Mother’s Love

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Today is my mother’s birthday. And it’s one of those years where I don’t have a physical gift to give her. Yes, there will be a homemade card, a lunch with Margherita Pizza, and a yellow cake with chocolate icing. I know she will enjoy it because it’s what she wants. I want to give her so much more.

My mom is a huge influence in my life. At this point in her life, she seems to be the most confident I have ever known her to be. And not in the “I have no idea what I’m doing, so I’ll just act confident and hope people believe me” kinda way. Anyone who is a parent knows that kind of “confidence.” She’s more self-assured and assertive – ask my Dad. She is and always has been, incredibly real. Now they call it authentic.

My mom never pretends to be something she is not. She’s never been over-the-top or one to back down when she believes in something. Especially when that something is me. Alright, or one of my siblings. She has always seen things in each of us that we couldn’t see in ourselves. She would try and show us those traits that made us special. We didn’t always believe her. But with years to look back on, she was right. This is her chance to say “I told you so.”

No matter what direction I took, she has always supported me. Even when she knew that my choice was a bad one. She would attempt to get me back on track and, on occasion, when that didn’t work she would tell me that she couldn’t support whatever it was. At the time, I might accuse her of turning her back on me. But that was never true. Instead, she didn’t sleep at night, couldn’t eat, prayed continuously, and waited for me to come home. Luckily, I always made it home.

I look to her for advice, support, and unconditional love. Because she is as close as I will ever get to unconditional love without getting a puppy. I have ignored her, yelled at her, tried to prove I didn’t care about her, accused her of trying to run/ruin/control my life. And that was just the teen years. She stood by me anyway. She still saw the good in me despite the not so good. I once asked her why she never kicked me out of the house. Her answer? “One day you’ll understand.”

She’s also a lot of fun. High school friends will remember parties at our house where the furniture got pushed against walls and my parents taught them how to dance. Not only did she try and teach the boys how to lead but, she also taught the girls how to lead, just in case. She’s the type of person you want to sit next to at a party because she’s incredibly observant. My dad is the boisterous one. Mom is the witty one.

My mom and I share a love of going to the movies, reading, and puzzles. She’s got more talent than she will admit to. She can draw and write. And I have to remind her of both, regularly. I can spend an entire day with her just talking over tea, sitting quietly in a room reading, dreaming over catalogs, anything really. At the end of that kind of day, I will feel calm, centered, and loved. Because she is all of those things.

She’s the best of all of us.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Family

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The most influential people in my life have been that small band of folks that I was born into, my Family. We’ve been through it all together. Ups and downs, celebrations and disasters, even truths and secrets. Much of what happened throughout the years has shaped us towards what we are today. Yes, there were things each of us had to overcome but the strength of this Family has helped each of us stand on our own together.

This Family came with others as well. The grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that are attached to our parents. I’ve spent parts of my life living near this extended family and parts living far away. I like living near much better. They are a rowdy band of interconnections that will rally around you in a crisis because you are Family.

The funny thing is that as this menagerie has grown and contracted over the years through marriage and divorce, births and deaths, we always come back to our original Family. A touchpoint that helps us be okay. We don’t always agree but we try and listen to each other. We try to support one another.

Then there are the people that come in the side door. It may be that someone’s bad choice has brought a jewel into our Family that we absorb and love as our own. Or the friends that I allow deeper into my life. Those folks I’ve gathered along my meandering journey that have become family. The ones that will call my parents to check on me if I’m not responding to them. The people who have stuck with me through the darkest of times as well as the joyful ones. Even the ones I thought I lost, that came back to me so they were there when I needed them most.

All of these people comprise my family. Not everyone sees things the way I do. For as many family members that I have, there are that that many differing opinions and beliefs. It’s not all sunshine and roses. There are fights and feuds woven in and out of some truly funny and loving memories. Yet we are able to come together at the most important times. We put aside differences to be there for one another. We care about the well-being of every member of this tribe. We learn who the strong ones are, who is sensitive, who will help, who will gossip, who will hold you tight and we act accordingly. Because we are Family.

Choices

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Everything we do requirs a choice to be made. Get up or hit the snooze? Eat the chocolate or the apple? Continue to wallow in self-pity or do something to change the situation? Stay on the couch instead of going for a walk. These are all choices to be made. My choices. Your choices. No one else can make them for us or even force us to make a choice we don’t want.

That is a choice – to do what someone else wants to make life easier, avoid an argument or any other reason we can come up with instead of saying “I choose this instead.” It’s also a choice to listen to what certain people say and ignore others. Even our own inertia is a choice. Because sometimes it’s just hard to get yourself doing that thing you know you want, or maybe even need, to do. We can do the hard work.

Part of the problem is that we forget we also need to rest. So if something was hard to get started and you’re not sure you can sustain the momentum. Take a break. Give yourself an hour to read or nap or watch TV. Just don’t start to use “resting” as the excuse to not make the next choice that will move you forward.

No path worth taking is always easy. The hard parts are what help us grow. Don’t beat yourself up – just move forward, one choice at a time.

Give Yourself Credit

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The New Year is upon us. Everywhere I look there are newsletters, blog posts, memes, you name it, that tell me I need to reflect on 2020 and plan for 2021. In reality, I’ve spent the entirety of 2020 reflecting on my life and where I want to go next. Did it give me answers? No, but I have a general direction.

Two things I spent 2020 working on were making my house a home and my finances both of which were a shambles.

My house was a jumble of furniture and stuff and was a pretty good reflection of the battles I was fighting internally. Anyone can have a house. I wanted a place that welcomed people when they walked through the door. I think I finally got there. Not what I would call done but a far cry from where I was at the beginning of the year.

My finances? I finally wrote it all down in once place. I tracked it all year. I had it broken out in categories and would compare the categories month after month. I changed some habits but not all. Today, I did my last month of tracking for 2020. I brought my total debt down by a pretty big number considering my side income was non-existent this year. Granted, my mortgage and a loan were what brought the numbers down the most.

Did you see what I did at the end of both of those paragraphs? One sentence gave me credit for all the work I did this past year. The very next one, takes it away. Why do we do this to ourselves? What did I have to add those last sentences? Weren’t the ones before it good enough? Or is it because we always feel we should have done more? We could have done better.

How about we just give ourselves credit for the work we have done? Because any amount will help you move forward to where you want to go.

Starting

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It seems to me that starting anything is not really the hardest part. You can have an idea, a vision, a dream, a thought…anything that requires a bit of action on your part. And it will stay there until you take the first step. There are loads of people, organizations, or websites that will “help” you get started when you don’t know how. Or, let’s be honest here, just not really willing to start. You might even take the first step and then become surprised that the next step doesn’t just follow right along. “Wait…I have to do it again? and again and again and again?”

That is the hard part. Wanting something so bad that you will keep coming back day after day to do it again until it becomes that thing you thought about. Blocking out the thought of that other people might think your thing is bad, too personal, wacky, out there, stupid, the list goes on. Maybe you’re thinking that if you show the world who you feel you are on the inside, they won’t like you anymore.

Maybe, it’s time to like yourself enough to do those things that are bubbling inside you anyway.