The Warrior Song – My Messy Beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, the bird sings because it has a song.

Maya Angelou

I made a major change over a year ago.  I decided that rather than go back to a job that I was good at but didn’t offer me much in the realm of satisfaction, I would stay home with our newborn son.  With the full support of my husband, I made the decision to “consciously uncouple” from my career.   I don’t blame the job, and I didn’t opt out because I thought that staying at home was the prescribed role for women.  At one time, I had that thought that women should stay home.  My certainty was steeped in the belief that if you commit to a role, stuck by it, life would work in your favor.  I thought that everything you ever wanted – or thought you wanted – would just work out without much pain and hurt.  But strict roles only work when everything stays the same.  If there’s one thing that having kids has taught me, change is constant.

In the end, I didn’t leave my career because I wanted to fit in a certain role as a mother.  I realized that a career doesn’t stand in the way of motherhood anymore than anything else I pursue.     I mean does anything really work seamlessly and in tandem with motherhood?  Does cooking a meal, managing a household, volunteering, being an activist, a friend, a woman, a wife, an athlete, a professional, an entrepreneur, a neighbor or anything at all go hand in hand with motherhood?  Becoming a mother has shown me that everything requires effort, balance, teamwork, a village, and some chocolate.

Ultimately, I wanted to make a choice that wasn’t rooted in fear and insecurity.  Guess what?  It’s all harder than I thought it would be.  Messy doesn’t even cover it.  Staying at home gave me no more security in my mothering abilities than being a working mom did.  I thought making difficult choices took you down the right road?  I thought the road less travelled made all the difference?  I’m looking at you Robert Frost!   I chose a road that would confront my fears, but I’m still scared.  Now there is one singular thing I am failing at spectacularly, rather than, doing well enough at work to cover up my insufficiencies at home.

And when in doubt, I resort to old tendencies and beliefs.  I don’t know if it’s better to stay at home or have a career, but my old beliefs?  Those, I’m well acquainted with.  They’re negative and destructive, but at least I know them.  Right?  They’ve been my constant companion these 30 plus years.  Maybe you have some too?  At their core, mine sound like this:  you’re no good; you’re damaged; you will never change; who do you think you are; everything is your fault – everything.

Who has time to worry about having a career, the right parenting techniques or the best new diet to shed 10 pounds when everything is an assault.  Like, EVERYTHING.  That bad mood that the grocery store clerk was in – my fault somehow.  My daughter wishing for a two-story house – my fault.  Global warming – my fault.  So what is the right answer?  It’s not like you can Google that.

Weeks ago, I shared these thoughts with my therapist.   She pushed me to begin with what I know about myself.  A list of the good things.  Because when you have no answers, you should start with the good things you do know.  Then, she asked me if I could believe these things about myself.  It’s all very Stewart Smalley – I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – except that when you have a hard time believing in your good, then it’s actually not a silly SNL skit anymore.  It’s heartbreaking.   But I can play along.  If I’m not my old wounded self, then the possibilities are endless.

Wait.  The other shoe is bound to drop.  Because life taught me at an early age that the other shoe always drops.  Hurt happens.  Hand in hand sometimes with the good.  It’s what Glennon Doyle Melton calls “brutiful” – brutal and beautiful.   It’s not always drastic or life threatening, though sometimes it is.  The shoe dropping could be the moment you lose it and yell at your daughter for no good reason at all.  Or it could be the miscommunication with your husband that leads to a blow out of epic proportions that leaves no one unscathed.  Or it could be a rejection letter, the job you didn’t get or worse, silence.  These things happen.  The disappointments of life, of others, or of ourselves are real.  Whatever shape they take, the messiness and the hurt is waiting in the wings.

So, I asked my therapist the obvious question.  Why bother?  Why bother risking it when you can’t guarantee the outcome?  Why should I try so hard if I can’t guarantee that I will get what I want or that I won’t get hurt in the process?  My therapist doesn’t draw my attention elsewhere to shiny objects or silver linings – we’re so beyond that.  I’m glad.  She never denies the hurt and sometimes we sit in this place for a bit.  Feeling the weight of fear, the discomfort of hurt.  Just when I think I’m going to get coddled, she asks what if despite the hurt, we live life anyway?  What if we believe the good and take the risk, as they say, to fight the good fight?  Not because we can guarantee an outcome but because we’re fighting to make life, our life and lives around us, even an ounce better.

Not long after I was on the hunt for a new tattoo.  (I mean, how else does one go about sorting out questions without answers except when on the hunt for a new tattoo?)  And in a moment of divine intervention, I came across the quote from Maya Angelou.  “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, the bird sings because it has a song.”  This is it, people!  Eureka!  This is what it means to fight the good fight.  Not because I have an answer, but because I have a song to sing.  And the angels sang or my brain exploded, or both.

You know what happened next?  The song.  First – no one else can be mother to my kiddos.  Having a career, staying at home, being involved, pursuing my passions, or even not knowing what to pursue, nothing – nothing can change that.  My death won’t even change that.  I will always be Lola and Eli’s mom.  No one else can sing that song for me.  It gets better.  Despite and in spite of my imperfections, my husband and kids are getting the best of me.  Even when it’s messy and ugly and hurtful, it is my best because it’s the one where I sing a song instead of live in fear or shame.  It’s not even close to perfect, and in certain moments it’s not even beautiful, but it is so good.  This is the best part of me; the part that seeks change and growth and goodness. The part that gets to choose how to live life.  That is my song, my warrior song.

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Shared Space

Imagine this is your living room.  Welcome to my home.

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You know what happens when you come up with the brilliant plan to wait 5 years into your marriage before having kids? You get used to living in an adult house. I mean, as adult as one can be when you’re in the early to mid twenties range. Of course, I don’t mean owning nice things, unless you count the electronic gadgets. It’s really more or less an adult’s ability to respect space and quirks. You know, quirks like it’s not a good idea to speak or ask me questions in the morning unless I’ve been up an hour prior. That one was pretty obvious early on in the relationship. The bigger problem – I’m not usually one to get up an hour before anyone. But as adults, we my husband soldiered on.

You know who is clueless about your need for space and respect for your quirks? Kids, that’s who. I won’t even go into the questions that are fired at me before I have a chance to open my eyes. The same amazing offspring that bring you so much joy and laughter has literally no idea what you mean by space. I know, I was shocked to figure this out, too! You could say I’m a bit slow for realizing this just now, but I’ve never been at home full-time. There’s this whole other life that occurs when kids are free to roam the house during the weekday hours of noon to 6 pm. Who knew? When you work in an office, weekends are filled with errands and activities. Trying your best to catch up on zoo and museum trips, sporting events or just trying to refill the fridge for the week ahead. Not a lot of time spent at home, so your home stays relatively easy to put back together.

I’ve noticed lately that I find myself in a place where “my spaces” are more than shared with a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old. It’s mostly a take over. Snacks, the tv, the couch, the floor, clothing, accessories are being hijacked on a daily basis. Call it selfish, but in order for this to work in everyone’s best interest, momma needs a few square feet to call her own. These are my options as I see them….

  1. I can tell the kids it’s time they struck out on their own. It’s never too soon to learn what the real world has to teach us, right?
  2. Tell them playing is overrated, as is creativity. Let’s just sit in front of the tv and do nothing. SO much better.
  3. We can buy a HUGE house. One that we can’t afford and preferably has an east and west wing and a playroom. Oh, and also comes with a cleaning lady because I can’t be bothered to clean more than my current 1500 sq feet of space. And some might argue that I don’t even do that well.
  4. We can build on to our tiny house, which will of course cost us more than it’s worth and make me wish we had just bought a different house.
  5. Get rid of all toys. Let’s get back to basics y’all. Kids these days are so spoiled and have too many choices any way. Am I right?!?
  6. I can go on one of those crazy let’s reorganize the entire house because I need to create space that is their space and my space. Together but separate, right? All about compromise.

Let’s just say in the interest of letting kids be kids and achieving some semblance of my own space, I rearrange half of the living room.

My Space

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Their Space – so much space to destroy and yet still be within arms reach of mommy and the tv.  Priorities.

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I feel so much better, already. Now I just need to sort out how to help my daughter’s room look more like a room and less like a bomb went off. What is there in life if not a good challege?

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The Draw of Community

You may or may not have read up on recent posts that claim Crossfit workouts are bad, bad, bad. Or maybe it’s the coaches. No wait, it’s definitely the guy that started this whole thing, right? Oh no, actually, it’s the participants. You know, the ones that can’t stop talking about the gospel according to Crossfit. But this is not a post to discuss and dissect the merits of this thing called Crossfit that recently made an appearance in Time magazine. This post isn’t even meant to make you change your mind or convert your way of working out/eating/living. The post is also NOT a commentary on whether or not Crossfit workouts are good for you. This is only an observation of events occurring at my local Crossfit box that I think apply to the whole of life.

I’ve been trying to get back into the healthy lifestyle thing. The baby has now turned 1 and despite my best effort no real effort on my part, the baby weight has yet to come off. I just don’t get how minimal exercise and no change in eating habits didn’t produce the results I was hoping for. Putting on the weight was sooooo easy. So, why, oh why is getting back to a healthy weight for me so very difficult? And by difficult, I mean, why does it require ANY effort on my part? Some people wake up two weeks after the birth of their baby and voilà, the weight is all gone. It is a cruel and unjust world we live in, people.

So, when my plan to go to sleep every night and wake up at a healthier weight didn’t work, I knew something had to change. I tried. Over the last 6 months, I ran a little. I did a couple of Crossfit workouts. I did yoga a few times only to realize, that business is hard. Feel like you’re going to snap your body in two, hard. Ok, so I didn’t try very hard. I’m at that point of I either do this, or I don’t. I don’t think I want to live in the I don’t. Enter Crossfit. It’s my workout of choice because I think at it’s core, it does what it should do for your body. Of course, as with all things, you should know what you’re doing, listen to your body, and have great coaches. Just to be clear, nutrition is a huge part. HUGE part of the healthy lifestyle, but that would be an entirely different post.

So I’ve been waking up at the ungodly hour of 5 am. For you morning people, I am not one of you. So yes, 5 am is ungodly by my standards. I’m attempting 3 Crossfit workouts a week because 3 is better than none. To date (since I started 3 weeks ago) I have only made it 2 a week. But I’m not beating myself up, because this is more consistent effort than I have given to working out (if you don’t count playing soccer) in the last 6 months. Celebrating the positive, people.

On Tuesday night, I glanced at the workout for Wednesday morning. As in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Big Mistake, Huge! It just looked awful, 4 rounds of awful, to be exact. I made up my mind, as I lay in bed at 8:30, (because that’s what time you go to sleep if you want to wake up at ungodly hours of the day) that I would be skipping the workout. Imagine my disappointment when my alarm went off at 5, and I decided, against my better judgement, that I should go ahead and workout.

My suspicions were confirmed, that workout was awful. Into my first set of 10 movements, yes, that’s right, the very beginning of the workout, I was already dripping in sweat. It was 19 degrees outside that day and the gym may have been a cozy 50 degrees. So, yeah. I kept on, sweat and all. I did it. It was ugly. I mean, really ugly. I didn’t even entertain the thought that I might look good doing the workout.

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I knew I looked like the other image, there was no imagining a better version of me. I was also convinced that I would be the last of the last, and most likely, one of the coaches would have to gently suggest that I cut the workout short given my struggle to finish. Finally, round 4, done. The girl next to me had just finished and shared my exact thoughts. That was rough. Another girl came up and shared our sentiments. As I was slowly collecting my keys, another guy shared how that it was the hardest workout he’d done in a while. As I looked around, red and sweaty faces were congratulating each other, nodding to the difficulty of the challenge.

And it hit me, it’s not just that Crossfit is challenging, can produce feelings of general bad assness (totally a word), change your body, or make you stronger. Crossfit thrives because when you share in the difficulty of the struggle alongside others, it draws you in. You’re no longer alone. You are now part of a community. Because in that moment, when all is said and done, you realize you weren’t alone in your struggle. Everyone went through it. Even the stronger ones, the ones that finished ahead of you. They went through their own version of the struggle or had been through it before, and in the end, they came alongside and encouraged you. It is not just in the workouts and nutrition, but, rather, the collaborative struggle to make it through. that creates this community.

On a macro level, aren’t these thoughts true of life? Those that experience the struggle alongside you are the ones that draw you in. Those people are the ones that you cling to for community. It’s when those around you admit the difficulty, that you allow yourself some grace even if was a bit ugly. When you realize you are not alone in the toughness/messiness of life, the thought occurs – maybe this is hard/messy sometimes. Maybe I’m not a crazy because marriage, parenting, being yourself can be rough. And quite possibly, maybe that is ok. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are showing up. Not only that, but others are showing up, too. Realizing you’re not alone makes the struggle a bit more bearable and possibly even allows you to, I daresay, appreciate the struggle. After the struggle is over, of course.

Truly.

When I play soccer, it’s not the back aches, winded “runs”, shots to the face/boobs/thighs/any part of the body that could leave a mark/hurt that makes it worth it. It’s that you have other players alongside you going through the same thing. Sometimes we celebrate the win after, sometimes we just nurse your wounds. And when one of the stronger players on our team gives a word of encouragement, I can’t help but feel the draw of the community. Or when one of other players that, like me, didn’t grow up playing soccer shares in my weaknesses/fears/pain, I again draw closer.

The examples are endless. It’s not just soccer or Crossfit, but any where you experience the ugly/messy struggle surrounded by others. Find a place. I promise you won’t regret it.

What’s my excuse

So you’ve probably all heard by now about the mom that posted her hot body pic while surrounded by her three young kiddos with the tag line, “what’s your excuse.” She has, of course, since posted an apology statement with her intentions behind the picture. I mean who hasn’t said something hoping for the best only to have it backfire so very badly? I feel for her. I get that she meant well and wanted to be an inspiration and yet, she inspired more annoyance and probably lots of hate mail. Lots. Personally, I was too tired to respond.

And yet, I get the backlash. As if women didn’t beat themselves up enough. The things we tell ourselves – we’re not pretty enough or skinny enough; we don’t spend enough time with our husbands, kids, dogs, friends, ourselves; we suck at parenting, time management, cooking, parenting, car pooling, pairing wine; our hair looks terrible; we have too many wrinkles; we’re not sexy enough; we don’t exercise enough; we’re not feeding our kids or ourselves properly. And these were all things we said while driving to work or sitting in the carpool line. I tell my husband that he’s lucky he’s not in my head – it’s a crazy mess in there most days. I’m pretty sure he’s thankful he’s not in there either. It’s constant work to remind myself I am good enough. I am an amazing creation, whether I’m running, lifting weights, have my shit together or when everything is completely chaotic, my feet hurt and the only weight I’ve been lifting the last two weeks is the 10 month old who refuses to crawl or walk. So, I get the backlash. I hate on myself enough. I don’t need someone else who seemingly has it all together to add to the already negative messages in my head. I know she meant well, but …

My friend and often running partner, sent me her thoughts and I couldn’t help but nod in agreement. We don’t have excuses for not looking our best, and we do know what it takes.  Sometimes it’s just a trade-off. At least right now. So we make choices. But no matter what, let us all start as she ended her letter, by acknowledging that We Are Awesome. Every one of us. You too, Hot Body, What’s your excuse mom. Not perfect, but still awesome. I promise to do my best to love myself whether my muscles are defined or mostly soft so that my family and friends experience the love I have for myself rather than the hate.

Then, let us collectively acknowledge that we have no idea what really goes on within each other’s lives. The daily tasks we face, the full or empty calendars. How could we, we’re living our own lives, aren’t we? Let us dig a little deeper, love each other a little more. Breathe. Let go. Love others. Love yourself. Repeat. You are awesome.

An Open Letter from a friend on What’s Your Excuse?

What is my excuse?  I have no excuses.  What is your excuse for making assumptions about my goals or the goals of countless other new (or relatively new) moms out there that are simply doing their best?   What is your excuse for even thinking you deserve to ask me that question?

 When I first saw your picture, I thought to myself, are you calling me fat?  Lazy?  Are you telling me that I am not making enough time to work out as much as I need to?  All of which are true, hence the super defensive reaction.   But, then, I started wondering, since you put yourself out there, what about you?  What have you looked like your whole life?   Were you blessed with an amazing body from the get go?   Have you always been an athlete?   Are you one of those really lucky women that gain 20 pounds or less during pregnancy and then fit right back into your skinny jeans?  Were you able to workout for 40 weeks with babies in your belly?   Or, did you have body issues growing up?  Have you fought weight your whole life?   Is this some HUGE accomplishment that we should all be congratulating you for?  I mean, you rock that body whatever your background and after 3 kids and I will give you high fives all day long.

 I myself have fought my weight and body issues my entire life.   I was never extremely fat and am lucky that my body hides it well.  I never had an eating disorder.  I had plenty of friends that accepted me for who I am.   Although I have run off and on my whole life, I was never an athlete.   I probably hovered at a very unhealthy 30% fat until after my 2nd child.   I decided that I needed to make time for me (my first two kids are 17 months apart) and so I got a trainer, decided to walk a 3 day 60 mile walk for cancer and then run a half marathon.   I did this as a way to make time for myself and to set an example for my very young children.  I wanted them to know that activity is a way of life.   It will keep you happy, healthy and you can even do things for great causes at the same time.   Then I woke up one day and I was 17% body fat and I wanted to walk around nude because I had never looked so good…then I got pregnant again.  And this girl gains 70 pounds pregnant, and honestly, enjoys every minute of it!

  As you must know getting to the gym is not easy with 3 kids.   I have chosen to do it differently this time.   I know what it would take ME to look like you.  I know that 3 days of 2 a day workouts and 3 additional workouts a week will do it.  I know the calories and percentages I need to fuel my body.  I know the food preparations  I need to make in order to do this.  I don’t want that life.   Where would I get the time?   From the precious sleep I need to be a good mom for my kids, from my all important recovery sleep that I know working out that hard would require?

 Maybe you should have said something like, it can be done!  I’m Awesome!  Anything other than, “ What are you excuses”?  I would gladly have looked at your picture and thought, WOW that is amazing! I do not feel inspired, I feel insulted.  Rather than excuses I am going to give you 5 reasons why I have chosen to live my life they way I do.   Isak is 15, he needs a stepmother to take him driving and to show him that any workout you can get is a good one because life is busy and you never know when you can get it in.   Mia is 6.  She is an incredible runner, a born athlete who is driven and focused and thankfully has her father’s metabolism.  She needs someone to help her learn to run even if it means missing out on my own workout.  Henry is 4.  He’s a lover not a fighter.  He needs someone to eat the sugar cookies he decorates because he is so proud of his hard work and he doesn’t want to eat them alone.  Mia and Henry need someone to take them to soccer practice and games.  They also deserve to have their parents cheer them on.   Farrah is 1 ½ and she needs me to spend my time with her and not at the gym childcare when we are together.   John is an amazing husband.  He too, is an incredible athlete.  He also loves me, and my curves no matter what.  He needs a wife that can spend time with him when he’s not at work.  This also means not having to split duties so we can each work out.  We both deserve to enjoy our children together.   I will gladly take a 20-minute walk to the park together over a 4 mile run on my own.  They all need a family that eats good, healthy food together, real food even though it may not be ideal food for the ideal body.

 A friend of mine asked me why I don’t get mad that I can’t have my body back right now.  Why would I be mad?  Because I have 4 amazing kids and a husband that need me and my time?   I am mad because people feel I owe them excuses.  I want my children to know they don’t owe anyone an excuse for anything except not being a good person and a productive member of society that brings out the best in themselves and others.  I want them to be people who encourage others to get out there, get it done and to understand that everyone does this in their own special way. I want them to understand that everyBODY is different and beautiful and that you should treat yours well and respect everybody else’s.

 The message I am trying to send to my kids hasn’t changed.  I still have a trainer and I run when I can – for a cause.  So what if it takes me 3 months to accomplish what used to take 30 days.   I AM AWESOME.    I hope you are too.

Mer

Book Hugging…like Tree Hugging, only different

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If you’re in the market for quick, non-fiction books, then I have two to share. The first, Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, well know blogger from Momastery. The second, Letters to my Daughter from Maya Angelou. In short, true greatness. Not like fictional Harry Potter greatness. More like getting letters from your best friend greatness…your funny, witty and honest best friend.

I’ve read some of Momastery’s blog posts. You may have too. Remember Don’t Carpe Diem? Moms everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief after reading that post. Then they possibly did some fist pumps, danced, and may have even shouted Damn Straight or Amen to no one in particular. For those that have read the post, it’s no wonder that it went viral. That single blog post gave some moms (even if only for a few seconds), the freedom to NOT enjoy some of those less enjoyable moments. It was like hearing from a trusted friend that it’s ok to realize that it all passes by so quickly, but that time you carried your screaming little out of Target was in fact, NOT an enjoyable moment. At all. Not only does your friend tell you it’s ok not to enjoy that moment, but she also admits that she doesn’t enjoy those moments either.  Sigh of relief.  I’m not the only one.  Or, how about when you became a mother for the first time?  Remember how the baby would seriously not stop crying regardless of what technique, advice, etc you tried?  That moment lasted forever.  Because 10 minutes or 10 seconds of a screaming baby can be forever.  That moment did not pass in a flash and quite possibly, has been tucked away in that part of your brain that registers trauma.  So that each time you hear a newborn cry you almost start crying yourself. Yeah, that moment was maybe not for seizing. Momastery not only admits these may not be the moments to enjoy, but also makes it safe for the rest of us to admit it too. Grace and mercy for us all.

Her honesty with her readers is no different in her book. Hilarious and heart wrenching. Warning: Glennon’s description of her life ring a little too true. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes downright scary how relatable it is.  After reading the book, you may find yourself secretly admitting, for the first time, that you too have struggled/are struggling to raise your children while maintaining sanity or that your marriage is or has been under fire, even though your Facebook or Instagram account say otherwise. Oh the joy and sadness of living out in the open. Maybe that’s why I love this book so much. It’s hard to live out in the open, but oh so worth it. If you need a little laughter and reassurance, Carry On Warrior is such a great, quick read.

I knew what I was getting into with Carry On Warrior. The Maya Angelou book, however, totally surprised me.

There’s something you must know about me, there are people in this world I like. Possibly even adore. They’re witty, funny, kind, and just plain awesome. Some of these people are close friends, some are pretend friends – bloggers that I’m are sure would be my friend if they only actually knew me or acquaintances I wish I knew better. The point is, this group is the easy group. I may share a lot of the same interests or we may be completely different in a we bring out the best in each other kind of way. Whatever it is, this group is easy to like.

There is of course the opposite group. This group of people rub me the wrong way. Maybe they remind me of someone from my past. Maybe I am morally opposed to them, we’re too different or maybe even too similar. Or it could be that they bring out the worst in me. No one wants that. Shockingly, there is almost a hundred percent chance that I fall into this group for someone else. No really. I am most likely on someone’s do not make eye contact or even think of inviting them to anything whatsoever because then I have to talk to them list. So, it’s in my best interest to be kind. Why?  Because kindness is passed on to others and may eventually get passed back to me.  Better yet, I try to be kind because we are all human and need a little kindness in our lives.  I think it makes us more human.

Then there is yet another group of people. This group initially falls into the I don’t want to like you category. And then as if by some miracle, I get to know them a bit and realize that I am WRONG, WRONG, SO VERY WRONG. These people are amazing and have been judged too quickly. It’s a great exercise in humility, you know, realizing that I don’t always know what I’m talking about.  And yes, I do consider this moment of humility nothing short of a miracle. I’m pretty sure my husband does too.  Because against all odds, I have a chance to discover these people in spite of my stubbornness.  I am blessed by the lessons they teach me.  This is yet another reason to be kind to the people you don’t like.  You never know when they will end up moving into this group of awesome people.  Imagine explaining how you used to NOT like them and that’s why you were not so kind, but now you think they are amazing and would love to be besties.  Awkward. So be as kind as you can.

As you may have guessed, Maya Angelou would belong in this third group. I don’t know why I didn’t want to like her.  It’s not like I knew her personally, and she somehow wronged me.  It could be her immense popularity. There are times that in a stubborn fit, I refuse to succumb to popular opinion. Usually my thoughts go something like this, so what if the whole world thinks she’s amazing? Doesn’t mean I have to like her. And then of course, there are times when I succumb blindly to popular opinion.  I won’t even name those moments, lest you question my judgement.  People, I’m immature at best. Now that I think about it, a well-respected colleague used to quote her. That should have made me sit up and take notice, but I persisted in my opinions.  Stubborn, right?  Then, I heard a speech Maya Angelou gave and thought, hmmm…maybe I should like this lady. Maybe all those people who said she is amazing have a point.

All that aside, I also have a habit of reading what other authors read. Guess what? Momastery has read Maya Angelou. So if Momastery likes Maya Angelou, then maybe I should give her a shot?  Enter Letters to my Daughter. PS…do you know she doesn’t have a daughter? Right. Who doesn’t love an author that considers herself as having thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanisk-speaking, Native American, and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. What’s not to love? The book is full of life lessons and as Angelou notes, the book is full of accounts of growing up, unexpected emergencies, a few poems, some light stories to make you laugh and others to make you meditate. I wouldn’t describe it any other way.  Thank God for humility.  I might have totally missed this book.

I loved both books so much, I hugged them when I finished reading them. No, really. I figured it was the closest I’ll ever get to hugging either author.   As you may or may not know, I’m not so great in the presence of those I admire. When I finished each book, I wanted to hug them for writing truth, their truth, and sharing it with the world, so I hugged the books and hoped that on that day, they felt a little love and kind thoughts from this reader.

PS.  Not sure how long it will last, but the e-book of Carry On, Warrior is only 3.79 on Amazon!!!  You can’t really hug an e-book, but you can hug your kindle, tablet, phone, computer, etc.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

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I am in the process of reading an awesome book.  Really awesome book.  I find myself totally relating to the author and often laughing out loud or shaking my head vigorously in agreement.  I think my husband finds this trait endearing.  Who doesn’t love it when someone is cracking up right beside you – it’s awesome.  It’s like they are tempting you to ask what’s so funny.  I personally find it annoying, but my husband is awesome and he thinks it’s adorable.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Last night I started cracking up, physically shaking with laughter as I was reading.  I didn’t even wait for my husband to ask me what was so funny.  I launched into the explanation and the subsequent paragraph that had caused such a reaction.  It all had to do with parenting which is a topic you have to laugh about or you will often find yourself crying.  The author decided that in the month of August she is over feigning fascination with stories that have no point told to her by her kids.  The author’s suggested solution – skip geography in school and teach storytelling skills.  As well as, carrying a buzzer around and when the story doesn’t end within two minutes she will buzz loudly and walk away.  Couldn’t even finish that last sentence I was laughing so hard.  Hilarious.

My husband’s response, so do you think they could do a storytelling skill class for adults?

Hilarity.  That my friends is the secret to a happy marriage.

PS.  It’s no secret to me or my husband that I’m a terrible storyteller.  Not only am I distracted by shiny objects which make for long pauses and increase the possibility that I forget I’m even telling a story, but often my stories have no point.  I wish they did have storytelling classes for adults.

Life Edited … a story to contemplate on Thursday.

It’s amazing to me how much lazier I am with my personal e-mail than I ever was with work e-mail.  One could argue that I was getting paid to open work e-mails and that would be true, but I signed up for these personal e-mails.  I really do want to read them and yet they go unopened, unanswered, totally neglected.  But every once in a while I get back on track.  This morning I ran across a quick e-mail from Life Edited.  I signed up for the subscription after hearing a Ted talk from the creator of the site.  Basic concept – finding products, ideas, living spaces, etc to help you live a more simplified and happy life.  You know, be more thoughtful in your purchases, buy less stuff, have less stuff, de-clutter, have a smaller footprint or as the creators of Life Edited so brilliantly describe it – “Design you life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.”  Something I can totally get behind and yet, so hard to put in practice.  I’m surveying my kitchen thinking, please don’t drop by unannounced life edited peeps, my life is not very edited at this moment.  I blame the kids.

Welcome to Thursday!  Here’s a great story that I ran across this morning because I actually opened my e-mail.

A powerful executive was walking along the beach in a small coastal village, taking a much needed vacation. It was his first in more than 10 years. He noticed a small boat with just one fisherman pulling up to shore. Inside the small boat were several large fish. The executive complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Not very long.”

The executive then asked, “Then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

To which the fisherman responded, “I have enough to support my family.”

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?” the executive asked.

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.”

The executive quickly interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and can help you. You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would then of course need to leave this village and move to the big city and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman then asked, “But how long will all this take?”

To which the executive replied, “Twenty, maybe 25 years.”

“And after that?” the fisherman asked.

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the executive, laughing. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions? Really? Then what?”

“Then you could finally retire and move to a small coastal fishing village! There you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you would sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

A Mother’s Advice

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My husband recently began a new bedtime routine with our 5-year-old daughter that she now calls “chit-chat time”. It’s a time after the bath is done, teeth are brushed and books are read where soul-searching questions are posed. What is one thing that made you sad today? What makes you happy? Who is your hero? You get the gist. As with most things these days, this is an idea that he found on the glorious world-wide interweb and ultimately pinned to one of his Pinterest boards. It’s a bit maddening how much better he is at effectively using Pinterest and at this parenting thing. I bet he’s thinking long-term. Whereas I will be stuck in a home in my old age, he will enjoy the love and care from our children and millions of followers on Pinterest.

After one particular chit-chat session, our daughter confessed that she had been saddened by the boy who lives two door down. This boy told her that he didn’t like her, he only liked her Legos. My husband handled it like a champ; he let her discuss her feelings; and he didn’t try to fix the problem by banning this boy’s presence from our house or slashing his bike tires. He also suggested to our daughter that she discuss the issue with me because as he put it, she could benefit from her mother’s advice.

But what if my advice is to tell her she should tell that boy to Suck It? Which coincidentally is sometimes my general response to most issues. You don’t like me – suck it. You think I’m terrible at soccer – suck it. You don’t like my parenting – suck it. Somewhere along the way my mantra of I wish you well now goes hand in hand with suck it. It’s a fine line, people. You just can’t be nice to everyone all the time. Given that it’s probably best to give some additional explanation to our daughter rather than just a two-word phrase here is my best motherly advice.

Sweetheart -
I’m so sorry to hear that your friend said he likes you only for your Legos. I can see how that would hurt your feelings.  It is no fun to feel sad especially when it comes to friends we like. I want you to know that he is of course missing out on your many other wonderful qualities – your love of music and Michael Jackson dance moves, hilarious personality, crafty ways, amazing 5-year-old math skills, adult charming abilities, beautiful smile, undeniable fashion sense and general soccer prowess. Sadly though, throughout life you will encounter many people. Some people will be great friends, some will be good friends and some not good friends at all. There may be times that people will make you sad, and it’s ok to be sad. But remember that you are a wonderful girl and that you can always talk to us.

Of all these people who you will know throughout life – there will be those who will love you just as you are, those who love you for those awesome character traits you offer and lastly those that will love you only for your stuff, like your Legos.

For the ones that love you just as you are, spend time with them. Do life together – travel, dance, read, talk, encourage each other, work through problems, show them the good and the bad. You will share the ups and the downs. Treasure these people. They don’t happen often and do your best to love them back just as they are. This unconditional love business can sometimes be hard work, just ask your father.

For the ones that recognize the many traits and talents that you offer, be thankful that others see what we see and what we hope you will see one day too. But not so thankful that you give them the credit. They didn’t make you this way, I did. Kidding. It was actually God and the people, places, and events he has placed in your life. Your father and I are just lucky to have been able to be a part of this crazy, sometimes maddening, but mostly beautiful life. Be careful that this recognition fogs your judgement. Sometimes it can be so exciting when people recognize you and see how incredibly awesome you are. Sometimes it’s so exciting that it can lead to bad choices or bad friendships. You are amazing and don’t forget it. Use it to make a positive difference in the world.

For those that like you for your stuff, hope and pray that they grow out of it because their world will always be lacking. The love of stuff is no way to live. Don’t forget that because we all at some point fall a little too in love with stuff. It’s no way to live. Try your best to play without it and see what happens. Enjoy the outdoors, it’s the best thing you can do for your brain and body. If despite your best efforts, these friends continue to look for the stuff, cut them loose. The same advice goes for you, if you find yourself attached to your stuff, cut it loose. The friendships and the happiness you had will quickly disappear when the stuff is gone or broken. You deserve better. If all else fails and these “friends” continue to hang on, tell them to suck it. In most cases, this message will come across loud and clear.

Remember sweetheart, we were all created with a greater purpose. Don’t let stuff get in the way of this.

Love,
Your mother who loves you and thankfully married the most amazing man.

Repost – Brene Brown quotes

I ran across Brené Brown some time this past year.  It’s quite possible that I was slightly hung over and couldn’t sleep.  I’m not saying that is exactly what happened, but it’s possible.  Despite how I ran across this video, it was incredibly enlightening.

So imagine my excitement when a friend posted this quote on my wall:

7. You need at least one friend who will help you move a body. No judgment. There in a second. No explanation.

I had just watched the first season of Downton Abby.  I immediately thought of the scene where the eldest daughter, mother and maid carry the eldest daughter’s dead Turkish lover back to his room to avoid scandal.  So for a second, I thought of that when I read that quote, but how could my friend know I had just watched this.  So I thought why not google it?  Up pops up a Pioneer Woman entry on quotes from Brené Brown.  Below is the post from Kristen Chase writing on the Pioneer Woman site.  I particularly like #6 & 8.  What are your favorites?

By Kristen Chase.

If your Facebook feed is like mine, it’s overrun by quotes. So is my Twitter feed.

And I admit that I’m generally not a fan of them, because in a way, I feel as though the time you’re taking to post, comment, and like a quote, you could be applying it to your life.

Although, maybe that’s the first step.

Well, this past weekend, I heard Brené Brown speak at Mom 2.0 Summit, and I found myself typing quote after quote as a draft email, even *gasp* tweeting a few because they were that good.

If you’re not familiar with Brené, she’s a researcher, speaker, and author of “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

And I can tell you after listening to her, I’m inspired. Not just as a homeschooler, but as a parent and a person.

So I scoured the #mom2summit hashtag on Twitter and rounded up 25 of her quotes to share with you. I hope you love them as much as I do.

1. We need to change what we say and what we allow to be said in front of us.

2. There are infinite numbers of do overs for your teen girls.

3. The most powerful teaching moments are the ones where you screw up.

4. Do you light up when your kids are coming in the room or do you become the instant critic?

5. If we own the story then we can write the ending.

6. Every time you watch the Jersey Shore, a book commits suicide.

7. You need at least one friend who will help you move a body. No judgment. There in a second. No explanation.

8. Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.”

9. We have to be women we want our daughters to be.

10. Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.

11. It’s no longer a question of can I do it. It’s a question of: Do I want to do it?

12. There’s nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen.

13. In our moments of most intense joy, we realize how vulnerable we are.

14. You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.

15. What would you be glad that you did…. EVEN if you failed?

16. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.. Definition of courage: Tell your story with all your heart.

17. We cannot give our children what we don’t have.

18. You are imperfect & you are wired for struggle; but you are worthy of love & belonging.

19. Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.

20. Talk about your failures without apologizing.

21. It’s not about “what can I accomplish?” but “what do I want to accomplish?” Paradigm shift.

22. Think about what’s pleasurable, not just what’s possible.

23. Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.

24. You can’t dress rehearse the bad moments.

25. Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect.

Less is More

One of the most important lessons I learned is that I’m not quite the minimalist I thought I was.  As I browse through issues of Dwell magazine or visit our local Ikea, I’m inspired by the small footprints, how clean and spacious everything looks.  Of course I realize that it’s clean and spacious because of the photo shoot, but nonetheless I envy the open space resulting from the lack of clutter, of excess stuff.  But I struggle with creating less.  I have a set of 12 clear salad plates that I just know I will need one day when I host that fabulous garden party featuring delightful salads, tea sandwiches and petit fours.  Or not.  Because the truth is, I have never hosted a garden party before now and probably wouldn’t in the future.  If I dared mention a garden party, I’m pretty sure my husband’s blood pressure would jump given the disastrous state of our backyard.  Then of course there’s the small detail of patio furniture.  I’m not sure how garden parties work, but I think you have to provide some sort of seating.  The closest thing we have to seating is leaning up against a tree or the side of the house.

The kitchen isn’t my only area of excess and clutter.  There’s the other stuff like clothing or shoes.  Wait, let’s not talk about shoes, that may be taking it a bit too far, right?  Let’s focus on other areas of the house like my daughter’s room.  Does she really need that many stuffed animals?  Where did she learn to hoard?  Why does she think she needs more Barbies?  It’s not like we haven’t already bought her enough to man a small army.  Oh wait, we bought them….We were the ones that bought her every Disney princess Barbie and have bought stuffed animal upon stuffed animal because they’re, well, “so fluffy”.

I can’t even begin to fathom what it would look like for us to move into a smaller house.  Our house is just shy of 1500 square feet which means it’s tiny by Texas standards.  So when I saw the video below I was simultaneously inspired and freaked. 

 

Pair down even more?  Didn’t I just donate two bags of clothing or sell the 2 extra sets of dinnerware I didn’t use last year?  Could I really do more with less?  Is it even possible to eliminate some of the excess in my daughter’s room without traumatizing her or starting World War 3?  I don’t know but I think it has to be done.  Maybe I should start small.  Get rid of those clear salad plates.  What about you?  Is there any stuff you can edit from your life – not people, stuff?