Monday, December 24, 2012

It All Passes By So Soon

The first Christmas kiss 'neath the mistletoe ball
Love that grows with the winter moon
The hopes and dreams of two people enthrall
It all passes by so soon.

Newlyweds' bliss on a new Christmas morning
Their hearts are now one, not two
The anticipation of the life they are forming
It all passes by so soon.

Baby's first Christmas such a joyous sight
With boxes and bows and balloons
Sweetly slumber that holiday night
It all passes by so soon.

Little kids' toys under the tree
That will litter the floors of their rooms
The little ones sitting on Santa's knee
It all passes by so soon.

Teenagers who wince and roll their eyes
Wish for high-tech not heirlooms
Dread helping mom make Christmas pies
It all passes by so soon.

Young adults come and bring their new spouses
Rush off before it turns noon
To celebrate Christmas in their own houses
It all passes by too soon.

Grandchildren visit on Christmas Eve
And sing happy holiday tunes
But before long they must leave
It all passes by too soon.

That first Christmas kiss 'neath the mistletoe ball
Love that grew with the winter moon
The hopes and dreams of two people extolled
It all passed by too soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 12 Days With a Twist!

Ah.... it’s that time of year. The scent of pine in the air, aromas of hot cookies quaffing from the kitchen, the sound of gold bells and coins clinking in red buckets - all of these things tell us of the impending arrival of the man in the red suit.  We will prepare our homes, don our best, deck our decks and halls, and peck under the mistletoe. Merriment and joy abound as we await the coming of Christmas. 

Songs of the holiday fill the airwaves, satellite stations and music players. Traditionally we sing of leaping lords. With gaiety we recite and repeat the verses about dancing ladies and milk maids. Doves and partridges join in the chorus. But in this economy and with the price of gold - who can afford 5 rings?

Thus, I propose a silly new look at the "12 Of" Christmas.  In a spirit of fun and festivity, I present to you the following list beginning at 12 and ending with 1.  Remember a tune, make up your own, or simply recite the words to this twist on a holiday classic. Feel the holiday magic.

12 Relatives
Holidays are a time for family. At Christmas, we gather in family masses for holiday feasts and gift giving frenzy. With joy and happiness, we celebrate the ones we love. OK - I know this can be a stressful scenario with conflict - but in a perfect world all 12 would live in peace and harmony. One can wish upon a Christmas star.

11 Christmas Carols
Music is a huge part of the holiday. There are multitudes of songs, versions, remixes and medleys. They are each beautiful in their own way.  So why does it seem like the same 11 get played over and over?

10 Candy Canes
I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has experienced this. I can get the box of a dozen candy canes home safely, but only 10 survive the extraction from the box intact. Is it just me or is there some sort of candy conspiracy going on here?

9 Broken Ornaments
Regardless of how carefully the ornaments are hung, there are always some that don’t make it. Sometimes it’s the one ornament falling off the tree or out of the box. Sometimes it’s the whole tree angry from the weight and decoration, revolting and throwing itself to the ground resulting is mass ornament casualties. I can’t say I can count exactly, but based on how many pieces of ornament glass end up in my feet each year, I count the number of broken ornaments at 9.

8 Favorite Movies
The holiday movies start in November. I’m OK with that.  I love the feeling I get when I watch them. They are nostalgic, fun, and comforting. There are probably close to as many movies as there are songs, but I’m sure we can each pick out 8 favorites.

7 Hundred Dollars
Just about $700 is the amount that the average person will spend on the holidays this year according to the National Retail Association.  Just hear those registers ring-a-ling.....

6 Christmas Stockings
This might sound like a lot of stockings - but in my house between my three girls, we hang 6 stockings. One stocking gets filled on Christmas morning, and one that holds a small gift each of the 8 days before Christmas - a tradition we started years ago. It’s one of my favorite.

5 Plates of Cookies (aka 5 extra pounds)
The low side of the average number of pounds that a person gains during the holiday season is 5 - thank you American Dietetic Association for that merry reminder. With all of the goodies and gatherings, it’s no surprise. But, it’s best to watch the cookie intake. The 5 extra pounds is a gift that can’t be re-gifted or returned on the 26th.  It’s with us for a while after the holidays.

4 Returned Gifts
Hopefully we don’t make it a habit of returning gifts simply because we don’t like them. But at some point in our lives we have had to return or exchange a gift for one reason or another. In my humble opinion, if you are returning 4 gifts each year, it’s time to rethink our attitude towards receiving. See Barbie and The Great White for my own personal experience with this....

3 Christmas Parties
According to Tis Party Time by John Fetto, the average American between the ages of 18-34 attends just over 3 parties each holiday season. Office parties, family get togethers, and social holiday gatherings keep us running from one place to another. With all that partying and eggnog, we may end up needing the next on this list.

2 Aspirin
Let’s face it, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the social imbibing, the frantic search for the perfect gifts, and the dealings in social situations that are unique to this time of year, most of us reach for the aspirin to ease the headache. As much as we love the holiday, our friends and family, we can have too much of a good thing.

1 Most Beautiful Christmas Tree
Regardless of all of the other happenings, the most beautiful tree is what we gather around as a family on Christmas to remember the gifts we have been given. We make memories, share in joy, and join in each other’s excitement as the wonderment of the morning unfolds.

In the hectic world we live in it’s often hard to step back and see the true meaning and spirit of the holidays.  It is about joy, togetherness, giving, and blessing one another.  I hope you enjoyed this post and that it brought a smile, a chuckle or a simple smirk as you read it.  I have been blessed by every reader of the AZ Mom of Many Hats and I Am Woman Enough sites.  I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, blessings and prosperity in 2013. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Barbie and the Great White - A Lesson on Giving

Christmas Eve 1976 - I remember it like it was yesterday...

Grandma had cooked up her amazing Christmas Eve fare with scalloped potatoes and ham, yummy rolls, mincemeat and her eternally famous apple pie.  We were all stuffed to the brim. Grandpa got his annual after dinner headache and had to head upstairs to his room for aspirin and a nap.  All of the grandkids, knowing how these evenings went, huddled at the base of the stairs by Grandma's 1950's style wiry tree with the massive light bulbs and elves sitting in the branches.

Grandma and Grandpa had connections.  Santa made a special trip to their house to pass out their gifts to us.  We waited, not so patiently for him to descend the staircase.  Apparently he used an upstairs window to enter - not the family room chimney.

I took my special place by my uncle's TV chair and waited.  I was at the younger end of the grandkids, so the anticipation built as each one of the older kids got a gift.  The excitement was bubbling up inside. My stomach filled with butterflies. And finally Santa came my way and pulled out a white tissue wrapped gift with a colorful bow.

I took it, only able to imagine what could possibly be in that snowy white paper.  I struggled to untie the bow. Grandma was good at tying ribbons - tightly.  It wouldn't budge.  I needed to try a different strategy. So I tore into the tissue.  Layer after layer - my heart pounding with each.  What could it be?

Finally, my eyes grew big as I got to the last layer.  The grew even bigger when the veil of the gift came off.  My hands shook, my lip began to quiver, and the tears started to fall. With my gift in my hand, I ran to my mother and buried my head in her lap and cried.

Why? Why? What had I done that year? Why would the gift from Santa's bag be a Barbie doll stuffed inside of a rubber Great White Shark?

Mom soothed me and the sobbing slowed down.  But, still I didn't understand.

Later that evening when my mom was helping clean up the mess we had all made, she came across the note that in my rush to open my gift I didn’t see. She read it to me. I remember it saying something like this. 

I don’t know why there are  rubber sharks in all the stores, but I thought it was cute. You enjoy your ocean books so much, I think you'll like him.  I know how much you have always wanted a Barbie too. Enjoy then both.  I love you! Grandma.

Barbie and the Great White taught me lifelong lessons in giving. They taught me about intent, joy and remembrance.

Grandma's intent for giving me these two gifts was pure of heart.  Grandma didn't get out to the movies and rarely watched anything other than the Lawrence Welk show on TV.  She had no clue that people from 7 to 47 were terrified of the ocean and of great white sharks because of the release of Jaws the year before.  She saw that there were "cute" rubber sharks in the stores and knew that I loved the books I had about the ocean. She also knew that I always wanted a Barbie.  She found a lovely one with dark hair - sort of the color of my own, and thought I would like it.  In her quirkiness,  a term of both respect and endearment, she put the two together, one inside the other.  Looking back as I grew older, it made sense.  My grandma was known for giving quirky gifts - our Christmas Eve family Bingo games at her house were legendary.  You never knew what you would get as a prize - it could be a light bulb, a roll of toilet paper, or if you were the one lucky win, the box of Toblerone chocolate.  Barbie and the Great White fit her personality, but also fit the purity of intent in her heart.

I learned lessons in joy. Grandma had spent time with us, interacting with us, watching us, and knowing what we liked.  She, in her Grandma wisdom, knew things that would bring us joy even if we didn't know they could bring us joy.  I loved that Barbie and played with it for the entire next year. Sharky (yes... an original name) was in our house for years.  That big grey razor tooth fish made its way into bathtubs, sinks, and the neighbors pool whenever we'd swim. He was played with, loved, and brought joy.  The shark as a thing ended up bringing great delight, but so did the story.  Grandma knew how to bring me the gift of joy.

That Christmas gift in 1976, Barbie and the Great White, in the history of all my Christmases, is the most remembered gift I have ever received.  Yes, others have come close, but that one will forever be burned in my memory.  I remember where I was when I opened it, the feeling of the rubber shark, the look of the Barbie's hair slightly messed because of my tugging on the wrapping paper.  Every year, I remember the experience, my reaction, my Grandma's note, the joy I got from the gift, and the meaning and heart of giving.

There was a bonus lesson.  When we learn how to give from the heart,  to give in a way that we know will bring the receiver joy, and when we realize that true gifts fill the heart’s desires not the brain’s or egos desires for “stuff”, we have not only grown in giving, but we have learned and grown in the way we receive.  Because when we give in this focus, we learn to receive in it as well.

As you move into this holiday season, remember that true giving lies in the intent, joy and the remembrance that comes from the act of giving, not from the thing that is given.

What is your most remembered gift memory?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stop Super Stuffing Stockings!

Oh how I loved digging through my holiday stocking that hung on our stone fireplace!

My sisters and I each had a particular stone that our stocking hung from. We'd all jump up on the hearth, scramble to our sock, and pull it down, hoping it didn't spill out on top of us. We would scramble off to our own place in the living room with our light green gingham checked and red brick-a-bract adorned, homemade stockings.  We'd sit on the floor and pull out each item from them - admiring each one! Our stockings had oranges, nuts, sugarless gum, socks, lip glosses, hair brushes and accessories, and just a few other miscellaneous toys. Every year, we knew what would be in them, but EVERY year we were so excited to find the treasures that were left for us.

Holiday stockings really add to the fun, but also to the stress and expense of the holidays.  Electronic gadgets, headphones, large gift cards, watches, endless trinkets and toys, sugary treats in the latest animated or superhero theme - all those things that are advertised as stocking essentials, increase the strain on our busyness and a pocketbooks. We feel compelled to super stuff the stockings. For some reason moms think that by buying all of the latest stocking fads and out doing last year's stocking, we are being a better mom. Adding to the stress is that moms know that many of the trinkets in the stocking, no matter how well our intentions were, will be lost, tossed and forgotten.

The Christmas stockings are no measure of how much you love your kids, nor are they a snapshot of your parenting ability. It doesn't have to be an angst filled experience to fill a stocking - but it will be if you fill them with the heart of out-doing last year, instead of the heart of creating lasting memories.

In the rush and bustle of the season, it's already an overwhelming environment. Stockings can be great help in bringing back some calm, tradition and simplicity.  Don't hesitate from stepping back from stocking extravagance. Go back to basic stuffers - oranges, bubble gum, fun socks, a fun new electric toothbrush, New PJs, activity books, a sprinkle in a few of the fun trinkets and candy. (Check the Quick Tip page for more back to basics stocking stuffers). If you think back to your childhood stockings, you probably will remember those things that you received every year - and used.  Your children will remember the same. Those simple treasures hidden in the stocking will bring just as much joy, and create memories and traditions that your children may pass to their families

It's time to take it back to simplicity. Bringing it back to simple can be a wonderful change and stress reducer at this time of year.

Do you have any stocking traditions?
What Do you remember from your own childhood Christmas stocking?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

For Amy

This is not a typical post for AZ Mom of Many Hats.

But, Amy is not a typical person.  She is my sister. She is amazing.

I have posted about Amy several times before over the last five years.  The first post My Sister's Cancer being about finding out in February 2008 that she was diagnosed in Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer - an invasive and very aggressive form of breast cancer that does not generally have a defined lump.  There were successive posts on her journey and battle - many of them that brought hope and some that brought angst. All of them were in honor or celebration of her - and for a kick in the ass to the bastard of cancer.

This post is no different.

Amy is larger than life.  From her colorful hair to her love of fancy rats, there is nothing about her that is not vibrant, interesting, and totally genuine.  Each person that knows her would describe her essence as strong, witty, straight forward, authentic, dedicated, compassionate, and even snarky.  As a woman with a teacher's heart, a deep and devoted faith, a compassionate heart for all of God's people and creatures, and a strong sense of right, her actions towards the world have influenced, touched, and nurtured her family, our larger family, friends, students, colleagues and even some she has never met.

She is a force to be reckoned with in this world - in a good way.  I say it again... She is amazing.

On November 12, 2012 the world forever changed.  After many valiantly fought battles, at the age of 45, Amy passed away of Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). She fought through chemo and radiation and all of the possible side effects that come with both. She showed strength and grace as she pushed her tired body through the day to day as best as she could - volunteering, mentoring, running her rattery,  being mom, wife, daughter and sister, singing on the worship team at her church. She fought hard, she fought long, and she fought admirably.

My heart, our family's hearts are so heavy and our existence will never be the same.  We no longer have the physical presence of Amy as mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, friend.  We will forever miss her presence here and always long for more time with her. But, the force of Amy, her essence can't be defeated. In that we find some peace.

Through her fight, many were educated about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Her teacher's heart wasn't stilled by the battle.  

Through her fight, she showed strength and grace. Her spirit wasn't crushed by the battle. 

Through her fight, she showed tremendous love for others.  Her compassion wasn't soured by the battle.

Through her fight, she showed what it was let go of things out of her control.  Her will wasn't destroyed by the battle. 

Through her fight, she left the lessons, the words, the actions, and the seeds that her family needs to move forward and be strong and good men in the world.  Her loving, nurturing and mothering were strengthened ten-fold by the battle.

Through her fight, her identity never became Amy, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer patient.  She was always Amy, who happened to have this battle present in her life. 

Through her fight she remained rooted in her faith, even when she didn't understand why this battle was hers.  The battle didn't destroy her trust and faith in God and her Salvation.   

She could not win every battle. But she NEVER lost the war.  Today she is singing and enjoying the splendor of HIS courts.  She is in perfect peace and whole.  That is something that cancer could never take from her.

Don't Let the Silence Continue
Women, men, physicians - please learn about Inflammatory Breast Cancer - IBC.  There is so much progress in many areas of breast cancer research and treatment.  We hear about that all of the time in the "pink" campaigns. What we don't hear is the dark side of breast cancer - the types of breast cancer like IBC, and that MOST women diagnosed with a cancer like IBC will die. Whether it is unpopular, unwillingness, or unawareness, this conversation in the breast cancer dialog is rarely had.  The silence is killing women, and men.

We knew about breast cancer.  We didn't know about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer at:

The IBC Network

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Blessings

After the Turkey, stuffing and pie,

I sit and reflect upon the year that's gone by.

I count all my gains, gifts and blessings,

and chose to forget my misfortunes and messings.

I think of my family, husband, children and me,

and know that we've been given more gifts than we need.

A beautiful home, cars, and things all around,

we all are so grateful for these blessings abound.

But, these blessings of things don't satisfy my heart,

and through these lines, I wish to impart,

The things that are truly a blessing to my soul,

are these intangible things that make me feel whole.

Like my children laughing and loving each other,

and having them know they can count on their mother.

For a husband who loves me in spite of my faults,

and learned, just for me, a wedding day waltz.

For a God who greater, could there never be one,

who loves me so much that He sent me his Son

And a country where I am allowed to be me,

the home of the brave and the land of the free.

These things I don't own and could never have bought,

but through their gain, great blessing I got.

After the turkey, stuffing and pie,

Will you sit and reflect on the year that's gone by?

Things are not always easy.  It has been a tough year for many that are reading this.  But, even among the hard times and darkness, there is room in  our hearts for gratitude.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NutellaDilla - Breakfast Made Easy for Busy Moms!

Quick and Easy Breakfast!
Whether our kids are 4 or 14, as moms we want them to start every day on the right foot. That can be challenging at times.  Our kids have individual personalities that are particularly apparent when they get out of bed in the morning. With older kids and teens - the way the day starts can be affected by something as simple as the way the breeze is blowing.  We do our best among the many factors that shape our children’s day. Many things we can’t control. But one of the things that we can do as moms is to provide and encourage them to eat a balanced breakfast to start the day - which in itself can be challenging.

Kids have pretty strong ideas and opinions about what do and don’t like for breakfast.  They may eat something one day and the next day decide they don’t like it anymore. We try cold breakfast, hot breakfast, gourmet, or simple. Oh what is a mom to do?

Why not make a balanced breakfast a treat with this yummy Nutella® Nutelladilla recipe?*  It’s simple, it’s delicious, and for kids on the go running out the door, it can be very portable!

Nutella® Nutelladilla

1 whole wheat tortilla
1Tbs Nutella
½ cup lowfat cottage cheese
⅓  bananna, sliced in pieces
3 strawberries, sliced in pieces

Spread the Nutella® evenly across the tortilla.  Spread the cottage cheese on one half.  Place the banana and strawberry slices on top of the cottage cheese.  Fold over and eat!

Variations: Replace whole wheat tortilla with a gluten free option.  Replace cottage cheese with ricotta or other low-fat soft cheeses or yogurts.

Make it transportable: For the older kid on the go... instead of folding, wrap like a burrito.

The MOM Hat is the most beautiful and important one we wear when it comes to the daily lives of our kids.  We do our best to wear it creatively, and lovingly.  For even the most seasoned of us, every mom can use some fresh ideas.  Check out the Nutella Breakfast Tour in Phoenix November 24-27 for live demonstrations of how you can use Nutella to bring some yumminess to your family breakfast table. For information on event in other areas, visit here.

Besides being able to include it as a yummy part of a balanced breakfast did you know these things about Nutella®?
  • No preservatives or artificial colors
  • No peanuts
  • Kosher certified
  • Gluten free

For More informaiton about Nutella, visit!/nutellausa
Click here to stay up to date with the latest Nutella news!

*This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Nutella blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stressful to Simple - Holiday Season Calm

Just about now the last of the Halloween candy is becoming scarce. The kids' pillowcases of chewy, chocolate, sour-sweet gummy treats is just about dry.  And that extra bag of candy you bought... (you know the one; the nutty-chocolatey yummy kind) .... just in case there were more trick-or-treators than you'd expected, is empty.

The sugar crash has begun - just as the "Holiday Season" is beginning.

November brings with it the onset of the season of parties, celebrations, presents, and LOTS of food. It can be a joyous festive time of year.  It's the time to spend time with family and loved ones.   Giving and receiving special gifts and trinkets brings a sweet satisfaction as we see the wide eyed looks of awe on the faces of those who received the "perfect" gift.  It is a magnificent time.

It can also be a stressful one.

In the hustle and bustle of holiday season preparation, the abundant joy just waiting to be claimed is often lost. In our busyness of trying to create the perfect memory for our families and friends, we can lose sight of gift of sharing who we are, where we are.  Buying the right gift, or cooking a 5-Star worthy meal becomes the focus - task centered instead of presence centered.  What is supposed to refresh and restore us through sharing thanks and holiday cheer, can stress us and suck the energy out of us. That is, if we let it.

Stressful to Simple

There are things we can do to reduce the stress. It can involve changing what we do and how we do it. It can also change how we chose to look at things.  (By the way, changing what we do and how we do it, can also change how we look at things - double score! )

Here are some ideas reduce stress by getting back to the simple.

Create a Count-up project that you and your family can participate in. Instead of counting down the days (that focuses on time which translates for us, fewer days to get all we need to do done) create something that adds - a blessings and thanksgiving wreath or tree that reminds us off all that we do have, not the time that we don't have; a daily pocket change jar to be donated on a designated date that coincides with the holidays; or a progressive goal to honor someone such as walking a distance and increasing it each day till a set holiday- a show gratitude for the struggle and hard work done by those around us or those that have gone before. There are any number of things that can be done to remind of the blessings that we have. It's simple. It puts the stress in perspective.   or a - ie Chanukah  jar, holiday chain, thanksgiving tail feathers....

Reduce the time in your kitchen - spend the time in kitchens feeding those less fortunate.  If we have the means and time to purchase and prepare holiday meals and goodies, but our stress over the tasks robs us of joy, then spending time in a kitchen that feeds others just may be a solution.  Serving those that may not otherwise have a holiday meal brings comfort to the others, a sense of purpose to ourselves, and good dose of perspective about the things we stress out at the holidays.  If we have the means to purchase the holiday meal ingredients, there are lots of options for purchasing the prepared family style meal, and spending the time serving others. It's simple, it reduces stress, and it does good for others. (See the giveaway page for more info about prepared meals and a chance to win a gift card!)

Make something from the heart. If it is the stress of finding and buying the perfect gift, revamp your thinking about gift giving.  Each year there are lists created of the "perfect" gift of the season.  Still there is not a guarantee that the person will like the thing.  Instead, give a gift from the heart. A handmade item or unexpected gift catches the attention.  Include a handwritten personal note of why you chose or made that particular gift and instantly, the gift has meaning.  Be sure you are sincere... truly follow your heart, and the stress is replaced with the joy of giving.  It's that simple.

At this time of year, don't focus on doing it all and being it all to everyone all of the time. As much as we'd love to create a Holiday Season straight from the pages of a magazine, realize that the value and the memory isn't in how perfect the things of the holidays are, it is in how precious and blessed each moment of them is.  Move from stressful to simple this Holiday Season!

What is the most stressful thing about the Holiday Season for you?
How do you reduce the stress and find the joy?  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Confession of a Human Mom - I Am Not A Saint!

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are not longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children. ~Jessica Lange

Sounds quite idealistic... doesn't it. 

Mommy or Me - Selflessness or Selfishness? 

When I became a new mom and the ripe old age of 20, again at 24, and again at 27,  each one of my children became the beacon of my life.  My world revolved around providing a home, a life, and an existence for them. I was (and still am) passionate about them, dedicated to helping them grow, responsible for providing them stability, and accountable for giving them the tools that they would need to be productive and contributing members of society.  I gave my all to them, for many, many years.  I was able to stay at home- we had reasonable financial stability, and my husband fully supported my desire to be an at home mom.  My life, my existence, my passion, my interest, my career, my vocabulary, my interaction, my effort, my energy, my everything all flowed to one glowing ball of light.... my children. It was the natural state of "motherhood".  The job of motherhood.

I must confess - it was not the natural state of my humanness.

Don't get me wrong - I loved that I was able to be in that place.  I would not trade a single second of any of it. I am honored to be able to call myself Mom to three amazing women. In the ideal days of mommyhood, I played the role well.  I played it with heart.  I played and lived it with every fiber of my being.  I was happy in that.  I had focus, I had purpose, and I had an audience - three little children who needed me every second of every day. If moms could get Oscars - I think I would have been at least in the running for it. I was in the role, but I  WAS the role. 

 But I am not going to lie. As the kids started to grow a bit, I tried to keep the script and the ideal the same. But there came a point that I just wasn't driven or fed. Instead of joy with moments of work, it became work with moments of joy.  My energy began to run low.  My tank was empty. My kids were still the center of my universe, but my revolution around them began to grow weary.  I became unhappy, lonely and empty. 

I lost myself. I questioned myself. I made these realizations about myself. 
  • I knew that how I felt had nothing to do with them or my relationship with them.  It had everything to do with my relationship with me! 
  • I knew I had, did, and always would love them more than life itself.  I would forever move heaven and earth if I could for their good.  They were by far the most important human beings in my world, and as long as I was on this earth they would always be that. 
  • I came to terms that there really were times in "mommyhood" that I wanted to just shut myself in my room and not be responsible. I called it needing a breather, needing a break or taking a time-out.  The reality was I CRAVED time for ME - time that I neglected.  
  • The idea of motherhood being hearts and flowers and puppy dogs and cute kids - it was a crock.  Trying to make it look that way only led to failure and exhaustion.  There were days when I really didn't care if someone judged me because my daughter wore a plaid flannel shirt, a floral skirt, and pink cowboy boots on the wrong feet to the store. She was covered and dressed. MORE IMPORTANTLY was that the battle of getting her that way was over. 
  • I realized that I was jealous of all of the time and attention that I and their daddy could give to them, but I failed to give to me or us. It wasn't the green face of envy, but it was certainly a gnawing very quiet message of  I wish I had someone paying this attention to me.  
  • What in some moments was my giving and existing in selflessness, felt like sacrifice in many others.  (The difference in meaning and attitude surrounding those is huge.) 
  • I questioned my own heart as to why I was not fulfilled in the way I thought I should be. 
  • I faced that as much as I loved being Mom, there were moments that I just didn't like motherhood. 
  • I realized that I needed to do the things that refreshed me and filled my pitcher. That way I could fill the cups of my children.
  • I realized that what I was experiencing was the natural state of HUMANNESS!
It's ok to throw some selfishness in with the selflessness.  It's the only way to not suffocate and to be able to grow and best serve in the role of mom.  It's also the best way to grow yourself for the day when your mom role changes as kids launch into the world.

I like to and I need to feed my OWN spirit, my OWN goals, and my OWN self. There are times when I want to be the center of the universe. Sounds pretty selfish, I know. But it's true. It doesn't make me a bad mother - it makes me an honest and healthy one.

 I am a human Mom - not a saint. 

Do you struggle with feeling selfish for needing some time for yourself? 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Pink Haze - Awareness Is Cheap, Action is Priceless

As most of you probably already know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It seems almost impossible to NOT know.  The stores are full of pink ribbons, pink products, and pink commercials. The lovely pink hue permeates just about everything, from retail, to media, to bumpers stickers, to T-Shirts, to bracelets.  There is even controversy as people don slogans and sayings to work and school, supporting breast cancer "awareness",  arguing a right to free speech when questioned about them. We walk charity walks, stuff donation jars, and get in the pink spirit. We eat, sleep and breath pink. Pink is a part of our landscape - and we are becoming immune to it.

We are in a PINK HAZE - all for awareness.

But what about ACTION?

Awareness is a good thing. But it means nothing without action.

Women AND men are still dying of breast cancer.  Yes... that's right... men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. According to BreastCancer.Org, (visit link for more statistics)

  • 1 in 8 women are affected by breast cancer. 
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women (aside from skin cancer).
  • In 2011 there were more that 2.5 million survivors of breast cancer, but over 39,000 didn't survive. 
  • Approximately 2,150 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in men.
The point is, knowing about this doesn't change it. Doing something about it does. ACTION is what can change how this bastard of a disease affects women and men.

What are some of the action steps you can take?  I am so glad you asked...
  • Get mammograms and other screenings, do self checks, and have clinical exams.
  • Support funding for research - know where your donation dollars are going.
  • Know that breast cancer is not always a lump and know other signs to look for- it can save lives. KNOW THAT THERE ARE OTHER SIGNS BESIDES THE LUMP THAT WE'VE BEEN TRAINED TO LOOK FOR AND LOOK FOR THEM. You are your own best advocate and  know what is normal for you. (See the SISTER CHECK)
  • Learn about IBC (inflammatory breast cancer.)
  • Talk to your doctor if you feel OR see any changes in your breasts.
  • Don't be embarrassed to tell your significant other if you see a change in your breast OR theirs. Sometimes a second set of eyes of someone who knows us intimately can be the difference between early and later detection.  Cancer is not a solitary disease. 
  • Support groups that make advances in the quality of treatment, the effectiveness of medications, the care of patients, and the support of families with loved ones in the battle is imperative to kicking the breast cancer monster's ass. 
Simple awareness is not enough.  In fact, too much awareness and not enough action becomes a problem in itself.  It turns to a fad, a marketing tool, or even apathy. When we wear the pink shades, it just becomes part of our everyday view and doesn't stand out anymore.  By being saturated with awareness, you could even say that we become less aware. 

Take off your pink awareness sunglasses and put on your hot pink ACTION safety goggles.  It takes work and strength. But with active steps, advancement in the diagnosis, quality of life, treatment and cure for breast cancer can be made. Awareness of an issue is not the same as action on it.

Awareness is cheap. Action is priceless.

Have you checked your breasts recently?

For related posts please visit:
My Sister's Cancer
Breast Cancer Hop: My Sister's Story
The Reality Of Pink

Monday, October 1, 2012

New Week Notions - Mountains

In every phase of parenting, relationships, jobs, and life, we face mountains.  They are an inevitable part of our travel on our own personal roads.  However, as moms and dads, the mountains seem to have such a huge significance - there is so much more at stake.  Parenting challenges, household finances, job stability, are constant inclines that seem never ending. We are not just climbing the mountains to meet our own goals or to strengthen our own selves.  The climb has a different consequence.  It affects the outcome and path of our children's lives. Than responsibility often looks so huge that we can see nothing else.  We feel as if we are climbing mount Everest.

Just for today, take a step back. Catch your breath.  Survey the hill ahead.  With a fresh view, you may see that what you thought was an insurmountable peak, is really just a foothill. You'll find the inspiration and the strength to put one foot in front of the other, until you've reached the peak.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coffee Lover? National Coffee Day!

September 29 2012 - National Coffee Day! 
(Give away entry now closed 10/3/12)

I am a coffee enthusiast! I love my java, crave my joe, and dream of my liquid sunshine in a cup awaiting me in the morning, warm, bold, and yummy. I have a two cuppa morning routine- ok, who are we kidding.... it's probably more like 4....

How fabulous it was for me to have the chance to sample Tully's Coffee AND to be able to share the experience with one of my blog readers!  

Head on over to the GiveAway Page to see how you could be the recipient of this amazing Tully's Coffee.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Week Notions - The Sun Rises

Mondays are often a tough day.  They can signal another week of the same routine, the same challenges, and the same frustrations.  But take heart - even if the coming days feel like a shadow over you, remember that every day without failing, the sun rises and shines for you. Each day is the chance to see what it is illuminating for you! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sands Of Time - Fall A Little Faster Please!

Life is lived forward, cherished backward, and savored here.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can probably all say that there have been moments in our parenting, in our marriages and in our lives in general that we have truly wished would pass quicker than they seem to be moving. In those times we wish we could tap the top of the hourglass, hoping to help the sands of time fall a bit quicker. The moments and hours drag on...

  • Little ones having tantrums.
  • Spouses bickering and snapping at each other as life brings them challenges to overcome. 
  • Elementary school kids and homework battles.
  • Jobs, home responsibilities, family stressors, finances. 
  • Teens and boyfriends/girlfriends, driving, high school drama, driving, graduating and college stress. 
  • Trying to keep our fort... errr... thir... ok... trying to be as healthy and look like we did in our pre-children, pre-life days. 

In those moments that seem to be countless and unending, that seem to defy  how we understand time to move, the moments that we are tired and weary - we wish we could speed the hands of time to the hour that we finally feel content.

Here's the problem...

Happiness is a speedy and lofty prey. We will never catch it if we are chasing it.

Life goes on in a forward moving direction and at a fixed pace. It's the laws of time and space that we have no control over. That forward motion includes stepping through and experiencing each moment, even the tough ones. Wishing for the quick passing of those tougher times, looking and hoping for contentment to come in the next moments, robs ourselves of happiness and wastes our efforts. If we choose not to look for contentment and happiness in the moments we are currently living, we have let a precious gift slip through our hands. A gift that will out run us. We will be left looking behind us, wishing we had savored the moments of joy, the moments of light, and the contentment that were present all along.

In your tough moments today, look around you and find something you can savor. Take off your racing blinders that keep you focused on what happiness the future may hold. You will see that in the here and now, in the midst of challenge, happiness lives if we let it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Oh Crap - Just Give Me the Shovel Now...

We all have those Oh Crap moments - the moments we wish we could take back - the moments when we know we are going to regret the words or tone that came out of our mouths, the moments when we wish we had a big shovel to clean up the mess we just made. 

We say the wrong thing, we react the wrong way, we fly off the handle. Our mouth starts moving and some strange force seems to take over. The words pour, the emotions spill, and common sense and logic are running out the back door. And when we hear the door slam, our words slap us in the face, and we wish we could turn back the clock and relive the conversation and interaction we just had.

The recipients of our fling fest are usually the ones closest to us: our spouses, kids and friends. The ones we least want to hurt and most value are the closest target that our mess heads for. Often, the aim is much more accurate and stronger than our intention is good. We don't do it on purpose. But, we are still responsible for it's impact.

Hopefully this doesn't happen very often. But, it will happen even to the most experienced of parents and communicatively skilled of us.

How can we minimize the destruction?

If something spurred the interaction then there was probably something worth discussing. It is our choice of words, our timing, our assumptions, and our own agendas are the launcher that hurls destruction. Being aware of these four areas before, during, and after can help us to be responsible and take personal accountability for how we react and respond.
  • Words - Our word choice is crucial in whether the other person is putting on body armor or opening their arms to embrace us. Using divisive (you), accusatory (you always), or minimizing language (your fault, or name calling) automatically backs the other person into a corner. Find words that bring a common place for you to have discussion. Realize that communication is not an I vs. You event. It is a WE event. 
  • Timing - Keep in mind that our need to speak does not always match up with another's willingness or readiness to hear. Respect if the other person is not in that place at the moment. Ask if the discussion can continue later and revisit it then. It gives you time to cool down, think about your words as well as giving the other person time to do the same. There will be times when issues need to be addressed very quickly and on the spot - but even then, we can find an appropriate location and way to do it. 
  • Assumptions - If you are assuming someone will act a certain way it is probably from past experience. You may prepare for responses and reactions in a defensive way because of the way the last interaction went. You know the script - you know what happens next. Here's the thing.... you are a part of that script. If you change your words, your timing and your assumption, there is no more script. Your interaction becomes intentional ad-lib and can move forward in a different way. If you assume that a person feels a particular way or that they understand your point of view and feelings, think again. You are not in their head or heart. Your words and your timing is what will open up their feelings and their understanding. 
  • Agendas - In reality, the only agenda that impacts how we respond and react is our own. To say it is another's agenda is to give away our freedom and power to communicate. As we open our mouths or consider opening them, we have to keep in mind why we are doing it. Are we being ethical (not intending to hurt, minimize, create division) in our agenda? Is this just for me to vent or will this bring out a positive change? Am I using this as a rhetorical event (passive aggressiveness) or do I really want to have a discussion with the person? 
No matter how mature or how much experience we have, not a single one of us can get it right every single time. As moms, dads, mates, bosses, employees, children, friends, we ALL miss this sometimes. We are not alone on this big terrestrial ball... we are all human and we all err. It is not a matter of us being perfect, but in our willingness to be better, and a willingness to apologize and acknowledge when our reaction was not beneficial. We can do better, take responsibility and accountability, and shovel up the mess before those Oh Crap moments.

My Mantra: Today I know that I will work to give my best, be my best, and live my best. I also know that I am a continual work in progress - sometimes needing refining, reflecting and restructuring.

Do you ever wish you could take back what you have said or how you have reacted?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

They Said It Would Get Easier - They Lied...

I am in the midst of sending the second of my three daughters off to college and into the world.

In my years of parenting older teens, as the college years approached, I always heard that it gets easier as each one goes.  Friends with good intentions gave me advice, freely recounting their momentous experience of finally being empty nesters. They told me that with each flight, a bit of freedom came. By the time the third little birdie flew the nest, I'd be a pro and barely bat an eye.  In fact, they said that I'd probably do a happy dance as she ventured off into the world.

It gets easier? I could not agree less!

My first went off and it was hard. I missed her terribly, but the emotion that took over was fear.  I questioned if I had given her the right preparation for life to manage on her own.  I worried for her safety and well being to the point of not sleeping.  Daily I questioned who I was as a parent and if I had done my job and given her the right tools to succeed, be happy and be healthy.  I obsessed on if she was getting to and from class safely, if she was figuring out how to be on her own, if she was going to class, and if she was getting enough sleep.  I battled that for months. After a few life lessons and knocks that she worked out and walked her way through, I realized that I had given her what I could to figure out how to be in the world.  She'd call sometimes for guidance, but I knew in my heart that she would be successful in whatever she did. She was strong, able and capable- we saw her triumph.

Ok... I got the parenting thing down. I don't question that much anymore.  But now my second is going off and it is hard for me.  I know I have stocked the life tool box and shown her how to use them.  She will make the choices of when and how to use them - she will figure that part out.  Surely I'll worry about the things that I did with the first, but not in the same way or to the same degree.  But still, it is hard, but in a different way.

My angst this time is not centered on safety and well being.  Since I experienced that with the first, fear is not the dominant emotion - I processed that already and know how to manage it.  Feeling confident in my parenting and how I prepared them has left time for a different type of emotion.

This time a difficult mixture of sadness and joy is dominating.  I feel the sadness of grieving of turning over my precious child to the world.  I feel the grief of remembering the child that was held nearly every second of every day until she was 2 1/2 stepping out of my physical grasp.  I feel the grief of sending my child who didn't want to be the center of attention, didn't want to play on a soccer team because she thought there would be boys on it, and didn't want mom and dad to make a big deal publicly out of things, into a phase of life that pushes each one of those areas in her life. I feel sadness because I know that I am sending her into a world where she will have to play on teams she doesn't always like, because she will have to stand out on her own and shine, and that at times, she will need to step into the spotlight.

I also feel great joy in each of the things I grieve, because I know like our first, she will be triumphant.   There is joy because I know that I, along with her dad, have helped her to be a strong and independent woman.  I feel joy, because she is embracing life, taking a risk, and figuring out who she is.  I feel joy because I know that in parenting her and her sisters, we have prepared them for life and the world.

So I say to all those that told me that it get's easier - either you were trying to soften the blow,  you truly couldn't wait for your children to leave, or you refused to face how difficult it really was.  Our children our extensions of us.  They will become their own people and make their own path in life if we have prepared them well.  But when we send them off, we are sending parts of us with them - and it is painful.

The good news is, in the pain, there is growth - for us and for them. Even though pain is not something we  usually choose to walk into, I will gladly accept the discomfort. There is great reward in the end.