LAUGHTER (AND A WATER BOTTLE OF VODKA) HELPED ME LET GO OF MY COLLEGE DAUGHTER

They said the second time around was going to be easier. They said that having another empty room would encourage me to fill my time with things I love.

Problem is, I love my daughter, and now she is gone.

I admit it. Another daughter, barely off to college, and I was wallowing. Unprepared for the mess, I choke on my last sip of coffee. Not that I expected her to clean up her room before she left. It was a whirlwind final week picking up last minute pharmacy items, closing bank accounts, printing out pictures, triple checking her packing list (well my packing list).

My daughter was not an organized person, often with her head in the clouds. This is what I have always loved about her. Yet, standing in her room now, feels like I have walked onto a battlefield, the remains of her eighteen years strewn mercilessly across the floor.

From inside her closet, cleats caked with mud from her last varsity soccer game call out to me. I move in to get a closer look. Like it was yesterday, I recall my own excitement playing soccer, the scars I used to collect upon my body like battle wounds. How did we get here so quickly?

On the floor, a clump of mud momentarily irritates me. All those times I had asked to leave her muddy cleats in the garage, and the same number of times I was ignored. Teenage rebellion. Or was it simply distraction that led her to defy my requests – cell phones and boys did that to her.

Turning away from her t-shirts, each holding a memory of summer camp, road trips and sports teams, I walk back to her bed where her bookcase headboard resembles a display of offerings at a second hand rummage sale. Old nail polish, eight bottles; half of them dried and caked. An unwrapped newly bought phone case and a half used bottle of saline nasal spray rests upon a notebook filled with rainy day doodles.

Dumping this, tossing that. I gain the courage to look behind her bed. Among a mess of garbage, I find her promposal poster and recall her pale shoes offsetting her blood red dress. Undeveloped prom pictures sit idle on my cell phone, reminding me of all my unfinished to do lists. Perhaps I will get to them later today, or next year.

For now, I am too busy hearing the laughter, recalling the feeling of prom night with its fairy tale moments. How we so often measure time in seemingly endless nights, thinking it will never end.

I have had enough – wallowing, and cleaning. I am about to leave it all a mess when I stumble over something.

On the floor, I pick up my favorite drawstring bag – borrowed and never returned. I sling it across my back, taking with it the contents of two half filled water bottles and a few hair bands. On my way out, I catch a glimpse above her door of the bumper sticker she had bought freshman year of high school.

“Do Something Amazing.”

While brewing a much needed second cup of coffee, I click on our latest string of text messages. How could she forget so many things? Today I am thankful for social media and my daughter. In her memory, as the ultimate recycler, I open and begin dumping the water into the plant. Proud of myself, I think, I’m not wasting water, Lia.

As it empties, a familiar smell begins to permeate the air. I stop pouring, albeit way too late. I would know that smell anywhere. At a fraternity house, late night bar crawl, or just before the last song at a wedding.

Stale alcohol.

In this moment, I have two thoughts. I can’t believe I have just watered my plant with a vodka filled Dasani bottle. And, can plants get drunk? #AskingForAFriend

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My son, barely ten years old wanders into the room as I am wiping away my tears of laughter. I glance at the plant. I could swear it just hiccupped. I wonder if it will sing bad Karaoke or drink and dial. Maybe it will just sit and chat for hours about nothing, and everything. I hide the lampshades nearby, just in case.

“What’s so funny, mom?”

Yes, I still have him keeping me honest, as that is one of his strengths, to tell it like it is. I dump the rest of the vodka/water bottles in the sink, and toss a bottle of Advil near the plant, just in case. As I walk the half-filled black garbage bag out to the street, I notice I feel better.

Laughter is the best medicine.

While it doesn’t feel right tossing her life memories, I know these are just things. I welcome the cliché that I will carry her laughter in my heart, feel her bear hugs on my skin and bring up the image in my mind of her blond curls and dimpled smile whenever I choose.

Glancing upward, I notice the sun’s stark contrast moving out the last bit of black cloud above my head. Yes, I think I will be just fine.

That night, I sit by my plant – just in case. I mean who will hold back her leaves if need be? No need for cranberry juice. We share a toast with the rest of the watered down vodka from our liquor cabinet.

After all, today, I did something amazing. Through tears and laughter, I let my daughter go.

This post was also published on Grown & Flown, group blog.

How to Respond when Tragic, Awful, Overwhelming Sh*t Happens in Life.

alesia-kazantceva-364341-unsplash-700x466.jpgShit happens.

I remember seeing this saying on a bumper sticker and loving it. I have always felt its accuracy in describing life.

Today, when I scan the news and take in the problems of the world, I find myself repeating these profound words—shit happens.

It is true. Shit happens all the time and everywhere.

While opening my news app this morning, the first thing I read was a tragic death—a head-on collision involving two moms and six kids in Oregon. Nobody survived, including the driver who caused the accident.

As I looked up from my phone, I could feel the darkness, the rabbit hole egging me on to jump in. In that moment, I had a choice. I could continue reading through the problems of our world, or I could look up, take in the beautiful sky welcoming the traces of clouds dancing by, birds flying between trees, the sun shining upon the green grass, the innocence of children, so filled with love, and how it is a miracle just to be alive.

We all have a choice. We can concentrate on the shit or the miracles, dwell in the darkness or the light. It is all out there for the noticing—the miracles and the shit.

I am only so readily able to do this, to forgo the negative, because of how often I used to dwell there. Still, I slip, I forget, and I get lost in a problem or a tragedy. It is an old pattern—to become entrenched in fear or worry—and it is something I have observed in my parents, as well as so many others.

Focusing on the miracle, while becoming gracious and humble, is also a pattern that we can cultivate.

I am certain that, if we thought we had a choice, we would all choose to focus on the miracles. Yet, we believe we have no choice. We think we have to blindly follow the news reports, allow our minds to wander down the rabbit holes of worries and what-ifs, and accept the conditioning that was handed to us as if it were truth.

We have a choice.

It was over two years ago that a miracle was brought into my life. It was so blatant that I could not have missed it if I tried. It changed everything for me. It was the moment I knew I had a choice and that I was not victim to the news reports or my conditioning.

It was 4 p.m. The day was unusually hot for the beginning of summer. The phone rang. As a parent, picking up the phone and hearing your child in tears and unable to speak fills you with panic. With my own heart in my throat, I asked what was going on. In between sobs, my daughter was trying to give me the pieces of a story, one that included an ambulance, a child, and a beautiful afternoon at a lake turned horrific in the blink of an eye.

The story, which I finally got out of my daughter, began like any other summer afternoon. Many families had gathered by the lake for a few hours of fun, swimming, and barbecue. My daughter was there babysitting a three-year-old girl.

As they were getting ready to swim, a mother came screaming by the edge of the water—she could not find her seven-year-old boy. It seemed he had disappeared, and they feared the worst—that he had wandered into the water.

The first miracle: fire department first responders happened to be at the beach that day. Along with a nurse and lifeguards, they all sprung into action, combing the lake.

Almost 10 minutes had passed when the second miracle happened. One of the responders accidentally stepped on the boy, who was facedown in five feet of water, unconscious. They performed all necessary medical procedures and rushed him off to the hospital. Things did not look good.

“He drowned! I saw them pull him from the lake,” my daughter’s words rang in my head for days as I obsessively scanned the obituaries and the local news. I found nothing. Her sadness cut deep into my heart.

Tragedy, death, and accidents are the shit that happens, and as parents we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this dark reality of life. We know it happens, but we just want to keep our distance for as long as possible. We want to fill everyone we know up with cotton candy, laughter, and bear hugs. We want to keep them safe and happy.

Yet, life is unexpected, and we cannot control what happens to us or to others. We can hope and pray that our loved ones are safe, that we don’t witness the shit, but sooner or later it is right in front of us. We hear about a famous actor committing suicide, a cancer diagnosis, or a teen passing on from a car accident. But death is a part of life, whether we think about it or not. We cannot protect anyone from the shit.

And maybe the point isn’t to try to control and protect. Perhaps the point is how we respond and how we choose to spend our time. We can choose to love, see the miracles when they are brought into our lives, dwell in gratitude instead of misery, and allow ourselves to feel through the shit when it happens.

Four to six weeks after that call from my daughter, she took off on a three-week trip to Tanzania. Her heart was still aching for that boy, but her zest for travel and discovery was healing the sadness and carrying her on. On a whim, I texted the family she had been babysitting for that fateful day, asking if they had heard anything further about that boy. I received this response: “If you talk to Lia, tell her the boy survived. No brain damage at all. A true miracle. His name is Nicholas.”

We have all heard the saying that bad things come in threes. So do miracles.

We all have a choice to stop, breathe, notice, and make a different choice. It takes practice, but it is possible. Whenever I find myself pulled into the messiness of life, the darkness and the void of the rabbit hole, I think of Nicholas, and my heart opens.

Life is beautiful and amazing, and Nicholas is a wonderful reminder of the miracles that happen every day in life.

Shit does happen, but not always. If we’re keeping score, there are far more happy moments, amazing sights, incredible acts of courage, loving connections, and even miracles in life.

The next time we find ourselves looking down into that rabbit hole of worry or fear, we can look up, consider whether we want to focus on the shit or the miracles, and remember Nicholas. I do.

My post was originally published on Elephant Journal. As it has been placed in the most popular posts section, I wanted to share it with my blogging audience. Thank you to Elephant Journal for editing and sharing. Here is the original post: 

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/08/how-to-respond-when-tragic-awful-overwhelming-sht-happens-in-life/

HERE ARE 10 WAYS FOR TIRED MOMS OF TEENS TO FIND THEIR ENERGY AGAIN

I have seen many posts out there about how tired moms are and I felt the urge to write about self-care. This is not me giving you advice while standing on a pedestal. This is me saying I get it, I’ve been there. Let me share with you what I have done that has helped me feel less tired, but also what I’m still working on today. This is me letting you off the hook because as moms, we rarely do this for ourselves.

Here are the top 10 ways that help me to become less tired.

1). Saying NO.

Yes, an oldie but a goodie. I know, you have heard this so many times before. But there is nothing more empowering and invigorating than saying no. Whether it is to your teenage son who wants to go away for the weekend and spend money you just don’t have or your husband who wants a four-course meal when you want to order in pizza or a friend who wants to go to lunch. Just say no! No explanation needed. The funny thing about saying no is that it helps you to have enough energy to say yes next time.

2). Cutting yourself off from toxic people.

This can be a friend, a relationship or a parent. Toxic people are energy vampires and those who create drama, are super competitive or are just not supportive, are draining our energy whether we know it or not. Cut the cord! It may be uncomfortable at first, but you will see your energy start to come back in spades.

10 ways for moms to feel a new sense of energy

3). Let go of the “Super Mom” image.

I hate whoever created the Super Mom image. Ok, hate is a strong word, but I strongly despise whoever decided we should do it all, and with a smile and perfect hair. YUCK! No thank you. Give me black leggings with a hole in them and the notion that being imperfect is being human.

4). Celebrate small.

If you want to throw an elaborate graduation party, inviting half the school- go for it. Some people do enjoy entertaining. But if you are tired, and trying to remember if you even ordered your senior’s cap and gown (me), then it is ok to celebrate small. Bigger is not always better.

5). Pat yourself on the back.

This is my pat on the back for you. We just don’t do this enough for ourselves. Make a list of all the great things you have done for your family. Read it daily. We all need a reminder.

6). Me time.

I have always needed me time. I decided long ago, I would take it. If I didn’t Mr. Hyde would emerge, and my husband would look at me with that knowing look in his hide. He would utter, “Honey, why don’t you take an hour to go do something fun? And please bring back Dr. Jekyll – that possessed look in your eyes is scaring me.”

The key for me was not only taking me time, but also letting go of the guilt. “Me time” includes watching a funny movie, a show on Netflix, a walk by myself, a glass of wine, a soft ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles (substitute any topping).

7). Gratitude.

Nothing invigorates me more than reciting what I am grateful for. It is a great way to change our mood, and let go of things that just don’t matter – especially worries that drain us.

8). Vacation.

For some time, my husband and I decided we would forgo vacations. We knew college was coming, and so was the need to have an excessive amount of money on hand, for our children to live somewhere else in order to drink excessively. Ok, I know that is not the reason they go to school – I hope you can hear the sarcasm in my voice – I must need a vacation!

Do not forgo these – whether you take a weekend or a week. When you just get away – it works to energize us. Often changing our location, changes our state, which changes our energy.

9). Have a good cry.

Sometimes it can happen organically, other times, we need to bring it on. Put on a sad song or even better, put on the Notebook (actually any Nicholas Sparks movie will do). Crying relieves so much tension, which gives us more energy.

10). Ask for help.

Ouch! I know. Many of us are not used to doing this – asking for help. I used to do it in a round about whining, nagging sort of way that did not work. It usually backfired. Now, I sit down, and ask for someone’s attention. I look them in the eye, and let them know how I am feeling. That I need help. Every time I do this, it works. They didn’t feel nagged upon, and I felt my energy come back like I was sucking up air from a pump.

I hope at least one of these things will work for you. You deserve to feel less tired and enjoy your life 100% no matter what you have going on. You matter.

 

Originally Featured on Grown & Flown – Where Parenting Never Ends. You May Find the link here.

 

When You Start Blaming, You Start Healing.

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At some point in my life, I made a promise that I would devote my life to helping others feel worthy, and this blog has evolved out of that promise. I made that promise because I spent so much of my life feeling the opposite – unworthy, ashamed, bad, and confused about why I felt this way. Perfectionism, achievements were my way out of this unworthiness, or so I thought. Wrong! We can become intellectually worthy, but that is not the same as truly feeling worthy.

Feeling worthy begins with getting honest, real, speaking the truth. Sometimes being inspirational is about lifting others up with a hand, and other times it is about keeping it real.

Today, I am going to get real. If it is too real for you, feel free to look away. But if you have ever felt less than, unworthy, deep down like you are not enough, then stay with me. Whether you have experienced exactly what I have or can just be helped in some way from my experience, read on.

I used to think being a good person was about being nice. Janet Straightarrow, a very wise woman once told me, that nice is just an acronym for:  Neurotic Insecure Codependent Emotional. Does not sound as appealing does it? Truth is being nice is not the same as being loving, having compassion or feeling through our heart. People pleasing often puts the pleasing away from us, and we are left feeling empty, hollow and wondering why we always come last.

Want to take back your life? Start blaming.

I know blame is taboo. I have heard it many times. “No,” they shout from the rooftops. “Don’t blame! Forgive.” Here is the thing.

If you feel unworthy, like you are not good enough, chances are you are already blaming; you are just blaming yourself.

Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself. Someone is never responsible for our feelings, our reactions, but he is responsible for his actions. She is responsible for her abuse.

Why has blame become so taboo? The actual definition of blame is to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong. Why is putting the responsibility where it is deserves – wrong?

Blame is a necessary step in healing. Do you want to feel relief like you have never felt? Do you want to honor all you have experienced and then be able to let go of whatever you are holding on to? Want to watch anxiety and depression melt away like an ice cream cone on a hundred degree day? Get angry, put the blame back where it deserves. Write return to sender on the package that you mistakenly opened and thought was yours, and give it back. images-3

We jump to forgiveness because we are being nice – the good daughter, the cooperative friend, the submissive spouse – and it is hurting us on all levels. We have no idea what self-care, nurturing, or true feelings, look, feel, taste and smell like.

I was the ultimate champion for running away – I literally began running for miles and miles to escape the past, those unwanted feelings that seemed to creep in when I was least expecting. Here’s the thing, the run always ends. It all catches up with us – every last repressed feeling. I had always known there was something very wrong with how I felt growing up. I just didn’t know the extent to the trauma and abuse I endured. I am learning that now with the help of an amazing therapist, among other things.

I know I am not alone. I know there are those of you out there, who also have endured trauma and abuse – whether it was a one time occurrence or over the span of years. The #metoo movement is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is one hell of a start. Whether it was a single event, or repetitive, it is time to let yourself off the hook. Educate yourself. And if you are or know of someone who is struggling with the effects of abuse or a traumatic event, please seek professional help. Please email me. I have resources, and information to share.

As a waitress in college, there was an old saying, I am in the weeds. It describes how we would feel when the hostess used to sit three tables in our section at once. I am currently in the weeds because I am doing the work. I feel at the moment like the hostess has sat ten tables all in my section and they all want a five-course meal with drinks. Before we can have a beautiful rose garden, we must begin pulling our weeds.I just keep pulling the weeds out, one by one. I also ask for help. There are food servers, gardeners and managers – all waiting to help us. We don’t have to go it alone.

One of the greatest strengths of those of us who endured abuse is our ability to handle  anything. Whatever life has thrown at me, I have handled it. But we can handle a lot more when we stop blaming ourselves. When we rush to forgive the abuse, injustice, assault, the lashing out – whether it is an internet troll lurking behind the tree, ready to toss off an angry post or someone who is close to us, who we least expect, hurting us. It can be a grandiose boss who berates us on a conference call, a borderline friend, who puts us on a pedestal only to cut us down the next week. A possessive boyfriend, exploitive controlling parent, or a narcissistic coach.

We have been taught forgiveness is the key to moving on, letting go. Yes, this is true. But not before we do the work, not before we blame.We rush into forgiveness because blaming, getting angry is about getting dirty. And it can cause us to roll around in the mud for years. We want clean, tidy, perfectly wrapped presents, complete with a beautiful bow. We put that neatly wrapped present upon the shelf for years, hoping that is where it stays. Until someone comes into our life – someone who is kind, compassionate, unconditionally loving, and she looks at the present on the shelf and he points and says, what is that? And we say, Oh, that? It is nothing. 

It is time to open the box. Picking up the phone or sending that letter to whoever hurt us, may be a part of your healing, but that is not what I am talking about. It means giving ourself the green light to send it all back, to finally honor what we really feel. It is not about getting someone to admit what she did, but getting ourself to admit it. If you feel called to reach out to the person who caused you to wrap up your pretty box in the first place, do so, not for a response or an apology, do it for yourself.

Rushed forgiveness does not break the cycle. Rushed forgiveness is not healing. Healing begins with blame.

I could not possibly cover everything about the effects of a traumatic event or long-term abuse in this blog post, but I hope this will be a springboard, a start. You can heal. It takes strength, love and support, but you can do it. Please reach out for help. I will continue to inspire you to believe you are worthy, beautiful, smart and enough because it is the truth. But you must find the strength to do the work or my words will bounce off of you like rain pelting down upon an umbrella. It is time to dance in the rain.

Do the work, get into that discomfort zone, and you will find yourself gifted to everything you ever desired – peace, joy, love and the greatest inspirational feelings you can imagine. Life is a gift. If someone opened yours, and cast it aside, it is time to take your life back. After all, it was never his to take.

 

The Supermom is Dying, and I am Helping Dig her Grave.

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This is my teenage daughter’s closet. I am not posting this picture to embarrass her, or pretend my closet growing up was any different. I am posting it because it helps all us moms breathe easier. We are not alone, and although the supermom image is still hanging around like an old Yearbook photo, it is fading.

I always hated the saying, “Fake it Till You Make it.” It’ screams out, lie about where you are at – speaking the truth and being vulnerable is wrong. It is just as detrimental a saying as “Never let them see you sweat.” Guess what? We all sweat, we all have bad days, and we all struggle until we make it.

We have been dooped, led by Gillette’s marketing geniuses that tell us as women, we are not supposed to show our sweat. Even though it was to sell a product, it seeped into our culture, clogging our minds, along with our pores.

Thank God for our children. As toddlers, their strained carrots seeped into our carpets, as their round cheeks planted roots within our hearts. It was also common place for me to pull a pair of dirty jeans off the floor, but pretend they were clean. When those children turned into teenagers, my dirty jeans morphed into yesterday’s leggings. My wonderful boundary pushing mini adults with their messy rooms and natural self-centeredness, made sure I could not be a supermom even if I tried.

Freedom came when I remembered what I have always known. My daughter’s room with the clothes on the floor and her very messy closet, is not a reflection on my parenting skills or how valuable she is as a person. Her floor is messy because she is busy with her college acceptance process, preparing to leave the only home she’s known. She is buying shoes for Prom, studying hard, volunteering, working out and earning money as a dog walker. I am not saying don’t tell your kids to clean their room, I am saying shut the door and don’t take it personally. I am saying, DO NOT fake it to you make it. Keep it real, and be honest. Show your pictures of your kids’ messy rooms and dirty faces.

I am also saying, let’s slap on a cape, and turn all of us supermom wantabees into superheroes. Messy rooms, messy hair and messy houses is just small stuff.

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I love my daughter, but her messiness is no more a reflection on me than the college sticker on the back of my car. I love her in all her beauty and messiness. And guess what? I was the same way. I was messy, and today at times, I still am. In fact, the messier my house, the happier I am. It means I am busy writing, talking with my husband, sitting with my son and giving him my full attention when he wants to show me his latest Lego creation. It means I would rather bake fresh home-made cookies, making a mess of my kitchen and talk on Facetime with my college daughter, than have an immaculate house.

It’s a six step process to go from supermom to superhero:

  1. Sweat
  2. Admit we sweat – keeping it real
  3. Understand our children are not a reflection upon us.
  4. Order our superhero cape – it is on sale on Amazon Prime
  5. Grab a shovel and start digging – join me in burying the supermom
  6. Know we are not alone.

The trend has been going from #supermom to #keepingitreal for years. Websites like Scary Mommy  and movies like Bad Moms, are letting us off the hook. YouTube Videos of moms trying on bathing suits with less than optimal bodies and drinking wine in the laundry room, are the new normal, encouraging us to be real and laugh at our selves.

It has been my direct experience as a writer and mom that when we keep it real, there is a big sigh of relief; a feeling of gratitude when a mom comes clean and shows her child’s messy room, her own realistic unphotoshopped body, or her child’s college rejection letter. It is time to stop pretending and start laughing. Let’s smother the flames of perfectionism with a smile and the truth.

We are not there, but we are getting better. As more posts and videos pop up of moms keeping it real, more supermom posts will die in the wake of fake smiles and impossible to keep immaculate bedrooms.

The supermom is dying, and I am helping dig her grave. 

Next time, I may go crazy and show you my junk drawer and garage. Keeping it real.

15 SILLY (BUT VERY REAL) QUESTIONS ALL MOMS ASK THEMSELVES

As a parent of a teen, I often find myself wondering, am I missing anything with my teenage daughters? Should I be asking more questions? And then I think, of course I am missing something; I am human. The trick is to not miss the really important stuff that could happen to any of our children – depression, bullying, drug use. And I do always remind myself to ask the important questions.

Is she ok? Is he happy? Do I need to intervene?

And then there are the not so important questions that probably come up as a mom of teens, more often than we realize. It seems as the years go by, and our children grow up and change, we change, too. And like we had to pick our battles with our toddlers, when raising teens, it is healthy to let go our perfectionism and rules. But, letting ourselves off the hook can result is some strange and often funny questions we may not even realize we are asking ourselves. The ones we probably don’t ask out loud.

The questions all moms ask themselves

Here are just a few of the questions I have come to know well that all go on inside my head:

1. After stumbling upon a pile of clothes, unfolded, stuffed in our teenager’s drawer. Are these dirty or clean? If they are dirty, will it kill her to wear it again

2. Is it ok that the swear word my teenage daughter uses most, is the same one I use most?

3. While lying on the couch exhausted and I cannot get up, is it hypocritical to have pizza delivered two nights in a row when I keep reminding my teens to eat healthy?

4. Do I really need to shower every day? I mean, wasn’t deodorant specifically invented for this circumstance?

5. If I think for half a second that I am being followed on the way to the grocery store does that mean I should stop binge-watching Homeland? Is this what our kids feel like on a regular basis?

6. Is, “worrying whenever my teen goes out at night induced insomnia,” a diagnosable syndrome?

7. Maybe ketchup can count as a vegetable if we are pressed for time and did not have a chance to go to the market to pick up salad stuff. Did anyone actually hear me think that?

8. Am I completely misusing and taking advantage of the black leggings fashion trend if I wear them every day?

9. Why do I not like how much my teenagers are on the phone, but text them a lot more than is necessary? (Even while they are in class)

10. Am I weird if the last thing I think about at night is, will Reese Witherspoon will make another movie soon? I mean, come on, didn’t you see Legally BlondeWildWalk the Line?

11. Does keeping up with the Joneses have to include always buying organic, having a shed free dog like a Goldendoodle or Cockapoo, or debating vaccine use? Spoiler alert: dog hair is sometimes a condiment in our house.

13. If I don’t mind catching a cold, and then needing to stay in bed for two days, having my husband care for me, is this bad? Does this count as a sexual fantasy?

14. Did anyone actually see me wearing this outfit yesterday?

15. Can my Amazon Prime membership get revoked from overuse especially when our college sophomore has the login and pass code memorized?

Although, I have shared 15 of these sometimes silly but very real thoughts we as moms can have, I must admit, there are more.

But like many things, some things in life are truly better left unsaid.

– my essay – originally published on grownandflown.com

WHAT MY TEENAGE DAUGHTERS TAUGHT ME ABOUT INSTAGRAM, THE BREAKFAST CLUB AND LIFE

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Yes! Parenting is amazing, tough, rewarding, challenging, incredible, invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. Throw in a couple of teenage daughters into the mix, and life is brought to a whole new level.

We teach our children each and every day, but they also teach us!

Many parents complain that the teenage years are rough. And perhaps they are, but I have always believed that within each challenge is a gift. We just need to know where to look for it.

20 lessons from teenage daughters to their mom

I took some time over the past few weeks, as my second daughter, a senior in high school, is preparing to leave the this August, to think about all the gifts I have received by raising two daughters through their teenage years. Narrowing it down was tough, but listed below are the top twenty things that my teenagers have taught me:

20 Lessons From My Teenage Daughters

1. The snooze button, that goes off at least ten times, works for waking up the entire house. So you really never need to purchase an alarm clock.

2. Snapchat filter is the easiest and cheapest way to look 10 years younger. Forgo the Facelift and Makeover!

3. There is such a thing as posting too much or too little on Social Media. Finding the right balance is as important as discovering the best Chinese food restaurant for take out.

4. There is an app for everything.

5. You do not need a date to go to the prom, but you do need to buy your dress months in advance, showcase it to everyone on a specific Facebook group, so nobody shows up wearing the same dress. (Because that is far worse than bad tasting Chinese take out)

6. Starbucks is the new “library” and the best place to study, no matter how loud it gets.

7. Facebook is out, Instagram is in, until Facebook becomes in again, and then Instagram is out. (This can happen all in the same day)

8. The Breakfast Club is still a cool movie.

9. It is ok to follow someone on Instagram, it is not ok to do this in real life. Then it’s called stalking.

10.It is more acceptable to break up with someone face to face, although nobody does it.

11. Actually calling someone as opposed to texting is only acceptable in an emergency and if you are over the age of forty.

12. Coming out is brave, bullying is cowardly, and both of these are always happening somewhere in the United States every day.

13. Where you choose to go to college depends on, but is not limited to: reviews on website, what friends you have met online before you even set foot on campus, what the dress is for football games, if the mascot and school colors are cool.

14. What college chooses you depends upon highest ACT score even if you have taken it ten times, how many extra curricular activities you can jam into one so you don’t have time to breathe, how much you stand out, even though everyone is trying to stand out.

15. Having a family dog is awesome. Cleaning up poop or throw up from the dog – not so much.

16. Popularity still matters, but only to those who are popular.

17. Getting your driver’s license is code for “I will be eating dinner out at Qdoba or Panera at least five times this week” and “I didn’t have time to pick up your dry cleaning.”

18. You do not run to the mailbox to check for large envelopes of college acceptance letters but you do check your email at least ten times a day for a notification that you have been notified.

19. It is no longer a thing to go out in “groups” but is a thing to be in a “group chat.”

20. When teenage daughters are dying to grow up and go off to college , it is the exact moment when they realize all that they will miss and love about home. This is the real definition of having mixed feelings.

 

***This blog post was published as well on Grown and Flown online parenting website, and can be found here, Grown and Flown, where parenting never ends along with other incredible articles on parenting through the high school and college years.

My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

My latest essay published on Elephant Journal:

 

My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

“Do you want to hear something funny, Mom?”

I glanced at my nine-year-old son, but was also busy fixing my rear-view mirror and adjusting the heat in the car.

Because we were running late for school, I was only half paying attention when he said, “Immigrants cause cancer.”

If I had taken a sip of coffee, I would have spit it out right then.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked, holding my breath. I mean, it could have been a myriad of places—another kid, who heard it from another kid, who heard it from his parents…or the internet, as turned out to be the case. In a YouTube video.

While the video itself is clearly intended to be humorous, I was dumbfounded. I immediately replied to my son, who I adopted from Russia, “Did you know that you are an immigrant?” I paused to let that sink in. “And there are many reasons why that statement is not funny. Let me explain.”

Stunned, my son sat in complete silence.

In that moment, I realized there are so many things a nine-year-old just doesn’t understand. Most children his age are only just trying to grasp the nature of our world, and nowadays, it is right there in front of them to take in. Donald Trump has created the newest form of reality TV—he and his policies are everywhere.

Now, should my nine-year-old be watching YouTube uncensored? Maybe not. Which begs the question, should he even be anywhere within 10 feet of the TV when we are watching CNN, Stephen Colbert, or Saturday Night Live? Because there is hardly a difference anymore.

Technology has brought the outside world into our homes. And a big part of the outside world, at least in America, is “The Donald Trump Show.”

No matter how much we would like to shelter our children so that they can one day create their own objective views of the world when they’re old enough to actually form them based on higher learning, we simply can’t.

As parents, most of us have been sucked into “The Donald Trump Show,” regardless of which side we are on. We toss our opinions around like a pizza, eventually dropping them on the counter, placing some good-tasting stuff on top, and hoping that someone agrees ours is the best one to sink their teeth into.

Politics is everywhere because of Donald Trump. Social media is everywhere, too, and our kids are learning how to navigate the world of technology at a very early age. The combination of these means that our children will hear things that are racist, biased, false, vindictive, and just plain mean. How can we expect our children to act responsibly online if our president won’t even do so? Or if their role models—athletes, movie stars, singers—post Instagram pictures showcasing how good they look in a bathing suit, as if that’s all that matters in life?

Well, we can, if we teach them the value our words and actions carry.

We are not going to change our world overnight, nor are we going to impeach our president anytime soon—and maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe the lessons we are all learning from this are invaluable.

Our children are growing up in the age of technology, and there is really no way around it. We, as parents, need to show them why our words matter. Posting should follow The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Technology ensures that our words and pictures stay out there for more than a moment—and sometimes forever.

That morning, it didn’t matter that we were late for school. I pulled over to talk about why that video was hurtful. And it was a good lesson.

On my way home, I thought about censoring my son’s time online, which I already do because, well, the whole shorter attention span thing. And the addictive nature of technology. And the “stranger danger” worries. But he is not learning compassion for others from the internet; he is learning it at home. And he is making some mistakes, just as we did growing up (teasing someone without realizing its impact, for instance). Many of us grew into compassionate, responsible adults, and so will our children.

Taking away our children’s social media will just postpone the lessons they will learn. We do not take away the stove so they won’t burn themselves, or the stairs so they won’t trip. They will fall, and they will burn themselves, and they will learn the lesson, hopefully sooner rather than later, that words matter, that what we read online is usually just one person’s opinion, that there are people out there who are unhappy and in pain and lash out with criticisms and judgments online as a result. And there are those in power who have access to Twitter who are able to say whatever they wish to whomever they please.

What we can do, as parents, is teach our children the difference between right and wrong. To slow down and think about the impact their words might have on another. To remember the tenets of mindful speech.

Yes, our words matter, even if our president does not understand this truth. Allowing our children to learn this lesson early will help them become more aware about the nature and importance of responsible posting, texting, tweeting, and commenting. Preventing them access will just keep them in a bubble, which will inevitably burst.

 

 

You can find this essay on Elephant Journal, as well as other thought provoking articles.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/01/my-response-to-my-9-year-old-sons-statement-immigrants-cause-cancer/

Everything is a Gift, No Matter How Sh*tty the Wrapping Paper.

PUBLISHED ON ELEPHANT JOURNAL

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I am not into politics.

I am not into picking people apart or putting them down.

I am into compassion and respect. I am into seeing the gift—the good in everything and everyone.

I have not always been this way. I have been on a journey most of my life, as we all have; most of us just don’t know it.

It has been a journey of seeing past what is right in front of my eyes and knowing there is something deeper, more meaningful going on. It is about intuition, seeing within, tapping into my innate sense of knowing there is something beyond what our eyes see and our ears hear. There is something beyond people’s personalities that drives their actions.

When you take a moment and look beyond what is at face value, you can grab a taste of it. You can see something good, or at least understand why something is happening. It is coming to the awareness that everyone and everything is here to help us—and we don’t have to like what we see and feel to know the truth of this.

I am not a stranger to disappointment, anger, frustration and turmoil. When I faced a full-term pregnancy loss 13 years ago, my heart was broken into a million pieces. The grief was insurmountable.

Yet slowly, as my heart began to heal and I reached beyond the loss, I was able to see the gifts I had been given. The amazing value of life, the strength I never knew I had, my own innate power, the ability to not sweat the small stuff, the ability to live in the present and the knowledge that I can handle anything life throws at me.

How can I say losing my child was a gift? Because I cannot count the number of lives that I have touched positively as a result of that tragedy. Because the compassion my heart has felt every moment since goes beyond what most can bear in a lifetime. Because the beauty of a bird can bring tears to my eyes, and the wonder in a child’s eyes can warm my heart.

I have come to know a faith that is beyond this world and a joy that I feel each day, no matter what is going on in the world around me.

So yes, it was a gift, even though the wrapping paper was f*cking sh*tty, and I hated every moment of the process.

Because of it, I am the person I am today—the one with the rose-colored glasses. It is the reason I can look at our country and see beyond what the media displays and the people shout. I see the changes that are just beyond the horizon, and they look pretty f*cking good to me.

I can even see Trump, despite all his shortcomings, as a gift.

I don’t see a man taking power who has already said and done so many things that go against the things I believe. I see a million women rising up and finding their voice.

I don’t see chaos. I see change.

I don’t see Facebook getting blown up by political posts, I see people reaching deep down within themselves and figuring out what it is they believe. I see our country four and eight years down the road as a better place. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Despite the pregnancy loss, I have been given the gift of three other beautiful children. As most moms know, one of our jobs is to spend hours in the car driving our children from one activity to the next. Just yesterday I drove a car full of 16-year-olds home, and I did what I always do—I listened to their conversation.

Within a few moments, the conversation turned to politics. But it was beyond politics. They discussed the impact of climate control, the necessity of space travel, confirmation hearings, the Department of Education and the importance of speaking the truth when you are the U.S. President. Never in my life, in all the years I have been carpooling, has the conversation been this interesting and thought-provoking.

How great is that? What a gift! Without Trump getting elected and all that has occurred since, I would have only born witness to conversations about homework, dating and who has the longest running Snapchat streak.

Is our country messy right now? Absolutely. It is messy because people who are not used to using their voice are forgetting the Golden Rule. We are forgetting to “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” This holds true for our 45th president as well.

We are forgetting respect and compassion. It’s not about shutting up or stopping the posts or tweets. It’s about communicating consciously, speaking what is in our hearts, all while keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Yes, I see everything in life as a gift, no matter how sh*tty the wrapping paper. It has been years since I have taken off my sunglasses, and put on my rose-colored glasses. And it is pretty damn sunny here, just the way I like it.

I have a pair waiting for you. Just uncurl your fists and open your palms. Take my hand. I will show you the way.

 

 

Author: Beth Mund

 


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The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made

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I was blessed to have grown up in the seventies.  I was able to play outside until dark, walk downtown to the local candy store, and I was lucky enough to not have a cell phone.  My parents did not know where I was or who I was with.  It was up to me to figure out how I was to act, think and feel.

Did I make mistakes?  Of course.  I made a lot of mistakes, but I am here.  I am alive.  I survived.  And I learned a whole bunch of life lessons that have served me well.

I am an adult now, and have children of my own.  Teenagers and a seven year old, to be specific.  I do not envy them, growing up in a world where safety is even a question when they go off to school or to the movies.  Where I grew up in the disco era, they have grown up in the mass shooting era. As parents, all the violence makes us want to wrap them up, keep them safe, know where they are at all times.  I get it.  But we cannot control if something horrific happens to them, or even more likely, if they make a mistake.

With the development of technology, parents have been able to know where our kids are at all times.  We are able to track their cell phones, knowing if they are where they said they would be.  Now, we can hover even more.  As discussed in the article, How to Monitor Your Kids iPhone or Android This new device created by “Teen Safe,” now allows you to know every single text they send out, even those that they deleted.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-parents-watching-teen-sending-messages-nosey-behind-teenage-son-text-image33029094

What is the result of tracking our kids to closely?  Children do not learn how to make their own decisions, navigate the world, and yes, break the rules.  We are attempting to prolong something inevitable.  It is called growing up.  We are so laced in fear, so afraid of our child making the wrong move, becoming disappointed, or not living up to our expectations, that we want to do whatever we can to prevent this from happening.

Mistakes are our biggest teachers in life.  They allow us to figure out what we think, feel and believe.  But society does not allow us to make mistakes without paying for them.  We shame and we judge.  Remember Monica Lewinsky?  How can we forget the national stage in 1998, that showcased her mistakes.  Do you know what she said about it seventeen years later?  It was not the affair, but the humiliation she felt, the judgements and the ongoing criticism she received, that nearly killed her.  “One of the unintended consequences of my agreeing to put myself out there and to try to tell the truth had been that shame would once again be hung around my neck like a scarlet-A albatross. Believe me, once it’s on, it is a bitch to take off.”

If we release judgement about making mistakes, allowing our children to fall down, brushing themselves off can be the biggest gifts a teenager can receive.  Psychologist Wendy Mogel’s book, Blessings of a B Minus she goes on to say, “As leaders of our children, it is essential for us to step back from the urgency, the mistakes, the heartbreaks, the rejection. “By taking a deep breath and withdrawing, you make space for your child to grow.”

Adolescents need compliments, attention and family dinners.  They need supportive, experiences of independence – taking the train by themselves, flying to another state or country, volunteering and hanging out with their friends.  Adolescents need guidance, not constant monitoring. They need to hear, “I love you no matter what,” as often as possible.

Yes, with cell phones, the stakes are higher for them to make a mistake.  In their fast paced technology packed world, they have little time to think about what they want to say before they hit send.  But that is not a reason to monitor their every move or text.  We need to reach down within ourselves, take a deep breath, and release the control.

We are trying to lock them up in a safe little box, so that we will not have to feel any pain at their mistakes, or God forbid, something worse happening to them.  But we cannot control any of it.  It is an illusion to think we can prevent our children from experiencing pain, sadness or disappointment.  We are all here to learn, grow and experience life.  It is not about good or bad, but how we grow, what we learn.  We had many years to teach our children, by the time they are teenagers we need to release our grip, ease up on the reins, give them some lee way so that they can develop their own moral compass, not continue to rely on ours.

The biggest challenge and yet most important job we have as parents is to learn how to let go.  The biggest mistake I ever made was not wanting my children to make the same mistakes I did. They just might, or even make a few of their own. We just need to love them no matter what.