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.

 

 

 

If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

Re-Defining Moments

reflective drop

Sometimes the moments that turn our world upside down…are the very moments that bring shining clarity.

Defining moments. Do you have one? Or several?

It’s hard to believe that my defining moment was over 5 and a half years ago. Time is a weird thing. Because it seems like these really big moments – moments that change everything, like a birth of a child, or a death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis – are both like yesterday and a life time ago at the same time.

For me, it was the moment I gave up. I surrendered to my demons. Depression had won. I will spare the terrifying details, but I am incredibly lucky to have survived to tell about it.

I choose to write about this now and then for a few reasons. I don’t want to ever forget it, or take my life for granted. And I promised to find a way to make that terrible negative into an incredible positive…though at the time, I had no idea what that even meant or if it were even possible.

At the time it was termed a break down. But since the years have passed, it has turned into my break THROUGH. Break away. Break loose. Break free. Break ANYTHING but, down.

But no one had a way of knowing that. And it’s not a common thing. Most people that go through something like that don’t bounce back. If anything, they become a repeat statistic and a disabled victim of society.

So people steered clear and waited…holding their breath to see what might become of me. Heck. I was one of those people too. I had no idea if I had what it took to rise above and become a fully functioning person again. For months it was like walking on thin ice for sure.

But to their surprise…and even more to mine…I am kicking some break-through ass over here people! I mean can I get a witness? And this is not a bragging moment about how great I am. This is a bragging moment about how THANKFUL I am! I mean this could have easily gone south and be a very dark story – probably on a grave stone.

So what set me apart from the stats? How did I beat the odds of becoming a revolving door into the psyche ward of what I have termed “catch and release”?

In one simple and easy word…Perspective.

It sounds too damn easy, right? So easy, it’s elusive. A trick. Too good to be true.

But here is the thing. Changing your perspective is not as easy as it sounds. It’s the same reason addicts rarely can break their chains. Chemicals carve deep canyons of darkness into our brains that make it almost impossible to climb out of in order to create new paths, and carve new canyons of light.

Changing your perspective is not as easy as just making a quick rash decision or new year resolution. It requires intense, thoughtful, soul searching reflection. It requires active intention…followed by actual actions. And then repetitive, intentional, thoughtful actions. Then follow up to those actions, and so on. It’s actual work!

Actions reaching toward a defined goal. Just as if you were working out. This is like a work out for your brain, emotions and soul. And instead of a goal of getting your body fit and healthy…your goal is to get brain and emotions fit and healthy. Just like working out – you have to be committed and do it even on the days you don’t feel like it! (And physically working out doesn’t hurt either).

And people…NEVER, EVER, discount the possibility or need to take doctor prescribed medication. It is really, really foolish to think you don’t need it. It’s as foolish as a diabetic refusing their meds. And in time, you may or may not even need them…but if a medical professional recommends it…for God’s sake try it. Depression is a chemical imbalance. Take it from me…Depression cannot be beaten on prayers alone.

I equate medication to a catalyst that flings you towards your goal of getting healthy. No matter how hard I had tried to break free of my dark canyon, I couldn’t jump high enough without that damn medication. As much as I may hate to admit it…it was just the kick in the ass I needed.

Each day I took baby steps. I had no idea what to expect. I just knew I had to keep taking one little step at a time. It required getting out of my comfort zone. Letting go of the past. Cutting off destructive people in my life. And most of all…finding the beauty in the every day life that was all around me. Everything that I took for granted before, was now like a child like wonder.

I didn’t know at the time how pivotal that last point was going to be in my life. I had always been a nature nut, but I didn’t know it was going to change me or save my life.

In my quest to go out and find beauty right where I was, I ended up discovering a whole new world I didn’t know really existed – right under my nose…under my feet…all around.

Rebuilding myself was not easy. It honestly was like being reborn. Maybe that is why it all came together the way it did. I had become child like. As if I were breathing, walking and seeing things – all for the first time.

I started going out and looking at frost up close for the first time – with the stubborn curiosity of a child. And what I found was extraordinary! The sheer detail in one tiny flake of frost is incredibly fascinating and humbling. Then I started studying individual snowflakes. And in the spring it was all about the morning dew drops

on ordinary grass and weeds that transformed the yard into sparkling jewels and reflective drops.

And now…I find it everywhere. Beauty in nearly everything. That has spilled over into many other areas of my life. I am more patient, kind, and forgiving – but far, far from perfect, and I don’t get it right every time. My kids and husband will be the first to tell you, I am still have limits and can lose my mind now and then. And there are still people in my life that present ever growth building potential. : )

The goal has never been perfection anyway! And that should never be your goal for anything either! That only sets you up for failure and giving up.

The goal is just baby steps forward, every day, toward some kind of goal. That’s all I still continue to do now. I just update my goals from time to time to keep me reaching and growing. Even when I take a few steps backwards…I am still so much farther forward than I was almost 6 years ago.

Newsflash…that’s all any successful person is doing anyway! Taking baby steps forward and totally winging it! I was reminded of that when I watched Cast Away this weekend. Great movie, and there is a line in there where he says, “I just had to keep breathing, and keep going. One day at a time”.

Look. There is no road map to any of this. But know you are not alone in any of this as well. Nature Nut stuff may not be your thing, and that is ok. But find something. Find your inner nerd child/kid and run with it like your life depended on it.

Life is short. Life is unfair. Life is hard. All obvious clichés. But life is also full of crazy beauty. Find it.

I share a lot of the beauty I find now with others online. Sometimes people are just as amazed as I was at some of these sights. And that spurs me on to keep going and dig even deeper. It’s not just for myself now, but helping others find the beauty right where they are too.

What started out as one day at a time, one photo at a time, has become a real passion. I am not the best photographer by any means. I don’t go out thinking I’m going to get the greatest shot ever. I just have fun. In my mind, I’m just a kid with a camera on a scavenger hunt. Cause that’s just it – I never know what I might find. And 9 times out of 10 the best picture I get any given day is a shot I had not planned on getting.

Look me up on Instagram @findbeautywhereyouare and if you find some amazing beauty right where you are – #it to #findbeautywhereyouare

It’s my little movement and tribute to jumping out of my dark canyon into a new lighter, sillier path. It would be the best compliment ever and be one more baby step toward making that negative into something positive, and towards something much bigger than me.

 

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

 

The Perspective of Beauty – Get Close

Living in the Midwest can sometimes make it hard to find beauty right where you are. With the extra brutal winters of late and string of rainy days, it can feel like only gray and brown exists. Cabin fever sets in. Restlessness. Even depression.

And if you can’t afford to get away for a break – it can feel like you are stuck in some forsaken, barren land.

Well – that’s at least my take on it. Or…it was for many years.

I used to think – if ONLY I could get to somewhere with clear tropical waters, flowers in abundance, sunshine and life! THEN I could find some beauty.

Over the past few years I have launched a new quest for myself and sanity to find beauty right where I am. Right in my own back yard…at any given time of the year.

It has required some childlike perspective and open mindedness. It has required me to get close and deep and sometimes in uncomfortable angles to get close enough to see it.

For example. What do you see here?

frost on bench 038

Just a plain old bench.

But wait…it frosted last night. AGAIN! I am so sick of frost and cold!

Yet…Take a closer look.

frost on bench 015

Still…nothing super amazing I guess. But what if you looked even closer and harder?

frost on wood bench

Dude…What is this? Diamonds? Crystals?

Click on the picture to see it even closer and it really comes to life.

Wow! That’s it! Beauty. Right here in the gray boring Midwest. Right there on my patio bench. Hiding right under my nose.

Right under your nose too.

Life can be hard. It can drag us down now and then. Sometimes all you want or need is just a little glimmer of hope. Something to look forward to. An unexpected beautiful surprise.

Instead of being frustrated at what feels like an eternal winter or late spring, try to find some amazing hidden beautiful surprise. Something you have probably walked right by a million times but never took the time to get close enough.

Once you find that first hidden beautiful thing, you are going to want to run and share it with someone. It’s pretty powerful. And catching.

Whether it is a water drop on a blade of grass, clouds in an interesting formation, a sun dog, frost up close, or whatever – it is all part of a new perspective that has a way of carrying over into other areas of life.

Good luck finding something completely ordinary, and then finding something completely extraordinary when you take the time.

spring frost 008

get closer…

Frost flower

Find Beauty Where You Are #findbeautywhereyouare

frozen pointing finger

Frozen icy fingers in a creek. #findbeautywhereyouare

 

creek frozen patterns

Ice formations in a creekbed #findbeautywhereyouare

 

frozen wave

Ribbons of ice in a creek #findbeautywhereyouare

 

I am stuck in Ohio. Central Ohio at that. Possibly the most boring, unnassuming place in the world. This is where I ended up and then grew roots, and am now somewhat stuck here for awhile…maybe forever.

In my silent midwest protest, I made up a game for myself. It’s called…Find beauty where you are…or create it.

It has become my mantra. A daily challenge to find beauty right where I am.

I am an amatuer photographer. Just a hobby. I have a decent camera, but not top of the line by any means.

When I head out with a camera, the quest is simple. Find spectacular, unimaginable beauty…right where I am. Mostly in my own backyard. You know…In the breathtaking picturesque expanse known as…Central Ohio. And then share it. Not because I think I am a great photographer…but because I am so amazed by the beauty I am finding I can’t contain myself and want to share it with everyone I know.

It seems my favorite shots are close ups, or macrophotography and abstract photography. Maybe because it opens up a whole new world and perspective I never even knew was there. Like examining frost super up close…you discover the amazing details of the crystaline properties and structures of this tiny little piece of frost. Something I have seen hundreds of times and passed by without a second thought now had unbelievable meaning and beauty to me.

Frost. Up close and personal. #findbeautywhereyouare

Frost. Up close and personal. #findbeautywhereyouare

It makes me want to slow down, and take the time and effort to find the beauty that has always been there, yet I feel like I am seeing for the first time.

It has opened up my eyes and made me hungry for more. How much more beauty is waiting out there to be discovered at just the right lighting, just the right weather conditions? Things I have over looked for years, like water droplets on a flower petal or blade of grass. Completely common things, yet…when viewed up close, become completely extraordinary finds.

Just some dew drops on a blad of grass. #findbeautywhereyouare

Just some dew drops on a blade of grass. #findbeautywhereyouare

It requires me to
1, be curious.
2, Be childlike.
3, Focus – filter out distractions.
4, Get very close to whatever I am trying to capture.
5, Move, change perspectives to get the right angle.
6, Get uncomfortable – brave the elements, get in uncomfortable positions, get out super early on a day off, etc.
7, Not be afraid to look like an idiot. (Being all crouched down in the grass or near a creek as a car or neighbor goes by. I can only imagine what they might be thinking).

It’s no mistake that the above list also applies to some great life lessons about more important things as well.

I started seeking this new perspective because personally, I needed it so I wouldn’t lose my mind, or sink into depression, especially in the seemingly endless gray days of winter. But, what it is turning into is something more beautiful and organic than I could have hoped for. It is catching on. People are saying things like…”You make me want to see the world in a different way”.

This is a very busy time at work for me. During the time when most people are taking extended breaks from work to be with their family and be at home, me and a skeleton crew have been working before dawn and getting home at dark. Not conducive for finding beauty. I was starting to get extremely frustrated.

Coincidentally, and without even knowing what I was dealing with, my friend starts posting these amazing little gems of pictures. Simple, yet amazing pictures of frost on her car window. With her phone of all things. Simple, amazing beauty. Today she posted some pictures of individual snowflakes up close. How I needed that! Here I was stuck in a gray warehouse without any windows, and yet I was still getting to enjoy the beauty of the fresh falling snow through her perspective and camera lens.

And when she commented that her photos were inspired by my challenge of finding beauty where you are…it made me cry lol, but it also made me realize this is so much bigger than me and so much more powerful when shared and reciprocated. Here, I had been trying to inspire others…and what really happened, is that I am the one that got an even bigger blessing by seeing her excitement right when I needed the most.

I called to thank her and it got us talking and thinking. In this day where technology and social media is so prevelant, why not use these platforms as a way to reach a wider audience? There is plenty of other junk out there floating around…why not add some good and positive junk at least?

So…we are launching just that. A little movement of our own. Just for fun. Because we can.

If you want to join in and participate, just search #findbeautywhereyouare

I don’t have any in there yet, but plan on getting some in that folder ASAP.

In the meantime, feel free to share this hashtag and post your own amazing discoveries in your search for finding beauty where you are.

Stay thirsty and silly my friends!!

#findbeautywhereyouare

ice lashes

Tiny hair like “Ice Lashes” #findbeautywhereyouare

ice window

A window of opportunity #findbeautywhereyouare

frozen chaos

Chaotic icy tangles of amazing beauty#findbeautywhereyouare