My New Home

Welcome to my new home!

Sometimes one change can catalyze renewal and rejuvenation. Opportunities happen. Doors begin to open. I hope turns to I will. And there’s nothing like feeling the texture of a new beginning.

I’m excited to debut my new site today. The fabulous Sarah Fite of Momalom built this awesome site for me. I’m grateful for her insight and creative inspiration.

In many ways, writing in this space offers refuge. A place I call mine, where I muse about my life.

And now for the technical stuff: If you subscribed to my site via email, you will have to do it again at the new place. Thanks so much for your lovely support. It means more to me than you will ever know.

Join me, won’t you? A home always feels more welcome with friends.

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On Mothers and Meaning

My daughter decided to give me her Mother’s Day Gift on Tuesday. When I picked her up from school, she hopped into the car with a stapled white bag. As soon as she buckled her seat belt, she said, “Momma, Happy Mother’s Day!” I tried to tell her Mother’s Day is Sunday, not today, but she insisted I open her gift. I asked her a few questions about Mother’s Day and what she thought it meant, and she said, “My teacher told us that our mothers work hard for us and so we should work hard and do something nice for them.”

I smiled as she said this. As I opened the bag, I saw her eyes get wider and wider. I reached into the bag and pulled out a pink construction paper card, with a big heart, and inside I saw the words, “Happy Mother’s Day! I love you.”  Inside there was a box that had a heart, that said “I Love You Mom!” with blue and pink sparkles on it. On the back of it, there was a pin. She crafted a heart brooch.

“Look Mommy, it’s a pin. You can wear it. Wear it now!” she commanded me to put in on and of course, there was no hesitation on my part. I slipped it on and for the remainder of the day, my daughter kept asking, “Do you love your gift, Momma ?”  I told her this little heart made me so happy and I gave her two kisses on each cheek and held her close.

I’m wondering if I will remember this exchange twenty years from now. This thought comes to mind because my own mother asked me the other day if her own life has meaning. My mom never worked outside of the house and has spent most of her life caring for others. She does what she can, but sometimes I’m not appreciative of all of the good aspects of who she is. I am a constant critic and more than once I’ve been hard on my mom. Since she lives with us, sometimes my words speak of frustration. I take her for granted. I know that. But I want her to know that she, her presence has meaning. That she shouldn’t underestimate the value of motherhood.

I will always remember her asking me if I’ve eaten, if I’ve gotten enough sleep and in unexpected moments, she tells me, she is proud of me. There are times those eating and sleep questions annoy me, but in reality, my mother is the only one who will ask those questions of me. And when her voice isn’t part of my day to day life, I will miss it. I anticipate that a dull ache will be forever a part of my life.

Mom, I love you. I want you to remember all of the crafts, pictures and gifts both R and I have given you. Because as much as you may have forget those moments, they have meaning. And so does your presence, even though I may not always acknowledge it.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, who in her own way gives my life meaning.

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The Goodness of Stick Figures

She draws without any reservation. Her bucket is filled to the top with crayons named Cerulean and Tickle Me PInk. In the corner of our living room, she carves out a space, where comfort exists in a piece of paper, her colors, and imagination. The blank page fails to intimidate her. She craves to fill it up. With tenderness. With love. With stick figures.

It was midafternoon on Monday, the markers of ordinary life littered our home. Dishes in the sink, laundry lazing around in the basket, and bills screaming to be paid.  My monotony was interrupted by my daughter’s voice, the pull of her tone, urged me to stop and listen to what she had to say. Her hands held two pictures she drew, one of me and her father, the other of our house, sitting under a rainbow.

A blur took over as I sensed the wetness forming in corner of my eyes. My emotions mimicked the rainbow in her drawing, sunshine and rain melting together. And within these two emotions, a burst of goodness filled my body. It came at the exact right time. My heart angled toward my daughter, as she explained to me, that her Momma and Daddy and her house make her happy.

This moment was something I wanted to hold on to. Everyday she draws at least five pictures for me. They all are in folder near my desk. Everytime she gives me a new picture, I want to preserve that innocence and love in a jar. There will be a day when she tires of this act. I know it. It will be replaced by filling the page, but probably to notes to friends, letters to boyfriends, or her own journal entries.

The colors will be donated and the space in the corner will be a memory I can only recall. But  when I see those stick figures years from now, I’ll be reminded of that burst of goodness that struck me on an otherwise ordinary Monday afternoon.

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Do you have these bursts of goodness? Does your child draw regularly? Are your surprised by what they see? Do their drawings give you comfort? 

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Surrendering To Uncertainty

When it happened, I felt a little embarassed that she caught me.

On Saturday morning, I drove to the local gym for my weight lifting class.  In the middle of an hour session, the instructor asked us to add more weight to our barbell. Instead of listening and paying attention to the task at hand, my right arm reached for my purse, pulled out my phone, and checked my email and text messages.

While I checked my “important” messages, I heard a voice in surround sound bellow, “Oh, I love it. Multi-tasking at its best. Checking your phone in between lifting weights.” I look up, knowing the instructor’s sarcastic comments were directed toward me.  The echo of her words prompted me to put my phone away and pretend like she wasn’t talking about me.

For most of the weekend, I pondered  her comment and wondered why it had such an affect on me. I’ve noticed a trend in my own behavior especially when it comes to my phone. I have this constant need to check it at all times of the day. Sometimes I check the news, other times it’s my email or my google reader or my blog stats or to make certain I’m not missing a “important” phone call message.

It reeks of addiction, but that seems like too easy of an explanation for my taste. I’ve realized that I’m unable to cope with uncertainty. I’ve always craved to be in the know. I’m tuned into CNN or MSNBC, making certain that I don’t miss an important headline. When the information wasn’t readily accessible with the advent of phones and computers, I recall watching the nightly news or fetching the paper. If I’ve sent an email or text, I want to be aware of a possible response the moment it arrives. Why the need for this, I’m not quite sure. And why I need all of this sometimes extraneous information is still is a mystery to me.

I attribute part of this need to be plugged in as a reluctance to surrender to uncertainty. It’s why I don’t like to fly. Or why I need to have printed and emailed directions when I am going to a new place. When my husband has a date night planned, I need to know where we are going and what we are doing. I am uncomfortable with uncertainty although I recognize intellectually that there are very few things that I can control.

It’s the need to busy myself at all times so I don’t have the luxury of thinking about the future. Because thinking about five years or ten years from now, makes me feel anxious and nervous. It’s the ultimate monster of uncertainty.

But I’m looking at the gym embarassment as a wake-up call. I won’t be bringing in my phone to my workouts anymore. I’m going to try to be uncertain for at least one hour of everyday. No checking phones or computers or turning on the news.

It’s a small leap, but I am going to try to surrender to the uncertainty.

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Are you constantly plugged in to your phone? Are you comfortable with uncertainty? How do you cope with not being in the know? 

Image by Horia Varlan

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I Am Growing Up

Yesterday my daughter slipped down from the couch and jumped in the middle of the living room and said, “Momma, guess what? Do you know I am growing up?” Her smile was vibrant, her eyes sparkled with a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t answer her question because by saying yes, I’d have to acknowledge that time is moving forward.

I still remember her kicking me inside of my belly. She danced in there, especially on my road trips between Waco to Dallas. I would sing to music to make the highway drive go faster and I could tell that she rocked it out in my stomach by all of the flip-flops I felt inside me.

Those days are a memory. Now I watch her dance. In the last few weeks, I’ve caught her meshing together moves with her feet and arms, and I watch as a carefree energy envelops her. And I’ve witnessed other grown-up actions. She picks out her own clothes. She combs her own hair. She brushes her teeth. She puts her plate and glass in the kitchen sink when her breakfast is finished. She says words like transportation and fragile and skills.

It sometimes sends me into panic mode, watching her evolve into a young little girl. So many times I want to say stop. Let us linger in this moment, where you still may need me. Where you still want to kiss my cheek and give me impromptu hugs. Where the space that feels the most comfortable to you is the one that has me in it.

It’s not stopping. I know it. As she went to bed yesterday, she told me, “Momma, I know that unicorns aren’t real.”

I wanted to say. Yes, honey, I know they aren’t real too.

But I said nothing. My sigh held back my tears. I said under my breath, she is growing up.

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When did you realize that your child was growing up? Are you comforted or distressed by the passing of time? What will you miss the most when your child does grow up?

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Sliding Into Happiness

                                                            

                                                           If you want to be happy, be.  ~Leo Tolstoy

White baby powder made the surface slick, so that the discs could glide against the lacquered plywood. On weekend nights, in my childhood home, my family and I made a ritual of playing the Indian game Carrom, a type of table shuffleboard. My Mom and Dad would team up against my sister and me. We would laugh as each of us tried to out maneuver the other. In the background, music would play on the stereo, everything from Michael Jackson songs to the hits of Bollywood India. There would be popcorn, Sour Patch Kids, and Coca-Cola on ice. It wasn’t about playing the game, but spending time in our living room, being together and enjoying how we all slid into the moment.

I didn’t think it would be possible to replicate that slide, until one summer night in 2008. My husband, my daughter, and my sister decided that we would spend the night at my parent’s house. As we were finishing dinner, my sister grabbed the Carrom board out of the garage and announced, “I think it’s time we introduce your husband and daughter to the greatness of Carrom.”  I laughed as we all filed into the living room. I felt a tiny burst inside of me, curious as to how they would feel about this game.

We all sat down, crossing our legs on the floor, the smell of the familiar baby powder grazed my nose. At one point, my husband was teasing my mom about how she maneuvered the disk onto the board and snorted a quick laugh as she missed. My daughter would try to distract us by scooping the discs on the board, as we yelled, “Don’t touch that.”  My father smiled, coaxing his granddaughter to play, even though she understood no rules of game.

As I reflect on this now, I pause, replaying that moment in my mind. There were smiles on everyone’s faces, as each of us were immersed in the moment. I wasn’t chasing anything. All of the people who loved me and who I have loved were contained in my space at the same time. It was the perfect way of being.

And that is why I recognize this as ultimate happiness.

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Is just being enough to fulfill the definition of happiness? Do any particular board games offer feelings of nostalgia and happiness? Why do we struggle to just be?

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Life Goes On

  In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: It goes on. — Robert Frost

This week, my entire family fell like dominoes. My daughter and I started feeling sick, aches, sniffles and fever persisted for a few days for both of us. While we were recovering, my mom and my husband succumbed to the same virus. At one point, each one of us, laid in bed, unable to move because we were too sick to do anything.

The entire house was quiet. But the noise of the outside world creeped on. I heard cars moving about on the streets, people slamming doors, and the cries of children coming home from school. Noticing the forced quiet in our house, while contrasting it with the noise from outside, I was struck by this single thought: life goes on. Our cars stayed in the garage, the front door didn’t open or close, and our home phone probably rang once during the week. But the rest of the world, it was moving on, with or without us.

My daughter missed four days of school, but the classroom still carried on without her. The same moms who climbed in and out of there cars waved to each other, even though I wasn’t there. Runners lined the street in the morning jogging on the gravel, even though I wasn’t there to run behind them.

I realize what we were feeling was temporary. We eventually would be able to participate in our normal life soon. But  it really made me think how all of us carry on, despite what happens in and around and to us.

I thought of Robert Frost and why he articulated the words, that “it goes on.” In his life, he was plagued by extreme grief and loss.When Frost was only eleven, he lost his father and his family had only eight dollars to their name. Years later, at age twenty-six, he lost his mother to cancer. His sister also was committed to a mental hospital where he witnessed her death at a young age. Robert Frost and his wife Elinor endured tragic deaths of their children: his son Elliot died of cholera at age eight; his daughter Carol committed suicide at age thirty-eight;  and his daughters Marjorie and Elinor both died young. Later in life, his wife was stricken with breast cancer and also died.

Whether trivial or tragic, there are no exceptions. Life goes on.

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Do you sometimes wonder how people carry on despite what they experience? How does life go on for you? Why do you believe life goes on? 

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Running Toward What ?

Growing up, I was the girl who wanted to achieve. That meant several things. In high school, for instance, I wanted to learn French, but I decided to take Latin. Why? Because Latin would help me excel at the Sat’s. I remember the end of my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine, told me to  “find out my rank.” Without hesitation, I marched into the library and asked the woman with the computer printouts, where I ranked in my class after one year of high school. I had gotten good grades but was a little surprised to hear that I ranked high in my class.

I believe that single incident is when the word achievement really took shape for me.

That moment in the library in the summer of 1987 provided me with the feeling of performing on Broadway.   I really envisioned lights around my name. In my tiny world, achievement was most clearly defined by a number, a rank, a grade point average, a SAT score, and so on. And I lived true to that world I created. I graduated at the top of my class with honors in high school.  For the next ten years after high school, I spent it educating myself and running toward what I thought was achievement. I obtained three degrees, a political science degree, a master’s degree, and a law degree all in the name of success.

I sacrified so much of my self during those ten years. Any deviation from a stellar grade point average, I would cry and deem myself failure. It was the number that motivated me, the  success seemed  so real when I got the good grade. Anything less, well, that wasn’t achievement. There were voices that whispered along the way that tempted me to try something different, something less “achievement” oriented like, a stint in the Peace Corps or a summer abroad or a class in musical theory. But I ignored those voices, because I was building a resume.

During much of those ten years, I never took a break. I never reflected. I remember my now husband telling me, after I graduated with my undergraduate degree, to take a year off to really decide how I wanted shape the rest of my life. I didn’t listen. I told him that it was a waste of time to take a year off and that I was on track to graduate from law school and become a lawyer by a certain time frame. All in the name of running toward achievement.

It’s been almost four years since I’ve actively practiced law, the remnants of that life seem like a skeleton of my previous self. All those years of running and I am not even practicing in the career that I deemed an achievement.

I spent more time running, rather than listening.

Now I look back at those times and I ponder, what was I running toward ?

I’m not completely certain. But what I do know is that I have the tools to teach my daughter that she can run, but she needs to listen to her own internal whispers, the ones that may tell her to deviate or explore.

That’s the definition of true achievement.

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How do you define achievement? Do you agree that society pressures us to think of achievement in one particular way? 

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Cherish The Mundane

The last two days the mundane seemed quite illusive. I didn’t go for my morning run, didn’t drive my daughter to school, and did very little writing. The routine was completely interrupted by colds. My daughter laid on the couch, with a high fever, headache, and sniffles. The usual conversation, running around, were brought to a abrupt stop. While she laid down, I did too. I was overcome by congestion, cough and a fever too. We both slept most of the day Monday, only taking breaks to eat some soup, go to the restroom, and take some medicine. There was an exhaustion that I couldn’t seem to shake and it made me sad that my daughter felt the same way.

Just twelve hours ago, we were both engaged in our normal day to day activties. Activities that, at least, I take for granted. Without thinking about it, I brushed my teeth, went on my morning run and chaperoned my daughter to a community Easter Egg hunt. Everything was so easy. I also recall vacuuming our living room, making my daughter’s lunch for school the next day, and writing out my to-do list for the week. It was all done without effort, and without much thinking. I remember my daughter asking me a million questions, humming around the room. The idea of sitting down and being quiet is something that is too troubling for her. She always moves, with an energy and a sense of vibrancy. I don’t always understand it, but admire this part of her personality because it is so raw and genuine.

I looked over at her on Monday afternoon. We were both running fevers and she whispered to me, “I feel sick Momma.” The only thing I could repeat back was, “I know. I feel the same way.” I wasn’t in any capacity to try and comfort her, except for patting her on her legs and making certain she drank fluids every few hours. I wished that she wasn’t laying on the couch, spiritless, without any color to her face. I wished we were both engaging in our normal activities, eating breakfast, driving to school, just walking around immersing ourselves in and around the mundane.

As a society, we place to much emphasis on escpaping the boredom of everyday life. After these last few days, the boredom seems so attractive to me. Waiting in the car pool lane at my daughter’s school, going grocery shopping, and washing dishes interests me in a way I can’t explain. It’s here, I believe, that beauty lives, the ability to participate in life, despite how pedantic the task may appear. Because cherishing the mundane is certainly a privilege. But we miss the beauty of the everyday, unless involuntarily, we are reminded again.

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Do you cherish the mundane? How so? Is there extra emphasis on the word excitement in your household? Do you take the mundane for granted? 

Image by |Chris|

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Do You Live Without Regrets?

“The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~ Unknown

My first meeting with “Carpe Diem” was when I was a sophmore in English class. It was a novel phrase when I was introduced to it,  almost twenty years ago, the idea that we should all live our life by “seizing the day.”  The popular aphorism, at least for me, gained momentum  when I watched  Robert William’s’ character in Dead Poet’s Society and remember the speech where he says “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

What does seizing the day exactly mean?  And how do you build the everyday into a lifetime of having no regrets? Is it even possible to live a life without no regrets? I am not really certain I have an exact answer to this question. In writing this post, I decided to list out my regrets. Although the list wasn’t acres long, it wasn’t short either. The regrets moved from the general to the specific to the microscopic. But they were there, staring, making eyes at me.

I think we’ve all had moments of words we want to take back or pathways we wished we had taken or not taken or advocated for different actions in our personal or professional relationships. These “regrets” are what shape us and in a larger sense are a part of how we progress as individuals. Implicit in having no regrets is the idea that every word, every action, every step you took was perfect. And I think that is an idealistic and unrealistic viewpoint.

I’ve been struggling with this notion that the present is where existence lives, chanting to myself, now, not the past, but now. Part of me is mad at myself for not really adopting this philosophy to the fullest, because it is the one that would allow me to at least have a shot at living a life without no regrets. But I’ve realized, by looking at my list, that I’ve come to terms with some of those regrets. I’m not someone who can casually utter the phrase, “No regrets.” To be frank, I’m not quite sure what people mean when they say it. I’ve concluded their definition of regrets and mine might differ.

The regrets I can live with. You know why? For me, it means examining my life, my choices, and my relationships. It’s more important to me to have examined life, than the life without no regrets.

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What do you think of the phrase “No regrets”? Do you think it is possible to live a regret free life? Do you seize the day? What does that mean to you? 

Image by superfem

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