To my boys… 19 things I want you to know…

(I started writing this last December but paused. After being stuck at home with influenza for a week last winter, losing some loved ones & watching a couple of TV shows that had some “life is too short moments”… I felt I need to finish this. It’s honest and personal but hopefully inspires someone else to do something similar.)

I’m a mom of 2 boys. In this photo they were 2 & 5. See those smiles? They warm my heart and bring a tear to my eye. I can still hear their giggles. They are growing up so fast. I remember people telling me this would happen and I would just shrug them off… but oh man, they were right. One is almost as tall as me and the other has his drivers permit. Here are some things I want them to know (even though this may embarrass them, they will one day appreciate it)

  1. I love you more than you can comprehend. Both of you.
  2. I am your biggest fan.
  3. I will always feel like a mamma bear for you. I will try to contain this, but I won’t always be able to.
  4. Seeing pictures of you as little boys makes me sad & happy at the same time.
  5. I may nag you to do your homework or clean your room … but you are always good enough.
  6. I only want the best for you. Whatever that is.
  7. I want to protect you and set you free at the same time.
  8. Your worries, anxieties & fears… I’ve had many of them too. I really do understand.
  9. I’m sorry for missing the dinosaur exhibit at school when I thought I was too busy at work. I tried not to let it happen again.
  10. I’m sorry I didn’t know what to say… when other kids were mean to you, when you struggled to fit in, or when your worries overwhelmed you. All I wanted to do was to wrap you up & keep you safe.
  11. I hope you are always there for each other, regardless of your life paths.
  12. After I’m gone, I will still be with you in spirit. Still talk to me and look for signs.
  13. I hope you have amazing life experiences. This will mean something different to each of you.
  14. I’m sorry you had a mom with cancer when you were young, but I hope you see how strong I am. That strength is in you too.
  15. Go on trips. Sometimes have a plan and sometimes just wing it. You won’t regret it either way.
  16. At 18 years old, you do NOT need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. You are allowed to change your mind.
  17. Wear your seatbelt every time. No exceptions.
  18. Don’t get drunk on your wedding night. You will want to be able to remember it.
  19. Life really is short. Love big, forgive others and make some awesome memories.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you be reminded of the reason for the Christmas season. I hope you are able to be surrounded by the gifts of family this year. I am thankful for my two gifts who will always be enough for me!

Thanks, but no…

It’s Christmas time and the season of holiday parties. While we don’t have a “work Christmas party,” there are some groups who do parties this time of year. I’m thankful to be invited, but I’m likely not going. I just might not have thought of an excuse yet. I wrote about this last year also, but it bears repeating.

I’m a stereotypical introvert. I need time alone to recharge. I get flustered by people who demand an answer right now. And the thought of going to a party makes my stomach hurt. If you are not an introvert, this probably seems strange. “Just go, it will be fun.” Yeah, I’m sure people will have fun, but if I go, I’d likely fill awkward silence with a drink and that would quickly become out of hand. It is not the image I’d like to portray to my co-workers. When I was 17? Sure, I didn’t care. Also, I’m not good at small talk. If my husband is there, I’m fine – he does all of the talking and story telling. I smile and laugh at his jokes or roll my eyes, and I don’t have to say much.

For years, I thought there was something wrong with me. “Why don’t you come out for happy hour?” I just couldn’t. I’d rather be at home with my family or shopping by myself. It wasn’t until I read some articles on introverts that the lightbulb went off – I’m not so strange. I need to honor and respect that part of me instead of trying to be something I’m not. I have little patience for “fake” people, so why would I want to be one myself?

People have different reasons for not going to the party – maybe they have other things going on in their personal life that they haven’t shared yet. Perhaps they are dealing with loss or being alone. While it’s good to invite people, I think we need to respect their answer. We shouldn’t make them explain their why.

Going to events like this remind me of all of the ways I’m not enough. I realize it’s a self imposed thing – I’m not smiling enough, I’m not funny enough, I’m not social enough, I’m not pretty enough… this list goes through my head. I know I need to speak kinder to myself and I’m working on it. It takes time. My request is for the answer of “no, thanks” to be enough.

Peace be with you this holiday season. You are always enough, whether you go to the party or choose to stay home.

Thanks, but no…

It’s Christmas time and the season of holiday parties. While we don’t have a “work Christmas party,” there are some groups who do parties this time of year. I’m thankful to be invited, but I’m likely not going. I just might not have thought of an excuse yet. I wrote about this last year also, but it bears repeating.

I’m a stereotypical introvert. I need time alone to recharge. I get flustered by people who demand an answer right now. And the thought of going to a party makes my stomach hurt. If you are not an introvert, this probably seems strange. “Just go, it will be fun.” Yeah, I’m sure people will have fun, but if I go, I’d likely fill awkward silence with a drink and that would quickly become out of hand. It is not the image I’d like to portray to my co-workers. When I was younger? Sure, I didn’t care. Also, I’m not good at small talk. If my husband is there, I’m fine – he does all of the talking and story telling. I smile and laugh at his jokes or roll my eyes, and I don’t have to say much.

For years, I thought there was something wrong with me. “Why don’t you come out for happy hour?” I just couldn’t. I’d rather be at home with my family or shopping by myself. It wasn’t until I read some articles on introverts that the lightbulb went off – I’m not so strange. I need to honor and respect that part of me instead of trying to be something I’m not. I have little patience for “fake” people, so why would I want to be one myself?

People have different reasons for not going to the party – maybe they have other things going on in their personal life that they haven’t shared yet. Perhaps they are dealing with loss or being alone. While it’s good to invite people, I think we need to respect their answer. We shouldn’t make them explain their why.

Going to events like this remind me of all of the ways I’m not enough. I realize it’s a self imposed thing – I’m not smiling enough, I’m not funny enough, I’m not social enough, I’m not pretty enough… this list goes through my head. I know I need to speak kinder to myself and I’m working on it. It takes time. My request is for the answer of “no, thanks” to be enough.

Peace be with you this holiday season. You are always enough, whether you go to the party or choose to stay home.

He found the joy, did you?

While shopping at Target last weekend, our youngest son saw this Christmas suit. He is not a typical 12 year old – he loves to wear suits. It’s either suits or sweats. He’s not a fan of jeans for some reason. I think it’s a “tween” thing. Normally, I would refuse such a purchase because who would wear this thing? Him. He would wear it, along with red shoes and the largest grin possible. If he wasn’t required to wear black for his band concert next week, he’d be wearing this suit.

How often in life do we wear our joy? He is wearing it in the form of an obnoxious Christmas suit. What does yours look like? Are we too afraid of what other people will think? I remember when I was young, my mom wouldn’t go to the local grocery store (in our town of 500) unless she at least had lipstick on. I haven’t worn lipstick since my wedding. Everyone has their own idea of acceptable. Our outward appearance doesn’t always match our joy but sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s the opposite – fake joy may equal hidden sadness.

4 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. Some days I felt actually brave, ready to conquer cancer. Other days, I felt like staying in bed and giving up. 4 years ago at Christmas was difficult for me because it made me think of all the what if’s. Lots of scenarios ran through my head while I tried to fake the holiday cheer. I still didn’t know my course of treatment and yet I had to reassure everyone I’d be fine.

Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t filled with joy for everyone. I encourage you to reach out to someone who may be struggling- emotionally or financially, if possible. Just letting people know you care is a huge thing. If you are struggling, I encourage you to seek help. There are better days ahead. If you are filled with joy this holiday season, wear it like this Christmas suit. Spread it around like sunshine and glitter. Our journey of enough isn’t meant to be walked alone. May you find joy this holiday season…whatever form it may be in. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Where is your JOY hiding?

I found this “Joy” at Target, which seems appropriate, since the store tends to bring me joy. Hang with me for a minute while I give you the background on Joy…

At the retreat I attended in Duluth, we played hide & seek. This seemed silly at the time, but we paired up (just like when you were a kid)… one person hid while the other was the seeker. Jodie Harvala, our retreat leader said, “If you feel like you are supposed to hide in the middle of the room, that’s ok.” And that’s what one person did – stood in the room with her arms wide open. (I think she was the first one found.) I recall mumbling to myself, “why couldn’t mine have been that easy!” I looked around the big meeting room but didn’t see my partner. I checked the bathroom and sauna but she wasn’t there. I went down to the bunk bed area where we were camping out, but she wasn’t there either. Back upstairs I went, feeling like a failure. “I stink at this, I must have no intuition….” This time I said it out loud. Jodie heard me and said, “Did you try asking where she is? Is she sending you signs?” I walked directly back downstairs and found her right away! She was hiding behind the coats, in the small/kids section. (She’s probably 6-8″ taller than me). When it was my turn to hide, I hid in the hall closet with the vacuum in the dark. Even though she was pretty sure I was in there, she still jumped when she found me.

We all laughed and got back together as a group. Then Jodie said something that was amazing to me. “The person hiding represents your JOY. What was your reaction? Where did you find it?” Wow. While I was looking for my joy, I found someone else’s joy and it scared me. I didn’t trust my intuition and doubted I’d find it. There it was, with the kids coats. Hearing that made my eyes a little misty… my kids are my joy. One person’s joy was right in front of her, waiting to be found. What started out as an intuition exercise turned into so much more and yet none of us had the same experience.

I purchased this joy as a reminder to me of that weekend and the experience. This time of year, we see lots of JOY signs – the kind in the picture and the other signs of joy that aren’t physical, but felt. I hope you will be on the lookout for joy. It might be in the cupcakes you deliver to your neighbor, the stranger’s coffee you purchase, the friendly cashier or server, the songs of children or the purr of a cat. If we slow down & really listen, maybe we can find it more easily. Or maybe it wasn’t hiding at all – it was standing in the room, arms wide open, just waiting for you to open your eyes.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough this holiday season. I truly hope you find your Joy!