The Gift of an Abundant Attitude

Isn’t it the best feeling when you have found the perfect gift for someone? Have you thought about the perfect gift for yourself? I was reminded recently of just such a gift I received awhile back.

” I need to show you something”.  My college age son had called me up to his room to see his desk.  We both stared in silence. Me at the damaged wood surface. He at my face waiting for a reaction. A plug in air freshener he had pulled out and set on a shelf atop his desk had leaked, dripping down onto the desk.  The liquid that provided a sweet, pleasant aroma had removed the furniture finish down to the bare wood. It took me a few minutes to absorb and process what I was seeing. First, that the air freshener chemicals were strong enough to strip wood stain off. Secondly, that there was permanent damage to the desk. Luckily his computer keyboard had been spared if only by an inch or two.

I sensed my son’s relief when I responded calmly in my best “no big deal” voice.  His concern was not without warrant. He  had heard the stories of the previous Desk Disaster as we have come to call it. In my defense, at the time, I was a stressed out young mom corralling 4 kids all under the age of ten. Finances were tight. We drove our cars till they dropped. Our D.I.Y. home repair and remodels were painfully slow. Our furniture consisted of thrift store and garage sale finds. The desk find was a big win. Finally the long awaited bedroom remodel was complete. We brought in the new “used” desk and a small sense of joy and satisfaction  followed.  For about 30 minutes. That was when my 9 y.o. son called me in to proudly show me his contribution to the new room decor. He had etched his name into the desktop! As you can imagine, I didn’t take it well. Lost it might be an apt description. It was the first of a couple memorable Mommy Meltdowns.  I did eventually come to realize it was his sincere attempt to personalize his new room, not a targeted blow to steal my joy. But in that moment , the marred desk was the visible confirmation of what I tortured myself with. Despite our best efforts, I would never have a home I could feel good about. For others with more disposable income it seemed to come so easy.  For us, it took endless hours of hard work. This is not a moment I am proud of, but it is a window into my mindset at the time. Continue reading The Gift of an Abundant Attitude

My Tribe

“You’re going to have to surround yourself with supportive people to walk alongside you during this time”, my friend told me with grave concern in her voice. I nodded silently acknowledging her comment. As her words were sinking in I hung up the phone. The thought that crossed my mind was… Really?  For a food program?  For the next 8 weeks I would be drastically altering what I consume. This would be beyond what I previously would have ever asked myself to do. It was beyond what I would have thought was necessary.  But as we find in life, time and circumstances change. This was now a challenge I felt  necessary to take on. The time, energy and costs would be weighed with the results.

Within 24 hrs. I knew how very right my friend was.  Whenever we attempt to make changes in our life, long lasting changes, we need support. The more difficult the changes, the deeper the support. “You need your tribe”, she told me.  My tribe…mmm. I think I get it.  I remember the early days after my daughter’s diagnosis and the realization that life would never be the same. My mental time line has a slash marking the before and after of becoming a special needs parent.  My job description changed that day and more would be asked of me than ever before. I had so much to learn to step into my new role. There were large national organizations and local special education groups available to parents. Yes these were helpful with the mechanics of navigating the medical and school parts of it.  But I wouldn’t have survived if those had been my only lifeline.  Adjusting to the “new normal ” would have overwhelmed me…if not for my tribe.  Not a word I used back then, but it fits.  One definition of tribe is “a group of kindred spirits in pursuit of a common interest.” We became that lifeline to each other. We supported each other thru lifestyle changes we never could have imagined let alone signed up for.  My tribe was crucial to me becoming the person I needed to be for my daughter. We laughed, we cried, we said irreverent things never to be repeated. We understood each other. Continue reading My Tribe

Acts of Kindness

In my previous post,  Who’s Your Daddy, I referenced the concept of God as Father-n-law. Married to another child of God, I have a heavenly Father-n-law. As a mother, I can try to imagine the feelings of protectiveness we share for our children.  God in protective parent mode..oh boy! Not sure I want a visual on that one. The flip side of the coin is how we feel as parents when kindness is extended to our child. I have appreciated acts of kindness towards all of my children over the years but some really stick out.  These would be ones directed towards my special-needs daughter.  Most specifically from other kids.

When my daughter was younger, preschool age, the kids were more accepting of her differences. As kids get older, they become more aware of the differences. Some kids become very uncomfortable with the differences.  At best they would just exclude her, at worst become mean.  During the preteen years I was told many kids are so uncomfortable in their own skin they have a low tolerance for others who are different.  My oldest son had to deal with a couple of neighborhood bullies at the bus stop during middle school.  They said nothing to my daughter but were relentless to him about his sister.  Around that time a  new kid at school, Matt, came over to our house.  My son’s defenses went up at his question, “Does your sister have a disability?”  Bracing for what might come next, my son answered truthfully.  As he retold the story to me later, the surprise and relief were still in his voice. Upon confirming that his sister was not typical, his new friend responded, “That must be hard for your family.” Now I was the one taken aback.  Such grace and maturity from an 11 year old?  More to his credit, Matt followed those words with actions whenever he came over. He made a point of engaging my daughter in conversation and inviting her to join them in activities.  I haven’t adequate words to express the positive feelings this brought forth in me towards Matt.  He wasn’t in the neighborhood long, but Matt will always be welcome in our home. Continue reading Acts of Kindness

Who’s Your Daddy?

The definition is clear, your spouse’s parents are your in-laws. How you actually address them? Not so clear.  Whatever everyone’s comfortable with, you might hear. Given the ever changing tide of social etiquette these days, I would agree. What if, however, not all said parties are comfortable with the same thing?  This topic has been getting table time discussion with couples we know.  After making it from preschool thru high school graduation, we have entered a new  parenting phase. The serious girlfriend/boyfriend, fiance and newlywed stage. Welcome to the world of parenting young adults.  I didn’t realize what an emotional issue this could be. Feelings are all over the place:

  • “Why doesn’t my daughter-in-law want to call me Mom?”
  • “Why do they want my son to call her mother Mom? I’m his mother.”
  • “My husband didn’t call my mother mom until his own mother passed.”
  • “We always called our in-laws Mom and Dad.”

Continue reading Who’s Your Daddy?

The Twilight Years

It was December 2012.  My teens were watching TV in our family room. I breezed thru long enough to hear, “How could anyone not know about the Twilight Phenomenon? They must be living with their head in the sand for last 5 years!”  I take two steps back.  Wait..what? I have no clue what this movie actor is talking about. Is this an astronomical event? I could ask my kids. Thinking better of risking my credibility for future life experiences, I Google it.  Apparently a series of books about vampires became insanely popular and movies were being made. Who knew? Apparently everyone but me. Continue reading The Twilight Years


Every so often a show comes along that gets your attention.  Not the one that everyone is talking about. The one you didn’t even know existed. The  one none of your friends have heard of once you start talking about it.  “Lie To Me” is that  show for us.  It aired from 2009 – 2011.  Our son had viewed a clip in his college psychology class. He told us about it and we are hooked.

The lead character, Cal, is skilled in reading  micro-facial expressions of emotion.  Absent to the untrained eye, these micro-changes determine if the person is being truthful.  Now here’s a skill to have in the parenting arsenal!  “Are you sure you didn’t eat that last Oreo? ” It is fascinating when the camera zooms in on these facial muscles and you see them twitch. Occasionally my husband and I will catch each other trying to get a read on the other.  Yeah, it’s pretty funny.  These observations by Cal and his team take the plot in completely different directions cracking every case.  Murders solved, innocents redeemed and criminals caught.  Not all that surprising for a drama show.

What did surprise me was the real life applications. I’m not advocating training yourself to read micro-facial expressions on unsuspecting friends and family. What I am suggesting is to consider the impact seemingly small changes in behavior could have on outcomes. This can be true in many areas of life.  I can tell you where this is most obvious for me.  In the health/fitness arena, one factor has had the biggest impact for me.  Night time eating. From the time I finish eating dinner until the time I fall asleep is critical for me.  I can easily undo an excellent nutritional day. The added calories can quickly knockout  any calories burned exercising. It sets the tone for the next day. Sometimes it’s days for me to get back on track. Simply limiting  myself to calorie free beverages after dinner is a small change with huge results.  Losing weight or sticking to long term eating/exercise program can seem overwhelming. It is empowering to know I can  make a small change and see progress. Continue reading Micro-changes

Marriage: A Team of Two

” Okay, Mom. You’re done!  Keep your paddle in the kayak”.  Ouch.  Harsh words.  I couldn’t blame my oldest son. Our two person kayak was lodged up against the rocks…again.  In unofficial boating terms, I “zigged” when I should have “zagged”.  My two younger sons paddling in unison whizzed by. Their delight  was obvious.  Our  mishap gave them a solid lead.  As we struggled, my husband’s kayak passed by.  He was paddling furiously while my daughter sat back enjoying the scenery.  Her lack of focus had caused her paddle to make contact with my husband’s head a few times.  He would be paddling on his own.  We eventually pushed off shore .  My son reluctantly  restored my paddling privileges.  It was our only chance to catch up.

Teams of two. It really is a balance of strengths and weaknesses.  Navigating life with your spouse may at times feel like your upstream without a paddle. Maybe not at first.   Most of us start out paddling in unison.  Working together is our strength.  Our goals are aligned. Our future yet to unfold. Clear skies and calm waters are all we see ahead.  This is a great time to gain momentum. One of the things we did as newlyweds was attend a marriage retreat.  Communication skills were taught.  Several older couples wished they had attended earlier in their marriage.  We learned skills before the storms hit. Continue reading Marriage: A Team of Two

How Sweet Marriage Is

     ” You two make a good team, ” Sue the bakery shop owner told us.  My husband and I were taking a pastry class.  We were finishing up 5 hours of non-stop, hands-on,  participation.  “This team is about to celebrate 30 years of marriage!” I responded.  As we started the clean up phase of the class, I began to think.  Marriage and baking.  I  pondered the similarities as I swept.  How had marriage prepared us for baking together? What could the process of marriage and a pastry  class have in common?  Will we remember what we have learned?

     It all started with a poppy seed roll.  More accurately, the lack of a poppy seed roll that met my husband’s expectations.  He had been longing for the poppy seed rolls of his youth.  Each store bought roll brought home with anticipation ended in disappointment.  We had made several attempts ourselves without success.  Then there was the year a family member promised to mail him one she baked. Hopes were raised.  Luckily she worked for a shipping service with free deliveries perks. She mailed us a brick!  Another let down.  We decided to take matters into our own hands … literally. Continue reading How Sweet Marriage Is