Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." - Mark 10:14

This is the bible verse written on hundreds of books I delivered to the Children's Inn last night. Hopefully the boxes of books will last a little while, as they are intended for children ages 5 and under. But in addition to my book delivery last night, I also delivered 21 blankets, to make a gift set, for the 21 children, ages 5 and under, that will be spending Christmas at the shelter because their homes are not safe. Sadly, this count does not include the women and other children that are over 5 years...

I brought Isaac with me, mostly to be my helper. On our way there it dawned on me: he will be celebrating 6 Christmas parties this year, with 6 families that love him, protect him, and help him succeed. I have no doubt in my mind that Isaac is aware of all of the love and support he has, as well as the sheer amount of presents he'll be raking in this holiday season. But what about those 21 kids, 5 and under, whose homes are too unsafe to spend Christmas? Where is their love and support? Please don't misunderstand me - the effort of the Children's Inn staff is a Christmas miracle for the women and children that need them all year long. But the shelter, although safe, still isn't "home." Not the kind of home I know and love.

I think of the Christmas lists my son made and all of the toys and games he wants. And although there are a few things on that list he will be denied - like the live lizard, for example - most of his wishes he will get this year. Not to mention those few things I know he'll love, that he just didn't think to ask for.

I think of my own Christmas wish, of spending time with the people I love most. And I can feel the anticipation of the gatherings that start in just a few days. It's palpable. It's so close, I can almost taste the treats and smell dinner cooking. I don't have to wait long for my wish to be granted.

I can't imagine Christams wishes like mine being worlds away from my grasp. I can't imagine wishing the person I loved most would love me in a less painful way. I can't imagine my child wishing for fears that he should never have had to experience in the first place to subside. Or for him to be excited about the very things we take for granted every day - like the milk in the fridge, the blankets on our beds, and even the toys on the shelf (or, more frequently, on the floor). It's unfathomable.

This holiday season, and every season, we should all say a prayer for those less fortunate. Lend a helping hand in some way, whether it be through a donation or deed. I know in my heart there is more I can do for others. It is easy to forget, when it isn't the life you live, but helping one in need is something you'll never regret. And it may be the best gift they have ever received. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vulnerability. It's What Love Is.

I like to think of myself as being a strong woman. A pillar of strength for my friends and my family, a role model, a leader, even a furniture mover when necessary.

But, I'm not strong.

I have been a single mom for the past 5 years. Braving the boogie man, the monsters under the bed, the others in the closet, the strange creaks at night, and the startling crash of thunderstorms. Fixing the ear of the teddy bear the dog chewed on, the holes in the t-shirts, the TV remote control, the computer when its too slow, among countless stuck zippers. Teaching how to tie a shoe, button a shirt, ride a bike, throw a football, and show kindness to others. Comforting when a knee is scraped, the flu is caught, a fever is breaking, legs are aching, or a tummy just hurts.

But, I'm not strong.

I have been a manager, leading a team of advertising professionals, who also happen to be some of my closest friends. I've conducted meetings for company presidents and chief officers, held forums for giant corporation VPs, and presented at the front an entire organization - not to mention high schools and elementary schools.

But, I'm not strong.

I have managed to move a full-sized sofa, circa 1970-something, out of a living room, through a hallway, aroung the dining room corner, and down a flight of 20 steps. Which, rather than strength, was far more of a show of stubborn resolve combined with the advice of my father to slide it down the steps on it's back. ...He just didn't realize over the phone that I was doing this solo. Regardless, his brilliance proved a positive result for me to get what I wanted: that 70's sofa outta there and myself unscathed!

But, still, I am not strong.

I've shown strength, but not because it's what I am. Because it is what I have had to do. It was always as a response or an action. Not a state of being. While experiencing all of those situations that have forced me to exhibit some level of strength may have helped to form who I have become, it isn't the situation or the strength that defined me then or now.

Because I am not strong.

I seem to do a fair job at keeping up with the appearance of having a modicum of at least inner strength, but in reality, I'm only strong when I have to be. When there is no other option but to be strong, until the moment comes when I can fall apart. It inevitably happens... most comfortably in my own bedroom, after my son is sound asleep, and I am by myself.

Because I am vulnerable.

Feeling vulnerable is scary. Letting others witness your vulnerability is even more scary. At least it used to be, for me. But I've found something magnificent. Relieving, really, when you stop to think about it. Because I've found this crazy thing that allows me to let my guard down. And a person who catches me when I fall down, feel down, break down. I assure you, I am far less than beautiful during these times.

But he loves me still.

That's what real love is. It is the allowance to let it all out to a heart that listens, cares, understands, and doesn't judge you. A real love enjoys the best of you, laughs with you, plays with you; and when you need it most is there for you with a shoulder cry on and arms to wrap you up with, which manage to make things better somehow.

It's knowing that you don't have to do it all on your own - not that you aren't capable, but that there is more than you. It's sharing - not just the good times, but also those that you aren't quite sure how else to get through.

It's an accordance. It's acceptance. It's vulnerability.

It's what love is.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All We Need is a Little Bit of Carelessness

I've come to a startling conclusion. A disturbing self-realization, to be more exact. I've discovered that I'm opinionated, often narrow-minded, maybe even stubborn, and (yikes!) not necessarily always right.

Ouch. It's a painful awareness...

And here I had this admittedly biased understanding of myself as being some sort of open-minded, listen-to-reason, cool-and-collected super mom. Nope. Not even close.

As long as things are going my way, I may appear to be open minded. Maybe even cool and collected. But once things are different than I had thought them to be in my perfect little plan that exists only in my head? Cool and collected is out the window. And I find myself frantically attempting to gain back that control of perfect plan going as planned, perfectly. It makes me anxious, and not in that I'm-so-excited-for-Christmas sort of way. Anxious, like sick-to-my-stomach sort of way, where-did-I-go-wrong sort of way, the-world-as-we-know-it-is-ending sort of way. And all I can think to myself is "holy cow! calm down and give me a break!" I mean, that's the exact sort of thing I'd say to my son if he were having a mini-meltdown over something that completely doesn't matter in the long run.

I've found that, regarding the mantra "practice what you preach," I'm great at the preaching part, but the practice part needs... well, a little practice.

So I wonder to myself, when did I get to be such a control freak? When did my laissez-faire attitude turn into one in need of stringent order? I remember a time when order was the enemy and caution was thrown to the wind. These days, the only place my order-opposing past is evident is on the top of of my desk at work... and maybe my kitchen counter. Okay, yes, definitely my kitchen counter. But it's hardly chaos. It's the catch all of my orderly necessities. My son's school papers that need saving, my retirement statements that need filing, and the rest of my mail that needs sorting. It's a place where my need of order just has yet to occur. So, it's kind of like a waiting place for my neurosis. ...disgusting.

Maybe I need a little childlike carelessness back into my way of thinking. Maybe we ALL need a little bit of childlike carelessness. Not too much - a little goes a long way. There are still responsibilities that need to be upheld. But, sheesh! Let's have a little bit of fun!

Life is just too short to worry about the little things. Let a little laissez-faire attitude back in. Whatever will be, will be. We never really get to control what happens, anyway. While our choices may determine which route we take, we really only control our reaction to it and our attitude along the way.

As I say this, I realize that I'm going to have to ask my son a favor. "Alright, kiddo. Show me how we do this. It's been a looooooooooong time." It's not so bad learning something new. Or, rather, re-learning something I maybe shouldn't have forgotten in the first place. Especially from my son.

And I'm more than positive I'll be better than I am now for it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inspiring Joy

I recently had the daunting task of interviewing for a new employee. I am not a fan of this responsibility of my job. I find it takes too much time away from my work day, when I already feel like I don't have enough time to complete all of the other responsibilities piled upon my desk. Additionally, because as every manager or business owner knows, it is expensive to hire new employees. You have the expenses incurred in advertising for applicants, the time spent to read resumes and interview, the learning curve once you find someone, and the list could go on and on... It is a big responsibility finding the right person for the right job.

Thankfully, my interviewing is over, the new employee is settled in, for the most part trained, and is carving her way through the learning curve of this industry and organization. Optimistically, I think she's going to do a fine job. And my fingers are crossed that I'm right.

Throughout this round of interviewing, I received a few thank you cards in the mail. There was one in particular that I thought was beautiful - so much so, that I actually took the time to visit the creator's website as noted on the back of the card, through which I stumbled upon this site:

I watched the "video of the day" and found it so inspiring, I just had to share...
Here is the direct video link.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pure. Simple. Joy.

I read an article not too long ago that stated something to the effect of this ...regardless of how much money a person makes, the average person feels he (or she) would be happier if he made 20% more. This same study also proved that, on average, if an individual were to make 20% more, by the end of the first year, his lifestyle choices fulfill that entire 20% increase in pay, to the point that the increase was completely ineffective to his financial standing, and his happiness level is completely unchanged.

Proof that money cannot buy happiness.

Happiness is priceless. It has also proven to have a positive effect on your overall health and how you handle stress, both of which have great potential to directly affect the natural longevity of your life.

So, think about this. What are some things that you enjoy? What are the good things in life? What truly makes you happy? Forget about the activities that simply occupy your mind or cause you to forget about your troubles for awhile. I'm talking about pure and simple joy. It's out there. It's attainable. And it doesn't cost a cent.

It's an attitude. A choice. A lifestyle. But it is one you have to make and take for yourself. It's so easy to get weighed down by the negative things that are bound to happen. That negativity is infectious and it won't take long before it seeps into every crevice of your life. Things that were once joyful become chores.

Finding pleasure in the little things is a virtue, and one worth striving for.

Shut your eyes and imagine the warm sun shining on your face, the smell of freshly mowed grass, a gentle breeze making the leaves rustle ever so slightly, and you are in no hurry to go anywhere. I can't help but let a smile touch my lips when I experience any one of these things. It's pure. It's simple. And it's certain to make people wonder just exactly what it is that you're smiling about.

(I must also add that, coincidently, that average person in the study mentioned above continues to strive for that next 20%, which is also a great indicator of motivation, but I digress, that is another post...)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Enjoy the Good Stuff. Life is Better That Way.

Some of my best childhood memories are playing with my parents and taking family vacations. Of course, I also have memories of girlie slumber parties with my friends, climbing trees, and eating fresh strawberries out of the garden. And I longingly reminisce the summers that seemed to stretch on forever, and, conversely, sledding down the HUGE sledding hill and building snowfamilies - pets included - in the snowy South Dakota winters. ...interestingly that huge sledding hill somehow doesn't seem so huge anymore.

But the best memories, those where I recall nothing but pure, childlike happiness that only a child without an ounce of stress can really experience? Playing with mom and dad. Baseball in the driveway, volleyball in the front yard, a little frisbee when it wasn't too windy. And not too far behind are the family vacations that were an annual summer trip - even if the distance was a mere two hours to visit the Sioux Falls zoo. I'm sure my parents were at least as busy then as I am now. They both worked outside of the home once all four of us kids were in school. Yes. Two parents, four children. That's a 1:2 ratio compared to my 1:1 ratio, with all four of us being active children involved in various sports and other interests. And I thought I had limited time!

Too often, it seems, parents find other things to occupy their children's time while they are busy doing whatever it is there isn't enough time in one day to do. Myself included! My son is 8. And he has a Nintendo DS. He has a wii. He has a TV, VCR, and laptop in his room, not to mention the Legos, Bionicles, and countless other toys that Christmas and Birthdays have showered on him. And, all week this week when I wasn't at work, I was busy cleaning and organizing my home and garage. My home has been in disarray for weeks, and I finally had a need for the other stall of my garage that required me to move the boxes I didn't know where to put when I moved in over two years ago. I was on a mission to have everything done by the weekend, and worked every night, from the time I got home from work til bedtime, while Isaac played basketball in the driveway.

Each evening he asked me to play with him. And each evening I said, "Maybe tomorrow, honey. I've really got to get this finished." All the while feeling a little guilty as I remembered my dad getting home from work and throwing a few pitches until I finally connected with the bat - even before he went inside to clean up. I don't remember my mom and dad saying "just a minute honey, I need to finish this first." unless there was potential for danger or burnt dinner. It seems to me I say "just a minute" more often than I don't...

So, tonight and more nights to come, I'm taking the night off. No working after work. Just playing with my boy, eating dinner together, getting some ice cream, and, inevitably, making some great memories. Because that's the good stuff. That's what life is really all about. No one is going to remember if I had too many papers on my counter, or a few dirty dishes in the sink. But my son will remember for the rest of his life the best parts of us being a family. One that plays together, prays together, loves each other, and makes life better somehow.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sleeping Just a Little Easier Tonight

Every now and then my son is a little bit afraid to go to sleep at night, just in case a robber would happen to break into our house. I should note that he uses "robber" as an all-encompassing term for someone, particularly a stranger, demonstrating any sort of potential criminal activity. As much as I'd like to claim I am the fearless hero we mothers appear to be in the eyes of our children, I'm not. I've had the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I think I've heard a strange noise after watching a particularly unnerving episode of 48hours. But I can always manage to convince myself that I'm letting my imagination get away from me. After all, I'm in my own home. I'm safe here.

Imagine being afraid to sleep in your own home at night. Now imagine that it isn't the robbers, or the bad guys, or even strangers driving that fear; but rather the one person who should be your protector, your provider, or the love of your life. It's difficult to imagine when it isn't the life you live. But it's real. And it is not discerning. Domestic abuse affects communities both large and small, victims young and old.

I've had the rewarding opportunity to recently work with Children's Inn, an amazing organization in Sioux Falls, SD that offers shelter to women and children suffering domestic abuse. The organization never sleeps and the people that work there a nothing short of saint-worthy. Through this opportunity I've had the pleasure to be involved in the arrangement of a donation from Restonic Mattress Company and South Dakota Furniture Mart, replacing every single mattress within the entire shelther. That's 35 beds. That's 35 victims sleeping a little better, a little easier, at least for tonight.

Thank you South Dakota Furniture Mart. Thank you Restonic Mattress Company.

And thank you Children's Inn. You give 1 better life to each individual person that needs you every single day. Now that is 1 greater world!

Find Children's Inn on Facebook at:

1 better life = 1 greater world

The concept is simple, really.

If each of us chose to live 1 better life, give 1 better life, we would have 1 greater world.

Big differences are made in the smallest of deeds: a vow to be more patient, caring, or kind, fulfill a need, plant a seed, lend a helping hand.

Each of us has a unique strength, a resource we can share.

Give. Live 1 better life.