This “blue carrot” flower was always one of my mom’s favorites, and I never really understood why. I mean, it’s pretty, but… Every time I see one, I think of her. This summer, as I was walking, I spotted one and decided to stop take a picture of it. As I was thinking of my mom today, on the anniversary of her passing, I was compelled to look at that picture. It was as if she was here with me…I get it now. Although all of the little white flowers within the flower are equally beautiful, there is the one tiny blue/purple flower in the middle that dares to stand out and be different from all the rest, and that’s the one we see first. It doesn’t try to be like the others and “blend in”, and by being individual, displaying its own color proudly, it makes the entire flower more beautiful. My mom was like that.

As I sat looking at the picture, I recalled an “event” that occurred when I was in elementary school. I was in a play and the audience was filled with the parents and family members of my classmates. Moments before the show was ending, I noticed my mom running in one of the side doors. When she saw me notice her she seemed to stand taller, smile, and wave with excitement; as if she didn’t realize that she was still in her surgical scrubs, looking disheveled and arriving late…again.

After the show, as I was approaching my mom, I remember noticing another mom talking to her. This mom was tall, thin, looked picture perfect as always, and had been sitting in the front row when the curtains opened. I remember seeing her with her arm on my mom’s shoulder as if consoling her, it made me slow down and listen with trepidation. I heard her say something to the effect of, “oh poor Betty, you must feel so badly about arriving so late and missing the whole show.  It must be so hard on you and your kids with you working so much and missing out…they’re growing so fast…etc…”  I remember not knowing whether to jump on her band wagon or kick her in the shins. Before I could do either, my mom was already responding; again with one of her whole face smiles and twinkling eyes shining up from her petite 5’2” frame.  She looked the other mom directly in the eyes, took her hand from her shoulder, held it in her own and said something that I remember as, “Yes, it is hard not being able to be everywhere for everyone all the time, but I continue to do the best I can every day and then try again tomorrow.”  She went on to add something like, “I am so fortunate that my husband was able to video the program tonight so that we can all go home and watch it together, and the baby I was operating on, she is recovering with her parents now too, but thank you for your concern, I do appreciate it.”  (She definitely had a little spice with her sugar.)

Without another breath my mom turned, saw me, and came in for the hug. Wow! I distinctly remember that feeling of not knowing what to think or say. Now, when I think back, I realize that my mom was the perfect example of someone who got her self-worth from within.  She knew her purpose was to discover her own unique gifts and do her best to share them with as many as possible to the best of her ability every day, and that’s what she did.  Of course she wished she could do more, but she didn’t get down on herself for not being able to, she simply used it as her motivation to get up and try again the next day.

As a teenager, I recall times when this same quality of my mom’s drove me nuts. I couldn’t stand that she seemed to not care how mad or upset I or anyone else was at her.  How she would show up with cat hair all over her, in surgical scrubs, or smell of the horse barn, and not seem the least bit embarrassed. It wasn’t that she didn’t ever take the time to get dressed up and go out etc… it was just never about trying to impress anyone else (except maybe my dad from time to time). As I have gotten older and had the opportunity meet more individuals that seem to possess this same “something”, a quality that makes all shape and sizes so attractive that they seem to almost glow, it occurred to me that “it” is their self-confidence; the unshakeable appreciation of their own self-worth. The common denominator is their awareness, total acceptance and love of who they are and all that they can be/do.

My mom always told me that, for as long as she could remember, she knew she was going to be a surgeon, even though there were no women surgeons when she was growing up in the 1930’s. My mom never seemed to believe that anyone outside of her had the ability to know what she could or couldn’t do, only opinions that she could choose to take into consideration or not.  She was the only one who lived in her body with her mind and her soul, she seemed to know  that her job was to try her best at whatever she was doing and that, as long as she did, the rest was not in her control.  I would ask her how she wasn’t afraid of this or that and she would respond, “It’s not that I’m not afraid, I just don’t let that stop me.” It was as if the fear made it exciting for her. I would ask how she could not be bothered by things other people said or did, and she would respond with something like, “Honey, you can’t let what others say and do dictate how you feel or act.  You never know where they are coming from, what kind of day they are having, who they may be mad at, etc…”  She helped me understand: that people do and say different things for a million different reasons and our job is simply to listen to what we feel, inside, and do what is right for us.  And even though we can’t control others, and we have no idea what’s motivating their words or actions, we can control how we react, and that’s all we have to do. Such an amazing, and yet such a simple, concept.

My mom played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was constantly squeezing all that she could out of life. I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her, or at least respect her. Days before her funeral I heard a story that still makes me smile and really sums up her essence. The gist of it was, when she was told that a patient was referred to her and told that she was “the best pediatric surgeon on the East coast”, her immediate response was, “I wonder who my competition is on the West Coast?” That’s pure confidence.

I miss my mom, but I feel as though I continue to learn from her every day. I like to think that a part of her lives on in me as I pursue my passion as a life coach. She is my role model as I strive to help others achieve a greater sense of self-worth and/or confidence; to realize their innate abilities to generate happiness by knowing who they are, doing their best to be their best, and not letting that fulfillment be dependent on or swayed by the opinions or judgement of others.  Each time I am able to do this I feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose and honored my mom at the same time. Through me, she can continue to help others live a fuller life.
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As the rush of the holiday season begins to subside, I find myself thinking about the people I got to see, the ones I didn’t, those I spoke with, the gifts that were exchanged, and the memories made as a result of it all. It made me wonder why we cram it all into one small season, why not spread it out over the whole year? If I could give people a gift simply to let them know that they are important to me, that I appreciate having them in my life, that I value them as a friend/family member and a person, and that they are worth more to me than something money could buy, what would I give them? What would mean the most to me from any of these people? It was obvious; the only gift I could possibly give them was the most precious thing I have, the one thing I can never get back, exchange or replace…my time; my undivided attention. I could let my presence be my gift.

Now that may sound boastful or conceited to some, but I don’t mean it that way. My intention is to make another person(s) realize how significant they are to me. To let them know, for at least that period of time, that there is nothing more important. No cell phones, TVs, computers or other electronics; no laundry, work responsibilities, kids to chase, dishwasher to unload etc., just two (or more) people…talking, listening, and/or being, for the sole purpose of connecting, emotionally and/or spiritually, without distractions. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, in a coffee shop, movie theater or at the kitchen counter; for an hour, a day or 15 minutes, the quality of that time is what matters. Experiencing the time as it passes, instead of trying to “capture” it with a selfie.

It may seem strange to think of time as a gift, but what is more valuable? I remember when I was younger and a friend would call to talk. Out of necessity, I would stop everything I was doing and go to the room in the house where the phone was attached to the wall and be completely present. It’s true, I didn’t have a choice at the time, but I also didn’t know any different. If a friend came over we would actually spend our time communicating with each other. There was nothing to watch on TV, no video games to play, no cell phones or computers to stare at, and a fraction of the magazines to compare ourselves to or talk about…we had no choice but to interact. Today, I often find that when I’m on the phone with a friend, I’m also driving, picking up or dropping off children, running errands or, if I’m home, I’m working at my computer, folding laundry, cleaning rooms, etc… and, most of the time, the person on the other end is doing the same sort of things. If I stop and think about it, each of these things deserves my full attention (maybe not the laundry…) and yet it seems natural to do them all at once. What have we sacrificed in exchange for all of our modern “conveniences” or “technological advancements”? Is it worth it? I may be getting a lot more done in a shorter period of time but what am I getting out of any of those things? How are they contributing to my life and/or helping me grow as a person? How much quality am I loosing for the quantity I gain?

Because of “how far we have come”, million dollar industries that make their money making us feel insufficient or not enough, now have the ability to influence us 24/7 and, as a result, have become billion dollar industries. At the same time, in the age of communication, we have stopped communicating WITH each other and simply communicate TO each other. Instead of real people getting together (on the phone or in person) and being present with each other, we post glorified pictures on Facebook, watch reality TV shows that either make us feel bad about ourselves or make us feel better by making someone else look worse, compare ourselves to magazine photos, tweet this, pin that, etc. When did it all become such a contest? What happened to “we’re all in this together”? Aren’t we? What is the difference between “us” and “them”? When did we trade in connection for competition? And was it worth it? Who wins when one of us loses? I grew up hearing that “we are only as strong as our weakest link”…so why aren’t we trying to strengthen each other?

I believe, and there are several studies that agree, that we, as humans, have a strong innate need for connection, just as we do for food, water, etc…. Meaning, we are programed to desire it because we require it. It has actually been shown how this need is imperative, not only for survival but, for communities to thrive. Currently, I believe that we, as a society, are approaching epidemic levels of a deficit of the very connection that has been proven necessary for humans to thrive. Small doses of undivided personal attention from you to your friends/family could be just the antidote we need. I remember when I was younger, my mom worked a lot. She was a wonderful pediatric surgeon and saved many lives. However, she was away from home a lot. Because she was always thinking about me and my siblings, she was constantly picking up little trinkets here and there that she thought would make us happy. I remember, as a child, wishing that I could trade in all the trinkets, and the time it took her to gather them, for one hour of her time all to myself. Children are very sensitive to the primal need for deep, meaningful connection. We become numb, or use to, not having it after a while, but the cumulative negative effects on society continue to grow. It may not be obvious as it gradually occurs, but what about when you look back over time? Can you say that society has improved over the years since the internet was born? I suppose that depends on your perspective, but I’m only talking about it in a sense of people’s hope, faith, and good feelings about life in general; their happiness and feelings of self-worth vs. productivity levels.

What if your time in someone’s life could make just the difference that they needed? What if they then passed that on to someone else? Etc., etc.… Is there a down side? Worst case scenario, you make a memory. So what if this year, you consider giving someone(s) a handmade gift certificate good for one afternoon, a cup of coffee, a half hour phone call, a walk, etc…at some date within the coming year; during which you completely unplug and give the recipient your undivided attention. In your own words, let them know that they are worthy of the one thing you have that you can never get back, your time. Give them the gift that lasts forever, a quality memory. Time is the most precious thing any of us have, without it, we have nothing. Giving someone your time tells them that you value them; they are significant in your life, they matter. Maybe even consider thinking of a topic to discuss, some questions you’d love to hear their answers to, opinions on or perspective of. Maybe you just want to go for a walk and be in their company; tell them things you’d want them to know if you never saw them again (it’s never too soon). Make it a small group thing, a family thing… Just do it, schedule it, put it in your calendar and make it a priority in your life. I promise you will add more to your life with that time than you will lose by missing an exercise class, etc…

In these busy, fast-paced, auto-pilot, hectic, electronic, multitasking times, let your loved ones know what they mean to you by giving them your time and attention. Let your presence be a present. It will be appreciated; if not immediately, in time. Imagine how you would feel if someone special gave that to you…and then treat people the way you want to be treated 😉

Wishing you peace, health, love and deeper/meaningful connection in the New Year and beyond! 

 

 

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What do the holidays mean to you? When you think about past holidays, which ones do you have the warmest memories of? What do you remember most about them? How do you feel when you reminisce? Do you remember what you ate? How clean or messy the house you were in was? Whether or not all of the dishes matched or if the table cloth fit perfectly? Or do you remember the people you were with, the stories that were shared and how you didn’t want the day to end? This holiday season, try not to let too much time slip away worrying about the superficial things that really don’t matter, that no one remembers, and focus on the memories you are making. Who are you trying to make everything perfect for anyway? Is it really for your guests? Or could it be for yourself?

Recently I realized that, even though I truly believed I was going out of my way to make everything “perfect” for others, it was really for others’ approval of me. In reality, I was just adding to the “we are here to impress each other” tone of the holiday and, in doing so, taking away from the true spirit of our time together, not to mention making it much less enjoyable for myself (and possibly everyone else: most people actually appreciate REAL so much more than PERFECT, don’t you?). It occurred to me that the people in my home for the holidays came to spend time with me, not to watch me clean and serve them. In fact, they would prefer the gift of my presence over a beautifully served dessert. When you are with friends and loved ones for the holiday, are you really there for the food and/or aesthetics of the place? Or do you go to spend quality time with the people? Personally, if it were simply the food and ambiance, I’d find a restaurant on a random day.

Last year I made a conscious decision, and continuously reminded myself throughout the day, that Thanksgiving was going to be about the family enjoying each other’s company and eating too much food. I was going to enjoy the things that mattered and not “stress” about the things that didn’t. Our dishes didn’t necessarily all match, my kids were in between snow pants and long underwear most of the day, the house was…very lived in, and there was an abundance of happy noise. Each time I began to feel stress attempting to sneak into my body (out of sheer habit) I would stop and ask myself; what am I stressed about? Does it really matter? Will anyone besides me even notice and, if they do, will they love me less, or will they maybe just feel better about themselves? And if that’s the case, isn’t that ok? Is there anything I have to do right now that is more important than being with my loved ones? Do I have to do it now or can it wait until later? What will I gain? What will I miss out on? I would ask myself; what do I want my friends and family to remember about this holiday? And then I would recall Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As the holidays are approaching, my kids have already told me that they hope this Thanksgiving is just like last year. I asked them what they remembered most about it; their responses ranged from “it was just so fun”,“it was relaxing”, to “I liked that I didn’t have to smell good”. And even though none of them could remember what we ate, they remember it was perfect! (Almost our entire meal was premade and reheated in crock pots…believe me, their memories of the food was tainted by the fullness of their hearts that day).

How do you want people to feel this holiday season? How can you help make that happen? What memories do you want to make?

If you burn the turkey, is it really a disaster? It could be, but does it have to be? It really has nothing to do with the turkey and everything to do with how you choose to respond to the circumstances.  If you can laugh at it, others will feel comfortable to laugh with you (not at you). Think about a time when you were with a group of loved ones and you were all laughing about the same thing; you just smiled thinking about it didn’t you? That’s one of those “gifts that keep on giving”, and you can give it simply by being YOU (as opposed to what you think the perfect version of you should be). Remember what’s important to you, especially now, when we seem to be bombarded with so much hate, violence and negativity from all around the world. What can you do to begin a change in your home? Start today, start with love and I guarantee you will have no regrets. Wishing you all heart filled memories this holiday and always.

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As I was washing up the breakfast dishes I overheard my two younger sons (my twins) talking about a classmate.  I noticed that what they were saying about him wasn’t very nice so I interrupted them and asked why they were being so mean and what this boy had ever done to them to make them not like him.  Simultaneously they both looked at me, almost laughing, and explained to me that this boy was a friend of theirs, they did like him, and that it was OK to talk about him that way because he talks about himself that way all the time.  Needless to say, my boys and I had a long conversation about insecurities, desires to make friends and/or fit in, the difference between being laughed with and laughed at, etc… and then it was time to start our day.

Later that morning as I was driving, it dawned on me, we really do teach other how to treat us.  Even as a young child, this 5th grade boy was teaching his classmates that making fun of his weight, clumsiness, etc.. was acceptable.  So then what?  If this boys “claim to fame” was these jokes, what incentive was there for him to improve in these areas? But that’s a whole separate post, for purposes of today, think about how you treat yourself. Be aware of how you are telling your friends, family, co-workers, etc that it is OK to treat you, how you expect to be treated.  Don’t be surprised if, for example, your child doesn’t always show you the most respect or appreciation if s/he doesn’t see you showing it to yourself.  Be kind to yourself, treat yourself the way you want others to treat you, because, chances are, they will. The best time to start a change is now 🙂

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