Letting Go

1.28.16

“Listen to your inner wisdom, let go of something today that you no longer need — something that is draining your energy without benefiting you or anyone you love.”  Arianna Huffington, Thrive

Every January, I get the itch to get rid of the old and to make room for the new.  I try to tackle a small project each day, cleaning out a drawer or a closet (depending on my level of energy).  It takes dedication and determination to contain the chaos of our messy lives.

Last weekend, we began experiencing technical difficulties with our cable, which resulted in a Cox service call. The technician left with our old cable box and countless hours of unwatched shows and movies on our old DVR.  At first I was a little sad, thinking of all the programs that I had not had time to get to yet.  But when it came time to reschedule my recordings, I realized that I honestly couldn’t think of a single program that mattered.

And, I recognized that my DVR list felt a lot like a lengthy “to do” list, which actually drained my energy.  Not the point, right? So, tonight, I’m thankful for my broken cable box and blank DVR. Rather than racing to the couch after tucking my kids into bed, I’ve received the gift of time:  Time to declutter, to plan and to ponder.

Letting Go

Living An Authentic Life

authentic

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What does it mean to be authentic? To live an authentic life? 

This past week, I have been wrestling with these questions. . . In my quest to live a more grateful and authentic life, I find gratefulness easier.  In almost any situation, you can find something to be grateful for because things can ALWAYS be worse.  I am comfortable with gratitude; it is black and white.  Gratefulness is neat and tidy — just like I like to keep everything in my life.

Choosing to live authentically is a little frightening.  It reminds me of the feeling I had when I went zip-lining for the first time in Puerto Vallarta.  I remember looking at the pulley, the thin cable and the dramatic drop-off to the forest below.  It took a leap of faith for me to jump off the first platform.  By the end of the course, I was laughing uncontrollably.  Had I not taken the leap, I would have missed out on the chance to enjoy incredible views and fun with friends, too.  Living an authentic life is a lot like zip-lining; it’s terrifying at first, but the risk is worth the reward.

 

Today I Choose Joy

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I confess that I am more of a “glass half empty” than “glass half full” type of gal.  I really wish that I wasn’t that way.  To compensate, I tend to fill my life with happy, positive friends who nudge (and sometimes force) me to shift my perspective.

When I was in college, my best friend and roommate always woke up happy.  She’d bounce out of bed and sing “Good Morning, Sunshine!” to me.  I have to admit on certain mornings I found it quite annoying.  But, by choosing to always wake up on the right side of bed, she set the tone for her day and mine.  And, she taught me something that I’d never considered:  Your alarm clock does not need to be your enemy!  I now have my own good morning songs that I sing to my kiddos when I drag them out of bed at 6:45 a.m.  On this particular morning, my joyful wake-up call was greeted by my five-year-old’s fist, my nine-year-old’s pillow (heaved in my direction) and my eleven-year-old’s exasperated sigh (and maybe an eye-roll, too).

One of my dearest friends from North Carolina sent me this beautiful “I Choose Joy” piece of art for my birthday this year.  I hung it above the light switch that I turn on when I wake up each morning.  It makes me happy because it reminds me of my wise friend and that happiness is a choice.

This morning, Omaha experienced another Winter Weather Advisory. As I was white-knuckling my steering wheel and praying for a safe trip to school, I heard someone on the radio comment that we were experiencing a beautiful snowfall.  I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t noticed – I was so focused on bundling up my kids and navigating the treacherous roads that I hadn’t paused to appreciate what was right in front of me.  He was right.  It was beautiful.

snowfall evergreen

Cousins: An Unintentional Gift

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Nearly a decade ago, my husband and I were trying to decide where we wanted to raise our family.  We were living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the time . . . and we loved it.  Having spent my entire life in the Midwest, I could not believe that I lived in a place where I could drive an hour to the Blue Ridge Mountains or three hours to the Coast.  We loved the mild winters and felt connected to the community after living there for five years.

However, when the job offer from Omaha arrived, my husband and I felt pulled back to our Midwestern roots.  We wanted our kids to know our families — not to just see them once or twice a year.  At the time, we were thinking mainly about our parents, our kids’ grandparents.  I only have one younger sister; she was also living in Omaha with her husband and expecting their first son. I remember thinking that it’d be fun for us to hang out together with our kids. But, the biggest bonus wasn’t even on my radar: cousins.

This past week, I took my youngest son and his four-year-old cousin (AKA best friend) to the Children’s Museum.  As I watched them laugh, run and hug each other spontaneously, it occurred to me that cousins offer all of the best things about family:  love, loyalty, unconditional acceptance, friendship and fun with none of the issues that can darken sibling relationships:  fighting, jealousy, competitiveness or just button-pushing in general.

This pure, genuine love extends to our cousins who live outside Omaha, too.  While I love our adult relatives, it is the kids who turn every family event into a full-blown party.  The anticipation of a road trip to Des Moines carries the same level of excitement as a trip to Disney World!  If you’ve grown up with family nearby, this probably seems incredibly obvious.  But for me, I am grateful for this unintentional gift to my kids; it is one of our family’s greatest blessings.

The Sweet Spot of Life

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Today was a perfectly ordinary day.  After a long winter break, my tweens returned to school; I spent the afternoon with my preschooler, playing with Legos and visiting his grandparents.  During the past five years, we’ve had countless sweet, simple days just like today.  In four short months my buddy and I will close this chapter.  His final preschool year will end; we will no longer have long stretches of time to spend exploring the Zoo, doing Mud Pies at the Forest or playing at the Children’s Museum.  He will be off to full-day kindergarten.  I’m excited for him, but sad for me. . .

I’m also thankful to be at this stage of life.  We’ve graduated from sleepless nights, diapers, nursing, potty training, the floppy fish phase (when your unruly toddler disagrees with you and throws him or herself on the ground and pretends to be a fish out of water while screaming at the top of his or her lungs).  Today, my kids are pretty much self-sufficient.  And, they are fun (mostly).

My dad recently told me that I was entering the “sweet spot of life.” He said that at 40, you know who you are and you’re are still healthy enough to do what you want. Today, I find myself agreeing with him.  I wouldn’t trade this phase for anything.

Happiness or Thankfulness, Which Comes First?

Thankful

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My daughter brought this piece of artwork home from school last year. I still love it.  On days when happiness eludes me, it cheerily reminds me that I am in control — it’s all about perspective.

For example:

•When my precious children fight like cats and dogs, I remind myself how hard I prayed for children and how lucky I am to experience motherhood, even if it’s not always exactly how I imagined it.

•When I sort the twelve piles of laundry that need to be done today, I remind myself that I am blessed to care for three active children and a husband . . . and to own laundry machines.

•When I’m unloading and filling my dishwasher for the third time since 6:30 a.m., I remind myself that I am blessed to have enough food to feed a healthy, growing family. . .and a dishwasher, too.

•When I wearily pick up all of the evidence of my family’s loud, messy life at the end of the day, I remind myself that it’s my privilege.

Life is all about perspective and making the choice to be thankful.  I choose to be thankful — again and again and again.

2016: A Year of Grateful and Authentic Living

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My daughter recently turned nine and a friend sent me this article titled “To My Daughter, At Halftime” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/whitney-fleming/to-my-daughter-at-halftime_b_6580468.html on her birthday.  It’s a beautiful, wise letter. Most startling:  it simply hadn’t occurred to me that my own sweet daughter was halfway out of my house!  Life is so busy right now.  Days are scheduled down to the minute.  It’s a race for us to make it through each week.  I’d been so busy making sure that I was maximizing my three children’s schedules on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that I hadn’t stopped to consider how fast it was all going. . .

Then, in October, I celebrated my 40th birthday.  I paused and considered that I had also reached a “halftime” of sorts.  I hope that I live way past 80, but it’s an appropriate time to pause, reflect and plan.

I often tell my kids to begin with the end in mind.  Where do you want to end up?  Now, how are you going to get there?  For me, my goal is to end my life with a deep sense of gratitude and a sincere belief that I lived an authentic life.

My goal over the next 12 months is to take time and to give thanks and to reflect honestly on both the beauty and tragedy of life.