The Moment of Tooth

I once read an article that talked about all the “last moments” that are lost – because we may not even know it is the last. I mean as parents we celebrate all the first moments. First time walking. First words.

But this article talked about the “last” moments, and it hit home like a ton of bricks because the truth is, we rarely even realize when those last moments are happening. As they grow and we celebrate those independent moments – like washing their hair all by themselves. But one day you sit back and mourn that moment passed you by and you didn’t even know it was the last time you would “get” to wash their hair – Ugh! That hurts!

Tonight we pass a milestone that I actually do know and realize will be a last – barring any terrible accident on a volley ball court or play ground. Tonight she slipped her last tooth under her pillow. Last visit from the tooth fairy. Last time she will make me nearly faint as she wiggles it all around before she bravely pulls it out herself. Like – when did she get so brave?!?

This is my baby. I have a teen that passed that moment by so long ago – that I honestly don’t remember her last tooth. See?! She’s on to bigger and better things like learning to man a 3,000 pound road sled and not wreck it. That’s exactly how it happens too. Focusing on the next big milestone after milestone and all those “last moments” can easily scurry right by you unannounced.

I’m not even sure which is worse…knowing something is your last, or letting it slip by you blissfully unaware. Because knowing this is the last tooth….I am sitting here writing this through ridiculous blurry, teary eyes. Geesh. If I realized when each last moment was happening – I would probably be walking around like a blubbering sobby incoherent mess. One big walking Hallmark channel movie mess.

So – here is to final visits from the tooth fairy. Cheers, and Tears.  I know some parents would rejoice at this moment. No more waking up in the middle of the night or worse yet – sliding it under the pillow in the morning after they are already awake because the tooth fairy forgot!! Oh, I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull the old “Oh here it is, you didn’t look hard enough!” act. Cause as they do grow and get older…so do we.

But tonight the tooth fairy did not forget. In fact, she left behind a fat $20 AND…FAIRY GLITTER! Which of course, she will be far more excited about than the money. Because she still adamantly believes in fairies. And so do I – because she keeps them so alive. Naively, I would love to believe there will never be a last day she believes in those.

Of course this makes we think back and wonder what else I have missed recently? What other “lasts” have I missed? I still get to pour the milk when it’s too heavy at least. I’m good for that. I still get to take hot things out of the oven. Ok…I’m still mommy.

Deep breath. Good cry. And carry on. In the end, it’s all just part of it. All we can do is take it all in. Hope we are doing a decent job at it. And learning to hold on as best as we can, as we hit these moments of truth and tooth.

 

 

 

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Through Their Eyes

Zoo day 073

I was driving home and Peter Gabriel’s “In your eyes” came on. I love that song…even after all these years.

But it got me thinking. How many times a day do I REALLY look INTO the eyes of my loved ones? In the busyness and chaos of shuffling to and from school, or summer camps, or work, and the store, and getting chores done, even when playing – when do I really just take the time to look right into their eyes and pause for a moment and just be, and see?

And that got me thinking even further – how many times do I stop, get down on my children’s level and see the world THROUGH their eyes? Between all the to-do lists, meals, clean up, errands and every day life…sometimes I feel like I am racing some god forsaken clock – trying to beat some buzzer to get the kids in bed in time for a few winks myself.

That makes me sad when I think about.

What a waste.

And I am a mom that actually tries to not take a lot for granted…yet I still do.

I felt a renewed desire to rush home to the girls and try to take the time to look into their beautiful brown eyes. To really “see” them. For this moment in time that they are this very age and never will be again.

And yet – it still happened. I enter the house, and a dog needed mega attention and a walk, and the sisters wanted to play a computer game together, and dinner needed to be cooked, and dishes put away, and bills cleared from the counter, and the cat was meowing his head off and…

I didn’t get that magical moment I had been day dreaming about.

Not at the moment.

But.

I did get to watch them eat a healthy dinner (well…relatively healthy…ok…at least not harmful dinner), we chased the puppy around and laughed at his ridiculousness. I asked (nagged) them both to brush their teeth and get on their jammies (and let them win the argument to sleep in their shorts and t-shirts, because you know they are ultra comfie and about the same thing), and got a surprise kiss and hug from my big girl (who recently told me she was done with kisses).

And I got to snuggle with my little one as usual (after she read a story about feelings, built an extensive nest, rearranged it several times, got a drink of water, checked on her American Girl doll, rebuilt her nest and finally settled down). I had broke down earlier in the day and bought her the Frozen CD…(yes…better late than never) so I also got to listen to her sing every single word to about 5 songs before she started actually getting a little tired.

And I got to smell her, and be close, and try very hard not to tickle her because it is one of my favorite things to do, but I was trying to get her to sleep, so I had to be good. So I just laid there – so thankful for the moment. Like I do every night.

But it was a little different. I wasn’t rushing to beat a clock tonight.

And the only difference was my attitude. Plain and simple. All the chaos was still there. I just chose to have a different focus.

I do try to remember life is not a race, and try very hard to not take moments for granted, but I still do sometimes. And I have to remind myself like this now and then to focus on right here and now. Soak in these moments. Look into their eyes…and see life through their eyes.

I love to give my kids the camera and see what pictures they took. To see their perspective. But I need to be more intentional about seeing life through their eyes on a more consistent basis and without a camera to show me.

That’s my goal these next few weeks (again). To start (re)training myself to slow down, look into their sweet eyes, and see life through their amazing brief childlike perspective.

It’s time to admit it…I’m a Name Caller

aww...my lil sugar bear lovie kissy face - muah!  (gag)

aww…my lil sugar bear lovie kissy face – muah! (gag)

Yea. I do it. All the time. I probably call my husband names a few times a day.

Not only that. I call my kids names too! Even my pets!

In fact, I have become so prolific at it that I make new ones up all the time!

And I am not apologetic about it.

Because I am talking about sweet pet names.

Some of you may feel uncomfortable even thinking about it – it’s not your thing. I get it. But it doesn’t have to be sickening sweet names like Punky-doodle or Seinfeld’s favorite – Schmoopy. I am just talking about a “honey” or “sweetie” or something now and then.

Recently I let the busyness of life kind of distract me and take some of my fun-loving side away a little. It happened slowly so I didn’t notice it at first.

Little by little, I stopped calling my husband things like “sweet boy”, “amazing man”, “my hero”. You know…Just little names I called him when we were newly in love when it came naturally.

I kept calling my kids those names – because they are so stinking adorable – and they are KIDS!

I was slightly aware of it, but thought – ah – no big deal. He knows I still love him. We are at the point in our lives where we know who we are, and we do know we love each other. We don’t need all that sickening sweet beginner couple stuff! I mean – we’re adults here.

…Enter stage right…insidious, slow plague…I started taking him for granted!

I started noticing that I felt a little distance between us. Not like – Oh my goodness we are headed for big trouble kind of distance. More like something small is missing, or maybe that small nagging feeling you get when you forget to say thank-you, or something.

But then I got used to that feeling and started ignoring that little tug on my heart to go that tiny extra mile.

Complacency.

Then I complimented him less and less for his little contributions around the house or his common courtesies throughout the day.

More small naggings, but this time it was easier to ignore – like I was becoming inoculated to the complacency…slowly. After all, these were not BIG things. I mean, do I REALLY need to thank him for doing a load of laundry now and then or taking the trash out? These are weekly things that have to be done.

Justification.

What does he want? A certificate? I do stuff all the time around the house and don’t always get a thank you. Put your big boy pants on. C’mon.

Sarcasm.

Wow…What just happened there? Where did THAT come from? What comes next? Bitterness? Resentment? Does it really happen that fast? That easily? Holy Cow!

Here’s the thing. When I DO get those “thank-you’s” now and then…it’s nice. Someone noticed my act of courtesy. Not only did I help make someone’s day a little easier – they took the time to let me know they noticed.

Appreciation.

And it energizes me just enough to make me want to keep up the good work.

Inspiration.

And maybe the biggest thing of all is – I don’t feel like I am being taken for granted!

Kindness…Respect.

It is never too late to correct your path. I realized my deficiency and started intentionally saying those little thank you’s again.

I started intentionally calling him little silly names again. I took and extra 30 seconds to stop, look in his eyes and appreciate him!

And guess what happened?

NO…it didn’t make him a perfect robot obeying my every wish…something even better happened – I appreciated him more! It reminded me of when we were first dating and how thankful I was for all his little considerate gestures.

Gratefulness.

And the best unexpected result was – I fell a little bit more in love! It reminded me just how lucky I am to have this special person in my life!

Adoration.

After all – my big grown man is just a little boy under all that tough exterior – and I am the only one he trusts enough to show me the vulnerable chinks in his armor.

Instead of being annoyed (provided he is not being a captain whiney pants taking advantage of your good graces) – it is a privilege to see that human side of him.

So, yes…he DOES need those extra little kudos from me so he feels like the most special guy in the whole world to me.

And I need to do it to remind myself how lucky I am to have a guy that cares enough to even do those kind little things.

Funny how such a little…TINY even thing can make such a huge impact!

So – yes…I try to call my spouse names. As often as I can.

And…I shouldn’t be surprised, but…He even started calling me his “sweet girl” again.

3 Simple Secrets to a Happy New Year

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

If you are tired of making meaningless New Year’s Resolutions, or worse, making the same old ones every year and never living up to them…try something new this year.

Give yourself the gift of a new perspective.

I did 3 years ago and I am happier, more thankful, and less restless than I have ever been in my entire life.

Here are the 3 simple things that changed my life:

1. Acceptance
Accept that you are who you are, and your life is what it is. Also, accept your friends and family for who they are (hint – you can’t change them anyway).

You are who you are. If you are not happy with that, dig a little deeper to figure out why. There is usually a good reason. Comparing yourself to others is one of the number one reasons people are not happy with who they are. So, you are not the cover girl of a magazine. Do you sit there and compare your friends or family to things like that? Do you pick them apart like you do yourself? Just stop!

Stop comparing yourself to other people – what they look like, what they wear, how they live, what they have, and even what they think of you (or more accurately – what YOU think they think of you – because you are probably wrong anyway). Accept you for you and move on. You are actually pretty freaking great, if only you would stop looking everywhere else for yourself.

Your life is what it is. Get over the fact that your life may be harder than someone else’s, or that you feel you were dealt a losing hand in life. If you can read this, you are not blind, you have technology, and chances are – honestly you are doing pretty ok. So stop comparing your life to that of reality TV shows…because that is NOT reality.

If you are truly unhappy with your lot in life, the great news is that you actually can make some intentional choices to influence and change some of the circumstances if you are truly that unhappy. One of the easiest and biggest changes you can make is accepting your lot in life and learning to be ok with it. Instead of hounding yourself for bad choices, or mistakes or focusing on how your life is not what you thought it would be…just accept it. Then figure out ways to embrace it.

For example. I found myself at a place in life where I had TWO failed marriages! Not just one…TWO! And it got even messier because I had one child with each husband! People…this is a devastating place to be and looks bad on paper…sounds bad when trying to explain it. It is just pretty ugly. How could I ever just accept this and crazier…EMBRACE IT?!?

I had to accept it. Plain and simple. I had to get over the judgment from myself and others. I had to just quietly say…ok. This is what it is. It is not what I had pictured for my life and for my girls, but life happens. It was not easy. It took years and intention to come to a peaceful acceptance, but I can honestly say now that if anyone has an issue with my past or my situation…it is THEIR issue – not MINE! That is incredibly freeing!

Lastly – accept others for who they are. You cannot change other people. I can’t change you by you reading this. You have to make a conscious decision to want to change. So it is with others. You have to accept people at face value for who they are and be very honest about it. Don’t get in relationships thinking you are going to change someone. Don’t think you can change how your relatives live or think. You have to just accept them.

Just because you accept them doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do or who they are or how they treat you or others. It just means – wake up and accept the reality. Don’t feel bad for putting up healthy barriers if needed if their behaviors are unhealthy or a negative influence on you. Once you accept they are who they are – it allows you disengage a little bit and realize their actions are not your responsibility.

They may still drive you nuts – and that in itself just is what it is. You know they drive you crazy, you know their antics…just accept it. This too is very freeing. It makes you kind of just sit back and enjoy the ride a little more instead of erroneously thinking or believing that you can change anyone else.

2 Forgiveness
Forgive yourself and forgive others.

By the way – I put forgiveness after acceptance for a reason. You can’t even get to forgiveness until you honestly master acceptance.

Forgiving myself: I thought that forgiving others would be easier than forgiving myself, but I found out that we are inherently very selfish and ego driven. Even the most humble of us. We have our wounds and we lick them when we are hurt. So what I found, is that I actually had to forgive myself before honestly being able to forgive others.

It’s kind of like that whole airplane analogy. You know – “In case of pressure loss inside of the cabin, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to help others”.

So that’s what I had to do. But strangely enough, I couldn’t forgive myself straight out.

I had to imagine myself as one of my own daughters. Yea…I know, sounds weird, stay with me here. I pictured my own daughters and how much I loved them and how I would never want them to beat themselves up over stuff. I want them to love themselves, thrive, and not be held down by the prison of forgiveness and resentment. So with that mental image, I had to realize I too was a child and that I too deserved forgiveness.

With that simple mental exercise I was not only able to forgive myself, but actually become an advocate for myself over time. Just as I want my own girls to be brave and strong and be able to stand up for themselves…I too had to do that, model that, be that. For me AND them.

Forgiving others: After I took some time to really forgive myself (because this takes work and intentional practice) I started choosing certain people that I would forgive.

And it’s not like I had to sit down with them and have some awkward conversation. In fact – I never even told them. I just forgave them! Because the real truth is that forgiveness is not for the other people…it’s for you! I had some big things to forgive. In my life I have been verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abused. It was a long, ugly list and it took some time. But once I was able to apply actual forgiveness, I felt an incredible burden lift from my shoulders. All the resentment, anger, and bitterness I had been carrying around for YEARS started giving way.

Forgiving someone does not condone what they have done. Let’s be very clear. Forgiveness just releases YOU from the prison of being controlled and handicapped by what they did. It’s your get out of jail free card! And you should keep it handy because this also takes practice. But I promise you will get the hang of it and will start to feel like water rippling down the back of a duck the more you do it.

3. Surrender
Surrender control and expectations.

And yes, I put this last for a reason. You can’t get to this point without mastering the other two.

I was what you could call a control freak. And the crazy thing is that I didn’t even know it! I was the passive aggressive type. I pretended to be humble, meek, a martyr really, and as if I didn’t have any mind of my own, choices of my own or control over anything. But the whole time, I had some hidden agenda of how I thought everything was SUPPOSED to be, and how everyone was supposed to act. It was pure hell.

I had to first accept I was doing this, then forgive myself for acting like that, and then STOP doing it.

Since I have been able to surrender control of everything that happens I have been incredibly peaceful. I guess it was a lot of weight on my shoulders running the world and all.

Life is crazy and unpredictable. People are imperfect. Crazy stuff happens and people are usually the cause of it. But how freeing it is to realize – none of it is really in your control! I was able to sit back and let life happen – and actually enjoy the phenomenal uncertainty of it! Control is a total illusion and I now laugh at people who think they have it.

This is not to say you are an aimless boat on an ocean…you can still have direction and purpose. In fact, you will probably have more after you let go of all the responsibilities of orchestrating every little move and predicting the outcome.

Simplicity:
I could have called this the 4 simple secrets, but Simplicity is the just the BONUS or outcome and result of applying these 3 principles so you can rejoice and embrace the simple things in life.  It’s like the little gift or reward that just happens after you do all the hard work above!!  The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it. Allow yourself to slow down. Now that you are not in a race against time or anyone else, or blinded by anger or depression, you can slow down a little, relax and see the beauty all around!

Life can be a beautiful ride, but it may take some perspective to find it. I can’t guarantee you will be a changed person if you can accomplish all these things because of course – that is up to YOU! However, I can only attest to the fact that these three things were life changers for me.

I am more thankful on a daily basis than ever. And I am still the same twice divorced girl that suffered all kinds of abuse and made some really dumb choices in my life so far, and will probably do more stupid stuff along the way. My life didn’t change as much as I changed how I saw and live my life.

I’m rooting for you in 2014! Take baby steps. This is like working out. You have to start small, and take it day by day. You will slip up and that’s ok. The more you practice these skills, the easier they will become.

Cheers to a new thankful, peaceful, happy you!

Love is As Love Does

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Two of my many Teachers…

 

It just takes some folks longer.  Longer to figure out what love really is…what it really means.  And sadly, it seems that some never really get it.  So it makes me even more incredibly thankful to say – and really mean that I know what love is. 

A week ago as a family we experienced that moment in time – where everything stands still…confusion rules and you hear the unthinkable…Cancer.  Dad has cancer.  What?!?!  Are you sure?!?!  No way…

He spent this last week trying to find out exactly what stage, what his next steps are, what he can expect…just trying to absorb the shock of this grim diagnosis.  And face this monster that also claimed the life of his own father…making it doubly ominous.

My dad is by far one of the strongest men I know.  Not in the “My dad is stronger than your dad” kind of way (but he probably is, so there).  He had a full ride scholarship to UD back in the day as a Linebacker – They even nicknamed him Moose.  And he seems just as strong now as ever.  He was just helping us take down some trees a few weeks ago.

But even bigger and stronger is his sense of loyalty and love.  Like any family – we have had our share of mishaps, misinterpretations and growing pains.  But one thing has remained constant…I have always known my daddy loves me.  So that makes me a lucky girl right there!

Through the years I may have questioned some of his choices…but as is common – when I became an adult and parent myself – forgiveness was granted as I realized – he is human. So I traded my judge gown and gavel for a pair of big girl pants and honest, unyielding smile.

That was only several years ago, sad to say.  It took me nearly 40 years to really get it.  But – at least I did get it.  And ever since then I have had the most honest-open moments with the people I love the most – including dear old dad. 

But, as you may know or have heard…when facing a crisis like this, people become a little more candid…a little more focused on the real…less worried about hurting feelings and just saying what is on their mind.  They don’t have time to waste.  Wake up call time. 

Dad and I were chatting this weekend.  He has never been one to talk on the phone…I would be lucky to get 2 minutes out of him before.  Not this time.

And what he had to say was almost as shocking as the diagnosis…only in the other extreme direction.   Over the course of our conversation he said that I had taught him how to love…how to really love and forgive…and move on…and mean it – unconditionally. 

I had to laugh out loud! I was thinking in my head…Dude – Labrador Reincarnate…you ARE the master…YOU taught ME!  Love is as love does.  I was just doing what he always has taught me – love till it hurts. 

But you see – I have put him through more than his share of worries through my 40 years.  Nearly all of his amazing silvery gray hair (oh how we will miss his unruly Einstein coif) could possibly be attributed to lil’ ol’ me.  Talk about questionable choices…I have made more than my share, again and again…and paid the consequences. 

As a parent – I now understand how you can blame yourself for your children’s pain and struggles.  It is sometimes impossible to separate us from them.  He wishes he could’ve done more, said more, helped more…etc.”. 

So, just as he has some regrets of his own that he has to live with…I have mine.  But, at some point you just have to stop regretting, and start living!  How about I agree to give both you and myself a break, if you do the same?!  Revelation.

Both he and I are Libras.  I don’t put a ton of stock on horoscopes…but I can’t deny some larger character patterns.  We have had our extreme swings from right to left…trying to find our place – weighing all options…yearning for balance.  But it seems we have both found our equilibrium.  How lucky we are to be there at the same time!

He has watched me digging in the dirt, screaming at the sky, grasping for relief from pain and sadness and anger through different times of my life.  But I am so thankful that he also got to watch me transform into this new creature – what I was always meant to be.  Peaceful. 

My name even means peaceful meadow.  5 years ago, you may have thought my name meant something more like hurricane, poisonous porcupine, at war, or tidal wave.  Dad has got to watch me go from prickly, annoying, self-destructive worm to shining (well…mostly), positive and whimsical butterfly…ok – that’s a little much…let’s just settle on goofy moth flying thingy… 

Where I had once harbored resentment and anger, I now focus on forgiveness and contentment. I stopped using my circumstances as a handicap, and shifted my perspective from victim and captive martyr to survivor – free, worthy and full of potential…brand new!   

One of his more questionable moves back in my youth was when he took us all to see the late night showing of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  He loved PF and thought this was a concert footage movie.  He had no idea how horrific the imagery was.  We laugh about this now.  But how ironic…The Wall.  We have crashed through a wall despite ourselves.  The wall that divides has crumbled in peace. 

Both Dad and I agreed.  Peace is found – somewhere between acceptance and forgiveness.  Life is just too short.  Too short to waste on petty disagreements that left unaddressed can become unmovable mountains of resentment.  People die trying to climb those hills alone. 

Also – you don’t have to love till it hurts.  Love shouldn’t actually hurt…until you have to lose that someone – but even then…there are memories, thankfulness, and hope.  But the act itself of loving…and receiving shouldn’t really hurt.  If it does – maybe a few adjustments are in order.  Usually that means self-perspective adjustments…because if you think you can “fix” anyone, you are in for a surprise. 

We also agreed that you can’t make anyone else see that truth…they have to see it for themselves.  Time spent not loving…is simply time wasted.  You have to surround yourself with positive – likeminded people.  Time wasters will only bring you down…because it is exhausting watching them waste away the hours, days, years.  Just like we once did. 

But no more wasted years for us.  Because Love is – as Love Does. It has no choice but to be…and do.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who taught who, because there is probably a little bit of truth in both sides.  I am currently an understudy of my two daughters who are teaching more about love than I feel I could ever teach them.  It is an active, living, breathing two-way street…as it should be and will be for as many days, weeks, months, years, or decades as we have. 

The unmarried married

So I recently posted pictures of the rings Will and I exchanged as we dedicated ourselves to each other. Everyone HAD to know – did you just exchange rings or did you officially get married?

Folks…what is the difference? Is it more important to vow yourselves before God or a state? Is it more important to make a promise, an oath, a forever statement to your heavenly Father and each other, or to the government so they can tax us differently and put us in a different category?

In my past I have done the official state thing. And somehow I got more caught up in the whole “on paper” thing, name changes, official signatures, etc. that I feel like it detracted from what was really important. The heart.

Another thing that has happened with me before is that the moment all the dog and pony show stuff was over…I was left feeling a little empty. Unfulfilled. Like everything was riding on that one big moment and from there forward it was a downhill ride. Guilty as charged. And THAT is NOT how it should be. And the sad thing is that I hear this a lot from many couples.

I have a good friend whose marriage is still going beautifully strong. On her wedding day one of her friends got up and said something like, “I hope today is the day you love each other the least”. That confused my very immature brain at the time because I was still thinking upside down. I was still thinking immaturely about the goal of every little girl…to grow up, meet a prince and get married, married, married. The end.

Folks…that is dangerous thinking. After doing that twice…I am here to say – I finally get the statement that was made at that wedding all those years ago. It resonated in my brain for a long time. And now I finally get it. And I have shifted my goals as well.

My goal in this marriage is to act like I’m not married at all. To act like we are still kids dating, exploring, respecting and loving each other like it was our last day together. Rushing home from work because 9 hours apart was just a little too much. Considering the other’s feelings above our own. Longing looks – just because. And lots and lots of wrestling around, playing and laughing!!!

I hope today is the day I love that man the least. When I look back at our first dates, when I was falling in love and even back to the moment we first said outloud “I love you” – I realize how much MORE I love him now. So years from now – I hope to look back at today and think…wow – I thought I loved him “then”…look at us NOW!

There are a few of you that have achieved this. I can see it. Others see it. You know who you are too. You can feel it when you are set apart like that. Cheers to you for the inspiration and beauty you have made in the world. And not because it is easy. Not because your life is perfect. Not because every day is roses and chocolate. Because you are real, and you really love each other – no matter what – and more every day. You have made a strong and concious decision.

This weekend I said I do. Not, I did. It’s the purest joy I have ever felt. All because my goal on that day and even today – is that at this moment in time I loved my sweetheart less than I will tomorrow and years to come. And when you see us years from now, kissing in public and laughing out loud like college kids, you’ll think…they act like the most unmarried married couple I have ever seen.

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