccoli. Of course I could think of less frustrating things to do. But I love that these are all opportunities for me to choose love to guide my reaction; not to worry about the end result.

Noah the First Grader and Luke the Kindergartener

Noah the First Grader and Luke the Kindergartener (A.K.A. Avid protesters of vegetables)

So what is that end result? Will my son have the mouth of a sailor? Will Gracie need to wear diapers in high school? Will my boys never eat a salad? I think the answer to each of these is, “Not likely.” The result I can count on and what brings me back to my center is that no matter what I do or don’t do, my kids are going to be exactly who they are meant to be. Now the choice for me to make is, do I help them get there with love or fear?

I am choosing love.

Living Our Truth

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We shouldn’t criticize those who are brave enough to live their truth. It is never easy to do what we feel is right in our hearts knowing that people will have opinions, usually based out of fear, that oppose our own truth.

But conversely, we speakers of our truth cannot expect the world to always be on board with us. Sure, we feel passionate about our point of view, but others feel just as passionate about their own. It is easy to feel attacked when this happens, but we MUST remove our ego from the situation and remember, if we are living our truth based on love we have nothing to fear and no one else’s fear can diminish our truth. Some people are stuck in a world where they view everything with goggles tinted by fear and anxiety. That is what they believe right now. All I can do is pray that someday, they will be able to take off the goggles and see that the real world is not one to be feared. The world is full of love and possibilities and kindness.

I read once that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. Hate is an emotion that stems from fear. So fear can make people do hateful things. Every war, every argument, every crime ever committed, happened because someone was afraid and made other people afraid. But look at a child, whose innocence isn’t yet affected by the fear in the world. We aren’t born knowing fear. It’s something we learn from our parents, our peers, and our society. We learn fear and we teach fear. We think we are teaching people to be cautious and to protect themselves. It doesn’t mean we should go around hugging people armed with guns. There obviously are dangerous people in the world; what’s done is done in many ways where people have allowed themselves to let their fear lead them; we can’t erase the fear that exists. But we also can’t live each day crippled by what could happen.

When I started my blog two years ago, I was a very anxious person. I still struggle with it at times. But I woke up one day and realized, I could go on living half a life, questioning every motive of other people and saying “no” more than allowing new experiences to awaken parts of my brain that have been sleeping my whole life. Or I could start living a life ruled by love, one where I’m not afraid to let life happen to me. We invite some suffering and pain when we do this, but those things are nothing to be afraid of. Life’s obstacles are opportunities to help us grow into the people we were always meant to be.

But what do we do when someone hurts us? How can we keep believing that the world is a place filled with love and joy? Of course we will be afraid of being burned again. We are human beings, not idiots. Most of us have experienced a time where someone has injured us to our core. The sin committed was one that we just aren’t sure we will ever be able to get past. So we have two choices. We can go into defense mode. We can shut down and lock the person out of our lives forever. We can tell others how awful the person is and warn them against having a relationship with them as well; spare other people the hurt we’ve experienced.

The other choice is the one that every spiritual messenger has recommended. I tend to think that they might be slightly more credible in such matters…They say to forgive.

Forgiveness is our best weapon against pain and suffering. If Love is our shield against fear, Forgiveness is our sword against hate. I suppose this doesn’t mean we need to keep exposing ourselves to people who hurt us over and over. But it doesn’t mean that we harbor animosity toward them either. All those negative emotions will erode our truth, our love. And we should never go into battle with a rusted shield and sword.

So today, just once, I beg you to consciously choose love and to forgive. Live that truth. I am finding it leads to so many more beautiful things: Patience with my children, gratitude for my life which is so abundantly blessed even though it’s not perfect. It brings me to tears every time I let that light of love flow into me. The other things, the worry, the anxiety, the fear all evaporate and all that’s left is this beautiful ocean of love.

We are told God says, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10) Even if you don’t believe in God, believe in Love. It’s really the same thing.

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

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Seeing my children’s hopes and dreams crushed usually makes me feel similarly crestfallen. But not today, dear friends. You see, I have been telling my boys for the past week to go up to their bedroom and pick up all Lego pieces that have fallen to the floor and become embedded in the carpet. I don’t know how many of you have endured the experience of stepping on Lego shrapnel, but let me tell you, the pain is similar to hearing my total amount due at the Lego store when I take my boys twice a year to purchase more Lego sets for their birthdays.

Now imagine a Lego minefield, an entire bedroom of Lego blocks scattered across the floor. My children have caused splits in my heel from stepping on these tiny landmines. Today, I had reached my limit. I sent them upstairs to their room where they were instructed in no uncertain terms they were not to leave their bedroom until all of the blocks had been safely stowed away in their plastic bins. A while later they came down for lunch. I asked them if they had cleaned up and they assured me that they had (poor fools). When I went upstairs to check their efforts, I was not surprised to find not only were the Lego pieces still scattered around the room, they appeared to be leaking out into the hallway.

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The terrifying guest bedroom closet…

Sometimes, punishment is poetically inspired.  Being mean is an art form for an inspired mother. And sometimes, I revel in making my children suffer, just a little, for making poor choices.

I decided to “help” my children learn a very important lesson; to take care of their belongings. Not saying a word to their lazy little bums parked downstairs on the couch enjoying some quiet time, I scooped up all of their Lego blocks. I gently closed them into their bins and I took all of the bins to a closet in the guest bedroom that they are terrified of. Sigh. They will never look there. Victory will be mine as long as I want. It was a thing of beauty as I turned out the light and closed the door softly behind me. They still haven’t discovered the horrible truth awaiting them in their bedroom. Their screams will be sweet music to my ears.

Oh boys, just kick back and relax. Mommy's going to take care of everything...Muhahaha!

Oh boys, just kick back and relax. Mommy’s going to take care of everything…Muhahaha!

Children are Our Real Teachers

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My nerves were raw from trying to hold my tongue and not turn into a hollering banshee at my sweet children yodeling and smacking each other in the back seat. We had made it through the grocery store with little incident and now were nearly home, but already I could feel my shoulders tensing, anticipating the boys rushing in the house without helping to carry in any bags and then leaving their shoes in the middle of the laundry room floor for me to trip over while I hauled in our food and their little sister.

To top it all off, there would be no down time today because immediately after unpacking groceries, making their lunches and then feeding them, I would need to go out to the pool to take the cover off and skim the surface for any debris because we were hosting a short pool play date for some neighbor friends. Thankfully, the children are well-behaved and their mom and I enjoy each others company. But we really don’t get to have an entire conversation because the pool play dates require constant supervision and are interrupted every two minutes by a “Mom! Look at me!” or “Mom, Noah is splashing me,” all the while getting annoyed that we can’t finish a sentence before someone needs something else.

In other words, I was already fast-forwarding to how stressed out I was about to be. I was shaken from my inner movie trailer of “The Life of Mom” when Noah piped up from the back seat, “Mom, can you drop me here and let me walk the rest of the way home?” We were about five houses away from ours and when I glanced back at his little upturned, missing-toothed face in my rear-view mirror, I couldn’t help but smile.

“Sure.” I said and pulled off to the side, my prior anxiety melting into nothing.

“Thanks, Mom.” He said throwing on his little back pack filled with action figures and other toys he’d deemed worthy of today’s adventures. He also thrust his pirate sword through his belt loop then jumped out of the car. I reminded him to be careful and watch for cars.

“Ok, Mom. Bye, Mom!” His voice was that husky little boy voice that I can remember my brother Kevin using when he was about Noah’s age. It’s the little boy equivalent of a man’s voice when they are embarking on some uncharted territory and they don’t want anyone thinking them incapable, especially not their mothers. He waved as I slowly pulled forward. “See you soon, Mom,” he called after me. I had to laugh. Yes, I would be seeing him in about forty-five seconds.

I watched him from my mirror, his plastic sword swung from his hip and he held the straps of his backpack looking out over the neighborhood with a stoic squint of his eyes. I love watching my children grow up. It’s these little things that mark the changing of times for me and also let me know that in spite of my many mistakes, these kids are growing into exactly who they are meant to be.

A friend of mine is about to become a father and told me recently that he’s nervous. He’s scared of somehow being inadequate for his son’s needs and screwing up his life horribly. I reassured him with the usual “it would be fine and he would be a great father” speech. I knew those words would probably seem hollow to him though. They were to me too, when people said them before my kids were born. So of course his response was, “Isn’t that what you have to say? Isn’t that what everyone just says to make you feel better? I’m not naive. I hear parents complaining all the time about how hard parenthood is. And some parents genuinely don’t seem to enjoy it.”

So I went on to tell him the few absolute truths of parenting that we all come to understand, even those who make it no secret that they don’t love every minute of it.

“Everyone tries to scare new parents by saying things like, ‘Oh it’s only just begun…You have no idea how much your life is about to change.’ And it is kind of true, but you already know that. The best way to keep your wits about you is to wake up each day and to not have any real expectations of how your day is going to go. Then you won’t be disappointed when half of your to-do list doesn’t happen. That’s the hard part.

“The good part, the fun stuff, is what no one bothers trying to tell you because it’s virtually impossible to explain. But I’ll try. No one mentions this stuff because not only does it sound sappy, but you sound like a lunatic if you try to express these really tender, quiet, broken-down moments that you’ll find define all of it for you. All of the struggle, frustration, and disappointment seems quite small by comparison to these moments. And they’re not anything that will make your life easier or more convenient. They won’t help you get anything done. In fact, you might get further off track by basking in the glow of these times when they occur. They’ll just make your struggles a little easier to take. But the cool thing is, they’re only yours; not something you can articulate to anyone else. It’s an indescribable experience.  So although no one can prepare you for how difficult parenthood will be, no one can prepare you for how great it will be either. And here’s the real miracle of it: they are going to teach you more than you will ever teach them.”

He seemed satisfied with this response, but I know he won’t really get it until he gets it. The first seemingly insignificant moment that contained worlds of significance for me personally was when Noah was about a week old.

I was delirious with sleep deprivation. I’d never known I could feel so tired to the bone. Scott had just finished getting dressed for work looking polished and capable in his tailored suit. By comparison, I hadn’t showered in at least two days and my hair was in a messy bun on my head and I had awful morning breath. He brought Noah to our bed on his little Boppy pillow for me to nurse him. After he kissed my forehead and walked out our bedroom door, I waited to hear the garage door close then I quietly shook with sobs.  I felt so alone and didn’t know what I was going to do with this innocent, helpless little ball of flesh and hair. Each time I opened my eyes through my tears, I would feel smaller and more helpless.

Suddenly, Noah’s grumpy old man face turned upward and he pulled his little legs up to his tummy and arched his back looking like a little round-backed turtle and made the funniest, squeaky grunt I’d ever heard. It made me smile through my tears and I scooped him up and covered him with kisses thanking him for making me laugh. I knew, at least for that minute, I wasn’t so alone.

I do believe my children have brought infinite wisdom, true beauty and deep meaning to my life. I would never say that my life is easier with them in it. But I didn’t know how deeply I could love anyone until I met them either.

It’s not always the big trips to Disney or the elaborate birthday parties that will take your breath away and make you think, “This is what it’s all about.” Sure, those things are fun and prove to them you’re a cool mom or dad. But the things that will stick with you are those really simple, sweet memories that completely humble you and make you feel something indescribable. It’s in these moments that we learn something about ourselves. We’re stronger than we realize. We’re able to love in infinite ways. I will be forever grateful to my kids for teaching me who I was meant to be.

The best teachers I've ever had. (Luke, Grace and Noah)

The best teachers I’ve ever had. (Luke, Grace and Noah)