Current Events, Short Verse

My birthday gift to America this July 4th.

The 4th of July Holiday sits within my favorite season. Summer has arrived, school is out and gatherings with friends and family are plenty. (Well, normally.) The holiday that marks our freedom in the United States coincides with a time of year where the weather allows Americans to do just that. Travel, visit with loved ones, and celebrate with the type of careless spirit one looks forward to all year. This year feels different. In talking with a few other women this week I heard expressions around feeling uncomfortable celebrating being American given what is going on in our country right now. Being a U.S. citizen. The outward sharing of this sentiment gave me pause and brought up my own reflections on what it means and feels like to live in this country, right now.

During travels to different parts of the world during my 44 years on this earth I have always prided myself on proclaiming I am an American when asked where I hail from. I still do. The responses and questions from others in my travels to Africa or even South America, especially, opened my eyes to the privilege that is bestowed upon myself simply by being born here and it made me proud. One of my most favorite conversations was in Africa with a taxi driver who wanted to talk about 9/11 with us on our long drive to the hotel. I had never been in a Muslim country and quite frankly, he wanted our perspective just as much as we wanted his. He had never visited America but yet even 6 years after the attacks wanted to share his sadness for what our country went through on that awful day. He also said the collective American spirit was felt through watching how we handled ourselves and each other, after that day. It makes me proud as well, even 19 years later.

Patriotism is one of the commonalities of my husband and I. An American flag hangs 106804632_10158502999014886_687984665174767210_noutside of our house every single day. I am from a multi-branch military family. My parents’ reverence for the flag was taught to me at an early age and events and holidays celebrating our country were a focus point when growing up. I am not the historian between my husband and I. That is his role. I sometimes am embarrassed how many times I have to ask him to reconfirm dates or events within our history when having discussions. But I am always interested and how he retains these facts is always impressive. Now as an adult, there is no shame in revisiting the classroom of our country. Having an open mind is even more important than ever.

I truly believe that being in a state of discomfort or “icky-ness” as one person described it to me, is where the growth can finally start. That nagging feeling that something simply isn’t right is unsettling. If we are angry about it, regardless of why or what your or my belief system is, isn’t it worth taking a look at the source of that anger? The discomfort? My immediate and broader family is racially diverse. Unless you have a larger relationship with me beyond social media, you might not know. Lately I’ve wondered if I have had enough conversations to explore that “icky-ness” and do my part. Even just within my own family. Truthfully, I have not. It is time.

This 4th or July I’ve decided my gift on America’s birthday is that I’m going to have more conversations. Easy ones, hard ones, emotional ones. It may be very uncomfortable at times, but it is the only way I can grow.

Uncategorized

Shout Out to World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day: this is a really hard side by side for me to share. And no, this is not a skincare post…..Going to go ahead and do it in the hopes it raises awareness, patience, and understanding amongst or within ourselves. I think of cancer as “rear view mirror.” Every day is a mile between me and that awful disease. I’m fortunate. Many friends are still living in the presence of cancer or didn’t win their race.

I created this comparison not as a way to make myself feel badly but as a marker to show myself how far I’ve come. Cancer is not always what we think it looks like. I was walking around with it, unbeknownst to me, feeling exhausted, unheard, bloated and physically spent. I lost hair, time with my babies, and honestly(and thankfully, temporarily) some hope. I gained damaged teeth, new aches and a set of fears and damn it I can’t eat a cracker without drinking lots of water anymore.51169477_10157052268489886_3084563688565243904_n

Yet, for all I lost I gained a ton more. I gained respect for my fellow cancer warriors, thankfulness that I’ll always choose my fight over anyone’s else’s(so many brave warriors out there I so admire), self respect for the determined and strong person I found in myself, the ability to immerse myself and find pure joy, a renewed belief in God after being so angry that I questioned his existence, the ability to go thru experiences and walk away knowing what really is important, the appreciation of my tribe-the people I know that age 42, will sing my praises yet grow with me and not always tell me what I want to hear.

I thought that cancer was my next biggest fight in life but I had no idea it was preparing me for all that came next. The challenges don’t stop but my perspective is sure as heck in check. There is no attributing happiness to cancer -it’s quite the oxymoron. But I do attribute cancer to reminding me what it’s like to live.  PS A special shout out to Rodan + Fields…without that Lash Boost serum I would not have my eyebrows and eyelashes back!

Parenting, Self-Care

Embrace the Perfectly Imperfect Chaos Mom(and Dad)….

August 15, 2018. The date I figured I had two weeks to get my act together for the annual “return to school” march. Embracing this time of year as a signal of new starts, growth and development for my kids and the chance to restart, I had forgotten what else comes at this time. STRESS. CHAOS. Trying to embrace it vs. battle it.  I am not alone in my mom “wins” and “fails”.

This year my boys are once again in separate schools and with that comes the continued complexity of different schedules including different days off. My youngest started kindergarten and let’s just say, the get to know me kindergarten craft didn’t get done by last Friday(insert mom fail). When picking him up at school, I embraced him into a hug and asked how his day was. “Mom, you didn’t send in my get to know me bag.” GULP.  Heck, I didn’t even know what he was referring to. But alas, there it was, sitting on the counter. I thought it was done in school! It seems I am not alone. After polling my friends, a few other brave parents shared their back to school “fails” so I decided to compile a list in the hopes we could all see how much we’ve in common!

  • I dropped my daughter off without shoes. I thought they were in the car but then they weren’t. With no time to go back home before work, she waited in the main office at school until my husband could bring a pair to her. GULP.
  • Day 1 of being a high school parent! Apparently I missed the previous email about signing a technology agreement in order for my son to get his chrome book. Did so so much to make sure my son himself was prepared – that I neglected to do what I needed to for him.
  •  I was not there to get my daughter off the bus after her first day of kindergarten! She had to stay on the bus and go back to school where I had to pick her up at the office. I had the wrong time to be there; I was home, baking cookies for her, but they wouldn’t let her off the bus. She still remembers it. And my heart breaks every time I remember that she held her tears and disappointment until I hugged her in the school office that afternoon. It was an epic fail, but I’m hoping after 7 years I’ve made up for it.
  • I had my daughter’s physical form all set in August. Sounds like a success. No, a fail when you can’t find it on day one of school. I put it in her old backpack and she threw it away. Can’t attend school without proof of a physical that year….
  • My son was reading at the school mass and I had watched him and listened to him practice for days. Only to show up too late due to work to miss the “live” event.
  •  I didn’t realize there was a completely new/different uniform for middle school. Can you say, “one of these things is not like the other.” 
  • I showed up to my third born’s kindergarten meet the teacher night at 4:30 PM wondering why there was no one in the parking lot. There was no one in the parking lot because it started at noon. At least we can laugh about it…when the mom got a message about her friend needing support in picking up her kids the following day, she joked, “No thanks, considering you forgot when to show up to your son’s kindergarten back to school event…” That was probably my favorite response. Of course her friend was kidding but it’s what the mom needed in that moment. It highlighted utter acceptance that we as parents don’t get it ALL right ALL the time. And that’s OK.

Pain in the face of a parent who feels like one single incidence of missing an event, forgetting a shoe or jacket or even what seems to be forgetting a simple form is all too familiar. But why out of all the good we do accomplish, meetings that are made on time, lunches that are packed with love, breakfasts that are made, clothing that is laundered, new shoes that fit, do we hang our parent hat on that one fail? Is there something innate that makes us think we cannot be a good parent unless we are perfect?

A few years back I wasn’t well. My sons were both under the age of 6 and I knew mom was going to have some fails. But yet I was not ready to hand them over to another mom. So I would rather have anticipated those fails than allowed someone else to handle them. Why? Well, because that in of itself was a failure to me. Webster Dictionary defines the terms as follows:

Definition of fail
failed; failing; fails

intransitive verb
1a : to lose strength : weaken
1b : to fade or die away
1c : to stop functioning normally
2a : to fall short
2b : to be or become absent or inadequate
2c : to be unsuccessful

Ah! Weak and inadequate resonates with what I think is unacceptable. But are the small skips in the perfect parent checklist really fails? Or are they just slips from the overload of constant expectations of perfection? Think about it. There are very few in this world that have never achieved anything less than a perfect score on EVERY single test they have taken. Parenting is a test you cannot study for. If you took a test you hadn’t even cracked a book open for and achieved an “A” or even a “B” you would be applauding yourself. Yet, here we are, as parents, knocking ourselves for getting tripped up from time to time when there is no coursebook on parenting.

So I will ask you to consider this. The next time you feel like you’ve had a gigantic fail, if your child is too young to know the difference, let it go. If they are old enough to understand, use the above analogy and then tell them you are not perfect. Give them the heads up that you are likely to have another mom fail soon.

 

Self-Care, Uncategorized

One.More.Day.One.More.Hug.

Recently there was an instance where I had to be exceptionally strong. Back up, bite the lip,  fight through the emotions so that I would make a sound decision based on the knowledge and information combined with my gut, versus emotion. When I was going through this I was actually recalling an instance back in my 20s when I was gearing up for this client presentation and it was so nerve-racking. My manager who was more seasoned than I seem to be fidgeting a bit next to me and it was so unlike her. I didn’t want to pry but at the same time it was so unnerving that I felt like I needed to know why she was on edge.

As it turned out she was suffering from severe morning sickness and she didn’t want to say anything because as I understand it now it would have distracted her from this client meeting  that was about to happen in the room. While I understood to some degree why she was trying to shut it off it was so funny because she actually turned to me and said please stop being nice to me! I remember in that moment I did not take offense because some part of me understood exactly where she was coming from. She didn’t want to open the book the floodgates. Instead, she needed to get through this presentation and kind of fight mind over matter. In this case it was her mind combating her actual physical feeling of being sick.

This turned out to be a lesson that I learned and subconsciously started to carry through my life and apply it to different circumstances. I’ll give an example. Recently, I started  a different schedule and it was going to be a big change in my household where daddy was kind of stepping up and mommy was not going to be around at the same time she normally was for the past year and a half. When kids are young, or year and a half might as well be six years to them. I like to think I am a seasoned mom therefore I of course am in charge of all the prep work leading up to this point of hiring sitters and writing down schedules and preferences and names of the baseball field‘s and all the things that go into helping someone grasp, even temporarily, the reins on your household. But it also involves setting the emotional stage for what was going to be for my kids a very significant change. Now, I made sure not to delve too far into it because we didn’t want to start creating a scene over something that may not have been anything at all.

But it was in those moments where I was emailing teachers and giving them a heads up just asking them to keep an open line of communication if they happen to notice something different in my kids. For instance, I knew that my husband dropping off my just turned five-year-old at preschool was going to very much rattle him but if I could let all the interested parties know that, then they would be able to help us with the transition to make it go smoothly. I knew my eight-year-old would be impacted, I just wasn’t exactly sure how and I realized one morning that I grossly underestimated him. He was being so brave, so grown-up, and so courageous that I realized I had not allowed him the time to be upset about it. It is not something I possibly could’ve learned before I was in the moment. He was very upset about going to school suddenly and when I finally got it out of him his response was, “I don’t see you as much anymore.’ GASP! Arrow directly into my heart.

The lesson that I learned in that moment was that it was my job to just be a little more brave than he felt he could be or even lots more brave than he felt like he could be. I held him in my arms and he was tearing up and holding on to me very, very tightly. The bus had rolled up and I knew I had to pick the perfect or most perfect words possible in order to be able to calm him down enough to get through the day. But I decided to tell him was exactly what I was thinking and that was me simply asking him if that I could be just a little more brave today than he was yesterday… could he do the same?

I think sometimes in life when we are in these moments it’s just requiring us to be just a tiny bit more brave but it doesn’t mean we have to be brave forever. It’s just that moment that will take us through to the next event or meeting or errand or drop off. We can still  break down and cry at the end of the day. We are allowed to. WE are human. The mountain of to do’s can be at times this endless  list. It’s daunting. My to do list right now for the next two weeks – just responsibilities at home – runs a total of 58 items. If I tackled everything at once like I was asking my son to, you would find me running down the highway towards the next exit with an endless happy hour followed by checking myself into an endless stay at a hotel. ALL. BY. MYSELF. It’s insurmountable. So why would we ask ourselves to accomplish anything different than what we could do in just that one more moment? It’s unfair and unreasonable. But what IS reasonable is being real and honest. Take note of how you calm your friend, child, etc down. Are you abiding by the same advice you give others? So easy to give others advice, right? But remember. Be brave. Just for that single moment. Let the next moment worry about the one after that.

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Boot Camp + Survival 101 = Parenting

39C61B18-8904-42B1-A115-A4C597076837Let me explain the joy of having kids…It’s someone telling that you that you won the lotto but then they flushed the ticket down the toilet.

It’s getting all comfy on the couch and then someone keeps ringing your doorbell and doesn’t stop.

It’s getting all dressed up in that awesome white linen sundress to head out on an adults only adventure and your son runs around the corner, hands out, covered in chocolate pudding. Right. Onto. Your. Dress.

It’s thinking that you own your life and then you get autocorrected (by your 8 year old).

It’s assurance that you won’t ever sleep again. Not in the way that you did before kids. Go on, tell yourself you will but you won’t. My mom jokes she stills stays up but instead of waiting, she’s thinking of us and worrying.

It’s thinking you have it all figured out one second and then you get handed the flu diagnosis, your calendar reminder pops up for those 30 goody bags youhave to make, and your car just ran out of gas. Oh and there are no snacks left for lunch because the kids ate them all while you were trying to book that appointment.

It’s chugging to the top of a mountain, anxiously awaiting that beautiful, easy ride on the way down and then the brakes gets stuck.

It’s all the most challenging, gut wrenching highs and lows in your life you could ever possibly imagine with the sweetest, “I love you’s” meeting you at the end of every day. Those are what I live for.

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Skincare tips for subzero temps!

The polar vortex is upon us in New England and elsewhere you could also be feeling a chill! So what does this mean for your skin and how can you better protect it this winter?

❄️ Lay OFF the intense exfoliating schedule. Yes, exfoliating is still necessary but limit it to 1x/week and if your skin is dry you may need moisture first.
💦 Hydrate. Just like our bodies, your skin (your largest organ) needs hydration during these winter months. Running a humidifier at night in addition to adding a Hydration Serum to your skincare routine will make a difference.
⏳Head to bed a bit greasy. At nighttime, apply your moisturizer to your hands and feet. I like to layer on a bit of coconut oil as well to lock in the moisture!
👉🏻Your skin changes. Personally, I need a few weeks of Soothe this time of year. This is normal to have changes in your skincare routine. The nice thing about RF is that I am here to tailor your routine, for you!
🌞 Sunscreen is STILL important! Just because the air is cold, doesn’t mean the sun isn’t still giving off rays!

Self-Care

Inspiration 101: Creating an office space you WANT to work in!

Recently, I looked around at my home office that once served as my son’s nursery and decided it was time to make it into a space I LOVED to work in. Once dark green(eh hem Philadelphia Eagles green, unfortunately, thanks to my husband!) it was now a bright, refreshing blue-green. So. Color? Check! Comfort? Check! But what was missing? I wasn’t sure. Enter Joan Law of Feng Shui Joan’s Way!

The best way to describe what Joan has done for me(she is a woman of many talents) is to take existing space and materials and repurpose them to make your home a place you can love. When I was growing up, I would reposition furniture in my shared bedroom often. It shook up the tiny space I actually owned in a house of 5 kids and in the days before Pinterest, gave me the ability to make my space cozy again.IMG_5883

A slight reposition of my desk to view it from the doorway but not in the path of the window, my necessary but not the cutest file drawers were relocated to not be seen from the door and, my view when standing both from the door and behind my desk was now my uplifting pieces of decor (both my accomplishments in business and my motto I repeat each time I leave my office).

Why is this so important? Well, for one, I work from home. I am either writing blog posts, working on my children’s book or running my skincare business. The space in which I work has to draw me in enough that I will not be tempted to work on the activities that often pull me like a magnet(laundry, dishes, cleaning up after my 2 young boys is ENDLESS)! When we can work in a space that welcomes us, it sets us up for success and mentally prepares us for the day. Think about it this way. If you were trying to cook in your kitchen but the countertops were covered in dirty dishes and leftovers, would you jump in and add to the mess and cook that beautiful pie or would you want to clean up first? Mentally prepare the space.

During really hectic times of the year, we can become SO focused on buying furniture,  and decor and so projects become much more complicated than they need to be. With Joan’s professional guidance, my office went from a place I worked because I HAD to, to a cozy, welcoming, and warm place to truly be inspired to write in and run my skincare business.

Find out more about Joan and her services check out Feng Shui Joan’s Way!

 

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Uncategorized

The Magical Year of 4…

I smiled when I came home last night at the sight of my 4-year-old, sleeping soundly with a slight snore going on. (Why is it that 4-year-olds snoring is cute whilst a 40-year-old snoring makes us want to haul off and kick a wall? Or is this just me? Oops!) He had his Spiderman sunglasses on, something he has recently taken to wearing to bed. We aren’t sure why as this is the one kid that actually will put HIMSELF to bed. Perhaps it’s of comfort to him or a phase but we know that sometimes kids just do these things!

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Liam was our “easier baby”…if I had him as my first, there may be a slew of kids running around our house right now instead of just 2. I was prepared for my first to arrive as much as a new mom could be and expected the typical baby activities and lack of sleep for myself and no longer putting my needs first. What I was not prepared for was the colic up through age 6 months and not sleeping (uninterrupted) more than 2 hours in a row until December 1st when he was 6 months old and finally slept 6 hours straight. Hallelujah! I recall dancing in the hallway (VERY quietly) with my husband Juan and sharing that perhaps, we may be at a turning point. I honestly felt downright crazy by that point. I was back at work full-time, working 60 hours a week and commuting an hour each way. A blur. Heck, I didn’t recall driving my actual commute at times!!

Many(even fellow moms) told me he is “just being a baby” and so I didn’t think it was abnormal. To complain would be accepting defeat that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom. To complain was often met with the well-intended, “yes, me too” but now it’s “not me” instead of an embracing word or two of encouragement. My pregnancy wasn’t normal so this part well, it HAD to be normal, right? But it wasn’t. Interrupted sleep? Yes. The routine of sleep, feed, change the diaper? Yes. Sure enough, I soon had friends experience my new baby who could not be put down for a second, screaming and crying at any motion other than a car ride or resting on my husband’s shoulder. But still, these types of newborns come into the world and I am not the only one. Of course, I certainly know more now than I did back then.

That baby is now 8 years old, still loves the comfort of being right next to someone versus being alone and it makes me chuckle to look back and realize how I can associate his personality now, to his personality as a baby. He’s adventurous like his mom, loves all things sports related just like his dad and will devour a book just like both his parents.  He loves to travel, sweet and sensitive to others feelings and a straight-A student(that doesn’t come from me!) He loves his brother, watches out for him and counts the minutes until he hops off the bus. I have secretly videotaped the two of them together to playback someday at their weddings. The scene is Liam watching over his big brother Caellum’s shoulder while they pour over a book….I couldn’t imagine one without the other.

From the early days following Liam’s birth, it was clear Caellum loved his brother and couldn’t wait to show him the ropes. Of course, at first, there was only so much that Liam might understand.  But it’s Caellum that has become so much a part of helping his brother deal with his frustrations. It’s like life reciprocated itself.

When I look at my 4-year-old, I see the ease of his early years and how he is deciding to handle the world now. When Liam turned 3, I noticed something was not quite right. Intuitively, I thought perhaps I was comparing my children unfairly but my gut was telling me otherwise. He seemed to be having tantrums more than perhaps a typical 3-year old would have and, more extreme. But he was still so brilliant, well spoken, and loving all at the same time. I dreaded preschool dropoff because if something upset him, we may not have been able to make the transition. I equally dreaded pickup, wondering if it had been a good day or a bad one and how many times he might have been walked out of the classroom to take his deep breaths. Would I show up to the playground to see Liam singing along with the others at the end of the day or would he be off in his own world? We all know too well, how kids can be bullied and I was already anxiety-ridden that his uniqueness would cause him to be ostracized. But then I realized. I realized it was Liam who was magical.

It is now interesting, after having gone through this process with my son to see other children even older than he is, struggling and I can see how these struggles now, may increase. I am thankful that his teacher had the professionalism and courage to talk to me about what ended up being one of the best conversations I could have had, for my son.

Thankfully, with the help of an amazing preschool teacher who wasn’t afraid to ask me if maybe, just maybe Liam needed a little extra help, we sought it out. As a parent who has been through it, we have two choices. We can either get angry at professionals or turn a blind eye or seek out help and advocate for our children. It’s my duty as his mom to reach down and enclose him with all my love and support, no matter how hard it is to hear as a mom. It is not defeat. It is the beauty of finding out so early on in life how awesome your kids potential is and begin to guide them towards how to live and use their skills to reach their highest potential.

Was it hard to hear that he needed some extra help? Are the stares that I feel when I have to pull him aside and the wandering eyes of others burning in my back hard to shove off? When people don’t know what to say because they just don’t know? The comments that he seems to be handful or questions about why he is “overreacting” hard? Sure. But you don’t know, truly know, how it can become a blessing to start to understand and have insight into how your child’s brain works at such a young age. My son’s disabilities haven’t become a burden or a roadblock but rather a journey to find out exactly how he is going to be one super magical human being.