Things I Will Miss


“I can’t.  I can’t go on.  It goes so fast.  We don’t have time to look at one another.  I didn’t realize.  So all that was going on and we never noticed…Good-bye; good-bye, world; good-bye, Grovers Corners. . . Mama and papa.  Good-bye to clocks ticking. . . and Mama’s sunflowers.  And food and coffee.  And new-ironed dresses and hot baths. . . and sleeping and waking up.  Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” – Emily Webb in Our Town

Today is Monday. But not just any Monday. Today is a joyful Monday – a day to sing and laugh and eat cake. Today is a contemplative Monday – a time to reminisce on the past, relish the present, and look ahead to the future. And, of course, today is a Listicles Monday.

Stasha at Northwest Mommy issued the prompt of Things We Will Miss and Things We Won’t Miss, taking a cue from the lovely late Nora Ephron, who published her own will-miss and will-not miss lists in her final book, “I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections.”

Photo Credit: Robo Android via Flickr

Things I Will Miss

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. My oldest son’s laugh
  4. My youngest son’s smile
  5. My husband’s touch
  6. Autumn’s fiery colors and crisp air
  7. A cool shower after a hot, sandy day at the beach
  8. Driving to the airport before vacation
  9. Sleeping in my own bed after returning from vacation
  10. Foot rubs
  11. Cookie dough
  12. Surprises
  13. Cards and letters in the mail
  14. Long dinners
  15. Comforting hugs after a good cry
  16. Birthdays

Things I Will Not Miss

  1. Mosquito Bites

As Emily Webb said in Our Town, perhaps life is just too wonderful for anyone to realize. Do we ever realize it while we live it? Well, I, for one, plan to do my best to realize it today – for this is one freaking fabulous Monday.

Posted in Happiness, Monday Listicles | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Above the Water


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Have you ever felt like you are just barely keeping your head above water? Like the number of chores and projects on your to-do list are growing at a faster pace than tasks can be crossed off the list? Like you are emotionally, physically, and mentally stretched beyond your capacities? Like, no matter how hard you try to make progress, you are on a never-ending treadmill of obligations and responsibilities that can only lead to disappointments and malfunctions? Like you are somehow in some way neglecting someone – whether it is your kids, your partner, your parents, your friends, your colleagues, or yourself?

Ever-mounting pressures, expectations, and ambitions can weigh upon us until we are just barely keeping our head about water. It is easy for me to become overwhelmed with daily obligations, relationship needs, and personal aspirations. There are relationships to maintain, nurture, and enjoy. There is laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning to be done. There are playdates, carpools, swimming lessons, and t-ball games to attend. There are freelance writing projects to finish, book goals to meet, and blog posts to write. There are books to read, hobbies to explore, and places to visit.

Sometimes it seems like my shortcomings and uncompleted responsibilities far outnumber my successes and completed tasks. It feels like my head is barely above water. Just barely.

But the amazing thing is that there is a certain beauty and grace that can come with just barely keeping your head above water. The water is actually an utterly delightful place to be – cool, refreshing, cleansing, and restorative. In fact, it may be unrealistic to expect – or want – anything more than our head just barely above water.

You see, despite the current hullaballoo surrounding whether women (or men, for that matter) can or cannot “have it all” (whatever “it” is), the reality is that no one can have it all. And, more importantly, we shouldn’t expect to have it all. Time and resources are limited and life is full of trade-offs. Rhetoric about “having it all” can only set us all up for disappointment when this unachievable standard is left unmet, making us feel like having our head just barely above water is a regrettable place to be.

Perhaps the key isn’t whether our head is just barely above water or not. Perhaps the key is whether we are able to move through the water with grace and confidence, whether we can appreciate and savor the cool, cleansing, and invigorating stimulation that comes with being completely immersed in the currents and tides of a full and well-lived life. Perhaps that is having it all.

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

Posted in Happiness, Perfectionism, Photo Inspiration Challenge, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Personal Practice


Man meditating outside Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, South Korea

The year is now half over, making it a logical time to take stock of any goals or resolutions set out earlier in the year. I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions back in January, but a few months ago, I did make a resolution to start meditating. My goal was modest – a mere two minutes each day. Unfortunately, two minutes a day seems to be about two minutes more than I am capable of.

Having read of the health and wellbeing benefits that meditation can offer, and wanting to find new ways to calm my “monkey mind” and expand the scope of my spiritual practices, I decided to make meditation a routine – though modest – part of my day. And I have failed miserably.

Though meditation as a spiritual practice is not completely foreign to me and I have done my own informal form of mantra meditation on occasion, a regular meditation routine has always eluded me. When I try to focus on slow breathing, our dogs start barking. When I try to clear my mind, random thoughts begin popping into my head. When I try to calm my body, the jitters and fidgets jump into me. And that isn’t even taking into account the biggest challenge of all – getting started in the first place.

I doubt that I am alone in my lack of motivation and concentration struggles; these all seem to be common challenges for meditation newbies. In fact, lack of motivation is a prime deterrent to the satisfaction of any number of resolutions – from exercise and weight loss to quitting smoking and watching less television.

During the three months since I made my resolution, I have tested out a few techniques I had heard about from other more experienced meditators. I tried the finger touch technique – inhaling and exhaling slowly while touching my thumb to each finger on the same hand. I tried the advice of meditation expert Thich Nhat Hanh to recite a simple chant, such as “breathing in-breathing out” while meditating. But, largely, I have followed the age old art of procrastination, telling myself that I would give it a try tomorrow.

I am not ready to give up my resolution to make meditation a regular routine, however. The health benefits that meditation can offer on one’s body and mind alone are worth the effort, not to mention the enhanced spiritual development that meditation might create. For instance, research shows that meditation can increase brainwave activity linked to relaxation, lower anxiety, expand mental capacities for compassion and empathy, decrease blood pressure, increase lung capacity, decrease blood sugar levels, and kick your immune system into high gear – all of which sound pretty good to me.

Given that my first attempt at routine meditation was largely a disappointment, perhaps I need to renew my goal with revised expectations in mind. You see as disappointing as my attempts (or lack of attempts!) have been thus far, it hasn’t been a complete failure. I did learn two things in my futile attempts at meditation. First, I learned that meditation is a practice and, therefore, it requires just that – practice. It is not enough to simply decide that I want to meditate effectively and magically the skill will arise. Meditation requires patience, effort, and repetition, which means that I won’t make any progress without getting over my first hurdle of putting it off for another day.

My second realization came through an understanding and acceptance that meditation is a personal practice and something that I must undertake at my own pace and in my own way, rather than following the techniques prescribed by others. I have written about the meditative prayer that I recited on my wedding day, and I have continued to call on this meditative prayer on a number of other occasions. This personal mantra cannot be discounted and discredited as a therapeutic and spiritual form of mediation merely because it is not touted by the meditation gurus.

Photo Credit: Iko via Flickr

Similarly, I derive certain meditative effects from music. For instance, when I listen to certain music, a calmness washes over me that is somewhat akin to a religious experience, as if I were submerging myself in a clear pool of water surrounded only by the tiny air bubbles that race to the surface. As bizarre and unique as this image and analogy may seem, it is personally very meditative, therapeutic, and cathartic and I suspect that many of us feel the calming effects from music.

Perhaps I need to begin “Meditation – Take Two” with an even more modest goal of one minute a day. Or perhaps I simply need to practice meditation more often. But, regardless of the quantity and frequency of meditation, one thing is certain. As Thich Nhat Hanh advises in his book “You Are here,” meditation should be practiced with joy and pleasure, rather than viewed as one more chore on my to-do list. For me, that means simple meditative prayers, music, and modest expectations. Perhaps with a little practice, a lot of patience, and the use of more personal techniques, the joy and pleasure of meditation will elude me no more.

Where do you stand on your resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise? Do you meditate? If so, what personal meditation techniques do you enjoy?

Posted in Spirituality and Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Little Monday Randomness


After a busy few days of summer fun – a day at the beach with good friends, a visit with old work pals, a wedding, and a some time paddle-boating around the lake in Wisconsin, Monday has once again reared its ugly head. Fortunately, Monday means another Listicles with Stasha at The Good Life.  This week she had the fabulously creative idea of setting out a list of random questions for us. Here goes…

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, and find line 4. What is it?

“…several years what that would exactly mean. We only knew that, somewhat..” From Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Cover of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Y...

Cover via Amazon

2. How many times a day do you say Hi?

About 10-20.

3. Have you ever worn a uniform?

Nope, though I did wear a hairnet when I worked on the bottling line at my dad’s company.

4. What do you think about the most?

The obvious top choice is my family, but a close or distant second (depending on the day) is my to-do list and upcoming plans. It’s an illness, I know. I’m not proud.

5. How many keys are on your keyring?

6

6. What was the last thing you bought?

A new iPhone cover.

7. Are you growing anything these days?

Green beans, snap peas, and a couple tomatoes. I am still amazed that my tiny garden is producing food.

8. What is under your bed?

Sometimes a sleeping dog or two, but nothing else.

9. What is most important in life?

Positive and meaningful relationships with family and friends. Calm quiet confidence. Inner peace and acceptance. Making a difference – however small – on the people and world around you.

10. What is the strangest word you used this week?

Laches.

Posted in Honesty, Monday Listicles | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Shared Earphones


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

They sat in the back of the law school library, in the chairs closest to the expansive windows looking out over Bascom Hill and its steep grassy incline that was now peppered with crimson, ginger, and flaxen-colored fallen leaves.

They were supposed to be studying for their civil procedure midterm, just a few days away. They pretended to be analyzing amorphous legal concepts like laches, affirmative defenses, and compulsory joinder. Instead, they talked and listened, consumed with learning more about the other.

They shared his set of headphones, one ear free to listen to the words of the other, as if making up for the lost time before they had met. They chattered on about possible summer plans, job aspirations, friends, families, what they had done the previous weekend. They gossiped about the annoying girl in class – the one who always seemed to be the first one to shoot her arm in the arm to answer the professor’s Socratic line of questioning.

Occasionally, they would tell themselves that they really needed to study. They would stare at their notes and words like “venue” and “mitigation” jumped off the page with little meaning. They were lost in their own thoughts – she regretting the slipshod ponytail, he wondering what to say next.

Did they have any idea that their flirtatious friendship would eventually turn into a love affair – one that would result in marriage four years later, a son seven years later, and another son three years after that?

Probably not.

But they both new that something about this person was…different. Maybe, just maybe, this was “The One.”

So they shared their one set of earphones and chattered on.

Yes, my husband and I met in law school. Yes, our relationship was sparked by a conversation at the back of the law school library. Yes, my hair was probably in a ponytail or under a gray flannel hat. We didn’t share a set of headphones, but he did buy me a blueberry muffin.

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

Posted in Family, Photo Inspiration Challenge, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Liebster! What the heck is a Liebster?!?


This blogging thing is a strange world, you know. I have only been writing here for the past four months and it has been an amazing roller coaster ride of ups and downs. I will admit, prior to starting this blog, I read few (if any) blogs at all so I was unaware of what the blogging community was like. I certainly didn’t expect it to be a thriving community filled with informative resources, skillful writing mentors, and a supportive network of connections. But that is just what I have found.

And I have learned a lot along the way, as well. I have learned that feedback – whether in the comments section of the blog or a separate individual email – can lift my spirits like I never imagined. I have learned that writing communities – like Yeah Write, Write on Edge and Studio 30 – exist to help writers and bloggers find their voice, hone their skills, and share their words with others. I have learned that there are amazing people, who despite our relatively new relationships, have provided me with invaluable advice on the blogging and publishing world. I have learned that a kind word, a Facebook like, a retweet, and basically any recognition at all can all validate the vulnerable personal risks that I am taking by publicly sharing myself.

Which is why I am so honored to be the recipient of the Liebster Award from Steph at The Healthy Mom. You might be wondering, what the heck is a Liebster award? Well, it’s a virtual award given to relatively new blogs with fewer than 200 followers. It is intended to recognize bloggers for their efforts and promote undiscovered blogs so that they can gain exposure and attract new followers. Being nominated for a Liebster comes with a few guidelines, of course, including the following:

1. You must thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog, with a link back to their blog.

2. You must include the blog award, along with its purpose and guidelines, on your own blog.

3. You must pass the Liebster Blog Award on to 5 blogs (with fewer than 200 followers) you think deserve some recognition, and let them know of your nomination via comment on their blog, twitter, Facebook post, etc.


So, thank you, thank you, thank you to Steph at The Healthy Mom. Your recognition, along with your frequent comments, is uplifting and motivating. I am honored and humbled to be named in such good company.

Like I said, I am new to the blogging world – both as a writer and as a reader – but there are several blogs that I consistently look forward to reading so I am passing the Liebster Award on to the following blogs:

1. This Will Be On the Parenting Test. Lisa at This Will Be On the Parenting Test provides a refreshing take on parenting and life in general. Not only is she a parenting mentor of mine, but she is a spiritual mentor and good friend, as well. I wish you all would have a chance to know Lisa, for she is truly an amazing person, but since you might not be able to know her in “real life,” I highly recommend that you get to know her in the virtual world.

2. Dad of the Decade. Not only does Ben write about the harrowing first year of his daughter’s life during which she faced several life-threatening medical problems, but he writes about being a single dad and he seeks to “reject outdated and harmful stereotypes of gender roles in families.” Ben’s writing is poignant, emotional, and inspiring, and he has been an invaluable resource of information and a supportive blog follower, as well.

3. People Do Things with Their Lives. Stephanie engages her readers in socially aware topics by drawing them into her story and sharing additional information. I learn something new and fascinating every time I read one of her posts. She is also a genuinely supportive and encouraging blog follower, who takes the time to share meaningful comments and feedback.

4. Angie McMonigal Photography. Angie is a good friend and frequent photo contributor to my weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge. Her photos never cease to provide me with unending inspiration and I look forward to the Photo Inspiration Challenge each week as I often end of writing on something completely unexpected.

5. The Chili Pot. A new blogger, Eric provides a witty take on pop culture and life in general. Eric is also a faithful and supportive friend – truly one of the good guys.

Thanks again to Steph at The Healthy Mom. Thanks to the nominated blogs for your helpful guidance and encouraging motivation. And thanks to you all for reading. It truly means the world to me.

Posted in Inspiration, Relationships, Respect, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Awash In Twilight


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

“Come outside and sit with me for a minute,” he says. “The sun is just going down. The sky looks awesome.”

“I’ll be right there,” she replies. “I just want to put this food in the fridge and clean up the kitchen.”

The momentum of the day carries her through one chore, then another, and then another. She hustles to pack up the leftovers, rinse the dishes, and wipe the counter. She mentally assigns additional chores to her to-do list: return an email that she neglected during the day, call the pediatrician and make an appointment for her son, shift the clothes from the washer to the dryer before they become a foul morass of sodden garments to be rewashed.

“Are you coming? I’ll help you in a few minutes.” he calls from outside, pleading with her to put the housework temporarily.

“Just about,” she responds as she nudges the refrigerator door shut with her foot and tosses a damp washcloth into the sink.

She grabs her cup of coffee (potential insomnia be damned) and her iPhone to send one quick email as makes her way through the patio doors.

“You made it just in time,” he says as she steps over the threshold. There is a twang of disparagement in his voice, one that wordlessly questions, “Did you really need to do all of that? Couldn’t the chores have waited?”

She notices the annoyance, knowing that he is right, of course. The kitchen clean-up and emails could have waited. Again, the momentum of the day won out. The self-imposed list of chores deprived her of a few moments of twilight serenity – that spectacle of the season when the brilliant glow of a summer day refuses to yield to the shadows of dusk and, for a brief time, daylight and darkness share a dance together before the one triumphs over the other.

But as she eases herself into the deck chair, lamenting the fact that she squandered the all-too-brief twilight tranquility, she realizes that she isn’t too late. He was right, she made it just in time. She has arrived at twilight’s climax, when the sky is ablaze in fuschias, auburns, and indigos and a sliver of the moon is just beginning to show his face.

She exhales a long, slow, grateful sigh, knowing that this is where she should be. Right here, right now. She admires the magnificent sight before her – the trees quickly morphing from emerald greens into smoky silhouettes, the sky’s cobalt hue surrendering to its charcoal shade, the half-moon taking on its role as nature’s nightlight.

She turns to her left, looks at him, and she is awe-struck. She is captivated by the calmness in his eyes. She is amazed by his increasing handsomeness and youthful appeal, in contrast to her once taut face that is now showing its age with laugh lines, sags, and crevices. She is overwhelmed by the spectacular good fortune and divine blessing bestowed on her when he chose herher! – to shares life’s bright days, dark nights, and calm in-betweens. And she resolves that she will never again let the momentum of the day triumph over the peaceful serenity of a few twilight moments spent with him.

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

Posted in Family, Happiness, Photo Inspiration Challenge, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments