Same Beach, 17 Years Later


I spent last week in Grand Cayman, tagging along on my husband’s conference.  It was the same place that we spent our honeymoon, 17 years ago.

Walking on Seven Mile Beach during our last morning on the island, my husband remembered how he felt as a 22-year-old when he was packing up to return home.  He would start medical school the very next day.  Thinking back to the mountain of hard work ahead: medical school itself, class rankings and decisions about specialties, residency applications and interviews, Match Day, fellowship interviews and placements, more Board exams — written and oral, and finally landing a “real” job… He left the island stressed, considering all of the dedication and determination that it would take to be successful.

I only remember being sad to leave the tropical paradise, but excited to return to our very own tiny, one-bedroom apartment.  Excited to return to my modest paycheck and grown-up job, with a boss that I adored.  Everything about that chapter in my life was new and thrilling.  I loved being a young “wife.” I quickly recognized that our courtship could not have survived the demands of medical school and that my smart husband knew that instinctively.  I expected too much attention as a girlfriend, but I was a supportive teammate and our young marriage flourished.  He went to school and studied; I went to work, volunteered, trained for races and planned frugal dinner parties with friends.  Our calendars were full and happy.

I looked at my husband and commented that I never knew that he felt that way.  He had made everything appear effortless from the passenger seat.  But, I’m thankful that he made it to the other side of the mountain.  In response, he just smiled quietly.

Something tells me that if we are ever lucky enough to return to the island in another 17 years, we’ll have a similar conversation about the last day on the beach.  No matter what stage of life you are in, there are always daunting goals ahead and unexpected stresses to manage on the horizon.

In 17 years, our kids will be raised and our youngest will be 22.  It took my breath away when I realized that he could be wrapping up his own honeymoon and beginning to climb his own mountain.  I hope that all three of my children have the courage to dream and to pursue their goals with focused determination.  If they are really lucky, they will also find a wonderful teammate to share the journey. . .

Cayman Sunset

Happy for Him, Sad for Me


I dropped my youngest child, fondly referred to as my caboose, off for kindergarten round-up this morning.  He looked so big and grown-up as he took the hand of his middle school ambassador and walked down the hall away from me, without looking back.  All morning I’d had butterflies, feeling nervous for him and a little excited too.  But, I was not prepared for the intense sadness. . .the lump in my stomach as I pulled away from the school without him.

Today, I only left him for a brief hour, but it represents the end of a beautiful chapter in my life. Being four and a half years younger than my middle daughter, we’ve had five years together while his older siblings have been in full-day school.  He’s been my little sidekick, a great source of happiness.

I realize now that I’ve parented my third child with a different perspective.  With my first child, I thought that whatever phase I was currently experiencing (teething, potty training, full-body tantrums, whining, bed wetting, etc.) would never end.  I sincerely believed that each one would go on forever; I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. With my third, I had the experience to know that he would eventually outgrow each one. And that allowed me to minimize the importance of the negatives and to enjoy the positives in a way that I had not allowed myself with my first two, who are only 19 months apart.

With my third, I know how quickly the time at home with me will pass.  I cherish holding his little hand in mine as we run errands and have made it a point to play with him everyday.   Because I know that one day, he’ll prefer his friends to his mom.  I cherish his open acts of affection, sitting in my lap at church and kissing me on the cheek repeatedly.  Because I know that one day, he’ll be too big and too self-conscious to do that anymore.

My job as a mom is to raise my kids so that one day they will be able to soar from my nest.  Like so many things involved with great parenting, it is totally counterintuitive.  I love having my little chicks at home.  My happiest moments are when my sweet family of five is together, enjoying each other.

I also recognize that my deep sense of sadness is coming from a place of selfishness.  I really am only sad for me.  I know that kindergarten will be an incredible year for my son.  He will grow and learn at an unprecedented rate. So, I must choose to focus on the amazing year ahead for him:  his great teacher, new friends and all of the skills that will provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning. . .

Fight with Love


Despite my outwardly demure nature, I would describe myself as a fighter.  Put in a position of fight or flight, I choose fight.

I will illustrate this point with a quick, highly entertaining story:  When I was in my early 20s, I woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to pound the treadmill in my apartment’s fitness center.  Most mornings, I ran alone.  On one of these mornings a giant naked man appeared outside the entrance of the building, blocking the windowed door.  Without hesitating, I went into fight mode and grabbed my mace. Throwing open the door, I began repeatedly yelling: “What are you doing?!?”  Luckily, he retreated and ran away.  I followed him up the flight of stairs, macing his naked buttocks.  When we reached the main parking lot, I paused and asked myself: “What am I doing?”  Why was the instinct of a petite, 5 foot 4 inch woman to chase a man so much bigger and stronger?

Lately, I’ve been butting heads with one of the people that I love the most in this world.  I recognized that our boxing match would never end unless one of us stopped swinging.  Two incredibly strong-willed and stubborn individuals, we’d keep the “jab, jab, quick, quick” going for eternity.  Because flight was not an option, I considered a third alternative:  Love.

I realized that we really are on the same team, wanting the same happiness and peace.  The only thing standing between our shared goals and desires was ourselves.

I’ve heard that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Applied to this situation, continuing to meet fight with fight would be insane.  So, I changed tactics and met anger with empathy and a hug.  Astonishingly, our swings turned into an embrace.  And, I realized that fighting with love is the answer.  I hope to meet future conflicts with love and compassion.  Although it is contrary to my natural instincts, it is definitely worth the effort.  Plus, loving is so much more fun than fighting. 


Success is a Marathon


Sometimes it takes a funeral to put life in its proper perspective.

At the end of one’s story, what really matters?  How is success defined?  By the size of one’s fortune?  By the number of degrees earned or honors bestowed?  By the level of fame achieved?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a funeral that celebrated the life of my friend’s father.  I heard the story of a man who lived the American Dream.  He started a small community bank in the early 70s and grew it into a company with more than 1.25 billion dollars in assets today.  He was a devoted husband, proud father and grandfather.  He was a pillar of the community, giving generously to worthy causes and serving as a church leader.  The church was packed with family, friends and community members who braved a blizzard, accumulating more than 18 inches of snow, to honor his life.

As I listened to his loved ones tell stories about him, I was struck by a common theme.  He was not remembered for his achievements, but for his kindness.  In the end, it is not the lines on one’s resume that really matters.  It is about love given and received.

One of his favorite sayings was: “Success is a Marathon.” Having completed one marathon in my life, I think I understand this analogy.  I remember committing to a plan, mapping out my long runs and preparing both mentally and physically for the race.  During the actual marathon, there were times of euphoria when my steps felt light and easy, experiencing what is called a “runner’s high.”  I also remember a time when I looked at my watch and realized that I still had hours to go and a cramp in my side. . . I will never forget the final stretch, which was a slight incline, but it felt like I was scaling a mountain with thighs made of heavy lead.  Other runners had fallen and were literally crawling up the hill to reach the finish line. It takes grit and determination to finish a marathon and to experience success.

This last week has not been an easy stretch.  My dad was back in the hospital and I found myself facing some discouraging challenges.  I felt uninspired to write about gratitude or to write period.  But, the funeral served as a beautiful reminder that success is a marathon.

For me, my ultimate goal is to succeed in living a loving life.  When times get dark and heavy, you need to keep your eyes focused on your goal and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Oh, and lots of prayers help, too.



29-Day Spending Diet?!?


The other day, my friend was telling me that every February she goes on a spending diet.  Rather than reducing calories and weight, her goal is to spend as little money as possible during the month.  She picked February because it’s the shortest one of the year.  She challenges herself to plan meals based primarily on what is found in her freezer and pantry, only supplementing to complete recipes.  She skips the occasional drive through Starbucks or other fast food lines.  She completely eliminates Internet shopping and shopping in general for one solid month.

After the extra spending for Christmas, followed by all of the post-holiday sales (that were too good to pass up), I accepted her invitation to join her on a 29-Day-Spending Diet.  I am always up for a challenge. Being naturally frugal, this one is right up my alley!

To start off on the right foot, I made our weekly meal plan and grocery list.  I was delighted to discover that we already have five delicious dinners on hand — I just need to supplement with fresh veggies.  This week’s entire grocery list contains a total of five items for a family of five.  I find this much more fun than the other type of dieting which leaves me “hangry” (hungry and angry).

Inspired? Join us on a 28-Day-Spending Diet.  What do you have to lose?