Nobody Told Me (There’d Be Days Like These)

Let me tell you something that no one told me about summertime. For working moms (and maybe stay at home moms too – I am the former, so that is all I know).

SUMMER SUCKS.

I used to love summers. The slower pace, unstructured days/weeks, vacation travel…

These things that I used to love are now my enemies. I have a shit-ton to do. Who has time to relax and go with the flow??? NOT ME! Well – that’s what I thought until I HIT THE WALL on Monday.

On Monday, I was guilty of doing what I do best:

  1. Having unrealistic expectations
  2. Taking on too much
  3. Trying to control uncontrollable situations

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well – no one got hurt, my partner Jerry dealt with my drama, and I practiced some self-care and realized I needed some alone time to do some “work” on myself. I went for a long walk on the beach, and played my favorite play list REAL LOUD. I finally allowed myself to FEEL some things that I have been avoiding. If anyone out there saw a fast-walking woman crying and then laughing on the Isle of Palms on Monday night – well, you maybe you thought you saw a crazy lady, but really you just witnessed me having the “feels”.

Have you ever fought a nagging feeling? Trying to just “power through” without really getting to the root of the issue? I do this all the time! Then I realize how exhausting it is to play “Whack a Mole” with my emotions – because just like that dang game, that mole pops up somewhere else no matter how hard I hit it. It’s like playing through the pain – I think I can overcome it by just buckling down, by trying harder…working harder. Oh, doesn’t it just sound exhausting??

I have learned some good lessons over the years – and I recognize when my wiring gets me into trouble. I literally can feel it in my body. I am a giver and a doer, and am self-reliant – these are qualities I really like about myself, but too much of a good thing is…not a good thing.

My walk helped me to release that nagging feeling – to finally FEEL it, own it, and start to move through it. At first it felt a little ugly to admit to myself what I was feeling… which is this: I finally realized that on days like Monday, I miss my more simple, carefree life that I had before becoming a full-time mom. In doing so, I brought that darkness out into the light and saw it for what it was – fear. Once I did that, I felt a release – which was followed up with a renewed sense of myself, and something I can only describe as forgiveness – a feeling that helped me to be kinder to myself, and that resulted in some self-confidence and hope that all was going to be ok.

I am pretty sure that every parent feels this way at times. I think is natural and healthy for parents to feel this way – and it felt liberating to realize I can feel this fear while at the same time loving my stepson Eric unconditionally.

My lessons learned:

  1. Expectations: Expecting myself to be a super hero is setting myself up for failure. I felt like a failure on Monday. As much as I admire Wonder Woman – I am not her. I am human, and I need to cut myself some freaking slack. And if you are reading this and nodding your head – you probably could benefit from doing the same thing! Failure is not a kind word. I value kindness, and I value myself – so I am purging the word failure from my vocabulary. I value my ability to do a lot – but I also value myself and my sanity! I can fail (the word fail is totally fine) – I can fail – I have and I will again – and that helps me to learn – but I am not a FAILURE. Nope. Let’s just not use that word to describe ourselves anymore – got it?
  2.  Taking on too much. I have a few remedies for taking on too much:
    • Say “NO.” Without explanation.  “NO” is a one-word sentence. When I feel the need to explain myself, I see the people-pleaser coming out – that person who doesn’t want to disappoint someone, that co-dependent Laurie that takes care of other people at the expense of my own feelings. “No” helps me practice self-care and to continue to break those old habits that did not serve me well.
    • Delegating to someone else. The trick is to allow that person to do it differently and maybe not as well as what you would have done. Because let’s be honest – I know there are a lot of us out there that can get a LOT of shit done, and done pretty well I might add! LOL – see how we can ourselves into trouble?? My friend once said, “I know if I got hit by a bus, my husband would probably feed my kids popcorn for dinner every night, but you know what – he would keep them happy and alive, and that is what matters.” That sentence has stayed with me for years – and helps me keep things in perspective. I know some incredible women who raise the bar HIGH. Expecting their partners, or really anyone else, to be as amazing as they are is… well…see #1!
    • PAUSE. Take a minute to pause and get present. A quick exercise to get present is to go through your 5 senses – what do you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear in this moment? Pausing helps to get perspective – and often when I do, I can catch myself and realize that just because I am busy and “doing” does not mean I am accomplishing something that is meaningful. Pausing helps me connect to the bigger picture – my purpose. If the list of tasks I am trying to work through doesn’t serve that, I can let some things go.

      IMG_7370
       I just had to buy this shirt for Eric a few days ago – and now I realize it has some deeper meaning. “Slow Jam” is my new name to taking a few minutes to pause, slow down and get present to what’s happening – just look how happy that sloth is! And how happy Eric is! Lessons to be learned here!!

 

  • Ask for help. Self-explanatory, but usually not top of mind for me. That’s what I did on Monday, and guess what – Tuesday and Wednesday have been a whole lot better!

3. For trying to control uncontrollable situations – this one is tough. For me, recognizing what I am doing is a huge help. If I catch myself, I can sometimes redirect my energy. It sounds corny – but I use music a lot to help me relax and let go of control. Let it Be, Let it Go – whatever it takes!! I literally wear a ring that says, “Let it Be.” I need the constant reminder! Laughter, fun – anything I can do to help me lighten up also helps me to let go of control. Thankfully I have a partner that really helps me with this. Somehow Jerry can make me laugh during these episodes – there’s probably a survival instinct on his part, but hey – if it works, it works. Pausing to help someone else also helps me to gain perspective – and serves as a reminder that the world does not revolve around me. Taking some time to myself to do the “work” – to get to the root of my feelings, and to move through them rather than avoid them – that helps a lot.

 

 

Not quite sure how to sum up – besides to say that I am going to “slow jam” the rest of my week. And I hope you do too!

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Joy…and Pain (or rather Pain…and Joy?)

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

-Brené Brown

As a kid, I remember complaining to my parents about my various aches and pains – and my parents would often say “that’s just growing pains.” Man I didn’t realize back then what they really meant – that growing up is literally painful – not just physically, but emotionally. How do you tell young people what is ahead of them? That becoming an adult is incredibly hard. That change can be excruciating painful. That growth is HARD WORK and no one can do it for you. That each one of us is going to face heartbreak, loss, and hardships that we never thought we would be able to handle. And that even when we get through a tough time, there is going to be another one down the road, and then another, and another.

I think it’s like what some people say about childbirth – that if women actually shared how painful it truly is, no one would choose to be a parent. If children knew how hard it is to enter adulthood, they would likely try to join Peter Pan in Never Never Land where no one grows up!

I remember when one of my best childhood friends lost his best friend in a tragic accident during our freshman year of college. A few short years later, he lost his father to cancer. I remember him telling me the day of his dad’s funeral that maybe his best friend’s death helped him prepare in some way for his father’s. Over 20 years later, what he told me has stayed with me all this time. I have often thought about how strong he was at the young age of 21 to try to cope with his grief by relying on what he had learned about himself during what had previously been the tougest loss he had faced. He taught me something about how to grieve, how to cope with pain, and how to grow.

My friend Erin and I had drinks together this week, and as we often do, we spoke about our lives, our struggles, and the lessons we are trying to learn. I did a terrible job trying to re-tell this wonderful story that teaches a great lesson about overcoming pain. I looked it up later to share with Erin, and decided I wanted to write about it in my blog, so here it is!

I hope that the author Sofo Archon of The Unbounded Spirit blog doesn’t mind if I share his story. His entire blog post can be found here.

The story begins when a young woman who is going through a very painful experience and reaches out to her wise grandmother for help:

“Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

May we all be like the COFFEE.”

Here are some painful truths.

  • When we live a life where we are open to love (any kind of love – not just romantic love), it is certain that we will experience pain at some point in the future. Not just possible. CERTAIN.
  • We are each responsible for how we cope with that pain, how we grieve, how we heal, how we grow. It is up to each of us to decide if we want to be the carrots, the egg, or the coffee.
  • There is no “pain contest” where anyone wins because their hardships are greater than one another. Who would want to win that anyway?? Each of us has our hardships, and it doesn’t help anyone to try to compare whose burden is greater.

I kind of hate the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” because it is too trite. I rephrase it to say “Everything happens for a reason if we take the time and put in the hark work to make meaning out of our experiences.” Too long to inscribe on a coffee mug, but still true. coffee

My intent is not to bring everyone down with this post – sorry that if it’s a bit intense! My intent is to speak the truth, and to encourage everyone to own your choices. I have not always made the right choices – that is FOR SURE. And you know what – I am CERTAIN that I am going to make more mistakes, and I am certain that I am going to experience more pain and loss in my future.

What I have tried to do is stop being a victim, and to own the decisions I made – or didn’t make – that got me to where I am, so that I learn my lessons and can move on with my life. One of the best compliments I received recently was from a friend who told me I was “wise.” Wisdom is healed pain. It hasn’t been easy – and it has been a lot of work up to this point. I have worked with a therapist/coach for years, and my work is ongoing and never-ending.  And it has been so incredibly worth it.

Just like the grandmother says in this story, when we are like the coffee, we change. We grow. We are able to let go of our heartache and our painful pasts. We are able to heal, and we remain open to love. We have the ability to experience joy. We can be happy with what we have, and we can look forward to a bright future. It won’t be perfect – but it will be ours.

“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

From the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

 

 

 

13 Going On (Insert your age)

Yesterday I returned from a trip to New York City with my niece Jana, where we celebrated her 13th birthday. We had a blast! This was Jana’s first trip to New York – where she experienced some other firsts including her first cab ride and her first Broadway show.

We saw Wicked, did the NBC Studio Tour where we saw the SNL and Today show studios, took amazing pictures from the top of the Empire State Building, met LOTS AND LOTS of celebrities (statues that is…at the Wax Museum)…and shopped until we dropped. Jana even got to meet a bunch of famous “Viners” in the Village and wound up in one of their videos. If you don’t know what Vine is…sorry – that would take way too much explaining and is NOT what this blog post is about. And if you aren’t a teenager, or don’t have a teenager – you don’t want to know anyway.

The 82 Floor Observatory at the Empire State Building
The 82 Floor Observatory at the Empire State Building

I stole the idea of taking my nieces and nephews on a trip for their 13th birthday from my friend Megan. When she shared the idea with me a few years ago, I immediately starting making plans with my oldest nephew Joseph, whom I took to Chicago last summer.

In Chicago, Joseph and I saw the Tigers play the Cubs at Wrigley, went to the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science & Industry, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium AND the top of the Sears (technically the Willis Tower – does anyone even call it that?) Tower. We also saw at least three 3D movies (fell asleep during one of them) and got free Conan shirts from a vending machine on the street. All in three days. Aren’t you tired just reading about it??

From the top of the Sears (aka Willis) Tower
From the top of the Sears (aka Willis) Tower

Because I don’t have children, I have showered my nieces and nephews with my maternal energy since they were born…and as many of my friends can vouch – I have also adopted their children as my extended niece and nephew family. These special trips with the kids are just as much for me as they are for them. Part of me is probably subconsciously making sure the kids don’t forget me about me eventually in my old age if I don’t end up with children of my own…But truly, these relationships are so important to me that they truly are a big part of who I am.

Turning 13 is a big milestone for a kid. I remember when I turned 13 myself and can vividly recall the challenges of middle school. Are you cringing like I am remembering what it was like?? Yikes I don’t want to do that again! And I didn’t have to deal with a fraction of what kids have to deal with today…

A major reason I do this trip is to recognize the kids for this rite of passage, and to strengthen our bond before they enter a tough phase of their lives. I want to be sure that they know they have another person who cares deeply about them – someone that will be there if they find themselves in trouble and need help or advice. Plus, I want to have the right when/if they act out in their teenage years to call them out in a way that is different than a parent. Both Joseph and Jana have experienced this with me already – and I think they know what I mean!

I remember the first time I went to New York City with my family when I was 15, and remember taking pictures from the top of the World Trade Buildings, and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. I remember seeing my first Broadway show, A Chorus Line, with my mom and sister, and going to my first Yankees game via the Subway. I also remember my first time in Chicago during my freshman year of college at Notre Dame. My roommate Diane and I took a bus to Michigan Avenue for a day of sightseeing and shopping. I had never seen an 8-story department store before!

New York and Chicago became my favorite cities to visit over the years, and I wanted to Joseph and Jana to have similar experiences of their first trips that they will hopefully remember when they are my age and much older. Through these trips, I want my nieces and nephews to start to see the world as a big place that is entirely accessible and full of possibility for them.

I can’t wait (though my pocket book can) for when my younger nephews and niece Dillon, Bridget and Trevor are old enough for their trips. I look forward to making similar memories with them, and to re-living my trips with Joseph and Jana over the years.

And in the meantime, as always, I look forward to my regular day to day lives with ALL of my nieces and nephews – Sessa’s and Cugliari’s, and all of my adopted ones too. I hope they know and feel how special each one of them is to me.

Signed, Auntie Laurie

Casa Dolce Casa (Home Sweet Home)

This is my house on it's 1 year anniversary.
This is my house on it’s 1 year anniversary.

I am sooo happy to be home after a 8 days of a wonderful short vacation to DC with a business trip tacked on. As much as I love to travel, I am always excited to come home to my own space…to my sanctuary…to recharge, relax, and enjoy my surroundings.

About an hour ago, I received an email from my mortgage guy saying “Happy Loan Anniversary!” While I appreciate Lorcan’s thoughtfulness in wishing me a happy loan anniversary, I am not exactly celebrating the fact that I owe the bank so much money for my little nest. But, I am so happy for the reminder to celebrate the wonderful decision I made to buy it.  So forget the money I owe, I am celebrating my house – and all that I have accomplished since getting it!

Since I haven’t posted in a while, I decided this was a very good reason to sit down, turn off all of my distractions and reflect on the year I have spent here. It was pretty crazy in the beginning. Anyone else remember the lightening storm that resulted in the firemen visit, and the A/C, fridge, and internet/cable not working in the first two weeks?? My anxiety about lawn maintenance, robbers and flood insurance? Last summer while exciting was nerve wracking to say the least. I had a lot of doubts – mostly in myself – about my ability to do this on my own – financially, emotionally, physically…

Here I am a whole year later, and all is well. In fact, all is more than well. At the very least, I have maintained the house pretty well as I haven’t killed my lawn, and I have managed all of the basic repairs and the associated bills along with them. I was and still am incredibly lucky and grateful to have the help and support of my friends and family. Otherwise, this would be so much harder – and much less enjoyable! I have a healthy list of people who have pitched in at different times…to move furniture, hang pictures, repair steps, help decorate… you name it, they have done it. Sometimes in exchange for meatballs or wine. Whatever it takes!

But more importantly, I have been making a lot of progress in making my house my home. Slowly but surely, this place is evolving, and every day that I walk in the door, I feel a sense of peace and satisfaction. That is such a powerful feeling…one that I hope never goes away. I reflect about how scared I was a year ago, I now feel joy.

I still don’t know what the future holds – does anyone? But I am a lot more at ease living with questions than I was a year ago. I am more comfortable with being open and vulnerable than I was a year ago. I am much better at enjoying the present than I was a year ago. And I have more love and joy in my life than I did a year ago.

There is a lot more to come – this I know. There will be ups and downs – this I also know. There is more joy – but also more heartache and pain ahead too – that is just how life works.

I can’t say it better than my favorite author Brene Brown:

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Happy 1st Anniversary to my “Casa Dolce Casa”!

My Favorite Things

Unlike Oprah, I will NOT be handing out any items to you at the end of this post…no new cars, no Ralph Lauren V-Ceck Sweaters, and no Tory Burch Michelle Totes for you. Sorry about that! I was just in the mood to relax and think about something simple – things that make me happy. My favorite things. In no particular order.

  1. The smell walking in my door the day my house has been professionally cleaned…smelling the piney/lemony scents of a clean house. This happened to me today – so that is probably what made me starting thinking of this list. WORTH EVERY PENNY.
  2. Walking on the beach when the tide is going out, and finding whole sand dollars bleaching in the sun.
  3. When my iPod plays the perfect song for my mood. Last month, I got in my car to drive to the airport to fly to Chicago for the Notre Dame/Miami game. My iPod was on shuffle, and the first song to play was the Notre Dame Victory March (out of 700 songs). Perfection!
  4. White Christmas lights. One day I am going to have an outdoor patio with a pergola covered in white lights, and will host outdoor dinner parties for my fabulous friends.
  5. The combination of mountains and the shore. Like the view on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler. Kaui – seeing waterfalls coming down the mountains while sitting on the sandy beach. Two of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I can’t wait to go to Alaska one day!
  6. Reading a book that I can’t put down. The kind that makes me stay up way too late, or stay in bed way too long trying to finish it. The kind where the character stays with me forever, like Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My most recent favorite – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, with Charlie – one of the wisest, most sincere, most vulnerable teenagers I have ever encountered in literature. How did I miss this book that was written in 1999? Now securely in my top 5 favorites of all time.
  7. Yellow flowers. I buy fresh cut flowers every week – almost always yellow…roses, gerbera daisies or sunflowers.
  8. Greeting cards.

    One of my greeting cards…featuring another of my favorite things – red wine
  9. Photographs of my friends, family, and places I have been. I have framed photographs all OVER my house. I print my pictures and keep photo albums since I had my first 35 mm camera at age 15.
  10. Sunday night TV lineup…Once Upon a Time, Revenge, The Good Wife and Homeland – so many dramas, so little time!
  11. Our annual Cookie Exchange with the girls – the social event of the season is coming up! I have been sharing my pizzelles and rum balls for 8 years with these ladies…and I always bring the requested pigs in a blanket to help us soak up the wine. Only a few weeks away!
  12. Spending time with my nieces and nephews, and watching them grow into themselves…Joseph who created a few surprise Pandora stations for me this week, including Judas Priest and Van Halen (he’s only 13)…my sister’s influence of course…Jana who em ceed all night during our Guesstures game last Friday as if we were an actual reality TV show, Dillon who declared during the Notre Dame/USC game last weekend that he wanted to go to Notre Dame (he’s only seven), Bridget, who seems so quiet and unassuming and then can pull a sudden diva move that no one expects, and then Trevor, my 2 year old nephew, aka Tazmanian Devil or Bam Bam…strong, fearless, and hopefully indestructible!
  13. Those perfect scenes in romantic movies: Lloyd Dobbler standing outside Diane Court’s window with his boombox blasting “In Your Eyes” (and remember – Lloyd also sent Diane a greeting card), Noah and Allie paddling their canoe in the Lowcountry creeks surrounded by swans, and Maria and Captain Von Trapp singing “Something Good” to each other and kissing for the first time in the gazebo…and Captain Von Trapp also plays a guitar…hmmm.