Gratitude: A Huge Motivator

It’s not often I am at a loss for words.

But yesterday, out of the blue, I received some flowers and a note that took my words and my breath away. It opened up my heart and my mind in refreshing ways and made me feel so alive.

I had two enormous takeaways from this kind, sweet and thoughtful gesture.

The first was it made me feel so good that I was spontaneously motivated to want to do the same for others so they could feel this way too. I guess it’s called paying it forward. Generosity begets generosity. Kindness fosters kindness. We are all so naturally self-involved and so very busy. It might cross our minds to add a thoughtful action to the to-do list. I know I do this. But the fact that a few good people took a moment out of the humdrum and busy-ness of their everyday to put thought into action – and plaster a smile on my face as a consequence – is huge.

The second takeaway is the realization of the impact each of us has on other people, even if we are not aware of it. Our actions, words, reactions, unspoken words and general comportment are being observed and felt by people we see every day and by the people we pass by. I’m acutely aware of this around my kids and their friends – these little sponges are watching and listening and processing all the time. Thanks to yesterday’s generous gesture, I have been reminded of the power of my character. That may sound egotistical and it’s not intended that way. What I mean is that I have become even more cognizant of the effect of my behavior – and that there’s a responsibility that comes with that.

So, my friends, thank you. Not just for the beautiful flowers but for the motivation you’ve re-ignited in me.

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Happiness: It’s Your Choice, Kid

Stop complaining.

Quit your whining.

Stop comparing what you have or don’t have to someone else.

Don’t act like a victim.

Happiness is your choice, kid.

Only you can make the difference between a great day and a crappy one.

So smile, keep your head held high, be a good friend, laugh, show kindness, participate and be sure to be silly. See, it’ll rub off on those around you.

Make today as awesome as you are.

(Applies to grown-ups too.)

On Perspective and Empathy

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. A whirlwind of challenges swooping into my usually happy, upbeat daily existence. At work, a disgruntled client and a whiplashed team. At home, childcare logistical conundrums, preparations for a change of routine with school graduations and the start of camp. Nothing insurmountable, but enough to cause some self-doubt, angst, hand-wringing and yes, tears.

It’s very easy to get sucked into your own personal dramas. Especially if your energy is drained, your confidence is in a funk and there’s no clear path between each of the small obstacles cluttering your mind. Not to mention the crushing feeling when you put them all together – especially during the night when they conspire at the very edge of REM and blur reality with nightmares.

Truth is, my issues are wrinkles in the usual carefree life that I am incredibly lucky enough to enjoy.

But each of us has drama. These past two weeks I’ve heard of, shared, and listened to the dramas afflicting family, friends and colleagues. Sickness, divorce, heartbreak, death. On the flip-side of the doom and gloom, there have also been new babies on the brink of arrival, romances rekindled, achievements and breakthroughs.

A veritable slice of life.

I’ve been reminded that, to move through your own personal funk, you have to look outward. Perspective and empathy go hand-in-hand, each bolstering the other – a veritable renewable energy source. First, being able to express your woes to an active, empathetic listener helps you grieve, crystallize, process and ultimately, rationalize. Second, being the listener, providing an ear and a shoulder, as well as counsel if warranted, provides the source of focus, a mirror for perspective, new strength.

I’m not really sure where I am going with this, except to say that I’ve been on both sides of the fence and it’s actually very healthy. If all I do is bitch and moan about my issues, then quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to spend much time with me. But if, by being an empathetic listener, I can help – as well as find perspective to my own problems – then together we move forward.

Others Moms Don’t Care

  • if your house is a pigsty
  • if your floors are sticky
  • if you look like you haven’t slept in a week
  • if your clothes have unidentifiable stains on them
  • if there’s a potty accident
  • if you tread on and crush Cheerios
  • if there is laundry on the floor in the middle of the living room
  • if your kids spill their milk
  • if the cupboards are bare
  • if you have the Wonderpets as your ring tone
  • if you call and ask for help/advice or just to vent
  • if a sleepover doesn’t work out
  • if you have dried spit-up in your hair
  • if your kids fight
  • if your kids need a change of clothes
  • if you need a favor
  • if you scoot out of a drop-off party for some alone time or to do your grocery shopping alone
  • if you’d rather go to bed than go out for a drink

Hooray for other Moms!

10 Parenting Gratitudes

There’s nothing like a rainy Saturday for blogging. Especially when I am home alone with the kids all day. On days like this, I am usually challenged with figuring out what I am going to do to keep the little people occupied and entertained, rather than in front of the TV or computer. Sometime, if I am suitably motivated, I’ll research something going on locally or a museum trip and off we’ll go on an adventure. (However this requires a certain amount of energy and spontaneity that, in truth, I don’t always have on tap.)

Today is one of those days and I was fearful that we’d end up annoying each other with cries of “I’m bored” and bickering. However, much to my pleasure, the kids have been happily playing free-form imaginary games like “pretend I’m a Ninja and you’re a dinosaur and we’re stuck in a boat and there’s an evil witch on a sparkly rocket ship coming to get us ” or “pretend you’re Katy Perry and I’m Luke Skywalker and we’re on Tatouin and there’s a bunch of dwarf monsters after us but we have light sabers and the force is with us….”

And it struck me just how good I have it, especially at the ages that G & T are right now (7 & 5, respectively.) For this, I must remember to be eternally grateful. (I must also remember to revisit this post when the kids are in the throws of puberty and we all hate each other.) Like many others, I often find myself complaining, dishing out sarcasm or being wistful for life before kids but right now, I am the luckiest Mom on this planet and here’s why:

  1. I am grateful that G & T will happily play without me having to create/manage the game (or even participate, though I do of course from time to time.) They can occupy themselves for good chunks of time, either independently or playing together. Legos, puzzles, reading, board games, Pokemon, fort-building, dress-up, light saber fights, or torturing the cat. Long enough for me to take a shower or write a blog post without worrying about them killing each other, raiding the snack cupboard or getting up to other hi-jinx. If the result is a completely messed-up playroom with toys and legos distributed everywhere, then so be it – that’s a price for which I am also grateful!
  2. I am grateful that they are living in an society that is, for the most part, accepting of a broad spectrum of lifestyles and love choices. They do not question and are growing up without bias and prejudice.
  3. I am grateful that, in spite of the shocking cost of being a working parent, we can still provide well for them – but at the same time teach them that money doesn’t grow on trees; it must be earned and spent wisely. And that being charitable is just part of who we are.
  4. I am grateful that both my kids are learning to be open-minded (we have good days and bad days!) and that they are sociable, outgoing creatures who make friends and laugh easily.
  5. I am grateful, despite the fact that G won’t eat eggs and T won’t eat anything spherical-shaped or with a sauce, that they have good appetites, eat their vegetables, drink their milk and even enjoy fish.
  6. I am grateful that they are learning to be resourceful and self-reliant (which means they can not only do more for themselves but can also do more things for me!)
  7. I am grateful that they see their father as a man that contributes equally to the job of parenting and their mother as someone who follows a career.
  8. I am grateful that they know and love their extended family, despite that fact that we all live far apart. I am also grateful for the technology that lets us all be closer.
  9. I am grateful that, thanks to parenthood, I have met other parents and founded many wonderful friendships.
  10. I am grateful for their good health and active minds.

Are Dads the New Moms?

This morning, I read a blog post that suggested that parenting magazines are making a mistake by catering so much to Moms and leaving Dads out. On the one hand, I agree – Dads these days play a large role in parenting and should be represented as such within parenting magazines. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that Dads turn to glossy magazines for parenting advice. I’m fairly sure they either speak with other Dads, follow a couple of Dad bloggers or wing it, the best they can.

I consider myself to be one lucky Mom as my husband has not only been a very participant Dad from the moment number one child popped out (actually, he didn’t just pop out but that’s another story) but he also makes me a better Mom. I observe the same in many of my friend’s husbands, as well as my brother and brothers-in-law, and it’s really heart-warming. These are the ways that my kids’ Dad is as good as (and often better than) their Mom:

  • He folds the laundry (is there anything sexier, I ask.)
  • He shares the school drop-offs and pickups.
  • He cooks, shops, cleans, mends.
  • He has cleaned up his fair share of poop and puke (though I always seem to be on the receiving end of the puke.)
  • He encourages me to go out with my girlfriends at least once a month.
  • He takes care of both kids one evening a week so I can work late.
  • He shares taking the kids to their dentist/doctor appointments/playdates/birthday parties.
  • He is a more-than-equal enforcer of discipline.
  • He attends parent/teacher conferences with me.
  • He does it all when I have to travel for work.
  • He is super silly (which is the secret to our happy marriage.)

So yes, if the above tasks comprise what was once considered motherhood, then Dad is the new Mom and I see nothing wrong with that. The fact is that parenthood is wonderful and tough and incredible and exhausting and uplifting and messy and expensive and complicated and a lot of hard work. Having an equal partner makes it manageable and way more fun.

Hooray for Dads!

(Did I mention that my hubby is in the wine business – triple bonus for me!!!)

Confessions of a Yo-Yo Exerciser

I love exercise.

I could sit and watch it all day.

If I had all day, that is. And given the choice, I’d rather be eating or sleeping than exercising. Admit it, you feel the same.

Fact is, when you are a working Mom, time is a very precious commodity. Between working, commuting, rallying the troops, groceries, laundry, school drop off, school pick up and trying to stop your house from looking like it’s been invaded by little monsters, there’s barely time for anything. And quite frankly, I’d rather be eating, watching TV, reading Christian Grey or sleeping, than torturing my doughy tummy and dimpled thighs.

Before kids, well, that was different. While no-one could have called me an athletic or muscular type, I enjoyed exercising. Dance, step, Pilates, gym, running, weights. I went to the gym at least twice a week for decades. For many years, I even had a personal trainer come to my home. In fact, this was the key to my success. Given that I am a lazy so-and-so, the fact that I’d paid some to show up at an appointed time and put me through my paces was the best formula to make exercise actually happen.

Fast-forward to the last seven years of motherhood and I have turned into a yo-yo exerciser with sporadic bouts of commitment to various forms of exercise. Since having kids, I can no longer afford the luxury of a personal trainer (see ‘The Shocking Cost of Being a Working Parent.’) These days, the best time for me to squeeze in a”workout” is between 5.45-6.30am, i.e. before the kids wake up and the morning mayhem starts. There’s no time to really go anywhere so exercise, when it happens, is in my basement.

My random attempt at getting into an exercise regime have, at best, lasted 2-3 weeks and have usually been thwarted by sleep interruptions, vacations, business travel and injury – as well as defeatism, boredom and the overwhelming desire to go back to sleep after the alarm goes off so damn early. Here’s what I have tried:

  • I’ve walked on my treadmill, listening to my iPod, watching the morning news or, more recently, random movies from the 80s.
  • I’ve pedaled on my mini-elliptical machine. Ditto. But after 10 minutes I really want to quit.
  • I’ve done several videos taught by various annoying, lithe, energetic women. The last time I did one though, one of my kids surprised me and I turned around too quickly and wrenched my back.
  • I bought one of those infomercial kits with a DVD and resistance bands that promised me I’d burn 300 calories and tone my core in just 20 minutes. I did it twice and for some strange reason, could barely move my arms after (while my flabby middle never felt a thing!)
  • While I was out of work/working from home for three months, I had more time and was able to go to  Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. It kicked my butt. I loved it.
  • Most recently, I’ve been walking in the mornings – now that it’s light again – with a girlfriend and this has been a great success, as long as our schedules have meshed, our kids have slept, our husbands haven’t been travelling and it hasn’t been raining. It’s so nice to be chatting away with a friend and not even realizing you are exercising!

So what’s this Mom to do? I fully understand the benefits of exercising and, certainly, in my (ahem) 40s, I appreciate the imperative to exercise. But my excuses are many, my motivation is on-again-off-again, and my successes are hit or miss. The good news is that I eat a healthy diet and that my weight has stayed within the same range for the last four or five years. That’s not to say I could do with shedding five, maybe ten pounds.

I guess I should just get off my arse and do it.

Wish I could outsource it.

Now there’s an idea …..

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

This week, Devin and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Wow! Ten years.

When I said “I do,” to him back on April 25, 2002, it was with the conviction that I had found someone who matched me. I knew that being married to this guy would be fun. Of course, it would have its share of ups and downs, like any marriage. Naturally we’d bitch and moan at each other along the way. I knew there would be many things I’d do and say that would bug him – and that there would be many, many (did I say many ?) things he’d do that would seriously nark me. And then there would be all the other regular stuff that would interfere, sneak up, challenge, or freak us out. Like pets, work, no work, children, money, mortgage, fridges, religion, family, schedules and all that.

Of course we love each other. That’s a given. But the secret to what has kept this union sound, light-hearted, reasonable and fun is ….. silliness.

Very early on, I realized that Devin is as silly as I am. What clicked between us – and which has endured through ten years of marriage – is our very natural way of not taking ourselves too seriously. Once when we were dating, he gave me a copy of Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, with his own silly riddle hidden inside. Of late, I’ve taken to secretly doctoring his daily to-do list. Instead of saying goodbye when we speak on the phone, he’s started saying “f@*k off Frank.” No clue why, but it makes me chuckle.

Fortunately for us, our innate and combined silliness was a perfect foundation for raising children. Now we have an audience! Our kids get a huge kick out of us all being silly together – and an even bigger thrill when they watch mama and papa being silly with each other. It’s downright gleeful.

Other couples count on love, respect and teamwork to nurture their relationships. We have that too. But for us, being silly is the cherry on top!

(Post note: I looked up the definition of silly on dictionary.com and was displeased. I much prefer the definitions on Urban Dictionary, check them out!)

These Are a Few of My Favorite Pins

Like many of my fellow PR, social and Mom types, my latest addiction is Pinterest. Everyday I open up the app, eager with anticipation to take a spin through the newest colorful pins my fellow addicts have posted or repinned.

They say the demographic of Pinterest is mainly women. They also say that Pinterest is now the third most popular social network, driving large volumes of traffic to the sites and blogs marketing themselves through it.

They may be right …. but I say, for me, Pinterest is like a delicious distraction from reality to a land where I can look fantastic, have a the perfect home, whip up fabulous meals, be expertly crafty and travel to exotic places. Yes, to me, my daily (sometimes two or three times daily) dip into Pinterest  is like a concentrated dose of a good girlfriend catch-up combined with a speed read through the latest editions of Vogue, People, Parenting and Food & Wine magazines.

It turns out my boards are actually an intensely revealing portal to my life. Or the life I’ll get to one day when I’m not so busy being a working Mom, wife and blogger. Here’s a quick review of my favorite boards:

Recipes to try – my most populated and frequently refreshed board filled with images of recipes that are scrumptious, healthy, kid-approved, supposedly simple or otherwise, just plain mouth-watering. All of which I will make one of these days and which will never look like the beautiful images I pinned.

Style – If only I was taller, thinner, richer, less of a slob. This board exemplifies the wannabe in me with looks that I wish I could carry off. Plus a load of shoes I’d wear (if they didn’t hurt my back) and jewelry I’d like to own. If only ….

Cheese – it’s quite simple. I love cheese. Therefore I love pinning images of cheese so I can look at them and drool.

Men – hey, we’re allowed to look, right? So I created a board where several of my most “admired” guys can reside, so I can look at them and they can stare back at me …..

France – where I lived and had the time of my life. One day, I’ll be back, mes amis.

Inspiration – not the usual board of quotes that many people have, mine is filled with Dr Seuss-isms because, man, he just nails its.

As someone who works in social media, people often say to me, “I really must get on Twitter” to which I respond, “why?” Most of the time, they have no clue. My advice to them is not to bother, if they don’t have a specific goal. But with Pinterest, it’s very different. If you haven’t jumped in yet and you’re a woman (or man, I suppose) looking for inspiration, shoes, decor and craft ideas, or just something to make for dinner, c’mon in and join the rest of us in fantasy land!

A Love Letter to My Mother

Today, March 18th is Mother’s Day in the UK. It’s always struck me as weird that Mother’s Day is on a different date in the UK from the US – and it’s taken me by surprise often, finding me scrambling to get a card or flowers to my Mum in time. This year, I’m ahead of the game. Thanks to the wonders of the web, her flower were delivered in time.

Bouquets aside, I felt a blog post in honour of my Mother was well overdue. If you have the good fortune to know her, you’ll agree she is one-of-a-kind. If you haven’t, then this post describes why I think there’s no-one quite as wonderful as my Mum.

  • Family and friends are everything: Despite the miles between her and her offspring and grandchildren, the ties between us are deep and fierce. And her own siblings and their children are equally important. I know few families where the connections between close and extended family matter so much. What’s more, my Mother’s friends have been in her life for decades and decades and decades – in fact, since me and my brother and sister were kids. She’s the best friend you could have. She sticks with you through thick and thin.
  • No-one tells a joke like my Mum: With a sparkle in her eye, she spins a tale and you just know that the punchline is going to be a humdinger. Her jokes are not quick one-liners, they draw you in, take you on a journey, and then cause a mighty belly laugh.
  • She has style: Unlike me, my Mum is always presentable, always coordinated, always beautiful. Whether going to Marks & Spencers, to a friend’s house for a game of bridge, on the tennis court, at a fine restaurant, or simply sipping a cuppa at home, my Mum exudes style. It’s always classy, always true to herself, never over the top.
  • She stands by her man: This year, Mum and Dad will celebrate 48 years of marriage. As a kid, I always viewed them as a team. I loved how they laughed together. I rarely witnessed any discord. They truly enjoy being a couple, they take the time to be together, to travel together. They’ve been an inspiration to me.
  • Quiet ambition: My Mother has a law degree. She was a magistrate in the UK courts for a long time. She participated in community programs. She gives back. She always continually educates herself: computer classes, after Dad surprised her with a laptop; most recently, creative writing classes.
  • She is wicked good at table tennis: if you play her, you’ll see a different side to her – fiercely competitive complete with colourful language!
  • Her cooking is legendary: chicken soup, apricot chicken, yellow mush, chopped & fried, bakewell tart, cheesecake. And don’t forget the trifle.

So Mum, here’s to you. From me. Via my blog.

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