“Permission” Granted

We have all had moments when someone says something that “sticks” with us and makes a long-term impact. One such moment happened to me years ago when I hosted a committee meeting for an organization I had been involved in for years. The women in attendance flashed smiles at my then two-month-old infant daughter as she sweetly cooed in the bassinet. I noted that by the end of the meeting, each woman had made a comment that directly or indirectly referenced how she missed the days when her children were little. Several also mentioned how the years they spent raising children had gone by so fast.

From my vantage point at the time, I could not imagine their assertions were true. Life with two young children was exponentially fuller. I was in the midst of living on little sleep, struggling to carve out time with my three-year-old son and husband while taking care of an infant, wondering if I had ingredients to make some sort of dinner, keeping up with laundry, and so much more. In addition, my daughter had medical challenges that added layers of concern and focus. Every part of my being absolutely LOVED being a mom to my young children. It brought me deep joy to my core, but those days required all of my attention. And energy. It was honestly a struggle to keep up with everything.

After the meeting ended and the other committee members left, the president of the organization asked me if I had given thought to how I wanted to be involved the next year. I felt guilt knowing how I needed to respond.

I first shared how much I had enjoyed being involved and having the opportunity to be in leadership. I then followed with how I was sorry to tell her that I needed to step back and devote more time to my family.

Her response surprised me. 

She told me to not feel sorry as life is made up of many seasons and I had simply moved into a different season. After sharing her story of the changes she made in her life when her children were young, she encouraged me to fully embrace my new season and be grateful for the one I was leaving behind. This wise woman told me to trust that every season brings new things and experiences, and one day a season may bring me back to this or another organization, but my focus should always stay on my current season. She also shared that years ago someone she respected had “given her permission” to bow out of an organization and embrace her season of being a mom, and she wanted to do the same for me. 

She was not literally “giving me permission” but merely letting me know that it was okay to do what was right for me in the season I was in — focus time and energy on my young family. I appreciated her compassion, care and willingness to be authentic with me. I needed to hear her words more than I realized at the time.

In the years since, I have kept the concept of moving through different seasons and the awareness of how things change in each season top of mind. This “permission” has helped me stay more present, fully participate in and enjoy each season of my life.

I have experienced several life seasons since the conversation with my wise friend years ago. For me, some seasons have been easier to transition from and to than others. I have recently entered a new season of being an empty nester. My memory of the women reflecting on how fast the young years went by and how much they missed the time when their children were little hit me hard. What seemed unfathomable then is now my reality. I find myself thinking that my friend’s “permission” is just as relevant and important today as it was then. 

As I give myself “permission” to figure out what is right for me in my new season, I would like to follow my friend’s lead and give each of you the same “permission” to embrace your current and all subsequent seasons in whatever way feels best to you. May this “permission” allow you to stay more present, fully participate in and enjoy each season of your life. 

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Welcoming a New Season

When my children were young, I remember people telling me that time would speed up the older they got. I did not believe that would be the case. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Time picked up its pace when my son hit middle school. He became more independent and stayed busy with sports, friends and other activities. By high school, my son started working part-time, dating and enjoying a broader social circle and activities that accompanied that. My daughter, three years his junior, followed suit and also became more involved in her activities and expanded her social circle, meaning she was also home less often.

When my siblings and I were teenagers, I remember my mom making comments about how she most often saw us as we were “coming and going, mostly going.” History had repeated itself in my household.

Several months ago, I read an article about how popular mom bloggers seemed to slow their posting frequency or even go dark as their children grew older. Although I have not historically been a super consistent blogger, there was a clear connection between my children getting older and how often I posted.

I have missed blogging and actually have 64 drafts (I know, crazy) of posts in various stages that never saw the light of day. I was hesitant about posting anything that referenced my children since that would not go over well. I kept creating drafts and told myself I would circle back around to them one day in the future when they were older and did not care as much.

Well, that “one day in the future” has arrived. It is today. My son graduated from college last spring and flew out of the nest and my daughter is closer to flying out than my heart will acknowledge. I have entered a new season of life and am taking time to figure out what this season will look like for me.

I am a writer to my core and while I thoroughly enjoy writing for clients, I am excited to add my creative writing back into the mix. I look forward to writing about topics that interest me, inspire me, make me think or I just feel the need to write about.

After a rather long hiatus, I am happy, once again, to be sharing posts on A Mindful Mom… and more.

Feel free to comment, forward to friends or invite others you know who may also like to follow A Mindful Mom… and more.

Here’s to a new season.

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Welcome 2018

Happy New Year!

2018… a new year with new beginnings and opportunities! Many people begin a new year by making new year’s resolutions. I first learned about making resolutions when I was 8 years old. A friend told me that I would have a year of bad luck if I hadn’t penned my list by the stroke of midnight. I remember working hard on my list and asking my mother to review them before I pronounced them complete. I secured the ambitious list (for my age) under a lamb figurine I had on my bedside table, feeling quite accomplished and ready to take on the new year. However, by the end of January, the list was a distant memory and used as a bookmark for a book I read before going to sleep.

I read one statistic that cited only 8% of people keep their new year’s resolutions. This didn’t surprise me as most people have a tendency to create resolutions that are overly ambitious or restrictive. After skipping this tradition for many years, I decided to adopt another approach to making resolutions. Now, at the beginning of each new year, I make a list of three simple things to add to my life. I don’t share them with anyone else and I don’t list more than three. Examples include, but are not limited to:

– Do something unexpected for one person each day
– Once a week, send a note to someone and share why you are grateful for them
– Be extra kind to someone who seems to be having a bad day
– Smile when you don’t feel like it
– Take five minutes each day to take a mental break and “just be”
– Share a positive observation with someone each day
– Spend 30 minutes doing something completely fun every day
– At the beginning or end of each day, write down one thing in a journal or other special place for which you are truly grateful

This type of resolution is easier for me to keep and makes me feel happier and more accomplished. Interestingly, the fact that I keep them to myself makes them all the more fulfilling. In a way, it is like sharing an anonymous gift with others and I like that feeling.

Whether you choose to begin your new year with or without resolutions, here’s to a fantastic 2018!

Cheers!

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Farewell 2017, with Gratitude

On the last day of each year, I have a ritual of looking back over the previous twelve months. So, early this morning, while my family slept, I turned on the Christmas lights and took a seat in my favorite chair. This vantage point gave me a perfect view of the lighted garland draped along the banister and the tree adorned with years of memories. All was quiet save for the faint Christmas music playing throughout the house and the gentle sound of water from the foyer fountain. The perfect setting for a time of reflection.

With hot coffee in hand, I mentally reviewed each month. I reflected on the highs and lows. The sweet times and sad times. The moments of joy and pride. The moments that brought many tears.

I paused with each moment and offered gratitude. Gratitude for the experience, the memory, the milestone, or a life well lived.

I often hear people say, “good riddance” after a particularly challenging year. When tempted with this mindset, I always try to remember the sage wisdom of my grandmother, “Tootsie.” Any time I complained about something, Tootsie had a way of turning it around and showing me how I could bless it and be thankful for it. During difficult times, Tootsie would remind me that a silver lining did exist and would be revealed in due time. She would also tell me to be grateful for whatever the circumstance and believe that good would always result. I am happy for the reminder to see things through grateful, positive lenses, especially as one year ends and a new one begins.

Farewell 2017. I give thanks for all you brought. I choose to look for silver linings in the less than bright hours. I celebrate all the wonderful memories. Farewell 2017, with gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Magical Season

For as long as I can remember, I have been enchanted by this time of year. I can recall my first memory of driving around town to see all the holiday lights just like it was yesterday. The experience of seeing the brightly colored displays in neighborhoods around town, taking a trip to see “the World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree,” making Christmas cookies, stringing popcorn and cranberries to hang on the tree, watching the classic holiday movies and reading ’Twas The Night Before Christmas” were all special traditions I looked forward to each year.

When my children were young, I embraced every opportunity to create special traditions with them. Some I continued from my childhood and others were new. I loved watching the excitement on their faces as they experienced special moments in the days leading up to and on Christmas day. I believe that true magic happened in those moments. The kind of magic that will always exist within our hearts, if we truly believe.

Although some traditions have changed a bit since my children have become teenagers, they are no less meaningful. I hope that, one day, my children will look forward to sharing special traditions with their children, and even carry forward some from their childhood. ❤

I hope you all take time to reflect on this lovely and memorable time of year as you honor your special traditions and spend time with family and friends. I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday and all the joy and peace of this magical season.

 

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Anniversaries of the Heart

Anniversaries of the heart are days that are forever marked in our memories and heart, and many times experienced silently. Often these anniversaries are connected to loved ones that have passed away. This is one of those days for me — I lost my mother three years ago today.

I still miss her so much and think about her every day. I sometimes see things that remind me of her or recall a memory with her and feel a wave of emotion. There are even days that I pick up the phone to call her, only to remember that she won’t be on the other end of the line.

Time does help heal, but there are days that it hits me more than others. Her birthday, holidays, and the anniversary of her death are all times that strike more of an emotional chord. I have lost a lot of people in my life, but I think there is something different about losing your mom. In fact, over the last few days I have had several conversations with women who have lost their mothers, and they both echoed the sentiment that although it is really hard when anyone you know and love dies, there really is something different about losing your mom.

I am grateful for the time I had with my mom, but as most people would probably say, I wish I had had more time. When her health first started declining, I made it a point to learn as much as I could about her, and leave nothing unsaid. I asked her questions about her life growing up, about my childhood and other things I just wanted to know about her. I told her things that I loved and appreciated about her, and memories of special times in my life. I cherish all of the conversations I had with my mom, and the richer relationship we had in the end as a result.

As the day marking this anniversary of my heart comes to a close, I thought Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem was especially poignant and meaningful.

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

–HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

 

 

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The 100K Milestone

100,000 miles. I watched as my car’s odometer recently added the additional digit and flipped to reveal 100,000. It was hard for me to believe this day had arrived. It seemed like we drove my brand new car home from the dealership just yesterday. But, it wasn’t yesterday, it was five years ago.

It struck me how my concept of time with car ownership ran parallel to being a parent. I often hear myself say that I can’t believe my children are already 16 and 13 years old. Clearly, I have traveled many miles as a parent since the days they were born, but in my heart and in my sentimental memory, it feels like yesterday.

In my mind, I can instantly return to the moment we brought our son home. I remember sitting his sweet self, all cozy in his car seat, on the chair in our family room, and thinking of how excited I was to begin this new chapter of life. The concept of him being “grown” felt 100,000+ miles away. I felt the same when we brought our daughter home three years later.

Fast forward several years, and today a typical scenario in my home includes my son saying, “See ya, Mom” as he grabs the car keys to drive to his part time job or pick up his girlfriend to go out on a date, while my daughter asks if I will drop her off at the theater so she can meet her friends to see a movie. A big change in what feels like a short window of time.

I thought about all the miles my family has traveled in my car over the last five years. I reflected on the many trips we have made to and from school, ballgames, practices, ballet classes, cello and piano lessons, church, family and friend’s homes, performances, recitals, doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, drug store, and school programs. I remembered happy times of fun vacations and weekend trips. I remembered last minute trips to purchase poster board or other necessary items for school projects or school trips. I remembered these trips and countless others.

Each one of the 100,000 miles we have traveled in my car represents a small piece of family history experienced over the last five years. I am reminded of the saying, “it is the journey, not the destination that matters.” My car has arrived at many destinations over the last five years, but I found the special memories were in the journeys along the way. I look forward to all the future journeys my family will take in my car as it travels towards the next mileage milestone, and my children continue to grow towards adulthood. May we all embrace the journey of each mile we travel in life, because it does go by way too fast.

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You Never Know

We arrived at the island airport feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after a great vacation. We immediately noticed that the small ticket counter area was filled with stifling lines of suitcase laden, sunburned travelers that wound around several times and back out the side of the open fronted building. It was easy to assume that most of the travelers were irritable and impatient. Our vacation state of mind was in jeopardy.

As I repositioned my roll-on suitcase, I accidentally bumped into the woman standing behind us. I apologized, but the look on her face in response was severe. She let out an audible sigh of what I thought was disgust. However, when I looked into her eyes to issue an apology, I saw pain and sadness, not anger. The exchange took less than five seconds, but as I turned to reclaim my place in line, I realized that my assumption that the woman was angry didn’t feel right. Something else was wrong.

When our line started moving forward, I turned to the woman and commented on how nice it was that we were finally making progress. She nodded and looked at me, but now with tears in her eyes. I asked her if she was okay, and she shared that a few hours earlier she received a call letting her know that her mother passed away. This devastating news put her in a state of grief and shock, cut short a special two-week vacation with her youngest daughter and put her in the position of revising travel arrangements with short notice.

Later, as I sat on the plane, I thought about how I had misjudged this woman. She was sad, not angry. I thought about how often we make incorrect assumptions about people and what is going on in their lives. I also thought about how we sometimes misjudge our children (teens, too) and think they are being difficult and defiant when they may be tired, hungry, stressed or upset.

I think it is important to be aware of the judgements we make about people. Maybe we could all make more of an effort to be understanding, and open to the possibility that the emotion people share on the surface may not represent what is going on with them internally. Maybe this shift will help us all be more empathetic, and change our reactions and interactions with others, for the positive. Imagine the good that could come from such a simple change.

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Looking For The Good

I was listening to NPR in my car one afternoon, and thinking about all the tragedy our world has experienced in recent months. As I approached a stoplight, I listened as the announcer reported yet another horrible, sad story. At that same time, I looked up and noticed a man at the corner, waiting for the city bus. He was exuberantly dancing and apparently singing. I opened my window and heard him singing what seemed to be a song of praise in a loud, powerful and jubilant voice. I clearly heard him sing a line about hope and joy. Interestingly, he didn’t appear to be listening to music on a phone or any other device. The music he heard was coming from within, and he was sharing it enthusiastically, with voice and body.

The juxtaposition of this moment struck me. Even in the midst of all the negative news, there is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good.

It is easy to get bogged down in the negative news that crosses our path on a daily, if not hourly basis. Stories from across the globe of wars, crime, tragedies, natural disasters, homelessness, political discontent and other depressing topics are everywhere we turn. The “instant information” world we live in can be both a blessing and a curse. I have a friend that “quit” television and newspapers a number of years ago because she grew weary of all the negative news. At first I was surprised at her decision, but later recognized the merit in her thinking.

Despite what it may seem like sometimes, there is a lot of positive news. There are a number of websites and efforts devoted only to positive news and finding the good in our world. A few examples of positive news outlets are:  www.dailygood.org, goodnewsnetwork.org, http://www.positivity.org and http://www.happynews.com. I have added a few of these websites to my Favorites Bar, and I encourage you to consider doing the same.

The negative news can’t help but affect us, especially our children. Their perception of the world is still being shaped. I think we have an obligation to the younger generations to help them find the positive in our world, and in their day-to-day lives. I also think we should encourage them to seek opportunities to help make a difference in our world, and to show compassion and kindness to others so they can be part of the good news.

There is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good. Whether at an event with thousands of people or at a city bus stop, the good is out there. Let’s all help each other find it, each and every day.

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A Mother’s Unconditional Love… Even for Furry Children

I recently picked up our English Cream Golden Retriever after a spring break stay at the kennel. When I saw her, I immediately felt something wasn’t quite right. She seemed to be her sweet, lovable self, but my intuition told me something was off. Later that day, it was clear that she didn’t feel well and something was wrong. As the day wore on, her condition worsened. By the next morning I had been outside with her no less than ten times during the night, and cleaned up various areas inside our house. I was exhausted, having seen each hour on the clock pass, but more than that, I was worried about our furry child.

As I waited patiently for the vet’s office to open, I remember thinking that as moms (not to exclude dads, but I can only speak to what I know) we constantly think (some may say worry) about our children, and do what we need to do to take care of them. We push through what might seem hard or impossible, whether it is giving baths in the wee hours to help allay high fevers, or finding just the right words to convince the doctor’s office to squeeze in another patient early in a tight schedule. We don’t question, we just do it. We mother at all hours of the day and night, pushing aside our schedules and needs, just because that is what we do. Of course, we would prefer to get sleep or not have to cancel an important meeting, but our children take precedent.

I had liked dogs before Lexi came into our lives, but wouldn’t have called myself a huge animal lover. I grew up with dogs and all kinds of other pets (guinea pig, birds, cat, hamsters, fish, etc.), but never spent a lot of time caring for or loving on them. That all changed when we got Lexi.

After my all night experience with Lexi, I realize that a mother’s unconditional love can even extend to furry children. I did whatever I needed to do to take care of Lexi. After many tests, several medications, a special diet and some TLC, Lexi is thankfully back to her normal, sweet self. And yes, I even slept in a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor with her the night after she came home from her day-long visit at the vet. She needed to be cordoned off in a small area and have a close eye kept on her for the first 24 hours. No, I didn’t sleep well, but that didn’t matter. I did what I needed to do for our Lexi. That’s what moms do. 🙂

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