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Connecting to our kids (or the kids in our life)

six years ago this week

A national report on self-esteem reveals that

  • 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.
  • 62% of all girls feel insecure or not sure of themselves
  • 57% of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks in front of them.
  • 57% of all girls say they don’t always tell their parents certain things about them because they don’t want them to think badly of them.
  • The top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, which includes more frequent and open conversations about what is happening in their own lives.

These are daunting statistics, but the good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to positively impact your child’s sense of self (and your own).

THROW OUT THE IDEA OF BEING PERFECT AND INSTEAD BE REAL

I know that being a good role model can feel really daunting because it reinforces the ridiculous messages we get about being perfect in every way. But the truth is that being perfect is not what we need to be.  Our kids really don’t want us or need us to be perfect, and they most appreciate it when we are real (Happy’s favorite story about me—told to him when I was relating to him that I knew how hard it was to feel frustrated and to figure out a good way to share that frustration without making bad choices in the midst of it- is how I cracked an egg over my sister’s head in front of her high school boyfriend when she was being mean to an elementary-school aged me).**

Our kids want us to say, “this isn’t easy but it’s important and that is how most of the good stuff is in life” and they want us to share with them our journey while gently helping them figure out their walk.

** And just to further prove that I don’t get a lot right the first time, next week’s post will feature one of my many parenting while real and not perfect moments. 

SHARE YOUR OWN GOALS AND HOPES AND JOURNEY

Being a good role model is less about lecturing our kids and hovering over them and more about how you move through your own life.  Kids want to see us earnestly show them how we are attempting to walk our talk.  They like to see that we’re still earnest in our self-discovery and working on our personal growth, that we are always works in progress.

We need to model that we are striving for our own personal improvement rather than striving for perfection in what we do (because shooting for perfection isn’t really about our self-acceptance at all but having others approve of us).  When we do this, we gain our own approval and show our children that’s what matters, too.

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE

How we approach our own lives is a living example to our children.  If our kids see us being intentional and self-compassionate, they understand that those traits are valuable to possess.   Avoid negative talk about your body or aging.  Celebrate your friends’ kindnesses rather than looks.  Talk about what is going on in the shows you watch not how people look in them.  Children are perceptive and seeing these behaviors helps them place a premium on them.

TAKE CARE OF YOU   

So many of us run ourselves ragged but do not want that for our children.  With kids learning and valuing what they see, we can send the wrong message to them.  If you cannot make it a priority to take care of yourself for you, make it a priority to do so that your kids see you do it.  Soon, you will buy into the importance of it, too, because you will see how it benefits everyone- not just you.  Be physically active.  Eat foods that nourish you.  Pursue your own interests.  Take time for yourself.  Try new things.  All of these practices are powerful examples for your children. 

CONNECT

It is important to have an open dialogue with our kids and that’s on us.  It is not enough to say, “my kids know they can talk to me.”  You have to talk to them.  Put in the time with more casual conversations.  Watch shows together so you can talk about issues that way.  Share your own experiences.  Start a journal between the two of you where you write back and forth to each other.  Have a jar of questions on the dining room table that you draw from each night for conversation.  Be deliberately engaged.

But our kids can benefit from even more connection.  Help them build connected relationships with other trusted adults who can help mentor and support them.  Kids cannot be loved and appreciated by too many adults so build a network around them so they always have people to support them.

 Want more insight on how to model self-compassion and build a positive relationship with your daughter? I am hosting Beautiful You(th) on October 11th, a powerful and fun workshop for mothers and their high-school aged daughters.  Learn more.    

an open letter to my body image students on our first day of class

Body Image class starts this Friday.  And here is the very first thing I will say to my students.  Hope it has something to offer you, too, on this day.

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Yesterday, you looked in the mirror, and, instead of your inherent greatness, you saw flaws.  You saw things you wanted to change and not everything that made you powerfully, wonderfully, uniquely you.

Last night, in a deep conversation with your friends, you had a powerful thought, the kind of thought that would have changed the whole conversation, maybe would have changed you, but you doubted yourself and so you swallowed it inside of you.  Tucking it away, forcing it out of your mind, so that great big belief would not threaten your status quo in its hunger to get out.

This morning, you walked to class and compared your body to someone else’s.  Your body, a body that has worked so hard for you, that has allowed you to experience every good thing you have known, a body that has kept you going through all the hard stuff, through all the difficulties that have been thrown at you.

And then you walked into our shared space, a space that I hope will become a sanctuary to you, a place that I hope will quiet your inner critic enough so you can see the fabric of which you are made, you can recognize your worth, you can embrace the idea that you are just fine as you physically are right at this moment- not just because that is true, which it is- but because you come to understand that what the world most needs from you is not your trappings but your longings made manifest. 

If you yearn for art to be inspiring or children to feel loved or food to be breathtaking or houses to have souls or communities to have gardens or technology to be accessible or music to have your unique viewpoint or patients to have soulful care or records to be broken or whatever else it might be that speaks to your soul, I want that for you, too, and I want our space and time together, our journey, to be one that supports your recognition of your worth, sparks your awareness that the world needs you and your unique solutions and galvanizes you to embrace what you have to offer.

Today, you will tell me your name, your major, your graduation year, your hometown, the last great book you read, and why you chose to take this class.  You will say you needed Body Image class for your Women’s and Gender Studies minor, for your art major, for your public health concentration, because it fit into your schedule, and, maybe, just maybe, if you can muster the courage to say these words, because you knew when you saw those two words on the course guide that you wanted desperately to have a different relationship with your body and your soul.

And here is what I can promise you.  I will do everything I can to see you, to hear you, to understand you, to help you to understand yourself, to empower you to see your greatness, to inspire you to understand that while you are lovely because you are uniquely you that it is more than just your loveliness we need—that we need your fire, your passion, your purpose.  I will remind you that our bodies are ever changing and so to build a foundation of our worth on what we physically have to offer right this minute is to invite disruption over and over again.  And I will implore you to understand that your soul will always lead you right, will always let you blossom, will always let you shine.

On the day you last walk out of our sanctuary, I hope that you leave this space with your eyes up, ready to recognize and greet those who approach you not just because you know that other souls should be seen but also because you understand that to hide your soul from us is to deny the world of one of its greatest gifts- you.

I hope that you will be able to meet your eyes in the mirror and see purpose and clarity and passion and self-acceptance staring back, that you will treat your body like a guest of honor to your life because it has served you so well so far and you want to continue on that journey, and, ultimately, that you will not hesitate to give the world everything that you uniquely and powerfully have to offer. 

Welcome.  I am so glad you are here.  I am honored to walk alongside you.  I cannot wait to see where we are going.  Let’s get started.

Unexpected Treasures

Everything Connects

Even in loss, there are little treasures.

On the day we said good-bye to our mamacita in the ICU hospital room that had been our home for a couple days, all I wanted to do was go crawl into my childhood bed.  I wanted to sleep for a few weeks, wake up, and have someone tell me that none of it was true, everything was going to be okay, or, at least, that I had slept through the worst agony and sidestepped the deepest pain.

But we had a meeting the next morning with the funeral director and needed to take clothes for our mom so my sister and I didn’t go to our own bedrooms when we got back to our childhood home.  We went to our mom’s even though we were both dreading it.

As we worked our way through her closet, we were struck by the surprises that awaited us.  In one coat, we found rocks in the pocket, treasures our mom had found on one of her daily walks, treasures she had seen worthy of picking up and sticking in her pocket.  My sister held them out to me like gemstones, and we split them up dutifully for our rock collecting children.

Deeper into the closet, I found a handful of dream catchers.  Summer break had started on Friday, the day our mamacita had suffered what would become a life-ending cerebral hemorrhage.  Just days before that, Happy and I had written our summer to do list which included finding or making a dream catcher for him.

Incredible, I thought.  Just incredible.  I put the dreamcatchers in my bag to share with my boy later.

Then I found a small Timon and Pumba toy.  My little boy loves The Lion King.  My mamacita did as well.  They watched it together more than 25 times, I am certain, and for his fifth birthday, we treated all the grandparents and Happy to the Broadway show that was visiting Charlotte.  Everyone was enraptured (“Rewind it, mama,“ Happy insisted after Circle of Life).   I pocketed that small toy, randomly in my mother’s closet now -though I had gone through it just months before in a closet purge- and origin unknown, for my boy, too.

After picking out mamacita’s outfit, we decided to look at all of her crochet supplies. My sister is a knitter, and she could use most of mom’s things.  Crocheting was one of our mamacita’s great gifts to the world.  Over and over again, as people called and visited us, they kept saying, “She made a blanket for me or my child or my grandchild.”  There are hundreds of blankets out in the world that our mamacita carefully crafted.  We call it her blanket ministry.

As we sorted the yarn, we found two unfinished blankets that just needed edging.  Both I instantly recognized.  They were for Happy.  One was a soft green, meant to match Happy’s bedroom.  The other was a bright orange, turquoise and white one that Happy had picked out one day when I took him and my mom to her favorite yarn store.  After catching my breath, I texted my neighbor for help.

“I found blankets meant for Happy,” I told her.  “But they need finishing.  Can you help me find someone to finish them?”

Of course, she answered.  Just bring them to me.

A few weeks later, the blankets were back on my door step.  And though the women who helped finish these blankets demurred—your mother had an incredible stitch, we couldn’t duplicate it!- I wouldn’t have these incredible gifts for my boy without their help, without their willingness to complete my mother’s final blanket ministry.

Next week, we will celebrate Happy’s 7th birthday.  I am devastated that his Abucita, my mamacita, will not be here for it, and yet, I am so incredibly humbled that I can wrap up one of these blankets for him (I am saving the other one for either Christmas or Three Kings Day) and remind him that he was always on his Abucita’s mind, always in her heart.  I am humbled that he can wrap himself in that blanket when he misses his Abucita most, that her gifts are still with us in some way.

And I am struck by how I could have denied myself these little treasures if I had waited until the next morning to run into my mother’s room before that meeting at the funeral home and grabbed the first dress I saw.  I wouldn’t have had time to linger over her things, put my hand into pockets, look in her crochet bins.  I wouldn’t have found just some of the gifts she left.

The world hands us breath-robbing, soul-crushing things all the time, and yet, it invites us, too, to see that there is still wonder, still magic if we do not shut our eyes too tightly in our pain, if we allow ourselves to squint past the wreckage and glimpse a refuge.  It sends out gossamer thin threads of connection, like Happy’s blankets, that can keep us here, keep us grounded, keep us pushing forward, past the agony of it all and into the wonder.

Find the gossamer today, sweet friends.  Let it guide you.

an invitation to Beautiful You(th)

Beautiful You(th)

Is your daughter in high school?

Do you feel like your role in championing her self-confidence is negated by the rush of images and messages coming at her from society?

Do you want to form a stronger bond with her?

Are you eager for an incredibly positive experience that allows the two of you to reconnect over who and how you both want to be in the world?

Beautiful You(th) is an interactive mother-daughter workshop that will give you both more of what you need—time together, perspective about the world and its many messages, and the opportunity to distill down to what matters most for you.   

Why does this even matter? 

In Real Pressure, Real Girls: A National Report on Self-Esteem, researchers revealed that…

  • 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.
  • 62% of all girls feel insecure or not sure of themselves
  • 57% of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks in front of them.
  • 57% of all girls say they don’t always tell their parents certain things about them because they don’t want them to think badly of them.
  • The top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, which includes more frequent and open conversations about what is happening in their own lives.

What will we be doing? 

We’ll have a real conversation about the pressures that women face, what we can do to respond to them, and consider new ways of thinking about what we face and how we present ourselves.  We’ll talk about self-care, claim who and how we want to be in the world, and lay the ground work for many more deep conversations after the workshop is long over.  You’ll share, create, and laugh together, and leave with a road map (and plenty of tangible and emotional tools) to keep practicing profound self-care and radical self-acceptance.

We want to come!  What are the details? 

Join me from 1 to 5 PM EST on October 11th in The Mallard Room of Homewood Suites Davidson (North Carolina).

Registration for two (mom and daughter) is $200 but use EARLY at check-out for $25 off until September 11th.   Registration includes supplies for our creative activities (fun, meaningful activities you’ll get to take home with you!), a copy of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance, and a couple surprises.

The good news—this will be an intimate event—just 15 mother/daughter pairs can register!  The bad news—you need to register soon to get your spot!

Join the inspired fun.  Register now.  

Practicing Presence

Raymond Carver LF

What was your favorite meal, memory, or book from the summer?  I asked the Circle de Luz board as we settled into our seats with cups of coffee and plates of fruit at the start of our August 2nd retreat.

As we went around the circle and everyone shared, it occurred to me that this wouldn’t be the easiest question for me to answer.  A favorite from this summer?  A summer that took my mamacita from me on its very first day?  I’ll share a book, I thought.

And then it was my turn, and I didn’t share a book.  I told them the truth.  That my summer had been crap for a few different reasons— reasons rooted in the sudden loss of my mother but not only the sudden loss of my mother—, and yet, I found that my favorite summer memory was how people showed up for us.  How incredibly humbling and restorative and relieving it was that people show up just when you feel the loneliest, the most shattered, the most invisible.  How overwhelmed I was by my good fortune—my family’s good fortune- in life that people dropped what they were doing and showed up for us in some way.

And yet. 

Those two little words have been on my mind so much these days.

My mom died suddenly.  It sucks and is awful for us, and yet, if we really think about it, if we can get over ourselves, it was not awful for her.  She left us in the midst of a conversation with my dad, her partner of fifty-three years, and without suffering.

I would never have thought I had it in me to survive this, to have put one foot in front of the other in such tragedy, and yet, somehow I found a way to make it, to be of use to my family, to do right by my mamacita.

It is so hard to write right now, and yet, for me, the only way through, the only way forward for me is to find words.  To unpack my mind on paper.  To use the opportunity to lay down words to discover what it is I really think, how I really am doing, what I need and must do to move forward.

There is so much to do right now: the thank you notes and probate court paperwork and so much more, and yet, what I most want to do is just sit with my people and be.  I want to watch my little boy play basketball, watch the bunnies have a face-off in our backyard, watch the skunk skitter across the street.  I want to hear my dad tell the story of how he met my mom, dance it out with my boy after dinner, watch BF do flips off the diving board at the pool, support my friends navigate dating and divorce.  I want to show up.  I want to be still and present.

When we met with the priest to plan my mother’s funeral, he asked us to share stories about our mom.  As we were talking, I realized something that I had never articulated about our mamacita.

She was so incredibly present.  Whatever she was doing, she was wholly doing.  At family dinners, she ate her meals at the kids’ table because she did not want to miss a minute with her grandkids.  She could lose herself to hours of bird-watching.  She would leave for thirty minute walks in the neighborhood and return home hours later after talking to every single person who was outside when she walked by their house.  When the little girl across the street found out the news, she came over crying and with a card for Mr. Zita.

“Oh honey,” I told her.  “You need to know that my mama loved you so much and thought you were so special and so smart.”

“I know,” she nodded and sobbed.  “I know.”

I have always felt a tension between productivity and presence, and yet, with the loss of my mother it has all become so incredibly clear.  What good is productivity if you do it in a way that it keeps you from showing up for your people?  In the tension between the two, I am choosing to let presence win, to let showing up be the lesson this summer- between remembering my mamacita and appreciating all those who were with us in our darkness in some way– has taught me.

Empowering our girls

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Today I invite you to join Circle de Luz as a mija, a member of our giving circle that supports higher education for Latina girls through scholarships. Joining a group of women from around the world to empower young women as a part of this circle is a powerful way to make a difference for our collective future.

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The investment is in the future education of a group of young women who will more than likely be the first in their families to graduate from high school and pursue further education. Your annual contribution supports their post-secondary education, and the connections that Circle de Luz donors and volunteers make with these girls—from the time its members are in seventh grade until they graduate from high school—are even more amazing. The Class of 2021 will hail from McClintock Middle School in Charlotte and our goal is to support the future dreams of 8 young women through that class.

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As Circle de Luz members, the girls participate in dozens of programs throughout their journey that teach important life skills, appreciation of the arts, wellness while exposing them to a variety of careers and supporting them academically. We assist with their college search and application process and, when they graduate, we award them with a minimum of $5000 scholarship that they can use towards the post-secondary educational opportunity of their choice. Our graduates have said, across the board, that they would not have made it as far as they have without Circle de Luz.
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Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”  You can help us arm our hijas by committing to support the Class of 2021 with a minimum of a $100 donation each year for the 6 years that they will be in our program (for a total of $600). This money is pooled with donations from other individuals across the world to create a vibrant giving circle that funds the $5000 scholarships our hijas receive.
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Interested in joining the circle?  Simply fill out this Letter of Commitment and return it to Mary Kathryn Elkins, the Circle de Luz Program Manager, at circledeluz@gmail.com or PO Box 2, Davidson, NC 28036.
No payment is due at this time- you will receive a pledge reminder in the fall.
Thank you so much for your consideration!

 

 

Grief and Gratitude

Raymond Carver LF

After our mamacita died, we just held each other closely and grieved and went about the business that is demanded of you when someone dies (I am looking at you God-awful probate court paperwork).

And then, after a couple weeks, we had to start again.  Return to our lives as if somehow it made sense to push forward.

On the first day that I sat down at my desk in front of my computer, I wanted to send a memo to the world that read:  EVERYTHING has changed.  Let’s forget work and instead heap lots of grace and understanding and tenderness on each other like we are the most magnificent, precious things ever.  Because we are.  Every single one of us.  Let’s meet right now and just hug each other and love each other and remind each other how much we matter.  Because our minutes are running out, people, and the most important thing we can do with what we have left is savor one another.

But I figured no one really wanted my memo and so, instead, I sat down at my desk and tried to re-enter a still moving world.

On my second day of re-entry, I did my hair for the first time in almost three weeks.  For weeks, all I had the energy to do was wash my hair and then pile the tangled mess on top of my head.  But this time, finally, I combed it after I got out of the shower and put in some frizz cream and then decided that was all the energy I had.  But that was more than other days and so I put a check in the win column.

On the third day of re-entry, I wondered how do you start to write again (when writing is how you process everything) when there is no ground under you, when you don’t even know who you are in this moment so how could you know what to say?

And my answer reminded me of a conversation that I had years (read: decades) ago with Mamacita when she told me to pray for something (I think it was a husband) and I told her that I only liked to offer two types of prayers on my own behalf—prayers of thanks and prayers for strength.  Ironically, those are the only two types of prayers I’ve been able to utter in the last few weeks (Oh, God, help me.  Help me please to put one foot in front of the other.  Help me to not pass out cold right here.  Help me to be of use in this situation. Help me not to fall apart right now.   Thank you for brining this person right here right now to prop me up.  Thank you for providing this food.  Thank you for giving us the time we did have.  Thank you for giving me these people.  Thank you for not letting her suffer.).  So it should come as no surprise that my answer for how to begin again is really more of the same, by offering thanks:

Thank you, mamacita, for loving us, for your fierce commitment to us and to your convictions.  Thank you for the sacrifices that you made for us and for being present wherever you were and your humor.  Thank you for loving our children and our partners just as much as you loved us.  Thank you for your special talents and your creativity.  Thank you for your devotion.

Thank you, papito, who showing us the boundlessness of love, for modeling partnership to us, for teaching us to feel what we feel and love what we love.  Thank you for your playfulness and humor and light.  You always offer so much light, even in darkness.

Thank you to my siblings and our partners.  I don’t think we could have handled this crap situation any better than we did together and I love how we supported each other through the ebbs and flow of our grief and the process.

Thank you to our neighbors who have been family for 35 years.  For running to my parents’ side when it happened, for not letting mom or any of us be alone in this.  To Melanie for riding in the ambulance with mom.  To Travis for feeding us over and over again.  To Melvin and Inge for showing up over and over again and thinking of the things we couldn’t.

Thank you to the Sotos, who have been family for 40 years, for showing up and doing whatever it took to help us from getting the house ready for guests to taking the men to get suits, from fixing the wheelchair ramp to tying ties, from just holding our hands through the awfulness to laughing with us when we just needed a release.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who showed up via text, email, Facebook message, phone, at the hospital, at our door.  Thank you for holding us, crying with us, praying with us, telling us stories, feeding us, offering your condolences, for watching and loving our children and our dogs, helping us choose readings for the service, staying a few extra days to show your love and support, for saying yes to whatever I asked, for taking over my personal and professional responsibilities.  Thank you for understanding when we had too much to say or nothing at all.  Thank you for coming from across the country, from across the Caribbean, from across town.  Thank you for sending your mamas to the visitation (you raised them right!), for crowding our mailboxes with cards, for providing us with so much beauty in flowers and plants, for sending memorial donations in to the church and Circle de Luz to recognize my mother’s life, for sharing the wisdom you have gained from your own walk with grief.  Thank you for not letting us fall off the side of the earth in lonely broken-heartedness.

If you had told me before I experienced it that grief does not travel alone, it walks with gratitude, I would not have understood.  I would have doubted you.  But now my grief is bound in gratitude, woven in a way that I cannot tell where one ends and one begins.  When I see you, however we interact, know that I am lit up by your love and grace and that you are absolutely beloved.

Thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for letting me walk with you in some way.  Thank you for allowing me to not just see but feel how much gratitude exists in grief.

a tribute to our mamacita

Sorry to be away from this space– my mamacita died suddenly last week.  I plan to be back to the blog in early July but thought I would share the eulogy I delivered at her funeral here in the meantime.

Abucita and Happy

Thank you so much for being here today.

When our family moved to Fort Jackson in 1975, it would have been easy to assume that this was going to be just another place we lived.  After all, our parents had left Puerto Rico—their homes, parents, and siblings- because of our dad’s work with the US military and home seemed incredibly far away.

But if there is any one thing our family has learned in the last forty years and that each of you here today confirms it is this, home is not just a place.  Home is a feeling.  Home is showing up for one another.  Home is making way.  And you all, over and over again, and most of all today have made sure that this little family of five never felt that small.  Thank you for creating home with us, for insuring that we were never alone, for being a soft place to land for us over and over again.

Over the last few days, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hear so many stories about our mom and as we’ve heard the stories, we’ve been able to appreciate over and over again just who she was in this world and what she meant to people.

Rosie Mom airport (2)

If you have spent any time with our mom you know that she was the family story teller and so it is only fitting that we tell a few stories about her.

People have talked about her perseverance, work ethic, and deep faith which were taught to her by her parents on a beautiful farm in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.  There, mom grew up with her five brothers and one sister and in between school, mass, and tending the farm, she learned how to sew and crochet and developed her profound love of the outdoors, people, and animals.  Those loves stayed throughout her life.  We couldn’t go anywhere—Carowinds, the Zoo—without mom coming home with a few surreptitiously gathered cuttings that she would nurture into thriving plants.  All over our yard and home you can trace mamacita’s travels by looking at her plants.

Mom also developed her love of all animals—from birds to dogs on that beautiful farm.  She fed that love by turning her back yard into a natural habitat so she and dad could watch the birds come to eat and nest and by raising the world’s most loved dog.  Lady Spencer doesn’t just have her own spot in the bed.  She has the blanket that mom crocheted for her, her own pillow, and a personal chef in mom. For the last week, Lady Spencer has been at the front door, waiting for our mom to come home.

Mom’s first friends- her brothers and sister- taught her exactly how to be such a good friend.  They were inseparable as children and remained close despite all the miles between them.  Over the years, we had the wonderful pleasure of getting to know our aunts and uncles and cousins when we would visit Puerto Rico and then also when mom and dad hosted our cousins here for summers when they were older.   Mom never let distance get in the way of her relationships and she stayed connected to the brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews she adored.  We have been so blessed that she made sure we had those relationships in our lives, too.

Abuelos and Gracie 9.9.07

Our dad likes to say that his and mom’s wedding was arranged.  They met in 1962 when mom worked as his mother’s secretary and his mom arranged a lunch between the two of them.  For more than fifty-years, they held hands every night as they slept.  Over and over again, we witnessed their devotion to each other as they experienced and endured world travel, job changes, sicknesses, and joys.  We will always be grateful for their example of commitment.

Mamacita was fierce in her love and she was fair.  She had a profound sense of justice that made her want to help people she had never met and also watch the lastest episode of Caso Cerrado (a Latino version of Judge Judy).

She was friendly and generous.  Wherever we went, she could strike up a conversation with someone effortlessly and make a new friend.  She loved to celebrate life and crocheted baby blankets and sewed dresses—from prom to bridesmaid, party to wedding- for so many people.  She always took snacks out to the post woman and the trash men and once asked dad if she could give the trash men bottles of wine from the wine rack for Thanksgiving.  “Of course,” dad told her and off she went to put together gift bags for each of them.   A few days later, dad discovered that mom, the teetotaler, had indeed given two of the men very nice bottles of wine but the third guy did not receive that gift.  He got a handle of Wild Turkey.

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One of mom’s greatest gifts was her compassion.  She took profound care of those who were suffering or weak or vulnerable in some way.  She had a delightful sense of fun and the ability to be incredibly present.  These traits served her well in many roles but no role was more important to her than that of grandmother.  To Gabriel, Gracie, and Abram, Mom was not just their Abucita.  She was a best friend.   When she laid eyes on them, they knew that she was really seeing them and they knew that no one else and nothing else was more important to them.  If there is anything that our babies know about their abucita it is this:  she loved them more than anything, wanted nothing more than to be with them, and believed in them infinitely.

We hear it all the time but gloss over the truth of it.  Life can change quite literally in a moment.  It doesn’t owe us notice.  We hear that cliché so much we become numb to its truth and, yet, here we are right now because of it.

On Thursday night, mom said to our brother, “Come here.  Give me a hug.  Tell me that you love me.”  It wasn’t a request she ever made and, of course, he did it.

Less than twenty-four hours later, she was in the hospital.

There were things our mother always told us:  wear an undershirt, tuck some emergency money in your wallet that you never use unless you’re in trouble, don’t drive on an empty tank, but here is the most important advice—when it comes down to it, your people—the relationships you have—are the only thing that sustain you so look out for them, take care of them, and tell them you love them.  Thank you, Abucita, for teaching us such fierce love.

Making the most of the season…

here comes the sun

I saw my first lightning bugs of the season the other day.  I had run out to the Shack after putting Happy down to grab something I needed and when I turned to run back into the house, there they were– lighting up the night.

The first lightning bugs of the year always catch my breath.  And I keep marveling at them, all season long, because they are just so marvelous.  It is like they are playing a flashlight game of Marco Polo, and I can never get enough.

But the arrival of summer doesn’t just mean it is time to gape at the lightning bugs.  It also means it is time for my sweet little family to spend time drafting up our summer of intentionality list.  While you can read all about the inspiration for and history of SOI here, put super duper briefly, SOI is a master list of what we as a family or individually want to try to learn, experience, try and/or do over the course of the summer.  When we’re done with writing, we display our list in a prominent location and get to living it.

So far… this year’s list includes (we are still adding to each night at dinner):

Horseback riding. Have pizza delivered to the pool.  Build and support a Little Free Library.  Keep a regular journal.  Participate in the library summer reading program.  Read 100 Books.  Go to Defy Gravity.  Stand up paddle.  Learn to do a flip off the diving board.  Do a cannonball off the diving board.  Make and hang a dream catcher.  Go fishing.  Bird watch.  Go to the beach.  Complete 1st Grade Workbook.  Camp out.  Go to the amusement park.  Go to a movie.  Go to the Raptor Center.  Watch fireflies.  Play mini-golf.  Take the bus to the city.  Feed horses.  Picnic.  Bowling.  Do something for the helpers in our community.  Play bocce ball.   Donate to the local food pantry.  Watch the clouds from the hammock.     

Key::  Blue-  Happy  Red- Me  Orange- Family

Today, I want to encourage you to create your own Summer of Intentionality dream list for you or your whole family.

What do you want to learn, do, experience, enjoy?

Capture all your wishes, make plans, and then get started having a summer that lives up to your hopes with the caveat that not necessarily every single thing will be crossed off the list, but you are far less likely to get to the end of summer and think, “I wish I had…”

Practicing (Body) Peace This Summer

practicing body peace this summer

Far too many of us feel uncomfortable in our bodies. And, yet, as children, we were fully possessed of ourselves, spending summers chasing fireflies and jumping into lakes, not hiding under oversized t-shirts out of fear someone would judge our bodies.

This summer, I  hope you’ll commit to enjoying each passing day as you are, rather than longing for the body you once had or long to have.  Here are some summer-related tips for enjoying yourself, shoring up confidence, and getting reacquainted with the beautiful, brilliant you that you’ve been neglecting.

  • Make plans.  Sit down now and dream about what you want to do this summer. Create a wish list that includes items that relax you as well as challenge you like reading in a hammock or trying stand up paddling.  Then, schedule your plans!  It is hard to sit around obsessing over your body, when you are too busy enjoying what your body allows you to experience.
  • Realize no one cares as much as you do.  If you are paralyzed before hitting the beach or a summer soiree, it is likely because you are worried about what people will think about you.  And, yet, people are far kinder to others than they are to themselves.  The truth is that no one is judging you the way that you judge yourself.  And the real thing people are most likely to remember after that party isn’t what you had on, but how you made them feel.
  • Enjoy the bounty of the season.  Frequent your local farmers markets and farms that allow you to pick your own produce and enjoy all the fresh flavor.  An added bonus is that you treat your whole self incredibly well by eating whole foods while experimenting with new preparations!
  • Revel in the beauty of treating your body well just to treat it well and not because it needs to be punished into looking different.  Fully appreciate that your body is your vehicle to get you through life and give it more of what it needs this summer: ample rest, satisfying movement, good nutrition, stress reduction like massage or yoga are just a few body loving options.
  • Learn something.  Use a little bit of your downtime- maybe a vacation day or a holiday weekend- to take a lesson in something that’s always interested you.  Try your hand at cooking from farm to fork or taking great outdoor photography or whatever else piques your interest.  Relishing in what the season has to offer you takes your mind off your judgments about yourself and also boosts your self-appreciation as you rack up even more skills!
  • Consider the time you’ve lost.  Consider the thing that you most obsess over with regard to your appearance, then add up the time you have spent obsessing over it in your life. Now ask yourself these questions: Is it worth it? Is your hair, your makeup, your outfit deserving of that much of the time you have left in your life? Can you let a little of it go? Can you start today?
  • Break your self-deprecation habit.  Too often, we normalize our body hatred by letting unkind words pass our lips about ourselves without a thought. We should catch and correct ourselves when we do this because our whole lives are affected by how we think and speak about our bodies.  Find a bowl, vase, or piggy bank and deposit some change each time you knock yourself, and watch your self-awareness soar and your habits change. Add another level to it by starting to add some change for positive thoughts.  You’ll let go of a negative habit while building a positive one.  With the money you have collected by changing this habit, treat yourself to a gift or donate it.  We can all change our language—and our minds.
  • Ditch the fat chat.  Take breaking the self-deprecation habit a step further.  When a woman criticizes herself in front of you, don’t join in.  Instead, tell her just how wrong she is and celebrate what you love about her.
  • Have a comeback.  Think of the jabs you sometimes hear from friends and family members. Perhaps they are about your appearance, your relationship status, or     whether or not you have kids. Now take some time to come up with the perfect  comeback. What can you say, the next time it happens, to let that critical person   know that you would like to be treated differently or that your body is off limits for discussion? Periodically practice the comeback, in your mind and out loud, so that you are ready when you need to use it.
  • Embrace your passion.  One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a passion, something that brings us so much joy and satisfaction that we can’t help but feel successful when we are doing it. When we are doing something we are passionate about, we can’t help but feel like we have something to offer.  Put some time aside this summer to dedicate to what you are passionate about or to find a passion.
  • Make eye contact.  Much of our confidence is projected through our eyes. Avoiding eye contact is just one way of communicating to the world that you want to be invisible. It also communicates to the person whose eyes you are avoiding that he or she isn’t worthy of being seen, even if you don’t mean to send that message.  Choose to see and be seen wherever you go.
  • Reimagine the possibilities.  Recognize that by being consumed by your appearance and the ways you do not measure up to someone else’s beauty standard, you are holding yourself back from being consumed by the calling of your life, from embracing your great gladness and giving it to the world. Imagine your life without the beauty obsession. Would you have time and energy for something else? If so, begin exploring that something else now.