Monday, July 14, 2014

Brown Unicorns

I have never considered myself a perfectionist. While I wasn't a "bad" girl, I was a bit sassy (ask my parents) and had a bit of a naughty streak. On occasion the fun outweighed the consequence. Throughout my school years my grades were good but I admit they might have been even better if I had put in a little extra effort or started assignments sooner. My name probably was and still is atop the list of high-ranking procrastinators.

I always thought that my procrastination came from a lack of motivation and not really caring quite enough about the outcome. But in reality, over the past few years, I've learned some things both about procrastinating and about myself. It seems that at times procrastination and perfectionism have been evil twins and teamed up on me. Perfectionism was causing my procrastination. Fear of failure or not living up to expectation has left my projects and me undone. Feeling that I am not good enough or my work is not good enough or the illusion that the end result needs to be "perfect" has resulted in many unfinished projects, paralyzed me to the point of not starting a project at all or has left me unhappy with what I do accomplish. I have and often do find myself unable to get past the "should haves" or "could haves." Perfection has been the thief of joy.

There's a particular story my family knows well.

I sat in that art room on the second story of the elementary school thirty-some years ago. The project was papier mache. As a child I HATED to touch any thing dirty or sticky, have my hands soiled, have anything on my clothes, etc. (My parents went through a lot of hand soap, laundry detergent and patience raising me.) There I was, seated at the table with my hands submerged in a slimy, sticky mixture attempting to form tattered, torn paper into something recognizable.

Fast forward a unicorn was not looking too bad. As a matter of fact, it was really starting to take shape. Maybe I could get through this assignment after all.

Then came time to paint our creations. The art teacher arranged supplies and instructed us to select our brushes and paint. My world came crashing down.

I approached the paint selection. No white paint. Everyone knows unicorns are white. (Apparently everyone except that art teacher.) Perhaps someone else had chosen it. I'd wait patiently for my turn to obtain some. I gently scanned the room. NO WHITE PAINT! Maybe the teacher had forgotten to set it out. I was now certain it was in the closet. Politely I asked. Her response, "We don't have white. How about brown? Just use brown."

My heart sank and my project was ruined. How about brown? How about brown?? A brown unicorn? This could not be happening. Unicorns are white NOT brown. But, since I wasn't completely outrageous and I tried my best to follow the rules at school, a major outburst was not the best plan. So, I plopped in my seat and began painting my unicorn - most likely mumbling and grumbling inside - BROWN.

My parents were always very supportive and loved the artwork that came home. Naturally, my mother displayed that brown unicorn on the shelf in our home for years. For all those years, I stared at that unicorn seeing nothing but the flaw and wishing it had turned out differently.

Sadly, that brown unicorn isn't the only area of my life where I have focused on the negative and missed out on opportunity to see beauty and find joy. There have been more instances than I care to recount where I have let "if only" and "not good enough" creep in and take up residence.

Just this weekend, I sat cross-legged on our living room floor as my girl gave me instruction on painting a canvas. I can't paint, I told myself, as I have many times. But I can mother.  Sometimes mothering means meeting my girl where her heart is. That evening it meant I was headed to art class with my precious daughter as the instructor. 

She's a great teacher and things were going well...until that rogue brush stroke threatened the work. If my sweet encourager had not been there, I would have set that canvas down and walked away never to touch it again. She kept me there. She offered a solution to turn the mistake into part of the piece and to embrace the beauty beyond the flaws. Most importantly...

In that moment, my wise beyond her years 13-year-old spoke the most unexpected, insightful and significant words: "Accept your brown unicorns!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer

Five Minute Friday
Linking Up with Lisa Jo Baker for today's 5 Minute Friday: "Writer" 

I always dreamed of being a writer. I could see it: my name in print. The 9 letters of my long first name gracefully sprawled across the newsprint or along a binding in the local bookstore.

Sometimes, young daydreams and wishes don't come true and the realization hits that maybe it isn't part of the greater plan. But maybe, just maybe, it isn't "NO". Perhaps it's "not now" or even "yes" but a bit different from the original vision.

In the midst of life, words, phrases, beginning and ending sentences begin to flood my mind. I find the nearest writing supplies to record them. Sometimes it's the virtual keyboard on a smartphone. Sometimes pretty ink creates the words on the lined pages of a fresh new journal. Other times it's thoughts scribbled in crayon on a scrap of paper or even a grocery receipt that's been in the bottom of a messy purse for weeks. Whatever it looks like, the words get written and I allow myself for a moment to dare to dream once again that someday I will be a writer. It's then I realize, perhaps I already am.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Raising Generations Today Recap

Although I have not had time to process all that I took in and took away from my weekend at the Raising Generations Conference, one thing is certain: I am equipped to better face the challenges that come my way.

I know that to be true since life "slapped me in the face" upon my return. What once would have stolen my joy and rendered me unable to cope is now mere trials to face and conquer. I may drift with the waves and the rough waters may toss me about, but I will not be pulled under. I will not sink beneath them.

I drove home Saturday evening excited to see my family and anticipating my warm welcome and loving embraces. I walked in the back door and dropped my bags. No welcoming committee-not even the pets. Hello!?! Did anyone know I was home? Did anyone care?

As I made my way through the house and up the creaky, old stairs, there he was. The man I love, in the middle of a work zone, strategically placing tiles on the bathroom floor. You see, he didn't greet me at the back door because he was busy doing a labor of love for me, for our family and for our little fixer-upper home. At the moment, I was frustrated. Couldn't he have taken a moment to come welcome me? And, come to think of it, it had been a while since I had encountered a ladies' room and we have this ONE bathroom in our house. Ahem. Although this project was what I had asked for, I was inconvenienced and irritated.

Reflecting on that moment, I see that it wasn't at all about the construction zone of my bathroom. It's about the construction zone of my heart. I needed to get over myself. I needed to look past the mess and see the beautiful new sink and floor tiles that my husband was working so hard to install. I needed an attitude of gratitude.

A couple hours later found me talking and giggling with that same man and our beautiful daughter over dinner at our favorite local restaurant and a great night of sleep in my own bed. (I love a getaway but there's just something about your own bed, yes?)

Then came Sunday: my day of rest-a day to catch my breath before the start of a new work week and an opportunity to put my new found "mothering knowledge" to use. But, Sunday didn't go according to MY plan either. I once again, left my husband and daughter home without me.

This time I found myself sitting in a stiff chair in a small room of the Emergency Department gazing simultaneously at the numbers on the monitor and my father lying in the bed. I won't go into great detail, but I'll leave you with this: it's just a minor setback in some ongoing health issues and he'll be alright; watching your parents age is simply no fun; enjoy them and love them while they're here.

Upon my return home, I enjoyed dinner prepared by that hard-working husband of mine, sunk into the sofa nestled under my fuzzy blanket and dozed off. A little rest would surely make everything better. Or would it? You see, upon awakening, I was overcome by a wave of nausea. Yes...I was falling victim to the dreaded stomach bug! Again, I'll spare the gruesome details.(To all the other conference moms who were affected-I feel your pain and am praying for your recoveries.)

The trials I was facing left me exhausted, but not defeated! You see, as Brooke McGlothlin & Stacey Thacker stated in their session on Saturday, hope is a choice. As I sat in the quiet of my empty house during my sick day from work on Monday, rather than cursing my illness and my troubles, I chose to hope. I chose to believe that perhaps there was a message in all of this.

That stressed-out, pre-conference girl who felt like she was at the end of her rope and that is was fraying as she tossed clothing straight from the dryer to her suitcase at the last minute and was short with her child just moments before departing...that girl who so desperately needed to escape reality...that girl who was reaching out for hope but finding it just too far away...she was being called to the stillness to rest, to be renewed and to stretch just a little more to finally grasp tight to hope.

In between the chaos of life before and after the conference, was an amazing, fun-filled getaway with some great women and without the worries of everyday life (i.e. work and home responsibilities). I wish I had more photographic documentation, but aside from a few photos and a little Facebook surfing from my hotel bed Friday night, I tried my best to "unplug and recharge" and not be as attached to my smartphone as I usually am.

Highlights of my little getaway include:

Walking into a shoe store on Market St. and finding 1 pair of perfect, tall, black MY size...ON CLEARANCE. Thus ending the 2 year search for new boots.

Spending girl time with a good friend.
 Proclaiming ourselves to be the The Best Mom(s) ever!
May I remember in the moments that I feel like a failure that I AM the best mom ever because He has chosen me to mother my precious girl and will equip me and guide me to do just that (even - and especially - through these teenage years.)

Meeting  Lisa Jo Baker and seeing September McCarthy.

Seeing old friends and meeting a few new friends...purchasing some books and winning some books...laughing, learning and SO MUCH MORE!

As the design on my conference swag bag states, "Life is a Journey."
  I can't wait to see where the rest of my journey takes me!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 12

Lesson #12: Hire a "Manny"

From the day we told him we were expecting, I knew my dad was in love with his grandchild. When it came time for her arrival I think he would have beat Ben and I to the hospital if my mom had let him!

From the first time he met her, he called her his "Lovebug" and they've shared a special bond since the beginning.

Emily is truly blessed to have both sets of her grandparents nearby and involved in her life. But I'm choosing to write about "Poppy" tonight.

We had always planned that I would be a stay at home mom, but, 6 months in, circumstances were such that I was headed back to work part time. Deep down I knew that I was doing the right thing by financially contributing to our little family and, I'll admit that adult conversation helped keep my sanity, but I was a bit devastated to be missing out on that time with my precious girl and the thought of having to entrust her care to someone else.

So, what was a mom to do? Hire a "Manny". Yes...I hired my dad, "Poppy" to care for Emily while I worked. What a blessing that was!

Every day was an adventure: they read countless books pouring over the details on each page, watched education programs (I vividly recall my lesson on nocturnal animals-taught by my toddler), played dolls and hosted tea parties. I'll never forget the day that I got a text with a photo of his turquoise finger nails he had let her paint and his neck wrapped in a pink feather boa!

I am forever grateful for the way that he cared for her in my absence and for everything that all the grandparents have done to help shape Emily into the fine young lady she has become!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 11

Lesson #11: Be Yourself...Be "You-nique"

Having struggled most of my life with fear of fitting in and on a constant quest for approval, it brings me great joy to see Emily so sure of her self.

From the beginning, she has been a free spirit. (At times it has posed a challenge-don't ask about age 3 and her quest for independence.) She has always had her own sense of style, a mind of her own and has not buckled to the pressure to go with the crowd. I see her so comfortable with who she is, yet so humble, and it makes my heart happy.


(It's not every day you find "Cinderella" with a short messy hairstyle, a tattered hemline and muddy feet on a swingset!)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 10

Lesson #10: Great Things Come in Small Packages

Emily, they say "great things come in small packages" and it's so true. Like the time your daddy pulled a small ring box out and asked me to spend forever with him...or the time he surprised me with diamond earrings on my 25th birthday...and then there was the day that I wrapped a pair of tiny baby nail clippers in a small box and gave it to "Nana & Poppy" with a little note to announce that you were on the way.

But nothing proves that statement more than you, precious girl! You came into our lives weighing a mere 5 pounds, 4 oz. But let me tell you, the love we felt was immeasurable (and still is).

You were so tiny. The night we brought you home, as I dressed you, I sat on the edge of that hospital bed and cried uncontrollably. Your little outfit seemed to swallow you and I couldn't believe that I was being entrusted to care for such a tiny, delicate little person.

As terrified as I was that night, we brought you home and we've survived 13 years together!

I sit in awe as I think of how you've grown: physically, emotionally, have blossomed into an amazing young lady are are beautiful inside and out. You are smart, funny, talented, have a huge heart and contagious joy. I could stay up all night listing things, but I think you know how I feel.

You may have come to us in a small package, but you truly are the greatest gift we have ever received.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 9

Lesson 9: Daddies are a girl's first love!

I've always had a good relationship with my father and I'm pretty sure as the baby girl of the family I had him wrapped around my little finger. (My sister always insisted all I had to do was flash my smile at him and I'd get whatever I wanted.)

It wasn't until Emily came into our lives that I fully understood the daddy-daughter bond and how special it really is. Watching Ben father our precious girl brought it all into perspective. It has brought so much joy to me (and on occasion, a tear to my eye) to witness the love he has for her.

Ben: You are an amazing Daddy! Emily: Don't you ever forget it!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: 6-8

Again, I'm playing catch up...

Friday evening we held a surprise party for Emily. Since Chinese New Year is on her actual birthdate (January 31) this year, we celebrated with a Chinese theme. We ordered up a bunch of takeout and invited a few of her friends.

She had no clue and was quite shocked and happy to come home to a party!


Which brings me to the lessons...

#6: Everyone needs a surprise party once in their lifetime!

#7: I CAN keep a secret every once in a while.

#8: There is NOTHING that compares to true friends. Emily is certainly blessed with some of the best and kindest friends a girl could wish for.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 5

Lesson #5:

Embrace the moment!

One of the MANY things I love about Emily is her ability to embrace each and every situation, take time out to soak it all in and live life to the fullest. 

One occasion in particular comes to was autumn and our calendar was full. Each time we left home we'd drive past the park at the end of the street and she'd point out the ever growing collection of fallen leaves blanketing the grass.

I knew what she was implying...she was envisioning the biggest, best "LEAF DAY" ever. She would frequently gather a handful of leaves from our yard, throw them in the air and cheefully exclaim, "LEAF DAY!"

We were busy, though. Who had time to walk to the park for the sole purpose of tossing some leaves in the air? Certainly not me!

But one afternoon, I brought her home from school and couldn't shake the stirring I felt to make that walk. I'm so glad I did. I will never forget that afternoon - the joy on her face as the leaves cascaded around her and the squeals of delight as she jumped into piles of crisp, crunchy autumn.

Had I not listened to that little internal prompting, I would've missed the moment. Especially since the very next morning, I drove by and watched as the village crew mulched the leaves into oblivion.

I encourage you to take time out to truly enjoy the moments in life. The chance may never come again. Make beautiful memories not regrets.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 4

Lesson #4:

You can do anything you set your mind to! Nothing is impossible!

There is little in life as awesome as watching your child setting a goal and remaining determined until they achieve it.

About 5 months into my pregnancy, an ultrasound predicted I was going to be the mama of a girl. As comes with the territory, my mind turned to all things frilly and pink. Never once did I imagine that I would be cheering her with damp eyes as her Tae Kown Do instructor tied a black belt around her waist!

I saw her set her mind on reaching that milestone and watched as she followed through and pressed on to make it. It wasn't easy, but she stuck with it and met the goal she had set for herself.

Emily Claire, you will go great places! Your determination is inspiring!

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 3

So lesson #3 should have been posted last night, but yesterday was a hectic day and when I finally slowed down enough to think of it, I was in the upstairs hall headed to bed.

This is all part of the lessons learned through motherhood, including:

There will be days where things don't go according to plans and days that you get so wrapped up in motherhood that you forget everything else.. Go with it! Be flexible!

And...sometimes you just have to know when to call it a day, leave a few things unfinished and get some sleep while you can!
Proof that she really did sleep once in a while as a baby! :)

 (For the record, going to bed at a reasonable time instead of coming back down and opening the laptop was the right choice!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 2

Life Lesson #2:

I think I taught her this one, but we certainly agree that...

"There is NOTHING like a good book."

Some of my most precious memories are of the times we have spent snuggling and pouring over the pages of a story and I will NEVER forget the first time she read to me!

I just can't say no to the purchase of a book. The times I have lectured that, "we're just buying what is on the list," as we enter a store only to have her sweetly ask for book are too numerous too count. Of course, my heart melts, my wallet opens and we come home with another great piece of literature to add to our collection!

Keep reading, sweet girl!

See you tomorrow for #3.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 1

In less than two weeks we will be celebrating a big birthday around here. Emily is turning 13. I cannot believe how the years have flown by and that in a matter of days we'll have a teenager in the house!

Thirteen years ago, with a flurry of emotion including excitement, anticipation and (I'll admit) fear, I walked (waddled) into that labor and delivery room to meet my precious girl. From the moment I laid eyes on her, my heart was bursting at the seams with love and I knew life would never be the same. Little did I know that winter night, just how much that tiny 5 pound, 4 ounce person was about to change me--for the better!

I am in awe of how much she has taught me over the years and thought it'd be fun to share some "Life Lessons According to Emily Claire".

#1...DON'T be afraid to express yourself. Accessories are a must...

and you are NEVER to old to add a fun touch to your outfit!

Stop by tomorrow for Lesson #2.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Word: FOCUS

Some years have found me conjuring up grand ideas for New Year's Resolutions. I made BIG plans which resulted in little results and ultimately feelings of failure and disappointment.Other years I didn't bother to make resolutions or even goals. It was if I just went along where life carried me without much thought as to where I was or was headed. Neither brought much in the way of accomplishment or joy in my life and left me longing for more.

Enter...One Word Three Sixty Five. I came across this concept and felt led to come up with my own word for the year. Immediately several came to mind and since I'm a bit of a "word nerd" it wasn't easy to select just one. But, after some deliberation I think I have settled on my theme for 2014: FOCUS.

Among others, I plan to:

Focus on setting goals and seeing them through...
Focus on following my dreams (no matter how far-fetched or out of reach they seem)...
Focus on my health...
Focus on being the wife and mother my little family deserves...
Focus on making my "house" a "home"...

My hope and prayer for this new year is that I can and will focus on what is important and let the rest blur into the background.

Love and blessings to you all as you begin 2014!