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May 082017
 

8 Life Lessons Kids Learn from Travel

by Stephanie Pletka for Scottsdalemomsblog.com

Warning: If you travel with kids, they will be changed forever!

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Mark Twain once said: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

In the last 3 years, our family of 6 has traveled to 45 states, 10 countries and 9 National Parks via planes, trains and automobiles, before moving to Scottsdale, AZ to explore the beauty of the West.

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From the Mona Lisa to the Grand Tetons, traveling with 4 kids has been fun, challenging, educational and adventurous. We’ve lost kids, found them, chased incoming trains (oops) – and discovered that though we consider ourselves “organized chaos,” it’s really just chaos.

But in the midst of traveling, we’ve discovered that we are such a small piece to a rather large puzzle, in a world filled with beauty and diversity. It’s been a gift and an honor to see the world through the eyes of our children, without judgment, prejudice, or preconceived ideas.

         

 8 Life Lessons Kids Learn from Travel

1. Take Risks. When they’re on the road, they feel safe and secure, away from the judgment of peers, trying something they wouldn’t normally do. They may try to speak broken Spanish to a local in Madrid; or create an elaborate scary story by the fire pit and scare mom half to death.

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.01.21 AM2. Slow Down. We sideline ourselves from the chaos and hurried-ness of life. Carving out intentional moments to hike, bike, kayak, and tell stories, creates conversation and quality time. It tells your kids they’re important enough for you to truly listen and just BE.

3. Financial Management. Without a pulse on your finances, you’ll live like a king the first week of the trip, and a pauper on the last. We have our kids help create the budget, from fuel, groceries, activities, accommodations and transportation, this way they will better understand the magnitude of our investment. Leftover money goes to purchase tickets to a water park or ice cream. waa hoo!

4. Independence. With a watchful eye, like a spy in a crime novel, we followed watched our kids take a train to their Spanish classes in Barcelona, navigate airport security and book an Uber to our next stop. It’s all about teaching, allowing them to try and fail in a safe environment, and seeing the look on their faces when those failures convert to successes.

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5. Cultural Diversity.  Teen aha moment.  I’m not the center of the universe? A Teen aha moment! The world is made up of various languages, cultures, geography and people. It’s amazing how quickly they can get a soccer match going at a park in Prague; or the little ones find an immediate best friend on the swing sets in Chicago. The world is big, and yet small. Our similarities outweigh our differences.

6. Flexibility.  If it rains, go to plan B. If you miss your train or get lost, no one is going to die. Just revamp the plan and keep on keeping on. Life happens.

7. Critical Thinking.  We had the kids deciphering train systems, map skills, street grids and departure times. In the beginning, they wanted a passive role, to follow us. But, if you designate a leader, they will step up and become proactive. In case they are lost, their navigational skills will come in handy.

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8. Selfless Behavior.  When you see a kid walk 2 miles for water after you complained that yours wasn’t cold. When you can buy all the burgers you want, and see a homeless kid that’s hungry. We require our kids to volunteer on our travels or use 10% of their chore money to help someone. You can’t be selfish and serve others at the same time. They cannot co-exist.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” For travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer. Here’s to Living the Best Version of You!

Share with us how you like to travel, what you’ve learned and your favorite places to visit.

 Posted by at 1:51 pm
Jan 122017
 
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Teenager Attitudes

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Stephanie Pletka

Help, I Have a Teenager

What happened to my sweet, precious child? You know, the one that was fun, lovable, a conversationalist and a friend.

It’s a phase, just like everything else.  Seasons of life come and go; it’s their right of passage.  And it too, shall pass. You survived it, and so will they.

Remember, kids actually like discipline, margin and guidance. It’s the world’s best kept secret. They’re trained as teenagers to roll their eyes, cop an attitude, sigh loud enough to break the sound barrier, but it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Their hormones are a mess, as they transition from children to adulthood. I know how they feel. They’ve got the case of the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s but I can’t, going on; testing the waters on every front.

Sweet Attitude Before Teenage Years

Sweet Attitude Before Teenage Years

Notice during game night, they act too old and cool to play, but they hover close enough, as to not miss out on the action.

It’s their job to test the boundaries, as they grow up, seek independence  and figure out who they are in this world.

Don’t you remember what u were like, growing up? 3 times worse. Oh dear God, I can hear the prayers now: please don’t let them be near as bad as I was, you know- you already have a story in your head; and it probably includes the word jail. You’re already calling your parents to say you’re sorry.

By testing the boundaries, they’re walking up to the Electric Fence of life to make sure it’s still there, making them feel safe, secure and cared for.

Guide them now, like bumper cars hitting the rails. Parental Guidance is a safe place for kids to bump life, test drive what works and what doesn’t, take notes and move towards success in a safe, secure area; before they enter harsh reality and life offers fewer soft places to land.

When they act unlovable, lean in, love harder, chase often and pray like there’s no tomorrow.

Like the Olympic sport, Curling, we’re whisking the broom left and right: love, lean in, hug, repeat. Hey, they gotta know we’re either crazy (highly probable) or care about them too much to let them veer off into the ways of the world.

They are your future. Their kids will be your grandkids. You have to fight for the goodness. No one will love, guide and care for your kids like you will.  Stay the course, parents. You got this! Don’t let them fool ya. They love the guidance and margin. Those rolling of the eyes, is just code word for ‘I love you too.’

Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a Father, the son he delights in. Prov 3:12

Jan 032017
 

sunset

 

 

 

 

 

     World’s OKAYEST MOM, I’ve seen this sign everywhere; it makes me laugh. In college, my focus was less on education and more on socialization. If you know me and my personality, I whole heartedly scored an A in Fraternizing, Consorting and my dedication to commemorating an occasion. My grades were OK. There are moments when we shine in life and others when we’re just OK. The vital signs on the Monitor are still moving, nothing special, but we’re alive.

Us Moms spend our days beating ourselves up, thinking we’re not Enough. If we don’t have a cooking show or Professional Christmas Cards distributed by Dec. 5th, we’re not enough.

It’s such an immeasurable term. What does Enough look like? It should look like you, the Poster Child for Enough.  Webster’s defines it as: Adequate. And yet somehow, we view it as IN-adequate.

Somewhere between social media and those craft sites, we think, wearing anything less than a Super Hero Cape MUST mean we’re letting the world down. Wow, what was once considered Over Achievement has become the lowly standard. We forget to forgive; providing ourselves a little slack in the “less than” amazing times. And believe me, there are many more “less than” moments. We need to love ourselves through the good and the bad.

When I was young, we weren’t rich, but no one told me. My parents started their own business; finances were tight, but we had love and determination. We spent boo-coos of family time, playing badmitton in the front yard, swimming at the lake, eating ice cream on the trampoline, laughing at each other’s stories, and enjoying Tuesday game night. My parents, at some point, probably felt like they weren’t enough, but we didn’t see it that way. Kids and spouses alike, have this amazing redemptive quality.
They’re just happy you love them!

We tend to be our own worst enemy.

Look at your kids as they skip through the house.  Does this send a message that you’re not enough? Or maybe the teen who half rolls their eyes at a comment you made, yet stays in close proximity of the living room, as to not miss out on the action. Who do they run to for advice, boo boos and heart break, with perfect precision, making a bee line straight for you? It’s because, You’re ENOUGH!

You hold a solid position in those individual lives. No one can take this from you, but YOU. There’s no need for a Harvard resume to apply for this position. You’re here, because God gave you this crazy family that no one else could handle, like you could.

No one can fill the void, soften the blow, heal the heart, fill the wound or love their soul, like you can. Because, Say it: You’re ENOUGH!

A video on upworthy.com was produced, asking moms to describe themselves. They focused mostly on the negative: http://www.upworthy.com/these-kids-finally-say-what-they-really-think-about-mom-and-her-reaction-priceless-9

Mom’s prospective:
I struggle with my temper.
I feel over weight and un-lovable.
I’m a perfectionist.
I wish I was confident, patient, a better listener.
I’m a terrible cook.
I tend to focus on the negative.
I mess up and can’t seem to get ahead of it all.

Kid’s Perspective:
She’s funny.
My mom cooks for me.
She cuddles with me.
She loves me a lot and I feel it.
She gives the best hugs after school.
We go to church together.
She’s my heart.
My mom is my hero.

Hmmm, apparently they view us through Rose Colored Glasses. Maybe we should buy a pair. Perception is Reality folks and Mama, you’re Enough.

At times, we’re a Mess, a Masterpiece, A Success, and a Failure, but most of all, we’re Important and We’re Enough.

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World. Here’s to the World’s Okayest Mom. Now go take a deep breath, because guess what – You’re Enough!

 

 Posted by at 4:19 am
Sep 282016
 

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Growing Up, I was such an awkward soul. At 12 years old, I was like a baby giraffe learning to walk in a glass shop. My arms were too long for my sleeves, my pants too high for my legs, my straggly hair looked like cotton candy hanging in mid-air. And with this gig, came a bag full of insecurity.

I was more comfortable climbing a good oak tree, than walking through a crowded mall. So early on, I learned to be a great storyteller. I quickly asked questions about others to deflect myself. I was a people pleasing, conversation deflecting, Yes girl that tried not to rock the boat.

But carrying this sort of luggage can be taxing. Luggage is meant to be carried short term – from your house to the car, from the car to the plane, but not meant to carry up the Himalayas.

Then one day after a good cry because I said YES to something, when I should have said No…

The Power of ‘Being You’

a friend replied: Instead of trying to please others, Why don’t you just, BE YOU – and not worry about what others think. It was the most freeing statement.

I had catered to those around me for so long, it had become an exhausting job trying to fix, repair, accommodate, twirl and swirl, like a bad game of Curling, trying to please those around me. And it was my fault, my responsibility for choosing this behavior. It had become too much for one soul to bare. I wasn’t being a true friend to anyone. Now I could rest. Now I could just BE. But it was scary. What if people got mad. What if? It was a chance I had to take, to save me.

And just like that, I began to unload my luggage. I had to hand it all back to their owners: Here’s your brief case, here’s your purse, sorry, sorry, excuse me, here’s your stuff – and little by little, my shoulders lightened, my back straightened; And guess what: People didn’t like it.

When you tell someone YES for so long and then say NO, bad things can happen, unless they’re a true friend. And those who weren’t, didn’t make the cut. And those relationships which were based on selfishness, fell to the way side. And that’s ok. Sometimes you have to unload the boat for it to float better, allowing people to heal. And in the process, it turns out – this unloading of sorts, is just as good for the other person as it is for you.

I began to read books, pray, write down what I liked and didn’t like. I had never asked myself, MY Opinion. I was a girl who wasn’t bothered by much – and yet some things bothered me greatly. I’m simple and complex. I began to think about me, made myself the Captain of my own Ship, the Listener of my own Thoughts. So how do you Become the Person God Intended, your Authentic Self?

Here are 3 Steps (G.E.T.) to Giving Yourself, The Power of Being YOU!

1) Give Your Best Yes.

When you say Yes to something, you’re saying No to you, to time, to your family.

It needs to be a decision worthy of the call. As Lysa Terkeurst says in her book, The BEST Yes, if you say Yes to something you wanted to say NO to, it’s a dis-service to both, as you complain and pitch a fit all the way there, no one truly wins.

2) Establish Boundaries

Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries, defines it as a property line, determining who is responsible for certain things. And when a boundary is over stepped, you become a trespasser, taking responsibility for something that we shouldn’t take ownership of. Be responsible for what you can control, which are your feelings, attitudes, choices, and behaviors. When we each take responsibility for our own stuff, and stay in our lane – it’s called a healthy relationship, and that’s when good things happen.

3) The 80/20 Rule.

Not everyone will be like you. But hey, You Don’t like everyone either. And that’s ok. You may be too much for one person and not enough for another. It’s a big world out there and like bumper cars at an amusement park, you will run into people, and if something sticks, you become friends and if it doesn’t, keep moving on. Don’t try to insert a circle into a square peg, you’re just asking for trouble.

Remember, you’re fearfully and wonderfully made. There’s not another YOU like YOU in this world. Be true to yourself, carry your own luggage, as a Parent, a Friend, a CEO, a Teacher, as the best ‘giraffe walking in a glass shop’, Authentic You.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

-Romans 12:2

 Posted by at 5:28 pm
Aug 102016
 

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When crying, fighting and resisting can’t stop the Inevitable

by Stephanie Pletka
I LOVE new beginnings. I love it when a new door opens, new friends join my circle, new adventures, new clothes, new life, new new new. It excites me. It brings oxygen, a freshness to a season.

But with new beginnings, it also means an end. When a butterfly extends its beautiful wings, it’s no longer a crawling caterpillar. Eventually a swimming tadpole becomes a frog perched on a lily pad and such is the circle of life. You have to say goodbye to a new season, a great job lost to a move, a friendship that runs its course. It’s the end of something that helped make you the person you are today. A cycle, a process to becoming you.

I love new beginnings, but endings are tough. It’s a closure, a termination, a finale – that perhaps you didn’t fore see.
Who knew that was the last conversation, the last hug, the last laugh, the last goodbye.

I have a hard time with endings: whatever you enjoyed, whoever you laughed with, there’s something about laying that season to rest. A death of sorts.

My oldest son started high school this year. I dropped him off and said goodbye, but as I made the long walk to the car, as if someone had snatched my son, literally stole him from me, his life, all the good times, our time together, his first word, how he ran to me as a toddler, as if I were his only comfort – flew through my mind. I made it to the car before I lost it. The ugly cry times 10.

We had the best summer, traveling cross country, hiking through 9 national parks, laughing, telling stories, sharing wisdom for future trials to come. Those priceless moments you wish could be preserved in a bottle for years to come.

Even though they can make you crazy, there’s something to be said for all the long walks, late night talks, laughs in the kitchen, reflection on the porch swing, stories told that only your inner circle, your peeps, the wolf pack truly understand. They are your people. Tears cried, hearts broken, laughs that turn into snorts.

Those moments you argue and make up, cause blood is thicker than water; and no matter how far they drive you to madness, if an outside force interferes, you would jump on their back and fight for their cause, till the bloody, dirty end, with clear eyes and full hearts.

From those late night PB&J’s and talks till the wee hours of the morning about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Those seasons of pools and popsicles and jumping off the pier.
It’s the subtle moments that seem so nonchalant, yet make the lasting impression.

We’re raising our kids to leave us, well at least leave the basement, to be productive citizens, to go into the world and be great people that throw color and kindness and truth and adventure on mankind, yet when the college applications, girlfriends and boyfriends begin to widen our inner circle, we see them as the enemy, the one taking away all those memories, those moments, our partner in crime. And yet, the entire time, we’re the ones raising them to go, to be, to inspire, to fly.

But with every new ending, life gives us a beginning. That’s how it’s intended. That was the intention the entire time, yet we loose sight of the end, or should I say: The Beginning. It’s what makes the world go round, what increases our circles, what allows us to become the butterfly, to grow and thrive.

Instead of seeing our season as a beginning to an end, let’s view the end as a New Beginning, a new chapter, a place to increase our inner circle, increase our love and allow our hearts to grow bigger.

Here’s to endings, that become New Beginnings.

Isaiah 43:19

I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

 Posted by at 1:21 pm
Jul 222016
 

 

measurement

by Stephanie Pletka

Growing up, I was quiet the active child; I was an expert tree climber, a running, tumbling, flipping, cartwheel-ing, energetic girl. You might even say I had ADHD on top of my ADHD.

Oh look, a quarter!
Ok, I digress.
My poor parents.

I was so skinny, I acquired the nickname Bird Legs in 5th grade. I couldn’t gain weight to save myself. My mom even took me to the doctor for a check-up to see if I had worms. That was fun.

I ran to the bus stop, rolled through the house with folded laundry, from one end to the other, I was non-stop. You never knew how I would enter or exit a room, but I was quick.

Fast forward 20 years and I can gain weight smelling a Snicker bar and THEN I had my first child. What happened to this body? The one that could loose 5 lbs just by skipping lunch?

So one day, a few weeks after having my first child, our cable tv remote went kaput and needed to be exchanged. I hopped in the car, grabbing diapers, strollers, as if I were moving, and away we drove to the cable store.

I arrived early, something that hasn’t happened since, and hung out a few minutes, waiting for the doors to open.

And that’s when I saw myself in the Largest Mirror known to man. It was an executive building made of all reflective glass.

I looked at myself, while pushing the stroller, gave a critical glance at who I had become, then thought, if only I were as fat as the last time I thought I was fat. I wonder what my butt looks like. You know what I’m talking about.

So I turned around, to make sure no one was looking, gave myself a quick glance with a few looks of disgust, a couple of eye rolls, then looked again to assure my eyes hadn’t deceived me. At that moment, an executive quickly rushed through the front door in a hurried, yet giggling sort of way and said:

Ma’am, we’re having a meeting inside this building and 10 people have been watching you look at yourself for a couple of minutes.

What?
Oh! My! Gosh!

And if that weren’t bad enough, I could hear a roar of laughter inside, as they viewed my reaction!

I was horrified! Was it not enough that I’m judging myself for the body I’ve become and now humiliated by a group of executives that I’ve entertained in a corporate meeting?

I surely burned calories pushing the stroller to the car in record time. It was a lesson learned that day: Not to be so hard on myself.

You can’t have a baby and look the same. You can’t have the jaws of life un-hinge and look like your old high school self. You’re not going to be in a car accident and come out pristine. Life happens. The processes you’ve been through, make you better, stronger, tougher.

Yes, there are days I wished I had appreciated all the times I was younger, got more sleep, had more energy, wishing I was as fat as the last time I thought I was fat.

But it’s important to give yourself grace, unmerited favor. It’s not what you deserve, rather a gift. Love who you are at whatever size, fitness or energy level.

Romans 6:14 says For sin shall no longer be your master; you are no longer under the law, but under grace.

Give yourself time to make a comeback. Whatever goal this may be for you, love yourself during the tough times; being a true friend to You.

This will also prove to be a great example to your children as well, allowing yourself grace, a little slack.

So the next time you see the world’s largest mirror, just smile and keep walking. Grace girl, grace! Is there something in your life that a little grace wouldn’t hurt?

Here’s to living the best version of you!

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 Posted by at 2:56 am
Jan 212016
 

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The Power of Intentional Living
by Stephanie Pletka

I’ve never thought of myself as a slow paced, Yoga type of girl, rather a triathlon racing, tennis ball whacking one. So when when I pulled a ligament in my leg and had to quit tennis for a while, what seemed like the worst season of life, turned out to be the best.

I tried playing. I hopped and hobbled, prolonging the Closing of the Tennis Door. I should have let it naturally close, but the Southern in me, fought to my death, when I should have graciously let it go, waiting for what was behind door #2.

Do you ever have times in your life when a door closes, a sweet season of life is over and you wonder, what’s next? Your kids leave for college, as you envision chasing them behind the car as they pull out of the drive way, or better yet, enrolling in classes at their university, while renting an apartment across the street, just to enjoy the relationship you have, a bit longer.

How can it be over? You are being promoted out of an amazing department at work. How can this be a good thing? You try to suck the last bit of air, the last ounce of goodness, by trying to pry the door open for a few more days, a few more weeks, throwing a wrench in the plans of whatever is trying to change what is good, (how dare they) only to find yourself in a compromised situation where there’s no winner. They say a true lady knows when to leave. A lesson I’m just now learning.

I loved tennis. It was free therapy. It kept me fit, social. It was my way into all my girl’s luncheons, weekend parties, girl’s night outs, Friday night double dates. Throw the rage on the court, smell the roses, off. It was good for the soul.

My favorite exercise, chasing a yellow ball, has ceased to exist. Now what?

So I joined a gym, found an exercise class in the time frame that worked best for me, and it happened to be YOGA. If you know me, I’m probably the least coordinated, Zen loving, slow pace hating, leg contorting, dirty dog posing, girl you’ll ever meet. What could I possibly get out of Yoga class?

So, upon my husband’s slight push, I signed up for an adventure, outside my comfort zone. I didn’t have a mat, I’m not flexible and dark spaces make me feel claustrophobic.

I walk into the class, and a perky, pig tailed instructor (my kind of girl) skipped up to me and said: We’re so glad you came today.

“Wherever you Are, is where you are suppose to be.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Wherever I am, is Where I’m suppose to be? Had she been watching the story of my life through a hidden cam? Perhaps the tennis door closed, just so I could hear those words.

Wherever you Are, is where you are suppose to be.

It knocked me to the core. The mama in me comes from the school of: Wherever I am, I should BE somewhere else. Whatever I am, I should be SOMEONE else. WHOever I am, is NOT enough.
I’ve never heard this before. Maybe Tennis wasn’t the end all be all. Maybe a door actually had to close, for another to open. This, perhaps, wasn’t an accident. I sure would not have taken this class on purpose, if the door had not been closed, locked and boarded up.

As I began to hold stances that would make a grown man cry, sweating, screaming inside, trying to figure out how to escape through the side door without being caught, I found a peace I hadn’t felt.

Where I am is where I need to be. My torn-up body says I need to be hitting a yellow ball with my friends. My new season of life is telling me to relax, enjoy the moment I’m living, quit trying to pry open a door that should be closed.

I had a tool belt, full of ideas, on how to keep that door open. And God wanted it closed. Imagine, if wherever you are, is where you’re suppose to be, could be true. It felt good, not to run from this place to that, high five-ing one sports event to get to another, comparing my lot in life to another; never truly enjoying the journey, all the while carrying self imposed luggage not meant for us to bear.

What a concept. Those words were like a beacon in the night, a bull horn on a football field. All the sudden, this ADHD girl conceived the idea that I no longer had to struggle, juggle, spin plates, push, prod, beg or plead to be where I was suppose to be.

It was like a toddler who learned how to walk for the first time, a child who tried and failed to ride a bike, and then while I was peddling, I just rode. It was such a simple concept; my shoulders, my neck, my head . . . my mind finally relaxed.

You know! The kind of relax when someone says to relax and you think you are, but it takes you 3 more times to realize your shoulders are still up in the air, perched like an eagle on a limb?

You realize that something so simple as relaxing, as being, is a mode that we, as moms don’t acclimate to, so easily. We’re a work in progress. But oh, when we begin to ride that bike, relax those shoulders and learn to BE in the moment, not groaning over the past or churning over the future, but learning the lesson in the moment; it’s an amazing gift.

Enjoy the journey, not always seeking the final destination, or choosing to pry open a door that for whatever reason is trying to close.

The blessings come, when you let go of all the twirl and swirl around you, taking the stance, knowing: Wherever you are, IS where you are suppose to be.

 Posted by at 7:58 pm
Jan 212016
 

YOga jpg

The Power of Intentional Living
by Stephanie Pletka

I’ve never thought of myself as a slow paced, Yoga type of girl, rather a triathlon racing, tennis ball whacking one. So when when I pulled a ligament in my leg and had to quit tennis for a while, what seemed like the worst season of life, turned out to be the best. I tried playing. I hopped and hobbled, prolonging the Closing of the Tennis Door. I should have let it naturally close, but the Southern in me, fought to my death, when I should have graciously let it go, waiting for what was behind door #2.

Do you ever have times in your life when a door closes, a sweet season of life is over and you wonder, what’s next? Your kids leave for college, as you envision chasing them behind the car as they pull out of the drive way, or better yet, enrolling in classes at their university, while renting an apartment across the street, just to enjoy the relationship you have, a bit longer. How can it be over? You are being promoted out of an amazing department at work. How can this be a good thing? You try to suck the last bit of air, the last ounce of goodness, by trying to pry the door open for a few more days, a few more weeks, throwing a wrench in the plans of whatever is trying to change what is good, (how dare they) only to find yourself in a compromised situation where there’s no winner. They say a true lady knows when to leave. A lesson I’m just now learning.

I loved tennis. It was free therapy. It kept me fit, social. It was my way into all my girl’s luncheons, weekend parties, girl’s night outs, Friday night double dates. Throw the rage on the court, smell the roses, off. It was good for the soul.

My favorite exercise, chasing a yellow ball, has ceased to exist. Now what?

So I joined a gym, found an exercise class in the time frame that worked best for me, and it happened to be YOGA. If you know me, I’m probably the least coordinated, Zen loving, slow pace hating, leg contorting, dirty dog posing, girl you’ll ever meet. What could I possibly get out of Yoga class?

So, upon my husband’s slight push, I signed up for an adventure, outside my comfort zone. I didn’t have a mat, I’m not flexible and dark spaces make me feel claustrophobic.

I walk into the class, and a perky, pig tailed instructor (my kind of girl) skipped up to me and said: We’re so glad you came today.

“Wherever you Are, is where you are suppose to be.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Wherever I am, is Where I’m suppose to be? Had she been watching the story of my life through a hidden cam? Perhaps the tennis door closed, just so I could hear those words.

Wherever you Are, is where you are suppose to be.

It knocked me to the core. The mama in me comes from the school of: Wherever I am, I should BE somewhere else. Whatever I am, I should be SOMEONE else. WHOever I am, is NOT enough.
I’ve never heard this before. Maybe Tennis wasn’t the end all be all. Maybe a door actually had to close, for another to open. This, perhaps, wasn’t an accident. I sure would not have taken this class on purpose, if the door had not been closed, locked and boarded up.

As I began to hold stances that would make a grown man cry, sweating, screaming inside, trying to figure out how to escape through the side door without being caught, I found a peace I hadn’t felt.

Where I am is where I need to be. My torn-up body says I need to be hitting a yellow ball with my friends. My new season of life is telling me to relax, enjoy the moment I’m living, quit trying to pry open a door that should be closed.

I had a tool belt, full of ideas, on how to keep that door open. And God wanted it closed. Imagine, if wherever you are, is where you’re suppose to be, could be true. It felt good, not to run from this place to that, high five-ing one sports event to get to another, comparing my lot in life to another; never truly enjoying the journey, all the while carrying self imposed luggage not meant for us to bear.

What a concept. Those words were like a beacon in the night, a bull horn on a football field. All the sudden, this ADHD girl conceived the idea that I no longer had to struggle, juggle, spin plates, push, prod, beg or plead to be where I was suppose to be.

It was like a toddler who learned how to walk for the first time, a child who tried and failed to ride a bike, and then while I was peddling, I just rode. It was such a simple concept; my shoulders, my neck, my head . . . my mind finally relaxed.

You know! The kind of relax when someone says to relax and you think you are, but it takes you 3 more times to realize your shoulders are still up in the air, perched like an eagle on a limb?

You realize that something so simple as relaxing, as being, is a mode that we, as moms don’t acclimate to, so easily. We’re a work in progress. But oh, when we begin to ride that bike, relax those shoulders and learn to BE in the moment, not groaning over the past or churning over the future, but learning the lesson in the moment; it’s an amazing gift.

Enjoy the journey, not always seeking the final destination, or choosing to pry open a door that for whatever reason is trying to close.

The blessings come, when you let go of all the twirl and swirl around you, taking the stance, knowing: Wherever you are, IS where you are suppose to be.

 Posted by at 4:05 pm
Aug 192014
 

 

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People who say, “Live in the Moment” must not have kids or a job or a life, right? Yet, it’s in our best interest to actually heed those words. Always jumping to “What’s Next” robs you of “What’s Now.”

Living in the moment; Ain’t no time for that! I’m so busy, I just passed myself on the interstate.

Forget about living in the moment. We’re late! We need to hurry up and do homework,

so we can eat dinner,

so we can get a bath,

so we can get in the bed,

so we can go to work,

so we can start this cycle again tomorrow. Go, Go Go!

One of my kid’s 1st words was purple.  As I held my breath in anticipation of his 2nd word, training him to say M- A- M- A, what came out instead shook me to the core. With his little blue eyes, standing by the front door, he looked up and said: “Hurry Hurry!” What? I can’t document that! You’re gonna make me look bad, kid.

If you don’t think that haulted life as I knew it . . . 3 kids under 6, working a full time job with a 4th on the way. Apparently, he had been listening. I felt bad, that he had gleaned Hurry Hurry from all the other words and actions I had expressed.

Grab your back packs.  Stand by the front door, breakfast in zip lock bags, ready to hit the road. High five-ing football, jumping railroad tracks to get to soccer and lacrosse. Are you throwing kids off at college, so you can get the rest of the crew ready for 1st day of school. Are you hearing me mama’s? You know the drill.

I asked the kids how they feel about hurrying from there to there and they felt like it produced chaos and stress. My #3 child gets upset when he’s rushed out the door. He needs margin, organization and preparedness to feel on top of things. It’s his love language.

Are we present or throwing away the ‘best moments’ for HURRY MODE. You have a thief in your midst. And his name is: Hurry Hurry.

Time to Establish a Plan:

T. O. G.

1. Take a deep breath! Yes, that’s right. Breathe!

2 Organize ahead of time. Pack the car the night before. Margin is your Friend.

3. GateKeeper: Fiercely protect “The Moment,” not allowing phone calls, texts, and outside forces to interrupt the Hear and Now!

Now Hurry Up . . . and Enjoy!

What ideas do you have for adding more margin and preparedness to your family dynamics?

There is nothing better than to enjoy your food and drink and to find satisfaction in your work. These pleasures are from the hand of God. Eccles. 2:24

 Posted by at 4:32 pm
Jul 282014
 

     lake pic

     

 

 

          When I was a kid, some of my fondest memories were the days my little sister and I jumped off our boat house into the lake, giggling as we ran toward the house eating peach ice cream, making our way to the trampoline, dodging the sprinkler system. We had so much fun, but I’m not sure when it stopped. If only I knew that was our last day hanging out like that. Perhaps our attention turned to other things, we grew up, we moved? I’m not sure. But if I had known it would be our last, surely I would have embraced it more, enjoyed it harder.

Do you have a memory that brings a smile to your face, a friend, a moment, a person or a song?

My oldest is 12 years old. When he was small, he loved for me to throw him in the air. I think that child lost weight, giggling! I look back on those fond memories with laughter and sadness, because I had no idea throw #399 would be the last toss, the last giggle. A new phase came along, and that was it. Time doesn’t stop for reflection. Life doesn’t throw up a red flag to say: Warning, this child won’t think you’re fun or smart in 17 days. Warning: Your daughter won’t like those endless hugs that she loves to give – but annoys you, starting next week. So make all the hugs count!

Did you realize when you picked up your child when he was 7, that would be the last time? I know, I’m thinking, I had no idea. Now he’s in middle school and time is slipping away. No one told me it was the LAST TIME. (on the floor, kicking and screaming) I was robbed.

I guess I could go pick him up, now. Of course I might get a hernia, and he’ll think I’m crazy, but we’ll both remember when I picked him up, last!

Embrace all the moments. This could be family vacation #101 of #102 or the last good cry over life and boys as they leave for college. Life is short, now go hug someone. Go!

James 4:14
You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life, but a mist, that appears for a little while, then vanishes?

 Posted by at 12:44 pm
Jun 042014
 
 Posted by at 9:00 am
Apr 302014
 

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There were things I swore I would never do, once I had kids.

1) Never drive a mini van

2) Never forget their names

3) Never raise my voice

4) Never make them eat veggies they hate

5) Never threaten their lives

6) Never give them endless lectures

7) And Never say:  Because I Said So

But once you have kids, all that flies out the window.  Let’s face it, children can be exasperating.  I had 4 kids in 7 years and if 2 weren’t in diapers, one was crying and 3 were vying for my attention at once.  My brain hasn’t had a complete thought in years.

I went from corporate life, traveling, staying in hotels to my husband and I racing in triathlons on any given weekend. We would have wine and nachos for dinner if we felt like it, and then BAM, we had kids and life as we knew it, vanished!

It was diaper-slinging, baby-feeding, taxi driving, soccer mom, homework-helping, sick kids in the night, back pack wearing, car seat toting, chicken nugget eating kind of life.  (Pausing to breath).

Because I Said So, were words I swore I’d never use when my own kids came into this world.  I would be patient enough to explain every situation.  Snicker Snicker.

But after hearing:  Mommy, why can’t I ride my bike in the street?  I’ll dodge the cars when they pass by.  “No honey, you could get hurt.”  But I’m quicker than a car, watch this.  “No, if they hit you, they always win, son.”  But isn’t that why I wear a helmet?  “No buddy, you’re not riding in the street! ” But why?  I’m a good rider.  “Because you never look left or right when you ride your bike.”

But why mom, I’m faster than lightening.  “I know, but your super man cape won’t keep you safe.”  But why mom?  As the earth began to shake, I blurted out the words:  BECAUSE I SAID SO!  . . . As I heard the phrase come out of my mouth, It felt liberating. And the questions abruptly ended. This is how my mom must have felt.  I called her and we compared notes.  What a bonding experience.

Now days, I jump into my chicken nugget-infested minivan, lecture the kids about stranger danger, reminding the wrong kid in my RAISED voice, because I can’t remember their name, that they will only get dessert if they eat their veggies . . . and when they ask WHY they HAVE to eat them, I say:  BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You!

 Posted by at 2:36 pm
Feb 072014
 

 

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I have this running list of goals, check lists and hope to’s, that include things like:  Parachuting before I’m too old, getting back to my pre-baby weight before my youngest is 10, writing a funny ‘mom’ book and vacationing in CABO with all my favorite people, but the hope of a clean house – well, this isn’t in the cards.

I’ve walked miles in this house, picking up stuff, folding things, stepping on sharp toys, throwing away unidentifiable objects and looking for weird smells.  I’ve washed a million dishes, made that many lunches and wiped about that many little butts and still, this house is full of piles.

There are piles for everything:  A clothes pile, a shoe pile, a toy pile, a book pile even a miscellaneous pile.  By the time one pile is put in its place, another one appears, containing kid’s swords, the inside of a shoe, a kid’s sock I’m sure I never bought, and one random flip flop.  I’d love to have one of those Blue City dumpsters in my bag yard, so I could just throw things right out the back door, ready for pick up on Thursday morning.

For the record, I believe children should be given responsibilities, tasks they are held accountable for, to ensure team spirit, whether it be laundry, dishes or picking up toys.

But when it comes to teaching them, off the bat, it’s way more work for us.  If we’re teaching kids to make pancakes, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll find batter on the ceiling fan.  As much as we delegate responsibilities, if each person makes 2 messes, this may catapult into exponential numbers, in a matter of hours, if we don’t stay on top of laundry and dishes alone.

I love to have a clean house:  pristine kitchen, spotless windows.  I love candles and nice smells, but if it stayed this way for more than 2 days, it’s probably because we’re on vacation.

One day, I spoke the words with my mouth, “I will NOT have a clean house everyday, and that’s OK”, but I didn’t believe it.  “It’ WASN’T OK,” which placed me in an odd predicament.  I was like a person with one leg on shore and one in a boat headed out to sea.  I was straddling the fact that I could have a clean house all the time and still have a livable one.

Welcome to reality:  you can’t have 4, 5, 6 or more living under one roof and keep it clean all the time.  This either means you’re living in a museum, or no one is having any fun.  I choose fun.

While I’d like to be my college weight, I still love to eat pizza, and while I’d like to go parachuting, I FEAR what I’ll do to the guy who pushes me out of the plane.  I may need to re-evaluate my list. But one thing is for sure, I need to cherish this season of life. Don’t rush to windex the handprints off the windows . . .  for one day your house will stay clean . . . but it will also be empty.

So embrace the giggler with the dirty hands and move out the furniture for your boys to have fun wrestling matches;   Mark Twain once said:  “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” And just like a house that is disorganized at times, with piles of things and little mud prints by the door, it indicates where love lives.  Embrace it.  Here’s to living the best version of you!

 

 Posted by at 1:34 am
Jan 062014
 

 

Webster’s dictionary defines Crazy as deranged, insane, one with an impractical plan.  And so we took that definition and decided to homeschool our kids, and hit the road for a life of adventure.  3 years, 45 states and 9 countries, all the while we run a technology company and educating the kids through feel, touch and see.  And to some, that’s the definition of crazy.  And we’re ok with that.

 

 

We graduated from college and it felt like someone handed us a Key to the Hamster Wheel of Life.

Work, School, Cook, Repeat.  Life had become a balancing act and our main job on the wheel was to Keep Spinning.

It describes our family perfectly. I tell the kids, I’m doing the best I can.  When you grow up and it’s time for you to leave the house, I’ll give you money to use at your discretion for Counseling or College.  They just giggle, but I’m serious.

Like many of you, my husband travels often.  We deal with juggling schedules, what to make for dinner, handling homework assignments, driving kids to activities.

We decided to change it up. We wanted to live a life of adventure, and not wait until we were retired to see the world.  After years of sending kids to public school, a place where they learned and thrived, we up and decided to homeschool, so we could travel with my husband to all the interesting places he flies to, monthly.  I know, CRAZY!

I had a life.  Finally all the kids were in school, I was playing tennis, writing my blog and frankly, free as a bird.  Lunch with friends, run errands by myself;  I could do whatever I wanted.  Cartwheels in the living room, singing Bon Jovi on the back deck with my fake microphone.

Why mess with a good thing?  It was a hard earned “stretch of road” to cross the finish line.  No more little people responsibilities, like wiping butts, installing car seats, carrying strollers, translating toddler talk. We had all graduated to independence.

For the first time, I had the house to MYSELF.  But I wanted something different than just driving a 4 mile radius to the school, to the grocery store.  I wanted to live outside my life for a change and go places I had never been and take the kids with us.  When my husband gained a new client, he took the assignment and off we went.

I hoped for California, maybe New York.  He came home and said:  We’re moving to downtown Milwaukee.  Where’s that?  I remembered the intro of Laverne and Shirley skipping through Milwaukee, so I looked it up – 90 miles north of Chicago, on Lake Michigan.  Awesome.  I called every rental in the area and only one panned out:  All you had to say was 4 kids and either the phone got disconnected or no one called back.

Our only option – a 30 story condo on the water, with no yard.  This could be problematic.  Only after moving in, did we realize most of the occupants were athletes from the Bucks and Brewers.  Driving through the parking garage, it was like ALL sports cars and our double parked mini van.  We would have to back up and do a 90 degree turn twice, just to get out of the parking spot.

The realtor would be showing a condo as our elevator doors opened with 3 carts full of groceries and 4 kids yelling – over who got to push the button.  She would quickly distract the probable tenant with:  “Oh, look over here, a big window.” With kids ducking and dodging, grapefruits rolling down the hallway, we were like a bull in a china shop.

Our adventure had begun.  Without a professional background in education, only marketing communications, I guess I could teach them how colors affect people’s moods or why sex is used to sell toothpaste.  The kids were in this sweet spot of an age, where they thought I was smart.  They were just too young to know any better.

It was time to educate outside the box.  We visited every water park, museum, wrote essays, took tests, got library cards, read books, made presentations, learned finance, compared grocery prices and threw in a lesson on how to pump gas.  I was a 1st timer, “running the marathon as fast as I could”, sort of mom. The kids were eating it up.  No more bus stop while the moon was still out, classes were over at 2pm.  They were living the dream.

I had no idea there were 6 kinds of verbs;  and since when did the planets not include Pluto? Sixth grade math needed dad’s intervention and now I’m suppose to teach someone how to dissect a pig?  And I can only imagine what’s gonna happen with the ant farm.

I focused so much on the kids, I lost myself.  I gain 15 lbs and burned out by October.  My marathon had run out of steam somewhere around mile 19 and I hit a wall.  The kids began to realize, maybe mama wasn’t joking about the Counselor. But by December I re-adjusted my curriculum, scheduled more activities with friends, better managed my health habits and before I knew it, we were back on track with a more sustainable pace.

I realized my gung-ho attitude wasn’t sustainable, for them or me.  While adventure and vacations are great, that’s exactly what they are, feasible for like 2 weeks.  No matter where you are, the real world follows, as if knocking on your door to say:  life’s not a bowl full of cherries.  Living poolside is awesome, sort of like spending your day with fun Uncle Joe, but not forever.  Schedules have become our friend, no matter our location.

The kids have learned time management skills and pace, probably more so than book knowledge.  They’ve learned to go with the flow and take life as it comes.  And with our time spent in close proximity, they’ve actually learned to like each other.  In the beginning, it was all fights, and every discussion was about “me” this and “I” that.  Selfish behaviors took precedent over everything else.  As we began to travel, something strange and awesome occurred.  “Me” attitudes, became “we” attitudes. They began to form a team, have each other’s back and even slept in the same room on beds, sleeping bags, etc. just to hang out with one another.

Heart issues began to surface and before I knew it, they became friends and not just siblings who were forced into “suburbia “ captivity.

Life is fun and hard, pretty and ugly, organized and chaotic.  But in the end, it’s the people we spend it with that matters most.  No matter your lot or location in life, family is most important. Find the “sweet spot” that brings your family together:  game night, a good bon fire, hiking.  And like Laverne and Shirley, arm in arm, skipping through Milwaukee, remember to take life as it comes, go with the flow and Mommy Loved You!

 

 Posted by at 11:34 am
Nov 282013
 

santa

Oh the Marketing Machine of Life.  It keeps us spinning from the mall to the grocery store to Amazon.  Money and time have sprouted wings; they’re on a one way trip, never to return.

Christmas in July,  Gray Thursday, Black Friday, there’s hardly time for rest and relaxation before “high fiving” another holiday, while planning for the next.  I read a cartoon the other day.  It showed a turkey telling Santa to BACK OFF,  “it’s STILL my holiday.”

The “to do” list runs deep:  Kid’s matching outfits, check!  Christmas photos, mailing list complete, elf on the shelf duties, decorations, presents, over indulgence, it’s enough to keep your head spinning. While these tasks are fine, don’t let the “To Do List” Steal your show.

Last year my neighbor and her teenage son were running last minute Christmas errands when a man driving on the wrong side of the rode hit them head on, killing the mom. In the blink of an eye, it was over. I think of her often.  What were her last words, her last thoughts?  Do we take the time to live in the moment, in the present – or are we running around in a state of panic, trying to fit too many tasks into too little time?  Total mayhem makes mama frazzled and when mama’s not happy, well . . .

Like most moms, all the logistics weigh squarely on our shoulders.  But we carry an immense amount of power.  We’re the hub of communication, the spokes on a wheel.  Our family members look to us for guidance, for direction.   What are we cooking mom?  Who’s coming to dinner?  Where are we going for the holidays?

Like little soldiers, they’re ready to follow our beck and call.  The power lies within us, to determine the tone.  Will the holidays be peaceful and fun, full of great memories and tradition or stressful and agitated.

We can budget wisely and enjoy those meals in moderation or be paying debts and loosing those extra pounds in March.  Don’t allow the “Marketing Machine of Life” to steal the show.  Let’s not make the Turkey and Santa have to dual it out.  En guarde! Remember the real reason for the holiday is to reflect on our blessings.

Here’s to living the best version of you.

 Posted by at 11:07 am
Aug 222013
 

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by Stephanie Pletka

We’ve been visiting family up North for the summer, where the six of us have shared two bathrooms in a small condo, for an extended period.  It was only a matter of time before the kids clogged the toilet.  I bought a plunger, and worked on it, to no avail.

It would pretend to flush; the water would rise, swirl and sit, as if it were taunting me.  All night long, one by one from 1-4am, little pitter patters of feet would enter our bedroom to go pee.  They were like my great grandma with a bladder problem.  It was a turn style of kids coming from dusk till dawn.  With blood shot eyes and delirium setting in, I had to make a decision. This was death con 5!

I needed to call maintenance, and fast.  When he arrived, 24 hours later, I could have sworn he was wearing a cape, my super hero, a knight in shining armor, holding the golden plunger.  As he worked on the ceramic throne, doubt began to set in, as to whether this would be a quick fix.  He came back a 2nd time with with a bigger tool, one that grabs whatever is causing the problem, and to our surprise, he pulled out the biggest . . . CUCUMBER you’ve ever seen.

No, this is not a code word for something, it was seriously, a cucumber, a BIG ONE; as in farmer’s market, eat your veggies or no dessert, cucumber.  I almost died of embarrassment.  He said he had pulled out a lot of things in his day, but NEVER, a Cucumber!

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I had my guesses to what it would be, but a large vegetable was not one of them.  It looked like someone took little bites to see if they liked it and DID NOT, so instead of throwing it in the trash, because mommy wouldn’t like that, they quietly flushed a large cucumber down the toilet; hence, our clogged up toilet became our clogged up life.

Do you ever feel like your life is backed up.  Too many kids talking at once, hungry, homework, ballet, dinner, football, girlfriend/boyfriends, attitudes, budget issues, a crisis at every corner?  I mean there’s only one of you, right?  Who can handle all of the chaos? It’s enough to bring a top Executive to their knees.  Gold stars to the motha’s.

Imagine if in the blink of an eye, it was all gone; the kids, your spouse; in a blink there was a car accident, a fatal diagnosis, loss of a job.  Does the busy-ness of life, the to-do list, the hurry hurry, let’s go, run, get in the car, I’m angry, stressed, do what I said now, because I said so, mentality really take top priority?

The drama we allow in our lives, brings the “hyper” that ruins the goodness.  

We need new perspective.  “S.A.T.”

1. Step away, check out for the weekend.

This brings new perspective; collect your thoughts, re-strategize.  We tend to live life in a rut of schedules and same-old routines.  Take a detour and see life in a new light. Call your kids and listen to their voices on the phone, (they sound so much younger and innocent).   Believe me, it works.  Those sweet little tendencies to strangle them, will fade away.

2. Act as the Gate Keeper.

In a heart beat, life can clog over forces we allow to enter through the front door; and when it affects you, it affects them. Protect the nest. You’re the boss, the chief, the resident gate keeper. Your kids, your spouse look to you as their guide.  You are more powerful than you think.  They look to you to determine if their world is OK.

3. Take Charge

Life is what you make it.  Determine, as a family, what dreams and goals you want to accomplish.  Are you a family who loves to travel, has an affinity for history; perhaps reading, sports, hiking, photography?  Cultivate this atmosphere.  In doing so, you’ll create a stronger tie that binds.

Don’t let the “cucumbers” of life, the negativity, gossip, stress, anger and hurriedness get in the way of the Goodness.  Take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the little moments:  the laughter, the late night talks, the funny questions and unusual perspectives that only kids can bring.

Here’s to living a “Clog-Free life in the World of Cucumbers!

 

Phil. 4:13 I can do All things through Christ who gives me strength.

 

 

 Posted by at 11:44 am
Jan 272013
 

 

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SWIM, BIKE, RUN!  I hadn’t raced in a triathlon since I was in my mid-20’s.  That was 15 years ago.  My SWIM BIKE RUN had become, COOK, CLEAN and Wipe little butts. A few things have changed over the years: my weight, my fitness level and like most, I’ve had kids, lots of them.

My attention, for years, has been placed on them.  This year, I decided to reverse the trend and focus on me, while maintaining all the “plate juggling” that comes with raising a family.

I didn’t want to sign up for this event.  I gave all the excuses in the world.  But ultimately, my husband “double dog dared me” and if you’re Southern, well . . . You don’t take that lightly.

First step, join a gym. Check!  My ultimate goal was to complete 14 laps, down and back. That didn’t seem difficult, until I began swimming.   4 laps into it, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.  My heart felt like it was about to burst and my body didn’t seem to be gliding through the water, as it once did.  I saw a lifeguard in the corner of my eye, standing over me, waving her arms.  Alarmed, I stopped to see what was going on.  Was someone hurt?  Was I in the wrong lane?

She said:  Are you ok? You seem to have difficulty swimming.  If you need assistance, there are floaties in the closet.

What?  I said: Are You talking to me?  What could I have possibility looked like to have had a lifeguard rush down from her Stand to offer me FLOATIES- how embarrassing. I never took my goggles off until I hit the locker room, to keep from being identified on my next trip, if there was EVER a NEXT trip.

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The morning of the race, everyone had State of the Art equipment, fast, light-weight bikes:  Cannondales, GIANTS.  You’re judged  by the type of bike you ride. It sort of separates the “Men from the Boys.” My husband had one of those bikes.  You can pick it up with your pinky – Sleek, fast.  Not me, I had a mountain bike: fat tires, takes 2 people to lift it.  In an effort to ease the  humiliation, my young sons were trying to find examples of other racers with mountain bikes.  “Look Mom, see there’s another mountain bike.” Uh, yes son, he’s 13.  Ok, just forget it.

Reflecting on my 20’s, it was a  different experience back then.  No kids, no schedules; freedom was at my fingertips.  We could eat Nacho’s with a glass of wine, after a long work week and not gain an ounce.  Now days, it’s baked chicken and steamed broccoli just to maintain. I remember my “Swim Cap” color;  It was yellow, a megaphone to the world that I was STILL young.  This time, when the Race Official wrote my age (with a permanent marker) on the back of my leg, 41, I wanted to explain, that I actually felt younger than this.  Can you write that underneath 41?

I was no longer a yellow cap, but a purple one; I was now 2 swim cap colors behind, with a chasm of 50 pink-headed caps, separating me from my beloved Youth.

To makes matters worse,  we were Almost the last group to enter the water. The only people behind us were the blue caps.  These were the ones to FEAR!

They were the 12-18 YEAR OLDS! As if I had a ton of self esteem, being placed virtually last in a line, behind 1000 racers, now we’ve got the “quick as lightening” group behind us; teens with endless energy, who pass you on the swim, upping the probability that you may, in fact, be the last person to make it to the finish line.  My goal: to see as few “blue caps” as possible.  My Prayer:  Please God, let me finish before the banner was taken down!

As if training for the SWIM, BIKE, RUN wasn’t enough, there were the Transitions.  They added 2-3 minutes,  (ok 6, because I couldn’t find my bike), then another 3  to put on my shoes, switch from helmet to cap, put on lip gloss.  Hey, you feel good, if you look good!

In the scheme of life, it’s important to note: you’re really only competing against yourself, not the yellow caps, screaming “YOUTH.”  You’ll never be younger than you are today.  Oprah said: Remind yourself – this VERY  moment is the ONLY one you know you have FOR SURE.

Embrace the power, the wisdom, the knowledge and influence you’ve gained in the years you’ve lived.

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Wave your Purple Swim Cap proudly.  Like the markings on your leg, all things mature, and with development comes freedom and adventure!  While the main event is SWIM, BIKE, RUN, learning to successfully navigate Life’s Transitions is a major part of the process. There are many ups and downs, changes we don’t expect. Just like coal is to a Diamond, the adversities and pressures of life – allow us the experiences to grow and walk through the Door of Greatness.

Life is What You Make It!  Cheers to Purple Power, Lip Gloss and 40-plus ladies signing up for their next Race.

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You!

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

 

 Posted by at 3:15 pm
Jan 142013
 

Our family drove cross country for Christmas: 42 Hours, 4 hotels, 4 kids and 3,000 miles of Awesomeness! We took pictures along the way, posting fabulous shots of our adventures on Facebook.  From ice fishing in North Dakota, shopping in Chicago to Skiing in Minnesota, we had an amazing trip, meeting up with friends and family all along the way.

Facebook Friends commented:  You guys are the most adventurous people I know.  One said:  ADOPT ME!.

I had to giggle: It made me think, while the pictures portrayed the fabulous side, the glamour, I have to admit, Facebook did not give you the behind the scenes, “clear picture” of what really happened. The cropped pics, the car fights, endless pee breaks, the number of pictures we took before all the kids looked at the camera.

‘Hey kids, quit making rabbit ears over Santa’s head, stop crying: from the bribes to the threats:  What Facebook didn’t tell you.photorabbit ears

We stayed in great hotels along the way; though nothing was mentioned about having to sleep in a room with 4 kids: children sleeping sideways, digging their toes into your back. My husband slept so soundly, he wouldn’t have heard a tornado if it ripped the roof off, yet I laid there all night, hearing all the sounds of each child: sucking thumbs, tooting in their sleep, kids whimpering as they re-lived fights, earlier in the day, with their siblings over a toy or an ipad.

We had a ton of fun ice fishing.  Ok, not really.  I’m going to have to side with my Mother-in-law on this one.  It was fun to say we did it once.  It was so cold, the bait froze.  My 4 year old finally stopped crying , after bribing her with a bag of doritos.  Thank you Doritos.  You’re a lifesaver.
photo ice cry     photo ice fishing

15 minutes of crying in 2 degree weather.                After I gave her the Doritos. 

On the 22 hour journey back, the kids had to stop every 30 minutes to pee.  In a last ditch effort, we gave them a 7-11 Big Gulp Cup to pass around. We trusted the kids to pass it up from the back of the mini van to the front, making it’s way through 4 sets of little hands. That didn’t work so-well last time, when they dropped it in my purse, but hey, it’s a new day, so we thought we’d try it again.  And it worked! Woo hoo. We labeled it “Hazardous Material” and guarded it with our lives.

Someone who shall remain nameless, forgot to bring the bag full of DVD’s for the road trip, so the kids watched “Mall Cops” and We Bought a Zoo – 9 times each. Every 2 hours, I heard: Mom – Push & Play.

So when we smiled for the camera to give you THE SHOT of us Ice Fishing, we may have forgotten to mention or display the fact that one of the kids stepped a little too close to the Propane Heater inside the Fish Tent, caught their backside on fire; jacket went up in flames, smoke billowing out the door.  I unzipped the tent, grabbed “said” child and threw them into the snow.  It felt like watching Uncle Lewis from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when he caught Himself & the Christmas tree on fire with his stogie!

photo fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like snow on his jacket, but it’s not. It’s the inside stuffing from where he caught on fire.

After 12 hours of driving through Snow and  negative degree temperatures, we pulled over on the side of the road, next to the Arches in St. Louis, rolled down our dirty, snow-covered window and snapped a picture for the Bucket List.  Did we go inside, catch the awe-inspiring sunset view from the top?  Uh, let me think . . . . NO! We were too tired, too hungry and too crazy-looking to be let in.

photo car

photost louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But hey, that’s part of making memories.  If the journey wasn’t colorful, it wouldn’t be remembered as such.

“The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between.” Norton Juster.

It’s the Journey that matters most.  The destination is but for a moment.  The journey from beginning to end is the gooey awesomeness in the middle; the best part of life. So, if my friend still wants us to Adopt her, we’ll take her, but thought she deserved to hear all the Facts that she didn’t see on Facebook, before a decision was made. Life is What you make it!

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You!

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 Posted by at 10:48 pm
Dec 312012
 

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 4.05.54 PM

 

 

 

All my life I thought I would grow up and be a back up singer, an air plane pilot, write a book, my list was long.  I’d live an extraordinary life like no other.

Most of my life I’ve floated around never feeling like I quiet fit in.  It was totally self-inflicted. What is “IN” anyway? It began with school conferences, report cards:   She talks too much, too wiggly.  While I excelled in school, even joined the Beta Club and the Math Team, my 1st C was in conduct.  I always had so much to say.  If words weren’t coming out, it felt like a pressure cooker.

Growing up, I was taller than all the boys.  My arms were longer than my sleeves, my legs surpassed my cuff length; I had crazy hair.  “Awkward” was my middle name.

Then I grew up, got married, had a family and decided time was running out.  I needed to make a mark on life or I wouldn’t be remembered.  We back-packed Europe, had 4 kids, I’ve owned my own business.  Life has been good.

But with all the accomplishments of those “flying to the moon”, celebrity bloggers, authors, people attaining awards for the best this and the greatest that, I wondered if I had done enough to stand out from the crowd. Am I just average?  My whole life I was told I was special.  Mom, what happened? You said . . .

The world says if you’re not on TV, walking a runway or hosting a cooking class on the FOOD Network, you aren’t really “special.”  I’ve raced in triathlons, but that didn’t make the news. I’m a good Christian girl that sometimes says bad words. I’ve been over weight and lost the pounds, but there were no accolades.  I’m not the queen of google +, twitter, Tumbler or Linkedin.  Hell, I mean, heck, I don’t even cook that well.  The laundry is washed – only some of the time and while I’d like to say our family of 6 lives in organized chaos, it’s mostly chaos.

I began to feel as though I wasn’t the person I needed to be, the one who does GREAT things – is in the top 25% of world changers and dream makers.  I felt like I hadn’t made my mark on life.  I’m not the BEST Anything!  What do I want to be when I grow up?

As the “Hands of Time” push me out of my 30’s, I’m realizing that my opinion, my ideas, my worth, my dreams and goals aren’t based on awards.  After all, if I’m the “leading lady” of my own life, the captain of my ship, I need to act like it.  I’ve spent too many years behind the curtain of life, adjusting my journey to those around me, as if I’m driving around Big Orange Construction cones, re-routing my life path for the benefit of others; as if I’ve placed someone else’s “directions’ into my map quest, always re-calculating, to someone else’s journey.

After feeling inadequate, comparing myself to airbrushed models at the grocery store check-out, seeing people save the world, land a talk show, write a book or gain notoriety for doing nothing, I decided to change my perspective. Sometimes life doesn’t change, but your perspective can.  I have a great life.  It’s just not televised. I’ve accomplished a few of those items on the list, but discovering who I am, loving ME unconditionally is the greatest gift I can offer myself.  If I don’t accept me, who will?

I’m complicated and simple, loud and well, loud.  I laugh till I cry and cry till I laugh. I’m  laid back and up-tight; most things don’t bother me and some things do a lot.

I often talk to myself, working out details, conflicts – on a good, long run.  My opinion matters, and quiet frankly, I’ve learned to listen to me.  I’m smart, funny, full of common sense and wisdom.  I mean, I’ve had enough experiences in my 40 years to collect enough data to feel good about listening to what I think.

On Oprah’s Life Class, I heard Joel Osteen say:  You will never rise any higher than the way you see yourself.

The fact that “like a snow flake” there is no other person on this planet like you, should be enough. We’re unique, custom individuals, whether or not we flew to the moon or we’re perfectly ORDINARY!

That’s it.  You don’t have to be the Best hair dresser, Truck Driver, famous author, “employee of the month” celebrity blogger, have a cooking show, play Double AA tennis, have a golf handicap of 3 or write for the Huffingtonpost.com. You make your mark in this world by dancing freely through life, enjoying the moments.  Your life-worth isn’t based on a book, a show, an award that makes you stand out above the crowd.

You make your mark by loving your family, being a good friend, raising your kids to be amazing individuals, full of character and personality.  You make your mark sitting on the floor playing and laughing with your kids, giving them an incredible since of confidence and love.  You make your mark when you quietly bless others with a note, a conversation, a prayer, a meal.  You make your mark when you show your kids that life is what you make it

Don’t be a martyr, rather teach those around you that life is to be celebrated; live life to the fullest, but on your terms. Life is what you make it! You don’t have to make History, to make your mark, just be the History.

Here’s to Living a Fabulously Ordinary Life – Being the Best Version of You!

Ps. 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful: I know that fully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 5:06 pm
Sep 282012
 

 

When I was growing up, Saturday and Sunday were big days for hosting family functions, neighborhood dinners.  Friendly faces would stop by, without calling and stay for hours, eating, laughing and telling stories until the sun went down.

Now days, people rarely visit without calling first.  Play dates are scheduled in advance.  Our neighbors drive into their garage (the Bat Cave) and the door closes before they hop out of the car.  What happened to “getting to know” your neighbors?

People often say, “Stephanie you know Everyone.”  From my perspective, it doesn’t feel that way at all.  But if you have enough kids, mishaps, oopsie days, lost dogs and hurt children, you’ll discover that community is all around you.

We have an old boat, the kind that helps you meet your neighbors.  There’s a problem with this boat, more often than not.  Either the battery has died, the motor blew up or the fuel gauge doesn’t work, and ultimately we’ve found ourself paddling with a pair of ski’s to the nearest house to call for help.  (note to self:  buy paddles). That’s how we made our newest friends.

Our 5 yr old fell head-first out of a pear tree.  The limb broke. That’s how we met the fire department and later took them barbecue, got a tour of the fire truck, took pictures with the rescue team and the kids got to blow the horn. What a lovely day.

Our dog Max, (the escape artist) manages to wrangle out of his electric fence collar about once a month.  We typically leave Max in the backyard, when heading out for the day.  Sometimes I’ll come home and he will be in the front yard, tied to the basketball goal.  That’s weird.  How did he do that?  Friendly neighbors bring him back and for this, we are grateful.

Now, there are better ways to meet your neighbors than during mishaps, losses and accidents- but it definitely open doors.

My son was biking down a steep hill when his dad turned around to say “slow down.”  Poor little guy slammed his brakes and wiped out badly. The local fire department happened to be passing by, saw the accident, stopped the truck in the middle of the road and bandaged him up.  He came home 20 minutes later looking like a mummy.  I was like:  “WHAT HAPPENED?  You JUST left the house?!!”

We skipped school pictures that week, but days later, the same fire fighters visiting the elementary school to discuss “Stop, Drop and Roll” techniques, remembered the little fella, said hello in front of the class and “in his mind” became a Super Hero.  Thanks guys!

As I write this, I’m realizing we owe a lot to our local fire dept. Time for another barbecue.

When our crappy boat was stolen, the local police department stopped by the house to file a report.  I’ll never forget the officer  He had a tattoo on his arm that said:  Big & Sexy.  When we discovered the boat wasn’t stolen, rather I had forgotten to tie it to the dock, we met, yet another group of friends that day, who found the boat floating in a nearby weed bed; and drove it back, because the keys were also left in it. Oops. I called Big & Sexy that afternoon to close the police report; he wasn’t amused.  We probably won’t be hang out buddies, but it’s nice to know who to call on, if the need arises.

Go out, meet your neighbors.  Perhaps not through a bicycle calamity or falling out of a tree, but grab your girlfriends at “bus stop,” have a (GNO) girl’s night out, a party at the house.  Sign up to play tennis, join a running group or book club.  There are many great people, resources, opportunities and connections around you.  Get out there and join something; say hello on your walks, get out of your vehicle at “car pool,” reach out and make the effort.  In finding community, you become a family and that’s where memories are made.

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You.

Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 Posted by at 12:40 pm