Velcro Doesn’t Foster Independence.

It amazes me that something as simple as Velcro sneakers can actually makes things harder, but they can!

velcro shoes

Wait, what? If my child is struggling with tying his shoes, making every departure one giant meltdown, Velcro has to be a better option. I mean, that is what they were designed for, right? Well, technically they probably were created to ease stress, but with a high price tag.

You are familiar with the scenario: It is time for school, the outfit has been out on the floor since the kiss goodnight, breakfast is done, and now it’s time to get out the door.

With cute little sneakers in hand, your 5-year-old proudly slides his feet into his shoes and then begins to grasp the shoe laces ever so carefully as you whisper, “one bunny ear, two bunny ear…”

You can feel your heart race a bit as you witness his third attempt and you can see his confidence begin to wane. Your confidence in his ability, along with your concerns of being late begin to collide. You picture the tantrum from the morning before and do your best to give one last pep talk.

“Be patient, honey. Over, under, around and through…” you say calmly feeling the pounding in your chest.

“I can’t do it!?” He screams. “I cant! I hate these shoes! I’m not going to school…”

And so it begins. Another morning of upset. You then do what you do. You help out. You explain how hard this task is and how it will get easier over time. Then you tie his shoes, acknowledging that you can tie them tighter anyway. He feels happy, and so do you. Yet as it keeps happening over and over each morning, you offer less and less time for him to try, until you eventually begin to tie them the second he has his feet in the shoes.

What could possibly be the harm in that? Eventually everyone learns to tie their shoes…dont they?

The harm actually has little to do with the shoe-tying meltdown. The larger problem we are contributing to is keeping our children from experiencing discomfort. While we believe in our hearts we are helping, we are continuously robbing them of their ability to manage discomfort. We are single-handedly stealing their opportunity to man handle things that don’t feel right. And in the large scheme of life as we know it, we are contributing to a society of emerging adults that do not know how to get themselves out of uncomfortable situations because we have been doing it for them. While that help comes from a yearning to make their life easier, we are actually trying to avoid our own discomfort by helping them to avoid theirs.

The large problem lies right there.

We must know what discomfort feels like in order to be successful adults. We must experience it simply so we can experience the triumph that comes along with lifting ourselves up. While we want to convince ourselves that this is how we show our love, this is not a loving gesture at all. In fact, doing things for others that they can do for themselves simply robs them of their opportunity for success.

It starts with a simple act of ‘over, under, around and through….’ and leads to dangerous times of isolation and peer pressure and days of now what am I supposed to do? The discomfort our children/emerging adults experience when we are not around, can lead to feelings of desperation and hopelessness. These feelings can contribute to the yearning to tune-out, possibly leading to addictive behaviors that allow them to not feel disappointment or fears. It can lead to feelings of failure and disconnect and can perpetuate a hidden downward spiral.

One emerging adult client I worked with shared his experience of overwhelm and stress he felt in college and turned to alcohol and drugs to mask all that he could not cope with. When I asked him if he ever thought about trying to quit his addictive behaviors, he said simply, “there was no reason to think about quitting…it was the darkest hole I had ever been in and knew I was never getting out.”

Fortunately, he was given a second chance with many months of recovery. But all are not as fortunate. The crisis is real. And while as parents we do not cause our children’s depression, isolation or addictive behaviors, we can contribute by continuing to push them further in that dark hole by doing for them. Or we can begin to actually help, by allowing them the success they are capable of and deserve.

So, the next time you are unsure of whether your help is helpful or hurtful, ask yourself this question: Is this something that they are capable of doing themselves? Because if it is, let them. Take a few extra breathes. Be mindful that their discomfort is just like yours and that life is never about how we fall, but how we learn to dust off and get back up.

Want to really foster independence? Skip the velcro.

Motherhood. When Giving is not Loving.

There were many things in my life I didn’t understand right way. There were things I had to study for, take notes on, research and then even start over again before being able to really comprehend it. But being a mother, was not one of those things. Not to say I didn’t do my research, but once my babies were in my arms, I barely remembered the things I had read about. What I knew was a deep love that did not need comprehending. It did not need definitions or explanations.

I will never forget the way my first-born son looked deep into my eyes, as if he could see into my soul. I will never forget feeling like he oddly understood it. Like he was saying, “okay, so you are the one that will always keep me safe.” That look like he too understood…that our eyes meeting, and our souls connecting was all this journey was going to need. Maybe he knew more than I️ did.

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nt I had gone from pregnant, to mom and knew that my job from here forward was simply to love and protect this one sweet angel, which then turned into two sweet angels. I remember constantly thinking, "I will always keep you safe.”

False. We cannot always keep our children safe, nor is that always our job. So what is our job?

It is only recently that I have been able to transform that word into responsibility and only recently that I have been able to ask myself, ‘what is my responsibility?

I never thought of myself as an average mom. I didn't just become a mom, I had an amazing love for my babies that could not be described. I had a yearning to care for, love, and give to them in a way I had never experienced. It wasn’t that I️ thought they couldn’t do for themselves, but was more about the overwhelming joy I got from giving. Whether it was folding their clothes just so, baking the goodies that warmed their hearts (or at least made them smile broadly) or making their lunches just so…was about me. It was how I showed my love for them. It was what I created as the thing that reminded them every day how much they were loved.

So what could possibly be wrong with that? Nothing actually.

When your child can't tie his shoes, you tie them. When your child is too young to use the stove, you cook his meals. When your child isn't tall enough to reach the washer, you wash his clothes. But at some point our definition of being mom gets confusing, and our purpose gets convoluted. The way we give becomes defined by the actual things we give or do…for them.

Giving, is not necessarily loving.

When your 7-year-old comes home and says he needs crayons for school, you get them. That is being a responsible parent. That is not love, though, that is responsibility. When your 20-year-old comes home and says he needs red pens for class and you run out to the store while he sits in front of the tv, that is not love. That is giving, but a different kind of giving. That kind of giving actually robs your child of ‘responsibility’. It crossed the line of helping into enabling.

Helping is doing for others when they cannot do it for themselves. Enabling is doing for others when they are capable of doing for themselves. Enabling – that which hijacks another’s opportunity for success. Ugh!

The first time I heard that I felt sick to my stomach. My brain began to scroll the hundreds of things a day that I had done for family members, that I felt were done simply to show my undying love for them. I was certain that giving was loving. I mean, if I wasn’t giving, then how would they know I loved them?

That is the million dollar question. For myself, what I have learned is that my constant giving was not as selfless as I once had thought. It seemed that if I was giving to others before giving to myself, then I was being selfless. That is what motherhood is all about, isn’t it? Apparently not.

Apparently if we are doing this motherhood thing the way it should be done, in a way that produces 18 year olds that are self-sufficient, independent and successful, then we should be working our way out of a job. What?! Trust me, that was never a part of my vocabulary. I wanted to be ‘mommy’ forever. I loved the job, the title, the satisfaction and pure joy it gave me. There was nothing more rewarding than this…Until, that is, I was forced to look at the aftermath of what I had created.

I was forced to look at how my constant doing was robbing the very beings in my family of their own independence. Stealing their opportunity for success. Convincing them without words that my way was not only better, but that perhaps they weren’t even capable at all without my help.

Neither of those things were true. I never believed my way was the best or only way and always knew they were capable of success without my help.

So why was I️ doing things they were capable of handling on their own? Why was I️ doing those things before they even asked for help? Why was my go-to always, “Oh, don’t worry…I’ll get it.”

Simple. It was how I showed my undying love. Right? Well…no. It wasn’t about that at all. Instead, although I didn’t know it at the time, it was really about me and my desire to feel needed. I mean, if I didn’t do for them, then why would they need me? Seems simple and harmless but actually has some negative consequences. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do with feelings of discomfort. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do in the face of challenges. Ones that keep our emerging adults dependent upon us…just the opposite of our hopes and dreams for them.

Motherhood is hard for sure, but finding a balance between helping and enabling is where the rubber meets the road. You can do this. Just keep asking the question: Am I helping because they are unable, or am I stealing their opportunity for success?

If you keep practicing, you will soon be able to see which kinds of giving gestures are simply acts of love…that which build strong family love and success.

In the Face of the Unknown.

We think that life is all about what we know. Where we have been and where we are now. Who we have been with and who are with now. But really, life’s true meaning comes from the unknown and can be found in the depths of the silence.

Sound simple? No, it isn’t simple at all. As a matter of fact, if you have been a specialist in analyzing your life like I have, it is very hard to even get to that space of quiet. The kind of quiet where you own head isn’t filling you with opinions on nearly everything. The kind of quiet that allows you to simply hear the sound of your own heart beating.

Some people can get there by learning how to meditate, or perhaps reading many books on the topic, but sometimes you are able to get there after the storm in your life has been so great, so overwhelming, that the only thing left to do…is be silent.

That place, is my most favorite place of all. This, is where I sit today.

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Today I chose not to rush out to the gym like I usually do on Sundays. Instead, I chose to start this beautiful Sunday in the quiet. I took the dog for his usual long walk, leaving my phone at home to silence the calls and music, made a cup of coffee and grabbed my laptop. I opened my blog folder trying to recall when the last blog rolled off my fingertips and my shoulders began to release, settling deeply into my new couch.

 

With the cool breeze gently blowing in my window, and the scent of a candle sweetly filling the air, I began to breathe deeply, open to the possibility of new thoughts. I begin to create a space separate from the people, places, and things in my past and instead, fill the space with thoughts about this moment.

As the sun shines in the window and I feel gifted in a way that cannot be explained. I am acutely aware of the stillness of this moment, even with my fingers antsy to move on the keys and am overwhelmed with the wholeness deep within my body.

I do a slow and steady internal scan of my body and notice for the first time in months, how complete I feel. How settled I even feel on the couch, without my mind and body yearning to get to get up and go.

In this moment, as the sun shines in on my stillness, warming me from the outside in, I know I have arrived. Yet I also know that it is in only in the space of all the things that I did not know would occur in my life, that I have actually been given my life. And that actually being open to the unexpected parts of life is where the real work begins.

In the space of the unknown I could see clearly that losing my mother and nearly losing my son, did not break me, but instead rebuilt a fiery strength within me that cannot be taken. And with that strength, I had the courage to walk away from relationships not meant for me. It was only in the space of the unknown, that I could see that leaving painful relationships did not create a feeling of more loss, but instead a gratefulness of life. It was only in the space of the unknown that I was able to see that I am worthy of kindness and love and cannot tolerate anything less than that.

It is in this sun-filled moment, that I am given the gift of life in a way that I did not know was possible. But do now.

Order a copy of my book: Own your Now. 

Exhausted. Yet Still…Can’t Sleep.

It’s hard to believe how true that is, isn’t it?

It is 9pm. You are on the couch and dozing off. You can barely keep your eyes open but are too tired to get up to go to bed. So so tired. As a matter of fact, you are so tired that you convince yourself to watch the rest of the TV show, just so you don’t have to get up.

Yet at 10pm, once settled into bed, you suddenly don’t feel that tired. And it is then that you begin to worry that this might be another sleepless night.

can't sleep

So what’s going on? Why is it so hard to fall asleep, when all day you feel so tired?

There can be many factors that disrupt people’s sleep, even some that need medical attention, but first let’s go back to the basics.

1 – Caffeine intake. If you are a person that drinks more than one cup of coffee per day, make sure that your last cup is not later than 1pm. Surprisingly, even caffeine as early in the day as 2pm can disrupt a normal nights’ sleep.

2 – Sugar intake. Be mindful about what you are eating for dessert and how close to bedtime you are eating it. If ice cream and cookies are your favorite sweet treats, trying having it right after dinner. In addition, end the night with some berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) and you will be able to lower your glucose level, which will also help you sleep.

3 – Exercise. If you work late into the night and are forcing yourself to workout at 9 or 10pm, reconsider this habit. While exercise is helpful in having a good nights’ sleep, too late at night or too close to hitting the sheets will also disrupt your sleep patterns. Instead, try getting up earlier. Waking up an hour earlier in the morning will still allow you to get more sleep at night.

4 – Closing System. Do you physically shut the door on your workday? Do you know when you’re officially closed and the day is done? Or are you checking emails right until the lights go off?

If you do not have a closing system, creating one is easy and should be done immediately (and every day!). Most people, especially those that travel or have their own business, have difficulty letting their day turn off. This feeling of still being ‘on’ is highly disruptive to normal sleep patterns. Here is how you create a Closing System.

  • Choose a closing time. Then stick to it!
  • At that time, give yourself 15 – 30 minutes to shut down. Move all the things that weren’t done today to a day when you are able to complete them.
  • Fill in all tasks for tomorrow.
  • Spend five minutes checking the rest of the week to see if anything needs to be changed, added or taken away.
  • Spend 10 minutes responding to any emails that are time sensitive, move others into folders, delete those that belong in the trash and flag important ones that need to be taken care of in the morning.

5. Quiet Rituals. Create a quiet bedtime ritual. If you are always falling asleep to the sound of the TV, or the sight of your emails, design something different. Commit to a 15-minute quiet ritual as the last thing you do each night.

  • Read a book that is not about work, but instead might allow you to escape reality for a few minutes.
  • Play yoga or classical music and meditate.
  • Find a free guided meditation app that can be played on your phone.
  • Journal. Using a blank journal or notebook paper, take out a pen and start writing. It can be thoughts you have about your day, things you want to remember for the following day or anything that comes to mind. But make sure it is pen and paper, not on the computer. Once on the computer it is much too tempting to check social media, emails, etc.

6. Go to Sleep. Lastly, go to sleep when you are tired. Even if it seems too early, do it anyway. It is better to get into bed before you are too tired to begin your quiet rituals, then to not be able to sleep at all.

In order to create change…you will have to do things differently. And tonight, let’s try on sleeping!

 

 

 

 

My Life hasn’t Gone as Planned.

And you know what? That’s okay.

No, really. It is okay. Even with all of the disappointments, sadness, frustration, and moments of wondering how I got here again, I understand that I am human and perfectly imperfect like the rest of us. Yet my uncanny ability to get to my feet again, dust off and carry on with hope and possibility has been even more important than the fact that my life hasn’t gone as planned.

My gift to persevere is not something I think much about until the moment I have hit the ground again, but when I do, I rely heavily on my fail-proof plan: get steady, lean slightly and take someone else’s hand when needed.

That’s the basic stop, drop and roll for me, but the details are where the rubber meets the road.

1 – Get Steady
Getting steady means regaining some balance. And just like a balance pose in yoga, focusing on a steady spot in the room, in order to get fully centered in life, you need to find time to focus on yourself for at least a moment. For me, that means taking the time to be kind to myself. It means not criticizing that I am here again, but instead, praising myself with what comes next…I can always get back up.  I then steady myself and take the time I need to recover knowing that what is next, is to get back up!

2 – Leaning into the Curve
It’s hard to emotionally lean into the curve because it feels unnatural. At first. This is because in the face of real hardship and disappointment, our natural way of being is anger resentment and disappointment, which often leads to blame. You know…YOU did this. How could YOU do this to me? Why would YOU do this to me? Yet that actually perpetuates the upset and imbalance, making it impossible to move forward. Instead, I have learned to lean in. Literally leaning into what has occurred as if this is the only possible thing to choose. Instead of blaming, I look inward. I might say, okay, I thought he was the one, but I was mistaken. Or I hoped that this was my chosen life path, but now I see it isn’t. Or I was really blind-sighted this time, I will have to make sure next time I am seeing the whole picture clearly.

I have always loved the quote: “What we resist, persists”. It’s so true, yet when we lean in we become empowered to move on.

3 – Find a Hand
No matter where my life has taken me, I remain open to the help and support of people around me because sometimes we are so broken we actually can’t get up alone.  I actively seek like-minded people in my life who seem to get getting it right, either professionally or personally and then invite them into my world. These people become my inspiration on good days, and just what I need on the harder ones. I have come to learn that simply because we need help, does not make us ‘needy’, yet more insightful. It is critical to know what we need in order to move forward, especially when we have been wired to be strong and independent. It is critical to be surrounded by people who won’t blink an eye at the sight of your outstretched hand, but instead reach theirs back out to you. It’s a support system that we all need, one that helps even when you don’t need it. One that continues to help you build on your own strengths.

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We plan, and then life happens, but what matters most, is what you do next…

So what are you willing to do to finally reset and begin again with true hope and inspiration?

Let’s Reset together…

Creating a Powerful & Positive Mindset

What if life success isn’t about your education, the experience you have or who you know? What if in fact all you need is a new perspective on what already lies within you?

Our perspective (how we see ourselves) is actually more critical than anything else. It trumps your education, background, and even experience. It is the mere ability to remain positive and feel powerful in any given situation that remains to be the most important in creating success.

create your future

Regardless of the perspectives you have had about yourself up until this point, with simple shifts in your thinking on a daily basis, you can also shift your mindset permanently. Yes, permanently! You can turn that automatic negative voice in the back of your brain into a voice that actually talks you into productivity. A voice that keeps you moving rather than guiding you to lie down and rest.

With new perspectives, you will feel motivated to create positive change, even when it seems a little out of reach! It’s about learning to hear the negative voice and being prepared to shut it out with a positive one.

That is the value in understanding the mindset you have now, and the value in creating one that is positive, powerful and with you all of the time. With this powerful mindset, you can stay focused, in action and create a sustainable, fulfilling, and successful life.

Who wouldn’t want that? Let’s get powerful and positive together!

Register: The Women’s Lab. May 21st. Women Empowering Women.

Crossing the 2016 Finish Line

With just 9 hours before the new year, I head out to my favorite thinking spot.  I sit perched at the window seat, inhaling the fumes of the many Starbucks aromas, with my laptop keeping the tips of my fingertips warm and the confidence that I am exactly where I should be.

The original plan was that we would spend New Years in Boston with my husband’s family, yet an unexpected pain in one of my ribs lead to a doctor appointment that didn’t quite fit the traveling schedule and I gave them the go ahead to leave without me. In hindsight it was divine intervention; the work of my mom in heaven perhaps, knowing how badly I needed this marathon to end.

ny-marathon-finish

I call it a marathon while I sit feeling rested and grounded, but am clear that 26.2 miles of pavement would be easy compared to this…this whatever it is I have been doing. This running to nowhere without the proper running attire.

New sneakers. Yea, maybe that was what I needed. New sneakers. Maybe then my shins wouldn’t be aching, my feet would feel less blistered and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t feel like lead weights have been placed in the soles of my shoes. Maybe.

February 23rd, just 10 short months ago, I let my moms hand fall from mine, taking a picture of our hands together so I would never forget the sensation of being held by her. I kissed her cheek slowly, inhaling the scent of her soft, sweet skin and told her the words I uttered every day I was beside her for 3 weeks: “I love you mom. I will see you tomorrow…”

I left the hospital that night and knew that tomorrow was not going to look like today. I walked slowly to my car, savoring the life she had given me. Tomorrow was not going to be like today. Not for her. Not for us. Which was when I began to run.

Though not clear about my destination, I ran anyway. I ran from my fears, my sorrow, my questions about life and death. I ran from worry about my own mortality, my children’s life…my own life. I just ran. Sometimes I felt I was running in hopes of finding her. Other times I felt I was running from myself. But I just kept running. I felt winded, bruised, tired, beaten…and while I could not seem to find the mile markers anywhere, I was sure I had been stuck at mile 20, the Wall, for quite some time. While not sure just how much time I had been stuck there, it was long enough to know that the more paralyzed I felt, the more exhaustion I felt as well.

You know that reoccurring dream about being literally stuck somewhere and while you scream as loud as possible, no sound comes out?

That has been my year of 2016. An exhausted silent screaming for help for a solid 10 months. A journey that teeters between feeling desperately lonely and somehow empowering, often in the same breathe. A journey that has felt like a lifetime, yet when I glance over my shoulder it appears I have not moved at all.

And so, accidentally being sidelined for the weekend without my family, has left me feeling lonely in a way that actually feels healing. Not at all like a lifetime loss, but instead simply the kind of temporary lonely that provides just the quiet needed to see that I don’t have to run at all. That there is no finish line to cross. That in fact, in the depths of all this quiet, I feel nourished. That in the depths of the quiet I also feel empowered to have survived such a challenging year and feel grateful for the many people in my life that have helped me on my darkest and brightest days as well.

It is in this temporary state of alone that I welcome 2017 with an open heart, an open mind and a stillness in my soul.  Because after all, being still is actually the one place in our life that we can hear our own heartbeat; where we know for sure we are alive.