It’s All In Where You Point Your Hip

Lesson in life: wherever you point your hip is where you are going to go.

What? Yes, in all my infinite years of living life I have figured out that you are going to go wherever you point your hip. Think about it. If you think you are going to be successful. Chances are pretty good you will be. Alternately, if you think you are going to be a failure, you probably are going to fail. If you practice something over and over, chances are you will end up pretty good at whatever it is. If you never try something, you will never know.

This past weekend our busy little family finally made it to the lake for a little rest and relaxation. It has been a very intense summer around here and we have a lot of projects swirling around that we are trying to juggle. Time at the lake just wasn’t fitting in very well but Sunday we made it happen and it felt good.

I decided to get out of my comfort zone and practice my very newly developed wake surfing skills. Getting up wasn’t really the problem, physics pretty much makes that happen on its own. What is tricky is knowing what to do once you are up.

Last summer I tackled this bucketlist item and spent a fair amount of time drinking the lake, which I do not really recommend. This summer I was determined to give it a go. Up I went on the first try!

It was after I got up that I realized I had very little in my bag of skills. Now, when you wake surf the good news is that the boat is going very slow, only about 11-12 miles per hour, so the falls don’t really hurt. However, it is important to note for all the non-wake surfers out there that the real downside to this sport is that the boat is pulling you just a few feet behind it and the wake created by the boat can be 3-4 feet high. I know, this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but believe me when you are riding a wave and dip down into the trough it shoots you straight at the back of the boat. In fact, you can get within inches of the boat if you are not careful. Now someone with a bit of skill just rides the wave back up to the crest and rides down again. Those of us less skilled, i.e.-no skill, are often just along for the ride and it can get pretty exciting.

My son has been my wake surfing coach now for two summers and while he is willing to explain the concept over and over again I do often get what I refer to as “the sigh.” This is when I have exhausted all reserves of patience he has and I get the deep sigh of frustration. He never yells, he just sighs. He thinks I am not listening, I am I swear! But I do what I think he is telling me and I often get the same bad results.

This is about when the light bulb moment hit me. If I do the same thing over and over and then get frustrated when I get the same result it is my own fault. Realizing that when I am willing to try something new or sometimes try something that just doesn’t make sense can often bring very different and positive results.

Sam had been telling me to rotate my hip toward the boat to get into what is referred to as the sweet spot on the wake. I kept riding the wake surf like my old friend my water ski and it just wasn’t working. Finally I rotated my right hip as far as I could and suddenly I shot toward the base of the wake, right where I wanted to be. A look of amazement came across my face.

Sam just looked at me like “I told you so”

I actually did it. I rode the wave up and down riding like I knew what I was doing. Riding like a surfer. Very cool stuff. Too bad I’m so stubborn or I might have been doing this a long time ago. When I finally pointed my hip in the direction I wanted to go I was amazed at the results. I learned in life I just have to believe. I just have to “act as if” and I just have to point my hip in the direction I want to go. The rest of it will all work itself out. This is good stuff.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Future Adventures and Growing Pains

Staying in one spot is easy. You don’t have to flex your muscles, you don’t have to put your body into motion, you don’t have to decide where you are going, why you want to go there or even what you are going to do when you get there; but staying in one spot is boring. The scenery never changes, you never get excited about anything, and you certainly don’t meet any new people. You don’t even burn any calories or get goose bumps from the unknown. Staying in one spot is easy, but it is not good for the soul.

Motion requires inspiration, motivation and energy, but the cool part is that motion creates all these things too! What you put into it is what you get out of it- like the old saying goes. If you never take chances, if you never wonder why, or how, if you never try you will never grow.

I’ve discovered that I don’t like staying in one spot, physically as well as emotionally. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over; I get bored. I don’t like not taking chances; I start to feel stale and old. I like to get my blood pumping and see what I can do. I like to try new things and then apply them to my world. I get a charge out of getting out of my comfort zone, even if it can be scary at first.

This is not to say that I don’t ever experience growing pains, I do.

Sometimes it is my heart that has to grow, sometimes it is a physical muscle, and sometimes it is my soul, but whatever it is, I usually feel it when it is growing.

Sometimes, I get all emotional and stressed out, fearing the unknown in a relationship. Sometimes, I am so sore for days after I try a new adventure and I’ve used long forgotten muscles, and sometimes, I feel excited because I am daring to try the unknown career move or take on a new professional challenge.

I am usually not sure what I am doing or why I am even doing it; I just know I need to be challenging myself. I question if I am going about it right, I worry people will think I am nuts, and I get embarrassed at my clumsy attempts to do new things, but in the end, I usually feel proud that I tried something new. Sometimes, I even feel empowered that I learned something I didn’t think I could do and even if it doesn’t work out I am usually wiser for my efforts.

I’ve decided growing pains maybe are not all that bad. The picture on the top is one of the toughest rocks you can climb in Garden of the Gods park. It looks so cool and I can’t wait to see the view from the top. The picture below is of The Fang, a large waterfall that when it freezes you can climb -if you are brave enough to let yourself try. I am visualizing myself taking on both of these challenges in the next year. I don’t know for sure if I can do it but I am going to give it a try. I can’t wait to tell you all about my adventures, my growing pains and what I learned by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Growing pains are not bad, at least you don’t stay just in one spot! I challenge you to find what’s next on your list and go for it!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Where Do The Years Go?

Where do the years go? It wasn’t that long ago I held her in my arms for the first time and stared down in wonder at the 6 pound bundle of pink in my arms and felt my heart swell with a deep love I had never known before.

I remember staring at her while she slept wondering why I was blessed with this little miracle.

Motherhood changed me in so many ways. Suddenly, what I wanted didn’t matter, what she needed did. I had dreams for her and I had fears too.

All I wanted to do was keep her safe and let her feel unconditional love.

I wanted her to be well educated, well read and cultured, but I also wanted her to know where she came from and who she was on a spiritual level.

I wanted her to know God and to always have His Love in her heart. I prayed she’d always feel accepted, just as she was, and that she would somehow know I would always be there for her, just as a mom should be.

I wanted her to take risks and not to fear the world, but I wanted to keep her safe at the same time.

I dreamt I could get this tiny fragile baby to a state of adulthood where she would feel my love everyday and where she would know I would always be her anchor.

I wanted her to challenge herself and dig deep when life got tough, and yet I wanted to spare her some of the pain of a constantly changing world.

I prayed she would someday earn her college degree, for I knew, if she could focus and stay committed to her education, she would have many career opportunities.

I also knew earning a college degree would be a long hard journey. The work is challenging and sometimes feels overwhelming and impossible. I prayed she would somehow overcome these challenges and persevere enough to get the job done. I knew once she earned her college degree she would always have it, no one could ever take it away from her. She would know that she, and she alone, earned this degree and made this happen.

I knew in the end she would feel proud of herself, she would walk away from her school an empowered, stronger young woman ready to start her career and deal with life’s many challenges.

Where do the years go? I don’t really know, but I do know she did it. My baby girl graduated from college! She really did it!

What I didn’t expect was to be hit with a wave of melancholy during the graduation ceremony. I thought I’d be so happy and excited. Yes, she was finally graduating, soon she will be moving on and starting her career. It hit me then, I wasn’t really happy tonight watching her walk for her degree. I was sad, because I knew my job was mostly done. She was now a grown woman. She would soon be moving away to start her own life. A life that I would be a part of- but of her history not so much her future.

This must be what a mother Robin feels like as her babies start to flap their wings and attempt their first take-off. The mother wants the baby to learn, it is important, it is a skill that will help the baby all their life, but…. As soon as the baby does, in fact, flap their wings, they will take off and fly. They will soar. They will soar away.

Daughters will go out into the world and do great things. They will start careers and be successful; they will learn to handle what is thrown at them in life. Someday they might marry and have children of their own and when this happens they too will do everything they can to help their children achieve their goals and make their dreams happen. So their children can fly away. I guess this is what a mother does.

It was on my bucket list to help my child celebrate her college graduation. I knew I had my part to do and I also understood that for this to work for me, she would have to have made it her dream also.

I could help in many ways, ranging from encouragement, to care packages timely sent, some financial help along the way, and even a few simple postcards just so she knew I was thinking about her. But she did all the work. She followed the plan and got the job done in 4 years-a real challenges these days. While she did all this work she make something on my bucket list come true. I watched my baby girl shake the hand of the Dean and walk away a college graduate!


So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Building Faith and Rock Climbing

When I was a kid, I remember my mom, in a moment of parental frustration, asking me “if your friend jumped off a cliff would you???” This conversation was meant to knock some sense into me, and teach me to make my own decisions in life, especially during those rocky teenager years! “No! “ I emphatically replied trying to convince her I did have functioning brain cells! “Of course I wouldn’t jump off a cliff!” I am pretty sure my friend’s mom had a similar conversation somewhere along the line with her daughter, so I will have to apologize to Ms. Sharon, but I did just that, I convinced her 46 year old daughter, my friend, to jump off a cliff with me!

I think one of the best gifts one friend can give to another is to empower them to do something they never would have done. This one has been on my bucket list for years, and I am always trying to find new ways to be there for my friends. Sometimes it is a shoulder to cry on, sometimes it is an honest conversation delivered with love, sometimes it is a giggle late in the night, or a tear over a child, but sometimes you get to help a friend step way out of their comfort zone and become someone they never thought they could be.

I have a friend who has been there for me for hmmmmm, 37 years. Good Lord, that makes us sound old, but it is true. We have been pals since third grade. We have laughed, cried, worried, and prayed together over everything from math tests, boyfriends, husbands, parents and children. She has a kind heart and a groundedness I respect. I however, am not grounded, especially lately when I have been busy jumping out of planes and climbing mountains. Sometimes she needs a little more of my adventurous spirit, and sometimes I need a bit more of her groundedness. A couple of weekends ago, I convinced her to jump off an 80-foot tall cliff! How’s that for adventure!

I convinced my friend, and her husband, to go rock climbing with me, since I had such an amazing time last fall at Garden of the Gods climbing up 80-foot red rock monsters and then subsequently rappelling off them (i.e. Jumping off a cliff!!)

My friend showed her long forgotten adventurous side when she gamely agreed to my invitation, surprising me to say the least! I thought there was no way I’d get her to climb a sheer rock face and then back off the top. Miracles will never cease to amaze me, because somehow my crazy midlife crisis has started to rub off on her and she said YES! I like to think of it in this way, maybe I inspired her just little bit to rediscover her wild side and rediscover the girl within the mother. Maybe, I showed her it is ok to be a little crazy, and do something that you did not think you could ever, in a million years, actually do! I like to “spin it” like Charlie Sheen, and say that maybe I empowered her to see what she was made of!

Ok, so now I have managed to give myself all the credit here, and in actuality, she did it all herself. She showed up, she strapped on the harness and slipped into the climbing shoes. She then watched and listened to our guide KO give instructions and demonstrate how to rappel down once you made it to the top. Then …. She did it!

I watched from below in amazement as she proved to herself she could tackle a huge challenge, she could use her own strength to pull herself up, and most importantly, she could problem solve along the way. This is the surprising part of rock climbing, it is almost entirely about problem solving and not giving up, much more so than extreme physical ability or strength like it looks.

What rock climbing boils down to, is learning to view the world a little differently, seek out options, try new things, have faith, and then when it doesn’t work, take a little step to the side and try something new. It is not about always knowing what to do, where to put your foot next, or about always selecting the best route in life. It is about trying, having faith and then trying again.

Look at it this way, when you are halfway up a huge rock face, and all you can see is what is 2 feet in front of you, it can really be overwhelming. You can quickly feel very stuck and doubt the decisions you’ve made that got you to this spot. When you look down and everything appears tiny, and it seems very far away, you can get very dizzy. When you look up and the top of the rock seems a world away, and you think you’ll never get there, it is hard to not loose yourself in anxiety.

This is such a good analogy for the real world. In my life, when I get in these scary new situations this is what sometimes happens too, I worry, I second-guess myself, I stress myself out. When I allow this to happen I then find myself frozen in uncertainly. Nothing happens. I want to know the right thing to do before I do anything. I have to stop myself and realize- I have a faith that is strong enough to get me though the tough spots in life.

When you are rock climbing the overwhelming lesson learned is that freezing in uncertainly is not an option. You have to keep at the problem; you have to take steps that sometimes are not very secure. In fact, sometimes you can barely find a toehold, and it seems that it will never support your weight. The amazing lesson I learned, was when this happens, the best thing to do is go for it! Even though you are sure your toe can’t support you weight -go for it and go for it fast. When you throw your weight into the next move and go fast, without any hesitation, it is amazing what happens! You body creates momentum, and you fly past the insecure part to new and unchartered territory, and usually you land where there are all kinds of new options! It is like a whole new world opens up the minute you have enough faith to just go for it, even if you have all kinds of doubts! Suddenly, you realize you made it! You are on top of the world, a world you yourself conquered.

It was a great day watching my friend experience this magic, and I hope she felt a little empowered, and has a new set of beliefs for herself. I hope she found that getting yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then feels great. You might even be amazed at yourself when you find yourself at the top!

Way to go my friend, you did it! I am proud of you!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Snowshoe in the Sunshine

I have wanted to snow shoe for years; in fact, ever since we lived in New England and spent our winters in a snowy wonderland I have been fascinated with this sport. This winter I finally got my chance when I received snowshoes for Christmas!

Now that I was armed and ready, guess what? Not enough snow! Yes, for the first time in a long time, we were experiencing a fairly bare January, that is until this past week when the snow finally started to fly. Today I had my chance, a nice sunny day, 8 inches of fresh fallen snow and mid thirties temp and some peek-a-boo sunshine.

I took the family dog, Rowdy, with me and being born of good northern stock he is a natural in the snow, therefore a good snowshoeing partner. As we headed out to explore the neighborhood, and master the art of walking in snowshoes I decided this was indeed a great day. Here I was on a beautiful crisp Colorado day, out with my trusty dog on a new adventure. Life indeed is good.

Now, I had actually been snowshoeing once before, but in our family we don’t mention that fateful day much. It was many years ago, and I had just managed to talk my sister-in-law into taking me into the mountains to go snowshoeing. I was really excited to have the day with her and the chance to learn something new and exciting. Little did I know just how exciting it would be.

All was going well until we hit a patch of ice on the road, and her little subcompact car instantly went into a spin. I remember it like it was yesterday, so does she, which is why we don’t mention it! Anyway, as the car started spinning and heading toward the drop off edge of the road it was like I was watching a slow-motion movie. In this movie, there was no scary music so I wasn’t alarmed at all. Somehow, I knew we’d be fine. I knew this even as we reached the edge of the road, and fell into the ravine below heading rapidly toward a line of Evergreen trees.

It is funny how we must have a subconscious, either that or a Guardian Angel sitting on our shoulder, because I was safe and calm and I knew we’d be just fine. We hit the nearest tree with a loud whack. The car was a mess. We looked at each other and asked if each was ok. “Yup, I’m just fine!” I replied when it was my turn.

Surveying the damage, we could see we were in a real situation, and were very, very lucky. The drop-off from the road must have been at least 20 feet. We could have rolled so easily, and then most likely would not be fairing nearly as well as we currently were. Thanking God for taking good care of us, we counted our blessings and tried our cell phones hoping we would be able to call for help. Again, things were meant to be ok, because the phones worked and help was soon on the way.

As we waited for help to arrive we noticed several cars above stop as they passed us, back up, and rush to the edge of the road yelling down “are you ok?”

“Yes we are just fine, thank you! Help is on the way!” we’d reply like nothing was wrong!

I learned a good lesson that day; first go slow on icy mountain roads, and second, sometimes-even when bad things are happening you just know you are going to be ok. I think that is called faith. I am glad I have it!

Today’s snowshoeing was far less exciting. I didn’t drive up to the mountains to do it; I walked outside and did it in the neighborhood. I also didn’t have a nasty car accident. Instead, I counted my blessings as I romped around my yard and the field close to me with my trusty dog and I had the time of my life.

I would like to ask my sister-in-law to join me again sometime. I hope she’ll say yes!

I am blessed, and I am thankful I have faith. I am excited I finally got to go snowshoeing today and cross another adventure off my bucket list!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on you

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Memories Revisited

As a kid my family first went snow skiing in Colorado when I was about 13 years old. We’d usually venture out in mid April for some late season skiing or use our Christmas break for some Colorado fun. Always an adventure, our trips to the Rockies in winter seemed magical to me and the fun and excitement of learning how to control my skis and make my way down the mountain on first green slopes and later blue always brings a happy smile to my face. If we were lucky my parents would manage one long weekend a year for our Colorado Winter vacation. If my foggy memory is correct I think the last time I hit the slopes was about 24 years ago.

Now 24 years of non-skiing is a long time, and certainly most women “of my age,” see how I delicately put that, would be content to occasionally take a trip down memory lane and remember the crisp mountain air of a long distant ski trip. Most intelligent women would be content to let their children serve as the next generation of once annual skiers. I consider myself fairly intelligent but apparently not as much as I would like to think. I just had to know the answer to the question: Could I still ski? In a very daring move I put go snow skiing on my bucket list so I could see if I still had it in me.

When I shared this with Dan he promptly stated he would not be joining me on this quest. He was content to let memories remain memories. Ever practical he also did not want to blow out a knee after months of training for his next Ironman. Not to be deterred I simply went about recruiting other quest-mates.

Ever ready for another adventure cousin Sara signed up, her husband Dave basically got drug along. Sam is always game for an excuse to put his snowboarding skills to the test so he was in also. My excuse was Maggie, as a 5th Grader in Colorado you qualify for a Passport to ski for free. What a deal! I signed her up and started plotting possible dates.

We headed to Winter Park this past week and I gamely gave it a go. Guess what? Technically I can still ski! Ya! It was a bit like riding a bike and once I got the skis on I pretty much remembered what to do and not do. Well, pretty much.

I got Maggie set up in all day ski school but I rolled the dice like a true middle-aged rebel and just put on the skis and headed for the nearest lift. I figured “no time like the present” to see if I could still do it. Why mess with a lesson when you could just slide up to the lift and sit down. I remembered enough to know that was the easy part-the hard part was getting off the lift without a wipeout and thus the massive embarrassment of stopping the entire lift while some teenage ski pro lifted your floppy butt up and tried to get you on your feet before the chair hit you in the head.

Sara must have drawn the short straw when I was not looking because she was the one stuck with me for the big gamble. Sam and Dave had managed to disappear into the masses, I am sure praying like mad to get far enough away before the embarrassment began so no one would think we were all together!

Ever the good sport, Sara helped me successfully maneuver the lift line and suddenly I was wrapped in the quiet of the crisp mountain air as we rode to the midway point up the mountain. The smell of the trees, the crisp air biting at my nose and the quiet sway of the gondola instantly opened the door to my memories. Oh my gosh, this was so cool! Suddenly I was 22 years old again racing to the bottom of the mountain so I could ride up and do it again. My memories were crisp and clear, just like the gorgeous December day I was enjoying.

Panic soon pushed these warm fuzzy memories right out the door as I realized the current gondola ride was about to come to an end and I was going to have to make a graceful, skilled and athletic exit off the ramp. “Dear God, please let me do this with just a little bit of dignity,” I begged. One, two, three “keep your tips up” read the sign. “Oh Lord, pleeeeeeasssseeeee…..”

I did it! I managed a rather dignified exit and smoothly entered the first green run of the day. I think Sara was a little bit surprised and maybe a tiny bit impressed.

Carefully I made my way down the mountain in nice easy S curves. As long as I did not get too cocky and get going too fast I actually felt reasonably competent. I must have looked almost like a skier because at one point I heard my name yelled out from above. Apparently, Sam and Dave were on the gondola above me as I deftly skied down the run! I waved a ski pole their direction. I had it going on! Sam was going to be so proud of me!

Flash-forward another hour, all of us were skiing down the mountain together after meeting at the top for a sack lunch. Sara and Sam were a couple hundred yards ahead of me. Dave was gamely skiing and filming me on the video camera but ended up way ahead of me also. Not nearly as cool as I was thinking I was, my ski tip suddenly caught on my ski pole and I went down. Not hard, not in any spectacular wipeout, just down.

“Ok, no big deal” I calmly told myself. “It was bound to happen. Just use your poles and climb up just like you used to” I coached myself.

I did. I used my poles like I thought I was supposed to. It did not work. I got my rear up off the ground but only at knee level and then my skies started sliding downhill. Now I sort of resembled a squatting midget racing down the hill. I tried to pull myself up. My legs quivered and shook but no deal. I tried and tried and tried. Then I sat down. I scanned the trail before me and way in the distance saw Sara, Sam and Dave waiting for me. Oh Lord, this was embarrassing.

I must have tried a dozen times. People kept skiing past me. Little kids roared by me like little bat out of hells. I was stuck. Now what was I going to do?

Just when the tears of embarrassment were starting to well up I looked up and saw Sam carrying his snowboard and running UP THE MOUNTAIN. Thoughts of “what a great son he is” mixed with “OH my gosh this is embarrassing, I can’t believe he is having to come rescue me –again.” Raced through my foggy brain.

In the end, Sam helped me up and I gathered my much-wounded pride and started back down the mountain. Sara, Dave and Sam all agreed that I could no longer go last in case I couldn’t get up again. “Great-now I am the booby prize,” I thought!

Another couple hours later I tried once again to regain my pride. When we were at the top of the mountain I asked Dave to take a posed picture of me. I remembered the last time I had gone skiing a professional photographer took a cool picture of me with one ski in the air. I wanted to recreate the pose today! Dave agreed and I stopped in front of him and quickly raised my right leg and ski- and promptly fell in a tangled heap at his feet. This was not the desired pose at all.

Dave snapped the picture and I had to officially give up the notion that I was 22 years old again. Yes, I could still ski but boy I sure did not look the same as I did so many years ago. I am glad I went I am pleased I can still do it and I am humbled to realize I am not the same girl I was back then. As I thought about it I realized I was just fine with that. Today I was here with my son and my baby girl. I could not have even imagined that 24 years ago.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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The Graduate

One of my most anticipated Bucket list items is to watch my child graduate from college, I am hoping I get to cross this item off the list early May of 2011 when my oldest daughter graduates with her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Business.  This event will be much celebrated in our little family as the huge accomplishment that it is, along with milestone that it represents.

My husband and I have long been believers in higher education, a belief that can be proven by our own efforts and many hours in a campus library.  My husband and I started dating many years ago while we were both undergrads at the University of Nebraska.  As a future engineer Dan spent many hours balancing the demands of thermodynamics and calculus while I wrestled with accounting, finance and management.  Our hard work paid off and we graduated with freshly printed Bachelor’s degrees and earnestly started our respective careers.

Later Dan started work on a Masters of Engineering degree but soon decided he wanted a Masters Degree in Business to round out his education.  We did the unusual and highly questioned strategic move of applying to a top graduate school two thousand miles from home as parents to two very small children.  Dan applied to and was accepted to in Ivy League School on the East Coast.  He anxiously started his master’s degree at the number one Operations school in the country.  It took me 14 years but I too eventually got to start work on my long awaited masters degree and two years later celebrated with an MBA.

Dan and I have always believed that education was the key to our future and hoped our own children would agree and follow our example.

Our oldest has worked very hard at preparing herself well for a career in the music industry and has combined her education work with internships designed to help her network contacts.  I am very excited for her and can’t wait to see where her future takes her, I have no doubts that she has the skills needed to be an industry leader in due time.

This past weekend I had the honor of watching one of my much loved “extra” children graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and as I watched her cross the stage and shake hands with the dean I felt my heart swelling with pride for all her accomplishments.  She is a great young lady but I must admit there were times, when I along with her dad, doubted this celebrated day would come.  But come it did and it was a joyous celebration indeed.

Young Christina has already suffered much heartache in her young life, having lost her mother at the young age of 12 years old.  My daughter and Christina have been friends for almost 9 years and during that time I watched her try to navigate her teenage years with the guidance of the loving and firm hand of her seasoned dad. I know that Christina would have given anything to have her mom there for her teenage years and for her graduation day.  Christina and her Dad faced a daunting task but with the help of a couple of “extra Mom’s” like me they found their way through her teen years.

To have the honor of cheering young Christina on as she was called across the stage to accept her degree was amazing. Watching the incredible look of pride on her dad’s face was absolutely priceless.  I wish you could have seen it.  I hope that having the love and support of her extra family helped give her the courage to follow her dream and I hope she enjoys a bright future.  I am sure her mom was cheering her on from heaven.  I am looking forward to this moment with my daughter in a few more months but in the meantime I felt blessed to be part of Christina’s big day.

Happy Roommates

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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In Her Own Words…A Letter From My Daughter

 

Letter from My Daughter

 

This is a letter I received from my beautiful daughter when she was about 20 years old.  I cried and I realized what an amazing woman she has become.  I am so blessed….

It is through our trials, triumphs and tests that we learn who we are as an individual. We grow into who we hope to be, and we embrace our lives that got us to who we are.

There is not one day I wish for anything I do not already have in my life.

With that said, I still wake up everyday hoping to be more. More caring. More understanding. More generous. More relaxed. More intuitive. More influential on those around me. More of a role model. More willing to trust.

I have realized in the few months I have been gone that it is not enough to want to be more of a person. Anyone can say they hope to grow, to improve. But only a few are able to put those hopes into action and make a difference. That is what I have realized I want more than anything in life. To be able to stand up for what I want for myself and not be afraid to change. I want to see the faults in others and instead of judging, focus on changing the same faults in myself. I want to understand that every path leads to a different ending, and sometimes it may not go the way I want it to, but it is for a reason and God is guiding me every step I take. It is not enough to want. You must do.

There has been so much I have come to terms with and I have learned priceless lessons.

1. I AM GROWING UP. As much as I like to think I am going to live in my little safe pink bubble forever, I know now that is not the case. I am growing into an independent woman. Independent from my family, my friends, rules, boundaries, independent from what others want me to be. I can make my own choices, while weighing the consequences. I can walk down the street aware of myself and what I have to offer others. I don’t have to call my parents and ask them for things, I don’t have to know whether or not a choice is good before I make it. I don’t live in this world anymore where Daddy takes care of me and reality is something I will never be faced with. Just because my Mom tells me I deserve the best doesn’t mean I will always choose the best for me. Sometimes it makes me so sad to see how much of my innocence I have lost, but at the same time, I have become someone I am truly proud to say has shaped herself and made her OWN choices in life.

2. MY FAMILY IS TRULY BEAUTIFUL. I have not realized how lucky I have been to grow up in the home I have been provided. My parents are in love. They have been for so long now it’s hard to imagine them happy with anyone else. My father used to walk my mother to kindergarten. That is the kind of love I want. My parents have shown me what marriage should be, and what I should expect out of a relationship. They have given me morals and values that I will carry with me throughout my life and pass on to everyone that becomes a part of my family. They have taught me countless lessons on life, love and happiness. My parents have given me so much; I am so blessed to have the things I do. All the material things in life they have given me are only a small amount of the true gifts I have received from them. They have brought me up in a strong, Catholic home, a place I will always be able to turn to. My brother has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined. He is so sure of himself, so confident in who he is, never afraid to challenge those who don’t approve of him. I have never met anyone more sure of themself. He has shown me I don’t have to be who the rest of the world wants me to be, I should do things for myself and only if they better me. I have so much respect for him; he is such a genuine person and has a heart that anyone that meets him falls in love with. My sister is my little piece of heaven. She is my sweet little baby girl, the blessing God gave our family when we least expected it. She brought a light into our home, gave everyone another reason to smile everyday. Her constant laughter and child innocence is something I am amazed by every time I see her. She can turn my entire day around by simply saying, “Sissy, I miss you.”

3. HARD WORK PAYS OFF. In every way. Personally, it gives me a satisfaction I have never felt before from any compliment or handout. I have spent most of my life working to get goals accomplished, and at this point in my life, it has become clear that all of that was for a reason. I am so proud of myself and I am not ashamed to say it. I have worked for ten years on my music. Ten years of warm-up vocal exercises, classes on theory, singing at church, memorizing countless songs, learning various languages for music, playing the piano, vocal lessons that seemed to be endless, and ten years of hearing two things: You are great, or You are not. All of those things have gotten me to where I am today. I am able to perform for any size crowd. I am sought out by venue owners to sing at events. I am chosen for awards and special performances. I can audition for a group and be confident in myself. And most of all, the past years of music have taught me one of the most important lessons in life. I do not need the approval of others to appreciate the gift I have with music. I do not need someone to tell me I am good enough to sing for them. Instead, I am able to hold my head high and do what I love with no reservations or concerns of what others may think. I have worked since high school to be a leader for others. From Student Council to leadership positions in music, I have always loved organizing a way for others to grow and engage in activities. That dedication has shown me that being a LEADER in the real world is one of my best qualities. Being able to take initiative and make decisions for others has given me confidence and a certain smarts that has helped me stand out in a group of people. Spending hours volunteering for various organizations, for no reason, for no benefit, has shown me how people can be affected by my time and effort. By simply showing up to help others or provide aid in a situation that I gain nothing from, has paid off in so many ways. Not only have I become a compassionate person, but the people I have contributed to have great respect for me and are willing to help me in many ways. All that time I thought I was doing something for nothing, when in fact, I was doing something for everything. Hard work is the key to success. Bottom line.

4. I CANNOT HOLD ONTO THE PAST. I appreciate everything from my past and will always hold it in my heart, never wanting to change a thing, but I have to let it go. I cannot hold onto past hurt, past pain, past triumphs, past let downs. It will only keep me from moving on into my future and I have to realize this. I have spent much to much time dwelling on things I cannot change and things that I wish were different. Holding onto hurt caused by someone in my past will never benefit me. It will only carry on into a new relationship, and handicap myself from giving my heart to someone new. I have to let go. If something ended, it ended for a reason. It was not meant to be. It ended for something better to have a chance to happen. I cannot hold onto my past accomplishments as if they are enough of a reason to not strive for better. I need to be proud of what I have done and then take that experience with me as I embark on a new journey to find new goals to achieve. I can’t blame people in my present for the things someone in my past did. I can’t hold the people in my future responsible for something the past threw at me and I can’t change. I have had such a hard time letting go of things that break my heart. It kills me that at one point in my life, a friend or a boy can mean so much to me, and then at another time we can mean nothing to each other. It kills me, but I can’t change that. I can only open my heart and see that maybe we were a lesson for one another; maybe we were a door that opened for someone else. I can always hope to be a meaningful part of someone’s life, but if I am not, I cannot dwell on it. I have to move on and vow to be an important aspect of someone else’s day.

5. NOT EVERYONE WILL LOVE YOU. I am the poster child for wanting to be loved and liked by all. It used to affect me so much to find out that someone didn’t approve of who I was, or didn’t respect the person I came off as. I used to spend so much time trying to please everyone, I lost myself in the rush. I finally woke up and saw that pleasing everyone is an impossible and draining task. You must first start with yourself. You have to be happy and satisfied with yourself before you can be accepted by someone else. Once you value yourself, others may be able to value you as well. That said, I’ve had to come to the understanding that I will not be the person everyone wants me to be. I will always let someone down, someone will always be better than me, there will always be another way to improve myself. But I have also been able to see that as long as I do my best, give my all, and fight my hardest for what I believe in, I will never let the most important person down- myself.

6. MISTAKES ARE OK. Mistakes are simply sidetracks on your way to success. If you can’t learn from what you do wrong, you will never succeed in finding what you can do correctly.

7. LAUGHTER REALLY IS THE BEST MEDICINE. At the end of the day, when nothing seems to go right, I have realized the only thing I can do is smile. Sometimes little things go wrong but have a much greater purpose that you may not always be aware of. Sometimes it has to rain in order for a rainbow to appear. This has been a struggle for me, I have not always wanted to accept the things that go wrong in my life. I have always been stubborn and convinced I can change what I do not like, but this is not true. There is so much more to life than my small part of the world and I have to remind myself that everyday. When everything in my life seems to go wrong, it still remains that I am blessed in more ways than many people in the world. If you can’t laugh at who you are or what goes wrong, how can you appreciate it when things are going perfectly?

8. MY FRIENDS ARE MY EVERYTHING. Without my friends I would not know who I was. I have so many incredible people in my life, and those people have given me so many things I have grown and learned from. When I am convinced things will not get better and I have no way of getting off the ground, my friends are there to pick me up. They are there to show me what I have to offer the world and how I have influenced their lives. My friends have shown me what kind of friend I want to be to them. I want to show respect, I want to listen when needed and talk when requested. I want to be a person that can stand up for something that is not right for their friend. And thanks to the beautiful people in my life, I can truly say I am able to do those things. I can forgive so much quicker, love so much easier because of these people, and words cannot describe the amount of gratitude and love I have for them.

My life has taken so many twists and turns these past months. I’ve been unsure, alone, confused. But through it all I have chosen to be exactly who I want- STRONG. I want to take life and live it for all its worth. I want to believe in myself and what I know I am capable of doing. I want to fall in love. I want to look myself in the mirror and smile back at my reflection and know what I’m seeing is exactly what I am meant to be. I want to laugh. I want to play. I want to dream of the impossible and then wake up to realize there are no impossibilities. We are each given one life. ONE. And what we choose to do with our time in this world is up to us. I want to make the most of all the time I have.

My future belongs to me. I have no idea what that future is going to be, but I know I am going to find my way and be just fine.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Nunchucks

Sassy Girl

Before I had children I had the naive thought that as their parent you could shape or mold them into the kind of person you wanted them to be. Over the years I have learned this was a pretty crazy idea. Children are who they are programmed to be; we are here as parents just to try to keep them on the road to success. How they get there is really up to them.

My oldest daughter loved dresses from the day she was born. As a toddler the worst thing I could do to her was make her wear pants. She’s cry and fuss “but mommy I won’t look pretty!” she’d wail when I banned her dress for the afternoon as a punishment for hitting her brother. Quite befuddled at this line of thinking I remember trying to coach her into a more feminist forward way of thinking.

“No honey, you are beautiful from the inside out, who you are as a person is what makes you beautiful” I’d crone on.

“No mommy if I don’t wear a dress I won’t be pretty. It has to twirl!” She’d just as stubbornly insist.

Episode after episode like this transpired over the next umpteen years.

My son would make a gun out of any toy or object in the near vicinity no matter how much I worried if this was politically correct or not. He’d climb up onto the monkey bars at the playground, whip out his thumb and forefinger and start loudly gunning down all the kids on the playground like he was holding a machine gun! I’d run over and try to tell him that he could not shoot the other kids like that. “Why not?” he’d ask as if I were talking to him in Hebrew.

“Because it is not nice to shoot other people” I’d try to reason, more worried about what the other mom’s thought than if this was really that awful of a game.

“But I’m not shooting the other kids mom,” he’d explain to me like I was more than dense. “I’m shooting the bad guys” duh!

In an extremely lame attempt to teach him right from wrong I finally settled on insisting he could only shoot at cans, not kids. He would roll his eyes at me like I was hopeless and continue on with his game. Whenever I’d call him on it he’d insist it was a can he just gunned down and not a bunch of bad guys like a scene from Rambo.

After surviving this thing called motherhood for over 20 years I am starting to lighten up about things. Take my youngest for example. She is currently 10 years old, bright eyed and innocent, just like I’d love for her to stay forever. Instead of bubble wrapping her like I’d like to I relented and enrolled her in the most unlikely of all extra curricular activities- Taekwondo. Yes, I am paying good money to Master Lee to teach my sweet little girl how to fight and how to fight to win.

How did this happen you ask? Well, actually quite innocently, but now that she is signed up I am starting to embrace the idea, kind of.

Master Lee has a Taekwondo school here in town and a year and a half ago he came to her elementary school and put on an assembly. He got the kids excited about marshal arts and offered to support a fundraising event for the school. He would let you be a student at his school for a month for $50 and he would donate all the money back to the school for a climbing wall. Brilliant marketing I must say.

“Sure, we’ll let you go do Taekwondo for a month and contribute money to your school climbing wall” my husband and I readily agreed, thinking nothing of it.

It did not take long to see that Maggie was born for this stuff. She had excellent balance; she could really snap her snap kick. As we watched the class from the hallway it was not difficult to see that she had a knack for this sport. In fact, compared to the 18 months we had just invested in gymnastics she progressed more in one month at Taekwondo than all 18 months in gymnastics.

My husband became a believer after just the first day of class. He looked up on the gymnasium wall and found the words “Quitters Never Win” “Winners Never Quit” “We Are Not Quitters” and professed his support. “Now this is a program I could support,” Dan announced. “I am so sick of all this ‘we’re all winners’ crap out there” “finally someone who has their head on straight!”

Yes, we signed her up and immediately dropped gymnastics. Over the next year we watched in awe as our baby girl earned to break boards with her elbow, foot and wrist. She learned moves designed to drop grown men to their knees in mere seconds and much to my horror she learned how to whip nunchucks around like Jackie Chan.

Her big brother and sister now have a newfound respect for their baby sister and have learned not to push her too far. I guess I now know she’ll be able to protect herself when she is all grown up and goes off to college and I guess that is a good feeling.
(clink on the link Taekwondo to see Maggie in action)

Taekwondo Maggie

For me, learning to let my children become who they are meant to be is a lesson in love; it is not up to me to determine their journey just to be there along the way to cheer them on.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Prayer Path

Prayer Path

One of my bucket list items is to help my child make a dream come true. While I am sure I will have more than one opportunity to support my kids over their lifetimes I think I was already blessed with one chance to do this.

Our son Sam has been involved in Scouting since he was in the second grade. One of the things he wanted to achieve was the very prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. I think Sam wanted to set this goal and then work toward achieving it for several reasons, one being a sharp young man he knew that it would definitely improve his chances for acceptance at top colleges, and give him an advantage over others in the quest for scholarship money, but I also think he wanted to see if he could be one of the 1% of young men across the country who are involved in Scouting who work hard enough to be called an Eagle Scout. I suppose the fact that his dad was an Eagle Scout also came into play a bit. Whatever the reasons Sam set this as his goal and Dan and I intended to offer our support.

Dan took a strong position on this issue, that being that he was already an Eagle Scout, if Sam wanted to do this he was going to drive the process himself. Dan was not going to push to the point of micromanaging Sam just so it would happen. It took Sam awhile to decide if he was going to motivate enough to get the job done, but when he decided he was determined.

The actual process of getting a project approved was probably the most difficult aspect of the whole process. Sam pitched a few ideas before he “found” his true calling. Sam talked with Father Brad of our church and asked if he had any projects that needed tackled. Now, Father Brad is a visionary and he had several ideas! By far, the most difficult project was the Prayer Path but in the end that is the one Sam chose.

I am proud of Sam for setting a goal and accomplishing it, I am proud of him for working so many hours during his Senior Year when he undoubtedly had many other demands on his time, but I am most proud of him for choosing such a massive project. He did not need to do that. If the goal was just to become an Eagle Scout there were easier ways to do that but Sam saw an opportunity to really make a permanent improvement on the church land, he saw an opportunity to create something that over 2000 families could benefit from and he saw a chance to honor the work of a previous Eagle Scout. That is what makes me really proud!

Father Brad really got excited when he realized Sam was willing to tackle this huge job and he used it ultimately to inspire other groups to take on other projects. After Sam completed his Prayer Path, the Hispanic parishioners designed and built a rose garden, the Youth Group built a gazebo and another scout installed benches along the path. I hope Sam realizes that he was, in part, the inspiration for all this positive action.

Once the commitment was made Sam got to work. First he and Father Brad had to agree on the overall design, Sam had to start the lengthy paperwork trail and line up the construction support he would need. Ultimately, the creation of the path required 15 acres of land, largely overgrown with scrub oak and other brush, to be cleaned and cleared. The path was mapped out and volunteer construction crews brought in to scrape the land and outline the path. Next Sam organized one massive volunteer building day, he spoke before the parish and asked for their time and labor. He motivated the entire parish to get behind him in this undertaking.

The actual workday Sam had a few jitters, I think he was a bit concerned if anyone would show up to help him and he realized there was no way to complete the path without a lot of support.

No fear, over 80 people not only showed up but worked over seven hours first laying landscape paper, moving rocks, then cementing the 14 Stations of the Cross and moving several tons of pea rock and shoveling it to even it out onto the new prayer path.

Dan supported Sam with good coaching about project management and helping secure the professional construction support necessary. I supported Sam with help getting the paperwork done, feeding the volunteers and a few time management pointers. In the end, Sam is the one who made the project happen, and his Dad and I got to watch him grow before our eyes. When Sam started this project he was a kid basically, a 17 year old who really couldn’t see what he was capable of yet. When he finished he was a young man who had just lad a project from inception to completion. He learned a lot about himself becoming an Eagle Scout. Dan and I were honored to help encourage him.

Sam was officially recognized as an Eagle Scout February 6, of 2010 and I think it really started to sink in to him what he had accomplished.

This fall I visited the Prayer Path on a Wednesday afternoon and watched over a dozen members of our community walk the path and take time for reflection. A teacher took her entire Faith Formation class around and they learned about the Stations of the Cross. I sat and enjoyed a beautiful fall day thinking of the young man who made it all happen. I was really proud of him. I called this young man, now far away in out of state, attending college on scholarship studying to become an engineer. I told him I was proud of him and that I loved him.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

Sam and Father Brad

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