Three Hundred Fifty Five: Thanks

“In a stuck moment, it’s hard to see positive forces when obstacles are blaring and fears are looming. This is a good time to be grateful. Not grateful for what has us stuck, but appreciating what doesn’t. Gratitude helps us see our situation is a way that can lessen panic, and could open up our thinking to new solutions.”  – “Unstuck” author

Monday, December 22nd

Today the world starts to get a little brighter, one moment at a time. Solstice one eve behind me, I have been reflecting on change and renewal and it is all met a certain degree of fear and trepidation. Will I ever have what it takes to manifest the life that I’ve always wanted?

It’s a trick question, really. I have the life I’ve always wanted because I’m unbearably stuck on figuring it all out. I overanalyze. I dig. I’m terribly shy but I like to ask other people questions about what makes them tick. I make terrible mistakes and know that I’m feeling my way through this messy experience…and might just grow a bit more along the way.

Today, I was tired. Body, mind, and soul tired. My husband took the kids out for a hike for the afternoon. When they returned, the noise was so nerve-wracking that I ended up yelling at the kids, and making everyone feel miserable. I wasn’t exactly the “Mother of the Year” today. I like to feel sorry for myself in times like this. Isn’t it a pity that I don’t have a babysitter? Why must my husband question me about why I’m talking to the kids like this? Why must I have insomnia? Wouldn’t it be nice if they all could let me sleep again and wake up refreshed with it all figured out? 

I am the number one Devil’s Advocate and once in a blue moon, I turn that on myself for the powers of good to ask better questions. Isn’t it wonderful that we’ve chosen to limit our time out to when we can have family and close friends watch the kids so that they have trusted adults around that we trust implicitly to care for them when we can’t? Aren’t I blessed to have a partner who calls me on my bullshit behaviors that need to be addressed – now, not tomorrow? Don’t I appreciate all the stuff I can get done or silent reflection I can enjoy when I am not sleeping? Why would I doubt my husband and children who don’t just let me sleep the day away because they love me and want to be around me and that my boy calling me “bad mommy” is not a personal attack but the only way that my little 4-year-old son knows how to communicate his frustrations for not being able to play with playdough instead of eat his lunch?

I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for the people I’ve brought into it, whom I’ve kept around, and especially those I’ve created. Sometimes I just need to take those critical deep breaths, sit with my knee-jerk emotions for one extra moment, and find that gratitude when it is most needed so I can respond with something other than anger and frustration.

When could you use a gratitude adjustment the most during your day?

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Three Hundred Fifty Four: Instagram This!

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”  – Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 20th

I hate apps. Or rather I load them all onto my devices and then get overwhelmed by the vast array of things they can all do and then delete them all because I don’t have the time to embrace their strengths, and how best to use them. But boy howdy, 2015 is the year I will champion using technology to keep me organized and creatively moving forward in life.

Take Instagram. Awesome. Photographs. However, my honest impression of Instagram is that there are a lot of people who curate their life visually on here to look much more interesting than it really is. And who wouldn’t really? A filter and a couple of effects can make the laundromat look gritty and edgy. Throw a filter on a selfie and all of a sudden, your virtual connections think you’ve lost weight and had a great new makeover. It’s all in the angle, baby. 

I’m cynical about it, yes. I just wish that we could all try to be less coiffed and a little more witty and original. What I see on Instagram feeds gives me the sense of a homogenous society that is striving to provide polished pictorials on successful modern living…and I don’t quite buy it.

So I’m challenging myself to dig into the app. I’m going to try a new concept for a blog next year and figure out how Instagram can support that. I will try to bust through some of my cynical impressions of Instagram, or I might be sucked into adding more content into the visual beast it is. Whatever it is, I’ll be a player and not on the sidelines.

What app do you dislike the most?

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Three Hundred Fifty Three: Cleanse

“Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin.”  – Tori Amos

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”  – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Saturday, December 20th

I started this blog almost one year ago. Diving into cold new waters. Sweating my impurities out in the heat. Experiencing the physical realities and reflecting on the metaphorical meanings of these words. These times have come around once again, and the cycle brings up so many of the same thoughts with the same setting, the same protagonists, with a few new cast members.

In all the sameness, there is a need to flush it all out of me. My emotions. My experiences. My palate. My body. Let the easy stuff move first so that the sticky stubborn resentments will budge once there is enough force behind it. Get back to basics. Build up my new year with the essentials – the love of my family and a healthy body.

I feel it right now. Stress is manifesting itself – psoriasis outbreaks and insomnia. I know what has to be done to get back to my healthy space, and it requires passing on things that feel good to me like liquor and chocolate. I’m thankful that I even know where my healthy space is. That is the best first step. The action is to come…but I have a heck of a lot of chocolate to clear out of my cupboards first!

Do you start to feel the need for change at the end of the year? On Solstice?

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Three Hundred Fifty Two: Hurt

“Love those who hurt you the most, because they are probably the ones closest to you.
They, too, are on a path, and just like you they are learning to walk before they can fly. Imagine of everybody you hurt in life turned their backs on you? You would be playing a hell of a lot of solitaire. 
Love them no matter what.” – Nikki Sixx

Friday, December 19th

I know deep down when my feelings get hurt that I need to face that situation with love, compassion, and more understanding that I feel like sharing. It is the only way to grow and learn, in the end. But my ego sure doesn’t feel like being this gracious. I want to shut down, keep quiet, and close myself off to other people. Because it feels like I’m stronger if I’m more protected.

A week or so ago, I ended up in the middle of a social debacle when I tried to stand up for someone who was being left out. She was in a thread of conversation but was not invited to an event. It turned into a big ol’ ball of awkwardness…I’m talking about a much bigger mess than it ought to have been. I tried to make peace between parties and move on with things, but my feelings were still stuck on this as I found out today when it got brought up again. So I went to the source of this ball to confront the person I felt that I had unresolved awkwardness with. Be clear. Be concise. Express your emotions. I had already stated out loud to the universe that these social breakdowns are much more telling than the parties and the rowdy little good times. How can you navigate the faltering communication?

For the most part, this cleared the air. But I have found that the devil really is in the details: little phrases like “I shouldn’t have to explain myself.” Nope. No one is contractually bound to explaining themselves. The hope is that one’s friends are compelled to explain themselves. Because that’s what we do. Hash it out. We don’t just declare our good intentions, we look at how we may have contributed to the breakdown in the first place.

In the end, I want to leave the hurt behind. I move forward, if for no other reason, for my own selfish need to be clear of this. I want to write several sentences here that start with “But”, but I feel that friendship ultimately can’t have buts in it. I take people’s flaws as I take their strengths. We are all works in progress and experience guides me in how I choose to interact and not interact with people in the future.

What do you do when those you love hurt you?

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Three Hundred Fifty One: Foster

“Love, Protect, Heal, Strengthen, Teach, Comfort, Uplift, Encourage, Nourish, Guide, Inspire, Cherish, FOSTER.”  – Unknown 

Thursday, December 18th

Tonight there was an end-of-quarter night at my daughter’s school to celebrate the projects the kids have been working on. Four classrooms full of parents converged in a meeting area to watch our kids sing and sign a song about trees. I was seated next to an acquaintance I know from my work on the PTSA, and it felt so good to listen to her talk so sweetly about her busy life with two new foster children. She is so matter-of-fact, like the kids were always there. What a special type of person it takes to foster the healthy development of another, especially a child who has had separation, pain, and abandonment at an early age.

Every time I meet a foster or adoptive parent, I want to tell them my family story. The story of how my mother was fostered for years by a couple that took in not only her, but her three other siblings. It was only recently that I learned that my mother stood in a courtroom at age 12 talking to the judge about the very real possibility of being split up from her siblings – really the only stable force in her chaotic childhood. Her foster parents could be strict, but they provided normalcy and love and structure. My Mom grew up to appreciate those traits and searched out the same for me when she ended up a single parent. The act of love and bravery my grandparents made so many years ago is felt now as their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren lead normal lives.

Do you know someone who has been fostered or adopted? How has that affected him/her?

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Three Hundred Fifty: Another 40

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 17th

There are several birthdays that are etched on my mind, now and forever. My parents’, my older brother’s, and several friends’. Today is the 40th birthday of a dear friend from high school…that giggly friend who let me be nerdy, funny, dorky, sober, and serious in my adolescence. I often don’t give her enough credit for helping shape who I am today, but today I nod my head in her general direction.

When I knew her, she was plucky. She and I weren’t the sort of teenage girls that drank into oblivion on Saturday nights with the cool guys. We watched hockey games, went out for dinners, and debated whether Snapples or Peach nectars were better while getting junk food at the local gas station. We allowed our “maturity” to come to us slowly, and I think we had much more silly fun in the process. There was certainly no race to grow up. We met after I suggested we use “The Jungle Book” for a yearbook theme. Ha!

Now we are both married with our respective two kids, house, and cats. On a practical day-to-day basis, we really don’t talk very often but she is always one of those people I will wish well.

Whose birthday do you remember every year?

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Three Hundred Forty Nine: Markers of Time

“Life’s markers are never just for one moment in time. Every event holds a key. Each builds upon the other and becomes an indicator towards a higher purpose.”  – Nikki Rosen

Tuesday, December 16th

My kids were getting confused when we were going over to their grandparents’ house to spend time with family, so finally I created an advent chain – linking strips of paper with quotes written inside about each family member that would be there. Seeing it hang up in my home, I am reminded of how time seem worlds away or all-too-fleeting without the marker there to refer to.

This blog has been a pleasant marker of time. Following the seasons. Capturing the memories. Revealing predictable cycles in family life. Next year, I will find a new reference point. Something to guide me in reflection and gratitude moving forward.

How do you mark time?

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Three Hundred Forty Eight: Destructive Little Things

“The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.”  – Ernest Dimnet

Monday, December 15th

Tonight I discovered that the calendar on my phone had not been syncing with my husband’s. A little thing really, but what an insidious little oversight it was. We’ve become quite used to our syncopated calendars, and knowing where we’re expected to be when. Linking the calendars again would be a thorn in my side.

Losing my keys. Misplacing an overdue library book. These are the little things that  aren’t too damaging in the big scheme of things, but a royal pain in the arse to try to resolve. I’ve synced our calendars before, but this was a new set-up and it was confusing me to no end. When I was ready to pass the buck and blame my husband and his phone, I found I solution and we moved on. Good save.

What little mistakes thoroughly irritate you?

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Three Hundred Forty Seven: A Stranger Stranger

“Smile at strangers and you might just change a life.”  – Steve Maraboli

Sunday, December 14th

Today was a birthday party day – both kids, costumes, and an enchanted yoga birthday party. It was for the daughter of a relatively new friend, but someone who has become quite dear and irreplaceable quickly. So when we arrived early, I went ahead and helped her set up. If I just kept my head down and my mind focused on helping then I wouldn’t feel nervous over being a stranger in the group. And a stranger stranger at that.

I went into full-on chatty mode. I knew my friend’s husband was on the quiet side, so I did all the talking. I don’t know if I’m more comfortable in my skin than I let on, or if I did this out of nervousness – but it didn’t seem to put him at ease. Lately I’ve really been trying to remember the phrase, “What others think about me is none of my business”, and keep on my merry business. I know that I will never please 100% of the people who I meet, but I can share the joy that I have and act from a point of authenticity.

I feel that as I age, I feel more comfortable being around other people I don’t know. I might not be the most socially graceful person in the room, but I know that these little expressions of friendliness can contribute to a friendlier world and my own happier life.

How do you act around strangers?

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Three Hundred Forty Six: Focus on the Right Details

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”  – John Wooden

Saturday, December 13th

I have a habit of getting totally enmeshed in things, only to find that I’d been focusing on the wrong details. For instance, just now as I was logging on to write the post I decide to count out the rest of the posts for the year to see if it reaches 365 by December 31st. It didn’t…oops! So I back up to see if there was an Archive that would let me see the posts altogether instead of month-by-month. Nope. That leads me to counting out the posts from January 1st. What? Do I really need to count out 365 posts at 6 am? How often do I do this during my days – spin out onto some tangent that never even relates to the job I’m trying to do?

It can be fun to get lost in an intriguing detail. It can also lead to stress as I lose track of what I’m really trying to achieve. I need to jog my memory that I’m really working towards a larger goal.

Take yesterday. I’d been planning for several weeks to hold a social event for my daughter’s class. I reserved the Common House space. I got the word out. I kept in contact with parents and watched the RSVPs. Then invitations came out for a classmate’s bowling alley birthday party set for the same afternoon. I was disappointed that they’d planned it for 30 minutes after the end of my event. Parents would likely choose to take their kids to a free day at the bowling alley instead of to a toy/book exchange that would benefit the local food bank. Two of my four RSVPs dropped. I started to wonder why I’d planned anything altruistic with this group? When a couple mom friends started to get bummed out too I switched my thinking to a more positive outlook – don’t cater to the naysayers, work with the people who understood the reason for the party and were willing to participate. There will always be those who participate and those who don’t.

What resulted? Well, my kids and I went through a lot of their toys and discussed ones that they were willing to party with. I culled through their books. It was a great learning process, and we had toys ready that we could share with our little friend that is growing up in a single parent household before the event. The kids that attended the party had so much fun rambling around, and they even “shopped” for new-to-them things. The small group made it a reasonable amount of chaos and all the kids played with one another…and I got a chance to talk with every parent who showed up. There were so many good things about the way the event went.

It was a great reminder for me to stay the course. Building community happens one step at a time.

Do you lose track of the bigger picture? If so, how do you focus on what’s really important?

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