Friday, December 30, 2011

A Little Faith

It seems to me we all spend a lot of our life looking for answers. I am abundantly blessed by many friends, acquaintances and colleagues who have come into my life in recent years who are seeking to find just what I am - a way to live an authentic and meaningful life.  We all have hopes, dreams, and desires that go far below the surface; that define us as we aspire to live a life filled with more than just "things."  Sometimes though, it has been hard to describe just what it is we're all looking for.  I'm always wanting some definitive answer that says, "YES! You've GOT IT!!"

As I've spent time searching for words of wisdom and signs to let me know I'm on the right path, they've most often come to me when least expected.  Last night I had one of those experiences.  I watched the Hallmark presentation of Mitch Albom's "Have A Little Faith."  I'm impressed mostly at how raw and personal the story was.  I am in awe of writers who can bare their souls in such a wonderful way and who can touch the lives of others.  My life was undoubtedly altered by this man's words and experiences.

I have struggled with my faith for some time. I suppose it isn't my faith really, as much as it is the idea of religion.  What I heard last night in the context of a "sappy, made-for-TV movie" explained it better than I've ever heard it, and gave me the peace of knowing that whatever version of God I seek, what's important is that I simply look up, and have a little faith.  When I was searching for the exact words that I heard so that I was sure to quote them correctly, I found the full text from Mr. Albom's book that struck me so profoundly:

"Is there any winning a religious argument? Whose God is better than whose? Who got the Bible right or wrong? I preferred figures like Rajchandra, the Indian poet who influenced Gandhi by teaching that no religion was superior because they all brought people closer to God; or Gandhi himself, who would break a fast with Hindu prayers, Muslim quotations, or a Christian hymn. 

Over the years, the Reb had lived his beliefs, but never tried to convert anyone to them. As a general rule, Judaism does not seek converts. In fact, the tradition is to first discourage them, emphasizing the difficulties and suffering the religion has endured.

This is not the case with all religions. Throughout history, countless millions have been slaughtered for failing to convert, to accept another god, or to denounce their own beliefs. Rabbi Akiva, the famous second-century scholar, was tortured to death by the Romans for refusing to give up his religious study. As they raked his flesh with iron combs, he whispered his final words on earth, “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” He died with the word “one” on his lips.
That prayer — and the word “one” — were integral to the Reb’s beliefs. One, as in the singular God. One, as in the Lord’s creation, Adam.

“Ask yourself, ‘Why did God create but one man?’ ” the Reb said, wagging a finger. “Why, if he meant for there to be faiths bickering with each other, didn’t he create that from the start? He created trees, right? Not one tree, countless trees. Why not the same with man?

“Because we are all from that one man — and all from that one God. That’s the message.” 

Then why, I asked, is the world so fractured?

“Well, you can look at it this way. Would you want the world to all look alike? No. The genius of life is its variety.

“Even in our own faith, we have questions and answers, interpretations, debates. In Christianity, in Catholicism, in other faiths, the same thing — debates, interpretations. That is the beauty. It’s like being a musician. If you found the note, and you kept hitting that note all the time, you would go nuts. It’s the blending of the different notes that makes the music.” 

"The music of what?"

“Of believing in something bigger than yourself.”

But what if someone from another faith won’t recognize yours? Or wants you dead for it?

"That is not faith. That is hate.” He sighed. “And if you ask me, God sits up there and cries when that happens.”  

He coughed, then, as if to reassure me, he smiled. He had full-time help at the house now; his home care workers had included a tall woman from Ghana and a burly Russian man. Now, on weekdays, there was a lovely Hindu woman from Trinidad named Teela. She helped get him dressed and do some light exercises in the morning, fixed his meals, and drove him to the supermarket and synagogue. Sometimes she would play Hindi religious music over her car stereo. The Reb enjoyed it and asked for a translation. When she talked about reincarnation, per her faith, he quizzed her and apologized for not knowing more about Hinduism over the years. 

How can you — a cleric — be so open-minded? I asked. 

“Look. I know what I believe. It’s in my soul. But I constantly tell our people: you should be convinced of the authenticity of what you have, but you must also be humble enough to say that we don’t know everything. And since we don’t know everything, we must accept that another person may believe something else.”

He sighed.

“I’m not being original here, Mitch. Most religions teach us to love our neighbor.”


It's put a bit more simply in the movie:

Rabbi Albert Lewis: Did God make trees?
Mitch: Yeah.
Rabbi Albert Lewis: Why trees? Why not
A tree? I mean, he's God. What he makes is perfect. So, why not one perfect tree for the whole earth? Instead, he gave us the oak, the spruce, the elm, the redwood.
Mitch: Right.
Rabbi Albert Lewis: So, maybe faith is the same. Many trees, the branches all going to Him.
Mitch: Have you looked at the world lately? The trees are all attacking each other.
Rabbi Albert Lewis: That's not faith, that's hate.
Mitch: Engaged in the name of a religion.
Rabbi Albert Lewis: And wrongly! Thou shall not kill. Honor thy neighbor. If I mean these things, and the other guy means these things, what do you get?
Mitch: ...Peace on earth.

I say, let there be peace on earth...and let it begin with me.  As long as I have faith, then is there a right or a wrong?  My guess is no.  What I got from all of this is that it is better to be faithful and seek God in whatever form we are able than to have no faith at all.

Despite my struggles and questions where religion is concerned, I have always come back to certain scriptures that resound within me and that I try to abide by.  One of those was even read at my wedding, and for a long time, on a print on my wall:

I Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I have been told that the messages we need to hear and the lessons we need to learn will always repeat themselves.  With this coming to mind, I know then, that what I seek, and what those like-minded souls who grace my life are also seeking is just that - faith, hope, and love.  That is no secret, it is a simple truth we often fail to see.

What Mitch Albom learned is that we are, indeed, seeking the same things: 
" can know the whole world and still feel lost in it. So many people are in pain—no matter how smart or accomplished—they cry, they yearn, they hurt. But instead of looking down on things, they look up, which is where I should have been looking, too. Because when the world quiets to the sound of your own breathing, we all want the same things: comfort, love, and a peaceful heart." 
I think then, that for the New Year I will simply be resolving to have faith.  And for everyone I love - those wonderful, blessed souls searching as I am, I wish you comfort, love, and a peaceful heart.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Owning my successes; celebrating the wins

I have to document the events of this day simply because they seem so surreal to me. I certainly have learned one profound truth: When you follow your bliss - when you TRULY choose joy and pursue things you love with passion and abandon - the universe will align to make the path easy.
It started as just another Thursday...that 5 am alarm reminding me that my body does NOT like to wake up when it is still dark outside. Out the door by 5:40. off to hockey. Arrived to see my ex husband there with new pants that had arrived for Tyler. He took on finishing suiting him up and watching his practice. I retired to the warmup room with a heap of Go Green paperwork for our student Green Team.

Some chatting with parents, and I learned someone else is taking on the team manager role. I did this last year, and it is an enormous amount of work, so it was news I took with MUCH relief!

Before practice ended, my phone had rung twice (yes, by 7 am!) One call was a dedicated volunteer mom. This woman has FOUR children, one with severe health issues. She loves to help when she can because her kids are her number one, and she'd rather give to others than dwell on her problem. She's a gifted baker and dreams of opening her own bakery one day. She was confirming donations for our Election Day Bake Sale. Next call, a short term work opportunity for next weekend. Nice to know my reputation and experience precede me.

Back home, smooth morning with the kiddos. Got them off to school, and thought, WOW, it's been a hectic week, I am game for a little indulgence. Stopped at 'Spressos, my favorite local coffeehouse, and there in the case was my ALL TIME FAVORITE, bread pudding. YUM! My warm treat and a mocha in hand, I headed out. Better check the old Blackberry calendar before continuing about my day.

An email had arrived and it threw me for a minute. The grant application I completed for our future school garden came back with "suggested edits." A Tanya of old would have been devastated by this, but I simply took a breath, reminded myself that it's not personal, and that this person was acting in our best interest by offering advice that could ultimately result in us WINNING the grant. A positive spin on constructive criticism.

The advice entailed getting an estimate for necessary materials. Of course, that meant a trip to ACE Hardware. Our local ACE is AMAZING! They are very community oriented and help us whenever they can. (The awesome planters that I put at Staley as my first act as PTG President came from their store at a VERY generous price!) I went in, told them what I needed, and was told to, "hold on while I get the right person for this job for you." I was introduced to Kevin. Through our conversation, not only did I learn that he and I attended the same Ag&Tech College, but that his major was Natural Resources Conservation (Green much???) and that he is currently practicing hydroponics. I just learned about this process when I went to Alumni weekend in September. It is essentially diverting pond water to hydrate and fertilize garden space. The fish waste in the water is an OUTSTANDING fertilizer, and the dual use of the water is extremely a sustainable effort. In addition, maintaining the pond means selling the fish in alternating years as well. This man additionally worked for a local landscaper for 13 years. Did I mention that through his hydro gardens that he donated over 1,100 pounds of produce to our local Rescue Mission this summer and fall? Um, yeah, I was falling over at the wonderful twist of fate that put him in front of me too. We planned out 4 - 4'x12' raised beds and estimated the tools needed to maintain them, along with a Rubbermaid storage shed.

While we were meeting, I was briefly interrupted by a phone call. When I answered, I was given the name of the caller. He chided, "I'm not a bill collector or a telemarketer, so you're already off to a good start!" I laughed, and he then explained that he was given my name and number by both the Mayor and the principal of Staley. They advised that I might be able to help with a very important project. Our local Red Cross, like so many in our country, lost thousands upon thousands of dollars in funding this year. They are in such dire straits that this year, our community would not have it's Thanksgiving Basket brigade. They typically provide 400-500 baskets to those in need each year. I had already been told of this shortfall when delivering canned goods to their location following our CROP Walk collection last week. The man on the phone advised that our Mayor found this unacceptable, and was searching for ways to compensate for this shortage. He has called a meeting of all of the clergy from our community tomorrow at City Hall. The role I was asked to fulfill was in assisting them in having school representation, primarily through Staley, in way of another can drive - this time seeking Thanksgiving specific items. Here's the twist. In my PTG doings, I have utilized PTO Today as a significant resource for advice in succeeding in this role. For the CROP drive, I had ordered a "Schools Fight Hunger" food drive kit. The kit arrived a day AFTER our CROP drive ended. So, I already have 1000 flyers and a banner for our school ready and waiting. This wonderful man just kept saying, "You are a blessing, and I can't wait to meet you." I was invited to tomorrow's meeting, and we're in full swing to help as many families as we can. I am SO humbled to be a part of it.

I know, you're thinking...all of this before 10 am?? YES! I got to school, and I just had to phone a friend. I was practically pinching myself. I needed to say all of this out loud before I woke up from the dream! Not only was that friend a fabulous listening ear...she offered her help in rounding up support for the basket campaign. I am so blessed to know this woman. (seriously - I've known her since Kindergarten. No Joke. God's hand in this one.)

I headed into the main office to find that a box had arrived. The materials we just ordered YESTERDAY for next Wednesday's Character Achievement Ceremony had already arrived by next day UPS. Really? ONE DAY!

Another email. Oh, there are the order forms for next week's Spirit Wear Sale kickoff. Another item crossed off the to-do list. Phone rings. Scholastic Books telling me they've located 850 copies of the book we want to use in March for our One School/One Book program. Um, yeah, not only can we GET the books, but the grant funding we have to pay for half of them will count as SALES toward our book fair. So we're going to earn a PROFIT from our own purchase. We're $3,000 in sales 12 days before the sale starts...AND we can get all of the copies we need by year end. (hmmm, where am I storing those again??)

Off to the main office to report that fabulous news, and a Go Green discussion ensues. Training for our Green team, and a go ahead to start routine recycling collections on 11/2 is approved. ANOTHER easy-button transaction.

Time to get the boys. Car is acting funny. I've been perusing a replacement, but was really hoping to have a bit more money saved. No such luck. By the time I got home, it quit. By the grace of God, I was in front of my own house. But the misfortune was I missed the boys Parent Teacher Conferences. That has NEVER happened. My aunt called, I told her the news, and she said she was on her way into work, she'd come by, I could drop her off and have her car for the night.

As soon as I delivered her safely to work, I ran to the boy's school. BOTH TEACHERS had openings in the upcoming half hour, and managed to fit in my conferences. Nothing but accolades and good reports and grades. I am so blessed by these children. Darting across town, I made it back to Staley JUST in time for my daughter's conference. More accolades. Did I mention she's getting one of the aforementioned Character Awards next week? I think an image of a peacock would make due here...

Off to the races again, this time to a meeting for our district's anti-bullying plans. State legislation goes into place in 2012 called the Dignity for All Students Act. I was sitting in a room with our superintendent, along with teachers, community leaders, and concerned parents. What we learned in 90 minutes was life altering, and the promise of the progess we have the power to make was overwhelming. I am proud to be on this committee and can't wait until our next meeting!

Back home in time to grab kids and dance bags and get them to rehearsal. Later, I got a call from a mom of one of Kayla's friends to compare notes from the above meeting. She had such wonderful things to say about my daughter. I agree, she is amazing, and I am privileged to share my life with her. That child inspires me EVERY SINGLE DAY. That she is viewed as a good friend to others is a trait that can't be taught. Her heart is just pure and compassionate. She's incredible.

Joy, joy, and JOY!

My little girl has big feet. She sent a text from dance break reminding me she needed new Ugg-styled boots. My girl, ever the smart shopper, reminded me it's BOGO at Payless. Little did she know there was a 20% off coupon in the mailbox today. Off to buy boots.

We all arrived home again, and then, one more phone call. One of the amazing women I met last week at a community meeting regarding happenings in our city, specifically renewal and Green projects, gave me a call. She asked if she could quote me in support of our Mayor. She said she's been so impressed by my efforts that she felt that should be recognized. WOW.

Now - the gift of ALL angelic babies (dog too!) are curled up on the couch sound asleep.

I know that all of these things seem small or trivial or perhaps unimportant to anyone but me...but the reality is that doors are opening for me at such a rapid pace that I'm hard pressed to get my bearings! I had NO idea that abundance could flow so FREELY in matters of making things happen. I'm beginning to live the life of my dreams, all while being KEENLY aware of how truly blessed and fortunate I am. The smallest things make the biggest difference, and honestly, it's like I suddenly found the EASY button. Even the challenges seem small in comparison to the good I've been able to do.

I just needed to write it all down...I need to remember how I got from then to now. I need to OWN my successes and realize that all of the soul searching and finally committing to what REALLY matters in my life has paid off in ways I never could have imagined. I am thrilled and excited to see what each new day will bring. Now THAT is priceless.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where did the baby go?

I find that the changing of the school years often says more about my children's growth and progress than even their birthdays.  As I pack them up and send them off on the first day in September, a flurry of first days replays in my mind, and I wonder, who ARE these kids in front of me!?  They are growing up so fast.

Today, I sent my daughter off to 6th grade.  My memories of 6th grade were bittersweet.  I loved my elementary school.  School was always a safe haven for me.  The teachers were wonderful, and my ever thirsty mind was always satisfied within those brick walls.  There was, however, my parents impending divorce, my mother showing up drunk at my 6th grade graduation, and the trepidation of simply becoming a teenager and heading off to junior high. 

As I watched my daughter carefully picking out her clothes, fixing her hair, and packing her lunch, I was reminded of my favorite book as a child.  I must have made my Grandma read it to me until she was hoarse!  I still have the book, its pages are worn and you can see the spot in the front where I wrote my name in that little box in the front cover that is a trademark of Little Golden Books.  The book is the story of a child who finds a picture of a baby wearing a hat, and her mother sends her in search of the baby throughout the house, until, upon gazing into a mirror the girl realizes that she IS the baby, just now grown.  *sigh* How I loved that book.

Remembering that story, I had to ask myself on more than one level, where DID the baby go?

First, where did my own baby daughter go?  Where is that pudgy, curly haired, wide eyed baby who was simply a curious joy?  She always wanted to look and see and touch and do.  In many ways, she still does, but cautiousness from my many warnings to "be careful!" or "watch what you're doing!" have stolen some of that toddler tenacity.  The "cool" factor comes into play now as well - of course it is important to fit in, right?  Straightening her HAIR?  Wasn't she just wearing pigtails and losing her front teeth?  Wasn't she just clinging to my leg at the door of preschool? 

As I pondered those pigtails, I remembered my own.  Not curly and bouncy like my baby girl's, but straight and often crooked, sliding out of my thin hair.  I remember climbing into my Gram's lap in her "big chair" and hearing the familiar creak as she rocked me and read that book again and again.  Where did THAT baby go?  Where did the easy days of reading stories and playing dress up and being taken care of GO?  When did I become the GROWN UP with babies of my own?

As I gaze into the rear view mirror as we back out on the driveway to head to school, I see my daughter's excited, smiling face.  At the same time, I catch a glimpse of my own face staring back at me.  I realized right then, I know where both babies went, and we see it in the reflection in each other's eyes. Just as the little girl in the book said to her mother as she ran into her arms, "I'm right here!"

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm sensing a theme here!

Even though I fully understand the enormity of the power of the Universe, I am still sometimes dumbfounded when I have an ah-ha moment.  When I FINALLY get the lesson of repeated messages, well, it is like another blogger used to say, it is like a Cosmic 2x4 to the head!

My horoscope today pretty much touches on precisely what I am dealing with at the moment, and echoes what I have written about in my last two blogs.  Sometimes it just finally all comes together.

"Prince or Princess Charming has not yet ridden over the hill top carrying a huge bag of money, and that's not likely to happen any time soon. You are just going to have to pick up your bootstraps and rescue yourself. That may not be the easiest thing, but you are your own best hero."

WHY am I always looking for someone else to save me?  When am I FINALLY going to figure out that I get through whatever I am brought to face?  *I*.  Me.  Yes.  I AM my own best hero.  Since I'm at a loss for words, all I can say is "DUH!" with a huge head slap. 

I posted the poem "The Journey", and yes, it's on my fridge...but I didn't hear the message as clearly until NOW

"One day, you finally knew what you had to do...

...and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save. "

The Back Story

Everyone has a story – the “I am who I am because…”  I am more than aware of mine.  I “get it” about most of my issues.  I know why I’m so type A and such a pleaser.  I am fully in tune with the idiosyncrasies and insecurities ticking away inside of me.  I’m trying to put all of them behind me to live the life of my dreams.  Maybe if I purge it all, spew out the emotional vomit, that might be a start.

There isn’t really a “Once Upon A Time” here, so I’ll dive right in, and try to spare you some of the boring details.

I am the child of an alcoholic mother. Pregnant at 19, she blamed me for “ruining her life.” My father was there, but pretty emotionally detached, as he had his own baggage to deal with (that story is more than another blog, it's a book!)  I saw a lot of things that children shouldn’t have to see, like the inside of bars, friends of my parents smoking pot, and the violent rages of my mother and the altercations between her and my father.  It was truly not a good situation, but I try not to dwell on those dark days.  I am just thankful that I came out alive – and sadly I truly mean that.

My aunt and grandmother had me in their care the majority of the time. They knew the neglect that was happening, but back in the day, it was a different world.  It was much harder to remove a child from those kinds of situations.  I spent weekends with them so my mother could go out and drink. When I was small, this was no issue for my aunt, who was struggling with infertility and welcomed the bonding. My cousin didn't come into the picture until I was 7. My parents finally split when I was 13, and my grandmother was awarded custody. I saw my dad about once a week, and my mother slipped out of the picture and into her own selfishly addicted world. My aunt divorced a year later, and she and my cousin moved in, so my nuclear family consisted of Gram, my aunt, my cousin, and myself.  So there we were, the grandmother and aunt filling the role of mother; the cousin, like a brother.   

I was always pretty independent.  I got good grades in school; I didn’t hang out with the wrong crowd.  My worst offense in all of my high school years was detention for excessive talking. (shocking, I know!!)  I understood very early on that you could make things your excuse, or your reason.  I knew I wanted a life different from my parents.  I knew that some way, somehow, I would overcome what I was born into and create a better existence for myself. 

 Yes, I knew I wanted better, but to what degree?   Life kept happening.  My uncle committed suicide my freshman year of college.  This threw my household into an emotional frenzy.  Suddenly, the “parent” figures in the house had gone off the deep end…and I was pretty much left to fend for myself.  It drove me to seek solace and “normalcy” in the man who is now my ex-husband.  I SO craved a family like his with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and big loud holidays, and I so desperately wanted to be loved, and be someone’s NUMBER ONE.  My own family was fighting its demons, and I just wanted out.

I immersed myself in being HIS someone. I  let my dreams fall to the wayside, thinking that simply being a wife and a mother and being nurturing and domestic would finally reveal the sense of fulfillment I’d been seeking.

Clearly, none of that worked.   Even in knowing I wanted something better, I fell into a romantic relationship much like the one I had with my mother.  I kept thinking that if I loved them enough, they would love me back and give me what I so desperately craved.  WRONG!

After 15 years together, eight of which we spent married, and having three kids, my ex-husband walked out.  Today, I realize what a gift that was, but if you had seen me immediately after, you’d know that I truly thought that I was dying and that I’d never be able to go on.

Well here I am.  I have survived.  I am not a drunk.  I am not a failure. I’m not a bad parent.   There have been far worse heartaches than giving a bad relationship the boot.  Death.  Illness.  Job Loss.  Been there, done that.   I’m still standing.  I’ve gone on…but my Once Upon a Time still hasn’t brought me to a Happily Ever After.   There are still HUGE pieces of the puzzle missing.   I know what they are for the most part, I am just trying to figure out how to get from here to there.

I know that the greatest burden that I have borne through all of life’s struggles is with feeling alone.  I rage against not having a mom I can call when I need a shoulder to cry on or some advice that infuriates me but I know is right anyway.  I find myself frustrated and in tears when there is no one to call when I need help with the kids.  I am exhausted when I am the only grown up in this house and I’m struggling to provide and make decisions for my kids.  I still mourn the literal loss of my Gram, and the absence of the parent/sibling relationships that I so desperately needed with my aunt and my cousin. I can’t wrap my head around my continued singleness, and yes, I wonder when my Prince will come. 

And yet, here I am.  On the days when I want to retreat, or throw my hands up, or just scream…I still DO.   I get the house clean and the bills paid and the kids fed.  I volunteer extensively.  I entertain and spend time with friends.  I have INCREDIBLE relationships with my three children, and with my friends who have become my family.  I have abundant blessings.

WHY THEN, even after all of that, are there still days that I am angry or sad?  HOW can I not feel the sense of accomplishment in all that I have overcome?  Why do I not take pride in what I have created, and credit for all that I do every day?

WHY?  That is the question.  Usually I write and I can find an answer.  By the time I’ve reached the summary, I have a solution to whatever is plaguing me.  Right now, I have no answer.  I don’t know how to fill the emptiness.  I don’t know when I’m going to realize that there is nothing I can’t do, and that I really have a lot to be grateful for of my OWN DOING. 

I do feel better to have put this into words.  It swirls around in my head endlessly.  Maybe now that I’ve tapped away at these keys and let it out, I can move on.

I have more writing to do today.  I am making a list of what I really want.  Today when I write it, there will be no what if’s, maybes, or last times.  It is going to be a list of what I am going to manifest in my life.  I don’t need to decide how, I just need to know what I want.  As I’ve already proven through what I’ve overcome up til now, if it is meant to be, I’ll find a way.  I always do.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Enough already!

I bought one of those Page-A-Day calendars on clearance in January for like $2.37. How could I pass up daily inspiration for $2? It is appropriately called, "Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much." OK, stop laughing. I know you can't teach an old dog new tricks...or can you?
For the days that seem strikingly profound in their 4x4 inch bit of wisdom, of course, it ends up stuck on my fridge. One of them says, "Every day we complete many tasks, and yet we often see only those left undone. Stop to look at all you have accomplished...a meal prepared, a report finished, a phone call made, an issue resolved... When viewed from this perspective, our lives are filled with completed tasks!"

I should feel that way right now. I've had an extremely productive week. Monday was a lot of here and there (and did I mention I ran - ok walked some and ran some - 4.4 miles? Uh...that's another blog!) Tuesday I had my brakes on the car replaced and got groceries. Wednesday I cleaned out the garage. Thursday I went to the bank, washed the car, cleaned off the front and back porches and got out the patio furniture and painted a bench for the back porch. Today I changed the sheets on all of the kids' beds, redeemed cans and bottles for Kayla's Relay team, did about a zillion loads of laundry, planted flowers and weeded around my front flower bed, and got my oil changed. My awesome neighbor mowed the lawn, so I'm good til the rains that are supposed to start tomorrow pass again. In the midst of all of that each day I got the kids to soccer and baseball and talent show rehearsal and dance. Kids were fed, bathed, and school ready and transported wherever they needed to go.

So why, after all of that, do I still feel like I need something more? What is going on with me. When will I feel satisfied? *sigh* I really do feel like I can accomplish more now that I have done all of this. I am sure some of these projects don't sound that daunting, but when you consider that the porches and garage had become unrecognizable, and the weeds had gone rampant after record rains this spring...yeah, it was a lot of work.

Somehow, all I can see is what is left that I still need to do. I want to slap myself.

I know that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. I'm really only 5 days in. I got so many "big" projects done because every morning I woke up and decided, "THIS is what I am going to do today." Instead of writing a to-do list that covers the front and back of a legal pad sheet of paper, I have been choosing one or two things that I can start and finish in a day. I work them around my other commitments, and at the end of the day, I can actually cross some things OFF my list. It really is amazing. If I can learn to use that process, then I am sure I can learn to give myself credit for what I have done, and allow myself to ENJOY that satisfaction that comes with a job well done.

The to-do list is fine, it helps me to have a starting point to organize my thoughts, but I have put aside thinking that I have to touch EVERYTHING on the list every day, and thinking that I have to get twenty enormous tasks done to feel like I'm worthy.

I also know somewhere in the back of my mind that getting so many things done is only setting me up for future success. Having an organized, comfortable, welcoming home makes so many other things in life easier. I'm more productive when tasks (like a buried back porch or 8 loads of laundry) are kept managable and are addressed in small bits instead of huge chunks. I also know that life flows more smoothly for everyone in my life when I can find what I need when I need it. That goes for the kids as well.

I guess I really am feeling good about where I am headed, and I know I am on a path of change for the better. I just want to be able to sit down at the end of the day satisfied that I have done enough, instead of feeling like I should or could have done more.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Smart guy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When you're down...all that's left is up.

"Sometimes, when you're feeling your lowest, the real you is summoned.

And you understand, maybe for the first time ever, how grand you are, because you discover that vulnerable doesn't mean powerless, scared doesn't mean lacking in beauty, and uncertainty doesn't mean that you're lost. 

These realizations will set you on a journey that will take you far beyond what you used to think of as extraordinary. 

There is always a bright side."

I have had this posted on my fridge for a few years now. I haven't read it, I mean really read it, in a very long time.  Today was the perfect day. 

This was following a friend posting this today as his FB status:  "You may start small, but if you stay faithful, you’re not going to end small. Don't be discouraged in a season of preparation. You’re developing strength, trust and confidence. God's developing a foundation so that He can take you to new heights!"

So many words that keep bouncing around in my head.  The real you.  Vulnerable.  Scared.  Uncertain.  Faith.  Yeah, that last one is the one I am needing most right now.  But we all have to start somewhere, right?

It seems like that I have a million fears and frustrations that are in my way.  It has been a long time since I have felt this vulnerable, scared, and uncertain.  But if I stay faithful, I can get wherever I want to go, right?  Well, I'm determined.

There is so much that I want to get out of my head, but right now, it is enough to admit my fears, and realize that they don't define me.  It is enough to know that every day, in every way, I'm building a new foundation for myself and my family and our future.

I have to stop trying to overcome everything at once, take stock of what I am able to accomplish in a day, and keep focused on the goals I have.  I've been so caught up in the chaos in my mind that I have forgotten that.

Well, that is why I post notes on my fridge, literally, and now through this blog - to remind me of my purpose...and to always look for the bright side.

Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Save A Life

Advance apologies for the ensuing mental vomit - it's chaos in my head, and it has to come out somewhere...

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

This poem is on my fridge.  When I first read it, I was dumbfounded.  I knew that it spoke to me, that it was a message I needed to hear.  In the past few days, I continue to be drawn to it, but the voice is louder now.  It is practically screaming, "Do SOMETHING!" 

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday.  "Why am I stuck?", I asked.  I mean, if my life changes, if things are different - well then, things are just different, so WHAT is stopping me from DOING SOMETHING?? 

Perhaps it is just a giant question of how to define something...well WHAT then?  I have no idea.  Well, I have some idea.  When I have been looking at my life lately, all I see is a big fat "F".  Of the things I dreamed I would have: an education, a loving husband, children, an amazing career, financial security...I have only one - the kids.  But all that keeps weight on me these days is that I NEED all of those other things to give my kids what THEY need so that their dreams can come true. 

Well, that was a fine how do you do.  In just typing that, I figured out what is weighing me down.  It is that enormous pressure that I put on myself to get it right, to not make any more "mistakes", because now, it isn't just about MY dreams.  Their dreams - the dreams of three other human beings - hinge on mine.  It is that crazy ripple effect.  I'm the pebble, but instead of thinking that I'm putting out a tiny flutter across the surface, I feel like any choice I make is going to result in a tsunami.  I have SUCH a mindset of failure that I'm paralyzed by the fear of future failure.  Mental punching bag, anyone?

Well aren't I just an idiot?  We ALL fall down.  We all screw up.  Ups and downs, and around and arounds.  That's life, right?  The roller coaster.  Staying with the water metaphor, it is the ebbs and the flows.  Some of the greatest inventions of our times were accidents.  Some of the greatest people in history failed famously, and publicly.  That's the deal, right?  Try, try, and try again. 

I have to get out of my own stupid way.  I have to DO SOMETHING. I can't just say I want to do something.  I have to listen to that voice, and set out on that journey, because some dreams just WON'T WAIT!

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What I've Learned

There is a magnet in the middle of my fridge.  It says, "In raising my children, I have lost my mind, but found my soul." How true this is.

I had no idea that I could love so deeply.  Sometimes, I swear I'm certifiably insane, and all I can find to explain the crazy is the depth of my love for these three little people who call me, "MOM". 

I always dreamed of finding my true love, of truly being able to say "you are the love of my life."  Only today, in this moment, have I realized that THEY ARE!! There it has been, in front of my face for almost 11 years now.  The three loves of my life are my children.

My first child was due on Mother's Day.  She is my little flower, my springtime gift, and with her birth, a mother was born.  She is everything new and beautiful.  She is my inspiration, and when I look at her I want to be a better person.  In her eyes I see compassion, innocence, and pure love for humanity. 

My second child came in the fall.  He is color and light and a reminder that change is good, it is the only constant there is in life.   He is insightful and sensitive and intuitive.  Despite struggling as the middle child to find his way, his emotions run deeper than either of his siblings.  He is love and perseverance embodied.

My third child was an unexpected Christmas gift.  I knew I wanted a third child, but little did I know that I would get this little piece of perfection that made my family complete so soon.  Born in the cold of winter, he is warmth and happiness and joy.  He always has a kind word, a compliment, or a deep thought to share.  He is charming and smart and a sharp dresser.  He completes a trinity of awesome love that makes me who I am...Mommy.

These three amazing children are so different.  They are their own unique, brilliant, beautiful people.  Yes, they share the same eyes, and they share amazing senses of humor, and to my elation, senses of self.  They share a bond as siblings that I cannot explain, because I have no siblings of my own.  They are each other's best friends, and sometimes worst enemies.  In each other, they learn diplomacy, patience, sharing, negotiation, communication, and their own special kind of love.

I LOVE being a mother.  I love being THEIR mother.  I bake cupcakes for all the holidays and we play with play doh and finger paints and I am on the PTG and volunteer with their sports and clubs.  There is a steady stream of kids visiting our house.  There are toys and books in abundance, and poster frames in the stairwell to display their artwork.  There are signs everywhere that this is a home filled with kids.  I hope that it is as obvious that it is a home filled with love.

I wrote in recent days of wondering what I wanted to do and be...but the reality is, that all that I could ever aspire to do pales in comparision to being a mother.  This IS what I was meant to do, and who I am meant to be.  While they inspire me to pursue greater things, I know that as long as I am loving and nurturing them, I am giving the best of myself to this world.

Today is not about flowers or gifts or cards or meals, it is about pure love and gratitude.  There will never be words to express the depth of the love I feel for them, or the appreciation I have for the amazing gift I have been given in being their Mom.

Happy Mother's Day.  I'm off to try to collect the scattered thoughts in my mind, and hug and kiss and squeeze the living, walking, laughing, breathing pieces of my soul...

I love you, Kayla, Tyler, and Ryan!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Been perusing some of my old MS blogs, reflecting a bit.  This one seemed perfect to share, especially with tomorrow being Mother's Day.

Subject : My HERO !
Posted Date: : Feb 26, 2009 11:34 AM

I've been battling this cold for almost 2 weeks now. I woke up at about 12:30 this morning after my phone went off. I realized the bedtime meds I had taken had worn off, so I ventured down the stairs to take another dose. Good thing I turned on the kitchen light, as I reached for the faucet to get some water for the pills, I looked down and a black hideous spider the size of a half dollar went scurrying across the bottom of the sink. Without thinking, I screamed. I grabbed the sprayer hose and started dousing it, and rinsed it down the drain. I let the water keep running to ensure its demise, and in the chaos I had created, had not heard the footsteps on the stairs.

"Mommy, are you OK?" a voice from behind me asked. I turned around, and there was my 8 year old daughter. Half laughing, half crying, I replied, "It was a really really really big spider!" "I heard you scream, and I was worried about you!" she said.

Wow, without fear for herself or what prompted the scream, there she was, saving me. I wonder if she knows how often in my moments of weakness, that without words, she does that. She, and her brothers, inspire me. They show me my own strength, and they remind me of what I'm living for.

I hugged her, apologized for waking her, and invited her to snuggle up in my bed - not for her - for ME ! (I couldn't rid my mind of those 8 nasty legs !) We cuddled up together, and as we drifted off to sleep she whispered, "I love you, Mommy, I'll be right here..."

For some reason, the Rascal Flatts tune, "Every Day You Save My Life..." is running through my head.  How those little babies of mine do just that.

How to find Happy

Happy, he's one of the Seven Dwarves, right?  It certainly does seem these days that happy is some elusive part of a fairy tale that I just can't seem to find...

In the very center of my fridge is a clipping from a magazine (Oprah, I think!)  It says, "What would it take to make you happier in the next 10 years...the next 10 months...the next moment?"

The truth is, I'm really not sure these days.  So, here I am, writing again to try to figure it out. 

10 years?  Sounds like a job interview.  "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"  If you asked me that 10 years ago?  The answer wouldn't have been where I am right now.  Single mom of three struggling to get ANYTHING right - yeah...not fairy tale material.  Do I know what the next decade might bring?  I have a hazy vision of what I'd like it to be, but no real concrete answer.  Of course, I want to be fully immersed in my happily ever after.  Happy, healthy, nearly grown kids.  Celebrating anniversaries with a fabulous husband.  Crazy successful, lucrative, gratifying career. A boatload of memories of ten years well spent, and looking forward to another half century of living.  Is that too cliche'?  Too vague?  I know this paragraph has a lot of question marks.

If we manifest our lives, then what is it that I really want ten years from now? How do I place a specific order with the Universe that says, "Life, I want NO MORE wasted years!  I want the happy ending!"?  Maybe I need to narrow things down a bit. 

10 months?  OK, a little less hazy, I mean I can make a laundry list of what I'd like to accomplish.  Healthier lifestyle including weight loss, yoga, running the Boilermaker, and meditating daily.  Keeping a vision board so that the dreams are more tangible.  College leading to Bachelor's degree and aforementioned career.  Financial stability.  Amazing guy in my life.  Travel.  Home improvements. (this list could get ridiculously long!)  QUALITY time with my kids.  Memories made with friends.  Stellar performance in my volunteer roles with the middle school PTG and hockey association.  Wow, as I am typing, I'm finding that this, too, is pretty ambiguous.  What the hell DO I want?

This minute.  What do I want in THIS minute? I want to feel joy.  I keep trying to choose it, but it seems to keep escaping me. I'm sitting in this funk, trying to figure it all out, and the chaotic whirl of what if's in my head just leaves me...stuck.  I want to have a plan.  I want to wake up every morning, put my feet on the ground, and have a purpose, and know I'm getting closer to the life I've always dreamed of.  What would it take to make me happier?  I really don't know...but I am bound and determined to figure it out.  I need focus, and a plan. 

I don't want Happy to be part of a fairy tale. I don't want it to be a place I'm trying to get to, I want it to be the place where I live every day.  I think it's just going to take a little more time to sort out exactly what it is that brings me that feeling, and immerse myself in it.  It's time to shake the funk, and dive into a big vat of happy.  Now...which way do I go? Anyone have a map?

I'm running out of magnets...

Since the MySpace days faded, I really haven't found a place to purge.  Writing is how I let it all hang out, and scatter my thoughts to the winds of cyberspace til they come back making some kind of sense.  I needed to find a place to collect my thoughts again, so here I am.

I named the blog "Notes From My Fridge", because everyone who comes to my house always comments on the inspirational tidbits I have stuck here and there.  Since my kitchen is a pretty popular gathering place, that is a lot of reading going on.

It's true, words inspire me.  I love quotes, poems, magazine articles, news headlines...anything that really makes me stop and think.  When I find something really amazing, I cut it out, and stick it on my fridge.

So, thanks for stopping by...I hope you'll follow along.  Some days you'll find all kinds of fresh insights, and some days it may be a case of "what's that smell?" as I'm trying to identify mystery leftovers, but either way, I promise what you'll get is honest, from the heart Tanya.

Ahhhh, a fresh new blog!  I feel better already!