The Ephemeral Moments

Today is Nathaniel’s third birthday.

My little baby is now three.

We didn’t make a very big deal about it. Like David’s third birthday, we got a few mini brownies and lit some candles and that was mostly it. He had a small present. We will have a bigger celebration on the weekend with a cake and everything (but will still be pretty small.) As I was reflecting on the last three years, I realized, once again, that the moments that are deepest in my heart and the little, ephemeral ones. The way he hangs on to me when he wakes up from his nap. The way he laughs with all of his face. The way he opens his arms way way wide open as he comes in for a hug.

Maybe I can focus on the little things because the big things are ok. I will never take for granted that he is fully healthy and seems to be a very joyful boy. Every single night I pray that he gets to have a healthy, lucky and peaceful life. I know, for me, those are the big three.

I think we as humans tend to always normalize our life. So even if there’s something big, good or bad, we eventually tend to assume it’s just the way it is. So the big stuff seems to fade somehow. Or at least seem less big.

But the tiny moments tend to stick with me. Especially cause they are often unexpected little gems. Extraordinary moments in an ordinary day. An unexpected hug. Even a one-line email can totally turn the day around. And it’s the stuff that seems to stick. At least for me.

This is why I like to take pictures. It’s why I like to scrapbook. It’s even why I like the blog. To remember the ephemeral moments. To try to freeze a little bit of the magic so I can tap into it again and again. So I can have that wash of joy when I see the photo years later. So I can remember how lucky I am. Especially when I am busy beating myself up. Or feeling down.

To me, keeping the gratitude journal is also about that. Remembering the small moments of magic that happened today. Because taking a moment to remember is almost like the photo or the layout. It allows me to stop and pay attention. That etches it deeper into my memory. So then recall becomes easier. And then I can tap into it more often. So it’s like this gift that keeps giving.

All this is to say, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the small moments. I’ve been trying to really, really pay attention. Because when I do, I see so much good. So much joy.

So much magic.

Happy Birthday, my son, thank you for all the magic you bring into my life every single day.

Moving away from Judgement

Last week, in one of my book clubs, we were talking about compassion. One of the women in my group was saying how she’s working actively on trying to become more compassionate towards everyone. How’s she’s been working on this for a long time and still struggles with it occasionally but she is not giving up.

As always, it made me think a lot about my relationship with compassion. If you read here with any regularity, you know that compassion towards myself is something I struggle with consistently. But, in this case, I was thinking about compassion towards others. Towards my kids, my husband, friends, strangers. Was I doing a good job? How could I do better? I try to be open-minded and be kind to most people I encounter, but was that enough?

The thing is, anyone who judges herself, clearly judges others too. But, yet, judgement requires knowledge. For me, judging someone comes down to two things:

1. Thinking you know them well enough to know exactly why they’re behaving the way they do
2. Thinking you know what the “right” way to behave is

But the fact is, you don’t know either. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that we don’t know those around us nearly as well as we think we do. We have no idea what they’re going through. Even the people we’re close to don’t always share their situation. As we grow older and have lives intertwined with husbands, significant others, children, etc. there is more and more that’s private to a certain relationship. Your friend might share her personal issues with you but she might not be able to share issues she’s facing with her kids or husband. So, at any moment in time, you know a lot less about someone else’s situation than you think you do. Which means you have no idea why they are making the choices they make or behaving the way they do.

The second one is more obvious to me. You clearly don’t know what the right thing to do is. You barely know what might be right for you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the right thing in a marriage, to ensure both parties are getting what they need. And this is the person who’s theoretically closest to you and shares your days and nights. When it comes to friendships, it’s really hard to tell what the right thing for that person, for that situation might be. And who are you to know exactly what’s right in every situation? Or for every person in that situation?

Nobody, that’s who.

I was reminded again last week that there’s so much I don’t know about the people in my life. So many assumptions I make. So much filling in the “blanks.” And the way I fill in the blanks is often wrong. The assumptions I make are incorrect. Even with my husband, whom I’ve been with for almost twenty years, I have a hard time guessing exactly what he’s thinking and why he’s behaving a certain way. He is another human being. He has his own fears, worries, shortcomings, etc. Not to mention his own set of assumptions for situations and people in his own life. When you think about it more and more, you can clearly see how complicated this is. How little we really know. How many assumptions we make about others.

After the reminder last week, I am trying to keep this at the front of my mind. When I look at others (even my kids) I remind myself that I don’t know the full story. I don’t know what he’s reacting to. I don’t know what else she might be suffering from. I don’t know about the worries and fears he’s carrying with him.

And I will stop thinking that I know. Instead, I will be open. So I can listen. So he can share if he wants to. And if she doesn’t, I can just be there. To lean on, to forget, to hold his hand. I know it’s hard but I am hoping that if I raise my awareness and practice as often as I can, this will allow me to move from judgement to compassion.

And, maybe, just maybe, I can slowly find some compassion for myself, too.


This morning started out lovely enough. David had a few hiccups but we resolved them with kindness and patience. And then the rest of the morning was nice as we ate breakfast together, read our book (we’re reading The Borrowers) and then they played together as I journaled a bit.

But then things got ugly.

As it got time to leave, I asked David to get ready and he started getting snappy. He talked back to me in a tone that’s unacceptable, to me. Even worse, it’s the kind of tone that transforms me from kind, gentle mommy to mean, hurtful mommy. I literally lose my mind.

So as we got ready for the car, I was very upset. The first thing I told him was a list of privileges he would lose for his attitude and then I just kept going and going the whole way to school. Out came the laundry list of things. I couldn’t stop the verbal diarrhea. I said things I am not proud of and things I am not sure he understood. I felt a strong need for him to “get it.” I wanted him to understand that the tone of voice was disrespectful and I wanted him to understand that we make right choices because they’re the “right” choices not because we don’t want to get caught.

I told him he needed to do be able to do what’s right because it’s the moral thing to do.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t getting it. I could tell he felt sorry but I just really needed him to understand so we wouldn’t have to have this conversation again.

He was crying, I was crying. It wasn’t pretty. As I dropped him off, I felt terrible that we were parting this way. I told him not to worry and that we’d work it out and that I loved him.

But the minute he was gone, I felt overcome with shame and worry.

I wanted to run right back in and tell him how much I loved him and how sorry I was for breaking his little heart. At that moment, nothing mattered except healing the hurt.

I felt so so bad all day that I journaled and then watched all of Brene Brown’s talks. (If you haven’t seen them, I cannot recommend them enough: they are truly life-altering.) And the one-line that kept sticking out to me was this:

The way blame is defined in research is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.

And, if I were being honest with myself, that’s exactly what I was trying to do: release the pain his tone gave me.

But that’s not fair.

Of course, it’s not fair. He’s seven. He didn’t need or deserve my unloading on him. He’s likely not cognitively developed enough to truly internalize half the things I was telling him and expecting of him. He’s just a kid. Not to diminish his abilities, I know he can understand that he needs to be more respectful. But he got that three minutes into our conversation. We didn’t need the other 14 minutes. I didn’t need to yell or get more upset. I didn’t need to unload on him.

Anyhow, so I bathed in shame and guilt and remorse most of the day. And it sucked.

The minute David came home from school, I sat down with him, looked him in the eye, and apologized. The first thing he said was that it was his fault. I explained that while I don’t like that he speaks to me badly and, yes, he needs to work on that, the way the morning went was my fault. I didn’t need to communicate the way in which I did and that while what he did was wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him. He’s magical and extraordinary and I will love and forgive and cherish him no matter what. I apologized and asked him to please forgive me.

And he did, of course. Because he’s kind and sweet and has a generous spirit.

His forgiveness gave me the space to forgive myself but not before I made a note to remember how it felt to live with the remorse all day. I told him that I would work hard to bring my best-self into our interactions all the time. And that I hoped he’d do the same. That I would try harder. I would try better. And then I thanked him for talking to me and for forgiving me.

And I wanted to write all this down so I could remember. I said yesterday that I believe the key to happiness (and life in general) is awareness. Writing it down helps me be more aware. Seals this moment in my brain and memory. And I am hoping this will help me remember it next time (before I start seeing black) and allow me to breathe, step back, and remind myself that this is not the person I want to be and the way in which I want to communicate.

I want to remember this remorse so I don’t have to feel it again.

Not so I can shame myself, but just so I can raise my awareness sooner next time.

Or so I hope.

Every Last Drop

A few weeks ago a friend was telling me how she doesn’t dance and sing with her kids because her parents never did that with her and it’s just not the way she is. But the way she said it gave me pause. It didn’t sound like she didn’t want to do it. It sounded like she secretly wanted to do it but justified it to herself by saying how she didn’t have it as a kid and so it was ok not to give it to her kids. (Or, you know, maybe I’m putting words in her mouth, but it doesn’t matter because this post isn’t about her. I mention it cause this conversation and the vibe I got triggered this post.)

And then this past weekend I was journaling the hundreds of questions last week’s Body Restoration class came with and one of them was “What do I wish I had never done?” And I thought about all the possible answers I could give. But then I realized that I couldn’t write anything down. The thing is, I only know this version of my life. And everything that happened before this is the sequence of events that took me here. How can I be sure that changing anything wouldn’t lead me somewhere else? The thing is, I love my life right now. I am deeply grateful for it. And regretting something in the past or wishing it had never occurred opens up the possibility of other paths. Other ways my life could have unfolded. And maybe I wouldn’t end up where I am now. There’s nothing that would make me wish that. Everything I did, good and bad, is what led me here. I regret nothing.

So when I thought of my friend’s situation and my thoughts on regret, and I decided that what I want is to never live a life unfulfilled. I don’t want to make excuses to not do the things I want to do. I want to live the best life I can. Not get hung up on regrets, past worries, other people’s mean words or expectations.

Many years ago, I took a big life-changing class and I took a trip back home Turkey soon after. I remember sitting at dinner with my family and telling them about my class. My grandmother said that she wished she’d taken it. She had so many regrets about the way she’d lived her life. I was quite surprised cause my grandmother had never, ever mentioned such thoughts before. But it also made me think a lot. I want to be able to look back and feel like I lived my life to the fullest extent possible. Explored all my options. Lived true to my own dreams, goals, joys, and ideals. That I pleased myself and the ones I love over the people who don’t matter.

Just to top off all these thoughts, today, my grafting happiness class started and today’s post had the following quote: “The fear that something is wrong with you is your greatest block to joy. In truth, there is no other block.”

I don’t want to feel like there’s anything wrong with me. I don’t want to worry about what I am not doing, or who’s not approving of me, or who talks behind my back. If I want to sing and dance with my kids, I don’t want to worry that my mom didn’t do it with me so I shouldn’t do it. Or that I don’t know how. Or that it looks silly. I don’t want to wish away any of my past. It is the foundation upon which I rest: good or bad. It’s also gone. It’s completely over with. I don’t want to worry about regrets. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to worry about people and things that don’t truly matter. And, most importantly, I don’t want to live a life unfulfilled.

I want to fill my cup of joy all the way up. And drink it all and then fill it up again. I want to live my day as if I am completely free to be and do anything I choose. There’s no rope tying me to the past and holding me down. There’s no shoulds, musts. Just a list of things that fulfill me and the people I love.

So that, at any moment in time, and know that I am making the very best of what I have.

Drinking every last drop of joy.

Passage of Time

In honor of my older son turning seven today, I decided I wanted to write a bit about Time. I’m very conscious of the passage of time. Not in that, wow-i-am-getting-old-wish-i-was-young way. I’ve never (so far) worried about getting old. I actually like getting older. I feel like my body/age is finally catching up with what my soul always felt. But, that aside, I am very aware that time is a very limited resource and if we don’t use it wisely, we lose it.

The fact is we lose it no matter what.

Time passes. When just yesterday he was born, now my son is seven years old. I can’t stop him from growing. I can’t stop time from passing. The only thing I can do is make the most of it while it’s here. The thing with life is that day-to-day moments can be overwhelming. Filled with lots of small activities. Like cleaning, commuting, taking kids to activities, packing lunches, getting homework done, etc. Most of these can be annoying and time-consuming and are repetitive. So they wear us down. They make us notice the big things less.

Things like your little boy becoming seven.

One of my big goals for this year is to pay attention more. To pay attention to things in between all the daily churn. To slow down and notice the beauty and amazingness of our ordinary days. To stop and be grateful. Deeply grateful. For my very ordinary life. I think the best way to use time wisely is to pay attention. To notice what truly makes your heart happy. To notice what makes the people in your life happy. And to do more of those. Even if a little more. To infuse your days with a few more things that make you joyful.

Just a few minutes makes a big difference.

Making better use of your time, like all things, is about the little steps. You cannot change your life overnight. And those chores are pieces of life and will not go away. This doesn’t mean you can’t make changes. I’ve been making a huge effort to stop and pay attention. To smile at the little things my kids do when they don’t know I am watching. To give an extra hug to my husband. Send a sweet email to a friend. (In fact, my friend Jess sent me a book in the mail today. She said she loved it and wanted me to read it, too. Something relatively not time-consuming on her part, but completely made my day.) Paying attention allows you to make changes. Paying attention changes the way you look at what’s there. It’s sort of a magical way to slow time down.

With my photos, I capture my little magical moments in the day. When I process them later that day, I get to relive those moments. When I print them out later in the week, I relive them once more. And when I scrap them for my Savor Project, I get to relive them once again. That allows me to extend the one small/magical moment by reliving it four times. That’s pretty awesome magic if you ask me!

I am learning more and more that everything starts with paying attention. If you know what’s really happening, then you get the opportunity to make change. Without that, you’re operating blind. Taking everything granted. And not exercising the choices you have in life.

So this is a reminder for me to honor my word, pay attention, and try to savor the moments of my day.

And happy birthday my sweet son, David. I love you more than life itself. I am so grateful for you.

The Chance to Give

After reading the comments on yesterday’s post, two things came up for me. One was about being an advocate for yourself which I will save for another post. But the second one was about giving others the chance to do things for you.

There were a few comments about not asking because you didn’t think you deserved it or being worried to bother others. (I don’t want to put words in your mouth so just know that this is me rephrasing and not any particular person’s comment.) This made me think of how frustrating it is to have a friend/spouse/family member who won’t ask. Because here’s the thing: I really love being able to do things for people. Given the chance, I’d much rather do something I know they will love instead of doing something I might think they will like.

When someone cares about you, they love to see you happy. I think we all have this. It’s the joy that comes from giving presents to people and seeing their face light up. If I knew for a fact that I could do something that would make my husband, my son, my friend smile each time, I would make a huge effort to try to do that often.

There’s so much joy in being able to do something for someone you love.

And when you don’t ask, I think you’re denying that person the pleasure of being able to make you happy. This is one of the best things about little kids. They are quite vocal about what they like and they squeal with joy when they get it. And seeing them happy makes us happy too. It’s a huge boost.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What if you lived with someone and they wanted something but never asked you. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to know that there’s potentially something you can do to make them happier but you will never know because they are not asking?

In my personal relationships I find this terribly frustrating. As long as it’s asking and taking what you get (and not throwing a fit if you don’t get it) I feel like asking is giving the other person the opportunity to do something that will bring joy into your life. And if this person cares about you, they will try their best to do it. Won’t they?

And if they don’t care about you….well maybe it’s time to reconsider that relationship.

But, again, if you don’t ask, you won’t know. And if you don’t ask, you can’t expect them to read your mind. It’s not fair. By not asking, not only are you unhappy but you’re also denying them the chance to do something for you. If I found out that someone close to me was doing that, I’d be so sad. I’d feel terrible that they are not giving me the benefit of the doubt. They’re assuming I wouldn’t care.

But I do.

And I bet the people in your life do, too. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And, even worse, you’ll be denying them the chance to get to do something for you. To give you. To show you their love.

And that’s a shame.


When we went to David’s parent-teacher conference last week, one of the things the teacher mentioned was that David reported a lot of thumbs-downs post-lunch. His class has a routine where they sit in a circle when lunch is over and each of the kids get to say thumbs-up, sideways, or down for how their lunch period felt.

And David was often choosing thumbs-down.

This lined up with what I’ve been seeing lately, too. David seems to often choose to look at things from a negative perspective. And also he doesn’t always realize something is not enjoyable until quite a bit of time has been invested into it. For example, sometimes he gets to spend special time with Daddy at night before bed. Occasionally, at the end of this time, he’ll come down to say good night to me and tell me that it wasn’t fun and he didn’t like what Daddy and he spent their time on. When I ask him if he told Daddy this, he invariably says no. So I tell him that he needs to make sure to communicate when things aren’t going the way he’d like them to go.

But until this week, I didn’t realize something else might be at play, too. Maybe be he doesn’t realize that he’s not enjoying an activity while it’s still happening. It’s only at the end that he evaluates and feels regret. So I told him to try out a new strategy at lunch. I said, “About halfway through lunch, stop and think: Would I give my lunch a thumbs-up if I had to go back in right now? Pay attention to your answer. If it’s not a yes, you still have time to change things so that lunch is more enjoyable for you. You get to control how lunch goes for you. So if you go back in and it’s a thumbs-down, remember that you had the opportunity to fix it and you didn’t take it.” Of course there are times something happens to him and he doesn’t have control over it and it’s a genuine thumbs-down. But most of the time, it’s really because he’s not taking control of his lunch period as much as he could. He’s not stopping to pay attention to how things are going. He’s evaluating too late when there’s no way of going back to change.

That’s how regret thrives.

I notice that we do that often in our lives. We get into relationships that seemed right at the time but don’t take the time to regularly evaluate (or re-evaluate) if it’s still a good relationship. Same goes with long-term projects. Or anything where there’s a long or no defined end-point. I believe that one of the most powerful rights we have as humans is the right to choose. We have choice. This is no small thing. If we don’t exercise our right to evaluate and actively choose things over and over again, we’re no different from people who have no choice. This is a huge deal. It’s one of the major keys to happiness: realizing you have choice and exercising it often.

I believe it’s crucial to take the time to evaluate and re-evaluate all the things in your life. I make a point to choose my husband each morning. I don’t want to be married to him just cause it’s the status quo. I want to choose to be with him on that very day. I want to remember why I made the choice in the first place and see if I still feel that way. Or see if I still want to be with him even if it’s for different reasons than I had when I first met him. Even though the alternatives aren’t as wide, I make a point to choose my kids, too. I remember why I wanted kids. I remember the joys they bring into my life. I make the choice. Same with my relationships. It’s better to not have any relationships than to have one that feels destructive. It’s important to reevaluate because people change constantly. You change and the other person changes, too. Sometimes it’s not in the same direction. Sometimes conflicts that weren’t there show up and it’s no longer a positive friendship. It’s ok to put it on hold for a while. And it’s ok to let it go, too.

Same goes for work. You need to make the choice so you don’t feel trapped. Maybe it’s not the work itself but the fact that the income allows you the freedom to buy things you want. Either way, you need to evaluate and actively make a choice. I do that for my art even. If I don’t feel like scrapping or art journaling many days in a row, I step back and evaluate. While I work hard to honor my commitments to myself, I also take the time to evaluate my choices again and again so I can modify as needed. So I can feel like I am savoring my life fully and not feeling trapped in it.

Some choices come with harder consequences than others. Some even feel like non-choices. I understand this. And, trust me, I feel it too. But I still think it’s important to take the reins when it comes to your life. And you can only do that if you take the time to evaluate regularly.

And make the choice to live a thumbs-up life.

The One Thing

I don’t believe a marriage is about meeting halfway. It’s not about 50/50. To me, it’s always been 100/100. If both parties give 100% as often as they can, there’s a chance things might work out. Marriage is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

So is parenting.


One of the things Jake and I started doing a long time ago is following this “one thing” rule. The deal was that I tell him the one thing that matters to me most. The one area where I really really need him to give 150% and do/give what I need. And then for all the other things, I would work very hard to just let them go or work with him through them. Same for him. He got his one thing. This is not to say we don’t have many things we’d both like and that we don’t try to make each other happy in all areas. But this is just to say, if all fails and you feel tired and worn out just remember the one thing. And it also means that for as long as he’s making a genuine effort on the one thing, he’s working on our marriage and I can let the other things go. Because he can’t do it all, all the time. (Same goes for me, of course.)

Over the years the “one thing” has sometimes changed and sometimes stayed steady. But I always keep mine in mind. When I am annoyed cause he’s leaving the dishes on the counter, I’ll remind myself of my one thing and that the dishes don’t matter. Nothing matters. At least not as much as the one thing. And like the bare essentials I mentioned earlier this week, this is my one essential thing. And I keep it close to my heart and soul so I can keep all else in perspective and when life with kids and jobs and homes and cars and all the crap you need to deal with on a daily basis makes you grouchy and unable to keep things in perspective, I have my one thing.

I was thinking today that it’s a good idea to apply that to parenting, too. Just like with Jake, I get to have the one thing I need from my kids and the one thing they need from me. Nathaniel is still a bit too young to vocalize but I talked about this with David a while back and his one thing for now is being “fair,” it matters to him that I am fair across the two boys and in general. And he knows that my one thing is “honesty.” That he tells me the truth no matter what. I know this will change over time, and I will have the conversation with him regularly to make sure we keep up with changes in our lives. And when Nathaniel is older, he gets to have his one thing, too.

I also think it’s good to have the one thing for your own self and your expectations of the kind of parent you hope to be. I can beat myself up about all of the areas where I drop the ball for my kids. Between a fulltime job, schools, personal goals, marriage and many other things, it’s not realistic to think I will ever be the perfect mom (not that such a thing exists anyway.) I will drop the ball all the time. But if I have the one thing that I know I want to always have present, I can do the same thing I do in my marriage. I can hold that close and forgive myself on all others. (Or at least be kinder to myself.)

I decided today that my one thing will be “being home base.” I want my kids to know that I am always there for them no matter what. They can come to me with anything and I will not judge them and I will love them and accept them the way they are. I might scold/punish them for doing something wrong or dishonest. I might get upset. But I will never stop loving them and always be listening with an open mind. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and the gift of truly listening.

That’s the kind of mom I want to be.

So the rest I’m gonna let go. (or at least not grip so tightly) If I can accomplish this one thing. If I can truly have them see that I am there for them and that I am their one person in the world no matter what, well then I don’t care about what vegetables they won’t eat. I don’t care about not wearing the jacket when it’s cold. I don’t care about so many little things that drive me insane today. The play dates I don’t setup. The classes he’s not taking. The lunches that are imperfect. So many little things where I beat myself up. What matters is that when he needs me he knows he can come to me. Always.

That’s the one thing.

Everyday I succeed in prioritizing that, I am willing to let the others go.

Ps: After this post, I will be turning email notifications off for a while. Just to test some things out. Don’t worry, if you get this one, you’re still on the list when I turn them back on. I apologize for the inconvenience. If it helps, I post generally once around 7-8am daily and then once more around 4-6pm M-Th.

An Audience of One

I was talking to my husband tonight about how I finally tracked down someone who might be able to help me find a personal trainer. We talked a bit about different options and the cost and flexibility of each and then I said, “Won’t you like it if I do this?” or something to that effect.

He replied, “Don’t do this for me. I think you’re great just the way you are.” Or something to that effect.

And I smiled.

Here’s why: Last year, at some point, I decided to change my thinking completely. I decided that everything I do will be “for me.” This applies to all areas of my life. It’s easy to make things about other people, but it also has nasty pitfalls. When you think you’re doing something for someone else, that comes with some entitlement whether you admit it or not. Even if you’re the nicest person in the world, after doing something for someone else again and again, you’ll eventually start resenting them for not doing something for you in return.

I think that’s human nature. At least in my opinion.

So instead of doing things for other people and then little by little resenting them, I decided to turn around my point of view and do everything just for me. There are some obvious cases where this is easy, like the art, journaling etc that I do for me. It’s easy to think of it for things like the exercise and weight loss too. Because while my husband might benefit from them, I certainly enjoy the outcome of my efforts wholeheartedly. So it’s definitely something I do for me.

I’ve gotten so good at this way of thinking that it works on even the not-so-obvious cases. For example, I make breakfast for my kids because it’s important to me that they eat a healthy, balanced, nutritious breakfast. I read to my son because I love reading these books for the first time or getting to reread them and share them with him. I love to see what he thinks, I love to share those moments with him. I focus on the benefit I am getting out of the experience instead of thinking how he’s lucky to have me. This allows me to remember why I do it and puts me in a space where I expect nothing in return. So I don’t resent him for taking my precious time. I am choosing to give it. To share it.

Same goes for many other things I do all day long. I take time to step back from each thing I do and think of why it matters to me. What personal benefit I am getting from it. This way I can keep the focus on me. It makes it so I feel no entitlement and no resentment.

So far, I haven’t found anything where this system doesn’t work. I still get upset sometimes and I try to catch myself. If I feel I am getting bitter or feeling entitled, I give myself a good talking to and maybe even journal. I then let it go. The thing about life is that you only have control over what you do. How you feel. So if you start doing things for other people in the hopes that they will then do things for you, you could get badly disappointed. Because people may or may not respond the way you want, hope, expect, wish. Other people do what they do. You only get to decide what *you* do. So I think it’s best to do as many things for yourself as you can.

Changing my perspective and my way of thinking has made my life so much better. Happier. Calmer. Now I am doing things for an audience of one.


All those other people in my life? They just get the side benefit of me doing things I want to do.

And it works like a charm.

Star Treatment

One of the things I’ve learned this year is to take time for myself each day. Whether it be to make art or to exercise or to just sit quietly and journal. It doesn’t much matter which activity I chose, what matters is that I am choosing to respect myself enough to show myself that I deserve some of my time, too.

As a mom, it’s often hard to choose yourself over the others in your life. As a working mom, I pretty much have a full plate of people to answer to all day long. My sweet husband, my precious children, my kind boss, and my amazingly talented workmates. All of these people are in my life every single day (ok so the work people tend to be more so on the weekdays, but still…) And they are all truly people that I like having in my life. People I chose. People I admire, love, and cherish.

But they are all demanding in their own way. Some out of need, others out of their love for me, and some for our combined goals. And I want to give my time to all of them. Not to mention friends, other family and loved ones, etc. When it comes to these people, I think we often feel an obligation to put them first. We often feel like we can give them all of our “good” energy and then we can make do with what’s left.

The thing is: there isn’t much left on most days.

You come to the end of the day and the work is over (at least for that day), the kids are in bed, and your husband is sitting next to you quietly working. Now is the perfect time to sit and work on your personal projects. Everyone’s taken care of and quietly content. Now you can focus on you.

Except you’re spent. You’re so tired that you cannot focus on anything and even the idea of putting clothes on to exercise is enough to make you shudder. You can’t even be convinced to do something you love like scrapping or doing art. You simply feel exhausted so you veg out in front of the TV or internet and crawl into bed when you’re tired enough.

And there goes “your” time.

You tell yourself, tomorrow will be different.

But it isn’t.

You work yourself to the bone every day. That’s what we do. We give to the people we love. We give to the people we feel obligated to give to. We put ourselves last because it seems like we can do that “later.” But I say it’s time to change that. I am not talking about a drastic “everyone can go to you-know-where” kind of change. I am talking about two 15-minute slots in your day. I’m saying for 15 minutes tomorrow morning you do something for yourself.

Maybe you take a walk or you make a sketch or you go out and take some pictures. Journal. Start a layout. Whatever your heart desires. Just for fifteen minutes. But it has to be early in the day. Way before you’re tired. Don’t worry about the todo lists or all the other people waiting. 15 minutes is not a long time for them. They love you.They trust you. They will wait.

And after those 15 minutes you will feel so good. You will feel like you took a little bit of time to take care of yourself. Luxurious time. Time you don’t usually allow yourself to take. And this will make you so much kinder and more generous towards those other people who love you and depend on you.

You deserve to take a little bit of time each day to treat yourself like a star. Give yourself some of that love and care you give to others, to the house, to your family. I feel like taking care of myself is a gift I give to my kids, too. They see that I value myself and spending time doing things I love. It shows them it’s ok to take the time to do something that gives you joy. It’s ok to take time to take care of your health. It’s ok to put yourself first a little bit each day. It makes me more joyful. And when I am happy, they are happy, too.

Because they love me.

So my wish for you is that tomorrow you take 15 minutes for yourself, give yourself some of that star treatment, and focus it on whatever it is you love to do.

Enjoying Life as it Happens

Now that my schedule is sort of back to normal (even if temporarily) I’ve been trying to catch up on all the reading, blogs, links, etc. that have accumulated. I saw this article on 7 Ways to Change Your Life in 7 Days. I will admit that I usually do not like articles like these. I am not entirely sure why. I do read them and often they are valuable or interesting but they just feel like snippets to me. This is all good stuff but I won’t be able to do it in 7 days. Each of these things is hard and requires a change in attitude and frame of mind. I guess what I mind is how easy the article makes it seem. So then, when I can’t actually change my life in 7 days, I feel like a failure.

Anyway. Not even the point of my post.

The part that resonated the most with me was this quote:

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.

I think of this often. Since I am a schedule based person and I multi-task often, I find myself disengaged more frequently than I’d like. I also find that just by changing my perspective I can actually enjoy life more.

For example, we live relatively close to a train station. On the way to David’s school each morning, I cross the tracks. Sometimes, I have to stop because a train is coming. Ordinarily, this would annoy me. Sitting there, waiting for the train to pass is taking precious minutes away from my life. Minutes I won’t get back.

But here’s the thing: Nathaniel loves the train. As we get close to the tracks, he always watches for the warning lights and if they are on he will exclaim with joy. “Choo choo” he will yell. And just in case we weren’t clear he will name each of us and do it again. “Mommy, Choo choo. Didi choo choo!” he’ll say. His excitement is intoxicating.

So now when I get close to the tracks, I find myself hoping for the train to come. I know it will bring joy to my boy and it’s infectious. The funny thing is, even when Nathaniel is not in the car, seeing the train pass will make me think of his happy cheering and I will smile. He has completely transformed this particular experience for me.

While doing the dishes might be an inapplicable example for me, I have been thinking more and more about paying attention, being present, changing perspective. Enjoying life as it happens, regardless of whether I have control or not. (Because more often than not, I don’t.)

Especially when it comes to my family. Letting myself bask in their small joys. Sharing tiny and huge moments of laughter. Taking the time to listen. To kiss a boo-boo. To give a hug. To not feel like my time is too precious for the ones I love. For the ones who bring me the most joy in life.

I’ve been thinking about all this. Every moment of every day is really what life is about. Enjoying this very moment as it happens is what life is all about. Enjoying the train. Enjoying the dishes. Enjoying the small moments.

Because there are a lot more of those than the big ones.

Know Thyself

I am learning more and more that the key to a happy and fulfilled life is knowing yourself.

On the good side, the more I know about what I like, the more I can fill my life with it. Colors, shapes, people. If I know what clothes suit me best, I can buy more of them and always feel at my best when I am dressed. If I know what foods make me feel the best, I can focus on eating those. If I know what songs, what TV, what conversations I prefer. I can bring them into my life.

Same goes with books, hobbies, places to go. Focusing a lot on my actual likes and taking a step back and thinking really hard about whether I like something because *I* like it (and not because someone else encouraged me or cause it looks good or sounds important, etc.) is a very valuable way to spend my time.

I wrote about this in a newsletter a few months ago but I’ve been thinking more and more about it everyday.

Today Brené and Jen were talking about shame triggers in the Ordinary Courage class and, to me, it was another reminder that how well you know yourself can be crucial in recognizing situations and being able to step away from them instead of getting upset, frustrated, or even worse falling into a shame spiral, again and again. Noticing how your body behaves when you feel ashamed allows you the opportunity to pay attention, take a moment, step back and take the next step accordingly.

Being aware is always the key.

I notice this helps when I go into arguments with people who are close to me like my family. I’ve known them for so long that I can recognize patterns, I can see my buttons as they are being pressed, I can see when an argument isn’t really about what it appears. I can understand that when the other person is just frustrated about something totally unrelated and is picking a fight. Knowing myself, knowing how I trigger, how my anger, shame, frustration, pride, etc. triggers is really really valuable in these situations. It stops me from escalating an issue unnecessarily and getting into a bad place.

One of the exercises we did for Karen’s Pathfinder class was writing down what matters to us. What our values are. What we strive for them to be. I think this awareness also brings so much light into our lives. It allows me to live my day to day life true to my priorities. If I spend time thinking about exactly the kind of mother I want to be, not what i think I should be or what others think I should be but what truly matters to me, I can make sure that the time I spend with my kids is focused on exercising those values and priorities. Same for my career or marriage.

It even applies to art. If I believe that preserving my family’s memories is crucial to me, I can spend more of my energy writing journaling on my pages. If I believe it’s more important to do play and experiment and use art to just relax and unwind, then I can worry less about the theme of my pages and focus more on the fun. For example, for me, having my art be meaningful is crucial so I focus on titles and journaling in my scrap pages and put themes and titles on my art journal pages. For me, a page isn’t complete until I have meaning. Ever since I figured this out, I always think of my “sentence” on my art journal first. And then even if the page doesn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, if it is meaningful, I am content. Knowing my preferences allows me to get to a more peaceful (or happy) place with my art.

To this end, I will spend the next few weeks spending extra attention on this. On how I think I want to be perceived (and not be perceived) and how that affects me. On what I truly want for myself. On my values and the kind of person I want to be in the world. On how I would truly like to spend my time. I plan to reserve my journaling time to note these observations daily and see if I can make some progress on getting to know myself better.

I believe it will some of the most rewarding time I spend.