Clean Those Filthy Lenses, My Friend

Wow, this life is good…this feeling is hitting me especially hard today while reflecting on the week that is ending.  There are challenging days and moments in my rear view, but my heart is so full, and I’m left with a feeling of pride and hope.  I didn’t get a pay raise or promotion.  I didn’t achieve a lifelong goal.  I wasn’t given an extravagant gift or compliment.  Instead my wonderful life-view this week was the accumulation of the ordinary extraordinary moments.

I have weeks like this past week all of the time, as I’m sure you do as well.  I experience these extraordinary moments every day, but the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.  The difference is that many times my lens is out of focus….or more likely covered in dirt and fingerprints….or truly, covered in my worries, heartaches and anxieties.  Have you been there?  Are you there right now, unable to see the beauty before you because you can’t see past your challenges?

the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.

For me and my family, the hard times were there this week.  The sadness of illness, the pure exhaustion of working, keeping a household and having a million kids (okay, maybe we have two kids but it often feels like a million), and the injustices and unfair things that sneaked their way into my world daily.  What is different for me today is that when I look back on this  week, I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

So how do we get there, to the clean lens?  How do we maintain the gratitude that helps us to appreciate the good and to weather the not-so-good?  Here is a simple recipe:

  1. Ask for help when you need it.  Ask with clear, direct requests for the specific things that you need.  Don’t be a martyr or a victim of your situation.  Figure it out and be honest with those around you about how they can help.
  2. Read something that you’re interested in and invest in your own personal growth.  If you’re one that just doesn’t enjoy reading, I get it….but there’s this wonderful thing called Audible.  Download it.  Today.  Make the most of your time driving or bathing or washing the dishes…and put new and wonderful ideas into your mind and soul.
  3. Listen to music and podcasts that make your heart happy and inspired.
  4. Exercise, whatever that means to you.  It may be a five mile run, or it may be a ten minute walk, but move your body and treat it like a temple…it’s the only one you’ll ever have.
  5. Do nothing. No dishes. No laundry.  No cleaning or planning.  When your body and soul tells you that you need to do nothing, just do nothing and be okay with that.
  6. Say yes.  When your son asks you to play cars.  When your daughter asks you to go on a bike ride.  When your spouse begins a conversation, say yes and tune in.  When real joy is offered to you, say yes.
  7. Spend time physically close to your spouse…intimacy is so important and healthy for your relationship and for you as an individual.  We all need to feel physically connected to the person we love.  Hold hands.  Give hugs.  Look them in eye.  Connect.
  8. Be honest about your feelings.  When you’re disappointed, be honest about it.  When you’re struggling, be honest about it.  When you’re mad, be honest about it.  Putting all of those feelings out into the open allows you to deal with them and move on, and then, when the happiness comes, there is clear open space to let the good vibes in.
  9. Eat well.  Think about what you put into your body and treat your food as fuel most of the time…with the occasional mocha muffin splurge now and then.
  10. Don’t hold yourself to all of these things at one time.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Choose progress instead.  One step into the right direction.  One moment at a time.  Being better today than yesterday.  Living in this very moment.

For me this week, my extraordinary moments through my lens of gratitude looked like this:

  • My husband and I met with our children’s teachers for parent-teacher conferences, and got to see our children through their teachers’ eyes.
  • I spent one evening just curled up on the couch with my husband (not so easy at seven months pregnant…the two of us trying to fit on the couch together looks more like like an assault on my furniture than cuddle time, but we took time to make that happen and my soul is happier for it).
  • I saw my son set academic goals for himself and then put in the work to meet those goals.
  • I read my daughter’s latest book where she chronicled our back-to-school shopping adventure, and my heart melted in knowing that time together meant as much to her as it did to me.
  • I watched my son pitch, play first and second base, and get some good hits in at his ballgame.
  • I found my children snuggled up in my son’s bed this morning sleeping like angels, and came across one of those rare moments in between all of the sibling arguments where their love for one another shone through.
  • I went on a bike ride.
  • I had my 27 week OB appointment, heard my baby’s heartbeat again, and felt her move countless times.
  • I had lunch with a good friend, talked about hard things, and also laughed a lot.
  • I had a meal with my parents, sister, niece, nephew and my children.
  • I started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and am loving it.
  • I listened to the Rise Together Podcast by Rachel and Dave Hollis and found myself so inspired that I was in tears.

In this moment I am GRATEFUL.  Just completely grateful.

Friendships that all Women Need

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There is a scientific theory called the law of averages, which says that any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.  Snooze fest, I know.  But Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, took this scientific theory and applied it to us, humans, and that makes this scientific jargon pretty darn interesting.  Rohn theorizes that each of us are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with.  Think about that for a moment, and picture who those five people are for you.  It’s pretty likely that you’ll see a lot of yourself in each of them.

So how is this information useful?

we can build upon who we are today, just by being intentional about who we surround ourselves with

This thought means that we can build upon who we are today, just by being intentional about who we surround ourselves with.  We usually spend time with people that we like, and most of us like people who are very similar to ourselves.  These relationships are comfortable.  But they keep us exactly where we are.  My hope for my readers is that you can look inside yourself and see places for improvement, because I truly believe that personal growth is the key to happiness in life.  The areas in which you are lacking, areas of opportunity if you will, can develop simply by surrounding yourself with someone who has mastered the desired quality.  To think about it a bit more simply, we learn from our friends.

We’ve taught this concept to our children, knowing the concerns we have about our kids falling into the “wrong” crowd, but have we thought about this for ourselves?  For adults, the “wrong” crowd means something different.  The “wrong” crowd for us can be something as harmless as the complainer, the pessimist, the fearful, the uninspired.  The people we truly invest in should be the people who can show us the bright side in this life, those who can put a smile on our face when we can’t seem to muster it on our own, the ones that push us a bit beyond our own limits and inspire us to be our very best self.

The “wrong” crowd for us can be something as harmless as the complainer, the pessimist, the fearful, the uninspired

I made a conscious decision some time ago to be intentional about my friendships, and the results have been incredible.  And here’s the thing, I totally have lifelong friends that I ran around in diapers with, and they feed my soul in a different way with memories, laughter, a special kind of sisterhood.  But for those relationships I foster as an adult, I’m not afraid to say I am choosy, and you should be too.

Here are three examples of ways that my selected She-Tribe have rocked my world in the past few years:

  • I had an insane idea to take a road trip up Highway 1 in California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and I had not only one of these fabulous, brave, adventurous females sign on, but THREE.  Three devoted wives and mothers that saw an opportunity to have an adventure and grow personally, and thought it worth their while to spend their precious life moments with me.  Wow.  Without those ladies, I would have never made that trip, made those memories, or lived an adventurous dream of mine….I’m forever thankful.
  • I have had some personal and professional struggles over the past few months.  Without asking or even communicating what I needed, these women have sent emails, cards, and even small gifts of encouragement, love and understanding.  And even more importantly, they have asked, “How can I help you succeed?”  Every single one of us should be so lucky to have these people in our lives.
  • I have been inspired by their accomplishments.  I see what they do in their daily lives, and I am blown away by their strength, determination and boldness.  Those qualities that I admire make up the woman I aspire to be, and how I want my husband, daughters and son to see me.  These ladies make me want to be better, my best self.

This is not a science (although I started you off with some scientific theory…sorry about that!).  It is truly simple.  There are people you admire in life.  Ask them to lunch. Say hello.  Cut the small talk and have a real conversation with them.  You will be surprised at how open people truly are.  You don’t need to sit down and say in the most un-creepy way, “Hey, I admire you and want to be friends”….although this is something I would probably do….sorry to anyone I’ve creeped out in the past, or will creep out in the future.  It’s as simple as beginning a conversation, and allowing things to progress from there.  You won’t become best friends with everyone you would like to learn from, but you can certainly develop enough of a relationship to soak in some of what makes them so awesome.

Here are a few simple ground rules for me for my She-Tribe:

  • She has to be a “she”.  I have nothing against men.  In fact, some of the professionals that I look up to most in this world are men.  However old fashioned as this may sound, I will always keep my relationships with men professional, while I’ll allow my relationships with women to grow deeper.  I don’t want to form a significant emotional bond with any man who is not my husband.  As a married woman, I see that as inappropriate, and my husband has the same respect for me.  It works for us.
  • She has to be totally rocking something…her health, her mommy-ness, her positivity, her professionalism, her personal-style, her intelligence, her motivation.  Women who rock their lives are confident, happy, and willing to invest in friendship in the same way that I am.  It’s a winning combination.
  • The relationship must be reciprocal.  I’ve had friendships in the past where I thought the other person was great for one reason or the other, but I found myself constantly giving, constantly reaching out, constantly trying, without feeling like I was receiving the same in return.  This one’s simple.  Life is draining enough.  Friendships should not be draining.
  • She doesn’t need fixed.  I used to feel a drive to connect to people I could help, and not in a personal development kind of way, but in a struggling to find themselves kind of way.  I’ve learned that I cannot fix anyone, and shouldn’t.  We are each on our own path, and my way isn’t the right way for you, or her, or him, or anyone else.  Anytime I disrupt someone’s natural path, I am keeping from them from their personal journey.  Fixer just isn’t my place anymore, and it truly never was.

That’s it.  That’s all there is.  I hope you’ll take the time to be intentional in your life.  You deserve it.  You deserve to be surrounded with those who love life, who wish to grow and develop every single day, who rock life, who spend their time in an attitude of gratitude.  You deserve that, and I encourage you to create it if you haven’t already.  And if you have, kudos.  Keep on keepin’ on!  Please share your tips in the comments of this blog/post so other readers can learn from you too.

Make it a great moment, a great day, a great week and a fantastic life!

The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.