My Definition of Me

My husband and I got engaged over 19 years ago. I was so thankful to hear that he had asked my father for permission to marry me before popping the question, not because I was my father’s property of course, but because I respected that my father had been first in my life up until that point, and now this man would be stepping into the role of the man that I would love above all others. I remember my then baby-faced fiancé telling me that my father had told him only, “She’s fragile, you have to take good care of her.”

At the time, and even today, that sentence makes my heart squeeze. I had lived on my own for a few years by that point. I had paid my own bills, got myself from point A to point B with no assistance, and often been the person others went to for guidance. I was a helper, and hardly saw myself as helpless, let alone fragile. But there was something in those words that resonated with me, and yes, at that time, maybe that’s what I wanted, someone I could be fragile with, someone who would take care of me.

Over the years, marriage didn’t go quite as I expected. My parents have a very traditional relationship, with my mom staying home and taking care of most of the domestic things, and my dad going to work and filling the provider role. My parents are attached at the hip, and it doesn’t matter if it’s grocery shopping or a trip to the BMV, they do it together. My in-laws on the other hand, each worked outside of the household and we’re relatively independent of each other, enjoying their own circles of friends and hobbies. Unknowingly, my husband and I each brought these very different expectations of what a normal marriage looks like into our own relationship. These definitions of a “normal” husband/wife were the rules we measured one another by.

There are so many moments I remember thinking of my husband, “You were told I was fragile. You said you’d take care of me. What is happening here?” The moments when he allowed me to mow our grass…shouldn’t he come and take the handle of this mower from my hands and let me go sip some lemonade??? The moment he didn’t hold the door for me, or left me to accomplish a task on my own, or when he expected me to assemble our furniture or shelving. I felt puzzled by this, and not because I didn’t want to do these things, but because I hadn’t expected I would have to. It wasn’t the story I had told myself about marriage.

There’s something else here too that was happening in my heart and mind. All my life other people had defined me. I had been defined by those around me as smart, as funny, as pretty, I was nice, I was the baby in my family, I was fragile. There were negative stories too, the “I wasn’t”. I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t independent, I wasn’t brave…all of these definitions creeped in and made up the person I thought I had to be.

Our loved ones see a lot of who we are. They see us from a perspective that we don’t see ourselves, and often they are privy to strengths and weaknesses that we may not even be aware of. But even our mothers, fathers, siblings or spouses don’t see all of us. They view us through their own lenses, the lenses of their relationship with us, the lenses of their life experience and the lenses of their personality. There’s truly only one person on this planet that can define us, who we are, who we’re capable of being…and that’s ourselves. We decide who we will be.

34 years of life and 13 years of marriage have taught me a lot about…well, about me. While our spouses don’t define us, I truly believe God puts our partners in our lives for very particular reasons. They teach us so much about ourselves. My husband often believed I was stronger than I thought I was. He thought I was more capable than I had dreamed of. And although he was once told I was fragile, there are still times in our life together, that I wonder if he thinks I am unbreakable.

Through these circumstances, through his faith in me, his expectations of me, I have found some very powerful truths about myself. The woman I am today is very different than the girl that stood at the alter all those years ago. I may still be nice and funny and all of those things, but I am not fragile and I’m not interested in having anyone take care of me.

Through this life, through all of the hard, impossible, heartbreaking things, through all of the joyous, amazing, life changing moments, through all of the quiet, mundane, everyday happenings, I have found myself. My definition of me.

Strong. Stable. Sure. Powerful. Determined. Positive. Reserved. Loving. Kind. Happy.

I have also learned that my character summations of those around me don’t define them either. My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends….they’re capable of more than I could ever dream for them. I am careful of what labels I give them, knowing that I see only a small part of them. They are more than they show the world.

What if we gave every person this freedom? The freedom to define themselves. The freedom to be just who they are made to be. What if we each gave ourselves this freedom, a life for ourselves without definition from others? What could we be capable of?

I ask my readers, what label has someone, maybe even someone who loves you and means well, what label have they given you that you will shed and leave behind today? Begin today redefining yourself and become the person you are capable of being, not the person you feel you have to be.

Letting Go

Happy 2019, Folks.  I pitifully spent much of my evening last night watching everyone’s celebrations from the comfort of my cozy bed in my pajamas.  I also sat and timed contractions for 36 minutes that were around seven minutes apart and lasted for 45 seconds at a time.  I waited anxiously for the contractions to get closer together, more painful or last longer…but to no avail.  At 40 weeks and five days pregnant, I am truly beginning to feel like round, uncomfortable and tired is my new permanent state of being.  I’ve actually googled to see if there is a possibility that I will never go into labor.  The internet says no, but I’m having my doubts.

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I’ve spent the last few days trying to get a handle on the past year, and what this particular new year means to me.  I have always been a big fan of the new year season with all of its potential and promise, but this year, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with what the previous year meant to me and what I want the coming year to be.  For me 2018 is a bit of a blur with both tremendous moments and terrible heartache.  Such is life.

When I focus on the good, I see that I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I made a career move that I’m ecstatic about, and I made a human being (who is currently stubbornly refusing to be born).  These are big moments which I should be excited and proud of….and I am, but I find that I feel a little detached from these accomplishments, as though they  happened to someone else.

Maybe that is the true value of reflection.  We work incredibly hard to reach our goals, and then when all of that work translates to the end goal, we’re done.  It’s over.  We move on to the next thing and the past months or years of focus and dedication fade quickly to the background as life’s next dilemma or joy takes over.

As I move into 2019, I will take the time here to reflect not only on my successes, but also on what those successes taught me:

  • Finishing my MBA taught me that I have a unique kind of perseverance that allows me to stay the course when things become especially difficult.  I learned that I truly love to learn, and without a learning process of some sort in my life, I feel stale and stagnated.  I learned that to succeed, I need the support of my friends and family.  I learned that even when it feels impossible to do, I have to make my children and family my number one priority.
  • Moving into the Recruiting/Human Resource Field taught me the importance of living for the experience, not the final outcome.  I experienced some bumps and bruises along the path to my current position.  There were moments that I felt angry and bitter about the process, and I could have allowed myself to sit in that moment.  Instead, I chose to value what each experience taught me and move forward with that sentiment in mind.  Although I couldn’t see how things would work out, I had faith that they would.  That faith carried me through to the place where I am today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to start a new professional adventure this year.
  • I made a human, ya’ll. 2018 has brought the unexpected, and the greatest of all of my 33 years of life’s surprises has to be the blessing of my third child. This pregnancy has taught me that my plans don’t matter.  Talk about a humbling experience.  My 2018 plans included maintaining a healthy, vegan diet, completing a half marathon, and focusing 100% on my career.  My 2018 reality included pregnancy food aversions so severe and pregnancy induced anemia which made me so sick, that I became desperate enough to eat anything my body would tolerate, including meat, dairy and eggs.  The year included fifty pounds of weight gain that have made walking to the refrigerator a challenge, let alone the thought of running anywhere.  2018 brought the realization that my career will never, and should never, be the center of my focus.  I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  My career is important to me, but none of that success matters if I’m not the person I need to be at home.

Even as I write this, I am coming to terms with an epiphany that what this year has really taught me is that I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised.  That for all it’s worth and although I will always be a “planner”, this life is not a planned event.  That I have no control over what is next or what 2019 will bring (although I’m hoping that the most immediate arrival for the new year will be this baby!).  And that while this life is difficult and beautiful at the same time, the very best thing I can do is to get down on my knees and put it all in God’s hands.

I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised

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For the New Year, for 2019, my resolution will be to trust, to pray every day to let go and let God, to focus on the moment and enjoy each second for what it is.  I hope to get back into shape, to put some energy into my art work, continue to write and journal, continue to find those parts of myself that have taken a back seat while I’ve worked to build a career and family over the past decade…but most importantly, I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control.  I certainly lost sight of this in 2018, and it is liberating to let it go in 2019.

I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control

I am wishing my readers a blessed year full of love and all of life’s happiness.  I hope that faith and family carry you through the difficult times ahead, and that you are present and engaged for all of the joyous miracles that are in store for you.  Take the time to reflect today on what has been, and how it has changed you.  Every experience holds a lesson for us.  My hope for you is that you take those lessons and spend a moment in thankfulness for them.  Happy New Year!

I leave you with some of my happiest 2018 moments:

Heaven is a Place on Earth

It’s hard to believe that December is in full swing.  This is always a crazy busy time of year for each of us, but this year in December, I will be welcoming our third child to the world.  I am on the countdown, and with two weeks and four days left until my due date, I am ready.  Or so I thought…

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This morning in particular was pure chaos.  My older two children had their annual Christmas play at church.  With the best of intentions we called it an early night last night, knowing we would need to be up bright and early to prepare.  Five pregnant lady bathroom breaks and two and a half hours of insomnia at 2 a.m. later, it was morning, and I found myself struggling to roll my round little belly out of bed to start the day.  When I finally made it to my feet, I woke to find the mountain of dishes I had ignored the day before still waiting on me. With no clean forks to my name, I had to start my day with dishes just so I could feed my kids breakfast.  Forty minutes later I was cooking eggs over-easy, just the way the kiddos like them, and to my dismay, I broke two yolks which never happens.  Eventually breakfast was served, kids were dressed, we were ten minutes late to Sunday School but we prevailed and we made it.  I had ended up with an entire fifteen minutes to shower myself, dress, makeup, and do something with my hair before rushing out the door.

And it was then that it hit me…in two weeks, I will still have all of these things to do PLUS a newborn baby to nurse and dress and care for.  How had this not dawned on me before 37 weeks of pregnancy?  I had spent months picturing the snuggles, knowing I had sleepless nights coming, knowing having a newborn after all of this time will be an adjustment, but it hadn’t become reality until this morning.

In my anxiousness, my grouchiness, and waddling in nine-months-pregnant-glory into church, I was having the “Oh sh*t” moment of realization of what is to come.  I sat in the pew this morning, finally having delivered my children to their posts for the Christmas program, and then I began to watch them, donning white alter robes, angel wings and halos.

I watched my ten-year-old son sing each song, although at his age, he hates being on stage dressed as an angel with every fiber of his being.  My heart grew just knowing what a truly good boy my husband and I have raised.  Then I watched my six-year-old sing with all her heart, the gaps where her recently lost teeth belong, peeping out behind her sweet little lips with every note.  She had her first speaking part in which she grasped the microphone and said, “Wow, I’ll never forget this night. Heaven is a place on Earth.”  From the mouths of babes.  I knew in that moment, in this moment now, that she is right.

In the haste of the season, in all of the to-dos, it is so easy to lose our focus.  We get so caught up in the decorations, in the gifts and wrapping, in the carrying on of tradition, in the “have-to’s” and “need-to’s” that we can’t see the heaven that is right in front of us.  As much as I was cursing inside my head the entire morning as I let the hustle of the day erode my patience, I am so thankful for the gift of watching my children this morning, serving in our church in the most beautiful way, bringing to mind the purpose of the season, and reminding us all that heaven is truly a place on Earth.

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In two weeks, or two days….who knows….I will become a mother for the third time.  Things will be difficult, I will be tired beyond words, I will have less time for myself, for my husband, for my other two kids, but what I will gain is immeasurable.  And the truth is that no matter how much I “ready” myself, we are never truly ready for God’s greatest gifts in our lives…and that is what makes them so incredibly remarkable.

My hope for you this holiday season is that each of you experience the joys of this Christmas with as little stress, anxiety and worry as possible.  That in the moments of feeling overwhelmed, you are able to look for the everyday miracles that we are given…after all, heaven truly is a place on Earth.

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.

 

 

Slay that Interview – Climb that Mountain

Career advancement can be a tricky thing, and for us 20- to 30-somethings, it can feel like an especially painful process. We can clearly see where we want to go, but the road to get there can seem confusing at the least, and absolutely Mt. St. Helens-type of daunting at the most.

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Well, hello there, beautiful career mountain.

So how do we get there?  How do we scale the career mountain?  It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step. Be active and intentional with your future.  Actively identify what type of opportunity you are looking for next, take steps in the present to acquire the skills and education to qualify for that opportunity, and when the opportunity presents itself, jump at it.

It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step.

We often discount ourselves for opportunities when we do not yet check 100% of the qualifications for a position. Don’t make this mistake!  Take the risk, know your strengths and shortcomings, and apply anyway.

Interviewing and starting conversations with your peers and superiors about your interests and passions is an essential power move in reaching that end-goal. Interviews can be scary, and it’s hard to put yourself out there, but it is absolutely necessary.

So when that opportunity arrives, and you find yourself staring down the next hurdle on the path to your dream job, here’s some advice to slay that interview and present your best self:

  • Dress a level above what you imagine the position requires. If the position requires a casual professional dress, suit up (skirted suit/pants suit). If the position requires jeans, wear slacks or a dress/skirt. It sounds like the oldest advice in the book, but this one’s a keeper.  First impressions are lasting, and even when you’re interviewing with someone you’ve worked with before, allow them to see you in a new, more professional light.  On the same front, hair should be clean, and pulled up and back from your face. This allows the interviewer to clearly view your face and keeps you from playing/fussing with your hair if you get nervous.  Appearance matters.
  • Be on time! Show the interviewer that you respect their time, and when they’re ready to begin, you’re ready and waiting.
  • Stay positive! If your current position is a living hell, choose to take the high road. All of the negative things you feel and think about a current or past job may be true, but no prospective employer wants to hire an employee who slams their current employer. Be as honest as you can without going to a negative place. A great way to explain your move is to share that you’re looking for a better opportunity and/or striving for a position that aligns with your particular passions.
  • Study your prospective employer. Use the internet. Google, folks.  There is no excuse for not being fully educated about who the prospective company is, what their mission statement is, and what they’re looking to give back to their customers. Have a superior understanding of who it is that you’re trying to work for, and weave that information into your answers during the interview.
  • Practice. It feels awkward, but the old saying “practice makes perfect” is 100% truth when it comes to interviewing. Find a friend or colleague who will sit with you for an hour and give you interview questions. You may feel silly at first but you’ll warm up to the process quickly, and when the real deal comes, you’ll feel confident and prepared.
  • Breath.   It’s okay to pause and think during an interview. It’s difficult to fight the urge to immediately respond with a quick answer. But know that it is okay to pause, fill the space with a thoughtful “That’s a great question” comment, take a moment to think, and then give a great, well-thought-out answer versus a gut response.
  • Flip the interview.  Have a list of relevant questions prepared. Remember, you’re interviewing the employer to try to understand if the company is right for you, in just the same way that they are interviewing you. Think carefully about your short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals, think about what you envision as success in the role, and ask questions that give you a better understanding as to whether this is the right opportunity to deliver your goals.
  • Last but certainly not least, the best advice for a great interview is to keep your focus on you and your strengths. Know what you have to offer. It’s easy to focus on the competition and try to combat the skills your competitor is bringing to the table. This is not a winning strategy. You can’t be something you’re not.  If you’re hired on the basis of portraying skills you don’t have, you’re unlikely to find long term success. Know what unique skills you can offer.  Understand and communicate what makes your background and perspective an ideal match for the position.  Rock that self-love, and show your interviewer why YOU truly are the best candidate.
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Yeah, you got this!

You will not receive every job opportunity you apply for. There will be times that there is a candidate who is simply better qualified for one reason or another. But if you can walk away from an interview knowing you have presented yourself at your absolute personal best, you have a success to tuck under your belt. With each interview you become more skilled and better prepared for the next great opportunity.

In the event that you don’t get the job, take the opportunity to learn from your interviewer what skills or traits they were looking for, and move forward with a focus to improve where needed. Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional. Rejection is a necessary (albeit painful) part of growth. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, reevaluate where you are today, and begin working toward your next goal with a more-seasoned and better-practiced self.

Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional.

Even better…when you land the position, hit the role running, ready and capable, and give it your all!!! Here’s to all of the future success of the 20- to 30-somethings…see you at the top of the mountain!

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.