Bring Joy to Your Face

It’s a funny thing about being happy. When you are in the midst of it, there is a false security that you will never be unhappy again. Like the universe has finally turned in your favor and gifted you this giddy happy life. The sun seems brighter, the air more clear, and the flowers…well…just perfect!

It reminds me of the way you feel when spring arrives after a long, cold winter. You start to picture summer nights, warm beach days, hot days spent beside the pool and for some reason you are reminded of the carefree days of being a kid with longer outdoor time and more time to play. Yep, it’s happy at its best and there is nothing that can bring you down from this high.

The thing is, there is no way to know how long it will last. In the moment it seems there will be no ending. I mean, how could something that good, with the feeling of the entire universe finally on your side…ever end?

But then something happens, or it doesn’t, and without any real warning at all, it is gone. There was a twitch or something, something someone said, or didn’t say, that thing that happened, or didn’t…or maybe just that little reoccurring pain in your back, that signaled something not so great was about to happen. And in an instant, it is back and you are now in the depths of feeling down and pretty confident that this will never end either.

That is how life is. In the words of Edie Brickell, “Everything is temporary…anyway.” And it is so true! Everything IS temporary. The good, the bad and everything in the middle. Here now, gone too soon. But what if you could actually do something while in the bad, that would help it seem less pressing and more manageable? What if I added to it that it is so simple, that it could be done any time, anywhere and no matter what the situation?

Think about those moments that overjoy you with happy. You smile easily, your face feels softer, your neck muscles less tense, your shoulders even rest easy. That is what the feeling of happiness does to your body physically, and in return, your brain reads the messages of your body and sends happy feelings.

That makes sense when you are happy, yet research shows that even when you are unhappy, you can fool yourself into feeling happy, which eventually leads to feeling just that…happy! How? Simple. In the words of my favorite yoga instructor, ‘Bring joy to your face.”

Whenever we are in a balance pose that seems incredibly hard, and she notices our faces tensing as we focus, she says ‘bring joy to your face.’ Honestly, the moment she says it, I usually laugh. It is kind of funny at first, that is, until you try it. When you smile, naturally or not, it brings joy to your face, right? It makes your face look happy. But that’s not all, once your face is radiating with joy, your mind and body begin to join in as well and begin to feel happy right along with that smile.

IMG_3868

So the next time you are feeling down, try it! Bring joy to your face…it will get you back to your happy spot before you know it!

Help me get organized! Day-Timer or Digital?

put it in a box. digital or day timer

Everyone knows that in order to stay organized at work or home, you need a calendar. Decades ago we used those flip calendars that sat on your desk and only revealed one day at a time. It was small,  took up minimal space on your desk and some even offered inspiring quotes. It left us feeling like we had a plan.

We then moved onto something that enabled us to be more specific in our calendar of events as we began using the official Day-Timer that was about the size of a large wallet. Although there were many styles, most gave you a month or a week at a glance. Then we were really organized!

That is, until we were submerged in a life of living with technology and the iPhone and Android arrived. Not only did it have a calendar in it, but it could be synced with your computer so you could see it on a larger screen as well. And to make it even better, you could add a simple reminder, so that an alarm would go off just before the event occurred. Perfect!

And so we threw out all of our calendars that involved tediously writing the tasks down, and smiled proudly as everything we needed fit snuggly into our back pocket or purse, right inside the memory of our phone. It seemed too good to be true…except that after a while there was a longing for…well, a notepad or something.

Actually, while technology can offer great perks that your handwritten calendar can’t compete with, the truth is that it may not be the perfect tool for you on its’ own. Studies show that writing something by hand – a note, task, or quick sketch – imprints it directly on our brains in a way that can’t be matched. While only some may need the tools to draw elaborate, beautiful pictures, we all need a way of keeping track of goals, ideas, tasks and more.

Not only does the power of the written word seem to connect directly to our brains, perhaps aiding in our memory of these tasks, it also gives the visual cues of our week or month at a glance. While our phone can show the week or month at one time, it is often so small that all the details can’t be seen unless selected one at a time. In addition, it doesn’t give you a place to actually check off the jobs completed, which can be rewarding at the end of the day!

So which one is right for you?

Well, if you find you are having trouble falling asleep at night, or waking in the middle of the night hashing out the details of the week ahead, or even carrying scrap pieces of paper around in your bag, your brain is in need of visual cues.

Go out and buy the perfect Day-Timer for you! Look for one that lays out your daily, weekly and monthly tasks in a way that relates to the way you think. Consider the size and if it needs to travel with you. Everyone is different, but when you find the one that matches the way you think, you will be more apt to use it regularly and feel more settled.

And then, don’t throw away the cell phone! Instead, use it to tweak your organization by adding all of your important dates with an alarm signal. If it is something you are scheduling far in advance, give yourself an alarm the day before so you can be reminded with enough time to make adjustments in your schedule. If it is something you probably won’t forget anyway, just give yourself 30 minutes before the alarm sounds…just in case.

You will be amazed at how much more organized, prepared and efficient you will feel!

When Parenting your Teenage Son, Feels like Dating one

I have avoided looking at the August calendar like the plague. Like if I just keep the mask over my mouth and nose, it won’t get me. Or better said, it won’t arrive. But it arrived on uncertain terms and melded into some magical moments. Moments that I knew, even while in them, that I would be clinging to as my last-born son saddles up for Life Part II. College.

I find myself analyzing every detail of each conversation we have and haven’t had. Analyzing what he meant by the few words he chose, wondering why he didn’t choose others. I can see deep in his eyes and know that somewhere down below that entire ‘I stand for my freedom’ look, my baby still lurks. That his little smile is tucked away, and the little being that only wanted to be as close to me as possible, still yearns for me to not walk away…not yet. But even through my optimistic goggles, it is challenging. I admit it. Some days it is impossible to convince myself that my little baby who once begged me to simply watch his every move is actually still in there and more importantly, loving me.

Most days when our eyes meet, I wonder why my heart pounds the way it does and why I feel a familiar heart break. He is a teenager. Not only that, but he is how I have groomed him to be…breaking away from me just in time for him to be officially on his own at college. He is a 3D billboard announcing, “I am independent and ready to go.” Though what usually whispers in my ear is, “I don’t need you anymore.”

heart break blog picture

The odd part is how familiar it feels. His older brother did not go through the phases of life like this, so this familiar ache in my heart as I watch my 18 year old carve out his own path, seems like it should not feel familiar at all. Clearly I have not felt this way before. Or have I?

Then I read another mothers’ retelling of how parenting her teenage son was remotely like dating one…and I got it. Loud. And. Clear. That was exactly where I recalled this feeling: He loves me, he loves me not. I may not exactly remember the boys I dated, but I do remember the ache in my heart. And now that I look more closely…it is much like how I feel when I am with, or without, my son.

  1. He doesn’t always answer when I call him.
    I know that every time I choose to call him, rather than sending him a text, I have a 10 percent chance that he will pick up. I also know that whether I leave a message or not, I still have the same chance of him actually calling me back. I still call anyway…and hope.
  2. I know I can get his attention with chocolate chip cookies.
    Actually, if I mention I have made banana bread or chocolate chip cookie brownies, I know I will at least see him long enough to inhale a few and then head out the door. I also know it will be the only ‘thanks mom’ of the week, but I will surely feel loved.
  3. He mutters things I cannot completely decipher.
    I do not know how he has made it this far in his life, nor how he is so well liked by everyone given the few words he says…but I know that if I am asking a question, chances are very good that whatever his response is, I will have to accept, even if I don’t understand it…since he won’t have enough patience to actually repeat it.
  4. I’m afraid to look at what’s on the floor in the backseat of his car.
    I wasn’t afraid actually. But after I made the decision to do a random act of kindness that involved me cleaning his car, I realized I should have been fearful. Ugh. What? I mean, like…seriously…what is in your car???
  5. Some days I know he loves me. Other days I’m not so sure.
    The moment I see those baby blue eyes, I know. I mean, I know for SURE, that he loves me. As a matter of fact, for the 120 seconds or so that it takes him to open his mouth and start talking, I am clear that he loves me deeply. That is, until he starts talking and I begin to think that he is going to break up with me.
  6. I think he is really, really, really beautiful.
    I really do. I find myself looking at him astounded that I created such a beautiful human being. Even to this day I can look at pictures of him for hours and feel blessed if I get to actually observe his face while he is asleep.
  7. He probably reads thetexts I send him, but I can’t be sure.
    I mean, I’m pretty sure if the word read never appears under the message, what he saw in the subject header was more than enough.
  8. It takes everything I have not to yell, “Just talk to me!”
    But I don’t since what would be the point? Yelling anything at my silent teen does not get him to talk at all. It usually just makes him quieter. So I ask one or two questions and then accept silent as a way of being.
  9. He says he doesn’t want anything for his birthday, but I don’t believe him.
    How can that even be a thing? Doesn’t everyone want ‘something’?
  10. I hoard anything he’s bought for me—cards, dried flowers, and gifts—as proof of his love.
    The little crumbs he leaves behind, remind me that he loves me.
  11. He just doesn’t want to go out to dinner, and I don’t know why.
    It’s not that he doesn’t want to eat. He does want to eat. He also does like to go out to eat. I try to not give the impression that I know it is because he doesn’t think it’s cool to be seen with me in public.
  12. I remind myself to give him space.
    Every hour I remind myself that in order for him to be independent, he will have to be in his own space. Not in mine. But really I wish he was 6 and would take a seat on my lap.
  13. Sports matter more than me. A lot.
    Enough said.
  14. He hasn’t figured out that I just casuallyhappen to be places where he is so I can engage him in conversation.
    Maybe he has, but loves me enough to pretend he doesn’t notice.
  15. I keep hoping someday he will realize how amazing I am.
    And hoping and hoping and hoping…

As The Nest Empties…

The truth is that the nest doesn’t have to be completely empty to leave you feeling…well…empty. The emptiness can actually be felt while the nest is being partially emptied. It makes me think the whole Empty Nest Theory is misleading and that perhaps should be renamed. Perhaps they could call it ‘De-nesting’. As in, the undoing of nesting. The undoing of the days, weeks and years we spent creating a nest, or warm spot for this child. The definition of nesting alone makes me want to cry: an assemblage of things lying close together, that fit within each other. So we are going to undo what we have done for some 18 years, let one of the chicks flee from the nest and simply carry on? Why would the nest have to be completely empty to feel the pain, when one missing chick is enough to create imbalance? Why is it so painful? After being tortured through the teenage chaos and upset imposed upon us during senior year, it would seem that one flying away would create relief. Yet it doesn’t. Even with upset, it is the nest we know. Even if unpredictable, overwhelming or frustrating, it was our nest. Rough eggs and all. Even if there were moments, or days or weeks that we wished to be free of the upset, it was not really a wish of ours at all.

Nesting: All your most precious things, fitting within each other, in just their own way. nesting babies

I read this and picture my little babies snuggled up next to each other with that little look on their face. With those little eyes that say, I love my family. When life was about summer days, lunches by the pool, mommy and me classes, finger painting, and reading bedtime stories. We cheered at their first steps. We cried as they waved goodbye on the school bus. We yelled with joy as they scored the winning goal. But with a minutes notice, we were no longer at the center of their universe and felt proud and excited as their independence began to take shape. The pride and excitement quickly took its own shape, though, as they began to fight for their freedom. They yelled and argued with every rule, said the laws were stupid, and every so often you could see their twinkle of ‘I love you mommy’, turn into, ‘Are you really my mother?’ It was maddening to watch, and frightening to be a part of, but there seemed to be no escaping it…that is, until College. Out of nowhere, the August calendar appears and I freeze upon noticing how close Drop-Off Day is to…today! We often talked about living in Florida on our vacations there and wondered why we would want to endure another cold winter in Jersey. And now…this was where my son’s life would begin to take shape. A plane ride away. Without me. My heart begins to burn as I slowly count the days. My mind flashes to my first born son leaving 3 years ago and I cringe, trying to assure myself that nothing could be that painful again. But as the calendar calls me to look once more, I hear my heart plead, “Do you promise?” No, it can’t be like that. I mean, this little one has been preparing me for his departure for a decade. Claiming his independence since the age of 6. Six. That was the last time he needed me I believe. I look at the calendar again and pray for long, slow days ahead. I pray for moments with him like the ones I have had this summer. Moments that he walked in the door with his arms open for a hug, no longer fighting for his freedom. Moments when he understood that letting himself love me did not mean he was weak, but yet strong and ready to fly. I cry just thinking about saying goodbye to him. I don’t cry because I am worried, nor concerned that he isn’t ready. It is simply because I am not ready. But how can you be actually ready? For what? Are you ever really done being mom? Done caring for them, loving them in a way that makes you feel needed? Done watching them nestled together? I sure don’t feel done. The truth about the nest emptying is that it is a grand celebration of life, that will surely make you feel proud and empty, all at the same time. It is one that will make you feel whole and balanced, while unsteady too and one that will surely make you question what you will do next. As for me, I am not sure what I will do with the loss when it arrives in 12 days, but I’m working on it. I may just hand him a nest and say, “Make it your home, but remember to come back to the tree that it came from.”