My Best Self

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do.  Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner

Are you your best self?

What is one thing you’ve learned this week?

I have always liked the concept of doing one thing that scares you every day.  Stretching your skills, testing your strength and perseverance.   When I fail in the attempt, I am disappointed but the fire is stoked to try again.  And, when I succeed, I feel deliciously alive in a way no other experience offers.  It is a heart lifting, fist-pumping excitement.  To be alive and using all my capabilities.

I recently read about Abraham Lincoln and his early failures in business and political endeavors.  Perseverance and stick-tuitiveness helps to keep going despite personal and/or professional setbacks.

Do you have written personal goals?  Professional goals?  Relationship/ family goals?

I think it is important to write down what you want to accomplish.  Break it into tasks or smaller segments like months or weeks.  That way, you will accomplish a big goal one small step or task at a time.

Your only competition is yourself.  Dream big and work towards a better tomorrow.

What one step will you take today?

 

-Elle

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Honey

Grief, like honey, never goes bad.  It is always fresh.  Time wears the edges off the grief; it’s not as sharp but it still has a presence.  Time also grants you a bunch of experiences on which your short term memory concentrates.  So, the times when you think on the experience or grief will not be as frequent.  When grief hits, however, it is as fresh as the day it happened.

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy episodes on Netflix and saw one where an intern’s ( George) father died.  A friend came up to him; he is standing outside numb and is just staring into the distance in disbelief.  The friend said abruptly that he was now in the ‘Dead Dad’s club’.  It’s not a club you want to be in and you’re not in it until you’re in it.   He mentioned not believing he could be in a world where he couldn’t call his dad.

Have you ever been there?  Are you there now?

My son’s birthday just passed.  Memories are brought to mind and I miss him.  More on special days than ordinary ones.   Like honey, I hope his birthday is a sweet one.   May this next year be your best one, ‘lil buddy!

-Elle

Books . . . and Stuff

I’ve been reading books on organizing recently.

Unstuffed- Ruth Soukup

Clutter Busting- Brooks Palmer

Get It Done- Sam Benett

The Year of Less- Cait Flanders

Well, I confess that I’m a reader.  I use commuting time to listen to audiobooks, keep a paper book in my car in case I find myself waiting, and spend the last time before bed to read.  I mix it up between fiction, nonfiction, history, and skill building (both career and artistic/craft).   But with that being said, I’ve been motivated by these books to purge a bunch of stuff.  In fact, I even watched a minimalist show on Netflix.  I’m not a minimalist, but I have room for improvement.

I’m trying to get better about giving things up.  When a college friend flew in for a weekend visit, I realized our second bedroom (repurposed to an office/guest bedroom after the kids left) had no space in the closet to hang her clothes.  Why do I need a coat I wear once a year to Christmas eve service or a theatre?  Why do I need ‘hopeful’ sizes; especially if the sizes are none that I’ve seen in the past few years.  (*sigh*)

Finally, I need to read without buying.  I work in IT and use my weekends for artistic outlets.  Picking up the skills of  t-shirt scarf, acrylic pour painting, sugar scrubs,  knitting, etc. has been fulfilling.  I read up on it, watch YouTube clips, look around Michael’s, and then pursue it.  It’s a creative outlet but the supplies take up space.   I need to pick one or two crafts and stick with those.

I’ve heard that getting rid of things clears your mind as well.  I’ve taken ½ day off on Friday to get a jump on organizing.   Looking forward to a lighter, brighter weekend.

-Elle

The Courage to Stand

When I was in college, in my freshman English class we did an ice breaker where we each had to give three facts about ourselves, getting more and more unique/specific with each statement.  The whole class stood up and, as each fact was read, people would sit down if the fact wasn’t true for them.  Most of us were 18 years old- so when a statement came up,  “I am a mom,” I sat down.  Most of us did.  Only a girl from my dorm and an older woman stayed standing.  The list was the older woman’s.  But, I looked in awe and, as we became friends, asked the girl from my dorm about why she stayed standing.  She said she gave a daughter up for adoption in high school and she believes she’s still a mom.

The first mother’s day after the kids left, I found that the church I attended asked all mother’s to stand to be honored.  I instantly was back in the college classroom where my friend had stood, outing herself.  I, however, did not stand in church that day.  Not because I don’t define myself as a mother.  I do.  I am changed by the time I had children and they are forever interwoven in the fibers of my being/heart.  But, as an introvert and private person, I don’t want to answer questions.

I can hear it now . . . “Oh, you’re a mom- where are your kids?”

“Wait- why did you stand up?”

In the same way that I asked my friend and dormmate about why she stood, people are curious.  But I don’t want to answer those questions to those not in my inner circle.  I have done it before with acquaintances and told about losing the kids to another placement . . . . only to be asked months later if the kids were ready to go back to school at the end of summer.  That was a raw wound that was poked.  I admire my friend even more for standing at 18 in front of a group of strangers when I couldn’t stand in front of a group of believers.   I told my friend so.

Mother’s Day is hard for me.  I have a wonderful mother and a wonderful mother-in-law.  They’ve been living examples of sacrifice and dedication.   But, it is a reminder of the children lost to me and a role I stepped down from after not pursuing any other foster placements or alternatives.  I feel like I will always be a mom, but I also feel like those moms killing it every day by packing lunches and guarding hearts should be honored specially.

I attended church on Mother’s day for the first time in 5 years because I was scheduled to volunteer.   I served those moms and relaxed later that day.  (to coordinate schedules, we took my mom and mom-in-law out to dinner earlier in the week at their request)

Wishing you some peace today and may you feel loved and honored today for your contribution to your corner of the world.

 

-Elle

This too shall pass

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri J. M. Nouwen

I recently had a college friend visit.  I hadn’t seen her in years.  And, yet, we picked up like there had been no time between visits.  Between life.  Between us.   Do you have friends like that?  She has seen me at my best and worst and I appreciate her friendship.

Life is short and I tend towards being introverted.  So, I have a handful of close friends.  But, these are friends I could call at 3 a.m. to say I needed to talk.  And I have.

I persevered through the loss of children, bumps in my career, a marriage implosion, death of a parent, and moves.  Major life changes have swung my emotions into high gear.  And I reminded myself in the dark times that night doesn’t last forever.  Morning eventually breaks.  “This too shall pass,” is a motto I use to weather the bad and appreciate the good.

When the kids left, I was medicated for depression.  I sought counseling.  I fought through it.  And, with the recent news of well known celebrity suicides, I had to write.  To tell you there is hope.  Seek help- professional, family, and/or friends.  Find someone to talk to.  Life is messy and beautiful and you’re here for a purpose.

I believe in you.

 

-Elle

Adoption

My husband is adopted.  It was a closed adoption.  We don’t know much about his past.  He has a condition which I would have liked to know if it was hereditary.  He is not curious and has decided to not pursue knowing any information about his birth parents.

My friend adopted a baby in an open adoption.  Information is shared, pictures are traded.  Recently, he had his baptism and his birth family came.  It was an easy mixing of families and talking and lots of picture taking.

I’ve also heard stories supporting both sides.  First person stories either for or against.   I’ve heard more second hand stories of someone they know who {insert horror story}.  However, unless they are first person stories I don’t take heed to those.  Who do those people know/ hang out with anyways?

If you are considering adoption, it is a decision to weigh carefully before signing up with an agency.

-Elle

History over Mystery

This week marks my 14th wedding anniversary.  By this time in our marriage, there is more history than mystery.  I know from a facial expression when someone has pushed his buttons (which is hard to do and seldom seen).  When he brings up a random fact in the middle of a conversation, that he is avoiding saying something difficult.  And how, when he says he’s a little bit tired, he will fall asleep immediately from exhaustion when he decides to take a break or watch TV.  I have enough experiences and history to know him.

I always thought years of marriage would get stale like watching older couples at restaurants barely speaking to each other; relationship on auto pilot.   They bring the newspaper, switching sections until their food comes.  Then they eat nearly silently, heads down on their own plates.

I didn’t have much experience with marriage myself.  Or rather, my family had too much experience with marriage.   Multiple marriages, multiple divorces which made me overly cautious when dating.  And, yet, my husband’s parents were married for over 50 years (until his dad has passed).

It’s important to keep things fun and to keep dating each other.

At a restaurant recently, I asked my husband to guess my hotdog toppings.  I have food ‘issues’ and feel a little like the TV character Monk; only certain combinations and certain things can’t ‘touch’ on the plate.  My hotdog always has ketchup, easy onion, and pickle.  When he guessed relish and mustard, I said in mock amazement, “You don’t even KNOW me?!”    Then, I had him study a poster on the wall for a minute and asked him 5 questions about the content on the poster.  When he only got 2 out of 5 correct, he had to throw out our garbage at the end of the meal.   We had fun, talked about our schedules for the upcoming week, and didn’t have to cook that evening.   It’s nice to break routine and enjoy each other’s company.

Marriage, like a dance, requires coordination but becomes more comfortable with time.  You can waltz with ease knowing the moves and countermoves of your partner.  I’m more self confident after all these years and more comfortable in my own skin from the partnership.  And yet, it doesn’t get boring.  It’s still fun to explore a city, a cuisine, or a movie together.   Or learn something new about each other- like how I like my hot dog.

-Elle

Balance

I saw a commercial on TV while on overseas assignment.  The mother in law is talking to a new bride.  She says, in essence, that her son is her dream.  But since dreams can’t be shared, she is giving him to his new bride as her dream.  It was sweet and brief and memorable.  I have thought back on that about dreaming and passing along those hopes.

Women/families who give up their children are gifting those dreams to new parents in order to fulfill their children’s dreams.   The dreams they have for a happy childhood or college education are handed off to the new parents to fulfill.

I think it is similar to the lesson of keeping your hands open to blessings.  If you hold onto something, your hand is closed to receiving new blessings.   I closed the chapter on raising children and came up with new dreams.  Letting go to move on.

I recently heard Matthew West’s song, “Dream Again.”  I have heard it before, but I never realized the words before.

“One stopped when the doctor said you’ll never have a baby of your own.

One stopped after two attempts at rehab couldn’t help him get control.

Open your eyes, open your eyes and dream again.

Your lungs are still breathing, your heart is still beating.

The ‘Yes’ is where the future begins.”

What are you dreaming about for your life?  How are you working toward that dream?

When I was 22, I was involved in a serious car accident.  It was a life changing experience where I faced the fragility of life and it was months of healing to feel whole again.  I viewed time after that as ‘bonus’ time and it helped me refocus outside of myself.

For me, I have put importance in ‘spending’ my time on giving back.  I have this brief life and want to reach heaven with my talents used up.  I want to stand before God with my sheen worn off like the Velveteen rabbit; well loved and all useful bits expended.  I volunteer weekly; next weekend I’ll be volunteering for three different organizations starting Friday after work and ending Sunday evening.  I met up with a friend who is looking for permanent employment for a resume re-write.

I also caught a nap on Sunday and I’m squeezing in a massage late this week.  It’s a balance.  An open- handed balance.  What’s your balance this week?

 

-Elle

You + Me- elaborated

I wrote in the post ‘You + Me’ that you are enough.  I wanted to elaborate, but the point was so important that I didn’t want to dull the message.  So, I elaborate now- a few weeks later.

We can get caught up in being our own toughest critic instead of biggest cheerleader.   Know that you are enough.  Whatever you are facing today, you can rise to the challenge.

Don’t be defined by what you are not.  For too many seasons of my life, I felt that I was defined by my least favorite attributes.  Defined by my weight.  Defined by my worst grade, worst work evaluation, worst project.  Defined by my weight.  The fact that I couldn’t get pregnant.  I limited myself to what I was not instead of what I am.

I started a journey toward owning my path when I chose foster care as an option to motherhood.  When that chapter ended, I mourned.  I grieved.  But, I also set a limit on my grieving.  The kids moved in August and I declared a moratorium on my grief December 31.  Everyone’s grieving process is different and everyone’s path is unique.  This worked for me to start a new year with a fresh outlook.

I said yes- to volunteering, to friends’ gatherings, to yoga, to myself.  I let myself cry and I let myself laugh- without judgment.  I enjoyed sleeping in on a Saturday without guilt, or spending money on a once a year spa day with a friend.

Self care is an important aspect.   As a woman, I feel like so much falls on our shoulders.  At least in my house, the social calendar, groceries and cooking, spring cleaning, trip planning, and all the ‘extras’ not defined generally fall to me to handle.  So, setting limits was important to me so that I wasn’t swallowed up in tasks and had an equitable amount of free time to my husband.

Whatever you are facing, it is vital to know that you are important.  You are not your failures.   Look in the mirror- truly look and find what you love about yourself.  Say yes to one thing today. Find one joy.  Speak one affirmation about yourself.  And believe it.

For me, my affirmation today is that I am stronger than yesterday.  What is yours?

-Elle

The Pursuit

“Today is a day like any other, but I am changed- I am a mother.  Oh, in an instant.

And who I was is disappeared, it doesn’t matter now you’re here- so innocent.

I was lost for you to find.  Now I’m yours and you are mine.

 

Everything changes.  When my heart is at the wheel now. And all mistakes make sense when I turn them around.  Everything changes.

What I thought was so permanent fades.  And I swear I remember to say we were both born today.”   Everything Changes-  Sara Bareilles

 

I heard the song and it struck me how sweet the mother-child relationship is. I always wanted to be a mother.  When I was little, I dreamt of a big family.  Coming from a family of 4 kids where both mom and dad each came from a family of 4 kids– seemed like the right size.   A younger me thought that when I was ready, it would happen.   It didn’t- I had to pursue it.

 

We went the foster to adoption route.  It didn’t lead to adoption.  We closed that option.  I am now firmly in the cool aunt or mentor role. Firmly.  Unapologetically.

 

There are many avenues to this role for you as well.  Pregnancy, adoption, foster, mentor, volunteer, aunt.  If you want children, pursue the route that is right for you.  Search your heart, pray for guidance, and talk with your spouse.  Some doors you may choose to not open and pursue.  Others you may pursue multiple at the same time- like signing up for an adoption agency while pursuing fertility treatments.  A friend signed up with multiple agencies and is now a mother to two children (3 months apart in age).

 

Find your path.  Pursue it with your whole heart.

 

-Elle