Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year Plan

"The trouble is, you think you have time."
Buddha

Time is one of those always changing things. We either have too much time to kill or not enough hours in a day. We can save for the future or live in the moment. We can waste time, let it slip through our fingers, or use time wisely.

As we get to the end of 2013 it's customary to look back on the year and wonder what we did that made it good, bad or even memorable. Did we do anything selfless, exciting, enriching, motivating or life altering? What mistakes did we make that we regret but now know better?  What chances, challenges, adventures did we not take?

And most importantly, what do we need to change for the future?

I wish I could __________.

We all have an answer. Lose 10 pounds, find a new job, travel, get out of a relationship, find a relationship, run a race or scratch something off of our bucket list; skydiving, visiting a certain country, zip lining, swimming with dolphins, taking a cruise, flying a plane....I've heard countless examples from people.

As a coach my suggestion is not to make a New Year resolution but instead a New Year PLAN.

Don't just say I'll start going to the gym, set a schedule. Call a friend for workouts and find something you will enjoy rather than begrudgingly do. With so many options; yoga, Pilates, spin, Cross Fit, or simply walking a few miles on a treadmill while watching your favorite show, any of it can give you results.

Don't dream about a destination, plan it. Price compare and look for deals. If you have to save start a separate account, sell unwanted items on eBay, Craigslist, Poshmark...etc. Get a rewards card to help with airfare or hotel expenses. Look for deals on Living Social, 50/50, Cheaptickets, Expedia, Travelocity or any of the many sites out there.

Finding a new job can be a job in itself. Searching Monster, Craigslist, local job sites, fairs and want adds can be time consuming and frustrating. But you have to send resumes, make contacts and at least try. You never know where it may lead.

Relationships are tricky. Leaving a bad one can feel like losing an extension of yourself. Decide your options and weigh the pros and cons but most of all measure your happiness above all else and decide what that picture looks like.

Finding love today is daunting. Dating sites can be an answer, many find them useful, just know you will meet a lot of bottom dwellers before you find the fish in the sea. Asking friends for an introduction or a double date can be a less scary idea. Group activities, classes, organizations of a more relaxed and social aspect can help with meeting new people that interest you. But you have to put yourself out there. Saturday nights with Ben & Jerry and Pay-Per-View are okay-just not every weekend.

Find out where you can do that one thing you've always wanted to try and set a date to check it out.
Stop saying "I wish I could" and start saying "I am going to."

Walt Disney said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

So what is your New Year plan?

Happy New Year everyone.







Friday, December 6, 2013

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

"I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man."
~Nelson Mandela

Yesterday we lost an amazing hero. I man who could look at the world, all of it's evils and hardships that were often placed in his lap, his life, his family, his country, and be forgiving and hopeful. He spoke of peace, understanding and acceptance of everyone, even those who were his captors.

Yesterday, before the announcement of Mr. Mandela's death, I listened quietly as someone I have known all of my life spoke of distrusting people with multiple tattoos and knowing that anyone gay would be burning in hell. Yes-people with these beliefs still do exist.

This person is a devout Baptist and receives most of these ideals from the pastor at their church. They do a fantastic amount of good in the community but all with a selective ideology.

How can a so called Christian faith, or any faith, be selective in who can pray, attend, commune, or be "saved" for that matter. Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, color of your hair, piercings or tattoos does not identify who a person is or their worth in the world.

I read today about a group that calls themselves Bikers Against Child Abuse. These leather clad, tattooed, facial hair and Harley driving group help children of abuse regain their strength. They surround these children, protect them, keep a vigil watch if they are in danger, and go to court with them, encircling the child to the stand and helping them stay strong to testify on the worst parts of their lives. The children are given a new courage because no bad man or women is as scary as their new friends.

This group that so many would look at as bad news or not worth their time volunteer to be the saving grace to children who have suffered beyond what most of us will ever experience.

I also recently read a letter to an advice columnist asking her to please give them help in convincing their son, who recently told them he was gay, that he should choose to be straight. The columnist ever so cleverly told the father he should demonstrate by example. The father should choose to be gay for a time period showing his son that it is in fact a choice. Brilliant.

So what does it take to get us to Mr. Mandela's dream? What does it take to make the world look at one another and get to know a person before any judgement is made?

Every day we still live with hate crimes, racial profiling, and small mindedness.

One of the most disturbing stories recently in my mind was a family in Virginia who let their seven year old dress as a Ku Klux Klan member for Halloween, toting it as a "family tradition." It's these people that still shape young minds that will forever keep us from reaching a place where judgement is made by someone's actions, not appearance.

I think Denis Leary said it best, "Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list."

If our children could grow up only hating naps then hate would become almost non-existent. What grown up doesn't learn the value of a good nap?

Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela.
1918-2013


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Strength, Courage and Humor

"Don't wish me happiness. I don't expect to be happy. It's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all."
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

No human being ever is without tests. We can't live in society, in our fragile bodies and gamete of emotions without something taking us to the mats and slamming us full force to the point where we wonder how we get the air back in our lungs.

It's how we handle ourselves, our strength, courage and sense of humor that dictates how we breathe again.

I think of a recent picture of a friend waiting for her chemo treatment, bald head exposed and pinky finger at her mouth imitating Dr. Evil selling chemo treatments for one MILLION dollars. Her humor and grace always winning over cancer that keeps trying to knock it out of her.

It's often in those tests that we long for humor to save our minds and help us cope. I read an article recently about how Jews in concentration camps used humor to ease the horrible circumstances. During times of conflict, our military can occasionally have the pleasure of comedians coming to lift their spirits. The movie Patch Adams comes to mind as an example of changing the face of illness to include fun and laughter as necessary additions to our mental and physical recovery.

Too often I've witnessed circumstances crush someone's spirit to the point of giving up a part of themselves. It's easy to fall into the "whoa is me" mindset. Play the sad songs and hide from life. You can decide to never laugh, smile, sing, dance or do any of the things that make life beautiful.

Maya Angelou wrote, "Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable."

I'll be the first to admit the snugness of that feather bed at times. But I'll also admit it was always my fault for being there. I let the circumstances win over my spirit. Not everyone can take off their scarf, strike a silly pose and laugh while waiting for whatever horrible treatment or experience you can't avoid. But those that find that ability possess the amazing talent to face the Scrooges of life with determination and a smile. That takes strength, courage, and humor.  And what's the alternative? Weakness, fear, and sadness just sounds tragic.

So I applaud everyone out there this holiday season who is shining brightly despite whatever hardship you're facing. And for those of you still looking for your light may you find strength, courage, and humor to help you through.

"Look, I don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive you've got to flap your arms and legs, you've got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you're not alive."
Mel Brooks




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thank you very much

Even though the Christmas carols are playing we still have one other holiday to get past. It had something to do with bringing disease and violence to a new world. Today it's about bringing soggy green bean casserole and keeping the kids away from weird Uncle Larry. After that, however, you are expected to think about what you have in your life that you appreciate.

So here it goes:

Red wine.
Once considered the nectar of the Gods I simply think of it as my old friend there to never judge, only relax and comfort me at the end of a long day.

Small children (that do not belong to me).
I love talking to little people. I love how they mispronounce words, have a lisp or a stutter, or tell embarrassing stories about the people they're with. I especially love how excited they get when they realize you are talking to them and genuinely care about what they are saying.

Sweet old people (not the sour, cranky ones),
I love the way they call me kiddo or tell me about their age, always so proud to be _____. They make me smile.

Days when my dog doesn't pee on the floor.

Comfortable pants.
You know the kind? The curl up on the couch with hot tea (or wine) and a movie kind. Ahhhh

Hot Shower or bath on a cold day.
Need I say more?

Warm weather.
I miss it already and will be slightly sad until it returns.

The smell of a barn.
It relaxes me because I know it's my safe haven.

Friends who make you laugh so hard you pee a little.
Those you keep forever.

Lovers that make you laugh so hard you pee a little.
Those you also keep forever.

Surprise packages in the mail.
Or even those you know you ordered (thank you Amazon). It still somehow feels like a gift you get to open.

My three preteen/teenage children laughing and getting along.
It may be the best sound in the world.

A full night of sleep.
Rarely does it occur but when it does-I feel like I have potential.

And finally...

A "take no prisoners" attorney wiling to fight the good fight for me.
She's amazing! (I'll give you her number if God forbid you are ever in need).

Thanks everyone!
<3

"I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose."
~Woody Allen









Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Laws of the Universe

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
~Douglas Adams

Did you know that there are actually seven natural laws of the universe? I'm not going to go into them all (you can Google that on your own) but I have been wondering how they play out in reality.

I've recently been on a universal size roller coaster. I came back from possibly the best week of my life, finally feeling truly happy after too many years of sadness, to the equivalent of a baseball bat to my knees.

It was a "one-two punch" few days. The ex-husband filing a law suit because he's bitter and petty. Then my sweet old retired horse I've had for 15 years fell ill and had to be put down within a five hour time period.

I felt like the universe took one look at me and exclaimed: "You are way too happy. Let's throw some serious crap in your direction."

It is part of the seven laws. The Law of Polarity indicating that everything has an opposite. So for every great thing there may be an equally terrible event as well. Such is life I suppose.

And the Law of Rhythm, like a tide going in and out. Our rhythm always changing for better or worse.

I guess it's not letting the rhythm trip you up. Remembering there is always something to keep you steady.

I've been comforted that my old horse lived a long and well cared for life.
I'm reassured that my attorney is not only fantastic but just a fraction of the cost of the ex's, so win or lose he'll pay.
And I'll keep looking at the amazing photos of my best week ever and hold onto that feeling of everything being right with the universe. Those feelings are rare. True happiness is like a shooting star you look at with wonder. Turn around and there is a fiery meteor headed right for you. Once you put out the fire you have to keep remembering the shooting star.

"I'm astounded by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown."
~Woody Allen


Monday, September 23, 2013

Fantasy World

"We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find the reality."
~Iris Murdoch~

I feel like lately I've been living in a fantasy world in my mind. My life is still the same....in fact my job has been terribly slow, my ex-husband is away for three weeks so I'm a true single mom, and any number of normal stresses have me running at what feels like light speed every day.

But none of it is bothering me a bit. I'm in my fantasy world.

My happy world used to come from books. I'd devour as many as I could. Lately I've lost the mental energy or "sink your teeth in" content to excite me. My daughter, however, is a massive book worm and I'm adoring that. She loves the fantasy world as well; Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter....anything that pulls her into something magical or completely foreign. She makes me want to find a new book....up for suggestions.

So why so "head in the clouds?"

I'm getting married. That statement used to have me throwing up in my mouth a bit. But I'm genuinely no holds barred excited.

**Sigh**

For those who don't know I'm marrying my best friend from high school. We were together constantly for years. He knew every detail of my life. I often tried to find him after school but he disappeared to Europe. When we finally did reconnect it was like we were never apart. We were friends again for awhile but of course we realized we were perfect for each other and the rest, as they say, is history.

Four years of a long distance relationship, me flying there, him coming here or meeting at another location was exciting, exhilarating, and always an adventure. But it also became exhausting, expensive and....well...lonely. Only together for a week more or less every two to three months can take its toll.

So things are changing.

I'm getting married. He's moving here within the next 9 months (give or take). We don't have it all figured out yet but there is a path being taken and it feels completely right.

So for now let me have my fantasy world. I'm sure reality will find a way to bite me soon.

I'm going to go pet my unicorn while small bluebirds sing in my ear.

"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities."
~Maya Angelou~


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Adventure Time

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
~Mark Twain

When you think of the word adventure what do you think of? I think of traveling to new places and trying new things. There can be nothing more terrifying and exhilarating than entering a country where you don't know the language or way around and setting out to explore.

Unfortunately travel is expensive and time consuming. I know many people who feel that money is better spent on possessions rather than experience. But what does that lead to? Would you rather say you lived your life with the best car, furniture, shoes or electronics or would you like to say you saw a part of the world?

Of course today's travel market is full of deals. We have Living Social, 50/50, Expedia, Travelocity, any number of point system cards for airlines and hotels not to mention the sites that promote things like house-swapping or working vacations. These just scratch the surface of ways to afford travel time.

Recently while in Washington DC I was taking a break from the heat by browsing in a Gap. Clearance t-shirt in hand I was in a long conversation with the clerk about which airline has the best rewards card. We agreed on Delta for their partial pay with miles ability. He said he just booked his trip to Hong Kong by using partial points and I replied I had just done the same for my next Amsterdam trip. Somehow I don't think the Gap is paying their employees the big bucks. This guy just loves to travel and knows the system to make it affordable.

Last summer I had the opportunity to send my oldest son on a People to People trip through Europe. He was able to see parts of England, France, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. He participated in honoring his great grandfather in Normandy, climbed the Eiffel Tower, rode the London Eye, saw the beauty of Ireland's countryside, ate Belgium chocolate and Dutch cheese. He came home with a head swimming with adventure and stories.

Yes, it took a village to get him there. The trip was split between myself, his dad, my parents and fundraisers. Will I hesitate to ever do it for my next two if they want? Absolutely not.

Kids (and adults) who get to see different parts of their world recognize what a small speck they are in the scheme of things. They get to see different cultures, hear different languages, see whole other ways of life that can open their eyes to a great big world of opportunities and explorations they never knew existed.

Do you have that one place you've always wanted to go? That bucket list or "someday" adventure? Do what a friend of mine recently did. Put a small amount away every month in a separate account. We never know how many "somedays" we have left. I suggest we make the most of them.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~Mark Twain














Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What if....

"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet."
~Woody Allen

I believe there are two types of people, the "what if" kind and the "take it in stride" type.

Not that it's completely cut and dry. Situations or circumstances can lead us to favor worrying versus waiting.

I've been dealing with this with my fiance right now. He's in a very "what if" mode when it comes to the future. Having interviews in Washington, Philadelphia and New York has his mind all over the place with what if scenarios.  Would we live in the city, outside, what would the kids choose, what kind of house, schools, community do we want....?

I'm more of the idea of let's wait and see what happens. No need to (excuse the old idiom) put the cart before the horse. Why stress over something that isn't even an issue as of yet?

We all have our what if moments. I get that a lot in teaching self defense for the last eight years. Students are always asking what if the bad guy does A, B or C instead. Of course with a self defense situation as in any reality of life there is no script or exact recipe. The answer is always to know they have skills, knowledge and hopefully a steady mind to react to the best of their ability.

We can really apply that to any part of our lives when it comes to the unknown. If we have coping skills, knowledge and an ability to keep a calm mindset we can overcome whatever trips us up in life.

I've coached many people on the what if question. What if I go back to school and fail? What if I apply for a job and get rejected? What if I get out of a bad relationship and no one wants me? The questions are endless but so are the answers.

Of course there are the what if's for the past as well. We all fall into that trap on occasion. What if I hadn't made that bad investment? What if I had avoided that relationship? What if I had taken that job? What if I had chosen another path? Of course these thoughts are even more useless than the future worries unless you're Marty McFly.

I'm not saying that worrying has no merit. Sometimes we find solutions ahead of time to our future problems. But don't obsess over things that can't be controlled. Time and energy is much better spent living in the presents.

 "Worry never robs tomorrow of it's sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."
~Leo Buscaglia


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happiness is....

Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change."
~Bertrand Russell

Happiness is ___________.

How would you answer that question? Could you answer that question?

I began to think about this while listening to my daughter talk to her friend about people who are too happy. Apparently those people annoy her to no end. She explained that she personally likes to be happy but with a normal amount of unhappy mixed in (she's 11 by the way).

I guess we all know those people who are always super positive no matter what the circumstance. The Sponge Bob verses Squidward view of the world (did I mention I have an 11-year-old?).

I know my fair share of Squidwards. No matter what the conversation they find a way to turn it into how terrible their lives are. Those that live in an eternal pity party and they want to invite you. I have come to avoid them if possible.

Then I know people who seriously have real reasons to be defeated but remain strong and optimistic. A friend of mine is fighting cancer, moving soon, her daughter scheduled for surgery right when they're moving, but her bright sides are not losing her hair, her amazing family and friends and her great sense of humor.

Another woman I ran into recently dealing with health problems, a terrible divorce and countless other things that one person should not have to deal with in one year. Rather than look defeated she smiles and says it will all be okay because she has faith and great people in her life.

So what makes one person able to stay so strong while another crumbles at the smallest of issues?

What makes us happy?

For most it's not just one thing but a list of happiness requirements. I picked the top quote for that reason. At least when I look at my personal happiness it's a combination of things. Doing things I enjoy, having something to look forward to as well as the possibility of change in areas I'm not happy tend to keep me positive.

But if you truly are not happy at the moment the question needs to be reworded. I'm not happy because _________.

I spent years not happy in my marriage. Not that people would look at me during that time and say I was a miserable person, I've always been outwardly positive, but in a way that once I was free people could see a lightness to me. My kids could see a spark they hadn't seen. It was taking 160 pounds of pure sadness and deciding I couldn't hold it anymore.

Sometimes it is a relationship that makes us happy. My son has his first girlfriend and I feel like I'm in a body snatcher scene; who are you and what have you done with my kid?

My friend just got promoted at work and that makes her happy, combined with hitting personal goals in triathlons.

Vacation, travel or any change in our environment can often help us reboot our joy.

For some, it's a deep faith or religion that brings the peace they need.

Two of my friends would say it's fantastic wool, knitting needles and free time.

I love the quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Maggoch:
"Everything will be alright in the end so if it's not alright it is not the end."

I look at that quote to mean if it's not alright then it's not time to give up. The end is when you decide there is nothing left to change or make better.

So find the right question that fits your world at the moment because if it's not alright it's not the end.

"Happiness is an inside job."
~William Arthur Ward

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Throwing Stones

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So little Lancaster County. Known as the home of the Amish. Quiet and peaceful right? Farms, Turkey Hill products and apple butter. What more could you want?

Yeah.

We know our version of horror and drama. Our news is not that different from any other city. So when a five year old was abducted it was horror and drama-as it should be.

But as seen with all horror stories emotions run high.

Let me be clear, the girl was found. In fact it's amazing how she was found. A few students from my alma mater (being the Lancaster City School District who often don't get the respect they deserve) decided that with the police and media surrounding their neighborhood they would do their own search.

What kids do that today? They would have to leave their Xbox and possibly NOT beat the next level!

These amazing boys not only went searching but found this young girl. Knowing the neighborhood well they were able to intimidate the suspect enough for him to set her free. She only asked for her Mommy and held on to her rescuer like he was a super hero. In a way he is, at least to her and her family.

But now I'm shocked and saddened by the amount of people blaming the mother and grandmother for such a terrible tragedy (there were signs the girl had experienced abuse). The media, as always, has helped this matter. They give partial information to paint the picture they want you to see.

But to blatantly blame anyone but the monster who did this is turning a knife that has already been inserted.

I for one have made my share of parenting mistakes. None, thankfully, have lead to anything newsworthy but that may be just the luck of the drawl. I have three children and I admit to being overwhelmed, stressed and possibly less vigilant than I should have been  on occasion when they were little. So who am I to ever pass judgement on someone who had a completely bad card thrown at them.

I'm sure they are feeling every ounce of pain and guilt on their own without having the media or random people also condemning them.

So I ask you, have you been a perfect parent or person? Can you look back on your life and not see times when you thought "that could have been so much worse, I really lucked out."

If you can, well, you either have a selective memory or you're 12 ( and even that is questionable).

As with the Sandy Hook massacre, the Amish school house shooting or any other horrific crime that leaves behind external victims, let them heal.

Let them face their demons and heartbreak without additional pain thrust at them for no other reason than a need to point fingers and raise emotions.

I beg of you. Let them heal.

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
John 8:7




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Compromise

"You may either win your piece or buy it: win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil."
~John Ruskin~

Greetings from Amsterdam. I'm here for approximately the 10th (if not more) time in the last four years. It has become a home away from home since my boyfriend (now fiance) lives here.

He is trying very hard to find a position in the U.S. so we can create a more normal life. I've compromised the fact that I'd be willing to relocate as long as it's logistically possible from a children's shared custody perspective.

It's a difficult compromise for both of us but only in relation to our ideas and expectations of the future.

While here we were told by a friend that he may have to do business with an organization that has been less than upstanding and moral in the past. Business is business and often in our jobs we have to compromise to help sustain our lives, feed our families and save our dreams.

But what do we lose in compromising our integrity or morality? Is it a bit of a sell out or selling of ourselves?

Maybe.

And in a place like Amsterdam it's easy to make that comparison when walking through the Red Light District or smelling the distinct aroma of marijuana wafting from the Coffee Shops. The Netherlands has been struggling with the idea of shutting down such practices for over 100 years but compromises to save the tourism and economy by simply containing it in a small area.

Most of these prostitutes are from other countries just trying to survive and most of their clients are tourists (as in the coffee shops) just here for the experience. A quiet little street can have a sex shop two doors down from the cutest little bakery or centuries old church.

Of course Amsterdam is so much more than pot and prostitutes. It's amazing architecture, history, art, culture and the beauty of a city intertwined with canals and stories. The part many find immoral is only a tiny aspect of an overall amazing place.

Isn't that every one of us? We can live our lives in the best, most morally upstanding way possible but every so often, since we're human, we'll have to challenge, test, bend or even ignore something in our fundamentals either because we have to or simply because we make a mistake.

We compromise ourselves.

We compromise ourselves countless times in life; with friends, children, co-workers, customers, spouses or even strangers on occasion. We bend from our wants or beliefs because it's an end to a mean. It can quiet an unhappy child, keep peace in a marriage, or bring about a boost in a failing business.

So can good and evil share the same space through compromise? It does in each and every one of us really. No one is 100 % good. We all have our faults, mistakes, vices or issues and anyone that says otherwise is delusional.

It's a matter of going into such tricky negotiations desperately holding onto what values we have, with eyes wide open to our own self preservation.

When I think about doing business with the devil sort of speak I think of my grandfather's experience with Donald Trump.

My grandfather built up a very prosperous roofing company. A man with a third grade education who built ships during the war created a business that thrived and employed many in Southern New Jersey. He was hired by Mr. Trump to do work on his casinos many years ago. Unfortunately it was shortly before Mr. Trump declared bankruptcy therefore leaving my grandfather with millions in revenue he would never be paid.

Of course Mr. Trump is wealthier than ever but he'll never have to honor those debts. And many good companies and people will do business with him and benefit. In fact I'm certain Mr. Trump does many good things for organizations that need it. Is that the devil trying to ease his conscious or is he simply so conflicted morally he doesn't always see right from wrong?

The dichotomy in most of us is never so pronounced as Two-Face in the comic books but we always have to recognize the complexity that is every person. We may not understand or even agree but until we know every detail of what that person stands for, lives with or struggles through we cannot judge any compromise that seems, to them, in their best interest.

What have you compromised on today, this week, this month, this year? If you think back the answers might surprise you.

"They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?"
~Princess Diana~


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Past and Present

So here's a first-no quote. Just me.

I've been thinking a lot about how the past and the present can intertwine. Let's face it, most of us want to forget our past. As adults they include mistakes and poor decisions.

But what if occasionally, rarely, phenomenally our past helps or coincides with our present?

I'm living that at the moment.

This blog started last week at my parent's house in Ocean City, NJ. They've had the property since I was a kid. They both grew up right outside of Ocean City so all of my relatives live nearby, especially my grandparents who have all since past.

I try to bring my kids there as much as possible over the summer. Hey-it's free-and it's such a fantastic place for kids. The boardwalk is almost another life in itself and the beach is our happy place.

This last trip I was going for a run. Our place backs up to a bird sanctuary which I love. This time of year it's full of baby bunnies, blackberry bushes and a special oriole that would dive bomb me as I ran by.

My oriole wasn't there for the first time in three years. But a large section of honeysuckle bushes had appeared. That smell brings back strong childhood memories of hikes and adventures. I had to stop and touch them.

And that is exactly the way memories introducing themselves are, usually when we are looking for something and not finding it, something else nudges in. My oriole was gone but the honeysuckles wanted to talk.

And so is my life. For those who don't know I'm waitressing part time at Isaac's. I worked for them when I was 16, in the kitchen, along with my nanny job and occasional horse related braiding or riding. I have never been one to not work really. So when coaching wasn't doing what I hoped, my teaching was cut back, I went for what I know I can do well-customer service. I waitressed a lot in my younger days and was always good. Plus-this fits in perfectly to my kid's school schedule. Summer is a bit more challenging but shortish shifts make it doable. As a bonus-I really like the people I work with.

And of course, I'm set to marry my best friend. The kicker, he is that now and from high school. Funny right? Past and present combining?

But the past isn't always bad. Yes, we make mistakes, yes we get hurt, yes we learn. But our past is who we are-it's how we were made. If you like who you are than maybe your past did that for you in a million ways you don't even realize.

And here is where I always put a quote. But instead:

"Your past is what shaped you. Your present is what holds you. Your future is what inspires you."
Lu
 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.
Seneca


I'm engaged.

Yes-for those that have heard me say if I ever get married again shoot me....well...load up!

I won't lie when I say I've had a pretty crappy year personally so far. It actually all seemed to go downhill in December with issues surrounding my professional life, my personal relationships and even my family. Top it off with it all happening in winter when I tend to get the winter blahs anyway wasn't a good combination. To most who know me I was the same as always. To those who know me best I was not myself and had no real idea how to get back there.

As it turns out I'm not going to get back there. Not really. I'm going to be right where I am now.

With all of the "issues" seeming to stabilize in a sense (for the moment) I finally feel able to look optimistically at the future. Which may be in part why I said yes.

Dan and I have been together for four years now. It's been great, a fairy tale  really. We were best friends in high school but we had lost touch for 20 years, mostly because he had moved to Europe (Amsterdam to be exact for the last 17 years). Once our re-connection turned romantic we took long distance to a new extreme.

My first trip to Amsterdam was like a dream. I didn't know what to expect having been in a sad marriage for 16 years I wasn't sure if I was equipped to have a normal relationship.

Turns out I am. We both fell hard for each other, laughing and connecting like we never had with anyone else. He would have married me that first trip if I wasn't so scared of the union. That first tearful goodbye in the airport was more heart-wrenching than any Nicholas Sparks novel. I stood in the passport line quietly crying, not really knowing how we'd make this work and when I'd see him again.

But we made it work, for four years we took turns traveling. He would come here, I'd go there, or we'd meet for an adventure somewhere else in the world.

It was perfect, except when it wasn't. And real people have real issues and real imperfections that can try any relationship. And in year four I decided that I needed something more stable, a present relationship I guess.

I had spent the first two years of our time mourning during the in between. I was always sad about the distance. So in year three I decided I had to find a "switch" so that I could turn it off and not be such a girl about it. I found it, but in finding it I needed to change my behavior. I became less connected in emails and texts in the apart time and that weighed on Dan who depended on my communication in his lonely travels for his job.

So year four brought about questions. Was I pulling away? Was this ever going to be more than long distance?  We had both made mistakes, did or said things that hurt the other. So what was our future?

There wasn't a clear answer so I actually said I needed to end it. It nearly destroyed both of us. But in the end it may have actually saved us. After some time we realized that we had to make it work. Dan is actively looking for something in the United States and I'm willing to relocate, if needed, within reason, so as not to disrupt my kid's lives too greatly.

So we're starting a new beginning but it came from another beginnings end. And I think that is often when the most clarity can come to us, when we see the end and look past it to what we want next, what really matters and what we are willing to work or even fight for.

So I'm happily hopeful about the future and it's possibilities.

I'm engaged.

Does someone have a bullet proof vest?

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
~Maya Angelou~
















Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Go With The Flow

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
~Dr. Wayne Dryer

Changing your perspective of a situation is a widely used coaching tool. We'd love to have the ability to change everything wrong in our lives but the reality is that some things can't change right when we want or possibly ever. When those things arise we have to find a new way to look at them so that it's not such a bad aspect but a livable, tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable part of life.

Whether it's working a job you hate but can't afford to quit, having an injury that limits your mobility and lifestyle, a disease such as diabetes that has to be managed for the rest of your life, being in a relationship that you want to end but the timing is not right, losing a loved one and dealing with the hole it leaves, the possibilities are endless when it comes to places we can be stuck for a moment or for a lifetime.

Coaching is all about getting people unstuck of course but any reality will hold those moments when change is an impossibility. Things that in some way tend to bring us to our knees in life test the true nature of our strength and resilience. You hear the idea of people being glass half full or empty types but I've never truly believed it's as cut and dry.

It's true that some like to wallow in their hardship, focus on what is not going right and very rarely find something to be thankful for. Then there are the types that suffer in silence, always share a smile yet keep their pain inside so only they can endure it.

Then there are the truly amazing individuals who can almost always find some good in any bad situation. Those people who have an outlook on life that professes no matter what my day, week, month or year has been like I'm thankful for what I have and what I can give to others.

This can be a personality trait but it can also be an attitude adjustment. You can look for the bad anywhere and find it with ease. But to seek out the good, the positive, and ignore or shelf the negative is a talent.

I've been dealing with that at the moment, working a job I really don't enjoy and often dealing with people who are less than pleasant. But if I focus on the positive: my coworkers are truly extraordinary and fun, the hours fit exactly into my schedule with my kids and my other job, sometimes I get the sweetest customers who completely make my day, I actually will have a buffer at the end of my month instead of creative bill paying.

It's temporary for sure. Although I'm exhausted and barely have time to work on my business or school as a single mom I know I can handle it if I just keep it in its place and look at every day as a challenge instead of a sentence.

My son has that as well with a newly dislocated shoulder. Possible surgery could be in his future. It's disrupted his job at the air soft arena, his training at self defense, his ability to carry his 50 pound backpack every day and possibly his Eagle project he was about to start. But he keeps finding little positives in his day and he knows that it's all fixable even if inconvenient. .

Life will always throw wrenches in our existence, large and small. The terms 'roll with the punches' or 'go with the flow' indicate an ability to not let life stop you when things go poorly but to keep your momentum and put a plan into action or find the coping skills to overcome. Because with every bad moment, day, experience or situation there can be countless blessings, friendship, love or small miracles we only have to get out of our fog to see.

For me it's my job that I do love, my kids who always amaze me, my friends who constantly surprise me, and even my dog (lovingly known as the cockashit) who is my shadow.

My future will be different than my present. That I am sure.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."
~Franklin D. Roosevelte









Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Body Parts

"Despite Everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."
~Ann Frank

I've always found that quote extraordinary. I have to wonder if she kept that strong belief until the end.

But what is it to be good at heart? Is that where our goodness lies? I've also heard the idea of a good soul. Or then there is the idea of loving someone heart and soul.

Someone wiser than their years is sometimes called an old soul. As if they inherited a soul from someone else before them.

I guess these expressions have me wondering what about our anatomy makes it easy to combine with emotion or purpose?

Of course there is the idea of men thinking with a certain anatomy when it comes to women (or men depending on what controls that body part).

I get the term "gut reaction" in some sense. In a stressful situation I get a sick feeling immediately in my gut. But sometimes that term is for a simple decision that no gut is involved in. It then just means which choice makes more sense.

I certainly understand a broken heart. I've had my share of being hurt to the point of feeling pain in your chest.
But thankfully it's never truly broken.

And the Grinch idea of your heart swelling in love or happiness. I've felt that when each of my children were born or placed in my arms for the first time. But rather than a true swelling it's just overwhelming love.

Of course there is also having cold feet. A true fear of an event (most often used in regard to marriage) that has nothing at all to do with the actual temperature of your feet. It's just saying you're scared or have doubts.

Stiff upper lip just sounds painful but it's basically refers to not showing emotion. Emotion is a sign of weakness, especially for many men, so hiding that with a stiff upper lip is the brave face (yet another one).

Then of course your heart overflowing with emotion, as if it's a bowl we keep them in.

Or the eyes being the window to the soul. Eyes are great but let's not get crazy!

Or finding someone's Achilles heal (Achilles being the half emortal from Greek mythology whose only death came from having an arrow precisely in a certain part of his heal). So the expression indicates you found someone's weakness or downfall.

Maybe we could make new ones-steadfast as a kidney stone, balanced as a big toe, true as a pinky swear....

This blog is random and silly at best. Sorry about that. But if you have any ideas on body parts combined with emotion please let me know!!

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."
~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the Pooh

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hero



"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver 5 minutes longer."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yet another tragic act of violence in our country. Of course we immediately start to ask why?

That question we have no control over. But in true American resolution we have also learned to focus on the men and women who defy the violence by being heroes. The first rescue workers, law enforcement, military and scores of spectators that ran toward the chaos to help the victims in any way they could are what keep the creators of such tragedies from ever winning. 

I love the fact that we can recognize the level of courage such acts take. We've had the sad opportunity to witness so much courage in our history. The most recent example being the amazing faculty at Sandy Hook who gave their lives for their small charges.

But what does it take to have that level of selfless courage, whether it's running into a bomb site, facing a shooter, entering a burning building, going willingly into war, or any other scenarios where people are tested to their core?

That act of brave self-sacrifice has to come from an understanding that the vast majority of human life is worth saving. Of course it has to have courage as the catalyst to react toward the chaos instead of retreat for self-preservation.

I remember watching the carnage during the Oklahoma City bombing. I was living in Virginia and my new son had just been born. So I held my baby close as I witnessed daycare children's bodies extracted. 

That same baby is now 17 and hoping to be a Marine. Does that scare me? Hell yes. Do I think he'd be excellent at it? Hell yes. So I get to be supportive and help him in any way I can while internally screaming a little. 

But being a hero is something we can all be in our own way. We experience smaller heroes all of the time. It can be that high school teacher that takes the time to listen to a troubled student, a volunteer at a shelter or Boys and Girls Club or a loving foster parent. Or even smaller versions; helping an elderly person with packages, adopting a pet, giving food to the homeless person you pass every day on the way to get coffee or doing any number of other "pay it forward" acts of kindness.

I propose that we always look for the hero moment even in the small events of the day. By always acknowledging those around us, really looking, we are showing the courage to see what others hide from. The struggling mother in the grocery store, the overwhelmed waitress that made a frazzled mistake, the sadness in the older women's face that hands you coffee every morning, all could use just a small bit of kindness and acknowledgement to lighten their hearts and feel less alone.

Because as our recent history has shown, we are never truly alone. We are actually surrounded by heroes.

"Courage: the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."
~Maya Angelou




Saturday, April 6, 2013

From Ashes Rise a Phoenix


"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
~Lord Alfred Tennyson

Possibly the most famous quote combining love and loss is that of Tennyson. Those that have had their heart broken or experience loss of a loved one may have a hard time seeing the bright side as it is. There is, and has to be, a definite mourning period. That process can be different for everyone.

I've lost seven people in my life. Three were way too young to be taken and four were my grandparents. I don't always deal with loss well. My mode of operation is to cloister myself. I'll still function in life and do what needs to be done, but beyond that I shut down and place a "do not disturb" on myself. And usually small things will light a spark, interactions with friends or happy surprises that bring out the joy in life. Then slowly I'm back. I'll still miss that person but my life will then go on.

Pets can be every bit as hard to lose as people in a family. When I had to put the dog I had since I was 16 asleep I was a mess. I tried to get my then husband to take her but he said he couldn't handle it, so it had to be me. Blind, deaf, lost almost all of her hair and could barely move, I carried her in to end her life. Still one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Loss of a love requires the same devotion to mourning. If you've never had your heart broken I'm not sure if you're lucky or lacking. I guess if you find that perfect love and keep it forever you're lucky. If you've never been in love you may be lacking that experience.

For us to have a broken heart means we gave our heart to someone fully. Falling in love is that incredible period of excitement and wonder, full of sparks, passion and hope. But if your heart is given back it's often in pieces. Fixing those pieces requires tears, hurt and a sense of loss for a future we believed in. 

There is an anonymous quote: "If someone you love hurts you, cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it."

It's the building of the bridge that's the hard part. Loss of anything important to us feels like we've been victimized in a way. But there is always a reason to get over the bridge, it's just a matter of finding it. If it's not for the main purpose of preserving ourselves it can be for the love of others. Channeling our emotions to a new goal or purpose past the grief and changing our perspective on what the future holds without that person can be the difference in wallowing or prospering.

I've done many blogs around moving forward, either with a battle cry, a happy place or simply finding yourself and deciding where you need to be at this moment. There is no set recipe for rebounding after a great loss. I'd be rich if I could say it's one cup tears followed by 2 cups of hugs or some such nonsense but everyone has their own way of finding the light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to keep moving toward it without getting lost in the dark. Let's face it, sometimes the dark can be comforting. No one can see us there and we can envelope ourselves in the soft blanket of our sadness.

The legend of the mythological phoenix has always been one of my favorite symbols of rising above our own destruction. The phoenix is reborn out of the ashes of it's predecessor. 

"The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise."
~Miguel de Cervantes, The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts & Strange Stories

Find what will give your spirit flight again. It's there, you just have to stop sifting through the ashes and build your fire.



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gotcha Day

"Despite the reams of paperwork, obstacles worthy of a horse show, and a wait that can rival an elephant's gestation, adoption feels no different on the inside."
~Scott Simon, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption

April 1st is a special day for me. It's not because of pranks or fools (I appreciate them every day of the year) but because it's my daughter's "gotcha day." Ten years ago she was officially mine and thank God no one yelled "April Fools."

The hope of a daughter began 14 years ago. After my second son was born a doctor's mistake made me unable to have more children. Not sure I could be okay with that I spent the next six months back and forth to the one specialist in Philadelphia for painful procedures and a final surgery. The end result was a suggestion to get on a surrogate list, so ultimate fail.

I mourned the idea of a daughter, that is until two friends returned from China with their new daughters. I looked into their beautiful faces, looked at my then husband, and declared "That's where my daughter is."

I picked China for three reasons: that moment stated above, the fact that China was overflowing with baby girls, and when we went for an informational meeting China was the only country that had 100% start to finish rate. The United States had the worst success rate. I knew that if someone put a baby in my arms there was to be absolutely no chance she'd be taken away. With China's one child law and the fact that putting a child up for adoption is illegal, babies are abandoned, with no hope of ever finding their birth parent.

No one would ever say I had to give her back.

The process was long, about 18 months, and filled with challenges.
The tragedy of September 11th made our travel more difficult.
The anthrax attacks that came through Trenton almost made my birth certificate unattainable by our deadline had it not been for a caring worker at the New Jersey post office.
The mass outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was a nightmare throughout China right when our travel time arrived. The threat was so serious that our flight out of Hong Kong was the last plane allowed into the U.S. for quite awhile.

Of course the minute I held my daughter it was all minor issues. I had worried, as many adoptive parents do who have biological children, that I wouldn't feel a bond right away. What I felt was beyond anything I could ever describe. It was the only time in my life I ever cried in joy (and I say that with the explanation that childbirth and me were not good for each other so my boys were born into a virtual war zone).

She was so beautiful, living up to the name Lily after my grandmother. Within a few hours, as we waited in a cramped courthouse for more paperwork, she was not only smiling at me but giggling as well. She'd take her little hands and place them on my face and smile like she knew exactly who I was. The other seven babies in the group looked shell shocked for days, some crying constantly, but Lily was a happy, peaceful baby.

As she got older she created an "idea" of her birth mom. Lily decided her mom was too young for a baby and, even though she didn't want to, she gave her up. Lily knows that her birth mom left her on the steps of the orphanage at two days old with a simple note stating the date and time she was born, the name her mother gave her, and the request to take care of her. We have that note.

Every year both on her gotcha day and on her birthday I think about a woman in China who gave me the amazing gift of my daughter. I always wish deeply that she has a feeling that her child is happy and so very loved. I usually just whisper "thank you" and hope somehow she is at peace.

And to my daughter-you are my sunshine and I love you..

"Adopted.
Big deal; so was Superman."
~Chris Crutches, Whale Talk






Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chain Reaction

"Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."
~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Someone asked me quite awhile ago to do a blog on being judged by appearance. I struggled with the idea for months, never finding an angle that flowed, until my daughter started talking about racism.

It's not something you'd think happened much in today's society but it apparently still has a form.  I remember my grandfather, someone who had a huge heart, use all of the negative terms we gasp at if heard today. In fact, when I called to tell him I was adopting a daughter from China he was so thrilled he cried. Of course then he said, "We're going to have a chink in the family." I explained how much I loved him but from that moment on he was never to use that word again.

So my beautiful daughter occasionally hears the ethnic jokes or gets some idiot making their eyes slant. Thankfully she is a smart little firecracker. Her come-backs are lacking though-we need to work on those.

But whether it's your race, weight, appearance, religion, sexual orientation or a physical impairment the judgement is still much more prevalent than it should be.

I know a fantastic woman who is smart, funny and a great mom who just happens to love body art, otherwise known as tattoos. But unfortunately there are still people out there that equate tattoos with a lower IQ or even moral compass. I myself have two tattoos and I've actually had family members make "interesting" comments about them as if it diminishes me in some way.

I have a deaf friend who discusses the "level of deafness." For some things she wants to do she's too deaf, in others she's not deaf enough. And this is according to people that should be the most accepting of her.

I had dinner the other night with a friend who discussed always being the fat girl in school. Often kids are the most judgmental but my ex-husband had what I would call an obesity aversion. The comments he would make would appall me and I would get so angry that things were said in front of my children.

So how do we keep people from passing judgement on others?
I have no idea.
I've only ever had to deal with short jokes or comments. I've been short-stack, squirt, pocket-size, midget....etc.
But my friend's daughter calls it "fun size." I like that one. Or sometimes I'm vertically challenged.

I guess the best we can do when someone passes judgement is to prove them wrong. Like when students admit to me that they didn't think I would be able to instruct what I do. Then they take the class and, well, I prove them wrong.

I'm never going to prove to someone I'm not short but I can prove that it doesn't hold me back from anything...except maybe getting things off of a high shelf without a stool. My friend will never not be tattooed but spend 30 seconds with her and you'll know she's amazing. My daughter will never not be of Chinese descent but she is proud, beautiful, smart and will make so much more of herself partly because she is from an amazing heritage.

What we can do to stop the cycle is stop it ourselves. Look at everyone we meet as interesting and unique, with their own gift to give us, unless they prove otherwise.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
~ Maya Angelou

Let everyone you meet feel like they are special, worthy and real. You might be surprised the chain reaction that occurs.







Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hugs

I will not play tug o' war.
I'd rather play hug o' war.
Where everyone hugs instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggle and rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
and everyone grins,
and everyone cuddles,
and everyone wins.
~Shel Silverstein


Hugs, with the right person can turn our day around, with the wrong person violates our personal space.

A friend of mine (who is also my massage therapist) and I were discussing hugs this week. My massages are not the relaxation kind but the grip the table, try not to cry, but please fix me kind. So we catch up on each other's lives as we're both single moms with often more on our plates than we can possibly stomach.

The topic came up as she told me about a client that passed away that always accepted a big hug even though she was not a "hugger."

So are there two types of people-huggers and non-huggers?

I used to be a non-hugger. My family wasn't big on physical display. I remember having a friend that not only hugged her parents all of the time but kissed them as well!! I thought that was strange.

My friends growing up weren't super hug-oriented and hugging boys from junior high on usually involved some play for second base. Then I married someone I wasn't really drawn to. Hugging was awkward and I avoided it if at all possible.

It wasn't until my job as a martial arts instructor that I learned to give and accept them more readily. I would get very invested in my students and often developed a friendship with them. I'd feel such pride for them when they would accomplish something they really worked hard at that a congratulation hug was often involved.

Then I developed what I like to call my second family. It includes some of the best friends and co-workers I could ever have wished for. They all hug-often. Not in a weird way.

I also adopted a daughter who craves love. She is my Velcro child and I sometimes actually have to fight the urge for personal space (not proud) and just relax into the love. I find myself going beyond what I feel is right to hug, kiss and love her because I know she needs it.

My oldest son went through a time where I couldn't even touch him. His excuse: "You don't let dad hug you." Thankfully now we have a relationship like I never would have dreamed for me and my 17 year old. A lot of love and respect on both our parts.

My middle son will still let me hug and kiss him....but he's at a stage where I also fight the urge to water board him. Yet every night I tell him I love him and kiss him goodnight.

So what does a hug do for us? Physical contact gives us a sense of calm, love, self-esteem, compassion and, occasionally, passion. It is a magical endorphin if done correctly.

The quote above is by Shel Silverstein. He wrote The Giving Tree. Possibly my favorite childhood book. A boy loves a tree and a tree loves a boy. The tree does everything for a boy, and a boy loves the tree.

So that is a true hug. Giving yourself completely to that person you want to show love in that moment. Not wanting anything in return but the amazing feeling of knowing you're giving yourself over to a hug.

So find someone to hug. Not a casual hug but a Giving Tree hug. Give yourself to someone with no expectation but to get a hug in return.

Be a giving tree.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Motivational Mojo


"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."
~Raymond Chandler

Wikipedia defines Motivation as:
1) The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
2) The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

Motivation is that missing link at times to do what we need to do. At this very moment I am seriously lacking motivation. In fact I'm procrastinating by writing a blog.

We all have a hard time getting motivated for things we dislike or things that intimidate us. Mine is a bit of both. I'm putting off biology. I hate it and it intimidates me. The office manager where I work looks at my massive book and gets excited. I look at it and get nauseous. Then I look at her and tell her she's weird.

It's been two decades since freshman biology at Gettysburg and I remember struggling then. That was when my brain was young and sharp and my only distraction was a terrible roommate and when I'd go to my next meal.

Now it's easy to check Facebook or my email 20 times, decide to organize the clutter, fold laundry, go for a run or write a blog for crap sake. 

So where do we find the motivation? How do we make ourselves "just do it" as the Nike commercial says?

Often it takes us being accountable to someone or some thing. A deadline, a reward, a penalty or simply the idea that we're letting someone down can be what gets you from point A to point B. A huge part of coaching is being that person who keeps you focused, on task and keeping momentum in what we struggle with on our own. 

But I have a loose deadline and no one to be accountable to but me. Yet if I don't do it I'm not only wasting my own time and money but not achieving the goals I set out to accomplish in (maybe) less than two years. So I basically have to find my study mojo.

I was thinking about some kind of rewards system but a) I'm broke and b) I have nothing I want. I could put a friend up to being my study Nazi. But then I might become bitter to whatever friend takes that roll and I love my friends too much. 

So my plan instead is to find a coach by going to the organization I received my coaching certification and employ a student (free) to use me as practice. If I have to touch base with someone once a week and explain that I spent an hour on Pinterest when I was supposed to be making a study guide I may stay on task. 

But it's a funny quote under an angry cat and a recipe for soup!

**Sigh**








Thursday, March 7, 2013

Been There-Done That

"It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent."
~Vincent Van Gogh

Making mistakes in life is about as universal as passing gas. We all do it and we all are mortified when we get caught. Mistakes, like gas, can be huge, smelly and messy or small and quickly ignored. Attractive comparison right? I thought so.

I've had my share of mistakes both big and small. But lucky for me so has everyone else. 

I remember being mortified when I began going through my divorce. In my mind I was a failure and I was sure people would look at me with surprise, disgust or even pity. Instead what I found was complete understanding, compassion and empathy. I would hear things like: "I don't know if you knew but I was married before;" or "My parents divorced when I was a kid and it turned out to be the best thing for them;" or any number of other comparisons that immediately made me feel not like I was this unique brand of loser at the moment. I had some of the most meaningful connections during that time including one woman who told me she was "blissfully divorced."  My first reaction was that I could also be blissfully divorced.

The blissfulness may not be quite up to par but I am so much happier, as are my children, being out of a household with such an unloving air to it. The marriage was a mistake but I have three fantastic kids who are my world. So for that I would live that mistake again if needed.

More than three years ago I was reconnecting with an old friend who lives in Europe. After awhile the friendship became flirty and then more romantic. We decided to see what was there so I boarded a flight for 10 days in Amsterdam.

I didn't tell anyone. I was at the end of a divorce with three kids (who were on vacation with their dad) and I was going to see if there was a relationship across an ocean with someone I hadn't really seen for 20 years. Seemed like it had the potential to be a huge mistake.

But if it was it was going to be MY huge mistake. I didn't want anyone's opinion or judgement about why I should or shouldn't do this. Did I panic? Hell yes! I stood in the center of JFK asking myself over and over "What are you doing?" This could be an incredible 10 days or the most uncomfortable I've ever had. A couple of drinks in an airport bar helped me calm down and actually board the plane.

It turned out to be one of the most life altering weeks of my life so mistake averted. But it was a huge chance to take. And my family thinks it was a huge mistake to not trust them but I stand by my ideals on that one. That one trip gave me such strength and independence. I returned ready to be on my own and it didn't look scary anymore. I was ready to be a single mom with all of the responsibility and stress that can include and be okay with it. 

So our mistakes aren't always so clearly bad or good. We can hate ourselves for our actions, failures or weaknesses. But with every mistake comes something that makes us more aware of who we want to be in the future. 

I tell my children that no matter what mistakes they make they can tell me. Chances are I've done something similar. If they only knew the mistakes their mom has made they would be amazed. And if they ever need me to share them to make them feel better about their own mistakes I will in a heartbeat. I know how it feels to admit something you think is shocking and hear, "Yeah, I did that once." It's like waiting to get socked in the gut but instead receiving a warm hug. That's how I hope to be with anyone's mistakes, not passing judgement or guilt, but sharing my own inadequacies or at the very least understanding theirs. And maybe I'll learn something as well.

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
~Al Franken 
"Oh, the Things I Know"















Monday, March 4, 2013

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

"God writes a lot of comedy....the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny."
~Garrison Keillor

If you've never heard Garrison Keillor speak it's worth the time. He has a brilliant, sarcastic and dry humor that appeals to me. I was lucky to spend quite a chunk of time with him during college. He was friends with my adviser who was also my poetry teacher and "boss" at my internship with a literary magazine. So I had classes, lunch, and a press session (I was the features editor of the school paper) with Mr. Keillor.

I was the only student at the press conference. Mr. Keillor had every reporter in the room believing that he was on a mission to end the ravages of dehydration in America. That people were not thinking clearly anymore simply because they weren't drinking enough water. It was fantastic. He played it completely straight and they ate it up like the Gospel of Garrison.

I met him again a few years ago when he did a show at our local theater  I don't really think he remembered me. I don't think I was funny enough.

I love people with the ability to make me laugh. I'm not sure I would have gotten through 16 years of marriage with a guy who had no idea what comedy was without Comedy Central, such smartly written shows as Friends, or the creative geniuses on Whose Line is it Anyway.

Recently I found myself in a "whoa is me" kind of funk for awhile. The one thing that really helped put me back on track was a genuinely ridiculous EDGE class. That is a self-defense class I instruct for the teens at Direct Action Tactical. Normally we have fun but there is always a level of seriousness to what we're doing. That night there were just two of my tried and true students and the silliness of the tangents and conversations had me with tears in my eyes. We did get work done-don't get me wrong (my boss may read this so I have to be clear). But I left feeling like the weight of my world went from an elephant to a chihuahua.

I realized how easy it is sometimes to wallow. To pick the sad songs or tear-jerking chick flicks because it's where we are on the inside. It reinforces us somehow.

But to decide to change it-watch the silly comedy, make plans with friends who make you laugh, listen to the upbeat selections on your playlist, spend time with your kids, eat chocolate, have some retail therapy if you can afford it, learn to do something new or do a hobby you love in order to keep busy. Finding those things that get you out of an emotional rut can make a huge difference in how you interact with others, how you take care of yourself, how you preform at work or as a parent.

Recently at dinner my oldest son asked me what I wanted to be called when/if I'm ever a grandmother. My middle son-with a straight face-said Uncle Ben. From then on the hysterical conversation was how to confuse small children by having them call their grandmother Uncle Ben. I'm sure you had to be there but the idea is I've given my children the love, need and ability to always have humor in their lives and to find it in others.

Charlie Chaplin is famous for saying: "A day without laughter is a day wasted."

Don't waste your day!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Finding Your Happy Place

My favorite part of Finding Nemo is the starfish trying to find her happy place as the bratty kid pounds on the aquarium glass. It's that perfect moment of knowing there is no way to escape the crap that's happening in reality so maybe if we close our eyes and imagine somewhere else we can get through it.

Life is unfortunately full of those crappy moments. And the crap can range from a small amount to what feels like a virtual shit storm. So we have to find our happy place to keep from drowning.

A student of mine was talking about how she uses it to get through my Fit to Fight classes. She says if she closes her eyes and finds her happy place it makes the workout easier.

I use it during long conversations with my ex-husband. It helps me keep my tongue and emotions in check. I can drift off to somewhere else in my mind as he talks at me for what seems like hours.

I use it at the dentist because there is nothing I hate more than that scraping sound of the dental picks. I've tried it during painful doctor procedures and even during therapeutic massages as I "white knuckle" the table.

It's a coping mechanism but it's also a gift. To have a happy place means we've had happiness. And we'll discover more happy places in the future. Whether it truly is that perfect place, a strong emotion or a visual that stays with us and makes us smile no matter what is going on around us, it's ours when we need it.

So the next time that bratty kid is pounding on your glass find your happy place. Close your eyes, take a few deep breathes, and find inside what makes you smile or brings you peace. Once reality comes back the crap pool may be a bit easier to swim through.

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
~A.A. Milne

Even silly old bears have a happy place. What is yours?



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finding Yourself

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
~Henry David Thoreau~

We've all heard the term "finding ourselves."

I'm backpacking through Europe to find myself. I'm going to drop out of school to find myself. I need a break from this relationship to....you get it.

So where are we? Where did we go?

In a way it reminds me of toddlers who feel like just because their hands are covering their eyes they are now invisible.

I do get the concept. I'm going back to school AGAIN. I've decided I'll be that person with a boat load of skills and maybe someone will pay me for one of them. But does that mean I'm lost?

I've been a journalist, a nanny, a farm hand, a riding instructor, a preschool teacher, a museum school teacher, a martial arts instructor, a self defense instructor, and a coach. That doesn't include all of my years as a waitress. My resume is all over the map. I get confused reading it.

I'm adding Vet Tech-possibly large animal-to my resume. Why not? What's two more years of school when I have jobs and kids. What I've come to realize is I don't need another job-I need a career. Preferably one I love.

So what is finding yourself? Is it finding the right job, the right mate, the right lifestyle or hobby?

I'm not sure we ever are satisfied. That's why my dad is learning the banjo in his late 60's. Why my mother started a business last year. I guess that isn't finding yourself as much as keeping life interesting. Finding new things to learn or accomplish keeps our minds sharp, our motivation up, our lives fresh .

So maybe the toddlers have it right. Maybe the next time you feel lost put your hands over your face so no one can see you and think of the first thing that makes you happy. What you would most like to have, do, or be when the world can magically see you again.

Maybe that's where you are.







Saturday, January 19, 2013

Knowledge is Power

"I don't even call it violence when it's in self-defense; I call it intelligence."
~Malcom X~

This week in a class at Direct Action Tactical called Kid Fit and Aware it was painfully obvious that one of the children was very bothered by the recent events in the news. She has been inundated with stories of children being the victims of violence.

Shortly after that, a few parents I know were also asking me how to handle their fear of even letting their kids out of their sight.

My disclaimer before I begin this is that this is my opinion. My experience or ideas come from what I instruct, what I've read and from being a parent myself.

There is no reason children should be exposed to the news on a daily basis. I understand wanting them to be aware of the world around them but national news is horrifying. Terrible things happen every minute all over the United States. It's a huge country! The media makes it sound like it's in your backyard.

Don't misunderstand me, it can be in your backyard. So when that fear presents itself do you change your life?
Sure.
But not in a way that incapacitates you but instead strengthens you.
The best thing you can do is add knowledge to your tool belt.
Think of it as knowing CPR and never needing it. Putting your seat belt on but never having an accident. Having a fire extinguisher but never having a fire.

We can give that to our children as well. We teach our kids to eat vegetables, tie their shoes, wash their hands and do their homework. We can teach them about stranger danger and the buddy system. We can not put their name where people can see, have a safety word, make them aware of the world around them without taking away their basic right to go through their day without wondering when the Boogeyman will attack.

Fear is not a bad thing. A fantastic book on this subject is Gavin De Becker's The Gift of Fear. Fear is what drives that little voice inside of you that says something feels wrong. It's what makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and sometimes alter what you're doing as a safety measure.

But you can't be ruled by it. You can't put your kids in a bubble or lock yourself away from society. Your children can play on a playground, go to school, ride their bikes and be children. If fear is destroying the quality of your life, the joy in your children, then the Boogeyman has already taken something. You're already a victim.

Two things I've learned in my seven years working with children in this respect:

1) They think the bad guy will look like a bad guy. I set up one of my Youth Impact classes with a test. They were to walk around the building and a police officer friend of mine was in plain clothes "working" on his car. He asked each kid for help. One of my students GOT IN THE CAR. Why?? The guy was so nice.

2) Kids have a strange illusion of grandeur that they will go all Jackie Chan on a bad guy because they have a blue belt in Karate, do it in a video game, saw it in a movie....you get the idea. Kids need to know that they are no match for an adult. They need to yell and run and if that doesn't work they need to bite, kick, gouge, throw up, wiggle, do whatever it takes to get away from that person. They need to realize that they are to never stop fighting.

Let yourself believe that most people are good. The crazy, violent or sick are the rare exceptions. Chances are that most of the students that come through our classes will never have to use what we give them. But if they do they'll have the knowledge, the intelligence to do something about it.

I'm not saying our program is the answer but simply having the question will open your eyes and have you on the right path.

Remember School House Rock? Knowledge is power!!!