Goodnight 13

Tonight I hugged my thirteen year old daughter goodnight. Tomorrow she will turn fourteen.

I found myself not wanting to let go of her. I just kept hugging her and hoping the moment wouldn’t ever have to end. I felt my eyes sting and burn trying to hold back tears, as years of memories flooded before me. Ooops…something in my eye there. Darn dust.

Mauldinfest 9-26-03 004 Mommy hugging riley Riley on merry go round Riley on mommys shoulder

We’ve been through so much together. She and I have made it through so many obstacles and she has always been right there by my side. Mostly because she had to (not much choice at those young ages to just pack up and move out). But also because those hard times have drawn us closer.

I have always carried guilt about her having to endure divorce. And not just once, but twice. One divorce from a good man (her dad) and one divorce from a bad man. Carelessness with the best of intentions.

Through the years of being a single mom, and a remarried mom, she and I have had to learn “new normals” again and again. And through it all…she surprises me with her silliness, good nature, and adaptability. She has always been able to roll with the punches.

But she has also bared the scars. Through the 2nd divorce we both learned how damaging broken promises can be. When someone pretends to be something they are not and everything you thought you knew suddenly becomes a huge lie – it breaks something in your soul.

Trust is hard to rebuild in a life that has been shattered by a million lies.

But somehow we managed to pick up the pieces and make something altogether beautiful. Like a mosaic glass work. Old broken pieces put back together in a new arrangement to reflect a whole new state of mind. Stronger than ever.

Over time, I am slowly letting go of guilt (most days) and learning to move beyond by using the past as lessons of what not to do. She will have to make her own choices obviously, but because of our experiences, we have had the opportunity to talk in length about character and the attributes of a good and bad person from first hand examples.

She has had her share of anger and still carries it. But I am hoping over time, the more I let it go, she will follow as well. We have had to learn the hard way that there are some bad apples out there. Being choosey is really important and to not ignore important warning signs, which applies to not just boys/men but girlfriends too.

When I look into her eyes…most times I see a scatterbrained teenager whose frontal brain lobe and rational thinking has been held hostage by a rapid deployment of rewiring and complex triggers that happens during adolescence. The all too typical teenager blank look or maybe even contempt or disgust…or total silliness to the point of irrational annoyance.

But sometimes I get a glimpse of that little chunky monkey she used to be with curly blond hair and a bright tiny toothed innocent grin that I pushed in swings for hours, chased around playgrounds and yards and spent hours upon hours giggling with and snuggling tight.

And then other times…I get a glimpse of the woman she is yet to be. A poised, spectacularly beautiful young woman with all the potential of the world at her fingertips. A young woman that can ride a horse like a graceful dream, has a soft spot for the elderly and some kind of old soul thing going on just beneath the surface.

Somehow these 3 dimensions of this child/teenager/adult are all wrapped into one amazing package that I consider my gift every day – good, bad or indifferent. That’s what life is I guess. A balance of getting through the tough crap and hanging on to those really great moments. And I am just so thankful to have been blessed with a kid like her to hold hands and get through it all together.

I get a few more years of her under my roof. I try not to take that for granted. Tonight is a bittersweet night. Tonight I say goodnight to 13.


Riley profile Riley sitting


It’s not complicated…

Technology is not the enemy. Just like the splitting of atoms was not the enemy.

It’s what we DO with the technology and science that is the thing.

People feel like that have to wage war against these “things”.

I don’t agree.

We have to separate the things from the underlying root causes or actions of PEOPLE that do the wrong things with the “things”.
Personally…I love being connected to my friends by facebook. As a busy working mom…I rarely get the luxury of getting to spend face to face time with them. I WISH things were different, but I am not a pioneer woman doing chores and quilting bees with the other women in the village where I get to socialize as much as I would love to.

Things are different. We have to accept that.

And rather than be completely isolated – I really enjoy being able to check in with my friends if they choose to share what is going on with them. I get to laugh with them…or cry with them and support them if needed. I get the chance to be a better friend.

However…if I start hearing, “Mommy – are you on FB again?” that is where I recognize I have crossed a line. I am no longer being a “good friend”, and am being a less than stellar mom. I am guilty. When I hear something like that I know that I have taken something positive and made it a negative. I am modeling disrespectful behavior, and being a bad role model for my girls. (I think I just heard myself bray like a donkey…)

That is when technology becomes the enemy.

And that is why we put the phone down and remember our kids are only at this very stage for a split second and hold on even a little tighter to the moment. (After we take a quick picture of what is happening to remember for later of course). THEN we put the phone down. Hahaha.

Technology is also an enemy when your kids become so consumed with it that they forget to do their chores, skip assignments, and in general abuse the privilege that it really is. Because that’s what it is – a privilege…not a right. No matter how much they seem to think it is a right.

And as parents that is when we take away the privilege for a period of time.

Technology is the enemy when your preteen child gets into a verbally offensive altercation with another student in a chat room where others can also observe and read what is going on.

That is when we intervene and remind them of the dangers of this amazing privilege. How easily a conversation or picture can go viral. How being a good responsible technology user has benefits reaching far beyond their limited comprehension. And how being a bad tech user…also has unimaginable consequences.

And yes…that is why I monitor her usage, her interactions and conversations from time to time.

Some may call that a violation of privacy.

I call it active and responsible parenting in the year 2014.

And what I am preaching – I also must practice myself.

Rather than banning something (which usually never works to any real positive results) why not embrace it, model healthy behaviors, set moderate time limits around it, and, heaven forbid…even have FUN with it. My girls and I have a lot of great laughs watching cat and dog videos. It can actually be a bonding tool and moment. And these are teaching moments on how to search the web and how NOT to click on certain suspicious looking sites.

Our kids are only going to be exposed to technology in more and greater ways than right now. Personally, I would rather my kids learn how to manage these things along WITH me, in my household, under my roof. Not when they are at someone else’s house, or on their own. I think this whole thing is a partnership. By trying to ban something or refusing to participate in the the progression of society, is kind of asking to be disconnected unfortunately. But…that is just my small opinion and point of view.

So – next time someone tells you technology is the enemy or even sillier yet – if you get a viral FB post about how awful smartphones and FB are – as you are reading it on your smartphone through FB (That is called IRONY, people) think about it in a balanced approach and use your own head.

It doesn’t mean you have to ban yourself from FB or smartphone usage to be a better person and live in regret any time you pick the thing up. If you are as sensitive as me…maybe even consider flogging yourself…

But it does mean you should be respectful, interactive with the real people right in front of you, and mindful of your virtual presence and footprint.

Why do we have to be reminded of that anyway!? THAT in itself is the scary part to me.

Guilty as I may be charged – I consider THAT the biggest wake up call.

It’s not complicated.

Don’t be an ass.

Trees of December

december tree I drive by this tree everyday on my way to work. Covered in snow it is even more glorious. My whole family knows…that is my favorite little tree.

tree I drew this during a time of quiet reflection. If you click on the picture you can see the words Love, Hope and Faith hidden among the branches. All these things are there for the taking, but you have to be looking for them…intentionaly chasing after them.

The other day my youngest daughter (age 6) pipes up and says, “You know…a lot of people think bare trees in the winter are ugly, but I don’t. I think they are really pretty and interesting…especially with snow on them”.

Wow. She gets it already. I am not sure if I have influenced her by my frequent comments, drawing and photos of trees in the winter time. I am kinda fascinated with them.

Maybe because they are so paradoxical. So simple, yet so complicated. Simple silhouettes against a sky or sometimes a tangled mass of chaos.

Even more ironic is that I wrote a song years ago – and I am pretty sure she has never even heard the song, but in this case…the branches don’t fall far from the tree. The song pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about the whole subject.

Trees of December – ca. 2005

Autumn’s come and gone, all the trees are bare.
They reach their strong arms to the sky
But does anyone really care? Is anyone even there?
But they hold their ground…without a sound.
Just the wind blowing through their arms
And they wave so gracefully. They hold their mystery, for the time…

When the spring arrives and they show the glory of the work they’ve done
In the secrecy of the winter.
Just below the surface, the whole time they’ve been busy getting ready
For the splendor they’ll adorn.

Does anybody ever look at the trees in December?
Does anyone see the beauty they behold?
They hold their complicated branches reaching ever towards the gray dark sky.
Even in the dead of the winter.

So are you and I. More than meets the eye.
Underneath the surface we hold secret mysteries…love and injuries.
And we go down deep. More than what is seen.
Yet we fail to recognize our roots are intertwined. We act as if we’re blind…When we…

We judge other trees by their branches…and we cut the things we fear…
May cause trouble down the road.
We step back to see the damage we caused but it’s much too late
and cannot be undone.

Has anybody ever seen the trees in December?
Does anyone see the wisdom they reveal?
In all of their bare majesty we see their branches so clearly
But still, there’s so much below the surface.

Has anybody ever felt like a tree in December?
Screaming out with arms stretched open, wide?
Feeling so misunderstood, looking like some dead, gray wood
Yet still, so alive beneath the surface?

What the Water Told Me

Indeed I do love Florence and the Machine’s song, but this is more of what the water told me – directly. Well, not with words because what would be both creepy and psychotic, but rather – here is a lesson I learned from watching and listening to water.

Anyone that knows me knows I have a fascination…no, possible addiction to flowing water. I could honestly sit and watch it for hours. It is one of the most therapeutic things I know of. So now that I live right beside a creek is pure and total joy for me. It’s the closest I have ever come to (un)intentionally meditating. Just sitting there, focused on watching the water flow, watching how it moves and flows over and around rocks. Peaceful fascination.

And that’s when I got it. A rock, or an obstacle doesn’t stop water (unless it’s like a hoover dam kind of obstacle…that kind of stops it up pretty good). Water flows right over it and around it. It covers it. It dances as if moving right through it. It gracefully tumbles and rolls. And as the water flows over these obstacles it makes music.

In fact a creek with no obstacles may be kind of beautiful in it’s own right, but honestly it is quite boring compared to a creek with rushing, bubbling life…which can only come through chaos and interruption.

The very prettiest parts of a creek are at those places with the biggest obstacles and disruptions. It causes ripples, motion, breaking of the water that creates the most comforting lulling sound. In some cases the water appears to be flowing backwards as backcurrents are created with all it’s bubbling and churning.

Wait – kill the pan flute…I think I might throw up a little…a big unicorn and rainbow glittery kind of throw up.

Bleck…enough whimsical talk. Here is the break down peeps.

Water can carve rock.

Water can move mountains (even if it takes a very, very, very long time)

Which brings us to another point…Water is persistent.

And – it doesn’t work alone. One water molecule can’t do much, but bonded with others – it is incredibly powerful. It can also use even abrasive things like sand and rocks to help it towards it’s purpose of reshaping canyons, or grinding boulders into crystal beaches.

And yes – it pushes through obstacle after obstacle and makes something incredibly and surprisingly beautiful out of it…and keeps going.

Sometimes I feel like my life gets a bit chaotic. Sometimes I have even felt trapped in a back current of endless churning but it’s important to:

Keep moving.

Find a way to take the grit in life and make it work for you.

Don’t always work alone.

And make music as you go.

I’m so thankful it rained on my parade

ImageI had the honor of speaking at a women’s retreat a few weeks ago.  It was the second time I’ve been asked to do this.  Last time I even led and sang some of the music. I am not bragging.  I am in awe of it all, because I almost wasn’t here for any of it.

You see…it rained on my parade.  What does that really mean anyway?  It means you are pissed because things didn’t go the way you planned.  Well…it rained on my parade…for a long time.  And I got more than a little pissed…I got really depressed.  Nothing in my life had turned out the way I had planned.  Nothing.  And because of that…I chose to focus on everything negative and was missing out on the tons of blessings all around me.

But you see…life has a funny way of helping us out.  And sometimes things don’t work out for a reason, and by pouting about it, being mad and resentful…we are only delaying ourselves the joy and peace of what is next.  Don’t waste as many years as I did being a control freak.  You can’t control the weather, a sick mom, a cheating spouse, or anyone else for that matter.

So I had the privilege to speak about some of the hardest lessons I have learned in life, and share them very personally with an overwhelming 60+ women last week.  It was hot, it was crowded…there wasn’t enough chairs, but no one seemed to care. 

I wasn’t nervous really.  I was just hopeful that I would say what someone needed to hear.  I was hopeful that some of the hardest things I have endured wouldn’t be in vain.  I was hopeful that I would be able to articulate, not just the darkest parts of my life…but the victory and transformation that occurred.  I was hopeful that I might instill hope into someone that might have lost theirs, just as I had lost mine at one time.

But the funny thing about hope and inspiration is that…it’s not about the person trying to spread hope as much as the person that has lost it and finds enough courage to grab on to it one more time.  No one can “give” anyone else hope.  Hope is only received by the individual willing to believe in it.

I knew that.  And maybe that is why I was not nervous, but rather…hopeful, yet, realistic and even a little sad.  Because as I sat there in that crowded room looking out at all these women – all so very beautiful in their own unique way, my heart jumped as I saw the faces of women, young and old.   They had all come to hear – How To Take A Compliment And Find Beauty In The Small Things.

That is what my topic was about. 

As I went through a little survey I had devised, I could see that it had already struck a chord.  How hard it is to receive a compliment sometimes.  But the reality is that it is only hard when…you don’t believe the compliment.  And the thing that really sucks is that most of us don’t.

We shy away from compliments.  We may feel awkward.  I did for years.  Admittedly, still do sometimes…but I have been working very hard at believing and receiving the compliments.  Not in an arrogant, vain way like, “Sank you dahlink, yes, I know I am all that and a bag of pretzels too”.  More like in an accepting, grateful and graceful way.  Because grace is what got me this far.

There, in that room, in a matter of 40 minutes or so, I shared years of my own inner struggles, and how I have come to find peace.  How complete chaos turned to calm.  Now…I still have moments of chaos, but I don’t “live” in chaos.

It all came down to Accepting.  Accepting that I cannot change the past, I cannot change people, I cannot control most circumstances, but I can just simply accept things the way they are.  And let it be.

I also had to surrender my pride, which can be masked with self pity.  I had to surrender my control and plans.  I had to surrender and admit I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to.  And just let it be.

I had to make a conscious effort to quiet the noise in my head…all the questions, all the things I wondered about that had no definitive answers…I had to just let it be!

This is not a subliminal message for the Beatles by the way, but they were on to something there.

I said a lot in that hour.  And the really cool thing was that I got to hear from them too.  We shared some really cool things together.  I shared much more than I could write right now and truth be said, I probably wouldn’t even remember all of it anyway.  It was very interactive, and I am so thankful for that.

I wasn’t speaking to them.  I was sharing with them. 

A few came up afterwards and hugged me, we laughed, we cried, we chatted a bit more.  One lady even said it was the best thing she has heard including from professors in college.  Again…not bragging…I was just in awe of it.  I guess there is a difference between reading and regurgitating knowledge, vs. living it.

And one girl stayed after…waiting patiently.  I didn’t even realize she was waiting for me.  Her nonchalant, slouched posture in the corner of the room made it seem she was just bored out of her mind waiting on a friend.

But she was waiting.  Waiting to tell me that she was at the very end of her rope and had been for quite some time. 

We sat and talked for over an hour. 

I honestly don’t know if anything I said sunk in, or made a difference.  I can hope.  But it’s not about me, or anything I said.  It’s all about her, and anyone else that needed to hear it – that hope can prevail.  It’s about whether or not they mustered up the courage one more time to grab hold of something that only they can do for themselves.

To believe.  Believe they are worth it. To see life IS beautiful – even among the chaos.  To believe that there is beauty and freedom in not being able to control anything but your own outlook and perspective.  To believe and understand that only you can break yourself out of your own prison of doubt, confusion and fear.

To believe you can let go, let it be, and find peace in it all. 

I can’t do that for anyone.  I can only show that it can happen…

Here was my trick.  I couldn’t do it for me…or at least the right now me.  I had to see myself as a child.  

I saw my own precious, sweet, beautiful daughters.  I want everything good for them.  Peace, hope, happiness, love…you name it.  They are innocent, beautiful, amazing gifts! 

But wasn’t I once too?  I had to find my inner girl.  And realize that I too, was worthy of such things.  May sound silly, but it was really the only way.  I realized the very best way to give them those same gifts of acceptance, peace, love and joy…was to model it, live it, believe it. 

I’d like to say I succeed at it every day, but why would I need grace then?  And people…I am a walking picture of what grace is all about, let me tell you.  I AM a grace junkie!

Like I said…I wasn’t talking to them…I was sharing with them…and listening, and watching, and learning. 

That’s what we do.  We are not in this alone.  Don’t fool yourself and think you are.

I am very thankful for that opportunity.  It was really amazing.  I am very thankful that some of my very hard and humbling lessons are not in vain.  The one thing I prayed in that hospital room was that my sadness would not be in vain. 

If you are down, or running low on hope…dare to be courageous and grab it up again.  But do yourself a huge favor first.  Free your hands and mind of control.  Hope cannot be controlled.  It can only be received.  And you are the only one that can do that for yourself. 

And if you are too tired or just not able to do it…seek some professional help.  You are not alone and only pride is stopping you.  Let go of that too while you are at it.  You will be so glad you did. 

Because grace and beauty is all around us.  Little encouragements all along our path, just waiting to be found.  But you have to be looking for them.  You can can’t receive it your eyes are closed. 

The next time it rains on your parade…go outside afterwards and open your eyes.  If you let go of the control, and the pride and the anger, that the rain ruined your parade or picnic…you might see something so small and so beautiful that you just may suprise yourself and laugh as you think to yourself…I am so glad it rained on my parade…because I would have missed this!

Why I Love Turning 40

I am sad when people say they dread getting older. I am just the opposite…I wouldn’t turn back the clock if I had the choice. I am happier now than ever and here are some of the reasons why. This is in no particular order and I am sure I missed something, but here it goes – pure random thoughts.

I’m old enough to know the rules and consequences of breaking them…and experienced enough to know when and how to break the silly ones when needed.

I’m still young enough to do…well – anything I want.

I’m free to act like a complete goofball when I want to. Because I am old enough now that I don’t care what anyone really thinks about that kind of stuff. If they want to be a stick in the mud – that is their own right…not my problem.

I finally found out who I am…and I like myself.

I stopped trying to please everyone…when I finally realized that is impossible anyway.

I have learned how to forgive myself and stop expecting perfection…and how to laugh at myself.

I try not to have any expectations from anyone else…this way I stay surprised when people do good things, but am not disappointed when they make mistakes.

I believe in God. It makes me happy. But I will not force my views on anyone else or assume anyone has to believe like me. If you’re interested in my little inner spark – just ask and I will tell you more. No one is going to persuade people to believe in something so personal by hitting them on the head, knocking on a door or throwing a list of rules at them. It is about a relationship. It’s a choice. That takes time and trust.

I don’t judge people anymore. Yes…I used to when I was younger, opinionated and ignorant. Now I know that if you judge, you will be judged. I also realized I am not right about everything. I enjoy listening to different points of view and instead of opposing them…many times I am pleasantly enlightened.

I don’t like to argue. I won’t anymore…it doesn’t go anywhere positive. But I have learned how to address things instead of let them stew, fester and become an eruption. It takes wisdom to find root causes to issues and it takes guts to actually address it. Then…it takes love to address it all with respect.

Though I still have moments where I’d like to, the reality is that I’m not supposed to have the figure of a 16 year old. I just need to stay healthy and active enough so I can keep up (or stay ahead of) my kids.

I learned people are busy, distracted and accidentally self centered. It’s not personal. If you really want to talk to someone in particular…call or visit them. You’ll both be thankful.

I work smarter at work (not longer), play harder at play and laugh…loud and as much as possible.

I know that the hard times don’t last, so keep going…it won’t last forever.

I know that the really great times don’t last…so soak up the moment…it won’t last forever.

Work is not my identity. It’s a place to learn, grow, give of my skills and leave it behind when I leave the office.

Motherhood is not my identity. It’s an incredible blessing and title that I take seriously, hang on to each moment and am in no hurry to rush. I have learned more about life and love by being a mom and I am so thankful for each snuggle, little kiss, giggle – and even the fits (they are healthy and alive).

Happiness is not guaranteed, but joy is only a matter of perspective. I choose joy.

I have learned to honestly forgive others – it doesn’t “condone” any wrong doing, but it frees you from the prison of resentment and bitterness.

I have made peace with the past by accepting I can’t change it, but instead use each mistake as lessons forward so they are not in vain.

I still have big dreams to publish music and books, and even open an innovative candy business one day. Rather than be annoyed that I can’t do it all right now, I realize there is only so much time in a day. I have to make peace with focusing on the priorities of the moment and keep the dreams alive long enough to be able to act on them one day.

I try very hard to love with reckless abandon despite being hurt beyond belief. I realized that if I gave up on love, I would be giving up on life. My girls deserve much better than that.

I am learning about true unconditional love from my children. They are the teachers here…

I’m old enough to really know my weaknesses and annoying habits and try to at least warn people, and temper them down much as possible.

Don’t get caught up in the annoying small things that can eat at you…breathe…shake it off…go play.

If I am annoyed with someone to the point that I want to change them…it is usually me that needs to change.

Don’t worry about things that haven’t even happened yet.

I don’t have as much time to spend with my girl friends as I wish I had. So I try to make the moments I do have with them really count. Even if it’s just a phone call. But I have also found – good friends understand, and you can pick up right where you left off. We’re all busy.

Don’t miss the small moments in life – the smiles, laughs, holding hands, unsolicited I love yous, because these are really the big things.

I had to love myself and my life before I could find someone that really loved me and my life. It took me a long time…I will try very hard to not take it for granted.

I am an open book. I have many lessons to pass on to whoever will listen. I try to be honest, and vulnerable – even when it makes me look stupid. If it helps someone else or prevents them from making some of the mistakes I have made…it is all worth it.

Look directly into the eyes of the people you love the most…often.

Acceptance + Surrender = Joy and Peace

What is “it”

Gotta love Ghandi. One of my favorite quotes of his is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

If you are tired of the drama and unhappy place you are in life…change it. You are the only one that has that power. At some point you have to stop pointing the blame at everyone else. I know…I am talking from experience. And ever since I started accepting not just my own flaws, but other peoples mistakes…life has been a whole lot easier – and happier. Not perfect. But peaceful.

A really great thing happened the other day. A good and dear friend of mine who has stuck by my side through the worst of the worst…said she is finding that she is able to accept some of her hardest-to-get-along-with people in her life recently too. She was trying to figure it out. And she said to me – maybe it is because I see how you are letting go of “it”.

Nevermind what the “IT” is. The “it” is not the point. Or…maybe it is. Because everyone has an “it” to overcome. Steven Kings book “IT” was kind of genius in that way. Because “it” can be a monster and destroy your life if you let “it”.

But the point of this story is – how cool is it that by me coming to a place of peace and acceptance…that I might have helped someone else along in the process too! Maybe…mabye not. But it sure didn’t hurt. The other option was for me to continue struggling with “it” so very ungracefully and causing more drama and heartache than good in the world.

And what do you want to see in YOUR world? You can decide. I don’t always make the wisest choice. But it sure feels good when I actually do become the change that I want to see in the world. I hope I make it more of a habit.