You can’t choose your family. It’s just that simple.

There’s this social requirement that says no matter how bad family members are, you need to remain connected with them.  I would say that’s a good goal, but it’s not capable of being borne out 100% of the time.  In fact, I would also say that such a social requirement is bulls***.  How’s that for directness?

There are going to be times when you have family members who are completely toxic to your life.  Those who do their absolute best to belittle you.  Those who are emotionally (or physically) abusive.  Or, those who try to destroy your self-esteem or crush the goodness in you.  Should you remain connected with those people?  I think not.

I’ve watched my oh-so-gracious brother deal with this very issue with his father, since our mother died.  And, I marvel at his ability to keep looking ahead, with very little anger or hatred … just acceptance and a decision to move on with his life.  Great job, Bro.  Mom’s with you every step of the way.

Here’s one of the biggest truths in life … there are just some things you don’t have a choice about.  Some things where you have to let go and disconnect.  It’s tough but sometimes it’s necessary.  Sometimes, this includes family.  Yet, this is thought of as taboo – to disconnect from family.  Don’t we espouse, “Blood is thicker than water?”  That’s why people stay connected … sometimes to the detriment of their well-being.

A while back I watched my best friend eulogize his father.  I sobbed the entire time.  Not because the eulogy was so good or because of the father’s death.  It was because I knew how difficult their relationship had been and how painful it was for him to put himself out there in that public sort of way, regarding a man … his father … who really was not a great parental role model.  I admired my friend so much for his words (and I used every kleenex around me to prove it!).

Life’s not perfect.  In fact, it’s super messy.  We are born and we will die.  We live with joy because of the people and the love we experience every single day.  These people don’t have to be family members.  They just need to love you and treat you with respect.  You, in turn, will do the same.

We can’t choose our family, but we can create one.  It’s just that simple.

And with that, we begin our quiet walk toward the holidays.  A time where love and gratitude (not necessarily family) should be the focus of our experiences.

Have a great start to your week!  XO

BFF.

When I was a kid, I had one best friend (other than my dog!).  That’s just how it worked.  But, as we get old(er), life changes and different people at different times that fit that category.

Recently, I was with some cool friends and one of them talked about this notion of “best” friends.  She reminded us that we’re all best friends to one another at any give point in time.  It made me think — maybe a best friend is not a particular kind of relationship — But, actually the qualities in a person that make that relationship feel “best.”

I think of many of you as “best” friends because you have these qualities.  Here’s my list:

1. Listening. This is obvious, but critical.  I can tell when someone is listening to me or just waiting to speak.  It’s in their body language.  When someone needs my advice (or visa versa) there’s nothing better than feeling like the person really has listened, without an already formulated response.  I hope you feel that I listen to you.  I really am.

2. Sincere and honest.  “We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson  Are we honest with each other?  Can we call each other on our shit?  I need that and I really want to do that for you (in a nice way, of course!)

3. Acceptance. “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to: letting a person be what he really is.” – Jim Morrison

Acceptance flaws and all.  Enough said.

4. Dependable.   It hurts when you go out of your way to take care of someone and then when you’re vulnerable and you need them, it’s inconvenient to reciprocate.  When we can turn to someone in a time of crisis, even if we’ve not talked for months, and have them be there for you… it’s the perfect balance of giving and sharing.  Love.

5. Being present.   This is listening ++.  It’s being emotionally available, with ears.  It’s so great when this happens!

Thanks to all of you who’ve been there for me over the years.  You enhance my life.  You make me feel appreciated and lift my spirits.  And, as we all know, life is too short to spend with those who are not worth of our time or friendship.  I hope I do the same for you.  You’re important to my existence.

Have a great Sunday!

I think (know) I blamed the wrong person.

Here’s a true confession about me, I don’t always want to admit my shit.  Seriously.  In fact, I have to admit another truth about me, I’ve blamed my shit on others.  Seriously.

While I don’t make a complete habit of this, I am (and rightly should) looking back on my last 10+ years and I can see that there were times where I found it easier to blame someone else, rather than to look internally.  There’s one person during this time frame (he who shall remain unnamed) that did a really good job of screwing things up in a such a visual, that it was easy to point my finger at him (and more often than not, deservedly so!).  But, I have to admit that each time I point my finger outward at someone, it prevents me from looking inward – which should really be the direction of my focus.

Look, we all try to pass the buck sometimes – to point the focus away from us.  But, there comes a time when we have to stop blaming and look at how to deal with our own s***.  Here are my top 5 ways to end the blame game:

1. Take responsibility

I won’t beat around the bush on this one.  If we don’t take responsibility for our actions, we will never solve any of our life’s problems.  It will just be a constant blame game.  It’s that simple.

2. Learn to apologize

This is not easy for most of us.  We all know people who never apologize unless a metaphorical gun is pointed at their head.  Let’s not let that be us.  Apologizing for mistakes is freeing.  It’s honest.  And it’s a relief to acknowledge that we are not perfect!

3. Admit that you’re not always right

No one is always right and no one is blameless.  It’s hard to admit that we might be wrong.  Please, I was wrong 10 times before noon yesterday!  It’s a given.  Admit it.

4. Solve the problem

If you’re pointing a finger, there’s a problem to be solved.  It really doesn’t matter how you got to the problem.  What matters is where you end up.

5. Be humble

Admit that you can’t do every thing and that you have shortcomings.  Ask for help.  When we’re humble, we’re not blaming and we’re happier.

Let’s be honest, while it’s nice to not be blamed for things, the truth is, we do make mistakes.  Plus, looking at mistakes as positive, and a learning experience, will help drive our passion in a positive direction.

So to my unnamed friend  (aren’t they all unnamed?) who I quite easily blamed for many years (and who still deserved some blame) – please know that I did my fair share of making mistakes and I’m sorry for not acknowledging that enough along the way.

I’m going to try to take responsibility for all my actions – no matter how big or small.  Those who love me, deserve that.

Have a great weekend!

A thought.

The things that move us are the things that reflect what we already believe.  That one equals many.  That an individual is part of the greater whole.  That only together can we do great things.  That each of us wants to be part of something bigger, something more than simply ourselves.  That great things start by a thought, a touch, a smile.  We can do that.  We do it every day.  You will do it today.  And, it will allow you to take a piece of the beauty of you and weave it in somewhere else.  So, someone else can experience it.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

How low can you go?

I would say I can handle most personality types.  I used to teach autistic children.  I’ve got a psychology degree and now I’m a lawyer.  I’ve seen it all. And, I’m from Minnesota. Land of the pretend hugs (really should be called “back pats”).

But, there’s one kind of behavior that I really don’t like to manage.  In my mind, these people get so down low in the muck of life that they don’t see the extent of their damage.  I’m talking about those passive aggressive personality types (PA).  Those people who passively resist fulfilling routine tasks and complain of being misunderstood and underappreciated. They unreasonably scorn authority and voice exaggerated complaints of personal misfortune.  Know any of those kinds of people?

Look, I really believe in positive energy changing our lives and the collective world (yes, call me Pollyanna).  I also believe that one of the most dangerous and largest drains of energy are PA people.  They can sneak into your life, claiming to be there for you, and before you know it, they’ve sucked all the positive energy out of you.  And, while we do have choices about who is in our lives, it is often difficult to see those PA people as they slide into our lives.

One thing I’ve learned, as I’ve been dealing with this prominent PA person in my life, is that I chose how I want to react.  PA people act the way they do because they get energy and attention from being able to push buttons and get their intended reaction.  So, when we react … they win.  When we don’t react, we regain our power.

But, PA people can have more than a negative influence on our reactions, they can have a negative influence on our emotions and energy as well.  They can get us to start doubting ourselves and thinking that the problem is us, not them.  This has been the big lesson for me lately.  I’ve really had to learn that I can control my own emotions and how I view myself — but, I can’t control how the PA person views me.  And, if I open myself up to the world, I will get the message of who I truly am … not who the PA says I am.

So, today my message to myself is that I can set my intentions for who I am and where I want to go.  And at the same time, let go of the negative people and influences around me that, in the past, have hindered my ability to open up to the abundant possibilities of life!

Have a great day!

Zumba! (And take two in the morning).

When my 16-year-old suggested that she might try Zumba, I was so excited!  I knew she thought my dancing looked like I was having a seizure, so I figured I could dispel that myth in Zumba!  Saturday was the day and off we went.

Now, I didn’t know much about Zumba so before we went, I did a little “research.”  According to the “experts,” Zumba is based on the notion that exercise can be disguised by having fun.  Really?  Having fun by working out?  S***, I’m up for that!  And, even though you are not working out, you are supposed to be getting a great cardio experience … plus toning!   Doing all this with my daughter sounded perfect.

When we arrived, we meet the peppiest of instructors.  She didn’t stop smiling and began bouncing around the room before we even got started.  During the “warm up” she was moving so fast that I turned to my daughter and said, “We are in a freaking lot of trouble here.”

Then, the “workout” started.  Ms. Instructor began wiggling around to this Salsa/Merengue type music in a way that I only see on TV.  Smiling and shaking her butt and hips so much that I feel a bit nauseous.  Frankly, I couldn’t tell if my stomach ache was from watching her or shaking my own 51-year-old butt in ways it’s never gone before.

Next, I realize that as things keep speeding up, I’m going left when people are going right!  I’m feeling dizzy and wondering if I have a concussion from whipping my head around and gyrating.  I can see that my daughter is clearly getting it more than I am, but she too looks a bit shell-shocked.  Twenty minutes in and I find myself thinking that people must throw up in this room from the non-stop shimmying, butt shaking and arm waiving that’s occurring (and all at 90 mph).

1.25 hours later and we were done.  Even the cool down was fast!  And, while my daughter and I decided we liked the music, we had to admit that we have bodies that know only one direction … forward and backwards … not circular!

I judge my work outs by the numbers of Advil I’ve got to ingest afterwards.  A long run (15+ miles) could be a one Advil deal.  Hot yoga?  None (because I am so zen, right?).  But this?  This class was a two Advil.  For both my head ache and the weird places I found muscles!

I have a feeling that my future Zumba experiences will be my nose pressed up against the door as I go off to try something a bit more sane for a work out!

Have a great start to your week!

“I just need a little more money.”

It’s a normal thought, right?  We’ve likely all said it to ourselves or others at one time or another.

We all know that just a little more money won’t solve anything but our bills (a worthy need, though!).  It won’t make our relationships better.  It won’t result in our kids behaving or listening to us.  And, it doesn’t change the frustrations we feel at work.

Some people (and I’m sure this has been me at times) believe that if they have more money, they would feel prosperous.   Yet, I believe it is the other way around.  When we feel prosperous, we see abundance all around us.  It’s not really tied to money.  When we recognize that our life has love in it, we are able to see the joy around us and we can recognize that we are worthy of abundance and happiness.

“When we seek money, or a good relationship, or a great job, what we are really seeking is happiness. The mistake we make is not going for happiness first.  If we did, everything else would follow.”  Deepak Chopra

It’s easy to look outside for happiness – for fulfillment.  But I believe that the key to happiness is GRATITUDE.  I think that this feeling of gratitude and abundance is the fastest way to go from negative to positive.

This is not to say that life is perfect all the time.  I’m struggling with life issues right now and I often find myself playing my negative tapes.  However, as soon as I remind myself to be grateful for the sunny day, a smile from someone or that warm cup of coffee in the morning, I realize how amazing my life really is.  I’m grateful for the place I’m at — struggles and all.

So, lets take a moment sometime today or this weekend to remind ourselves why we’re grateful.  Hold someone’s hand.  Kiss our children (if they’ll let us!).  Smile at a stranger.  And, watch how the smallest of things will actually fill our days and our lives with happiness and abundance.

Have a great weekend!

Title: Love and Sex or The Gift

I was thinking yesterday about my grandparents.  My father’s parents.  As a kid I thought they had the perfect marriage.  They spent all their time together, although my grandfather would do his morning prayers alone and they were very well read (another alone “sport”).  But, generally they were together.  By the time they got here to Minnesota (they were from the Bronx), they didn’t drive and took cabs or the bus everywhere – together.

When my grandfather was dying, my mother gave me some good advice:  “Ask him everything you want to know. Because once he’s gone, you won’t ever get another chance.”  So, I started going for dinner and afterwards, I would sit in the living room talking with the two of them.  I asked the usual questions: How did you meet?  What was your wedding like?  But, one day I decided to ask the big question:  “I know how much you love one another, but do you two still have sex?”

At this point,  they were in their 80’s.  When we chatted, he sat on the couch.  She sat in a nearby chair with her legs up close to her body — her arms hugging her knees to her chest.  As soon as I asked the question, I saw her blush and smile at him.  He looked at her with a smile on his face.

Before I give you his answer I want to say that their marriage wasn’t perfect.  In fact, I think she put up with more than her fair share. But, she loved him and back then … well, divorce was not like it is now.  I don’t think it was until they were older that he understand the importance of her in his life.  But, you could tell that once he figured that out, he treated her like a gift.

“Honey,” he said, “Love and sex aren’t separate things.  Love is about being in tune with someone’s needs, regardless of the form.  The thing about getting older is that you get smarter and you realize that should put their needs in front of yours.  So, my answer to your question is that I’m more conscious of and in tune with your grandma’s needs now, than I’ve ever been.”

She smiled at him.  He died about 6 months later.

I’ve never forgotten this discussion.  Here’s my takeaway:  In a marriage or partnership (which is never perfect), its about needs.  Whether it’s holding hands or something more.  It’s making the other person feel as if they are a gift in our life (not that we are a gift in theirs).   It’s just what we do with our kids … we put their needs in front of ours.  Why not do that with our partners too?

Now that’s the conversation starter of the day!  Enjoy this beautiful day.

The “whys” are killing me!

I remember the days when “why?” was so cute.  It would come from kids every time a life mystery arose.  And, I could explain the “why” away seeming so smart to them.   And, once they got the “answer” it was done.  That is totally not the deal now.  Now, their “whys” are driving me crazy.

Here’s just the last two times:

Me:  It’s 9:30 p.m. Can you wrap it up, pack up your back pack and get your teeth brushed?

Him:  Why?

Me: Why what?  What part of that don’t you understand?

Him:  Why do I have to brush my teeth now.  I want to eat more popcorn.

Me: Because I want to close the kitchen down – you’ve been eating for an hour now. I want to get ready for bed and frankly, if you want to stay up, go downstairs where I can’t hear the TV.

Him:  Why?

Me: WTF??!!!  Seriously, get the heck out of here now and go get your stuff together for tomorrow.

Him:  Geeze, why can’t you just explain to me what you want me to do.

Me: Are you kidding me?  I have to explain about brushing teeth, getting ready for tomorrow and finishing eating?

Him: Yea.  Plus, I just don’t understand why you are getting so upset.

Me: (wtfwtfwtfwtf!!!)

 

Me: Hey, let’s all go see a movie.

Him: Why?

Me: Because I want to see a movie and there are a ton out there that you all want to see.

Him: Why do we have to go to a movie?

Me: Let me get this straight.  I’m offering to pay for a movie and popcorn…a movie of your choice, and you want to know why?

Him: Yea.

Me: Let me give you a couple of reasons: (1) family time; (2) you’ve been inside all day and it’s good to at least walk out the door; (3) these are movies you’ve been saying you want to see; and (4) I said “popcorn!”

Him: Well, why do we need family time?  We had lunch together (I freaking made lunch while they ate!).  I also don’t know why I need to go outside.  These movies will eventually be on Netflix and we know you can make popcorn here.

Me: ….. (Honestly, there is absolutely nothing to say after this one…)

I think I’m going to start demanding rather than asking.  Wait, these are teenagers.  I think I’m just going to start every request with a “why.”

Why haven’t you brushed your teeth?

Why are there 30 pieces of laundry on your floor and two wet towels?

Why are you still eating at 10:00 pm when you started eating at 7?

Why can’t you put your books back in your backpack after you are done and they are spread out all over the floor and counters?

All great but likely ineffective.  Here’s one that will work:  Why don’t you all join me at JJ’s?  Sans kids. They’ve got popcorn!

Have a great day!!!

 

 

 

My not-so-great self (who visits regularly), really is me too.

I finally had a real night out.  A chance to relax with no kids, wine and dinner! 🙂  And, during the evening the topic turned to this question: Should we (or can we) be our best selves every day, whether with our kids, friends, at work or with a partner?  Can we be that “first date” person every day?

Let me be the first to admit that I’ve got a couple of selves. I’ve got one who is on time, considerate, loving, dresses (fairly) well, is not afraid to do for others and is (most often) transparent. I’ve got a second one who can be late, is not always nice, can be selfish, wears the most bizarre things to bed (don’t ask) and is a scaredy-cat.  I’m constantly moving between these two selves, trying to climb away from one toward another.

So, I wondered out loud at dinner, why can’t I be my best self all the time?  The answer is obvious.  We aren’t one or another – we’re both.  We have great days and not-so-great days.  We can be nice and generous and cranky and fearful.  It’s unrealistic to try to be a singular person.  Frankly, when my not-so-great self crashes, it’s not pretty or fun…but it’s me and those who love me don’t let my crashes change how they feel about me.  I hope that’s the same for you too.

One thing we discussed over dessert (I gave up giving up sugar!) was whether we had ever pretended to be something we’re not.  For many years I pretended to fit into, even when I didn’t.  Whether it was work, school or with a partner – I wanted to do it right all the time.  It resulted in my not feeling entirely happy with where I was.  It wasn’t until I stopped wearing “man” clothes at work,  stopped pretending that I could get it all done all of the time (without a mistake) and when I stopped being afraid of being afraid, that I found my true (ves).

I’ve not always chosen to be with people who accept both my selves.  Know what I’m talking about?  And, that’s the biggest mistake of all.  We must be with people who bring out our best selves and don’t mind our not good days and our fantastic days.  If you are with people like that – cherish the experience.  If not, then turn and walk away.

I’m not staying accepting “that” part of me is easy.   In fact, I’ve often failed at accepting my flaws.  But, quite honestly, from my flaws I’ve found some of my most instructive and interesting experiences (and I’m only 51!).

So, as I start the week (and a 21 day meditation project!), I’m going to work on accepting who I am … flaws and all.  I challenge you to do the same.

Have a wonderful Monday!