Circles of Love and Life

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I am many things in this life, and I feel a strong responsibility to be my best self in those roles.  Above all else, I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister.  Family is first and family deserves your best.  When there is unrest with a member of my family it’s as though a part of my own body is not well.  When there is balance and love within my family, I feel peace.  Many refer to your family, your immediate close group around you, as your inner circle.  I cherish the symbolism of the circle and I see much symbolism connected to the circle energy of my family.

We are all human, and as humans we come from a world of circles that are reflected in our world and in our own bodies.  Our home, the earth, is round and we see the moon and sun in the sky which operate in circular cycles.  We track time on a circle, and our seasons move and rotate in a cyclical pattern.  We use a circular symbol to signify one of the most significant milestones in our society: a wedding ring.  Circles bring feelings of peace, protection and boundaries.  Even a fire which can feel angry, hot, and unpredictable can be quickly transformed by surrounding it with a circle.  A circle is sacred and represents inclusivity.

With all that we are thrown up against in this life, it is our circle of comfort and protection that we can depend on to surround us when we are out in the world and feel the pull back inside.  There are so many twists and turns that take us far outside and beyond the comforts of home and family, we can always feel a part of our inner circle no matter how far apart it’s members may physically exist.  And though we are each made up of our own circles and remain strong in our own right, it’s the journey of how we all rotate and revolve around each other that drives me to continue to become my best self.

 “Happiness Runs”

Donovan

Little pebble upon the sand

Now you’re lying here in my hand,

How many years have you been here?

Little human upon the sand

From where I’m lying here in your hand,

You to me are but a passing breeze.

The sun will always shine where you stand

Depending in which land

You may find yourself.

Now you have my blessing, go your way.

Happiness runs in a circular motion

Thought is like a little boat upon the sea.

Everybody is a part of everything anyway,

You can have everything if you let yourself be.

Happiness runs, happiness runs……

And with that we have come full circle.

Falling In Love With Yourself

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Life comes without guarantees, except that smiling will brighten your face, laughter will enhance your eyes, and falling in love will change your life – Melissa Gaug

Think about the times in your life during which you’ve made significant change. One that stands out for me, and probably many others, is falling in love. When you fall in love you make numerous changes in all parts of your life that will directly effect your immediate world, and even the world of your loved ones and closest friends. When you find “the one” it changes how you live, and sometimes where you live. You begin a process of negotiating so many big and little changes that your life becomes no longer recognizable and you are happy to see this change happening because you are in love. You do all of this in an effort to create a life filled with wonderful hopes and dreams, whatever that looks like for you. You build and you plan and it takes shape one step at a time.  Love gives you energy.  Love sustains you when you would otherwise feel low.  Love can bring you motivation when you may otherwise feel blocked.  Love can be magic, and love can change your life.

So, now, as you look at your life, fall in love……..with yourself. Be open to making those changes, both big and small for the love of yourself in an effort to make yourself happy and sustain your own wellness and motivation.  Get reacquainted with all of the things about yourself that make you feel proud, the details you enjoy sharing when they happen to come up in casual conversation.  Reignite an old passion or hobby that had been pushed to the back of the closet, or enjoy an activity that had been placed on hold for a while.  Make an effort for yourself and be mindful of the happiness it brings to you.  Do what you need to do, change whatever you need to change in an effort to bring more wellness into your life. Do it for yourself and those closest to you will feel those changes just as if you have come upon a milestone such as a new love, a wedding or a birth. Celebrate yourself and others will celebrate you!

I feel a shift happening.  Although happiness in itself is a noble goal to aim for, I believe the time has come to go beyond happiness and set our sights on bigger things.  I want to feel happy, but more than that, I have learned that I want to feel peace, and love.  There is a calm contentment in achieving a feeling of hushed zen.  A serene harmony with no hurried rush has become more attractive than a happiness high as I move along this journey.  I want to love this life, and when you fall in love with yourself, you fall in love with life!

As I get to know myself, and as I fall deeper in love with myself, my most treasured part of this journey has been the ability to enjoy times of peace when I can sit back and enjoy my new world I have built for myself as if I am spending a day at the beach enjoying the waves and sand of the ocean.  I’ve taken the time to get to know what I need, I’ve accepted who I am, what I want and I am happy with who I am becoming.  I have been able to fall in love with myself.  I respect my decisions and I enjoy the people with whom I choose to spend my time.  I see myself from the inside and also do my best to see myself from an outsider’s perspective to make sure who I am presenting to the world matches up with who I want my daughters to see moving around in the world.  I am mindful, I try to be kind, and I care how my behavior affects others.  These are the qualities that I hope for in others, so these are the attributes that I hold myself accountable for in order to continue this love affair that am enjoying so much.

I’ve made changes and I’ve made them for love……the love of my family, and the love of myself.

thanks to Desiree Beauchemin for being a lovely photo subject

Be A Student of Life and Life Will Bring You Teachers

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A savior is one who brings salvation, one who can can provide you liberation from ignorance.  Even when we skillfully prepare for life events there are still things you never knew you never knew.  Acknowledging this lack of awareness while at the same time being truly open to new experiences you often gain the most useful and definitive knowledge.  Be a student of life and life will bring you teachers.  My children are my saviors.  My children have become my teachers.

Parenting has presented me with abundant opportunity to flounder and plenty of liberty to become versed on living in the moment and being open to admitting that I don’t even come close to knowing it all.  Knowledge of human nature, for example, is best acquired by seeing it grow from the moment parenthood begins.  There is no better way to grasp human kind than by being a parent.  I didn’t know this until I became a parent.  Even the experience of being a person doesn’t prepare you for raising one.  This in itself is a conundrum.  But the wonderful, unexpected part of parenting is that you have the lucky chance to learn a great deal about the person that you already are, the person you bring with you and the person you want to become all by entering into this new undertaking.  You are suddenly presented with a key to unlock a secret part of your brain that opens up a new level of concern, caring, kindness, and love.  With this unlocking, you gain the opportunity to expand your ability to love and devote yourself to others in an entirely heightened manner.   My children have not only expanded my ability to grow into a reawakened version of the self that had felt at a plateau, they have unlocked courage to pursue interests in ways I never dreamed achievable.

I want to be the best version of myself regardless the sacrifice.  I recognize parenting as a practice much like many other pursuits in life.  Each experience builds your knowledge base and prepares you for the next, and every person you meet has something unique and salient to impart on you.   Just make it your aim to pay close attention and decipher the messages in the right way at the right time.

“Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  -Maya Angelou

5 Happy Packing Tips for a Happy Family Vacation


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The business of packing for a happy family vacation takes a bit of time and planning and a lot of creativity.  There is a craft to it, make no mistake.  But, when done properly, it can seem effortless and make all the difference.  With 2 young daughters and half of our family living in Australia, we have plenty of long plane rides and complicated travel plans in our future.  I’ve made it a bit of a hobby to collect good travel tips.  I hope for happy memories of wonderful vacations as a family, so in order to make that happen, I feel like the work I put in now will yield better results and better memories.  I want to set the stage for a lifetime of fun, enjoyable adventures!

Here are my top 5 tips plus a bonus traveling activity for kids of all ages…

1.  Let the kids help you pack.  Let each child pack a small carry-on of their own that they are responsible for carrying.  Set limits as this can quickly get out of control.  I allow up to 2 small furry friends and a parent has to do the final check (and usually a bit of negotiating) before the pack is approved for travel.  Include the kids in packing the main suitcases too so they know what to ask for on the journey.  Throw in a few surprises for meltdown moments.  I always buy a new book, toy or movie for each kid and keep it for emergency situations….ok, I buy a few.

2.  Take less stuff!  After you are done packing, take a bunch of stuff out!  Packing less stuff and doing a little laundry on the road will really lighten your load.  Less is more!  You don’t need all those toys!  Going on a trip is like a scavenger hunt!  New places and hotel rooms have plenty of new things to play with like cups and wash cloths that become instant new toys!  A few coloring books and furry friends from home are usually enough to bring along for the ride.

3.  Bring plenty of snacks both familiar and a couple new ones that you think your kids will likely enjoy.  This is definitely the time to allow them to have a few extra goodies.  Things like crackers, pretzels, and maybe just a few sugary snacks will come in handy to occupy your wee ones at the most necessary times.  Bring lollipops for take off and landing if you’re going on an airplane.  They will help keep those little ears from being uncomfortable and hopefully keep your kids (and your fellow passengers) a little happier.  Carry a self-filtering water bottle for each family member so you can fill it up wherever you go.  (Target carries a great one called Bobble)  Keeping hydrated while traveling is always a good idea!

4. Bring your own car seats with you and rent the stroller at your destination!  Check the seats with your baggage (in my experience airlines don’t charge for this) as soon as your kids are ready to sit on their own on the plane.  Getting car seats onto the plane is not a pretty site, but having them when you reach your destination is worth the schlep.  (We use GoGo Babyz Travelmate which snaps on to your car seat and turns them into a stroller to make it easy to push through the airport)  When you arrive, you don’t have to worry about the level of safety or cleanliness of your car seats, you’ve brought your own from home.  I’m always far less concerned with the state of my stroller than my car seats.

5. Don’t over plan!  Taking it easy and going with the flow will let you enjoy the small stuff and hopefully allow you to enjoy your time together more.  Having a tight schedule and over planning will surely lead to disappointment and stress.

And here is a bonus traveling activity for kids of all ages!

* Bring a notebook or journal for each child.  On each trip, I bring a small journal, crayons, stickers (possibly that match the theme of our trip) and anything else related that suits our adventure and hand it out to each child at our first restaurant meal.  Each time we eat out, while we wait for our food we use the time to journal and draw about what we’ve done up to that point.  It helps bide the time since restaurants become a regular scene while on the road and can get to be a tough time for young kids.  For the youngest vacationers, adults at the tables can write down the activities for them and they can illustrate and add stickers.  For the child just learning to write, he or she can write down either words or sentences about the trip as you go.  Each vacation journal will become a treasured souvenir.  You can even add photos to it when you get home.

If you have another good travel tip, please add it in the comment section!

Happy trails to you!

 

Happy Christmas!

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Here we are at the close of another year and I’m feeling grateful for another season of giving and receiving love.  Seeking happiness has led me to find it in some wonderfully unexpected places.  It’s also led me to have a deeper appreciation for a music icon for whom I have always had a strong admiration.

It may not have been John Lennon’s intention to give the world such a highly recognized Christmas standard when he released Happy Xmas (War Is Over) considering his original intentions were more politically aligned with protesting the Vietnam War, but as with all art, we can all extract our own beauty and meaning from his brilliant words.

The song itself has been covered by so many artists, but I prefer to hear John himself sing it to me.  Each time I hear the song I get lost in his words and his simple message that seems so easy to understand.  He hopes I had a nice year and he thinks I should look back and consider what I did and didn’t accomplish and it’s pretty important to remember my loved ones this time of year.

And then there is the new year.  He hopes it’s a good one, that’s a nice thought.  I hope it is too.  And I wish he was still here to enjoy more time, it’s sad that he didn’t have more time to enjoy.

So, no matter who you are, where you are from, or how old you are, he hopes you have a very, merry Christmas and a happy new year…and that bears repeating…

Happy Xmas by John Lennon

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

A new one just begun

And so this is Christmas

I hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones

The old and the young

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Christmas

For weak and for strong

The rich and the poor ones

The road is so long

So happy Christmas

For black and for white

For yellow and red ones

Let’s stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Christmas

And what have we done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas

And we hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones

The old and the young

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

War is over, if you want it

War is over now

Merry Christmas!

My Giving Tree

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Family traditions have to start somewhere and my family is just getting started.  So, I’m planting some good, solid roots that can grow into long established traditions in years to come.  A dream of mine is to someday own a lake house where my family can gather and spend lazy days and nights gathered around delicious meals and campfires.  As of now I don’t have that lake house of my dreams, so for now, I’m planting the seeds of summer time vacations spent together at a place that is very close to my heart, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

As a little girl, for 5 summers I took the ride up to Elkhart Lake to spend my summer at Harand Theater Camp…..a fairy tale memory of childhood dreams of endless days and nights, bonfires and beach games, swimming and roller skating and all that magically happened in between.  When thoughts of summer camp roll around in my head, I remember friends as they were in camp t-shirts eating ice cream cones and opening care packages, sitting on bunk beds and passing pitchers of bug juice down long tables of laughing campers excited to embark on the night’s next activity.

In the heart of camp sat the main building (which was appropriately called Wonderful Town) that over the years has served different purposes to different owners which I learned as I walked down the halls of the now beautiful, family-friendly resort that sits on what used to be Harand Camp.  Old photographs of generations from even before Camp Harand was in existence tell the stories of what had come before.  I imagined what those people would have thought had they visited our camp years after the land had changed from the way they had known it.  Nostalgia abounding, my mind was spinning with curiosity about the people that have wandered those grounds over the years.

It’s still hard for me to stretch my mind enough to remember where the cabins sat, where the lush green pastures lay and how that piece of land could have possibly been the same place that pops up in my dreams so regularly.  But somehow, in my dreams, the lawn is untouched and every inch is as it was decades ago.  But as I walk the property with my daughters telling them stories of why there are concrete handprints from friends I knew back then that I am still happy to call my friends today, I try my best to realize exactly what has replaced those treasured buildings from my childhood.

As I enjoyed a peaceful massage at what is now a beautiful spa, in my mind I could hear the sounds of the screen door slamming and friends laughing and running around on the porch of Wonderful Town.  When I left the spa, my mind projected campers running to Sam’s Place (our dining hall) and as I turned to walk back to my room, I heard echoes of campers singing “No Man Is An Island” in Gaffin Theater as if Uncle Byron himself were on stage leading the group.  I began to think….even if camp was still standing as it were when I was a little girl, I would still never be able to go back to those memories the way they live in my head.  I keep those in my mind and just being there helps me to remember.

The corner of the world where Camp Harand stood for all those years has been my Giving Tree throughout my life.  As bittersweet as it has always been since the minute I heard that camp Harand as I knew it was coming to an end, during this trip to Elkhart Lake I came to peace with that end as if finding a resolution to a long time quarrel.  I discovered a beautiful PEARL that has been resting there, waiting for me to find it.  What was once a childhood fantasy has now become a family wonderland.  This place has changed through the years almost identically to fit my needs and for that I have found a way to be grateful.

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Finding Zen In Organization

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The act of organizing seems so un-zen, but a completely organized, clutter-free abode is so completely zen that I’m feeling myself being pulled in that direction.  I’m so acutely aware of my surroundings lately that it’s like I’m seeing my clutter with new eyes.  It’s as if I’m a new visitor judging another’s piles of stuff and feeling the need to weed through the chaos.

I enjoy the feeling of a comfortable, lived-in home.  I want you to come in and feel like you can relax, sit wherever you want, and let your kids run around and touch stuff.  Kick off your shoes, grab a drink and plop down on the couch for a nice chat.  I grew up in a house that felt that way and I aim to make my house as welcoming and cozy as my parent’s home.  Between my husband, myself and two toddlers we have a lot of stuff.  The problem is keeping it all in check.  I don’t want my guests to come in and see piles of papers, toys and laundry and have to take flying leaps over shoes, backpacks and dolls.  This family needs to find a way to get organized, and as the Mom, I’m in charge of “Project Organize This House!”  As of right now, it feels like my ducks are pretty far from being all in a row.

I can’t organize an entire house at once, I have to organize one room at a time.  So, the first thing I need to do is make a list of rooms in order of their priority.  Which room overhauls will make the biggest difference for my family?  Which changes will make our lives flow easier?  In which rooms can I uncover the most happiness for my family?

Here is my plan of attack:

1. Family Room

2. Girl’s Rooms and Bathroom

3. Master Bedroom and Bathroom

4. Laundry Room/Storage Room

5. Linen Closet

6. Coat Closet

7. Playroom

8. Kitchen

9. Office

10. Garage

I’m allowing myself 8 weeks to complete this task and granting myself a reward if I am able to complete the entire task on time.  I believe a day at the spa will be in order, that seems pretty zen to me….om.

Sense and Sensibility

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Strong, confident mothers make me happy.  Watching mothers drench themselves in their children’s enchantment delights me.  Mothers with a diligent commitment to their children’s well-being are a gift to this world and it is a mother’s natural intuition that sets the stage for the path down which we lead our children.  Good intentions and sensibility doesn’t guarantee a good result, but it does provide us with the promise of a mother’s love.

I believe in my own intuition and that I usually know when to trust my gut and when to look beyond my wisdom and seek the advice of others.  Who is to say what is right, what is wrong, and what makes sense for your family?  In the end, we are all perfectly imperfect.  Mother nature shows us the beauty of imperfection all around us.  A wild, natural field of systematic equal lines and measures would be awkward and unnerving.  Nature tells us that magnificence means random splendor and haphazard protocol.

Every mother is born with intuition; that feeling in your gut that speaks to your heart and guides your hands and feet.  We all have it, but with so many “experts” with so many different theories, do we ever have an opportunity to exercise it?  Always being told exactly how to handle every scenario doesn’t leave much room for going with our motherly guts.  Are some of us missing the connection to our own innate mother’s wisdom due to lack of self confidence?  Modern mothers often seem to fear drawing their own conclusions.  Maybe we are just simply afraid of being wrong.  We are constantly turning to the “experts” on our children to solve even the most mild issues, or non-issues.  I wish more mother’s would trust their instincts before consulting a professional; listen to their heart before listening to anyone else.  Why should a doctor’s diagnosis always be more important than a mother’s intuition?

YOU are the expert on your child.  Whether you gave birth, adopted, or inherited the child you are caring for, it is you, and only you, that knows your child better than anyone else in the world.  Making a decision takes time and consideration.  Sometimes your intuition tells you to consult with someone you trust.  If it’s a friend, make sure you want their opinion.  If you speak to a professional and your intuition tells you something is off, consult another.  Take time to come to a conclusion, don’t jump to a label or course of action because you feel bullied.  There is value in professional advice or advice from a loved one, and they have a lot of it.  Make sure you weigh it against what your gut tells you is right.

Mothers, let your intuition guide you.  Don’t be afraid to listen to the unexplainable, often visceral, voice that speaks from your gut and longs to guide your heart.  Trust what your Mother gave you.

Happy Tales

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I love children’s books.  I love the way a simple, well written life lesson paired with a beautiful collection of illustrations can create such a sentimental piece of a child’s memory.  There are a few stories that we read as a family every night that have lighthearted, but fitting themes like “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney and “The Kiss Box” by Bonnie Verburg.  Both explain to the children that Mom and Dad may not always be right there in the room, but we are never far and either way our love stays with them.  I love the messages they impart and hope my daughters drink in and treasure both the messages the books share and the time spent together savoring them.  I am grateful that on most nights we cuddle up as a family and chant the words together because we have done this together so many times before.  Every night, no matter what has happened during that day, this makes me happy.

Since I have been on this journey toward finding more happiness in my life, I have come across one book that has stood out.  “That’s When I’m Happy” by Beth Shoshan presents a perfect amalgam of how I imagine my memories will be when I look back on the early years of raising my daughters.  It’s not only the words and how they make me feel, but the illustrations of the happy bear family with their content, peaceful grins that make my heart feel warm and serene.

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“There are some days when I’m very happy…

and there are some days

when I’m a little bit sad.

But now, on those days

when I’m a little bit sad…

I try to find my way back

to being happy.”

What a wonderful, true life lesson to impart on my girls.  And, what a sweet reminder for myself as I put my kids to bed after a long day.

“When it’s warm inside and my Mommy

and I run our fingers through the books…

And when we look at all the pictures…

And when she chooses

one special book for me

because it’s our favorite

better than all the others…

And then Mommy reads

the perfect story to me

and I can read some

of the words…

But mostly the ones

with the letters

from my name in them…

that’s when I’m happy!”

What an extraordinary thought to hold in a child’s mind as they drift off to sleep.  To hold a child’s attention while cradling her in your arms and sharing a few quiet moments…I’ll keep doing it for as long as they’ll let me.

Talking To Myself

We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.                                 -Helen Keller

The more hard times we face, the stronger and more brave we will become?  Not necessarily.  When I experience happiness it makes me crave more happiness.  When I struggle through pain and endure hardship I lust after joy.  Either way, I long to settle into a pleasant existence.  Some people around me seem to settle into sadness like a cozy pair of slippers while others dig and dig for delight until they are exhausted.  The journey to Serenity is different for each person and the destination just as distinct.  It’s up to each of us to decide whether or not we want to be happy.  Maybe it takes more effort to be happy, but I see the endeavor as worthwhile.  The payoff is big and the lesson I pass on to my daughters is valuable.

There are several parts of my personality that I am dedicated to working on during this journey to find more happiness for myself.  Even the more difficult changes are worth tackling if I ever want to truly reap the benefits of this process and one of the most difficult things for me to overcome may be my negative self-talk.  I work hard at rolling a big boulder of positivity up a very steep hill only to hear a voice in my head shouting cynicism in an effort to slow my progress and make me drop the boulder and get crushed in it’s path back down the hill.  I’m tired of losing momentum because of the angry committee in my head that spews negativity.  It seems that maintaining my happiness may be as hard as maintaining the positive self talk.  If I let even one negative thought sneak in, it slows my momentum.  But this life presents us with adversity and it’s not always so easy to stay positive.

My hope for myself at this point is that my hunger for happiness will help drive my ability to learn how to quiet the negative self talk and let me turn the naysaying into affirmations!

It’s only nice to say SHUT UP to yourself.

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