Simple Ways to Lift Another

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something on this blog.  I apologize for my absence, but life has been full.  Well, it’s been mostly full, and partially lazy.  Full in the sense that my youngest was in the hospital with RSV around the time of my last post at the same time my family was in town, then we headed down to Southern California to attend my BFF’s wedding, and then we returned home to prepare for two separate milestone birthdays for my two eldest.  Lazy in the sense that I have managed to make my daily naps a priority.  My two youngest will only allow this to happen for so much longer, so I feel a duty to myself to embrace any opportunity to sleep.  When I haven’t been sleeping, nor tending to my kiddos, I’ve been wondering what I could do for myself to feel more fulfilled in my daily life. Continue reading

Elephant in the Dark

I truly enjoy reading books with my children.  This should come as no surprise after my Read to Your Child post.  Picture books with a good message are my weakness.  One of my favorites is a Cautionary Tale of Flattery called The Spider and the Fly.  On my last trip to the library, I had the pleasure of finding Elephant in the Dark.  Prior to reading it, I knew nothing of this book nor the story it was based on, which is commonly called “Blind men and an elephant.”  It’s truly a fascinating perspective, and ironically, once I explain the gist of the story, it has several different interpretations.

There are several variations of the story, as I’ve learned from my Google research.  Seeing as how the version of Elephant in the Dark by Mina Javaherbin is the one that piqued my interest, I’ll summarize her version the best I can.  The story begins with Merchant Ahmad, who brings a mysterious creature back from India.  The news spreads in the village and everybody wants to see the creature, but Ahmad is too tired from his journey, and explains that it is too dark in his barn to see the animal at this time.  The villagers, not taking no for an answer, decide to sneak into the barn and take a look for themselves.  One by one, they go in, and each of them touches a different part of the elephant (a tail, a tusk, a trunk, etc.).  Since they each only touched one part of it, they come back out reporting the creature was like something completely different from what another person had declared.  Then it reads, “All day long they called each other names and fought to prove each other wrong.  Into the night no one listened, but everyone shouted and shoved.”  Then, the next day Ahmad awakes and takes the creature to the river, which we now see is an elephant, but the villagers are still too busy fighting to see the creature appear.  The last line reads, “And no one noticed they each knew only a small piece of the truth.”

Elephant in the Dark

As I finished reading Elephant in the Dark, I concluded that every adult needs to read this book.  My Facebook has become so cluttered with who’s right and who’s wrong, that it’s disheartening.  I realize you already heard my rant on this topic in Accentuate the Positive, but this book just brought it to the forefront of my mind again.  It also reminded me of this quote I read by the US Secretary of Agriculture and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson.  He said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.”  Religious or not, the idea that being right is more important than the whole truth gets us nowhere as a society.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have an adamant opinion on all things.  Starting this blog made that more evident in my life.  I knew if I had a more extreme opinion on a matter, I could draw a larger audience.  Shock factor sells, right?  At first I thought I was just too ignorant to form an opinion on hot topics.  Then I realized, it’s that I can see where others are coming from, for the most part.  I’m not perfect in this way by any means.  But I would like to believe that I don’t just go into the barn, feel one part of the mysterious creature, and assume I know all based on that single instance.  I have opinions on all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but I also understand that it’s my opinion.  Some of my opinions have facts to back them up, some don’t.  The last thing I want to do though is ever express my opinion in such a way that demeans somebody else’s viewpoint.  I don’t want to fight about who is right.  I’m okay with learning more about the whole creature.  But, I’m also okay with being considered wrong in someone else’s eyes.  On that same note, I’m also okay being wrong in my own eyes.  For me, it’s not about who is right, but what is right.  Because of that thinking process, I’m not afraid to learn more.    I want to understand the whole creature.  Period.

I love one of the interpretations of this story, made into a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet,which Elephant in the Dark is based on.  Rumi’s poem ends with, “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.”  I think of that line and wonder what our world would look like under those circumstances.  I imagine, as it pertains to this story, we would all be unified in understanding it was an elephant, but we would still have our opinions on the creature.  Perhaps one person would find the elephant ugly, and another would find it breath-taking, but both would agree it was an elephant. Neither person needs to be wrong in their feelings towards the elephant.  We can respect differing interpretations of the creature, while simultaneously agreeing that there is a greater truth that there is no disputing.

Oh, how I hope I was able to express my feelings on Elephant in the Dark and it’s greater meaning.  The concept was over my toddler’s head, as I read the book to him.  But, I’ve found myself reading it over and over on my own.  There is much to take away and ponder about this story.  Take a moment and reflect on the story, if you have some time.  I would love to hear other’s feelings on the matter.

Serve, Love, and Uplift!

As previously mentioned, our family is in the process of moving.  I spent three hours last night trying to pack and clean my kitchen.  I felt like I should have had more boxes to show for it, after all the work I put into it.  Speaking of work, I experienced firsthand the blessings of working to combat worry, as mentioned in It’s Time for Work.  I learned that my mind couldn’t even contemplate complex ideas, as it was already preoccupied with playing high-stakes Tetris, where each box had an ultimate goal of being perfectly packed.  I’ve resolved that the lack of boxes was due to my expert level Tetris skills.  I digress.  Can you even digress when you’ve only begun?  I wanted to talk about packing kitchens, but not as it pertains to Tetris.  Let’s move on, shall we?

I guess you can have some additional thoughts, beyond the task at hand, when you’re working.  Because I started to get nostalgic over the menial task of packing a kitchen.  I realized that packing a kitchen has sentimental value to me.  I began to recall all the kitchens I had packed and unpacked in my adult life.  The kitchen was my most dreaded packing task and, I confess, I left it for last.  I left it for last because I knew my mom would come in and handle it.  Because that’s what mom’s do, right?  At least, that’s what my mom did.  I have never been good in the kitchen even when it’s in working order.  So, it makes sense that I’m not much of a kitchen person when it comes to packing either.  My mom, however, was a kitchen packer, and a darn good one at that.

My Mom was the official dishwasher at my Nana's Christmas parties.
My Mom was the official dishwasher at my Nana’s Christmas parties.

But then my kitchen packer, and best friend, passed away.  Even more tough is that she passed away in the home where we lived together, along with my husband and daughter.  So, while she was there for the unpacking and placement of our kitchen, she was not there when it was time to move on.  She may have been there in Spirit, but she certainly wasn’t pulling her weight in the matter of kitchen packing.  Wasn’t she aware that I still needed her?  I’m making light of it here, but the thought that struck me last night was that we take for granted the simple things that make a difference in someone’s life.  I wonder if I ever properly thanked my mom for packing the kitchen that was inevitably left for her to handle?

I can’t say that I remember who helped me pack that first move without my mom.  I admit that I have very little recollection of the first six months after her passing.  My only guess is that I was placed on some sort of auto-pilot setting for my protection.  Unless there is a picture or video of an event to show for the Spring of 2008-Winter of 2008, it’s lost in the database that is my brain.  It’s difficult to think of that, as that also happens to be the first 6 months, or so, of my daughter’s life.  But, that’s all for another post on another day.

Continuing on with the exciting topic of kitchen packing, I take you now to the second move without my mom around.  It was December of 2009 and we were moving into our very own condo.  The only problem is that I had recently had my tonsils removed, then during the recovery of the tonsillectomy, I threw out my back so badly that I had to be taken by ambulance to the ER.  Again, a fascinating story for another day.  So, with this move, I had to rely virtually 100% on the help of others.  I think I had 5 women from church come and pack up my kitchen.  I remember feeling both helpless and grateful for their kindness and service.

On this particular move, the unpacking had as much meaning to me as the packing did.  As my Nana, my maternal grandmother, helped me unpack my kitchen, while my grandfather and Aunt painted my girls’ bedroom.  It was particularly special to me, as my grandparents weren’t customarily hands on when it came to my personal life.  They were always loving and supportive, but my relationship was largely based on my family visiting them.  So, this service from my Nana has always been dear to my heart.  It is the only time I recall working side by side with my grandmother.  It made me feel closer to her, and, strangely, my late mother as well.

About three years later, it was time to pack up that same kitchen.  I had lots of help from friends and family this time, but I mostly remember my sister-in-law’s presence.  She was astonished at the lack of packing I had done thus far for my upcoming out-of-state-move.  Oops.  She gave me a firm, but loving, reprimand of, “EVERYTHING goes in a box.”  I can’t be certain how many times I heard that line that evening, but I will never forget it.  As simple as it sounds, that really is the best packing advice I have ever been given.  It makes for the easiest loading and unloading process you can imagine.

Now, we’ve come back full circle to this move.  Here I am, again, packing up a kitchen.  I haven’t left it for last, because my mom will not show up and handle it, as she always did.  Though, if it worked that way, I would gladly halt all of my packing efforts this very instant.  No, this time the packing has alternated between my husband and I, as the other often has the task of keeping the kiddos occupied.  And, as I spent those three hours packing alone last night, I couldn’t help but be filled with sadness over the loss of my mom and gratitude for all the people who have given service in her place over the many years now.

It’s not just about the packing and unpacking of the kitchen, it’s about the gratitude I have for being a recipient of countless acts of service.  I feel like sometimes we shortchange ourselves on the impact that we make in another person’s life by serving them.  I’m certain that the women who have helped me pack or unpack my kitchen are completely unaware of the significance that their act of service had on my life.  I’ve heard it said that you can never replace your mother.  I know it to be true.  But, what I’ve also learned is that it’s something pretty beautiful when multiple people step in and help where a mother might have before.  I’m talking about the women in my life, old and young, who have been a sounding board, who have helped with my kids, who have offered a compliment when I felt like I was utterly defeated in my role as a mother, the list goes on and on.  I suppose I should not be gender specific, as I have also had many men, my father included, serve our family in numerous ways.  It just happens that I tend to be surrounded by more women in my role as an at-home mom, and have been lovingly served by those same women.

I realize this post is probably self-serving, which is ironic based on the message I’m trying to convey, but I just felt like sending out a general “thank you” into the universe.  Thank you for all of the service that my family has received through the years.  And thank you, whoever is reading, for every little act of kindness you have done in your own life.  I thank you, on behalf of every recipient of your kind deeds, and tell you that your service has made an impact for good, even if it did not seem appreciated.  Sadly, some people are not mindful of the blessings they’ve received through the hands of another.  May I never fall into that category.  May people always know of my gratitude, from something as simple as a text offering packing supplies to something as wonderful as Tupperware being returned with a $20 gift card inside to your kids favorite fast food, which I might add both happened today.  Even cooler, I didn’t need to get the packing supplies offered from one person, because I had already been given more than enough packing materials from another kind friend.  These good deeds do not go unnoticed in my world.

May you be blessed with the ability to see all the acts of kindness that have been done on your behalf.  And, when possible, take the time to share your gratitude.  When you’re done doing that, go out and be the good you want to see in the world!  Serve, love, and uplift!  That’s what this whole scatter-brained post is about!  It’s about the overwhelming gratitude I have for the people who have served, loved, and uplifted me; and the motivation it gives me to go out and do the same!

Serve, Love, Uplift

Feeling Uniquely Wonderful

As it states in my About Me section, “I receive daily opportunities to debunk my irrational thoughts and live to the measure of my full potential.”  This past Sunday was one of those days, when I noticed a trait in a friend that I wanted to work on in my life.  She is a woman I know through church.  Joy is written in her countenance and it’s amplified through her energetic smile and engaging eyes.  When speaking with her, it’s clear I have her full attention.  Not only do I have her full attention, but she appears genuinely interested in what I have to say.  Even more than that, she showers me in compliments when it seems there is nothing compliment-able about me.  In short, she makes me feel like I’m the coolest person in the world every single time I talk to her.  I admit, it’s pretty good on the ego.  Here’s the catch though, if I were to ask someone else if this friend left them feeling uniquely wonderful as well, they would all answer yes.  So, does this mean that she is not sincere?  The sincerity of such a friend, has always left me in question.  If someone makes everyone feel like they’re the coolest person ever, who really is the coolest person ever?  I think I finally found the answer to my internal debate this past Sunday, when I came home from church feeling uniquely wonderful.

Before I share my answer, I think it’s important to give some background information so that you know that I truly have struggled with this for years.  It all started with my Grandpa.  Every time that I arrived in my grandparents’ home, I would give both my Nana and Grandpa a hug.  And every time I hugged my Grandpa, I would ask him how he was.  And every time I asked him, he would always respond, “I’m better now.”  Every time.  I immediately felt like I had made my Grandpa’s day.  He was better because I was there.  It took years before I realized that he said that to everyone that went up and hugged him and asked how he was.  Everybody made him better.

But, how could that be?  Wasn’t I the best?  That’s probably the real issue in this debate, is that I somehow need to know where I land in the ranks of someone’s love and devotion.  Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that if I was not the best, then I wasn’t really enough at all.  Woah.  There’s a personal realization that I wasn’t expecting to stumble across while writing this post.  I digress.

So, my Grandpa was the first person I noticed that has this ability, and my church friend is the most recent.  But there are others that I have crossed paths with that have this knack.  I’m sure you can think of such a person in your own life.  They’re the type of person that makes everyone they come across feel perfectly okay being exactly who they are.  They celebrate you every time they are around you so that you walk away feeling uniquely wonderful.

Perfectly Okay

As I’ve come in contact with more of these people, I’ve decided that they are completely sincere.  My Grandpa really does feel better with each embrace he receives from a loved one.  My friend genuinely enjoys when I teach a class at church.  Other friends with this gift, really do find me enjoyable to be around.  They don’t say these things just to say them.  They see the positive in people.  They recognize the joy that others feel when they know they’re loved and appreciated.  They, in turn, feel joy knowing they have brightened another’s day by expressing their uplifting remarks.

As often is the case, I have discovered something about myself through the exercise of writing a post.  Where I was originally planning to share how I would like to become better at uplifting others, as these type of people do, I now want to remove this subconscious thought process of ranking myself in other’s eyes.  For instance, let’s say that someone tells me that I’m a good cook (keep your laughter to a minimum, please) and I hear that same person tell another person that they’re a good cook.  Can we not both be good cooks?  What is it about me that needs to know what level of “good cook” I am versus the other person?  Oy vey.  I’m flashing back to my post Stop Comparing and Reclaim Joy where I referenced Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  This need to compare and rank truly is the thief of joy.  It’s caused me to take the kind remarks from a friend and question their sincerity and my worth.  How sad is that?

Well, it seems as though I’ve got a bit of debunking to do, if I want to rid myself of this ridiculous need to rank my level of awesomeness in the eyes of each person I meet.  If I do slip up and get this insatiable urge to rank myself, perhaps I’ll have enough wisdom to recognize that I am #1 to one spectacular husband and four incredible children!  It really is no wonder I struggle with insecurity when I’m subconsciously filing myself in a particular category for each person that I know.  Oh man.  Why do I feel like I’ve opened a can of worms with this realization?

#1 in their eyes!
#1 in their eyes!

Before I freak out anymore, let me answer the question I originally posed, “If someone makes everyone feel like they’re the coolest person ever, who really is the coolest person ever?”  My answer: All of us.  All of us have the right to be around people who leave us feeling uniquely wonderful.  And my heart’s desire is to make sure I am better about leaving people feeling just that way.  I’m certain that the more I accept the compliments given to me as being sincere and the more I strive to show my love and appreciation for others, the better suited I will be to live to the measure of my full potential.

Your Life is an Occasion

For the past few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a slump.  I couldn’t seem to pinpoint it’s origin until a few moments ago.  I think what it comes down to is that I’m bored with the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of life right now.  Are you familiar with this cycle?  Of course you are, especially if you’re a parent.  I know I’m not alone because I saw a meme just today that read, “Do you want to know what it’s like to have kids? 1. Gather everything you own.  2. Throw it all on the floor.  3. Pick it up. 4. Repeat for infinity.”  I’m not sure what’s exacerbating the issue, as it’s not like I’m a new stay-at-home-mom.  Perhaps the combination of increased time indoors due to colder temps, or the stage of my six-month-old’s eating habits (feeding baby mush gets tiring), or the fact that my to-do list seems to be never-ending (even worse, at times, never-starting)?  I can’t say that I know for sure, but the only thing that’s going to change it is my attitude, which brings me to Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

Have you seen Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium?  I don’t understand why the film has such a low rating?  As far as kids movies go, it’s quite endearing.  I only recently had the opportunity to watch it.  I don’t know how I’ve managed to not see it until now, as it’s been out for almost 10 years.  I wish I could say it’s because my children hardly watch TV, but that’s hardly the case.  I digress.  The movie has a line that struck both my eight-year-old daughter and I as powerful.  In the scene, Dustin Hoffman, who plays Mr. Magorium, is saying farewell to his assistant, played by Natalie Portman.  In his final goodbye he tells her, “Your life is an occasion.  Rise to it.”  And so it is.


I need to rise to it.  I need to make my life more than wash, rinse, repeat.  Don’t get me wrong, I get that life is made up of such things.  But the only way it’s going to be more than that is if I rise up and do something more.  Then the question remains, “How?”  How does one rise to the occasion?  If we take an actual occasion, such as a birthday, then we get ourselves spiffy,we eat our favorite foods, we spend time with loved ones, and, if we’re hosting a shin-dig, we pull out our coordinating paper plates and napkins.  Not gonna happen.  My daily life is going to have to be a different type of occasion.

I’ve pondered much on what I’m seeming to miss these past few days.  I thought if I turned the word “rise” into an acronym it might help me in the future, should I start to slip into the doldrums again.  So, here it goes, my best guess at what I need to make my life an occasion, or rather, make the most of each day: R – recommit; I – initiate; S – savor; E – evaluate.

Recommit
This is the biggest one for me right now.  I’m sort of floundering lately.  I need to recommit myself to productivity.  For example, right now I have things around the house that have been sitting on my To-Do list for so long that I’ve stopped taking them seriously.  I look at the list, rationalize why now isn’t the best time to do such a task, and return to my mindless social media scrolling.  The killer is that even though I think I’ve escaped the chore, the weight of not doing it is so heavy that it’s taken away from the joy I could be feeling had I accomplished the task.  You may be thinking, “but aren’t chores a part of the wash, rinse, repeat cycle?”  They are, you’re right.  But maybe if I recommitted to their value in my life and adjusted my attitude, then I could escape the feeling of captivity that I’ve been associating with the endless cycle?  My baby step on this item is to recommit by doing 15 minutes of an activity today that I’ve been putting off from my list.  My hope is that I will feel better for having accomplished something beyond knowing what a random person “liked” on Facebook today.  I chose a 15 minute increment because my Mom used to say to me, “I can do anything for a short amount of time.”

Initiate
This one might be different for everyone.  When I think initiate, I think of an activity that is most therapeutic for me, which is spending time with loved ones.  Others may need to initiate an outdoor activity or a workout into their day.  I admit, I should probably initiate more of those activities as well.  However, I personally benefit most from the relationships in my life.  I feel edified after spending time with my loved ones as we talk about matters of everyday life.  That’s what I need to initiate.  A text, an e-mail, a phone call; these things initiate opportunities to strengthen my relationships; which I deem as one of my highest priorities.

Savor
When I think of savoring something, I imagine having to slow down to do so.  So, the S in R.I.S.E. may be interchanged with slow down, if you so choose.  I did look up the word though and there is no connection with savoring requiring time to be fully accomplished.  In fact, my favorite definition for the word was, “to give oneself to the enjoyment of.”  We could stop with the letter S and call ourselves good.  That is what I need right now.  I need to give myself to the enjoyment of life.  Prior to looking up the word though, I intended for this to be a reminder that I need to slow down and take in the beauty I do have before me.  I can choose to focus on all the dishes in my sink that I will have to wash all over again tomorrow or I can savor the moment that my boys play on the floor together or my girls come in the door from school giggling about their days events.  Granted the floor playing isn’t always peaceful and my girls sometimes come in the door distraught from their day, but inevitably there are a couple moments each day that, if the appropriate background music could be added, would be suitable for the last couple minutes of Parenthood when life seems to be savored more fully and everything seems right in the world.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK:: Speaking of Parenthood, I certainly took the time to savor their series finale last night.  It was so good.  I’m going to miss that show so much.  I almost didn’t want to start the series finale because I knew it would come to and end and I wasn’t ready.  It reminded me of when I’m reading a good book and I can’t put it down, but I try to slow down my reading just to prevent it from ending.  ::BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

Evaluate
When all is said and done, evaluating is key.  I knew something was afoot with me all week.  Moments of anxiety were happening for no particular reason and I just seemed to have a bit of a cloud over me.  I’m still not sure I know exactly what triggered the feelings, but I’ve never been afraid to evaluate my situation to find out.  I like playing devil’s advocate with myself.  I tend to learn a lot of “not-so-pretty” motivations behind my actions and behavior sometimes, but I think it’s important to face the “not-so-pretty” in an effort to make one’s life something more.  The sooner you can understand yourself, the sooner you can begin to fix the kinks you may be facing at the time.  I’ve learned that my comfortableness in evaluating myself is a strength that has brought me great peace.  It’s been so valuable that it’s one of the motivating factors behind this blog.  As we evaluate our personal needs and desires, we can begin moving forward in obtaining them in a healthy manner.

So, today is a new day.  Wish me luck, as I R.I.S.E. to the glorious occasion that is my life.

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Musings of a Mom

My mind is racing with all sorts of topics, none of which seem to be fitting to place in a concise post this week.  I’m tempted to do a journal style entry this week and call it good.  Are you with me?  Great!

Laughter is fun, ain’t it?  I feel like I’ve laughed a lot this past week, whether it was the banter between my husband and I regarding hoodlums, watching The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, laughing with a friend over dinner, or witnessing my kids in their daily antics, it just felt good to laugh.  Laughter is some of the best medicine there is out there.


You know what else is pretty great?  Exercise.  Not the actual doing part, but the after part is pretty grand.  I decided the action of exercising on an elliptical is more bearable if you watch The Tonight Show while you workout.  The laughter makes the exercise fly by and the aftermath of getting a good sweat in is quite rewarding.

Parenthood is tough, am I right?  I spent a good long time talking with a girlfriend over dinner about how I’m at a loss with one of my kiddos who seems to crave negativity.  My friend reminded me that said kiddo is trying to vie for my attention and that even negative attention is still attention.  I know this about my child, yet I still fall prey to these tactics.  Little stuff turns into big blowouts and soon I have no idea why my child is crying and hyperventilating and I don’t think said child knows either.

COMMERCIAL BREAK:  It’s really hard to write a paragraph without disclosing gender, isn’t it?  Now back to our regular programming.

So, parenthood, right?  I have another child who is one of the most obstinate kids I have ever met.  I have read enough of this book called The Child Whisperer, The Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful, and Cooperative Children to know which type of child I am dealing with, but I guess I need to get back to reading it for added guidance.  I feel like I’m on a slippery slope of this kid turning into a spoiled brat.

Anybody out there have any ideas or books to help with negative-attention-seeking kids and obstinate ones?  Let me add before I move on to another topic that both of these kids have amazing sides to them as well.  I actually think the obstinate kid will benefit from this weakness, if it can be harnessed in the right direction.  And the former child has several other spectacular talents that I wish I was lucky enough to possess.  I keep thinking that with both of these kids, and even my other two that are currently easier to raise, I need to remember the words of the American writer, Tom Peters, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”  That is the essence of what these kids of mine need, I think.  More focus on their strengths rather than feeding in to their negative behavior.

While we’re still on the topic of parenthood, do we have any fans of the show Parenthood on NBC?  My husband isn’t a fan.  He claims that every show involves yelling.  He is mostly right, but oh how I’ll miss all the non-yelling moments.  I’m really hoping they end on a happy note and tie it up in a nice little bow.  I think that’s the least they could do for their fans, right?

Lastly, I’ve been pondering something when watching the world around me, particularly the actions of my husband.  Isn’t life just a little easier when everybody sets out to do as much as they can for the better good?  Today, my husband took care of so many tasks around the house that I dread doing, before he headed off to work.  His help provided me the opportunity to work simultaneously on other matters that needed tending to in our home.  His efforts changed the entire tone of my day.  Sometimes I think I focus too much on doing the bare minimum out of pure laziness, when doing just a little more can help lift all parties involved.  I realize I’m not saying anything we don’t already know.  I guess this is just a friendly reminder to myself that I want to contribute to others the way my husband contributes so much to our little family.

So, there you have it, folks.  Nothing grandiose to offer you this week, but meaningful topics to me nonetheless.

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In Dreams Awake

‘Twas a night in December of 2011, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that my BFF soon would be there.  The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while I anxiously awaited to start a horrifically cheesy Christmas movie that ABC Family had put out called 12 Dates of Christmas.  Sigh.  I was never good at poetry, so I’ll leave it for Clement Clark Moore.  Seriously though, I really wanted to see this movie and I knew my BFF, who has an equally pathetic love for cheesy rom-coms, was the perfect person to have by my side.  It had everything you would expect of a magoo made-for-TV-movie; discontinuity, plot holes, everybody growing together as people, cheesy lines, and a male lead character saving the world one wayward teenager at a time.  And, sadly, my BFF and I loved every second of it.  We even watched parts of it over again when we realized there were some hidden gems we had missed.  I may have liked it so much that I convinced another friend of mine to watch it with me again this year.  And even though we both laughed at all the corny lines, poor acting, and plot holes, we both found ourselves sighing, as smitten women do, at the tender predictable ending.

Watching the movie a second time, I found myself appreciating the concept of making the most of our lives.  If you didn’t watch the trailer in the link above, the lead actress lives Christmas Eve over and over again until she gets everything just right.  Think of the movie Groundhog Day with less humor and more magoo.  I got caught up in the message of living to our full potential in an effort to create a happier and fuller life.  They drive the message home in one scene when they use Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”  What a beautiful concept, right?  It reignited my desire to make sure my life matched my values, my righteous desires, and my dreams, as that’s how I interpret that quote.  I feel like the message is that we are to be active participants in creating a life that exemplifies who we aspire to be.

I think that’s why I like the idea of bucket lists so much.  They are like the blueprints of my dreams.  I think back to my 30th birthday and my husband’s gift to me.  My Life Bucket List has “Ride a Zamboni” on it.  My guess is that had I not put it out there as a sincere desire it would not have come to pass.  That February night in 2011, I was in dreams awake.  Or even something simpler I did this past week from my Christmas Season Bucket List.  I had on there to take cards to a retirement home.  As much as I genuinely wanted to do it, I could have easily justified not doing it.  The Saturday was cold and rainy and my husband would not be with me to help with the kids.  However, because of the list and having put it out there as something I wanted to do, I made the extra effort to do it.  How glad I am that we did.  It felt so good to brighten the day of so many people.  Plus, it was darling to see the pictures and notes my children created for the residents.  Seeing my children brighten someone else’s day is me living in dreams awake.

But it’s not just about bucket lists.  It’s about making the effort to live your dreams, whether they be small or large.  To live in the moment, to make the most of that moment.  That’s the message that 12 Dates of Christmas and Henry David Thoreau are trying to make, I think.  We have this glorious opportunity to change the world around us for the better merely by making a commitment to ourselves to live to our full potential.

In some ways I’m great at this and in other ways I fail to accomplish my dreams.  Perfect example: I dream of being healthier.  Not thinner, though that would inadvertently happen, but healthier.  I hope that one day I can live in dreams awake with a fit body.  In the meantime, cheeseburgers beat out vegetables every time.  Thankfully, I have not completely given up on myself.  My determination to accomplish my Life Bucket List may be all I need to make this a reality since several items on there require a healthier body.

Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.  And while Amy Smart got to live Christmas Eve 12 times over before getting it right, we also have another day to give it our best effort.  So, here’s to embracing our strengths and challenging ourselves on our weaknesses in the hopes of living in dreams awake; our truest life, or rather, to our full potential.

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Actively Engaging in Relationships

The following post was originally published on Over the Big Moon earlier this year.  I was still pregnant at the time.  This is a perfect post to piggyback last week’s post on being Purposefully Kind.  Reading this post again reminded me how I need to recommit myself to this endeavor.

The larger portion of the year 2010 was a particularly difficult time in my life.  Feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness were all too familiar to my daily routine.  One day in February
of that year, a small package arrived in the mail addressed to me with the return address containing my own address and the sender’s name noted as Secret Friend.  Inside was a little note and a package of Godiva chocolates.  I don’t do well with mysteries, but I did quite well with the delicious gift.  My spirit had been lifted in that moment.  I tried to get to the bottom of who the sender might be, but could not figure it out.  Then March came around and I received another package in the mail sent in the same fashion.  I was so touched and still so mystified.  I even started to analyze the handwriting with other cards I had received in the past.  I remain stumped.  Then April brought a spiritual message and May brought a thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day.  The remaining months of 2010 were each filled with a package or note being sent to me from my Secret Friend.  Then in January 2011, my final package arrived informing me that my year with my Secret Friend had drawn to a close.  I never did figure out who the sender was; although I have an inkling.  What I do know was that I looked forward to those arrivals.  I felt of the love this woman had for me in a time where I felt so unlovable.  I felt the joy that comes from friendship and small acts of kindness.

The treasured gift of friendship and our role in nurturing those relationships is what I wanted to share today.  This has been at the forefront of my mind, as I am homesick for many of my friends who live far away.  Plus, as I have been struggling through the roller coaster of pregnancy emotions, I have realized again how crucial friendships are in my life.  Sadly, I have done little to nurture those friendships that bear the burden of being long distance.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lulled myself in to believing that following people on Facebook and Instagram is sufficient in keeping a friendship alive.  As I’m sure you know, this is not the case.  Nurturing friendships requires more than observing another’s life through what they choose to share on social media.  However, at the same time, it may surprise you the impact you can make in a friendship through even the smallest of acts.  The operative word being acts.  Nurturing a friendship, or relationship of any kind, requires action.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but perhaps a reminder to actively engage with our friends is needed.  I know I need it.  Having moved out of state a year and a half ago from everything I had ever known, I have watched as friendships have slipped by the wayside.  I’m quite familiar with the three types of friends we encounter in life – those we have for a reason, those we have for a season, and those we have for a lifetime.  The thing is, I have a lot of lifetime friends that I have failed to actively engage with since moving away.  It’s not in my nature to do this, so it’s been disheartening to me.  Part of me wonders if I’ve stopped nurturing these friendships out of pure laziness or out of protecting myself (you know how sometimes connecting with somebody makes you miss them more)?  Regardless, I’ve learned that not only do I need these lifetime friends in my life, I want to feed these relationships in the same manner that I have been so richly blessed – with surprise packages, thoughtful texts, a shoulder to cry on, or a phone call just because.
The beauty of a friendship is that nurturing it doesn’t have to be filled with grandiose things.  Oscar Wilde said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  How true that statement is!  I had the pleasure this past week of catching up with one of those above mentioned lifetime friends.  It seems silly to think that a phone call qualifies as an act of kindness, but boy did it fill my heart with more joy than I anticipated.  I laughed so freely as we went on and on about all the craziness of life.  How grateful I am that we had a moment to actually talk rather than merely intend to call one another.  I was also blessed to receive a call from another friend who lives miles away, though we did not have the opportunity to catch up, who just wanted to chat.  I felt of the love of these women despite the many miles between us.

I think what it comes down to is that things have been rather tough for me as of late.  This pregnancy has not served my emotions well.  And I’m learning how blessed I have been to have such beautiful friends placed in my life to help lighten my load and increase my joy.  These friends, whether they know it or not, are re-inspiring me to actively engage in the world around me.  Each kind gesture brings me the same feelings of love that I felt with those monthly packages I received back in 2010.  I want to be better about returning that same joy and hope to friends and family.  I’ve grown tired of caring for relationships superficially.  So, please share with me those acts of kindness that you have either given or received that enriched your relationships.  My goal is to engage more fully with the many wonderful people that have been placed in my path.
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Purposefully Kind

During the two weeks that my Mom was home on hospice before passing away from cancer, we were the recipients of many kind deeds from an abundance of people.  One in particular that stands out still is an ice chest that arrived on our door filled with fruit juices, snacks, toys, and a variety of goodies.  It was from two girlfriends of mine that I hadn’t seen in quite some time.  When I first opened it, it seemed like such an odd menagerie of items.  However, as the days passed and I needed drinks for visitors, snacks for kids, and a toy for my toddler daughter who was desperate for attention, it all made perfect sense.  Years later, I received a phone call from a friend who was at a loss as to what to do for a friend of hers whose mom had just passed away.  My friend was asking me what she could do for her own friend, as she knew I had experience with the situation.  The ice chest immediately came to my mind.  My friend took the advice and told me later how grateful her own friend was for the gesture.  Since then, I have given greater thought as to how I can be of service to those around me in a way that is particular to their situation.  We’ve heard this described in several different ways – do unto others, as you would have done to you; be the good; pay it forward; love thy neighbor; and so on.  The motto I am going with lately is – throw kindness around like confetti!


Confetti is like glitter, it gets EVERYWHERE!  That’s what I want kindness to be in my life.  I want it to be EVERYWHERE!  I want to be like the waitress I had two weeks ago.  She had overheard our table conversation of snow clothes needs for our kids.  She immediately asked what sizes we needed for our kids.  I told her and she said, “Let’s exchange numbers so that I can get you what I have.”  She was true to her word too.  She went home, went through her storage, found my kids sizes, contacted me, and handed a bunch of items over and let me know she would keep in touch if she found more stuff that would work for my kids.  Sure you have a friend that might gladly hand over their used items, but a stranger?  Not likely.  And it’s not like snow clothes are cheap, trust me.  For the sake of argument, though, let’s say you don’t stand in need of anything financially and you can easily give away snow clothes without a second thought.  What then makes this situation that much more special?  She was a woman who paid attention to the needs of those she came in contact with.  Sure, she’s a waitress and she should be aware of an empty glass or a missing dish, but her role as waitress ends there.  What makes her extraordinary though is that her kindess wasn’t a product of her customer-oriented occupation, it was something she obviously carried around with her everywhere and then threw it around like confetti.

This is definitely an attribute that I need to improve upon, especially in our home.  I kid you not, I raised my voice at my bickering daughters yesterday to tell them to be kind to each other.  What sense does that make?  Granted, I was in pain, impatient, and frustrated, but that is not an excuse.  In fact, I plan to write a future post entirely about how that is not an excuse for poor behavior.  I wasn’t throwing around kindness, I was throwing around a poor attitude and it was felt by the entire home.  Because that’s how our moods and actions work, remember Attitudes are Contagious?

So, my goal is to heighten the amount of kindness I show others and, when possible, make it more purposeful.  I have started by following the example of that kind waitress.  While I am not in a financial state that I can give away a bunch of stuff, I’m doing what I can.  I recently posted a huge stash of infant clothes up on Craigslist for $30.  It was an entire wardrobe for an infant boy and then some.  Since posting it and having a person call to confirm the price, I have put several more items in the stack.  There’s well over $100 worth of items in there now and it’s no longer limited to clothes, as I learned the recipient is a first-time mom.  I don’t say this to boast of my generosity, because, frankly, I still feel a little guilty that I’m not handing over all of this stuff for free.  I’m sharing it as proof that the kindness and generosity of that waitress has spread into our home and I’m going to make sure I get that kindness everywhere.

What a wonderful time of year for all of us to increase our capacity for kindness.  It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated during this busy time of year, when instead we should be slowing down, soaking it all in, and spreading kindness.  I flash back to the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan gets in the cash only line at Zabars.  Do yourself a favor and watch the clip.  Then say to yourself, “I will be Joe, not Henry.”  The kindness of Joe brings smiles to the grumpy.

Go ahead and throw kindness around like confetti.  Even better, come back here and tell me the impact that it’s had on the world around you, because it WILL make an impact.  I know because the impact of the ice chest, a warm meal, flowers, snow clothes, care packages, cookies, free baby-sitting, and so very much more, has warmed my heart and brightened my day countless times.

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Attitudes Are Contagious

I recently made the choice to stop contributing on Over the Big Moon.  While I loved the opportunity to add to their website, I felt that I needed to focus more on our family and my recent health concerns.  I would still like to share those past posts here on my own site.  This post below was published back in March, which explains why I still reference being pregnant within the text.  I hope you enjoy!  This is one of my favorite posts and I was glad I had the chance to read it again!

I was skimming through a couple of my books this past week to read the highlighted portions.  I came across one line in a book that stated that courage was contagious and then another book wrote of confidence being contagious.  I nodded in agreement; my own life having been impacted by another’s confidence and courage that they had showed in theirs.  Then, I thought to look up some quotes about these attitudes being contagious.  It turns out, according to a Google search, kindness is contagious too, as is fear, creativity, enthusiasm, cruelty and the list goes on.  Apparently, we are a contagious sort of people.  
There was this one quote though that summed it up, “Attitudes are contagious.  Are yours worth catching?”  The irony of the quote is that it was said by two people.  I had yet to see a quote credited to two people until this one.  I imagined a husband and wife sitting in the same room and the thought must have been so contagious that they both uttered the words simultaneously.  The idea makes me giggle to myself.
I could wrap this post up right now with this poignant quote and call it a day, but I think it’s worth discussing the influence our attitudes can have on those around us.  As I mentioned above, I witnessed the attitudes of courage and confidence in others and it made a significant impact in my life.  Particularly, the attitude of courage.  
About two years ago, I lived in Southern California.  I had plans to spend the rest of my days there.  Most all of my friends and family lived in a 50 mile radius.  It was home.  Unfortunately, it was taking a greater toll on me to live there than I had realized.  The financial strains of the high cost of living, the fast paced life, and the overpopulation were wearing on me.  I felt that a move out of the state would be helpful, but I didn’t have the courage to leave everything I knew behind.  Certainly, there were several reasons that eventually made our out-of-state-move possible, but one of the big ones was the courage of a dear couple whom I admire greatly.  This couple had lived in my hometown for over thirty years and raised their kids in the same home that entire time.  Their home was the type where one always felt welcomed.  Two summers ago, with all of their children grown, they sold their home and moved to Utah.  As I joined in a couple gatherings to say farewell to this amazing couple, I sat back and witnessed the courage it was taking for the wife, particularly, to leave the “home” she had known behind.  But I saw that it was not the end of the world.  I guess I subconsciously thought it would be the end of the world for me if I moved, as it would be the end of the only world I had known up until that point.  The attitude of courage among this couple was indeed contagious.  Saying goodbye to them was one more piece to the puzzle that was coming together for us to move our lives out-of-state.  It was the piece of courage.  Courage that I so desperately needed.  Courage that brought us to a place that I now lovingly call home.
For every positive attitude that gets passed along in our daily actions, there is also the negative that we can, perhaps unintentionally, put out there.  I know this is certainly the case in our own home.  These past couple days are a perfect example.  I have been stressed out and trying to deal with the aches and pains that come with pregnancy.  While I’ve tried to keep my patience, my attitude has been less than positive and upbeat.  In fact, I have been rude and unkind.  My kids got the brunt of it.  My eldest, who soaks up my mood like a sponge, started to get sassy and then overly emotional.  Hmmmm.  I wonder where she got that from?  Oh yeah, ME!  Like the stomach bug that quickly spreads through an entire household, my poor attitude was picked up and passed along until everyone in the home was on edge.  It was like an epidemic and, regretfully, I was at the heart of it.
Attitudes are contagious whether we want them to be or not.  Just like a child is more likely to catch a stomach bug that’s spreading through a home than an adult, they’re also more likely to catch our poor attitude.  My guess is that it’s because a child is not going to break down our behavior and cut us some slack.  It will simply be, “Mom’s being mean.  I’m going to be mean.”  It’s not malicious, it’s just the nature of things.  Whereas, my husband may be more inclined to think things through with, “Sara seems on edge.  I wonder what’s really bothering her or if she’s feeling OK?”  Having patience with our children, during those moments when our negative attitudes start being thrown back at us, can help prevent added angst.  We need to understand that we have the opportunity to spread the attitude of joy or contention to those we come in contact with daily. Of course, be realistic.  We should not be expected to exude enthusiasm at all points in our day.  Our children need to understand that the downs happen too.  But we don’t need to dwell in those downs.  I had the opportunity this past week to recognize my poor attitude and strive to change it for the better for the sake of our home.
Tuesday was a particularly busy morning and it seemed that my daughter was needier than usual.  I kept trying to concentrate on a task and she kept asking me 101 questions.  I grew impatient and snapped at her.  She was just bored and wanted to make a snowflake.  A snowflake that would have resulted in me making it, which I felt too busy to do at the time.  When I completed my task, she had already given up on trying to get my attention.  I realized that I had been a grump and took my stress out on her unnecessarily.  I went and made her the best paper snowflake that I could and apologized to her for being a grouch.  I did my best for the rest of the day to be kinder and not dwell in my low.  I wasn’t perfect, but my sincere apology must have left an impression, as she mentioned multiple times through out the day, “It’s okay if you’re a grouch, Mom.”  I suppose the attitude of forgiveness may be contagious too.
Let us all reflect on the attitudes we are carrying around and ask ourselves if it’s something we want our children, our loved ones, and our communities to catch.  The best part about sending out positive attitudes is that their contagious nature results in them coming back our way.  What a beautiful gift to give the world and ourselves; that of a positive attitude.
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