Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Wonder...

I wonder how one justifies a lie of omission as more acceptable than one that is spoken aloud.

I wonder how one fib, told to try to soften a blow, is uttered and tolerated by anyone who understands and practices universal truth.

I wonder how one can fail to understand that any untruth that is presented and ultimately accepted, no matter how small or seemingly benign, turns into another untruth and then another... until eventually, words just roll off the tongue with little regard to their veracity because, by that point, the truth is simply so blurred one might not even recognize it any longer.

I wonder how one believes that hiding things or lacking transparency or failing to discuss thoughts and feelings rather than determining on one's own what someone else might think, believe or feel, protects and honors that other human being.

I wonder what makes me want to not trust my gut... because my gut is right on a regular basis.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Living and Dying Examples

Today I'm feeling grateful that I had parents who could have afforded to buy me the moon, yet I secured a work permit and had an after school job at the age of 14, mostly paid for the things I wanted with my own money, and was handed nothing on a silver platter. My parents were my parents, not my BFFs, with very clearly defined expectations, rules and boundaries. I learned how to respect all people, regardless of their race, religion, sexual preference, political views, economic standing, relationship status, career choices or intelligence level. I learned that there are things in life we don't want to do but must, and therefore to slap a smile on my face and do what needs doing. I learned that who we are when no one is watching is who we truly are at our core. They taught me that if we wish to better our world, we should simply act, not spend time telling others of the great things we have done, for humility, in and of itself, makes the world a better place.

My father's death, far too soon, taught me that life is precious and short. It was an opportunity to reflect on what's truly important, which led me to the conclusion that to live with gratitude for what we have, not mourn that which we do not, is one of the keys to fulfillment. His death taught me that anger is a wasted emotion, being judgmental makes no one unhappy but oneself, and that taking out on other people that with which we struggle never makes us feel better; instead it generates guilt and, perhaps self-loathing. It reminded me to celebrate the unique gifts of each person whose lives we touch and who touch ours in return.

People often tell me I am "lucky" to have children who are considerate, respectful and compassionate. Typically, I would write "luck has nothing to do with it; raising nice kids is hard work"... and it surely is... but I realize now that I am lucky because I learned how to instill these qualities into my children through the living and dying examples of my own parents.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Not Valentine's Day...

Yet I am reflecting upon love. Take that, Hallmark!

I stopped looking for a prince quite some time ago, vowing to be "awesome and unavailable" forever, swearing off that whole messy "relationship" thing. I loved with conviction while others loved with convenience and situational comfort, thus creating an emotional chasm which was exhausting and defeating. My attitude came from years of experiential learning that provided me with both formal and informal data on heartbreak and trustworthiness (specifically, a lack thereof).

I thought the curriculum I was supposed to learn was that I am the only person upon whom I can count, the only person who was truly committed to me and that it's better to be balanced as a single human being than to live within the confines of a relationship in which the power, passion, and all-in-edness sways sharply to one side or the other. It seemed, however, like a tough way to have to learn these things; it left me bruised and allowed me to build an almost impenetrable fortress around my heart.

Since then, though, I have learned how to live in the present. I've learned to live with my truth and the truth of others and accept nothing less of myself, while still showing compassion to and for those around me. I've learned to love from the edge of my soul and be open to incredible possibility, seeking out the good in others from the get go rather than requiring them to first prove that their presence in my life is value-added. It's a far better place in which to dwell.

I am incredibly grateful to the teachers I've had related to this subject matter; for they have taught me how to trust and allowed me the opportunity to be me, restoring my faith in the idea that people are inherently good and that there are, indeed, truly selfless people among us. They have reminded me of who I am at my core and reinforced my desire to never again compromise on the things I hold most sacred.

Today I realized that I was not wrong about my curriculum. I just needed some multi-modal teaching techniques in order to get it through my pea-sized brain and understand it from a more global perspective.

And so, with renewed effort, I shall be awesome and unavailable... yet incredibly content with myself in the present moment, open to new experiences and hopeful that my circle will continue to grow with people whose lights shine brightly with possibility.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why?

In my kingdom, I try very hard not to start a question with the word "why". Why, you ask?

Well, why questions tend to carry with them a certain amount of judgment. Often, it's subtle, but it's there. Even when our intentions are pure, asking a why question can put others on the defensive. If you try to eliminate why questions from your arsenal of phrases, you'll soon find that the responses you get are more thorough and less reactive.

That said, I stumbled across a why question today from someone who shares my view on why questions. The question was just a general "why?" with regard to the tragedy in Colorado.

Sometimes, all we really can do is wonder why... which is slightly different from asking a why question of someone else. Silently pondering why things are the way they are is important and helps shape the lens through which we view our worlds.

What happened in Colorado is a terrible, heartbreaking tragedy. There will never be an answer to the question "why?", at lest not one that is satisfactory or that makes sense. This, of course, makes "why?" not a great question, even just from an "I wonder..." perspective.

But, in a world where ugliness drives the headlines, we have to recognize that for every tragedy we are shown, there are many more triumphs. Sometimes, we just need to look longer and harder to find them.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Hear You.

One of the most basic human needs is the need to feel heard. However, it occurs to me that few people have the ability to truly listen empathically. There are times when making someone feel heard might just be the most important thing we can do for another human being, and I believe that many of us are falling down on the job. Perhaps even more concerning is that most people think they are good listeners; however, if we take the time to listen to the world around us, we can quickly learn that this simply isn't the case.

There are those who are unable to hear because, while someone is speaking, their very busy brains are already thinking about what they are going to say as soon as soon as there's a pause. This means that, at some point, they stop listening to what else is being said; they are forming thoughts and sentences in their heads before the speaker is done. There are people who interrupt so frequently that those around them can't fully express themselves. These folks can't wait to get their thoughts out there, regardless of whether or not it relates to the conversation at hand or how it makes the speaker feel in the moment. There are also the one uppers and story tellers who, rather than processing what's been said, want to immediately throw in their own experience. Even when it relates to the conversation, this has the ability to minimize what was shared.

And so I ask you to just shut up and listen. Don't be afraid of silent spaces... sometimes more is said through silence than through words. Sometimes the silence encourages the people we care most about to share even more than they might otherwise have. Find a way to focus only on the words being spoken in the moment, rather than on the thoughts running rampant through your mind. Ask "is there more?" before responding. Know there is a time and a place for story telling, but that when someone truly needs to feel heard, the spotlight must be theirs alone.




Saturday, May 26, 2012

And So It Goes.

Yesterday The Queen said some truly terrible things to me. Things that I would never say to my children, no matter what the circumstance. She accused me of things I've not done... and even if I had, they weren't particularly egregious errors (not responding to a particular email in a timely enough manner, for example). She told me who I am as a daughter, a mother, and a person, and where my motivations lie, none of which was positive, and I'd have to say that her assessment of me is so far from the truth that it only served to illuminate the fact that she has no clue about who I am at my core.

She then decided to say some decidedly horrible things about my father. It was a blame game. She doesn't want to own anything or imagine that she could be the root of any problems she has faced, and so projected her feelings about herself and her situation onto me and my father, who, incidentally, died 22 years ago.

I listened empathically, with growing concern, eventually asking, "what is this REALLY about?" which only made her more agitated. It did come out that my brother was diagnosed with something fairly unpleasant, and between that and the fact that he's not been kind to his body for much of his life, the picture is bleak. I understand that I was an easy target, but this came completely out of left field, was so hurtful and uncalled for, and her assessment so tragically inaccurate. I'm not angry with her... I simply told her that I was sad for her because it was clear to me she was under a lot of stress and that it was manifesting itself in a way that wasn't serving anyone. I reminded her that life is short and precious and there's no room to allow anger and fear to eat at our souls.

Her parting words to me were that it looks like I have a good life ahead of me and she wishes me well. I thanked her. As I hung up the phone I thought about karma and put out into the universe my wish for her to find some inner peace.


Shortly after my conversation with her, I saw a postcard that read:

I choose...

- to live by choice, not by chance
- to be motivated, not manipulated
- to be useful, not used
- to make changes, not excuses
- to excel, not compete

I choose self-esteem, not self pity.

I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinions of others.


And so it goes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day To Me

Dear Exhibits A, B and C,

This Mothers' Day, I wanted to take a moment to tell you how lucky I feel to be your mother.

You are the most important people in my world, and being there for each of you, providing you with everything you need, is the best job I can ever imagine. Saying "I'm the Exhibits' Mom" brings me more happiness and pride than any other title ever could.

Being your mother has taught me about unconditional love. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about how to be the best mom I can be. You three are my first thought upon waking and my last thought when I close my eyes at night. I hope you know that you are my shining stars, understand how very much you are loved, and realize that I will always be here for you to listen, to help, to admire the amazing people that you are. There is nothing you can't talk to me about, no problem too big, no happiness too small to share.

Exhibit A: you were my very first wish come true, and ever since the day you were born, you have helped me define who I am at my core. You have taught me about passion and commitment. I remember the very first time you put on a pair of ballet shoes at three years old... how when you would kick your foot into the air your shoe would fly across the floor. I never imagined that all these years later, you would still love dance just as much as you did that day. I smile to myself when I watch you cross a room, never just walking, but, rather, leaping, pirouetting, floating. Seeing your dedication to dance, despite the injuries and obstacles you've recently faced, has reminded me that when we commit to something, we follow through. I hope that you have learned this by example, but somehow, even if it weren't for me constantly harping on its importance, I think it's just part of who you are, and it's a part of you I greatly admire. Today and every day, I celebrate your light, your love, and your laughter.

Exhibit B: I will never forget finding out I was expecting and deciding to make the news a Christmas surprise for your father. I was bursting with excitement but trying to keep my cool... no easy task. While I miss the hugs and kisses you used to dole out freely as a little boy, being able to talk with the more grown up you and hear your amazing thoughts, ideas and stories makes my heart sing. One of my favorite things about you is that you never, ever leave the house or hang up the phone without telling me you love me, even if we've only talked for a short time, and even if we were together just moments before. You have no idea how many smiles that brings my way. I love that you already understand the importance of telling the people you care about how you feel at every opportunity. Today, and always, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to celebrate your intelligence, your steady determination, your quiet strength and your sense of humor.

Exhibit C: From the moment I first saw you with those big, beautiful eyes and long eyelashes looking back at me, I knew you were special. Seeing you in the NICU was incredibly hard, but watching you fight your way back to good health then and through your first few years made me realize from moment one just how strong you are. You make me smile and laugh each day with your stories, your jokes and your sweet snuggles. You are so smart and always come up with new and interesting things to share with me. One of my greatest pleasures is hearing you problem solve and understanding exactly how that amazing little mind works. Your unadulterated excitement about anything and everything, no matter how big or small, reminds me daily that in little things, there is happiness. Your love of learning and enthusiasm for life inspire me today and every day.

There would be no Mothers' Day for me without you three... and I thank you for trusting me and loving me and reminding me of what's truly important in life.

Thank you for you.
~ Mom

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunflowers

I'm a sucker for sunflowers, it's true. A single sunflower, whether in a vase or along the side of a road, never fails to bring a smile to my face.

A long time ago, back when I was too young to understand and appreciate the Queen's infinite wisdom, she sat me down to discuss my desire to live happily ever after with a boy she didn't deem worthy. She told me that if I thought he was "the one" I should know that while there would always be food on my table, there would never be flowers in my vase. At the time, I brushed it off and, more than likely, rolled my eyes.

Years later, I now understand the importance of balance in a relationship. Without a few sunflowers along the way, it's tough to truly enjoy the daily commute.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Finding Happiness

I recently themed a yoga class around the idea of letting go... letting go of the past, of control, of obstacles we place in our own paths.

One of the quotes I chose for this class was "By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning." ~ Lao Tzu

That Lao Tzu sure was a smarty pants... if you've got some time on your hands, google some Lao quotes and you'll see what I mean.

I happened upon this particular quote nestled inside an interesting article that described things of which we need to let go in order to find happiness. It was rather serendipitous for me to stumble across this article on a day in which I was also trying to wrap my pea sized brain around the idea that someone I know finds it incredibly difficult to offer a simple, yet sincere, apology when something goes not quite the way it probably should. I have often wondered, when people have a hard time with the words "I'm sorry", if it is a reflection of their own unhappiness... I suspect that it shows a need to be right and a need to feel superior, which I'm certain are red flags of an unhappy soul. And so the article got me thinking...

The gist of the article is that in order to be happy, we must be able to let go of the need to always be right, the need for control, and the need to lay blame on others. Instead, we should focus on taking responsibility, engaging in positive discourse, and living in the moment, allowing people and situations to just be, for as it turns out, noticing, without reacting to or trying to control people and situations, allows us to clearly see some of life's greatest truths.

We also need to hush our self-defeating talk, we need to open our minds to limitless possibilities of who we can be, what we can do, and let go of the need to label that which we do not truly understand. We must stop complaining and criticizing as well as let go of the desire to impress other people. Instead, to find happiness, we should devote our energy to practicing kindness, not only to others, but also to ourselves. We are often our own worst enemies. The power of positive thinking can not be overstated. When we are true to our authentic selves in every situation, even though that sometimes makes us feel vulnerable, people are naturally drawn to us.

Finally, we must accept that change may be hard, but it is good. So often we dig our heels in, we resist; but without change, we are not able move forward. In order to grow as human beings we must also give up on fears and excuses, as these are things we create in our minds, they don't really exist unless we give them life, and we must learn to practice non-attachment, which ultimately allows us to become more peaceful, more tolerant, more happy, and empowers us to follow the path that is uniquely ours.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stuck In My Head

Once upon a time, I said to someone "I am so, so ill, and I'm tired of sucking it up when you're around, of slapping a smile on my face and pretending to feel well when really, I'm very sick, and all I want is to curl up in a ball."

The response was, simply: "Thank you so much for doing that, I really appreciate it!"

I hate to admit it, but it's stuck in my head. I can't move beyond the selfishness that lies behind that statement. As if it was perfectly fine for me to be someone or something I'm not, as long as it kept someone else happy. This is a good reminder of why, these days, I enjoy spending time alone in my kingdom :).

Though most might describe me as complex, the truth is, I'm not. I simply expect people to behave in ways that build up those around them, not tear them down, and to encourage others to be their authentic selves. I'll never be willing to compromise on these standards. Are the expectations too high? Perhaps for some people, they are, but for me, they are not, and I've learned through the years that there are plenty of people who will disappoint... but the ones that don't are true gems and should be held as closely as possible.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Settle Down, Helicopter Mommies...

The queen was here for a visit and we had a conversation about math. Long story, but suffice it to say that I had a couple of really crappy math teachers and a mother who push push pushed for me to always be in advanced math, when she really should not have. Turns out I was very good at math, actually, but rather than feel successful, I hated every second of it and had to work many extra hours to play catch up because I was missing a lot of foundational skills that either were taught so poorly I didn't learn them or that I missed when I was being re-placed in higher levels. The result was feeling helpless and as though it was a constant struggle, even though I was making good grades. Had I been allowed to be on grade level, I likely would have been a straight A math student and seen it as a strength and might have felt more inspired to go into the career I thought I would go into from the time I was five... but feeling unsuccessful in high school math made me feel like I couldn't achieve that dream (thank you, school counselor, for your input to this effect).

When I became a teacher, my goal was to make children love math. I was pretty good at teaching math... and teaching in general, and I really did love it. I guess Plan B worked out OK, and I was obviously going to excel at Princessing with or without advanced math, but who knows what might have been had I had the encouragement, confidence and support I really should have had.

And so I give you:


Dear Squawky Parents of Rising Ninth Graders,

I assure you that you your children will not fail at life simply because they are not in accelerated or advanced math in high school.  I also assure you that there are plenty of students in the United States who successfully attend college each year without having taken the (insert name of fancy university) Calculus class in their senior years of High School.  In fact, these students have even been known to pursue careers in math and science related fields!  Really, it will be OK.

Why on earth would you want your kids to be placed in classes for which they are already unprepared walking in the door... and that teachers who very likely know a thing or two about your little cherubs' math abilities have advised against?  This isn't actually about your kids, is it? For if it were you wanting what's best for your children, you would want to set them up for success.  I spent many years in education and I can tell you that I can count on zero hands the number of times an on-level kid whose parents insisted they skip over half a year or more of math in order to be in an accelerated class (in which a year and a half of math is taught in a year) was highly successful.  Believe it or not, teachers actually do often know about that which they are talking. Put your egos aside, my friends. All children are gifted, but not all children are gifted in math.

You might also consider the idea that overloading a high school freshman with all advanced and honors courses isn't necessarily in his/her best interest.  And I say this as an educator as well as a mother of a child who could, in fact, do just this.  She won't.  Because I know better.

I also know that once she "gets it" with regard to high school, she will be able to take whatever honors and AP classes she desires in her sophomore, junior and senior years, but that semester 1 of 9th grade is not the time or place to "just see how it goes". I believe that balance, time management and well-roundedness are far more critical life skills than will be taught in honors biology, AP human geography, and Fancy University Calculus combined, and I know that there will be plenty of time for her to take these courses and excel in them, if this is the path we choose together. And in case you were looking for my not so humble opinion on this matter: I don't think it's a fantastic idea to force your child to take AP exams if they have not taken the actual AP course.  I'm just sayin'.  
 
In related news, I have never heard a local news report stating that the high school has lost a freshman.  This may have to do with the fact that these are 14 and 15 year old kids who are really OK moving from point A to point B without someone holding their hands.  Sure, they may do so slowly and with multiple social interactions along the way, but I assure you that even if they have to go into a hallway where there is a *gasp* 10th grader, they will make it to their second period class.  Eventually.

Put your egos aside and focus on your kids' success. Children learn what they live. Teach them to self-advocate and realize their full potential while tackling life's challenges, be they academic or personal, with a positive attitude and an understanding that life's neither fair nor equal and that how we respond to what's put before us is the one true freedom each of us has.

Your Pal,
The Cranky Princess