One step forward…two steps back

I’m really bad about this whole disconnecting-from-social-media thing. I was all gung-ho for the first few days and then I remembered that my favorite purse buying club group was only on Facebook. And weren’t they were having a sale soon? What if I missed it? Who can say no to 20% off and exclusive color combos not available to the general public? Not I! So, I decided that I’d just install the FB group’s app. No harm, right? That way I’d avoid all of regular FB but still have access to groups. And then I accidentally bought a few purses, a pair of boots and a family vacation. And I found myself perusing these groups way more than I care to admit. Hooked in again. Gah! But seriously….look at these Rough & Tumble bags…*swoon*

R&T

So I pretty much replaced my social media habit with a shopping habit. Dammit. Why is it so hard to get rid of numbing behaviors and fully check into life? You would think that once I admitted the problem to myself that it would be easy to follow through with the fix – but no. It turns out that the fix is the hardest part. And also? I can justify like a mofo. “We haven’t had a family vacation in years”, “I need a good purse to bring all of my stuff to work in”, and “better quality purses hold up longer” and the ever popular “I work hard and I should take care of myself too”.

So here I am, fessing up. Laying all of my ish on the table for everyone to see. Ready to try again and humbly admitting that this is harder than I thought it would be. I’ll also be forcing myself to say goodbye to some of the purses I accumulated during my shopping spree, because – accountability. Adulting is not really fun.

adulting

About Our Boy – in honor of National Coming out Day

I penned this while sitting in my car outside of my son’s first LGBT meeting. I was more nervous than he was. It is an open letter to my ex husband, who has let his faith keep him from accepting the boy that God gave us.

How can you forget so soon that he was once your baby? That same chubby baby that you used to rock to sleep and play your guitar for. That same baby that would only settle if he were in our arms. He’s still the same boy that I got upset with you for feeding a microwave bean burrito to when he was only 7 months old. “But it is healthy!” you said. “Beans and cheese and bread” you said. And we laughed. Surely you remember your firstborn child…the son you had hoped for…back when we were still a family.

That son of ours, he’s still in there; it’s still him. He’s grown into a handsome young man. He has your same build and my eyes. How could you forget all that he once meant to you, now that he’s gay? Did the love just vanish the day he came out to you? Did your memories erase? Did you forget all about rocking him to sleep and teaching him to ride his bike? Do you really think that this is how God wants you to care for our boy?

Surely you know in your heart that putting conditions on the love that you give your child is not the way. “I’ll only accept you if…” really just means “I don’t accept you at all”. You’re going to lose him, that beautiful blue-eyed boy of ours, but not before you permanently imprint your shame and rejection upon his heart. The window is closing and I am left to pick up the pieces of his broken heart left in the wake of your rejection. I want to scream “Run to your boy! Run now before the door closes and you lose him forever!” But instead I say nothing. I keep a brave face and comfort our son and remind him that he is loved and worthy of love. And I pray that one day you will remind him of that too.

A Little Monday Inspiration…

I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts lately like it’s my full-time job. I am currently in a beautiful, introspective period of emotional growth. These are my favorite times of all. My current favorite binge-worthy podcast is Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. They are jam-packed with so much opportunity for emotional growth and I cannot get enough. I frantically jot down quotes that resonate with me and ponder them for days. A few that I’ve been mulling over lately are:

I am.png

Isn’t that the truth?! What we say about ourselves almost always comes true – so why not speak positivity into our lives?

And this gem from the amazing Deepak Chopra:

“Most of suffering comes from expectation. Change your expectation to appreciation and suffering will end.”

And these two from Joel Osteen (which believe it or not, I had never heard of). I’m not usually a televangelist fan, but Joel’s chat with Oprah really hit me upside the head in a special way.

“You can either curse your future or you can bless it.”

“You can talk yourself into your dreams or you can talk yourself out of your dreams.”

Heavy stuff, right? When I heard these quotes I instinctively knew they were true. I knew right away and I knew that it also meant that I have some work to do. I hope these quotes help you grow as much as they are helping me right now. I’ll leave you with one more…my favorite of the week:

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Have a great week loves!

Things I’m loving right now…

~  Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Stories by Anonymous People podcast (Beautiful Anonymous for short). The premise is this: an anonymous person calls in and chats with comedian Chris Gethard for an hour. The caller can’t reveal his/her identity and Chris has to stay on the line for an hour. Once they reach the hour mark, the call disconnects and that’s that. Simple enough, right? Something about the anonymity lets callers get real and sometimes leads to soul-baring conversations. It doesn’t hurt that Chris is a pretty great (empathetic) person who is also hilarious. If you’re into taking a peek behind the curtains of humanity – give Beautiful Anonymous a try. You won’t regret it. P.S. Ron Paul’s Baby is one of my favorites.

~  Yoga. Once upon a time I could sneak away from my busy life and take classes in person – and that was so much fun – but now I yoga in my living room while my kids sometimes try to follow along (my little guy rocks a mean plank – seriously, he KILLS it and puts me to shame). Thank God for YouTube Yoga videos! My current fave is Yoga with Adriene. Her quirkiness and laid back approach make me feel at home.

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Reading before bed. Why did it take me 38 years to start this habit? It is the perfect way to wind down after a long day. Bonus – it makes you sleepy. I’m currently reading “The Artist’s Daughter” by Alexandra Kuykendall and it’s a great read. I discovered Alexandra through a podcast and bought her book “Loving My Actual Life” on a whim and read it cover-to-cover on a plane. I adore her style of writing and she’s so down to earth. She’s the type of person I’d love to grab a coffee with if we lived in the same town. Head’s up: she’s a Christian and some of that permeates into her writing – it isn’t as in-your-face as some Christian authors tend to be, but it’s there.

Reading to my younger two kids before bed. This is something we started this summer, my younger two are 8 & 10 and finally at the age where they willingly sit still for a story. They love longer books that we can read a little bit of each night. We read through The BFG this summer and we just started The Chronicles of Narnia earlier this month. We don’t read every night, more like 3-4 nights a week. They bring their pillows and blankets in and we all get cozy on my bed and I read and watch their eyelids get heavy. Of course sometimes they kick each other and fight over the same spot on my massive, king-sized bed (with plenty of room so they don’t have to fight over the same spot) but what can you do? #parenting

The cooler weather. Fall is my jam! Blankets, scarves, jeans with tees and sweaters. Warm socks, changing leaves that paint the forest and signal that cozier times are on the horizon. Warm socks. Books. Coffee and tea. Yes please!

What are you loving these days?

Disconnected

I disconnected from social media yesterday, I’m certain it was the right choice for me. I’ve been questioning for months whether social media did me more harm than good and today I got what felt like an answer. An uncle of mine that lives on the other side of the country posted an aggressive reply to a comment I made. This uncle is a decent human being and I’m certain that if we had been in the same room, he wouldn’t have spoken to me the way he did. But it put me in a funk, being talked to that way. It felt really bad and my stomach was in knots over it for a few hours. That cemented it for me – social media really brings about more disconnection than connection for me. It does me more harm than good and it is time for me to cut the cord – so I did. My Facebook account will remain deactivated until at least Halloween – if not forever (baby steps).

disconnect

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about social media lately – mainly because I’m fortunate enough to have known life without social media so I can compare one to the other. I have so many questions! What is it about social media that allows us to forget common courtesy and just blurt out the first thought that pops into our heads? It has turned most of us into impulsive people who just reply without thinking. Is it because we don’t have to see the person on the other side of the computer? Surely if we were face-to-face and had to see firsthand the emotional reaction to our comments we’d filter ourselves, right? It has become so easy to just click “share” on a provocative article (I’m guilty of this) or to comment on a racy post to assert our dominance…but what do we really get from doing this? A fleeting feeling of self-righteousness? A damaged relationship with someone we once cared for? Is it worth the price we pay?

Then there is the time factor, if we’re honest with ourselves, how much time per day do we really spend on social media? Easily a few hours a day for most of us. What are we saying no to in order to say yes to social media? For me it was saying no to writing and yoga; two things that I love but “didn’t have enough time for”. When I was honest with myself about how much time I was spending mindlessly scrolling on Facebook I realized that I did have time for the things I loved, I just wasn’t prioritizing them. That was tough for me to admit.

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So why was I choosing Facebook; something I didn’t care much about, instead of things that I did care about? I spent a long time mulling this question over. I’m still not sure I’ve gotten to the bottom of it. I think that I was choosing social media because it was mindless and easy; a perfect distraction from things that were hard or frustrating. I made a conscious choice to pay attention to when I was logging on to Facebook, and I noticed a pattern. 90% of the time it was when I was feeling uncomfortable in some way. Sometimes I felt lonely. Sometimes I was running out of patience with my kids. Sometimes I was bored and unsure what to do with myself. Other times I was craving connection. Many times I was avoiding something that I didn’t want to do (I’m talking about you laundry). At least 10% of the time I logged on out of habit – it became like second nature to just pick up my phone and log on to Facebook without even thinking. Then, I started paying attention to how I felt after logging off of Facebook and I noticed a pattern there too. Did Facebook make me feel better? Usually not. Yes, it did allow me to numb the initial uncomfortable feeling, but it almost always left me feeling disenchanted. I often had feelings of guilt for getting sucked into Facebook again. I’d scroll mindlessly for 20 minutes and not even realized how much time had passed by. I’d end up feeling more anxious and annoyed and I still had to tackle whatever it was that I was avoiding in the first place.

So I quit. I deactivated my account and I have a strange sense of freedom. I do still get the urge to log on and scroll mindlessly, but now I do something more productive instead – like go for a walk or write (finally!). I’m rekindling my love affair with yoga and last night I got to bed early. I’m replacing what became an unhealthy habit for me (social media) with healthier choices that help me to feel good. It feels liberating. Isn’t that the basis of personal growth; identifying negative patterns that don’t serve you well and replacing them with healthier options?

Is Facebook all bad? No. It does allow us to connect with friends and family members who live far away. It also allows us to spread information quickly and widely when needed. Facebook helps us to reconnect with those we’ve lost touch with – I’ve even been able to track down my long-lost half siblings via Facebook and get to know them a bit. It has its merits for sure. Like anything else, it is a tool that can be misused. It is up to us to ask ourselves the hard questions like “Am I spending too much time on social media?” and “Is social media getting in the way of my personal relationships?” and “What am I saying no to in order to say yes to social media?” Exploring those questions and answering honestly can give us so much insight into who we are and why we make the choices that we do.

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* I fully realize that this piece will be posted to Facebook (irony much?) but rest assured, it is an auto-post. My WordPress account is synced with FB and automatically posts my new blog entries for me.

Lay down your torches…

I heard there was going to be a free speech rally this weekend in my home city. Not just any free speech rally, a free speech rally with guest speakers who are rumored to be holocaust deniers, members of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights and some of the same speakers who incited violence at the Charlottesville rally. It is concerning to say the least. And I have to ask myself, why are they coming here? Why would they come to Boston? Perhaps they think they can teach us to hate too? If so, they don’t know Boston at all. No, they don’t know Boston AT ALL.

You see, we’re a progressive group who celebrate diversity; after all diversity is what makes Boston so beautiful. We’ve always been on the side of the oppressed. We are descendants of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty. Our forefathers rocked the Boston Tea Party. We were a big part of the Underground Railroad. We fought alongside our African American brothers and sisters to help them secure their freedom in the civil war; a fight we are STILL FIGHTING after a hundred plus years. We were the first state to legalize gay marriage. We have the Holocaust Memorial, to help us to visualize the magnitude of innocent lives lost so we will never be silent in cases of injustice again. I could go on and on, there are too many of these fights against injustice for me to mention them all. My point is, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. We SPEAK UP in cases of injustice. We are many things, but we are NOT complacent.

lithograph by Nathaniel Currier titled The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor

So why Boston? Why rally here? We are the birthplace of liberty…maybe that is what attracted you? But liberty is not a free pass to actively oppress others. According to Oxforddictionaries.com, liberty is defined as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s behavior or political views.” Note the part about being free from oppressive restrictions – we take that part seriously; it’s sort of who we are. It goes for everyone. EVERYONE deserves to be free from oppressive restrictions. So when your views cause oppressive restrictions on your brothers and sisters, that is a problem. Your rights cannot trump the rights of others.

I cannot claim to know where your hate originates. Maybe it is generational. Maybe it is all you’ve known your whole life. Maybe you were wronged in life and are reacting in anger. Maybe you fear scarcity, maybe you think that oppressing others will somehow give you more. Maybe you have always felt like an outsider and a hate group is the only place you’ve ever felt like you’ve belonged? I’m sure you have your reasons; reasons I will never understand. But what I wish you understood is this: you don’t have to continue on your current path. You can turn back. Hate is not the way to go. You weren’t made to hate, you learned to hate. There is a big difference there. If you can learn to hate then you can also learn to love. You can drop your torches and pitchforks and decide that you’ve had enough, because we all know that living in a constant state of hate does not equal a happy and fulfilled life. It is not who we are supposed to be. My hope is that you will lay your torches down and spend an afternoon getting to know those that you claim to hate. Have you ever really taken the time to see them? Do you see that they are people too? It is easy to villainize people you do not know – I’m sure you feel that you are being unfairly villainized too. Something has got to give, we cannot continue on this way. We need more compassion, more respect and more civility toward one another. Less mob mentality and more introspective thinking. I have been praying for the safety of everyone since I heard of this rally – even the safety of you Mr. Torch Carrier. I pray that you will disarm and seek to get to know the very people you seek to oppress. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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*First photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Lithograph by Nathaniel Currier titled “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor”
*Second photo courtesy of InspirationBoost.com

For my son, on his graduation

Dear Aiden,

Congrats on your graduation! I’m proud of you for working hard and making it through middle school. I know it wasn’t easy for you, I hope you learned a few things from the experience. I can’t believe that you’re coming down the home stretch of schooling; it seems like just yesterday that you were born and I was meeting you for the first time. I’ll never forget the moment that the midwife handed you to me: it was 4:18 in the morning and I was so tired from being in labor all night and so sore, but at the same time I was amazed by the little person that was handed to me. You had jet black hair and were all bundled up in receiving blankets – you looked nothing like I expected you to but at the same time you were more beautiful that I could have imagined. When you looked at me with those little slate grey eyes that all babies have, I could finally feel the weight of responsibility that parenting brings. I was responsible for you from that day forward, and it was the most important job I’d ever have as a human.

The thing about parenting is that there are no rules. You are handed a baby and sent on your way and left to figure things out for yourself. Because you were my first baby, you were sort of my trial-and-error baby. While I was teaching you to be a person, you were also teaching me to be a mother. I like to think that we both learned a thing or two about life along the way. Like any mother, there were times where I made great choices and there were times where I made terrible choices. To me, that is part of the human experience; we just have to remember to learn from the terrible choices and take those lessons with us going forward. My hope is that when you are grown and you look back on our time together, that you are able to remember the happy moments and give me some grace when you recall the not-so-happy moments. I never aimed to be a perfect mom, I just wanted to be a mom whose children knew, without a doubt, that they were loved and valued. I hope you know that you are very much loved and valued.

When I was a young mom I had all sorts of grand visions of what parenting would be like, and then you came along and they all went out the window. I also had visions of what type of man you would grow into, those visions have grown and changed as much as you have over the years. The only hopes that have remained over the years are these:

  • I hope that you will be a kind man who realizes that we were put here on this earth to care for one another. It is our JOB to take care of one another. Don’t ever turn away from someone who needs you.
  • There are very few people with integrity left in this world, I hope that you will be one of them.
  • I hope that you will choose to be brave. Bravery is a choice and there is freedom on the other side of fear. Every time you choose to do something even though you are afraid, you are stealing fear’s power. I should mention that this refers to doing things that are good; if you feel fear when you are considering trying drugs or robbing a bank, that is not fear, it is your conscience telling you that you’re about to do something really stupid – listen to it.
  • I hope that you will look for the good in every situation. This world can be a cold, dark place. It will get to you and steal your joy if you let it. Don’t let it. The best antidote to negativity is gratitude. Find small things to be thankful for every day, even if they are tiny things that feel insignificant. Focus on the good. Cling to it. Force yourself to smile when you’re feeling negative. Relax your body. Breathe deeply and rhythmically. Thank God for all of the remarkable things that he’s blessed you with. You have so much more than most; focus on the good and let the bad drift away.

These past 14 years have passed so quickly, in just 4 short years you will be a man. Just writing that out takes my breath away. I hope I have prepared you well for a content life, if not, you can always come back to visit for some follow-up lessons. Life is a never-ending learning experience, don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way.

I love you and I’ve enjoyed watching you grow and become your own, unique person. I’m excited to see what the future holds for you. Happy graduation son! I love you forever, no matter what.

Xoxo

I am a good mother…and so are you

I am a good mother, and so are you.

Why is it so hard for us to say that out loud? Even as I type it out, it feels uncomfortable. Pretentious even. It took me 12 years into this parenting adventure to finally stop focusing on all of the things I am lacking and start focusing on all of the things I am rocking as a mom. I like to take the scenic route through life.

I love my babies with the fiery passion of a thousand suns and I know that you feel the same way about your babies too. We all do. I sacrifice pretty clothes, a social life and flat abs for them. So what if I don’t read a bedtime story every night (ok most nights, I fail to read to them most nights). So what if I hide the plum and candy cane cards in Candy Land. I refuse to play a game for 30 excruciating minutes only to get one of those damn cards and have to start all over again. Not gonna happen. Also? My kids have gotten cavities because I’m a bad flosser. I have great intentions of flossing them every night and then life happens and they get cavities. I’m really not talking myself up here, am I? My point is: I’m human, just like you. I have strengths and weaknesses, none of which qualify or disqualify me as a good mother.

I am a good mother because I love my children. So. Much. They also drive me insane and sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom and sit on the floor so I can read and drink coffee in peace for ten minutes. The kids haven’t caught on to this yet so let’s just keep this between us, ok? The important thing is that my kids know I love them. THAT is what counts. All of the other things – like my inability to execute even the simplest of crafts – don’t matter. The Pinterest-worthy cakes and the homemade clothes aren’t what our kids are going to miss most about us after we’re gone; it’s the love behind our actions that they will hold on to.

We all love our children. I feel like as long as we convey that love to them in real ways, they’ll be alright. It’s ok if we fall short sometimes; it shows them that mistakes are ok. We don’t have to be perfect. Perfection is overrated. It’s BS really; a trap that we get stuck in as moms. We end up spending so much time wishing and trying to be perfect that we forget to enjoy the journey.

It is time we give ourselves credit for all that we do. Let’s celebrate the areas that we’re nailing it. I couldn’t sew anything to save my life, but I rock organization, like to bake and conduct backyard science experiments with my kids on the regular.

We’re awesome, us moms. We love hard, give our all and shape lives. While we’re not perfect, we do a damn good job! So if no one has ever told you this before, allow me to be the first: You’re rocking this motherhood thing, even when it doesn’t feel like it. That yearning to do better, to be better? That’s your love showing. You’re a good mom; a damn good mom!

Photo Credit: first photo, second photo

This little light of mine…

…was hidden away for far too long.

I love to write. As a child, once I learned to string words together into sentences, a whole new world opened up to me. I’ve been writing ever since. I’m fascinated by the fact that I can take all of the jumbled up thoughts that swirl around in my head and sort them out on paper. It has always been the best therapy for me.

When I was young I was so proud of my writing; I’d happily share my stories with others whenever I could. My love for reading soon followed, but the more I read, the more I compared myself to other writers and felt like I didn’t measure up. I began writing in secret and tucking my words away where they’d be safe and unseen. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being good at something that I loved so much. Eventually, I stopped writing altogether and for a long time it felt like one of the best pieces of me had died.

Then I read this quote by a pretty cool guy named Jesus: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NLV) and it really resonated with me. The love of writing had been put inside of me for a reason, and even though I had stopped writing that didn’t make it go away. I could either let fear of failure take away what I loved, or I could be brave and allow myself to fail a million times doing what I loved most. I chose possible failure and that is how this blog was born.

I’m not going to lie, I still feel anxious and uncomfortable about sharing my words with others. My palms sweat a bit before I hit that “publish post” button. But I’m done with letting fear guide me; it has steered me wrong for so many years. I’ve missed out on so much because of it. No more! For the next year I will share my writings (crappy and otherwise) every week and work on being brave…right here for you all to see. Because, as the amazing writer Paulo Coelho says (in the Alchemist): “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” and writing is my dream come true.

Thanks for joining me in this crazy adventure!