Wednesday, November 30, 2011

These Boots were made for Walkin'

So, I have these boots.  I've owned them for years and I love them.  I refer to them as my "F me" footwear when I want to feel mama turned harlot apparel. 

Last night, in preparation both for a jewelry show and a dry run at clothing options for an upcoming Christmas party, I tried them on.  I'd been missing them post the baby and looked forward to their glow with a fun black dress.

You can imagine how I felt, when I couldn't zip them up my leg.  Humiliation. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Vengence.

So, this morning at 5:30, I told the story to my workout companion and she had a fabulous thought...use these boots as your motivation.  Whenever you want to hit the snooze button, look at the boot.  When you want to eat garbage, look at the boot.  When your ego takes over and you think you can half ass a run or lifting, look at the boot.  And when you want to feel sexy, look at the boot.

There you have it.  My hunch is that 2012 will have me mesmerized with my hottie boots in the hope that they will symbolize my quest to get back to the hottie me.

Because, these boots were made for more than just walkin'.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finding My Way

It's funny. During my single years, I swore that I would never be one of those mothers whose life was dictated by her children's schedules.  My children would be loved, nurtured, and respected, but they would not wear the pants.

And then I became a mama.  In the first year of Sam's life, my husband and I tip-toed around the house, so as not to wake the baby.  We only played children's music in the car.  We ate organic as much as possible. We traded our newspapers for "Good Night Moon" and organized our lives (even our work schedules) around his.

Two additional children later, I'm embarking upon a new life philosophy.  I'm taking back my pants, so to speak.

I've arranged for a babysitter to come once a week, so that I can get away.  I head to the gym at o' dark thirty in the morning to take care of my body.  I'm not holding the baby while multi-tasking a million activities...she's learning to entertain herself.  I meet friends for coffee regularly.  I'm writing more than I ever have.  And, am organizing some trips out of dodge.

So, why do I still struggle with guilt?  Wondering whether I should be with them when I'm nurturing my own soul?  It's a tough balance for me.  Getting my nails/hair done is a wonderful treat, but then I wonder if I should be spending the time/money on them.  Paying a babysitter seems like a necessary sanity break, but then I wonder if I should just suck it up...they're only little once, right?

But I do have to say, that when I come back from where ever I've gone doing something big or little for me, I feel ready to love little wounds, comfort little cries, and hear the 150th Dr. Seuss story.

I guess, I'm finding my way. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Time to Let Go and to Embrace

Today is the first day of Advent...the season of letting go of the worldly to open our hearts to God's unconditional love and grace.

So, what superficial things do we cling to that often paralyze us more than helping us? 

For me, it's a false sense of control and fear.

From the time I was a little person, I've always had a plan, always known just what I was meant to do.  My parents tell a story of me in a mock-Arby's uniform taking my dad's lunch order at the end of the driveway with a steno pad.  That little order taker grew up to wreak havoc on the speech and debate team, write for the school newspaper, cheer for the football team, give the commencement address to her high school classmates and eventually go off to college and graduate school.  Always having a plan, always hell bent to succeed and afraid of anything less.

So, when the doctor said, " can do it," and my son arrived, I no longer had a plan, no road map, no instructional manual.  Suddenly, the most important gift I'd ever been given was outside of me and I immediately had to trust that everything would work out.  And for the most part, it has...but definitely, not according to plan.

As human beings, we're limited.  We have a finite amount of time, energy, patience, stamina, competency, and experience.  We want the best for our lives and for those we love...but often, we fall short due to our selfishness, neediness, and desires.  The truth is that when we let go and trust...a much better and sustainable outcome manifests itself.  We just have to believe.  It's the magic of faith.

What is holding you back from experiencing the fullness of God's love?  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Heart of It

The day after Thanksgiving, a friend and I made the decision to support each other by going to a Cardio Conditioning class at 5:30 a.m. instead of sleeping in. 

It was a tough call but somewhere between running stairs with sandbags on our shoulders, lunging around the gym track, and racing the treadmill on an insane incline, I turned and thought, I could never do this without friends.

Upon completion of the class and realizing that it was still really early, we indulged in a hot cup of coffee and some long overdue conversation.  It was so wonderful to catch up, to laugh, to share stories and to remember that while we rarely get one-on-one time, when we do, we're not so far apart.

We both want to be more physically fit.  We both yearn to spend more time with our husbands.  We both find it challenging to manage our families, our personal goals and our desire to just relax.

That experience helped me to decide that "Black Friday" should really be spent enjoying time with our loved ones and maybe (at least for me) not inline at WalMart. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Times They are a Changin'

My maternal grandmother died three years ago.  She was definitely the heart of our family and is desperately missed especially on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since her death, my grandfather who is 90 years old and a master bridge player, has found a new lady friend.  Her name is Bonnie and she too is a widower and an expert bridge player...they met at the club.  They play cards together 2-3 times a week, share meals, grocery shop, and well, we're not sure what else.

Suffice it to say, the introduction of my grandfather's companion has been a bit of a transition.  Her children all live in different states as do her grandchildren and so, she showed up yesterday to share a meal with our family.

I'll be the first to admit, it's not easy seeing a new face bring in a cake.  Everyone was more than welcoming, but somewhere between eggnog and pie, you find yourself comparing the two...which is entirely unfair.  How can anyone compete with grandma?  The truth is, they can't and they shouldn't.

While nibbling turkey and mashed potatoes, I noticed a sparkle in my grandfather's eyes while Bonnie was relaying a story.  For a brief moment, I thought, "no way."  And then I realized, she brings him joy and companionship.  She gives him time and kindness and according to other crude family members, maybe something else.  That said, she is there for him.  And well, that's more than many of us have time for in our crazy busy lives.

And so, while my aunt and I gave each other a quick glance, I realized, the times they are a changin'...and I can accept it or be bitter over something that makes no sense at all.  Life is about love.  Plain and simple.  And, Thanksgiving is about gratitude.  While no one will ever replace my beloved grandmother, I am thankful that Bonnie has put a smile on my grandfather's face.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things You Discover When You Start Working Out Again

So, this morning, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and met a girlfriend at the gym for a crazy ass cardio/boot camp class.  Upon her recommendation and urging, I decided to give it a go.  I've trained before, so really, how hard could this be?

To demonstrate the insanity of my experience in the wee hours of the morning, I've compiled a list of things I discovered about my out-of-shape self...maybe you can relate.

  1. Burpies, Squats, Mountain Climbers, Jumping Rope, Push ups, Planks & Running-all in one setting over multiple reps hurts alot...and that is why I curse.  I curse a lot.
  2. My ass needs some new underwear.  I'm not going to lie to you.  There just really is nothing worse than your old granny pants creeping and creating an extra fat crease in your ass.  I mean it's bad enough to have a double chin, no one needs a double dimple derriere.
  3. Just when you think that the hottie instructor must be 22, right out of college and without learn that she's over 40 and has 5 kids.  WTF?  Oh Lord, how did I get to this place?
  4. Everything is better with Friends!  Just when I thought that I would throw the towel in and crawl my sad self home, I looked over at my friends and reconsidered and I'm so glad that I did.
  5. I used to think that "modification" was for sissies.  You know, those overweight, middle-aged, mothers who can't hack it.  Until I realized that was me.  Modification equals survival.  No need to apologize.
  6. Sometimes, half the battle is just showing up and trusting that some good will come.
  7. But with all that, let me assure you, it still hurts like a bitch...even hours later.
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How are you Hard Wired?

Do you ever wonder why you're wired the way that you are? 

Do you wish that you could will yourself not to procrastinate in the 11th hour or to be more analytical than visionary or to trust your intuition instead of consulting a thousand passerbyers?

For those of you that drink the Kool aid and are familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder tool...I remember how happy I was once I discovered that I didn't have to pigeon hole myself into a group of characteristics that fit a successful individual...I could be me and talented.  And by the way for you believers, my top themes are "Woo, Maximizer, Activator, and Communication." (shocker, I know).

But even knowing that its cool to be me and to relate to the world in only the way I do, I still envy friends who really deliberate over making decisions...I'm fairly impulsive or quick to act, depending upon how you want to spin it.  I envy people who are analytical and mindful that the devil is in the details...I could really care less.  I want to see the big picture and surround myself with others who can tell me the loop holes and gaps.  I envy people who make a decision and don't give a thought to what others think because they know that they've made the right choice...I seem to apologize to anyone who's feelings I may have accidentally hurt in the process.

I suppose at the end of the day, it's really fabulous that there are billions of us walking around with a unique set of perspectives, talents, strengths, etc...and it's pointless to try to be someone your not, it really masks the power that is you.

But some days, I miss being part of a corporate team where I could partner my strengths with another...then, it wouldn't be so challenging to make it all happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Death of the Letter

I've been really fortunate in my life to have had significant and meaningful correspondences.

And, I suppose because I'm a saver and "would-be" writer, I have kept most everything that I've been given.

From time to time, I've read through old letters, postcards, and journals and it's transported me back to amazing memories in my life.  Some of the most powerful have been when I studied abroad and lived far away from my loved ones.

Some of the letters are over 15, 20 years old and are still in fantastic shape. But through my perusing, one glaring observation comes to mind, most of them were written many moons ago with few since the turn of the century. 

We all know that with the advent of email, text messaging, facebook, skype, it is rare to receive a letter in the mail.  With the rising cost of postage and the ease of a few key strokes, most of us would rather communicate in cyber form.

But, ah, I really love ink to paper.  I am enamored by the content and the way in which the lines are written.  And my favorite part, is the feeling I get when I look inside the mailbox and see an envelope with my name written on it.  There's nothing better.

I admit that I'm guilty when it comes to not sending a handwritten letter as much as I should...but I think in the new year, I'm going to surprise a few people.  It's just too important not to.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Back to Me

It's amazing how much a tiny little baby can consume in energy, time, and priority.
Claire turns a year old next month and it's just been in the last week that I've been ready to take care of me. 

I went to my hair stylist and got all the gray out.  I went to the eye doctor and got new specs.  I went to the salon and treated my hands and toes. And then, I put on my shoes and went for a run.  I was really anxious.  No, I was terrified.  I hadn't seriously tried to exert myself in a long time and I was resolute that this day, this hour would be mine.  Equipped with a new play list and determination, I owned it.  And, praise God, restored my faith in my body and my will power. 

I don't begrudge the sacrifices that come with motherhood and I recognize that I certainly don't have to spend as much time as I do with my children...but I know now, more than ever, that if I don't take care of me, there will be nothing left for the ones I love.

So, it's time to's time to's time to's time to's time to's time to recognize that I am not exclusively a mother.  I am a woman...a complicated, crazy ass woman who is thankful to exchange the nursing bra for a sports one and the maternity underwear well for...we'll see, I'm still not sold on the thong.  But you get the picture.

Hats off to the feminine and my resolve to get back to all of me. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feeling a Little Nostalgic

I've always considered myself an old soul.

From the time I was little, I could be found eaves dropping on adult conversation at the "big table," drinking coffee even though it was bound to stunt my growth, and dreaming about travels to far off places. 

To that end, I'd also venture to say that I'm a collector of stories, not so much the ones in books, but more so oral tales.  I'm the person that you meet on a plane and find yourself spilling your guts to...where you're from, where you're going, why you're sad that she broke up with you, why you hate your job, what you're hoping for next in life.  I'm also fascinated by my own family history and remember fondly the memories that my grandparents have shared over the years.

So some days, I find myself smack dab in the past remembering all kinds of memories.  High school, college, my first job, single living, life before parenting, first apartments, relationships, community projects, births, deaths...and I become nostalgic.  Why?

Probably because its easy to romanticize life at 21 prior to mortgage payments and babies...but perhaps it's because sometimes, it's only possible to fully appreciate parts of life when you're able to see them in retrospect.  You understand better why you are where you are given where you've been.  You understand how one event had to lead to another to create the opportunity to place you in the here and now.

And yet, with all of that...I still love hearing stories.  I love listening to people reminisce.  I enjoy the passion that comes out when they reflect on what was or what might have been. 

I especially love the story my grandmother used to tell about dating my grandfather while he was in the navy during WWII.  Apparently, he wrote her every day, but because of the postal system, he numbered each letter, so that she would have a chronology to the letters.  He asked her to do the same.  She quietly confided to me that on her letters to him, she advanced the numbers...sending letter #1, then letter #3....skipping #2.  But as she said, he was none the wiser, simply believing that a letter was lost at sea.  And well, a girl can't be stuck in her room writing all day, can she?

I hope that when the time comes, I can share memories with an "old soul" grandchild and enjoy being nostalgic, just for a bit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few Things I Covet

Okay, I know that it's not healthy or productive to covet...but I'm human, so below are a few things I wish were mine.
  • The ability to read labels in the grocery store.  You know those people who actually pick up an item and examine its contents determining whether nutritionally or financially it makes sense to purchase.  My grocery outings with 1, 2, or 3 children typically involve throwing items as quickly as possible into the cart and repeating, "No thank you" to anyone of my children as they negotiate why "Fruity Sugar Laden fill in the blank" item should be included.
  • Women who wear running apparel in their off time and look good doing it.  You know who these people are.  You may be one of them.  I'm talking about women who look like they've just come back from a hard run/workout and quickly pulled their hair back and still have rosy cheeks.  As opposed to me post a workout dawning sweat stained pits accompanied by a nice inner thigh/outer bum ring of's really attractive, I'm sure.
  • Time.  Essentially, I covet people who make time to do the things that help us all to maintain sanity.  I stand in awe of people who regularly wake up at the crack of dawn to run, walk, do bikram yoga, pray, mow the lawn, stretch...hell, even to have a cup of coffee.  I did this for almost two years post the birth of my second and it nearly broke me.  But, I'm desperate to do it again.  Because, well, time for me never seems to find it's way during the day.
  • The ability to not give a shit.  My good friend, JM, is continuously reminding me that true happiness comes from not caring about what others think, say, perceive, or suggest that we should do with our lives.  True peace comes from just going with your gut and not apologizing for it.  
  • Oh, and the Honda Pilot.  I covet the Pilot. 
That's it for now, I'm sure that I covet many other "things"....but on this Tuesday, I think that the above are pretty cool.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Silence is Deadly

For the majority of my life, I have been an advocate for protecting children from sexual abuse and helping those who have been hurt by predators.

So, when the Penn State scandal emerged, I nearly lost it.  I wasn't surprised.  But, I was devastated.  

One night in the living room through tears, I told my husband that this culture of silence has got to end.

At what point is it acceptable to be aware of abuse and to choose to either not "out" it to the proper authorities or to share it with someone and know that nothing has really been done to end it?

Throughout the history of the world, women and children have been raped and preyed upon because they are vulnerable and weak.  Once the crime has been committed, those victims often crawl away in shame and humiliation devastated by what has happened, but often resolute to keep it a secret.  Will they be considered damaged goods?  Will anyone care?  Did they ask for it?  Are the consequences greater if they open their mouth?

I am convinced that the greatest moral imperative on this earth is the truth.  If you know of an action that is hurting another, you have a responsibility to keep opening up your mouth until not only someone listens...but someone does something to end it.

Silence is deadly...cowardice...and wrong.  Take a stand.  Choose to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.  If you don't, we all suffer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Love Letter to Me

Lately, I've found my inner critic coming out more than I'd like or than it should.  Struggling with a myriad of short comings about myself, I decided to write a letter to me highlighting that which I should love instead of critique.

So, here it goes.

Dear Me,

Hi.  It's been sometime since we've least, in an honest and well, optimistic way.  It feels like most of our conversations have been one-sided and definitely reflections of the world and not of the way that I truly feel about you.

First and foremost, Hats off to your body. 

I know that you feel disgruntled by pregnancy weight and you wish that you could fit back into old clothes or feel more comfortable in your own skin.  But here's what I see....a body that has birthed three beautiful, healthy, amazing little people.  A face that smiles at the world and says, "I love you and want the best for you."  Two arms that hold babies, dry tears, carry groceries, read story books and feed your family.  A mind that is constantly going...thinking, reflecting, evaluating, and searching for the best way of life for her family, her community and her world.  A heart that hopes and loves.

Secondly, your home is beautiful.  Who gives a rat's ass if there are dust bunnies...cheerios on the floor...finger prints on the windows....clothes in the shoved under beds.  Your home is beautiful because it is a safe haven for those who live there and a beacon away from a tough world.

Next worries on the macaroni and cheese/chicken nugget front.  It's cool.  Your kids don't have to have organic food always and sometimes, Kraft just tastes better than homemade.  I promise you that one day, they will grow to love broccoli and asparagus, but for now, it's okay that they don't.

Your work is important.  You don't dawn a business card.  You haven't participated in a strategy session in years (at least not one that involved Power Point).  You haven't seen a "bonus" in the form of money for sometime.  And, your resume is dusty to say the least.  But you have skills.  You have mad skills.  You can multi-task like a Mother ____, literally.  You are compassionate.  Capable.  Brilliant.  And, if and when the time comes to take off the yoga pants and put on a business will....hopefully, because you want to and not because you have to.

Knowing how long that you waited to find the right person to marry and to share this life's time to enjoy it.  Trust that you can build together.  It doesn't all have to be planned.  It doesn't all have to work out.  But this life that is yours is beautiful and meaningful...primarily, because the heart of it, is you.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Simple Abundance

This past weekend was filled to the brim with family parties. 

We celebrated my niece's first birthday, my grandfather's 90th birthday, my step mother's annual "Sister's Day" weekend and miraculously, my husband and I escaped for a date night.

Daylight Savings Time simply allowed us more time to make side salads, wrap gifts, write cards, talk about where we were headed and make ourselves presentable before arriving.

Throughout all of the harriedness, one thing stuck out in my mind.  None of this is about the stuff on the agenda.  It's about the people and the shared time over a piece of birthday cake or a cup of coffee.

How often does a baby celebrate her first birthday or a man celebrate his 90th?

My life is so filled with busyness.  Things that have to be done.  Moments that have to be filled.

Or do they?  Or better yet, since moments will certainly come and go, how do I want mine to be spent?  Barking at my children...grumbling at my husband...stressed by the minutia?

Naw...for today...I'm going to relish in my decision to cherish moments with those I love instead of doing that which I think I'm supposed to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Beauty of Difference

Lately, I've been mindful of how my children are similar and not-so-similar to me and to my husband.

This week was Parent-Teacher conference time at Sam's school.  As a first-grader, this is the first year that Sam has been in school all day and ultimately, spends the majority of his time with his classmates and his teachers.  And, Sam is indeed (like me) a classic first born.  He is very mindful of how he appears to others.  It is important to him to know that he's achieving and excelling academically.  He is incredibly future-focused and serious about what the agenda is, the plan of attack, and the expectation for outcome.  He is passionate about a handful of topics and can teach you more about those subjects than you could imagine coming from a six-year old.

Kate, our four-year old is a horse of another color.  She's not interested in impressing the world.  She's beautiful and confidently aware of herself. She's the most artistically gifted child I know and lives smack dab in the world of the present.  She seeks to amerce herself in the colors, smells, tastes, and experiences of that which is in front of her.  She has little use for time or appointments or rules.

Claire, our ten-month old is just plain crazy.  She's verbal, fearless, and in general, all about being right in the mix of her siblings.  She's also the most affectionate little one on the planet.

It's hard to believe that these three little beings all came from the same two people.  They are vastly different and beautiful all in one breath.  The challenge for Ray and I has been to honor their differences especially when they conflict with our personality types.

I'll give you an example.  Many people say that Kate and I resemble one another....that I looked a lot like Kate when I was a little girl.  It's sweet and fun to feel like I have a mini-me walking around this world.  However, while my daughter stops to smell the roses at every turn, I'm exhausted and often frustrated by her desire to constantly be in the present.  With little to no sense of urgency, she's not guided by anyone's time table and the more you rush her, the slower she goes.  Drives me up a wall.  Until she shows me the number of spots on a lady bug, a tree in the park or the perfect shade of orange...and then, I remember why God gave her to help me pause, to teach me to breathe and to remind me that all we have is the here and now.  Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

I can't wait to see how they grow up, who they become, and ultimately, how they create the beautiful dynamic that is our crazy family.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Gift of Legacy

Today is definitely a new day.

After a rough go the past few days, I've been so grateful for the support of many friends who understand the trials and tribulations of raising a young family...and who step up with really helpful and thoughtful tips to lighten the load.

Usually around this time of year, I make a conscious effort to walk as much as I possibly can to take in all of the final moments of autumn.  The reds, yellows, oranges, greens of the trees...the crunching of the leaves...the smell in the air and the presence of God's beauty literally puts me in awe.

So, this morning, I bundled the girls up and we made our usual trek to the park, around the golf course, up some hills, over a bridge and back to our home.  While Claire was gnawing a graham cracker, Kate and I gathered leaves for yet another collage and talked about how trees are made.  We tried to imagine when they started as seedlings and how old they are today.  We also talked about how many years that trees live and what they need to grow. 

I wondered if years from this moment if Kate might come back and walk amidst some of the same old trees with her little ones.  It calls to mind for me, the power of legacy and the beauty of leaving one's footprint on this earth.  We're all leaving a mark, something behind, a place holder, a difference.

There's never been a time more special for me than now, in my thirties, realizing that we have inherited a place that will someday trade hands with another.  Someone else will look among the trees, enjoy the beauty of the stream under the bridge, sweat up the steep hills and be grateful for what they have been given.

I wonder about my footprint and my passing of the baton.  How am I doing my part and sharing in the gift of legacy to those I love the most?