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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Fifty by Fifty

I recently celebrated my birthday and ushered in the last year of my 40’s. The truth is, I had a pretty difficult time turning 40, so when it hit me that this was the year leading up to welcoming a new decade, I decided I wanted to be proactive and hopefully better prepared mentally and emotionally when the big 5-0 rolls around.

Many of my friends have turned 50 without issue or experiencing anything other than celebration. Some friends have even expressed that it was a non event in their lives. My husband turned 50 a few years ago, and on his 49th birthday he made a decision to pave the way for the big event by celebrating the entire year leading up to turning 50. He even called it “The Year of Lee.” During this year, my husband set out to do all the things he had always wanted to do. A bucket list of sorts. He took scuba diving lessons, learned to fly an airplane, went on trips, sporting events, and all kinds of other things he deemed important and significant. By the time his 50th birthday arrived, he felt ready to embrace the new decade with gusto.

My approach to embracing the upcoming new decade is similar, but different to my husband’s. I have created a list of 50 things I want to do by the time I reach my 50th birthday, but they aren’t necessarily big bucket list items. And, I am not sharing my list with anyone other than myself. My list is about me, for me. My list is comprised of things that are important to me, goals to reach, things to do or incorporate in my life, and maybe a few “out of the box” ideas here and there. I feel like this experience will give me more of an opportunity to be introspective and intentional about life; where I am and where I want to be in this next season. My hope is that by the time I turn 50, I will have worked through all the challenging feelings that will surely accompany this event, but more than anything, I will be well prepared and already on track to enjoy my 50’s to the fullest. So, here’s to my fifty by fifty!

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The Gift of Gratitude in The New Year

Today marks the beginning of a new year, and is traditionally a time when many people make resolutions for the year ahead. If you are someone that likes resolutions and find that they work for you, that is great. I’m just not one of them. I start with great intentions, but somehow my effort wanes. I decided to try something different this year. Instead of making resolutions, today I am starting a practice of gratitude. My goal is to commit to a year or longer, but my initial goal is to commit to thirty days of practicing gratitude. My thought is that thirty days is doable, while a year feels a little daunting. My hope is that a thirty day gratitude practice yields such positive results that I will continue my practice beyond the thirty days with ease.

I started thinking about gratitude practices and what they might look like a long time ago. I have had fleeting experiences practicing gratitude, but never committed to a daily time of acknowledging gratitude for my life and all that encompassed it. Recently, I have been reading more and more about gratitude, and seeing messages for the positives of being grateful “pop” up in the most unusual of places in my daily life. I decided that it was no accident that the message of being grateful was making itself known in my life. I took it as a sign that I was to do something about it, and not just say, “how nice” and move on. My “doing something about it” is to start a gratitude practice in 2015.

Gratitude is such a simple word, yet it truly carries more meaning and impact than we realize. Scientific research has shown that gratitude holds the power to change our lives in extraordinary ways. Researchers across the globe have conducted studies to determine the positive benefits gratitude can have on people, and the results are consistently impressive.

In these studies, participants are asked to keep a daily gratitude journal over a specified period of time, and record the things in their life for which they are grateful. At the conclusion of these studies, researchers found that participants reported an increase in their level of happiness, a decrease in stress and depression, improved and sometimes transformed relationships, an increase in energy levels, relief from anxiety, lower blood pressure, a stronger desire to help others, and greater progress toward achieving personal goals. An exciting revelation about these studies is that the many benefits achieved through practicing gratitude seem to be not only profound, but long lasting as well. Scientists believe that practicing gratitude actually re-wires the brain and allows the world to be processed differently. In short, practicing gratitude is really good for you!

We have so many things in life to be grateful for, but we often don’t take the time to intentionally acknowledge them. I would like to invite you to join me and begin or renew a practice of gratitude, and recognize all the many benefits it can offer you and your life. Begin by setting aside time every day when you can be alone and quiet. You may want to light a candle (one idea is to select a special candle as your gratitude candle, and use it just during this quiet time) and allow yourself a few minutes to get centered and clear your mind. When you are ready, list at least ten things you are grateful for that day in a journal or notebook of your choice (you can even name it your Gratitude Journal). Repeat this practice each day for at least thirty days, and then assess the difference it has made in your life.

I look forward to seeing what a difference having a practice of gratitude makes in my life, and hope that it makes a significant difference in your life as well. My hope is that we will all be impressed by the results, and make practicing gratitude a long-term addition this year and in years to come.

“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

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The Power of a Moment

It was the summer of 1974 and I had just completed the first grade. My mother, brother, sister and I had recently moved into an apartment sans my father. My parents had recently separated, and all had changed in my world. One afternoon while my younger brother and sister were off playing in other areas of our apartment, I was curled up reading a book in the living room. My mom invited me to join her beside the large, console stereo that sat behind our sofa. She was sitting in front of the open cabinet doors, flipping through a stack of albums. My mom loved music, and had a wide variety of albums by artists that reflected her varied taste. She invited me me to sit beside her and told me she had something special she wanted me to hear. Holding up the album cover so I could see it, she said, “This is one of my favorites, and I want to play you something on it.” I hadn’t remembered seeing this cover before. She carefully took the album from its white paper sleeve, secured it on the turntable, and flipped on the power switch. She placed the needle carefully on the correct track, then looked at me and said, “This is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. Listen. Music like this always tells a story. Close your eyes and see what story comes to your mind with each part. Just listen.”

As the music wafted through the air, I watched my mom lean her body back against the stereo cabinet, close her eyes and smile a soft smile. I sat still, listened to the music and reflected on her words from a six-year-old’s perspective. As I watched, it seemed as though the music had taken her away to a special, happy place where all was right and good. I liked that.

It was around that same time that I started taking piano lessons. A friend had given my mom some old piano music. Among the collection was a book of classical music for earlier/intermediate piano students. She opened that book to page 51 — Theme from Piano Concerto No 1 by Tchaikovsky, and told me that she would love it if I would learn how to play it.

That initial moment and the one that followed held great significance for me, although I wouldn’t recognize the significance until many years later. I grew up secretly loving classical music since it wasn’t “cool” for an adolescent or teenager to admit such a thing. After several years of taking piano lessons, I was finally ready to learn this special piece of music and honor my mom’s request. Unfortunately, not long after I really started learning it, I had to stop taking lessons due to unforeseen circumstances. I eventually learned this piece on my own, but it was never as polished as I would have liked or it should have been. Despite this being the case, each time I played it, my mom would look into the living room and smile that same soft smile at me. She never said anything, just smiled. I smiled back, knowing that we understood each other and the memories that understanding held.

Many years later, my daughter started taking piano lessons. This prompted me to think about taking lessons again. For my initial assessment, I played for my ever-patient and wonderful teacher, a rather crude rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I remember telling my mom this, and she seemed proud and happy that I had started taking lessons again, and would be playing this piece.

Fast forward to an afternoon in the early fall of this year. I looked through the mail and saw that our season tickets for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Concerts had arrived. I read through the season program, and noticed that the program for the November concert would feature Igor Kamenz, a brilliant and very accomplished pianist, performing, yes, you guessed it, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I could hardly wait for the concert date. The anticipation of hearing this piece performed live was equivalent to Christmas morning to me as a child.

As Mr. Kamenz approached the piano at center stage, I felt the emotion build within me. I sat mesmerized as his fingers danced across the piano keys and the orchestra joined him to beautifully perform this piece in full splendor. Tears formed in my eyes and my heart swelled with the memory of the many times my mom looked in on me as I  played the much simpler version of this piece, but especially with the memory of that initial moment when she invited me to listen to this piece for the first time. Just the two of us, sitting on the floor by the console stereo when I watched her take in the music, and she invited me to do the same. It was a powerful memory. A powerful moment.

You never know when something as small as inviting someone to listen to music will make an impact. I invite you to remain open to all the seemingly insignificant moments in our life, especially with our children. You never know when a moment will really matter and make a true difference that will last a lifetime.

I don’t think my mom ever realized the power of that moment we shared, but I know I do and always will.

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Filed under Gratitude, Making a difference, Parenting, Something to think about

A Lesson From The Geese

Yes, a lesson from the geese. I know it sounds strange, but I have learned over the years that life lessons can be found in the most unlikely places. A recent life lesson came to me one afternoon from a gaggle of geese as I hurried to pick my daughter up from school.

As I drove along the road leading to my daughter’s school, I noticed the geese a few hundred yards ahead walking along the side of the road. When I got closer, the leader turned and started walking across the street. The others naturally followed. I quickly realized that I couldn’t pass them before they were in the middle of the street, so I stopped and waited for them to cross. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I have never seen such a slow crossing of geese in my life. They took their sweet time, even pausing midway for a rest. At first I was extremely irritated as I didn’t want to wait for them to saunter across the street; I had children to pick up (child #2 to be picked up at an area high school) and music lessons to get to on time. However, once I accepted the fact that I had no choice but to wait, I put my car in park, opened my windows, turned off the radio, and shifted my paradigm. I decided to be still and enjoy the moment. I took several deep breaths. A gentle breeze blew the crisper air of fall into my car. Leaves softly flew through the air, just released from roadside trees that had turned gorgeous shades of bright orange and red. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. One I wouldn’t have had if it had not been for the geese.

I thought about how difficult it seems in our busy lives to actually take a moment, or two, to be still and take in life. To just “be” and nothing more. The minutes I spent waiting for the geese actually  filled my spirit more that day than I could have ever expected.

I was reminded that our children need moments to “just be” as well. I sometimes notice each of my children laying across their beds staring into space. I think they are naturally doing what adults need to be reminded of– they are being still and just “being.”

This is the time of year when things start ramping up activity-wise. On top of normal schedules, we add holiday shopping, parties, festive events, and entertaining to the mix of our already busy lives. While all of these things are fun and enjoyable, they can still add stress and busyness to already hectic schedules. Let’s all take time each day to be still and just “be.” Even if it is just for five minutes, take the time.

Oh, and if you don’t feel like you have the time to be still and take a moment, don’t be surprised if a gaggle of geese cross your path and give you the opportunity to experience this life lesson when you least expect it. If that happens, embrace the moment. You will be glad you did! :)

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Forever Marked: Memories of 9/11

In the last day or so, I have noticed many people posting/tweeting about 9/11/01. As a nation, we don’t want to forget, and we shouldn’t. People are sharing where they were, who they were with, and encouraging all to always remember the thousands of people that lost their lives that day. I remember my mother telling me that there would be several days in my lifetime that I will forever remember, in addition to the “big” days like graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my children. She said that these days will undoubtedly make an indelible mark on my memory– I would always remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling. Among her significant days were the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the day Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. 9/11 is one of those days for  me.

A particularly significant event in my life happened at the exact time a plane hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I was with my husband at my OB/GYN. I was several months pregnant with our second child, and the purpose of that day’s visit was to hear the heartbeat of my baby for the first time. The doppler was on my belly when the door of my exam room opened and a nurse leaned inside. The fast-paced thump thump thump thump of my sweet daughter’s heart echoed through the room at the exact time the nurse said, with a look of horror in her eyes, “an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” Fear and disbelief along with excitement and joy raced through me at the same moment. The memory and the  juxtaposition of these two events will be with me forever.

I believe that most everyone knows someone or knows of someone that has some connection with 9/11. In today’s world, six degrees of separation is several too many. I think it is more like two to three degrees. Whether they once worked at the twin towers, Pentagon, or the airlines, knew someone that did, or were connected with one of the people that worked to rescue victims or clean up the rubble for the many months following, I believe most everyone has a connection to that day in one way or another. My husband worked at a law firm in one of the towers years ago, my sister-in-law lost a relative and friend, one of the flight attendants was from my area, and a friend lost her next door neighbor. My list could go on and on. I’m sure yours could as well.

9/11 is one of those days my mother told me about. I will never forget that moment. That day. The loss of life and the beginning of life. Each year I pause, as many of us do, and remember. I give thanks for the gift of life and mourn the sacrifice of life. I appreciate the fragility of life, and am pulled back to the place of remembering the importance of each and every day. Both the big things and the little things that make up the fullness of life. Remembering our most precious commodity, time. Time doing the things that matter. Time with those we love. Time. Embrace it, and never forget.

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Taking Control at a Young Age

My daughter has had migraine headaches since she was very young.  While she wasn’t able to be formally diagnosed until she was five years old, her pediatric neurologist agreed that she has had them at least since she was a toddler.  He has taught me a lot about migraines in children, and helped me understand that they manifest and “look” different in children.  I remember many times when she was as young as two years of age watching her hold her head, crying.  The best remedy for the headache was for her to “sleep it off,” preferably in a quiet, dark room.  When her headaches got to this point, she wouldn’t eat or drink anything, so taking medicine to help alleviate the headaches wasn’t a possibility.

Fast forward to her at eleven, and she still deals with migraines on a regular basis.  Over the years we have identified her triggers and tried many strategies to cope with them.  Currently, she is  trying biofeedback.  One suggestion the biofeedback therapist (as well as other people over the last few years, including her neurologist) made was to consider eliminating gluten from her diet.  Her daughter had migraines when she was younger, and this dietary change seemed to make a difference for her.  I asked my daughter what she thought of this suggestion on our way home, and she said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!  I love my gluten.  I can’t give it up.”  She was familiar with what products did and didn’t have gluten as it has been a topic in our household over the years.  I dropped the subject.

A week or so later, my daughter came to me and said she had made a decision.  She told me she had decided to try a gluten-free diet for a month.  I was surprised and happy with her announcement.  I told her that I supported her decision, and would help her in any way I could.  I also told her I was willing to join in her effort so she wouldn’t feel like the “odd person out” in our family.  I doubted the guys in our house would totally give up their gluten.  :)

Today marks a month of my daughter and me being gluten-free.  I have to admit that at times this decision has been hard, but overall it hasn’t been that big of a deal.  My daughter has spent time reading about the benefits of being gluten-free, and thought hard about options of what she can eat on a daily basis, especially what to prepare for her school lunches.  Many restaurants offer gluten-free menus, so dining out hasn’t been that much of a challenge.  We have both sought out ways to create some of our family favorites like cookies and waffles with gluten-free flour.  I even made scones the other morning that, I believe, were even better than the ones we have made for years.

Another positive change is my daughter’s awareness of the food she is eating.  She now brings two lunch boxes to school as she is packing more fresh vegetables and fruit, all things that take up more space.  We have made a variety of protein smoothies for her breakfast (I haven’t quite convinced her to add anything green to them yet) and have found great options for snacks.  Overall, she has adapted well to this new way of eating, and doesn’t have a desire to go back to eating gluten right now.  And the best news is that she has only had three migraines in the last month — welcomed improvement!  I am definitely proud that she is taking control of her health and making decisions that are good for her.  I look forward to her recognizing even greater results in the coming months.

Special Announcement:

I am very excited to announce that my picture book, FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, is now available as an ebook!  It is available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks now, and will be available on Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo formats in the near future.   Please check it out and feel free to share the news with your friends.  Thank you!    http://ow.ly/th1ym

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