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An exclamation point. Then, the challenge.

Today is my first day of “empty nesterdom” (not sure if that’s even a word!). Today is also my birthday. An exclamation point of sorts on this new life change. A million people have written about this day. I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I want to blog this year about what happens when I get my feet back on the ground (something I’ve not had in a few years). See who I meet. What situations arise. What crazy questions I’ll get from my boys who are sorting through this first year of “living without mom!” 

I also want to challenge myself. I want to be authentically me.

Being “authentic” is an incredibly hard thing to do. We live in a world of conformity and acceptance. In our new “world,” we’ve made it difficult to stick by our values. We are singled out on-line all the time. It’s a scary and bullying world.

One of my boys is at a college that’s quite different from his life view points. But, the opportunities for him there were hard to beat. During orientation, they were asked to identify in different values/likes and in doing so, move in or out of a circle they’d formed. At one point, when they asked the kids about an aspect of the group, my son knew he would be different but held to his values. Turns out he was the he ONLY freshman to step into the circle when that one particular identifying value was put out there.

After putting aside my horror at him being singled out, I realized that he’d done what most of us want to do but are afraid to do – he was authentically himself without fear of being ostracized or singled out. I admire that in him!

But, as we know, too much of a good thing never goes well. I once read an analogy between virtues and vitamins. Consuming vitamins is necessary for health—but if you take more Vitamin C, for example, than your body needs, you’ll just pee it out. If you take too much Vitamin D, it may hurt you and you could end up with kidney problems.

Aristotle believed that virtues were like Vitamin D. Too little of a virtue is bad, but so is too much. He argued that every virtue sits between vices of deficiency and excess. Too little generosity is selfishness; too much generosity becomes self-sacrifice. Too little pride makes us meek; too much leaves us narcissistic. Too little courage makes us cowardly; too much makes us reckless.

So, where’s the balance? I don’t know. What I do know is that to be an authentic person and have a meaningful life, I need to do the difficult inner work to develop myself, have a strong moral compass based on my beliefs and values, and work on problems that matter to me. When I look back on my life it may not be perfect, but it will be authentically mine.

Join me!

XOXO

Jessica

 

 

In a second his contagiousness was gone

A friend from law school died this week in a tragic scuba diving accident. His youngest son had his 2-year-old party scheduled for yesterday. Now they are planning a funeral instead. He and his wife had a love that was incredibly obvious and deep.

This is not a blog about “hug your children” or “live like it’s your last day.”  This is about being contagious. My friend was a rare commodity – he was contagious.  I aspire to be like that.

From the moment I met him he was a positive influencer. Some people are just like that. They don’t complain much. They often are seen with a smile and they seem to genuinely enjoy life. They listen. They are contagious in their gifts of love, compassion and respect.

For this friend, life was not always easy. But I don’t think I ever had a conversation with him – even a tough one – where he didn’t come up with some big smile and find a way to twist the negative into positive.

Here are a few things that I’ll remember about him:

  1. He was GenuineWhen you are genuine and sincere you automatically become contagious. Truth and honesty are two qualities which define a person’s legacy. Be the person others can trust. Always, tell the truth – no matter how difficult. It might seem tough in the short-term but in the long-term you will find others are the same with you.
  2.  He was Open and Loving: Love brings love. Being kind brings kindness. These are contagious. I try to keep a smile on my face when I’m running, working on my computer, driving my car, or even grocery shopping (which I won’t be doing too much in a few weeks …). When people see my smile – they smile back. Those that don’t – I smile harder. 🙂 
  3. He had Respect for Everyone: My friend was respected by so many people. When you show respect, you get it back. Respect is never forgotten.  Make it your life’s goal to treat everyone with respect, honor, and dignity – even those that do not give it back to you. I’m a believer in Karma. When you’re gone, what will you be remembered for?
  4. He Gave his Heart Generously: When we give of ourselves  we start a cycle of positivity and love. We receive the internal personal reward of peace, happiness, and harmony. But we give it out as well and that is contagious. The people we miss the most after they die are the ones that gave love unconditionally and without judgment.

I try not to have “life goals” I just try to be. But if I were to choose life goals, these would be at the top of my list.

I have a lot on my plate right now. My boys are leaving in days (not weeks). My friend has died at 51. And I’m about to celebrate another year on this amazing planet. Life’s totally interesting and unpredictable. Thankfully, we’re all in it together.

Be contagious.

XOXO

Is this the home stretch or the start line?

So, I’m here. Just weeks away from being an empty nester. Two are leaving at one time. Regardless, the effect is the same – it’s me and the dust bunnies left behind. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought over the summer. What’s next? Is this the end? Is it the beginning? Or is it something in between?

Last week I found myself crying in the shower. I’d be lying if I said I recalled the thought that brought me to tears. I was likely nothing more than: “I won’t have as much garbage anymore so maybe I should reduce my container size.” To my friends who are in this same spot — you know what I’m talking about! At that moment, I did what most self-respecting moms would do. I left the shower on, grabbed my towel and dripped water all the way to the kitchen where I said to my son, sobbing – “I’m going to miss you so much!” He looked up from his cereal bowl with a smile and said, “I’m going to miss you too, Mom. Get back in the shower.” Out of the mouths of babes. 🙂

If I were to dissect his statement (and why the freak not – what else am I going to be doing with my time??) – he was saying just what I’ve been thinking lately – Nothing changes. Yes, my kids will be living elsewhere. But we are still a family. We will still have crazy things happening. We will still have joys and sorrows. We will still have as much love as we have now. And, I still need a full shower every day.

I’ve gotten a lot of well-intentioned advice on this stage of my life. Having done this once before – I know I’ll survive. I survived the death of my mother when my boys were babies. I survived divorce. I survived raising three. But there is little question that this train is out of the station and there’s no stopping it. All my feelings won’t change the reality – we’re moving to a new normal.

One thing I know for sure is that the exhaustion (emotional and physical) leading up to this moment will result in some sense of relief on the other side – for all of us. Let’s be honest – we’re all a bit curious about what’s on that other side.

So, to my friends who are in the weeks leading up to this event … feel what you want to feel. There’s no right or wrong. My mom sobbed dropping me off and I sobbed dropping my daughter off. We’re all still (relatively) normal despite the tears.

Go ahead. Feel it all. I’ll be here for you when you need me (and you the same, I’m sure!). Look for me at all the new places I never had time to try before (and maybe shedding a few tears at the same time!)

To be continued …

XOXO

Jessica

It could be any change.

Today is the day. The change I’ve been dreading and excited for. It’s my job, right? My job to make sure that they got through school, as unscathed as possible, and off to college.

We spend years just getting through each year. We celebrate the start of the year with photos and signs and we end the year with photos, signs and a sense of relief that summer is here. We rarely think about a time when they won’t be at home every day. We’re just trying to get through the day!

I need change. We need change.

When we don’t have change — when we keep going every day, doing the same thing, we lose track of time. It’s like the movie Groundhog’s Day, right? The same thing over and over … and very forgettable.

I use these life markers to take a moment (and a box of Kleenex!) and experience my life, my family and my friends. Change causes me to stop and live in the moment.

Everything good in life happens as a result of change – even when that change is the result of something painful.

If nothing changed, we would never develop a personality, memories, awareness of others, the world and ourselves. We’d never experience heartbreak, love, fear, joy, happiness, all of those emotions and experiences that are a result of change and experiencing change.

My son and I are always talking about how fast time goes. I told him that time slows down for me is when I’m experiencing change. When I have to struggle to sort through what is happening and focus on every minute and every decision. That’s when I’m the most present. When nothing is happening, when there’s no change, time flies by without my noticing it.

Let’s be honest: we ignore or forget most of what happens to us. Instead, we focus on a few particular moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions. This is my point – we need the peaks, the pits and the transitions to stop and enjoy the moment of time.

Some moments will always be vastly more meaningful and memorable than others. Like today for me. As recipients of change, we understand this – but as creators of experiences, we ignore it.

Think about it – we spend weekend after weekend with our kids, but in our memory all those times blend together. It’s the little moments, the moments of change, doing something different – those are the ones that matter. They are the  ones we remember. Today’s moment will matter for me.

So, E and S – I love you. I’m so excited for the next part of our lives together as a family and to watch your individual lives change. Try to experience every change you can. It will create new memories and cool new relationships.

So, with some already used Kleenex, I say congratulations boys! You done good and I’m a super proud mom! XOXO

You’re 21 (and here’s what I think about that)

April 5, 2018
Dear Lovie,

I remember the day I learned I was pregnant with you. It was on the heels of the doctor telling me I wasn’t going to get pregnant “this time.” I told him that I didn’t care and was going to keep trying. Then when we got the news, I knew you were meant to be.

The day you were born it was a beautiful spring day which had turned a bit cold with (a few) added light snow flakes. It reminded me of the challenge of each season – one trying not to leave and the other trying to push its way in. Obviously, the challenge of life – loving the past and looking toward the future. The trick – however, is to stay in the present.

There is no question that I’ve made my share of “mistakes,” in life and with you three. But I have not one regret. And I don’t really see them as mistakes – but just part of the process … whatever that process is. Think about life that way.

On this rite-of-passage day, I do have a bit of advice – tidbits for life – to share with you; these are the things I try to lean on in my life. Don’t feel like you need to follow any of it … but you never know what might resonate!

  • Know you are loved. There is nothing more important in life as love. You know that my motto is “I love love.” And it’s true. You can be broke, feel sick, be sad, but if you have love – it can fill you up like nothing else. When you feel lonely or maybe in the dark – know that we love you. Know that there is love in your life. It will carry you through.
  • Love yourself. I struggled with this for many years. We all do at some level. But you were created for a reason with your unique characteristics. Appreciate them – even the ones you don’t like. Someone else will love those parts of you and you should too.
  • Be grateful. Every day I remind myself how lucky I am to be here. To have you and your brothers. To have food and water. Appreciate the little things and the big things as well. We are so lucky no matter what we have (or don’t “have”).
  • Be in the moment. There is a cute commercial with a dad walking like a monster with his kids wrapped around his ankles – laughing and squealing. He’s in the moment with his children. I remember those days like they were yesterday. Moments come and go but the only way to “slow down time” – as your brother would like to do – is to be present in each moment.
  • Don’t gossip about others. Try hard not to criticize other people. They are struggling too. I don’t like to be around people who gossip about others and I really try to remind myself of the importance of this notion. When I do find myself gossiping I stop myself in my tracks and quietly apologize to that person in my mind. They don’t deserve it and I want to be better than to talk about someone’s life without them being there.
  • It’s your life. It has been for a while. I’ve just been here as a backstop (and still am!). Enjoy the space to make your own decisions. It’s one of the cool things about life.
  • No decision is a bad decision. You will be faced with a series of choices in life. These can be agonizing. Get advice. Seek out those you respect. But know that no decision is a “bad” one. Each one will take you to just the place you are supposed to be.
  • Work hard. Be focused. You will appreciate it when you look back. Use your work ethic to make a difference while you’re here. (But don’t spend too much time working … there are no extra GF brownie points in the end for overtime!)
  • Choose health. Sometimes you will have this as a choice. You’ll never go wrong by choosing your health (whether mental or physical) over something else.
  • Don’t let things sit. Don’t allow tough problems or tasks to sit because they seem overwhelming. Jump in. Procrastination will steal your precious time – even when you think it doesn’t.
  • Put your family on the top of the list. We are here for you with no strings attached. Even when we are incredibly frustrating – and I know we are!
  • Smile. Smile on the outside. Smile on the inside. It will make you feel happy and will do the same for others.

So, my baby girl – it’s with tears in my eyes and love in my heart that I say – Happy 21st Birthday. There is no one like you. I’m so glad you chose me for this life time!

XOXO Mommy

P.S. Don’t forget to call me once in a while!

Her son died in her arms.

At my favorite place, the grocery store, I met a woman whose son died in her arms. The story is tragic but beautiful. In his late 20’s her son began feeling tired but thought it was just “life.” He was only 20 after all. How could he be sick? Turns out it wasn’t just “life” and nine months later on a quiet evening in her home, her son died in her arms. She said it was a peaceful experience and at that precise moment of death, a sense of spirituality pervaded the room. She felt a heightened sense of awareness and a flood of memories ran through her brain. She also felt a deep indescribable feeling of love. I’ve never heard anyone talking about the experience being anything more than moving and always peaceful.

It’s been 4 years and she said it still felt like yesterday. Her son loved oatmeal and whenever she got to that part of the grocery store, she stopped and remembered him. That’s where we met – over GF oatmeal.

She asked me about my kids and I told her of my upcoming life change. She smiled and reminded me that life is a series of grief experiences which bring us to a new place of joy, love and peacefulness. She said that some people like to talk about grief in stages but that her “stages” looked like the scribbling by a child on a piece of paper — all over the place and with no rhyme or reason! I appreciated her being candid. I shared with her my own up and downs as I move closer to the boys leaving.

Before our good-byes she said a few things – which I hope my memory can do justice to:

  1. There is no magical way of dealing with change. You’ll have a range of emotions – appreciate each one. Some people bounce back quickly – some do not. There is no right or wrong.
  2. There is no “getting back to normal.” It will never happen. You’ll always feel pain from saying good-bye – whatever the reason for the good-bye. If you didn’t feel bad, that would mean you didn’t have love for that person. And love is the best reason to experience pain.
  3. You’re not expected to be perfect. This process builds character and each life experience makes us unique.
  4. When you decide it’s time to heal, then you will be ready to find peace from the change. Don’t let others rush you.

I never did get the GF oatmeal I was looking for. But I did get a hug (and got to hug) a stranger in a grocery store. And, I met yet another wise person whose life experience is reminder that we’re all going through the same life stages – just at different times and in different ways.

We’re all here to help one another through these life stages – whether by a stranger or a friend. And, it really doesn’t get better than that.

Have an amazing week!

XOXO

 

What to do next …?

It’s 2018. This is a big year for my family. My daughter will be a senior in college. My boys will choose their college, graduate from HS and then start college … somewhere (please let’s pray they’re not on opposite ends of the country!). I will be happy, be sad, be crying, be traveling, be working (more!) and start my next new life chapter. We have a family trip in the planning stages and I’m contemplating a move. So, there should be no question in my world about what to do next — brace for the change. But what’s not on this list, and what we all should have on our 2018 list, is the oh-so-selfish item “Self-Care.”

I know you all were like me these last few weeks – juggling the varied demands of holiday, house guests, parties, home and work. Now its January and it’s time to take a step back, not to make resolutions (I don’t like resolutions) but just to take time for you. The magazines make it sound simple: Drink more water, exercise an hour a day, reduce your carbs, put down the computer. And, while, it’s a bit overwhelming to change everything at once – it’s also, frankly, a struggle. It actually feels unnatural … selfish.

It’s not!

Self-care should be the foundation that allows you to be healthy, grounded and present for all that life throws at you. It can be small changes, made over time, which add up to big results. The biggest hurdle is understanding the importance of taking care of yourself – and then implementing it.

I find myself thinking: “Once I take care of everyone and everything else, then I’ll take care of myself.” Sound familiar?

Authentic self-care is not selfish. It’s not a guarantee that we won’t gain weight, have an accident or get sick — although taking care of ourselves would probably make those things less likely. True self-care is about honoring ourselves and our bodies, nurturing and loving ourselves — both for us and for the benefit of everyone around us.

I once heard Dr. Andrew Weil talking about the importance of self-care. He said that the human body has a great “self-care” model — the heart. He said, “Each time the heart beats, it first pumps blood to itself, then to the rest of the body. It has to work this way in order for us to stay alive. … The same is true for us as human beings. We have to take care of ourselves first, so we can take care of others.” It’s the old – put your oxygen mask on first idea!

Given the nature of our lives, it’s not easy, logistically or emotionally, to implement self-care commitments. But, remember, self-care is not about creating a “plan” or doing it “right.”  It’s simply about remembering that we deserve to take care of ourselves, and when we do, it not only nourishes us but also allows us to be available for important things and people in our lives.

Have a great start to 2018!

XOXO