Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Permission to Try

Each week Jamie Ridler, one of my favorite bloggesses, leads Wishcasting Wednesday. She invites people to answer a new question each week and support each other’s wishes by leaving a comment that says, “As (insert name) wishes for her/himself, so I wish for her/him also.” It’s a beautiful thing.

Yesterday’s question was, “What do you wish to give yourself permission for?”

I wish to give myself permission to try. Even if it means failing. Even if it means succeeding.

As weird as it may sound, I think I am equally scared of succeeding and failing. If I fail, it will hurt. It will feel like a waste of time. People might think less of me.

If on the other hand I succeed, people might expect more of me. They might expect me to be an expert, then decide I’m not one. What if I can’t live up to their expectations?

So this week, I wish to give myself permission to try. Permission to try whatever it is my soul longs to try on whatever given day it desires to try it on. Whatever the result, it will be okay.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Post

Happy Book BadgeI am once again partaking in The Next Chapter book blogging group, led by our fearless bloggess, Jamie Ridler. (You may recall our previous Wreck This Journal adventure last summer.)

Life got crazy and I've yet to contribute to the Friday discussions. No more! Today I am joining in the fun.

The book for this new adventure is The Happy Book by Rachel Kempster.

We're playing a bit differently this time around. Rather than everyone having their own copy of the book and going through it at the same time, we are doing a round robin. There are four books making their way from bloggess to bloggess. I am part of the Giggle group. How great is that? We each get to contribute to The Happy Book for a week before sending it on to the next person. In the meantime, Jamie posts updates every Friday and invites us all to share hat is making us happy this week.

So here it goes. Things that are making me happy this week...

  • Being deemed a fairy godmother by the lovely Samantha

  • Girls weekend!  I'm in Virginia right now visiting my best friend (and Samantha!)

  • The universe gave me some valuable reminders about kindness via some wonderful bloggesses

  • Writing!  Lots and lots of writing!  My muse is here and I'm letting her run rampant.

  • A secret project for which I wrote an announcement already to remove some of the fear of moving forward (it's a secret... I'm not telling yet... but I will soon)

  • My cat, Romeo, for his soft cuddliness and unabashed love of the tub faucet

Whether you are part of The Next Chapter or not, join in the fun.  What is making you happy this week?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nipping Negativity in the Bud

I'm trying to change how I handle things at home.  I realized I had gotten myself to this bad place of thinking "what is it this time?" when dealing with my stepson and even my husband.  That kind of negativity only leads to bad outcomes.

Yesterday at work I returned from a meeting to find a missed call from my stepson.  In true "what is it this time?" fashion, I thought "don't tell me he's locked out of the house again."

Then I caught myself.  How was I to guess the reason for his call?  Besides, even if that initial theory proved true, my stepson was probably scared and frustrated.  The last thing he would have needed is for me to be cross with him.

So I changed the thought.  I put myself in the "what can I do for you?" mindset and gave him a cheerful, "Hey bud.  What's up?"

His disappointment carried through the phone line as he replied, "I didn't do well on my math quiz.  I left a message for dad, too."

"First," I said, "I'm proud of you for calling to tell us because then we can help you, right?"


I let him know his teacher had sent an email to all the parents saying she had stalled her lesson plan to review the material again today since many of the kids were struggling with it.  I hoped that would ease his mind to know it wasn't just him that was having trouble.

Then I continued, "Tonight when I get home, let's go over it together and get you feeling comfortable with it."

He agreed.  No fuss, no drama.  We went through the questions he got wrong and walked through his work step-by-step to see what happened.  It only took 20 minutes for both of us to feel comfortable that he understood it enough to solve the same types of problems in the future.

With the "what can I do for you?" mindset, my hope is that he feels supported rather than feeling like he's in trouble.  After all, I'm here to help and show love, not to judge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fairy Godmother

As little girls a lot of us dreamed about what it would be like to have a fairy godmother. Someone to help us out when things got tough and help us feel special again.

Never did I wonder what it would be like to BE a fairy godmother. Until the other day.

My best friend sent me a message saying that her daughter was going around telling people I was her fairy godmother because I make all her wishes come true. I don't know what her wishes were. I can assume they involve getting colorful mail covered in stickers- I send that every month or two.

Aside from that I don't know what I might have done to be bestowed such an honor. All I know is it makes me happy to know she is happy.

That little girl delivers wonderful messages like these at just the right moments to brighten up my days. I wonder if perhaps she is my fairy godmother (fairy goddaughter?).

Either way, I get to visit this beautiful fairy beginning tonight. I will be cheering her on as she competes in a gymnastics tournament tomorrow. I'm so excited!

To all of you, may your fairy godmother bring you a sparkly magical day.

Kindness and Not Taking Things Personally

Ask and ye shall receive. Even if the question isn’t seen by everyone, somehow putting it out there prompts a response from the universe.

Before publishing yesterday’s post, I was aware of a call that was happening at The Stepmom’s Toolbox about not taking things so personally. I still haven’t had a chance to listen to the recording, but I plan on saving it to my iPod tonight to listen to during my train ride to Virginia tomorrow.

I can’t wait to listen to it, especially after Stepmum of the Year’s comment yesterday wherein she linked to a post on CafĂ© Smom’s blog called, Don’t Take Things So Personally Pledge. Thank you, stepmum, for the link!

In the post, chief smom (as the author calls herself) reflects on the Stepmom’s Toolbox phone call. She says:

My greatest takeaway is that I am actually gaining power over my own emotions and life when I give up the power to know everything and control certain situations. When I choose not to take something personally, I am empowering myself to have peace in my heart. What a gift that I can give myself.
Whoa. It’s a great mind shift, isn’t it? Choosing not to take something personally, empowers us to have peace in our own heart. I love that. It won’t necessarily be easy to put this into practice, but think how great the rewards will be. Thank you, chief smom, for your insights! I will be joining in your challenge.

Then I read a lovely post by Connie at Dirty Footprints Studio about kindness. Connie is an artist/art teacher/beautiful soul who isn’t afraid to live out loud. Today she talks about what she has learned from teaching, including this:

And teaching has taught me, over and over again,

to be kind.

To just be kind. No matter what. No matter when.

No matter how you have to figure yourself out,

to find the courage-

to let go of pride-

to turn the other cheek-

To put your own insecurities aside.

Letting go of pride and putting my own insecurities aside are great reminders for me. They are things I continue to struggle with as I learn to be comfortable in my own skin as a stepmom, as a wife, and as an individual. As usual, Connie, you are reminding me what life is all about.

Finally, I have to say that even with the occasional blips that happen in day-to-day family life, our spontaneous ski trip was soooo worth it. The connection, the time away, the spur-of-the-moment-no-time-to-second-guess nature of it, all of it worked to replenish our souls, which I wrote about at today at Working Mother.

I hope you are all having a fabulous Wednesday.  Thank you for listening and responding in kind.

Where I Wish to Make a Difference

Jamie Ridler, one of my favorite bloggesses (I completely just made that term up and I love it), does this thing she calls Wishcasting Wednesday. She invites people to answer a new question each week and support each other’s wishes by leaving a comment that says, “As (insert name) wishes for her/himself, so I wish for her/him also.” It’s a beautiful thing.

Today’s question is, “Where do you wish to make a difference?”

I wish to make a difference in other people’s lives by showing kindness.

It sounds overly grand. What people? Anyone. Everyone. Whomever crosses my path. We all want to know that someone cares about us. If I can help someone feel that, even in just a few short minutes, I feel I will have made a difference.

Last year I came across a poem that expressed this idea wonderfully. I don’t know who wrote it (it was on a plaque without citation), but I memorized it:

If you planted hope today in any hopeless heart,
If someone's burden was lighter because you did your part,
If you caused a laugh that chased a tear away,
If tonight your name is mentioned when someone kneels to pray,
Then your day was well spent.

I wish for my days to be well spent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When the Stepmom Becomes the Teenager

One of my challenges in life is learning not to take offense to things. I think I’m improving, but there are times when I let things get to me rather than taking them for what they are and letting them roll off my back. Often there isn’t any offense intended, so it’s just my own sensitivity getting in my way.

As an example, this weekend my husband, stepson, and I went on a spontaneous ski trip. One morning as we were headed down to breakfast, my stepson was leaving the room without shoes and wearing a knit cap. I asked him to get his shoes and remove his hat. He whined about the hat and said he didn’t want to take it off because he hadn’t brushed his hair. (I think it was probably that he thought the hat looked cool, which it kind of did.)

My husband said, “Does he really need to take it off? This is a ski lodge. There are probably a lot of people down there with hats on.”

Though part of me agreed that he had a good point, the part of me that replied said, “Ok. Overrule me. Whatever,” and I started down the hallway. Real mature.

Sure enough, down at the breakfast buffet, other people were wearing hats. I cringed as soon as I saw it because I knew what was next.

On cue, my stepson said, “See? Lots of people have hats on.”

Grrrrr. I don’t remember now what I said, but I’m sure it was another “whatever.”

In a second I went from being the stepmom to being a temperamental teenager. Yikes. I was so frustrated that I didn’t know how to move on gracefully. Instead I focused on eating my breakfast and quieting my mind. Midway through breakfast, we were all smiling again.

How do you handle your own inner teenager? Do you have tips for (step)parenting with grace?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Photography: Cat Drinking from Faucet

With today being a holiday, I am at home again with all of the snow still holding strong outside. It has been a great day to catch up on laundry, straighten up the bookcase, drop off library books, and go to the grocery store. Even better, it's been a great day to play around a little. I did some writing and played with my camera for a bit.

This morning one of our cats, Romeo, was following his usual routine of requesting water from the faucet on the bath tub. I'm not sure what is so exciting about that particular faucet, but Romeo LOVES it.

I've been meaning to photograph him and never got around to it. This morning was the perfect time. The late morning sun was shining through the window above the tub, setting a cheerful mood.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

Cat drinking from faucet

Cat drinking from faucet

Cat sniffing water from faucet

Cat drinking from faucet

Cat snubbing faucet

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Journal Entry

No typing today. Just a picture.

[caption id="attachment_1080" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Today\'s journal entry"]Journal page[/caption]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Snow Pictures

The snow ended late last night and the sun is out today making the forest sparkle under the ice.

We spent four hours this morning clearing out the driveway and the front steps as best as possible. The mailbox is still packed in very tightly and the mailwoman told us we would have to clear it out better or she won't be able to deliver our mail for a few days. After all that work we decided we were okay not receiving bills for a few days.

After all that work my husband came up with the brilliant idea that we should go skiing, so he is now doing a little research and we will be on our way soon for an afternoon on the mountain.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos from the snow.

[caption id="attachment_1073" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Sun shining on a snowy forest"]Sun shining on a snowy forest[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1074" align="aligncenter" width="476" caption="About 3-1/2 hours into snow clearing and the car is still half buried"]Clearing the snow[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1075" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="We found the sidewalk!"]Sidewalk cleared off[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1076" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="My favorite tree (the zig-zaggy one) looks awesome in the snow"]zig zag tree in snow[/caption]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Phenomenon

There is a strange phenomenon occurring on the east coast. It’s not the snow exactly, although these blizzards are a little out of control. The blizzards also brought with it a day off from school for my stepson and a day of working from home for my husband and me. For some reason we have hit some magic point where it seems to be wreaking havoc on our home.

Find out what happened in my post on Working Mother.

Anyone else dealing with extreme weather?

Snow... Lots of it

Snow is pounding the east coast for the second time this winter. We can usually count on a few inches here and there, but two blizzards?? It's giving a whole new meaning to Winter Wonderland.

Speaking of which, why don't we keep some of those holiday songs around throughout winter? That one, in particular, still seems very appropriate.

Anyhow, my friends in Maryland and Virginia are trying to dig out from 3-4 feet of snow, I think we are closing in on 2 feet. Here is what my backyard looked like earlier this afternoon:

[caption id="attachment_1064" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Snow in my backyard"]Snow in my backyard[/caption]

Just a few minutes ago, I took this photo of the snow piling up on our deck. There is about 8" balanced neatly atop our railing and the snow is still falling.

[caption id="attachment_1066" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Snow balanced on the deck railing"]Snow on the railing[/caption]

The last weather report I pulled forecasted snow through 1:00 a.m., which would mean another 7 hours if it comes true. There is already so much snow stuck to the screens on my windows that it's difficult to see outside unless I stand right next to it.

I think it's safe to say we will all be snowed in again tomorrow. To my friends and family in Maryland and Virginia, stay warm! I hope you are able to leave your houses soon.

P.S. I've been quiet here this week, but there are some new posts at Too Many Toasters, so feel free to skip on over and check it out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meticulous Mom

My stepson lovingly joked with me that I should be “one of those meticulous moms that keeps everything super organized.”

Though I haven’t perfected this parenthood thing, I do the cooking, the laundry, general tidying up, clean the cat litter, make sure homework, chores, and sports activities happen on time, and tuck the blankets tight at bedtime. Not too shabby.

When I mentioned these things to my stepson he said, “Yeah. Me and dad are lazy bums.”

I laughed and hugged him. Then, I did what any meticulous mom would do: I called dibs on the Xbox.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Overcoming Fear of My Own Family

One thing I learned in January is how important it is to find the good in what feels like an otherwise bad time.

When I lost my grandpa three weeks after losing my dog, all I could think is what next? How much can I take? What is the universe trying to tell me?

What I learned is that my family isn’t as weird as I envisioned and I am not a disappointment. That is a monumentally huge step for me.

Let me explain. I spend a lot of time worrying about other people. I worried about seeing family I haven’t seen a while, mostly about whether they would see me as a failure. A failure for taking too long to finish college, for already having a divorce behind me, for being in a second marriage already (with a stepson), for not going to church every Sunday, for the photo I sent at Christmas time which prompted a letter from my grandpa about having “breasts more modestly covered”- talk about humiliating. It’s an unbelievable amount of baggage I carry to any family meeting.

My family is quite spread out, so I don’t get to see everyone very often. It had been 5 to 10 years since I’d seen some of them. It’s almost like getting together with strangers.

The thing about going to see my family after grandpa’s passing is my mind was more absorbed with shock and grief than it was with worrying about my own insecurities or past “proof” of my ability to disappoint. (It seems almost laughably harsh as I write it now.)

My first stop (with my dad and stepmom) was to my uncle’s house, the one I hadn’t seen in 5 years. Entering their home I immediately felt comfortable. It felt safe. There were no pretenses. My aunt was the strong, welcoming person I remembered. My cousin, who I hadn’t seen in 10 years, was now a full-grown man with quiet sarcasm.

It was my uncle, though, that I really connected with. He was with my grandpa when things took their sudden downturn. Throughout lunch he tearfully explained what happened and what he was thinking every step of the way. Before we left I thanked him for sharing his story and for being with grandpa in his final moments.

At my grandmother’s house were my other uncles, aunt, and half of my cousins. The rest of my cousins, my stepbrother, and my stepsister arrived the next day and for the first time in at least 10 years, all of our family was together in one place.

My mom happened to be visiting my other grandma a few hours away. My two grandmas had been good friends until my one grandma moved. My mom offered to drive up one afternoon (seven hours roundtrip) so that she and grandma could be there for me and my other grandma.

I was touched at that generosity then worried about my parents being in the same room. Would it be awkward? Would my dad’s family want my mom there?

There was nothing to fear. Everyone got along. My mom talked to my aunt and my stepmom for more than an hour while my two grandmas visited. My cousins on my dad’s side talked about how great my grandma on my mom’s side was. It made me wonder what I really thought would happen.

I spent a lot of time with my family in those five days. I talked to all of them. And listened. Really listened.

We found camaraderie. My church-going cousins relayed what clothing had “gotten them in trouble” with grandpa and grandma. It wasn’t just me. There is nothing wrong with me.

We consoled each other. We caught up with each other. We laughed and we cried together.

We communicated in facial expressions and subtle eye movements, a language my husband affectionately named Martin speak. I never thought about it until then, but we all do that. A raised eyebrow from across the room is unmistakable.

One night as we talked, my uncle shared a sentiment he had read during cancer treatment a few years ago. He said, “You can’t stop misery from coming, but you don’t have to give it a chair to sit in.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing- letting misery sit and stay. My own worries have kept me down. The things I carry with me as permanent battle wounds can (and should) be shaken off.

It has taken me 32 years, but I realize now what an extraordinary family I have. I am not an outsider, nor am I a disappointment. I am a Martin. We fit just fine.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Finding Gold

In a Joy Rebel Mission Monday two weeks ago, Brandi challenged her readers to choose a color and then go out in the world to photograph things you find in that color.

I chose the color gold and headed to New York that Thursday toting my point-and-shoot camera. During my walk to the office I was keenly aware of how many gold things there were in the city: doors, signs, hydrants, lights. I'd never really noticed that before.

In just a few blocks, I took a dozen photos. A few of my favorites are in the collage below.

Because I was on a mission to seek out a color, I noticed things I hadn't noticed in my two years of working in the city. I became more aware of details on the path I follow several times a week. It just goes to show that no matter how familiar you think something is, there is always something new to learn.

I plan on repeating this mission with other colors and in other places. Imagine all of the treasures this world is waiting for us to find.