What I’ve Learned While Preparing My Upcoming Presentation

It feels like ages since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it. Much of my work time has gone into preparing my presentation for the Today’s Modern Women of Faith conference (3 more sleeps!).

I’ve prepared a presentation which I hope will bridge the gap between women of various faiths so we can come together and create a world that we all want for our kids. Thing is, I have a lot to say and only 20 minutes in which to say it! Keeping everything concise while still sharing a combination of stories and facts has been my greatest challenge. I’ve certainly learned about chopping and polishing my own work. And now I’m constantly rehearsing so I know my material well enough that I shouldn’t need to pause too much to think of what I’m saying. While also giving myself enough time to pause and let the audience absorb what I’m saying. It’s really pushing me to be a better speaker – I think that’s a good thing!

I’m looking forward to connecting with people who are really into this kind of thing. We all have to make choices on how we spend our time; the women who will be at this event truly value the voices of women and the causes we stand for. While I wish I was seeing more familiar faces in the crowd, I’ve learned that this is an opportunity to connect with new people who share my interests. And hopefully they’ll be the women I can look forward to seeing at other such events.

I’ve also learned that emailing people doesn’t seem to be the way to go anymore. (Maybe I’m the last person in the world to have learned this.) I thought emailing was a more personal way to reach out to people – vs. tagging someone on Facebook or just ‘putting it out there’ for whoever happens to catch it in their feed. I’ve noticed, though, that when I send out an email sharing information about an event, I don’t really hear back from many. For this particular conference, I emailed 34 women and heard back from 3. I haven’t figured out: is it the email platform, or the content, or am I coming across as spammy? I really hope it’s not the last thing. Maybe we’re all so used to getting email that that line of ‘from a friend’ vs. ‘from a company’ is blurred. In any case, I’m no longer going to reach out to friends via email when it comes to sharing events.

I think perhaps the most significant thing I have learned from this whole experience is that saying ‘yes’ to the things that push me out of my comfort zone for awhile actually makes me feel fulfilled. It’s not always comfortable to be who you are, to speak your truth, to try to affect change. I’m not sure that we came here simply to be comfortable all the time.

Hope all is well in your world! I’d love to hear about anything you’ve learned recently, or anything else you wish to share in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

Your Best Is Enough. No, Really.

I’m not the first to blog about this and I won’t be the last. Feeling ‘ _____ enough’ is tricky for most of us, whether that’s smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough, patient enough, liked enough, ‘together’ enough, a good enough mom, a good enough dad…and the list goes on.

At the root of feeling ‘enough’ is self-love, one of the keywords that has people clicking over to my site daily. But what else can I share with you that will help you feel like who you are now, and how you are now, is perfectly divine?

How about something practical? Something tangible that you can get a grip on when it feels like things are slipping through your fingers.

This is from that part of me who happens to be a mom of 3 kids. Motherhood is, of course, a role I strongly identify with but it’s also the place where I am pitted against my greatest struggles and challenges. Those struggles and challenges are internal; they don’t stem from my children being typical children, but from me being built the way I am. That’s a whole ‘nother post but if you read my tips on coping as an introverted parent, you get the gist.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to let the age and stage of my kids dictate what life looks like. Understanding and accepting what is possible and what would just be a big freaking gong show followed by a massive headache has really helped. Find your happy medium – that place where you are nurturing yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) and keeping things easy for yourself as you care for other human beings.

That happy medium will change in terms of what it looks like. Maybe nurturing yourself as a mom of an infant means colouring (in your new colouring book that you asked for this Christmas) for 20 minutes while the baby naps. Maybe it means taking a nap yourself. Maybe it means listening to music that soothes you so you can be your calm self for when the baby wakes up again. Nurturing yourself will look different as a mom of a toddler and again as the mom of a school-aged child and so on.

And then there are those moments when you can’t even think about doing anything except letting the tears fall into your cold coffee. That’s OK. If that’s the best you got in that moment, then give ‘er. You’re doing what you can given what you’ve got, in that moment. It’s OK. It’s totally enough, and so are you.

Over the last 8 years I’ve stopped and started, I’ve changed direction, I’ve put my pedal to the metal, and I’ve turned on the cruise control depending on what was happening in my life. There were times when I resented having to put projects on hold or felt held back in some of my pursuits because the kids were too young or I had a tough pregnancy and couldn’t ‘handle’ anything more (because growing a human being is like sitting around and doing absolutely nothing). I’ve had days of crying and feeling super unproductive, like my life wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I probably would have scoffed at the title of this blog post in those moments. I’m so much better than this, I can do and be so much more. 

Well, here’s the thing: when I look back over the last 8 years of my life I can’t believe how much I actually did accomplish. I think, though, that if, in those crying into my cold tea moments, I just accepted that my best was enough, I probably would have saved myself some grief.

Because I’m a goal-setter, I’ve learned a lot about hustle. I think there is a misconception about what hustle is. We think it means go-go-go every minute of the day, depriving ourselves of sleep, and living on caffeine. That’s not what hustle is! Hustle is simply doing the best we can and always moving in a forward motion. We can zip through a goal or inch our way toward it; in either case there is movement forward. Even in those head in our hands moments, what we might feel are huge pits of wasted time, we can still move forward if we accept them and love ourselves through them. Because then we know that in the next moment, we can make another small step in returning to a higher form of ourselves. And if it’s not the very next moment, it could be the next one, or the next one. Keep moving forward because as I said earlier, every age and stage will bring with it new opportunities.

Never let that light go out because that light is you. It’s all the joy you can bring to the world. Keep the flame fanned with people who truly care about you, someone to help you out with the kids and give you that break, the pursuit of your interests and passions in whatever capacity that means in this moment, and these words: Your best is enough.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

Overcoming Struggle Through Connections

Sometimes it seems like it’s just one thing after another. I started off September with a bang. I mean, laundry every day, people. I was knocking things off my to-do list (including self-care!), nailing school lunches and getting out a bit more. And then last week I literally got knocked off track in a car accident which also set my emotions in a spin, and this week, life threw another curve ball.

My first impulse, and please pay attention because this is super important…my first impulse is to throw a pity party. To the party, I invite any and every instance in the past when something has derailed me. I remember all the times I’ve felt totally out of control or have had to ask for help. And I get angry that I ever felt so helpless.

And when people, like real life people, want to hang out, I cringe. No, people. I’m cocooning. I’m hibernating. I’m wallowing. I’m too annoyed to see you. So then I cocoon and hibernate and wallow and be annoyed…which further propagates the anxiety and frustration.

But not this time. I can’t. I can’t do those things anymore. Yes, I had a Friday evening last week where I grumbled about a dark cloud hanging over me, and the rest of the weekend I alternated between tears and laughter. But things are smoothing out fairly quickly because I have no choice.

Why don’t I have a choice? Because it’s not who I am. I’m not really a glass half-empty kind of person. I’m not really a hermit. I’m not really someone who thinks life is crappy. Crappy things happen, but in general I’m being shown blessings all the time. I look for them, these blessings, and I find them in every little thing. I even say hello to the spider near my side door gate when I see her in the morning and thank her for keeping the other bugs out of my way. Like, out loud.

My friend Jamie, from Styling the Inside, texted me the other day asking if we could hang out – coffee, tea, painting – and my response was, I’d love to but I’m cocooning.

And I really would LOVE to. I crave connection with girlfriends and I really do have some awesome ladies in my life. They inspire me, they support me, and they genuinely care. I’m in touch with women daily usually online or by quick text messages, and short blips during the day at school. But meeting in person at a time that is meant for true connection is so completely different.

Last week I met with Claire deBoer from The Gift of Writing; it was our first time seeing each other in person after following each other online for a couple of years. One of the things we talked about was this face-to-face connection and how important it is. In fact, I shared with her a dream of mine of building an offline community of artists.

So, really, feeling a bit low for a couple days is fine and allowed…but to cut myself off from that which I crave just to prove to myself that yes, life does crappy things seems very counter-productive. Almost self-sabotagey. I’m glad I’m at a point where I can identify this about myself. I think it will only serve me to understand this about me.

And today Jamie wrote a post all about the importance of face-to-face community with some tips on how you can get out there and find yours. It was really her post that prompted me to text her again saying, let’s meet up! And it reminded me of the joy I get from sharing space and time with people who are journeying along on this unpredictable but beautiful life.

All of this is to say, if your first response is to throw a pity-party, make it a short one and don’t invite all the old baggage as guests. Then remember that human beings are social animals – no matter where we fall on the introvert/extravert continuum – so take steps to feed that innate desire to connect offline.

And stay on top of your laundry. It helps with the overwhelm.

 

Remembering This One Thing Helps Me Be A Better Parent

I don’t like to do anything wrong. I’m the first born daughter in an Asian family so the worst thing I can do is anything wrong. I have high expectations of myself in many areas, but none surpass what I believe I ‘must do’ as a mom.

My dad tells me my problem is I over-analyze things. He says I think too much about the consequences of my actions or inactions towards my kids. As much as it kills me to admit this, he may be right. I tend to get lost among the trees and forget I’m in a beautiful forest. I forget that I am actually a PART of something and not the thing upon which EVERYTHING rests.

I always fall back upon the words of Khalil Gibran in his epic poem, The Prophet, that actually lifts that burden for me:

                      On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I mean, isn’t that just awesome? I am not responsible for every. single. thing.

I have a job to do, yes. But it’s really not unreasonable. It’s challenging and rewarding and surprising and amazing. But I don’t need superhero powers to get through this. The big take-home message for me in this poem is that there’s only so much of their path that I intersect. Only so much I have control over. And whew – that is a bit of a relief, I must say.

I will do my best, but sometimes my best is just giving it up to God. And probably teaching my kids to do that, by example, is a tool I can give them for when they leave my bow.

Yesterday, things got a bit much for me. So many changes this week and everything’s kind of happening at once. My son is now joining his big sister at elementary school, and my littlest has started daycare part time. Again, I imagined the weight of every decision on my shoulders. I imagined my kids years from now in fabricated scenarios based on decisions I could make at this moment. In other words, I forgot about the Archer.

Later in the evening, just before bedtime, the kids and I sat on the living room floor. All 3 of them were literally dog-piling me and just lovin’ on me. It was totally what I needed – and I am sure they did too. No matter how much we all crave routine, the 5 of us are cut from the same cloth. We’d rather be doing nothing with each other, and yesterday’s back to school endeavour felt like an intrusion on that.

At one point, my youngest was on my lap, my son was in front of me to my left, and my daughter was in front of me to my right. Kind of like a circle. I reached for their hands and almost instantly they both closed their eyes. I took their lead. I let a few deep breaths go by before I asked them to help me create a bubble of white light around us. I talked them through it while explaining to them what the light was and how it would always protect us and make us feel loved. No matter where we are, no matter who we are with. We are a part of this light and so is everyone else we meet. We are connected to each other and most importantly, to this light. It was just a few minutes of grounding but by the time we opened our eyes, the room felt different.

I felt different.

I remembered sitting down in the prayer hall with my kids, just the night before, to help us kick-start the school year like I did as a child with my own parents. In my heart I asked for guidance and strength to help me be the mom they needed for this new season in all of our lives. I remembered the feeling I received after asking – it was as though I was being assured that simply by being this mom, the one that I am, I am enough.

In just a few minutes, the entire weight of the day slid off my shoulders and dissolved somewhere behind me, in a moment that was now the past. And in front of me were calm, content faces.

This is a picture we took yesterday morning, before the craziness of the day set in. And we closed the day surrounded by each other like this, too. That is not lost on me. That is the magical forest in which I live.

let me out creative, taslim jaffer, remembering this one thing helps me be a better parent, motherhood, parenting, khalil gibran, on children, parenting, kindergarten, daycare

Whatever beliefs you have about Something Else, something that goes beyond the physical, let it help you with the burdens you carry. Remembering we are a part of something instead of the one and only entity on which everything else rests can really help with the mental noise. It can help with the emotions you harbour in the cells of your body. It can just help.

And it is a beautiful thing to remember.

 

 

 

When Your Breath Is All There Is

My body sliced through the cool freshwater, headfirst. As I resurfaced, I turned toward the dock where my husband and two kids fist-pumped. “Wooooot! Yay!” mixed with the sound of the waves lapping against the dock’s pillars. “Mommy?” My toddler’s voice drifted toward me.

Waving, I turned away from them and faced the rest of the lake; this massive, seemingly endless body of water that stretched before me. I kept my face above water but allowed my body to move in a familiar breaststroke. It was so natural to move my limbs this way; their power propelled me further out. My breathing hadn’t slowed down much. In fact, my breath seemed to be coming a bit quicker, and shallow. As confident as I was in a pool, I wasn’t used to being immersed in this much water and I couldn’t seem to calm myself down. The small waves started to look bigger as they broke around my neck and shoulders.

Calm down. Everything is fine. 

I treaded water and looked over my shoulder at my family watching from the dock. Looking back at that moment, I know it wasn’t fear that pulsed through my body, but rather a deep need to let go. To relax. Which is probably why, instead of swimming back, I found myself leaning back, letting my feet drift skyward. Slowly, ever so slowly, I submerged my ears in the water.

Back float. One of the first things they teach us when we learn to swim.

breathing, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, music, poetry, meditation, let me out creative, swimming in a lake, back float, swim lessons, lakes, freshwater, when your breath is all there is

Head way back, eyes taking in blue sky, toes peeking out above the surface, hands drifting out like a star.

And all there is, is that seashell-pressed-against-the-ear sound…and our amplified breath.

The sound of my breath caught me by surprise and I could hear it get louder and quicker. I breathed in deeply through my nostrils and then let it pass through my mouth. My next breath was also deep and purposeful. Innnnnn and ouuuuuuut.

I smiled, finally connecting with a sense of calm. Feeling beautiful and magical as my hair did its own dance around my head. I was floating on water and floating on a cloud at the same time. Another breath. Innnnnn and ouuuuuut. I could hear the difference in my breathing now. Slow and long and calm. The water that just a few minutes before felt like a great big entity outside and all around me, now felt like something that I was simply a part of.

My thoughts drifted to other times when being aware of my breath had the same kind of effect.

Music. Playing the saxophone. Of course, being a wind instrument, you can’t get away from your breath. Just to make a sound, you have to be aware of filling up your lungs and expelling air at a certain pace and pressure. Playing the piano. Even though it’s your fingers that do the singing, your breath still plays a part. At the end of a phrase mark, your whole body takes a breath.

Yoga. Movement and breath flow together. You hold poses for a certain number of breaths. You move on inhalations and exhalations.

Meditation. Sitting quietly. Making your breath your complete awareness.

Reading out loud. Whether it’s poetry on stage, or a prose piece in front of a writing group, or a children’s story for your kids, reading out loud demands we use our breath efficiently. There’s rhythm and cadence to consider, and breath is a big part of that.

Floating on my back in the lake, it all came together for me. I understood why I need things like music, yoga, poetry and meditation in my life. Why I need to sometimes just float and let go and know that if I just take in my next breath and let it out slowly, I can feel relaxed in the middle of anywhere or anything.

Taking the practice of purposeful, deep breathing outside of these activities will serve me well. Innnnn and ouuuuut in the middle of an unnerving situation, the children squabbling, a painful memory.

It will serve me well.

Summer And Sanity: A Work-At-Home Mom’s Balancing Act

Many of us parents are a mixed bag of emotions right now as our kids complete another school year. For me, there’s a strong desire to bottle up their ‘little-ness’ because I see it dissolving right before my eyes. I also feel the relief of being able to put the words, “Come on, hurry up! You’re going to be LATE!” to rest for a little while. Sure, there’ll be places to go, but I’m staying away from anywhere that hands out late slips. Of course, there’s the comfort of knowing that the 5 of us will be spending a lot of time together. No, I didn’t say ‘apprehension’ – I said comfort. I would rather have my kids with me than not. And when my husband is around (which he is a lot in the summer – thank God!) everything is so much more fun and easy!

But…I do know that my sanity is a loose and wispy thing that can break away from me if I’m not careful. And I also know that the combination of a work-from-home scenario plus 3 kids in my full-time care can threaten said sanity.

There are many things I can do with or around the kids. Like housework. Everyone has their jobs around the house and that includes playing with the toddler when I need to get certain things done.

Also, errands; my kids have come with me to run personal or business errands since they were babies so I’m not worried about getting out to do those things. In fact, my son, with his long dark eyelashes, often seals the deal for me when I’m meeting with potential vendors. And if I need to be child-free for an appointment or meeting, I do have neighbours/friends/my sister-in-law who I can call on for help.

But there’s the issue of actually working on my business that needs to continue to happen daily over the summer. During the school year, I do this when the kids are at school and the toddler is napping, plus in the evenings after they go to bed (or I should say, after they go back to bed for the 4th time).

I told them the other day that we were going to have a GREAT summer – as long as they don’t drive me crazy! When I came across Clare De Boer (of The Gift of Writing)’s Facebook status with her scheduled summer day outlined on a poster paper, I realized I had to be a little more specific about how this was all going to go down.

So I created my own.

summer, sanity, momlife, moms, kids, motherhood, staying sane this summer, work at home mom, home-based business, work from home

My prime work time during the day is the toddler’s naptime. (The older kids do a much better job of entertaining themselves than she does! Plus I can let them go outside to play without watching them like a hawk.) There is room for a variety of activities at that time; I will make a separate ‘chart’ with options they can choose from.

I’m all about letting them use their imagination to come up with their own play, but if a kid is going to knock on my studio door and say, “I don’t know what to do” I want a list of choices to point to without having to lift my eyes from my computer screen.

I’m sure many work-at-home parents unveil the ‘perfect’ day to their children at the beginning of summer with a mixture of faith and fear. “Ok, kids, this is how it’s going to be! And we’ll all be cheerful and cooperative!” I’ve learned the tough lesson of needing to be flexible though. (And I did it while kicking and screaming, all the way).  I could try this and it might not work every day. Then again, there will be plenty of days when I can grab time from other parts of the day. Like I do now, I just have to see the opportunity and seize it.

Many of my friends are in the same boat with home-based businesses and kids off for a couple months. We are each being creative in how we can maintain our work time but still enjoy this beautiful time with our kids. After all, many of us are doing this gig just so we can have that kind of balance.

This summer I’m going to focus on my blessings and this well of gratitude inside me. It’s so much easier to be less frustrated when I see my kids not as a block to my productivity, but as the reason I even made this journey back to my Self and my creativity. Yes, they’ll annoy me. They’ll fight with each other and throw other curve balls at me when all I really want is some quiet to hear myself think!

But the bottom line is, I owe these kids a lot. My eldest daughter reminded me that I am so much bigger than I was being. She was my catalyst to authentic living. My son gave me the guts to make a big leap right on to a path that is more fulfilling. And my baby girl…taught me that dreams do come true, and to just trust that the Universe has me wrapped up in its loving plan.

The work will get done and the memories will be made. That is my intention for this summer.

What’s yours?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

I Was Giving My Daughter The Wrong Message – And Not Paying Attention To Hers

My husband and I were growing curious about our daughter’s ‘sudden disinterest’ in playing soccer with her friends. Inaya played in a league for two seasons and never once complained about going to practice or a game. In fact, quite the opposite: she always anticipated games with excitement and came back from practices, flushed and happy. We’ve gone down to the park as a family and with neighbours and have always popped up the soccer nets and played friendly games. She’s never one to sit them out. But lately I’ve noticed that when given a choice at recess and lunch she will most often choose solitary play (playground equipment) or will play with 1 or 2 other girls, and less often she’ll join her friends in a game of soccer.

After school, when there’s an opportunity for her to play soccer with her friends, she’ll instead choose to have a playdate or to come home and read, or play with her siblings.

A few days ago, my husband and I questioned her about this:

Do you not like soccer anymore?

Is there someone who plays that you aren’t comfortable being around?

Are you invited to play?

Do you invite yourself to play?

What’s wrong?

Basically, I went into Mom mode (a.k.a. detective mode) and tried to find a ‘problem’. The more questions I asked the more confused she looked and the less she wanted to talk. A couple days later, another mom observed that Inaya doesn’t join in with the other kids, who are all her friends, when everyone is playing soccer. I felt something familiar makes it way through my body and I realized that I was going about this whole thing the wrong way.

When we got home from school, I asked Inaya if she’d like to play a game with me. I was kind of winging it, but also drawing on a mini self-discovery book I had made for a workshop for pre-teens.

On a piece of paper, I had her list everything she was good at. She filled the entire page and I actually had to ask her if we could move on to the next question (I was feeling impatient – I was still trying to figure something out…). She was satisfied when I said she could go back to that question and keep writing everything she was good at. (By the way, when I’ve done this with adults, it’s been a quick exercise! Kids are often so much better at knowing their awesomeness).

On another page I asked her to list all the things she thinks are fun. Playing with friends was on there. So was soccer.

But the most telling exercise was when I asked her to divide a circle that represented ‘play time’ into: How much time do I like to spend alone or with 1 friend, and how much time do I like to spend in a group of friends. She coloured 3/4 of the circle blue, which signified the former. The remaining 1/4 was orange – the amount of time she liked to be in a group setting.

So, really, Inaya choosing other activities had more to do with her knowing what she wanted and being true to herself.

Being authentic.

Six hours of being in school can be energetically-taxing on an introvert, especially when classes often do a lot of ‘pair-shares’, working in partners or even have desks set up as groups. She was just chilling when she needed to, and is happy as a clam doing it.

Ha – even though I think/write/speak about authenticity a lot, when I went into Mom mode I occupied a space of ingrained beliefs that I thought I had shed for myself. I guess when it came to my kids, I was still holding on to the beliefs that they had to be like the other kids, or be liked by them, or be perceived by the other parents as well-adjusted and happy…according to someone else’s definition.

On her 4th birthday, Inaya fell in love with this skirt and I fell more in love with her.
On her 4th birthday, Inaya fell in love with this skirt and I fell more in love with her.

The message I was initially giving Inaya by suggesting she choose soccer more than she normally would was, “Sometimes you have to do what the other kids are doing, just to be social.”

Um…that could really turn around and bite me in the butt, couldn’t it? Like at a party in her teen years? Oh my gosh, let’s not talk about that yet.

By the end of the game, which she loved doing, she said to me, “That was really fun. It helped me say things that I didn’t know how to say.” (In particular about how she would like to divide her play time).

We have a lot to learn from these kids – let’s help them express their messages, and most importantly, let’s pay attention to the ways they are already doing that!

She can get lost in activities like this one - designing outfits and choosing accessories.
She can get lost in activities like this one – designing outfits and choosing accessories.

Inaya and I are working on a little something for you – a self-discovery game that you can work through with your kids so that you can learn what makes them tick. Her name is definitely going on it as co-creator because, as she put it, “I’m doing a lot of the work here.” I’ll let you know when it’s ready!

In the meantime, though, please give the above exercises a try, and don’t forget to do the exercises yourself – drop me a line if you have questions. I also would love to hear any stories or examples from your own experiences, either in the comments or privately.

For an adult version of a self-discovery ‘game’, take a look at my workbook What If?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-DiscoveryKnowing who you are and how you feel about things…really connecting with your Self…allows you to make choices that create a happier, healthier life. Your way.

 

Remember: You Are Mortal. Plus 4 Other Tips For Living Authentically.

Yesterday, I had a heart-sinking conversation with an old friend. This friend is a vibrant, fun-loving, musical, inspired-by-Nature young person – but after a long overdue catch-up, it became painfully obvious that there was little to no evidence of this beautiful soul in his daily existence. When I pointed this out to my friend, he quickly changed the subject. I went with the turn of topics, but my heart has remained in that sad place.

My conviction that authentic living is the key to health and happiness didn’t come out of thin air. I didn’t read about it anywhere and say, “That’s a great belief – I’ll subscribe to that.” I lived the experience of missing ME in my own life and felt its effects, and I also was gifted some incredible lessons by my mom leading up to and through her passing in 2009.

Last night I had a dream about my mom; we hung out at the pool she used to take me to for my swimming lessons. In the dream, I was thanking her for everything she did for me and all of the things I learned from her.

Today I want to share with you 5 lessons I learned from my mom about how to live a life that is authentic. 

1. Remember: You are mortal.

Mortal is fancy speak for, you are going to die one day. (When we take away the fancy speak, we can say the things that really affect people.) My mom was 53 when she was given a diagnosis of a terminal illness, and just shy of 56 when she died. She didn’t retire and do all the things that come with that. She just worked her butt off and then was told her body would deteriorate over the next few years until her eventual death. And she was given notice! Not everyone is. I’m being blunt, but that’s a pretty important lesson, don’t you think? One thing I always ask myself is, if today was the last day of my life would I have wanted to do X or would I have been more satisfied with Y?

Remembering you are mortal going to die one day can motivate you to make the choices that appeal to your true Self. So, please don’t forget it.

2. Talk about ideas, then act on them.

From the time I was in high school, my mom would say to me, “Talk to people about ideas.” There are many things we can do with the time we engage with others: we can argue, complain, whine, gossip, or we can inspire, be inspired, question, contemplate, listen and learn. Not that every interaction has to be meaningful and super deep (although, those interactions are awesome, if you ask me), but use your time wisely. Discuss ideas, not people.

And then when you get those ideas, take another step and act on them. Because…#1.

3. Have confidence in yourself.

When giving me a pep talk, my mom would always say, “Think to yourself: I am SOMEbody!” It was important to her that I be bold. I can see now, as a mom, how you can want that for your kids, but how it’s not always easy to do for yourself. But seriously…#1, right? So, you might as well believe that you can do what you want to do and go forth confidently. Not everyone will like it. Not everyone will believe in you. Not everyone will think your dreams are as awesome as they are. Not everyone will want to do the things YOU want to do. (Doesn’t mean you can’t do them!)

In the end, your regrets are your own. And it’s always best to keep those to a minimum.

4. Kai, pih neh jhalsa…which translates to eat, drink and be merry.

We worry a lot about everything these days, and too often we worry about the things we can’t change or have no control over. You can take this invitation to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ literally or figuratively, but the bottom line is, please enjoy yourself.

Take time off. Save up for a vacation (and then GO on one!). Spend an entire Sunday at the park. Yes, the laundry will pile up (trust me, that is a tried and true fact), but that Sunday will never come again. Be reasonable when you are striving for good health; if you are watching what you eat, don’t let yourself go into a state of deprivation. That’s awful for your psyche. Enjoy where you are and enjoy the process of moving forward in your health. Eat your lunch on a sunny patio. Take in a movie or a play.

Enjoy the pleasures of this life, whatever that means to you. Not what it means to anyone else. Because…#1.

5. When you give, give with your whole heart.

My mom said this a lot, too. I’m going to take this expression and blow it up to mean: When you give yourself to this world, give the world your whole Self. Show up, totally. Say, this is me. I’m weird. I’m quirky. I like peanut butter and honey. (That’s not weird, though, right? My kids think it’s weird.)

How about looking at it this way: When you believe in something, believe in it with everything you have. Stand for something and not in a wishy-washy, yeah-I-kind-of-believe way, but in a YES, THIS IS IMPORTANT kind of way. This can be as simple as, if you think it’s important for families to get together often, host a BBQ. Often.

If you think it’s important for kids to have access to play equipment, join the organizations that strive to provide them.

 

If there is a void and a need, fill that void and need. Do it because your authentic Self wants to do this. Before…#1 happens.

You guys, I learned these lessons from my mom, not on her deathbed but throughout my life. Some of them she lived, some of them were her regrets, but all of them she’d want you to know. I had to share them today after glimpsing into my friend’s life and seeing that so many of these messages were needed.

If you can take one of them today and act on it, that would be just awesome. Which one resonated most with you?

 

A Smile On Social Media Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Last Tuesday was nuts. I should have rescheduled the kids’ dentist appointments for another day that was less full, but I really thought it could be done. If everyone would go by my watch and my timing, there would be no problem. Unfortunately, I’m finding, the world does not work like that.

The two big kids had simultaneous appointments booked for 3:20 pm so I thought we’d get home by 4, at which time I could give all 3 kids something to eat, get them to change into their swimsuits and pack snacks for after their swim lessons. I would also have enough time to make the taco meat for dinner before 5 pm, when my husband was going to swing by from work to pick up all 3 kids and head to the pool. And then I was going to have 45 GLORIOUS minutes to eat a couple tacos, shower the dinner smell off me, choose something cute to wear, take some time with my makeup and then head out the door to a poetry event at which I was reading. I was giddy all day! I mean, 45 minutes without children just to get myself ready for a night out? Woot!

It didn’t go down like that.

We got to the dentist right at 3:20. My daughter got called in around 3:30. We were 10 minutes delayed…and only one kid was in! This is not a rant about the dentist, by the way. We love our pediatric miracle-worker’s clinic where everyone is so perky and great at what they do! I was just on a schedule. And the schedule was disintegrating before my eyes. So, anyway, my big girl went in while my big boy was fighting back tears because another kid was playing with the video game. This annoyed me because, seriously, there were a gazillion other things to play with. And books to read. Why couldn’t he just pick a book? So, I’m coached him through this, shoving words in his mouth like, “Can I have a turn at the video game?” when finally he got called in. At 3:50.

I immediately started re-calculating how the rest of the afternoon was going to go. But I got distracted by my toddler who was trying to grab this one little thing from the bottom of a bin of 32, 756 other little things. She was reaching and shrieking and looking at me to help. But I had no idea which little thing caught her eye, so I just randomly started digging and holding up one plastic thing after another, to which she shook her head vehemently. Well, this game had to end because I had a couple of questions about each kid to go over with the dentist so I scooped her up and entered the examining area. X-rays, cleaning, fluoride, questions…check! We were ready to go! Oh no, we were not. I needed to pay! Right!

As I punched in my PIN, I heard my girl say to my boy, “You got TWO toys?!” I looked over to where they were standing in front of the machine that spits out more plastic toys they don’t need in exchange for the token they got for being such cooperative children.

“Well, you got candy at school today, remember? It’s FINE.” I snapped while handing back the credit card terminal to the receptionist. Not in the nicest tone, but seriously, I had to nip that argument in the bud right then and there. In hindsight, I see the irony of the whole candy/dentist thing. It’s kind of funny now.

But I was not laughing on the way home, my eyes bugging out at the clock: 4:15! How was I going to DO this? The toddler was now HANGRY because no, I didn’t pack a snack for her. Why would I have? We were supposed to be home 15 minutes before! Instead, we wouldn’t be home till 4:30 and I imagined how the next half an hour would go.

My imagination did not do it justice.

Sitting at the dining table, feeding the toddler veggie rice and wishing to God I had just stuck with the baby-led weaning so she could have fed herself the darn rice, I yelled at my son to put his swimsuit on NOW. Which he did. OVER his pants. And then he proceeded to laugh and dance and throw his stuffies in the air. My oldest daughter was dressing hurriedly and packing the swimming bag with snacks for the both of them. All the while I thought, I wish she didn’t have such an anxious look on her face. I mean, what kind of mother am I to place such stress on her tiny shoulders?

And why won’t this baby stop eating? You want MORE?! It was now just before 5 and there was no text from the hubs that he was on his way. Which meant he was NOT on his way. Which meant there was nobody in this world who wanted to give me 45 minutes children-free to get ready for a night out! Not that I had 45 minutes anymore, because dinner was not made. And it had to be made before I left because the kids and hubs wouldn’t be back from the pool till 7. That was no time to start dinner! Well, that started the tears…big, fat tears that I just couldn’t hold back.

I pity-sobbed my way through feeding the baby, then changing her diaper. I heard the side door open and caught a flash of my husband flying up the stairs to quickly change. It was 5:10. In a whirlwind, he whisked them all out the door then planted a kiss on my cheek and finally took a good look at me. “Are you OK?” he asked, concerned.

“Yes, just go! I have to do so much before I leave!” I shoved him out the door, then closed it. I could see him mouth through the window as he waved, Good luck tonight!

I think I growled back.

Did you know it only takes 15 minutes to brown ground beef, throw in garlic, ground cumin, salt, a pinch of tumeric (yeah, I add that stuff to everything I can), then chop and add green peppers and onion followed by shredded kale? Definitely no time to shower at 5:35. I had to be out the door in 10 minutes. Which meant, I would now be smelling like ground beef, onions, garlic, cumin etc throughout the two-hour event. And I had no time to eat any of it!

15 minutes later (yes, running 5 minutes late – ha!), I took this selfie.

I texted it to my husband – that sweet man who takes all 3 kids swimming every Tuesday so I can normally go to Zumba, that darling who cheers me on in everything I do, that man I growled at after shoving him through the doorway – because I wanted to give him a smile along with my words, “Can’t wait to see you tonight.”

I looked at the picture after I sent it and laughed. Wow, I thought. You’d never guess I was such an emotional mess just minutes before, throwing clothes around in my closet and crying because I had to take a perfume-bath instead of a proper shower.

And then it struck me: this would be the perfect thing to share with you! Just a reminder that a snapshot is exactly that – a glimpse at one second of someone else’s life. In this pic, I must say, I look kind of put together. I’m wearing a scarf around my neck, got some makeup on…even my silver hair is glistening! You can’t smell the garlic and onions in my hair. You can’t see the state of my kitchen. You don’t know how disappointed I was that my afternoon had gone like that.

We all have our chaos, our messy moments. Whether we are parents or not, whether we love our lives or not, there are these moments that take our breath away and there are moments that make us cry big, fat tears. And it’s ok.

So, when you see someone posting about their perfect moment, let them have that moment! Cheer on their job promotion, congratulate their weight loss, pat them on the back for managing to get all 4 children in matching outfits with smiles on their clean faces. We need to let each other have our moments, and appreciate our own.

While I admit, I often wonder why people feel the need to post certain things – and over-sharing is something that concerns me – it saddens me more to know that there are so many people who are harmed psychologically by social media because of this very thing.

Live your life – and live the majority of it offline – and share what you want to share. And keep in mind, that’s what most others are doing too.

Thanks for reading this really long post with a message I hope resonates with you!

Because Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Is Every Day #MLKJR #MLKDay

One of my greatest heroes is Martin Luther King, Jr. The man was an outstanding human being – so connected to his purpose and staunch in his faith. I first started reading about the Civil Rights Movement when I was in high school and since then he has been my inspiration. When I have to step out of my comfort zone to do what I believe is important, I think of him. I imagine his strength until I can feel it. I think about what he sacrificed to share the message he came here with and I say to myself, “I can do this!”

It’s easy to feel like a tiny voice sometimes. But then I hear the booming melodic voice of MLK Jr. proclaiming, “I have a dream” and because I share that dream, my voice is loud and sure, too.

Over the years I have blogged about him here, and today I thought I would share those posts with you. Yesterday was the day the world remembered him in an official capacity. But many of us think of him regularly. Every day is MLK Jr. day.

This is a post I wrote about stepping out of my comfort zone – and how I do it with MLK, Jr. in my mind.

Here’s a post from my Tuesday Tasks series, encouraging you to spend time with someone who adds to your Self. I do that by reading MLK, Jr.’s quotes.

And finally, another post from the Tuesday Tasks series, with pictures of the time my family spent in Atlanta, GA visiting MLK Jr.’s childhood home and church.

Please leave a comment with your favourite MLK JR. quote! I’d love to read it! Here are some of mine: