Finding Gratitude in Challenging Times

Many years ago, back when I had cable TV and I liked Oprah Winfrey, she had a guest on her show who first introduced me to the idea of a gratitude journal. I can’t remember why I jumped onboard with that, probably the guest said it would change my life and it did. I quickly found a nice little hardbound journal that was given to me as a college graduation gift (I did say it was many years ago) which remained blank, so I began each day to write down 3-5 things I was grateful for. My gratitude journal has been such a meaningful part of my sanity, growth, and getting me through difficult times, that I feel that the practice may benefit you as well.

We are certainly going through difficult times as humankind right now, and if you are feeling any amount of anxiety, worry, fear, or stress, I honestly believe getting a nice journal to begin this process of appreciation will help you get through it. And we will get through it. We ARE getting through it.

I have attempted to keep a gratitude journal throughout my life. Of course, my energy towards it wanes and surges, but I use it as one of my coping methods in the very hard times. I have filled up a few journals with basically lists of goodness in my life.

What has this accomplished for me?
1. It has forced me to look for the silver lining in the midst of the storms of life.
2. It makes me feel better. Instantly my mood improves. We cannot think of two things at once. We are either thinking of something good or something bad, but not both at the same time. Try it. You can only focus on one or the other.
3. It is a blessing to look back over the years and see how far I’ve come, and to remember special times and people.
4. It gets my mind off things I have no control over and helps me revisit how blessed I am.

When you first begin, it’s super easy. We all start with the  big things we can think of. Our family, our health, our religion, etc. And that’s fine. The more days you do it, it forces you to dig deep. You begin to live in a posture of appreciating.  Instead of thinking of general ideas, you begin to get very specific and will find that all day long,  you are appreciating your experiences and the people you are surrounded by.

When I look back over my old journals, I find a menagerie of things. For example, I am grateful that I am in control of my own feelings and thoughts. Or, I am grateful to have the ability to put together a meal without a recipe. For Ashlynn improving in her driving. When I look back into my very first Gratitude Journal in 1998, it says things like I am grateful for $50 my mom gave me to clean the house. Or, the job I applied for today. It is humbling and refreshing to read them all. For being able to visit my 6th grade Sunday school kids. In 2009, I wrote I am grateful for getting the bathroom redone. Free time to read and relax. Having money to tithe.

There are pages and pages filled and I could get lost retracing the steps of my life. But automatically I feel better. I mean right now. Finding those examples for you has caused me to realize how very blessed I am.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. Get yourself a nice journal, something that makes you smile. Journals always make me smile, anyone else? Set aside a time each day that you will write down 3-5 things to appreciate in your life. Do it for 30 days. Watch your life change!

In Philipians 4:8, we are told to think on the good things, y’all.  I would bet it is taught in all religions/spiritual circles in some form or fashion. What better way than to do so in a gratitude journal everyday? So go count your blessings, name them one by one. Leave me a comment if you plan on doing it or already do this. I would love to hear from you.

Here’s my 5 today if you need a tee off:
I am grateful:

  • For sitting outside and feeling the sun on my face and hearing the birdsong.
  • For healthy meals I can prepare and the abundance of food
  • For the promise of new beginnings as I watch spring unfold before my eyes
  • For the ability to work remotely.
  • For the bond of human connection.

 

 

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

My Dearest Emma Kate,

Another year has come and gone and it’s all I can do to to keep my head from spinning. I can’t help but realize that we only have 10 more to go before you strap on your wings and soar.

I read one of the most profound statements that said something along the lines of, “the greatest tragedy of motherhood is for her to love her children so much, that she must teach them to not need her.” That wasn’t it exactly, but it was very close, albeit, expressed much better than that. But in essence, that’s what we’re doing, you and I. I am trying my best to allow you to grow independent of me. I want that very much for you and at the same time, I don’t want that at all. What a paradox it is.

For eight years you have been the light of my life, the sun my world revolves around. “They”, you know who they are…..the so called experts…..say it isn’t healthy to make your child the center of your universe, but I can’t see how knowing you are the Big Kahuna in my life could be bad for you. You are my greatest work. Like Charlotte when she referred to her egg sac, My Magnum Opus. You, quite possibly, could be my purpose on this earth. When I think of my purpose, I imagine I should do something outstanding. Something that could impact mankind. It’s very possible that you are my something outstanding. You are to me, anyway.

I often remember our past. The last few years that have gone by in a blink. It is fun to watch videos of us and see photos and remember the feelings of fun and curiosity and growth that enveloped that time.

I often think of our future together. The trips we’ll take and the experiences we are to share. I hope we always have a strong relationship and that you can come to me for anything knowing I will always love you, no matter what.

I try very hard to just be present in our present. This is all we have. I find myself getting through “tasks” just to move on to the next “task”, when I should be relishing our moments.

At eight years old, here’s how you are: you are nice to be around, simply put. You have a great wit to you.  You are generally always in a good mood. You are not demanding or pouty in any way. You are curious beyond anything I’ve ever known and I have been exposed to more random, useless facts because of you. Your dad and I call you Cliff Clavin (look it up) and just shake our heads with your sudden announcements of “Did you know………”. You love learning, like you always have, and you are very interested in maps and places, as well as science. As long as the science doesn’t involve the body. Anything bodily gives you the willies and causes some sort of physical discomfort for you to read or hear about it.  You must get it from your Grandy, who can’t stand anything gross. Or maybe from me a little bit too, as I’ve nearly fainted at the sight of blood before. It’s actually quite hilarious how just reading The Magic School Bus Inside the Body makes your hips hurt. I’ve known all along that you weren’t possibly cut out for a career in medicine, when as a toddler you used to gag at the smell of your own poop!

You are mostly quiet still– unless you’re around your parents–an observer of people and things, who doesn’t like the spotlight or to be the center of attention. You still enjoy dance and gymnastics, but you’re not afraid to stay at home and do nothing either. You are fiercely independent, but never rude. You are truly the greatest kid. Your dad and I say it often. “She’s such a great kid.” I’m super proud of you and always will be. May you be surrounded by goodness and love and guidance all the days, my dear sweet child. You are loved.

Love,

Mama
XOXO

 

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Ordinary, yet precious


Life is made of moments. Many are magical. Most are merely mundane.

Ordinary life. But within every second of mundane and ordinary, lies the power. The power to be present. The power to choose your words carefully. The opportunity to connect with others. The opportunity to love, show love, and be love. All we really have is this moment.

Life is made of moments. Some day, the moments will only be memories. Time is precious and people are precious and that’s really all we need to know. Treat both as such.

Be Careful Little Eyes

I weigh myself daily. I record my weight in a journal everyday. This is before I have a sip of water or a cup of coffee. This is right after I’ve gone to the bathroom to ensure I weigh as little as possible. This is before I read my daily affirmation on my calendar. This is before I wake my daughter for school. This is my routine. Everyday.

I’ve never thought much about this, until I found a little blue sticky note, where in pencil in a child’s hand my daughter had recorded her weight twice. My seven year old. My heart sank with the realization that my seven year old is concerned about her weight. But in today’s society, it wouldn’t be unheard of. In a home where her mother is weight conscious, it’s not a bit surprising either. If we don’t think for one second our kids are watching our every move, we are fools. We are being watched, listened to, and even more important to note, we are being imitated.

I chart my weight in order to stay on top of it because if I don’t, it can easily get out of control. Would I like to lose weight? Sure would. But I try to be very careful what I say around my kid that is weight related. When I was a kid, my mom always said she was fat. So I thought she was fat, because kids have this trusting tendency to believe everything grownups tell them. Right or wrong. When I see pictures of my mom from my childhood (very few), she is not fat at all. She’s just regular. An average mom who thought she was fat. So I get that, I really do. I don’t want to pass that one on. So I am cautious to not speak of myself as fat or turn my nose up at myself in the mirror with a  big UGH.

We know how society is affecting our young children, especially girls, with its supermodels, photoshopped pictures and airbrushed glossy magazine covers. That’s all true.  My mind was put at ease when I learned that my daughter is tracking her weight because she is wanting to gain weight so she can outgrow her booster seat. Isn’t that just like a kid, trying to grow up before their time?

But this sticky note put a lot of thoughts in motion for me. It gave me an opportunity to  pause a moment and look hard at myself. My words. My actions. Our kids are living in the world we create for them. What are they seeing? What are they hearing? What are they imitating?

Do they see us lash out at the people we profess to love the most after a hard day at work? Do they see us lose our temper and hear us curse? Do they see our frustrations and road rage? Do they hear us complain about everything….the service, they traffic, the wait, the co-workers, the teachers, the bills. Do they listen to us gossiping with friends and making fun of others? Do they see us give money to the man with the cardboard sign? Do they hear us apologize when we’re wrong, and sometimes, we are. Do they hear us compliment a stranger’s shoes or see us drop what we’re doing to a lend a helping hand? Do they see us staring at our phone at every red light or line we wait in? Do they see us praising God, even in hard times, and down on our knees in prayer?

This little blue sticky note in my child’s handwriting was a huge Note to Self. It reminded me of how powerful my influence is on those around me. Not just kids, but most importantly kids. Most importantly this one kid. Remember I said she was sleeping when I do my weighing and charting? Well, not every time obviously. There are times she’s watching. And listening. And imitating.

So are others.

Never underestimate the power you have. You can have such an important impact on others. You may not think your words and actions are making a difference, but they are. You make a difference. Make sure it’s a good one.

Cheers to 7 Years

My Dearest Emma Kate,

Happy 7th birthday, my precious darling child! When you were born, I got a lot of advice.  I didn’t ask for it, by the way, but sometimes people just like to give it. One of the most common things I heard was “Don’t blink. They grow up so fast.” I’m sure I’ve already given this advice out to new moms and if I haven’t, I’m sure I will. It is the God honest truth. There is nothing truer in this world than how fast time flies. How in the world has seven years passed already?

It makes me sad sometimes. You’re infancy, toddlerhood, and now half of your childhood is just a memory. Well cherished.  You are a ray of sunshine everyday to me. Rod Stewart (I know you’ve never heard of him, and I should change that) says, “You fill my heart with gladness. You take aways all my sadness. You ease my troubles, that’s what you do).

This birthday, you asked for a glitter water bottle, pink hair extensions, a doll from Hobby Lobby named Emma “who looks just like me!” and a Rubix cube. You lost your third tooth this week. It’s a top one and you look so funny. Sorry kid, but you do. You were so excited to lose it before you turned seven. And your toothless grin makes me smile! You are a little prankster and you love to trick me and your dad. Of course, we never fall for it, but we act like we do. You’ll get this someday when you’re playing dumb for your kids, too. You love to play games. You give the best squeezes. Right now you are over the moon about llamas! You want everything llama themed, from your toothbrush to your bedroom.  So naturally, we had a llama birthday party! You wanted to go to the Plaza and have them sing happy birthday, so we managed that too! You truly don’t ask for much, and you are just happy and content no matter what.

51223912_10219215884014754_175594532396597248_nYou love your family and gymnastics so much! You really are passionate about that. You set goals for yourself, and you are hoping to get first place at one of your gymnastics meets. I’m proud of you for striving, but please always know it is not what you do that matters. You matter, already. No matter what you do or don’t do. You are loved, you are adored, you are worthy, you are deserving. You don’t ever, ever, ever have to earn love. You are loved. You are love. We will always love you. I know you’re going to grow so fast. I cherish the days I have with you. I try to see the world through your eyes. It’s hard, because grown ups have lost that childlike joy, imagination, and wonder. But you keep it alive in our house. Even when we’re tired and don’t want to play or imagine, you make us and it’s good for us. You love to wrestle with your dad and you love to snuggle with your mom. You are our gift. I mean that. I don’t know where we would be without you, but it would never be as grand and wonderful as where we are today. May you always know how much you’re loved and may you love life, always!

I love you more than you can ever understand,

XOXO
Mama

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Love in My Lap

IMG_2849.JPGThe clock is a kill-joy on mornings like today. Mornings when my baby girl is so warm and snuggled up against me, her breathing heavy and full, a half-snore.

Mornings come so early for us, and bedtimes don’t always come easily. It’s hard to rub the sleepies from our eyes some days, and this morning was no exception.

I am on the countdown to summer break, for both of us. Well for all of us. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find our cat marking X’s on the calendar, if she only had opposable thumbs. I think she’s on the countdown too. She knows that soon we can sit like this all morning if we want to. We probably will. I love her soothing purrs and EK’s half snores.

It’s no secret that my baby isn’t a baby anymore. But I will carry her from her bed to the recliner as long as she reaches her arms around my neck and snuggles her face into my neck each sleepy morning. I will carry her as long as I have strength to do so. I will hold her in my lap as long as she curls up in it. I will breathe in the smell of her hair and kiss her little head for as many days as possible.

I believe that the gift of being an older mom is knowing in my heart how fleeting the days are. I may not be young and hip. I may occasionally get mistaken for her grandmother. I may be old-fashioned and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may get tired soon after playing shadow tag, but I am sure of one thing. I am not foolish enough to believe that these moments will last.

When you get to a certain age, you start looking back. Here I am, halfway through life (not positive, but realistically yes, but gosh that’s hard to think about) and it went by in a blink. Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I remember a younger time when it felt like days dragged on and waiting for something to come seemed to take an eternity. Like graduation or a wedding day. Even summer breaks felt long when I was a youngster. I remember a younger me full of goals and dreams, rushing through days, not living in the present but taking every day for granted, the next would come and I would wash and repeat. Can you relate?

Not anymore. Now me and J-Dub look at the clock in the evenings and can’t believe it’s 8 pm already. Where does all the time go? It flies. That’s the truth.

The clock that hangs on my wall was a gift from my dad. I remember my 25th birthday when he gave it to me. I remember the 25 year old who was cute and hip and took everyday for granted. She could probably play shadow tag for hours. The clock chimes on the hour. I try to have EK ready before 7 bells each day, but today we sat a little longer. I relished the seconds that passed. I attempted to slow down time. I did not want them to end. I felt such joy and love. But the clock chimed our reminder that time is passing; slowly for some, much more quickly for others.

I nudged her awake, stirred the cat, and began the day with a heart of pure gratitude for the love I hold in my lap each morning.

 

Emma’s 6th Birthday Party—emoji

I’m running so far behind, I’m not sure I’m coming or going.

Three weeks ago, we celebrated our little one’s sixth birthday and I have yet to document this momentous event with pictures.

This time, I did it differently. The first five of her birthdays, we have celebrated at home with friends in an old fashioned birthday party. I’m a bit old fashioned actually and I have learned that when having big parties and renting out places, serving 3 decker cakes, and having lots of hoopla, this only gets harder the older they get. So, we have celebrated at home, with homemade cupcakes and games.

And now here comes the BUT.

But this year…….

She wanted to have her party at the gymnastics center. If you’ve been paying any bit of attention, you’ll know that she is crazy about emojis right now. So of course, it had to be an emoji party. She has pined over other little girls’ fancy, two layer cakes and asked if she could have a big cake. So, I bit the bullet and went with it, no matter how much it went against my grain.

Who’s to say my grain’s going the right direction, anyway?

It was a ton of fun, very stress free for me, and dare I say…..easy.

The kids got to jump, run, swing, balance, and hang like monkeys.

I even did my part by making some “poop” cupcakes. Of course, Emma helped.

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Another birthday in the books.

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1 year down, 13 more to go

My baby girl, my only child has completed her Pre-K year. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I know, I know, it’s a little silly when you think about being proud of completing pre-k, right? It’s not like she wrote research papers or received an associate degree while taking high school classes or worked a part-time job and maintained the A Honor Roll, or that she’s off to some Ivy League School. Like what did she really do that I should be so proud? Well, I’ll tell you what she did first and foremost. She blossomed! She blossomed and learned in so many different areas! That’s why I’m proud.

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Just look at those pictures!  Just look at them.

You might not be able to tell, but she grew an inch and gained 5 pounds too!

The little buttercup went from being mostly shy and timid to outgoing and confident. Granted, she still gets a little nervous talking to people, but at least she’s not hiding behind my legs anymore. As much, anyway.  That’s why I’m proud.

Of course she learned lots of academic type of things. She can read several words and a few little books, she has great number sense, and a lot of common sense as well. She tries her best at everything she does and wants to succeed. She is responsible and superb! That’s why I’m proud.

She also did big 5-year-old things this year, like learning to tie her shoes and fix her own hair, which might look a fright most of the time, but she does it herself and her independence and self-confidence is more important in the big scheme of things than a perfect hair-do.  She also decided that she can put herself to bed and sleep alone. But every 4th night, I can still sleep with her. She’s growing up independent and confident. That’s why I’m proud.

She worked so hard in both her dance and gymnastics classes and more importantly had fun doing it. She can swing herself on the swings with just one push to get her started, and cross the monkey bars by herself. She is learning that hard work pays off and  practice does make almost-perfect. She is learning that things may be hard at first, but not to give up, keep on trying and eventually you’ll get there. That’s why I’m proud.

She is good and kind and thoughtful which is the most important aspects I would like her to develop in her years of learning.  I want her to know that it is better to be a friend to someone who needs one, than to fit in with the “in-crowd”. I want her to know that not everything is going to come easy, but she’ll never be disappointed in herself for knowing she gave it her all. She learned more this year of the important stuff than she might learn her entire academic career. Her foundation is laid.

These next 13 years are going to fly by. I know that all too well. It may be that some day she’ll be off to an Ivy League School, or maybe she’ll backpack across Europe. As long as she stays true to herself and discovers happiness in her journeys is my heart’s desire for her. It may seem silly to you that I write these milestones down, but I know my memories won’t always be as clear and I want to remember it all: every little accomplishment, every single stepping stone on her path to wherever she is heading.

She is such a joy, and I am so very proud to call her mine.

 

Mother’s Day #5

I’m a bit of a creature of habit. Just a bit. Not too much. Only when I want to be, really. But I do have a little tradition of blogging on certain celebratory occasions. My daughter’s b-day and Mother’s Day are the only 2 I really think of right now. Most of the time, this little blog is a ball of random. When the whim hits. Which hasn’t been hitting much lately.

Sunday past was Mother’s Day. My fifth one.  I’m not sure words can describe motherhood. There have been many people who have tried to put the words down, including myself. I think one of the best I’ve ever read is: #motherhood:

How true.

Motherhood is complete sacrifice, even when you adore pie.
Motherhood is seeing the tiniest, most minuscule, grain-of-sand-sized love God has for us.
Motherhood is a heart that is both broken and full to bursting often at the same time.
Motherhood is worry.
Motherhood is joy.
Motherhood is an exhaustion beyond what you ever thought possible.
Motherhood is sticky fingers and sweet kisses.
Motherhood is a million “I love yous” and a few teenage “I hate yous”.
Motherhood is handmade cards.
Motherhood is lots of laughs and plenty of tears from all parties involved.
Motherhood is eating lots of spaghetti.
Motherhood is late nights and early mornings and feet in your ribs when sleep does come.
Motherhood is thankless mostly, but worth every moment.

This Mother’s Day I was showered with little gifts. Gifts that will be put away in the bin with the other sweet gifts I’ve been given and the ones hopefully to come.

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18447353_10213478050932513_4614352799574924184_nEach moment is a true gift. A treasure to hold. Time passes so quickly. For some, motherhood never happens or sadly ends too soon.

My little daughter came into my life unexpectedly and the emotions I went through were paramount.  We are tight. This girl and I. We have a bond right now that I hope will outlast all the growing pains we still have to endure. The past five years have flown by, and I know the next 13 will zip past. And then she’ll soar on the wings that her dad and I have hopefully helped give her. So for now, I cherish every Eskimo kiss, every hug, every stick figure drawing stuck to the fridge, and even every melt down.

Every beautiful moment of motherhood for the past five years I have tried to store away, either in my memories or in this blog. I have been given such a remarkable little girl and I am so honored to be her mom.

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A Daughter’s Love

Last night, way past a normal bedtime for a 5 year old, my little EK and I were snuggling in. Saying our prayers and our I love yous. When suddenly she said, “I’m probably going to forget you when I grow up.” Why, I asked. Why would you forget me? She answered because she would be all grown up. I tried to explain to her that girls don’t forget their mothers, while believing this with all my heart, but also hopefully convincing her that she wouldn’t forget me, that she couldn’t forget me. My momma heart felt a moment of fear and heartache at the thought that my time with her was limited, that some day it would end. Which of course it will, but not by forgetting. Never by forgetting.

In my convincing, I tried to explain in the best way I could that I’m all grown up and I haven’t forgotten my mom and even my mom hasn’t forgotten her mom. And I desperately explained how when she was all grown up we would talk on the phone and visit one another if she moved away. That we could text on cell phones and take trips together. My mind was a flurry of all the grown up things we will do. In my vision, I was hanging on to her grown up self by a thread, knowing that it could so easily snap in an instant with her own life, her husband, her family, her busyness.

We were lying on our sides in an embrace, our noses practically touching. She said if she lived next door, I could just come over and visit. That thought gave me some relief. Yes, next door. That sounds wonderful. Then I said what all mom’s say at some time to their sweet preschoolers, yet to become tumultuous, unruly teenagers. “And you don’t ever have to move out, anyway. You can live with me forever.” I’m sure some day I will try to cram these words back down my throat, claiming I’ve never uttered them. But for now, the thought of her leaving, even to live next door is more than I can handle.

Then that sweet girl, with her big brown eyes, and her little mind that works all the time said. “And when you die, I’ll bury you in my front yard, so I can visit you all the time.”

I didn’t even know how to react to this. It is at the same time both very loving and yet bizarrely disturbing. So we said our good nights and our I love yous and I realized once again how immense love is.