Learning to Lean In

Six months ago, to our surprise and joy, my husband and I discovered we would be bringing our third child into this world.  I had just finished my MBA (we actually found out we were pregnant the night before I walked for graduation…talk about one door shutting and another opening!), and I was laser-focused on my next career steps.

My first instinct was to take a step back from my career, to back off from my goals, to wait until after pregnancy, until after maternity leave, until after the re-balancing of life following our newest addition.   I didn’t want to, but rather thought I had to, lean back from my career in order to be a good mom, a good wife, to take care of my family.

I was wrong.

I shared my thoughts with a good friend.  I had been vying for a promotion, and I thought I should bow out now.  I thought that I couldn’t balance both a pregnancy and growth in my career.  Thankfully my friend said, “Don’t do that…don’t leave before you leave.  Lean in.”  My friend, a career-loving parent herself, had started reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg.  I know this book impacted my friend, but the timing of her advice and the introduction of this thought into my life in that particular moment was life-changing.

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I listened to my friend.  I did not slow down.  I did not lean back.  I pressed full force on the gas pedal, and I leaned all the way in.  I was sick, physically sick from the pregnancy.  I could barely eat for the first few months due to crazy food aversions and nauseousness.  I was utterly exhausted all day every day due to anemia brought on by my pregnancy.  I was stressed out between prepping for job interviews, prepping my current role for the next person, showing up as my best self every day for my current job, caring for my two children and husband, and running my household…and dealing with pregnancy hormones (you mommas know what I’m talking about!).  And in that time, we faced a serious illness within our family.

So here I am, six months down the road.  I pushed forward when things were not ideal, and I got the promotion I have been working toward for years…I got my dream job.

The stress isn’t gone, if anything it is now crunch time.  Baby three is due in eight weeks and four days (but who’s counting???).  In those eight weeks, I will train my replacement for my current role, I have taken on a special project within my company that will take place in two weeks (another lean in moment for me), I am continuing to work to excel in my current role until I move, I am beginning to train and work in my new role…and I’m nearly eight months pregnant.  Let’s not forget that I have a family and household to care for, and we’ve tried to make the most of this fall season with Halloween fun, field trips, lots of quality time, prepping the house for baby, along with the usual homework, laundry, baths and daily routine.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m totally looking forward to my maternity leave with my new little nugget.  I’m counting the moments until my sole focus is my newborn and my other two children, until I can be just mom for a bit.  But also, and this part is so vitally important, I am already looking forward to going into my dream career when I return to work after maternity leave.  I’m so thankful that I’ve leaned in to arrive at a place that I am truly excited and ecstatic to be.  I’m so thankful that I’ll be doing work that I find meaningful, setting an example for my children that hard work pays off in the best of ways, that I’ll be providing for my family while fulfilling my own individual goals.

I thought this morning about what my life would look like right now if I had leaned back in that moment six months ago.  I enjoy my current career, and I would still be thankful to work for a company that I believe in and within a role that is challenging every day.  But I would also be watching someone else step into the promotion that I know I am made for…and it would hurt.  I would not have taken on the special project that I’ll be completing in two weeks, and I’d be watching someone else in my spot…and again, it would hurt.  It would hurt for my pride, but it would hurt more so for the opportunity lost.  When I factor in the last six months I’ve spent full-throttle careening toward my goals, the next two months executing the final steps before baby, and my upcoming maternity leave, I would have missed nearly a year out of my career progression had I not leaned in.  A year of my career would have been stopped, stalled, at a standstill.

When we look at professional women and we wonder about things like the pay gap or the glass ceiling, I am convinced it is in these make-or-break moments in life that determine if we continue to advance or stall.  These are the moments that we easily fall behind our male peers, and while it is for a wonderful and fulfilling reason, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make up for.  It would have undoubtedly been easier to stall in this year’s time; however over my lifetime, I will look back and be so thankful for the advice I was given to “lean in” when I was afraid to push myself.

I’m aware that this decision is not for everyone, and I admire and understand those whose choices are different than mine.  Every decision we make has an immediate consequence on our lives and the lives of our family.  For me, as I know it would be for many of you, leaning in was the right decision.

I encourage you to not be afraid, to give every single opportunity your absolute best.  I encourage you to stay engaged in those things you are passionate for up until the very moment that you can’t; I encourage you to not leave before you leave.  There are times that our personal lives take center stage and balance between family and career is impossible, so our focus becomes 100% our family, and that is the way it should be…that is wonderful.  But when that time passes, when it again becomes possible to have our families and continue to pursue our personal goals, it’s important that we’ve given ourselves every option possible, so that the decision to be made, the going back to work, is a happy one, because we’re returning to a career we love, a career that we’ve spent every available moment working toward, a career that we didn’t leave prematurely.

I also encourage you to be the friend in my story. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by strong, career-loving parents.  These are the women and men that help me to see all that is possible in my own life.  Be that driving force, that role model, that source of inspiration when those around you struggle with the work-life balance dilemma.  Be that kind, supportive friend that understands the struggle, but won’t allow someone to quit their dreams.  Be the person not only to say, but to show, exactly what leaning in looks like.

 

 

Real Talk

Appearance.  We all appear to be so many things depending upon who is watching. To some, you may the positive one, the one who lifts others up, the one with just the right words when someone is in need. To some, maybe you’re the super mom/dad, volunteering at your kids’ school, finding time to make healthy lunches, covering homework duty, sports and bike rides. To others, you’re a doting wife or husband, supportive and caring and so in love…even after all these years. And still to others, you’re the consummate professional, striding forward in your career, furthering your education and experience, with your eyes on the prize.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some of these things might even be true about you. You may actually hit these marks most days. My hope is that you are happy and content and thankful in life. But know, that doesn’t mean you can’t also be sad, scared to death and heartbroken at the same time. And it’s okay….in fact, it is absolutely necessary and normal.

My hope is that your are happy and content and thankful in life. But know, that doesn’t mean you can’t also be sad, scared to death and heartbroken at the same time.

I feel the need to write this because the images the world sees, our outward appearance, the FB posts, the public persona, these are the things we choose to share of ourselves.  These tiny slivers of life are never our whole entire self. Not because we try to hide the ugly parts necessarily, but because it’s impossible to be so raw and vulnerable 100% of the time.

The problem this creates is that we as human beings begin to compare our entire lives, our whole entire raw selves, against what someone else chooses to present to the world. We hold our doubt, insecurity and failure apples up against someone else’s Instagram oranges. It’s not a fair comparison. It hurts our hearts and it holds us back from happiness.

We hold our doubt, insecurity and failure apples up against someone else’s Instagram oranges.

So let me give you some real talk about a moment in my life that the world didn’t see this week. I hit a point on Tuesday evening, after work, after the kids’ homework, after supper, after the dishes…I hit a moment when the stresses that I don’t share freely, the battles to just keep this life moving forward piled up for me.  Add to that the hormones of a 7-month pregnant lady, and I hit a moment when I didn’t want to hear the word “Mom” even one more time.  I didn’t want to make anyone ice cream or bathwater…I didn’t want to do anything but sit down and cry. So I did.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Not at all glamorous. Not a proud moment. Not a strong moment. But a real moment. I stole away five minutes to cry and let myself feel exactly how I felt in the moment.

Here’s the deal. That five minutes and all of the difficult things that led me to that moment, are the things that the world doesn’t see. We all have these things, these heavy things, these hard seasons, but we seldom carry them into the light. This fact is why it’s so vital that we remember that what we see isn’t necessarily the full story. We get into dangerous territory when we begin to compare someone else’s sunshine story to our full time life. We all have troubles and difficulties…every single one of us.

Whatever you’re up against, chances are the person you admire has been there too. Take solace in knowing that there is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is an appearance, not a reality.  There is not a soul who has it all together. And let me tell you, if the queen of the PTA does in fact have it all perfectly together like she appears to, kudos to her…no need to bring her down.  However, the other 99% of the population will take comfort in the perfectly imperfect rest of us.

Perfection is an appearance, not a reality.

These hard moments build our character.  We are stronger for the battles we wage.  We are kinder for the hurt that we’ve felt.  We develop empathy and understanding and compassion.  And we learn to recognize how truly blessed we are for the good things in life.

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Let’s keep our heads up, be thankful, remind ourselves that our difficulties too shall pass, and never, ever compare ourselves to another human being. Imitation of another will rob us of our happiness. Only in embracing ourselves, our whole entire messy, ugly, crazy, perfectly designed, beautiful, awesome selves, can we find our path to fulfillment and happiness. So let’s do that…let’s get real and embrace our struggles as our path to becoming a better, stronger, more resilient person.

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.

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.

Best Mom Ever Status????

Something has occurred in my household numerous times over the last….well, I’m not even sure how long…as long as I remember, I guess.  I’ll be snuggling my children on the couch, or at bedtime, or we’ll be sitting down to supper, or we’ll be doing nothing in particular, and my children, my son or my daughter, will look at me and declare, “You’re the best mom ever.”  The statement throws me off every single time.  I usually respond with, “Well I do love you with all of my heart.”  I don’t say thank you, I don’t own that title, I don’t feel deserving…instead, I feel a kind of guilt sweep over me, thinking “No, no I’m the not the best mom ever. I could be so much better.”

Have you ever felt that?  That feeling that you’re being credited with something that just isn’t yours to own…and by the person/people that you love more than anything else on this planet.  Those people that you owe everything to because they bring you the most happiness, the most contentment, the most joy.  A feeling of shame because you can’t or won’t do more for them.  That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

Here are the things that keep me from owning that “Best Mom” status…these are the things that make me feel guilty and less than:

  1. I don’t listen.  I don’t listen to my children.  I started a tradition a long time ago with my children for them to tell me each day about their high and low moment.  I did this out of fear that they would grow up and not talk to me about their lives, so I thought I would open the communication channels early.  Let me tell you, talking is not a problem in my house.  My children talk all the time, non-stop, every moment…about sports cars, YouTube videos, music, video games, friends, teachers, cell phones, animals…you get the idea.  And some times, more times than I care to admit, I nod my head without listening, because I can’t take it all in…knowing full and well a day will come when their chatter won’t fill every moment of my life.  Knowing I shouldn’t take this for granted, but still, I don’t listen.
  2. I feed them crap.  Not literal crap, but you know…poptarts, cereal, Beefaroni, Ramen Noodles, lunchables.  I know these are not healthy choices…far from organic or natural…definitely not fresh or nutritious.  My children deserve healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, and I try to get those things to them them regularly.  But I also just settle for feeding them the instant, easy junk because, well because…it’s instant and easy.  No other excuses.  Along these same lines, I also don’t fix my kids’ lunch for school.  No fancy, pretty bento lunches for the Hafele children.  My daughter actually asked to bring lunch to school the other day, and I just said “No” for no other reason than I don’t want to fix my kids’ school lunch every single evening…or ever.
  3. I haven’t exercised with my kids for a long time.  In the past, I have had great parenting moments where my kids and I ride bikes,go for runs, walk to the park and do all of these great active things together.  But I’ve not had one of those moments for a long time.  For a while because I was finishing my MBA, and now because I’m pregnant and out of shape, but they deserve to have a mom who gets down and plays with them on their level.  The fact that I can’t and haven’t done that, makes me feel nothing short of horrible.
  4. I love to go to work.  I love my job and my career and working.  Even if I had the option to stay home with my children financially, I don’t think that I would.  I love spending time with my children, but my career is fulfilling for me as an unique human being.  I feel challenged by and excited for my career  in a way that is 100% my own, and I’m not willing to give that up.  I grew up in a household where my mother stayed home from work to raise me, so this is a tough one for me.  Don’t my children deserve that same focus and dedication?  Does it make me a bad mom that I’m not willing to sacrifice my professional aspirations to be a full time mom?
  5. I don’t remind them to brush their teeth every single night, I forget to give my daughter her allergy medicine some mornings, I don’t always remember to clean their ears or trim their nails, my daughter’s finger nails aren’t painted, she doesn’t have ear rings in, I don’t watch my son practice ball in our yard, I don’t craft them homemade items, I don’t scrapbook for them, I never finished either of their baby books, I fail at turning in their paperwork 5/10 times, I watch movies with them that other parents would think are too mature for them, I listen to music with them that has cuss words in it, I feel irritated when I have to stop my podcast in the morning because my bathroom has been overrun by my children, sometimes I just want a break and then I miss them like crazy when they’re gone, some days I don’t want to do tuck-ins at bedtime, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and 100,000,000 other things I that do wrong or at least not perfectly.

This list could go on forever.  But the truth is that I love my children deeply and wildly.  I thank God for them every single day, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.  And for all of my faults, I truly do the best that I can.  My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

So certainly, I am not perfect, and the older I get the less I try for perfection.  But maybe through the laughter we share, through the hugs and the kisses, through the silly faces and dances, through the homecooked meals and dinners at the table that I do get accomplished, through setting an example for them of what hard work and passion looks like, through dedication and devotion to their father, through forgiveness and understanding, through real conversations about the joyous and hard things in life, through moments in the garden, through movie nights on the couch, through family fun days…maybe through these moments, I deserve the best mom status.  Best for them, my children, my gift, my greatest accomplishment.  Maybe next time I hear those words, I can feel pride and not shame.  Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe we all can do just that…and take pride that our children see us as we actually are, not in the flawed ways that we see ourselves.

Making This Year’s Resolution Just For You

This is the time of year that we all start to look back and reflect.  Although we know that time is continuous, it is hard not to feel like one door is closing and a new, bright, shiny door is opening. I have been thinking about 2017 over the past few weeks, trying to recall what I have accomplished, where I have grown, what made me smile and how I spent my time.

The single, over-powering memory that crowds my thoughts is the hours upon hours of studying.  I completed six MBA courses in 2017…and it was hard.  It took most of my free time, and the focus and dedication it required, stole some of my happiness.  While I am proud of my accomplishment, a particular sadness hovers over the fact that school is my most vibrant and lasting memory of the entire year.

I woke up this morning and began to look back at my pictures, blogs and FB statuses in order to see where else I spent my time.  I saw pictures and blogs from early 2017 when we were worried that Jera, my then 4-year old, may have cancer due to an asymmetric enlarged tonsil.  It brought back the memories of her tonsillectomy and waiting for test results that followed.  I thought about how grateful we were when those results came back cancer-free.  I am thankful to have a healthy and vibrant 5-year old today.

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I saw Facebook status updates on my mother-in-law’s surgery to remove her second brain tumor.  I thought about the journey she has been on, and our journey with her, as she has dealt so bravely with renal cell carcinoma (and when I say dealt so bravely, I mean kicked a**).  Pardon my language, but it is what it is.  I think about her recent test results that showed no new tumors and how truly thankful we are to have her in our lives every day.

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I thought about losing my grandfather, Linus Knebel, and in doing so, watching my father lose his father.  I thought about how brave my grandpa was the last time I saw him and how strong my dad was in letting him go to be with God.  And in thinking of these milestones, I thought about how grateful I am for my own parents.  How truly blessed I am to have them in my life, in my children’s lives, every single day.

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I saw pictures of happier times too.  Jera’s preschool graduation, which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only months ago in reality.  My son, Jace’s, first day of third grade and Jera’s first day of Kindergarten.  I saw our family vacation to Kentucky and all of the joy we felt being cooped up in a cabin together.  I saw a trip to California to see my sister-in-law’s new home.  I saw pictures of taking my children to Disneyland, venturing to Santa Monica Pier and swimming in the ocean, traveling down to Laguna Beach and watching Jace jump into the waves.  I saw three great friends fly into LAX to meet me (in Christmas sweaters IN JULY!) and then make the drive up Highway One to San Francisco.  I saw a gum wall in San Luis Obispo, an ultra-windy/hilarious boat ride to Alcatraz, and a breathtaking (figuratively and literally) hike through the Redwood Forest.

As I sit here and recall all of these absolutely amazing moments, I am shocked to feel like they happened to someone else.  I am sad to think that the memory that sticks with me is the struggle to balance, the exhaustion, the feeling that I haven’t been good enough, done well enough.  How can that be?  How after so many life changing experiences can I be left with only memories of feeling defeated?

I am well aware of my character flaws, perfectionism being one of my worst.  I work on this every single day, and every day, it is a battle for me.  I have thought a lot about what my New Year’s Resolution could be for 2018.  Nothing has stood out to me.  Of course, there are plenty of things I could work on, but knowing I’m going back into another MBA course in one week is daunting, and I fear putting additional pressure on myself.  In April I will complete the MBA program, and this very challenging goal will have met its end.  I am sure I will find myself looking for my new normal and things like a clean house, working out and fitness, social events and all of the items I currently view as luxuries that I do not have, will find their way back into my priority list.  But for today I cannot think of those things.

So what can I do for the New Year?  How can I ensure that I don’t come to the end of 2018 and only recall the struggle?  The answer is both ridiculously simple and impossible.  I must work to be happy.  I had a lot of happy moments in 2017.  I am so thankful for this year and all of the blessings that I was given, but I don’t remember this as a happy year.  For my New Year’s resolution, I will focus on my happiness.  I will find time to do the little things that make me happy.  It sounds selfish.  It is an absolute truth that in order to make others happy, you must first make yourself happy.  To be the mother, daughter, father, son, sister, brother and friend that we were designed to be, we have to find our heart’s happiness.

Do you do that?  Do you find time for yourself?  Do you find time to do something that YOU enjoy, on your own.  Not for your family, for your husband or partner, not for your children, church, not for your employer, pet, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors.  There is so little time and we often feel guilty about what that means to those we love.  So we focus on giving what little time we have left to others, which is fantastic, BUT we must give to ourselves first.

We must give to ourselves first.

For me, happiness is writing.  Writing is what makes me happy now in my life and it is just for me.  Whether it be in my blog, or my newly started journal (throwback to junior-high Melissa and I’m loving it!), I will take time, whether it be five minutes in the morning before the crazy day starts, or an hour on New Years Day while my family buzzes along without me (they’re really all okay, I swear…to my amazement they don’t even miss me when I take an hour to myself).

I hope for this New Year’s resolution, you do something just for you.  Take a moment and think about what makes you feel really good.  Not about the reaction or approval of those around you, not even of the result…but think about what you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled.  Got it?  Okay, now can you put a little bit of that thing into every single day?  Do you think you can do that?  I hope you’ll consider it.  I hope you’ll commit to it.  Most of all, I hope you’ll take time to love and care for yourself in the New Year.  You deserve it.

What do you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled…

Happy New Year to all of my readers, friends and family.  Thank you for taking time out of your day today to share with me.  Much love.

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My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.