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Sep 172012
 

 

When I sold my business to stay home, I figured – if I was the CEO of my company, I’d call myself the CEO of my home.  Hey, I run this ship, right?

Kids don’t care what titles you hold, who you know, or what you do for a living . . . When they’re little, it’s all about what THEY want.  I notice that each time I go to the bathroom to pee or even take a quick bubble bath, it must set off a silent alarm somewhere in the house.  As soon as the bathroom door closes, the kids come running.  It doesn’t matter if they’re watching a movie, playing in the backyard or riding bikes on the cul de sac.  As soon as I close the door to the bathroom, it becomes someone’s duty to knock, bang, cry, shove notes underneath or plead urgently for food.

In the minute it took me to pee, one of the kids colored their tennis shoes with a blue highlighter.  Why did you do that, Johnny?  Well, I was trying to tell you I couldn’t find paper and you weren’t listening.” Yes, it’s because I was IN the bathroom.”

I can hide in the closet to eat rice crispy treat, (because it’s the last one – and frankly, I don’t wanna share) and what happens?  They come running.  It’s like they were born with dog ears, that can only hear high pitched sounds, cookie wrappers and bathroom doors closing.

I can say:  Clean your room – And what do I hear? Nothing,cricket sounds.  But you go to the back yard to sneak a piece of chocolate and their hunting you down like a heat seeking missile.  If I holler for the boys to clean their room, they can’t hear me.  If I call their name with a high pitched voice, they’ll come running; like a whistle that only puppies can hear.

Like Bert is to Ernie, and Ying is to Yang, so it is with our children – doors close, they knock.  Wrappers rattle, ears perk up.  That’s what kids do.

It comes with the territory.

Just as death and taxes will always be with us, so will little hands knocking on doors and pint-sized sniffers smelling chocolate, after they’ve gone to bed.  Embrace the little-ness while it lasts.  One day, you’ll get to pee in peace, eat that last cookie in broad day light and be a respected CEO, once again.  But until then . . . embrace it ALL.  They are your little chocolate sniffers and door knockers. And we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Here’s to the Living the Best Version of You!

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest, if we do not lose heart.”

 

 

 Posted by at 11:38 am
May 032012
 

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 11:55 am
Apr 162012
 

When I was 9 years old, I was visiting my grandma, who lived on a dirt road in a small town, population 6,000.  If you needed help, you relied on neighbors that lived one farm over.

I loved climbing trees, but it scared my Grandma half to death.  The higher I climbed, the more often the screen door would fly open and I would hear her say:  Steph-nee, do you know how far we live from the nearest hospital?

Of course I didn’t, nor did I care.  I was an expert tree climber and no one could tell me otherwise, until I stepped on a dead tree limb that left me hanging 20 foot from the ground.

I held on for about 30 seconds until my little fingers could no longer hold my 60 lb body.  I dropped 20 feet out of the tree and hit every limb along the way.  And you know the first thing I did?  No, it wasn’t check for scrapes to see if I was ok.  It was looking around to see if my Granny saw me fall.

I would rather say my battle wounds came from falling out of a tree, rather than my granny spanking my be-hind!  I had scrapes and a bloody knee.  My fingers hurt and my foot felt sprained.  That day, I realized I wasn’t an expert tree climber, but I was definitely an expert tree faller; and I felt pretty good about that.

A skinned knee is like a “bade of courage.”   Kids are just waiting for someone to say (in a high-pitched voice of concern):  What Happened?  Cue their big smile.

If my kid hurts their foot, even a little, they want to use crutches for days, just so they can tell others about their fun adventure.  Let their boo boos, ripped up jeans, dirt on the knees and oppsie daisies be a sign of courage. They took a chance and have a story to tell.

Summer is around the corner!  It’s time to start planning!  What will the kids be doing for the 60 plus days of summer?  It’s time to make a plan, whether a family road trip, joining a sports team, visiting grand parents or heading to summer camp, it’s time to turn off the TV, give the video games a rest and head outdoors.

Often times, we caudal our children.  We anticipate the 2 year old falling, with a “First Aid Kid” at arms length.   Since they were born, we’ve had fears regarding: child safety issues, injury or teasing.  We over-schedule their athletic events, their music lessons. They need a black book to keep up with it all.

Of course, we want the best for our kids, but it’s important to determine what IS best.  Keeping them in-doors, protected and safe, or teaching them life lessons that will afford them the independence to keep THEMSELVES safe.

Life lessons come in many ways, but often times in an effort to keep the knees from getting skinned or their emotional psyche from getting bruised, we sit in front of them, like the Olympic Sport Curling (whisking the broom from left to right, in a frenzy, making sure little Henry gets to where he needs to go without getting hurt).  We can’t roll them in bubble wrap, though I’ve seen parents “virtually” do this very thing.

Like a bird that’s trying to hatch, if we do everything for Mary or Johnny, they won’t be strong enough to stand up to bullies at school, handle college peer pressure, enjoy the great outdoors of summer camp, or handle life’s unexpected challenges, because mom and dad aren’t there to fix it.  We can’t always be their safety net, their first aid kit.  At some point, we have to let them become strong, confident individuals – on their own.  You’ve given them the foundation they need; let them fly.

It’s time to unplug the electronics, send them to casual play, where there are no fixed schedules, time clocks and hurry ups . . . just trees, bikes, pine straw and great imaginations.  For in this free time, their imagination will grow and their exploration skills will kick in.

When kids learn about nature, they’ll want to take care of it.   When they play with others, compassion will rise; team spirit will be built and character will grow.  So unplug your kid’s life this summer and jump into the great outdoors with gumption and gusto, enjoying the value of a skinned up knee.

Here’s to living the Best Version of You.

 Posted by at 4:02 pm
Apr 122012
 

On my pre-schooler’s first day of class, an assignment was sent home requesting they create a show-and-tell board.  They wanted a description of who he was, how many siblings he had, pictures of the family and fun activities enjoyed during summer break.  My son couldn’t write – he was 4. Nor did he know what the word “description” meant.  He couldn’t count to 20 and they wanted him to do what?  So I had pictures developed, bought poster board, and let him do whatever he wanted with his little marker and glue.  It looked just like you would have imagined.  It was pitiful, funny and messy.

You should have seen the look of accomplishment on his face, beaming with pride as he carried his over-sized masterpiece into the classroom.  You should have seen the look on my face as I walked into the classroom and saw the Mona Lisas of artwork: stenciled letters, 3D art images, created by very talented parents.  It looked as if PR firms had been hired to design some of the projects.   At first, I was embarrassed.  Had I made a mistake?  Was it my assignment or his?

As parents, we obviously want the best for our children.  If I could roll mine in bubble wrap to keep them from getting hurt, I would.  But it’s to their detriment when we hover over our kids, intervening in their squabbles with friends, doing their work for them, or negotiating their grades at school.  We’ve become an advocate in places we don’t belong. In short, we’ve crossed the line. It’s OK to give them advice, guide their hearts, help them behind the scenes, but not fight their fights or navigate their future to the point it becomes a disservice to everyone involved.

In the CNN.com article How to Ground a ‘Helicopter Parent’, Dr. Nancy Weisman, a licensed clinical psychologist, notes that it’s important for kids to understand that they are not going to be rescued. Otherwise, they may feel a sense of entitlement.  In dealing with powerful people, Dr. Ken Haller from the St. Louis University School of Medicine suggests that as parents, if we bully to get our way, it sends a message to our children, that we need to be “controversial and adversarial.” He suggests teaching them the “art of negotiation” as a more valuable tool.

It’s important to be their advocate when they’re younger, their guide, their counselor in their teen years, but don’t hover over them, trying to make sure they don’t slip and fall.  In failure, there are lessons to be learned..  There is value in a skinned up knee.

Remember when you were a kid, running through the house, perhaps you slipped and wiped out, badly? It looked painful to everyone else, yet you jumped right back up and kept going.  You had youth on your side.  Now, when you take a fall, it’s not as easy to jump back up.  Failing at the age of 10, 16 or 22 is way easier than failing at 43 when there’s much more at stake: kids, marriage, jobs, mortgages.

If they fail an assignment or miss class, make them meet with the teacher instead of you.  It’s called accountability.  If your teen didn’t complete an assignment, let them deal with the consequences.  The best lessons-learned are taught in the “School of Life.”  Important information can be gleaned from failure.  Some say:  Failure is not an option.  I say:  It’s as amazing learning tool. If you fail, collect data from what went wrong.  Take those mistakes and turn them into success.  Talk to anyone who owns a profitable company, and they will tell you, more character was built during failure than in victories.

Unfortunately the new rules of today apply:
* Don’t mark student’s answers wrong with red ink, it hurts their emotional psyche.
* Parents are meeting with employers to negotiate their children’s salaries.
* No swings or dodgeball games, kids may get injured.
* Everyone gets a trophy for participating.  It’s important that every child feels special.
* Tell your kids they are great at everything.  The truth will hurt their feelings.

Don’t micro manage your kids, always trying to fix, strategize, advocate and mediate their life path.  Let them learn from their mistakes.  It gives them confidence that they can solve their own problems.

The question remains, how do you give your children the resources they need to become responsible citizens?  Give them responsibility.  Make them accountable for their consequences, instead of trying to take the bullet for everything that goes wrong. Give them chores at an early age; make them do their own homework with limited parental involvement.  Have them fill out camp forms, do laundry, earn their own spending money.  In those self-sufficient tasks, life-lessons will be their best coach.  How do you handle letting go of the control and allowing your kids the opportunity to learn and grow on their own?

Here’s to living the best version of you!

 Posted by at 7:43 pm
Mar 272012
 

I was in a BIG BOX Store the other day, hauling 4 kids (something I don’t recommend), trying to quickly get in and out, when the 6 year old decided he wanted to touch everything he passed.   Since he was successfully grabbing everything, his little brother thought it would be cool to PUSH everything he saw.  Things were flying off shelves faster than I could give them the “MOM LOOK.”  You know the LOOK that sends shock waves of fear, without having to say a word!

In an effort to ease tension and keep us from being thrown out, I delegated pushing the cart to my 10 year old with the baby inside, while I grabbed 2 little boy’s hands and gently guided them down the middle aisle, quietly threatening their lives if they touched one more item; when a woman walked up, (you know, the kind walking slowly toward you, but you’re not sure why).  She smiled and said:  THESE ARE THE BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.

Now let me pause . . . because my first thought, was NOT Pretty!  An Attitude of CRAZY wanted to rise to the top.  As I slowly regained my eye sight, it was more like, Where’s the Roof, I May Jump.  If this is THE BEST . . . I mean,  The BEST, then we’ve got a problem.

I was hoping more for:  “Hang in there, it gets better.”  If someone dangles a carrot of hope, I can keep going, but telling me this is IT:  We have arrived at the station! These are the BEST Days, left me exiting the store, like a deflated balloon.  I could have walked across the street, never seeing oncoming traffic, thinking this IS IT?  I’ve heard horror stories of rebellious teenagers; heck, I was one myself.  But hearing,  These were the Best Days, left me in a state of despair.

As I lay in bed, in the dark hours of the night, pondering what she meant, I began to access my life, our situation, the crazy, loud life of raising a gaggle of kids so close in age.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I couldn’t help but review my circus-filled life of my 2 year old flapping her little chicken arm, trying to do an “arm fart” at the kitchen table, something she had seen her 3 brothers do.  I laughed at the thought of my 4 year old playing the violin, still wearing his bike helmet or my 6 yr old writing the words:  Left and Right on the top of his new tennis shoes with a SHARPIE Marker, so he wouldn’t forget.

If we redefine what is GOOD in our lives – these are good times, if we see it for what it is, and not the unrealistic expectations of what it could be.  If we understand that our house is probably going to look like 12 people live in it, then our mindset will change.

Instead of taking things too seriously and always seeing the bad, the negative aspects, we need to lighten up and think, what would we do if the kids weren’t here?  Ok, Italy comes to mind, but for the long haul, this journey we’re on:  leading, guiding, loving; this adventure we’re on, eventually leads to them leaving the nest.  Embrace the good, the bad and the loud; so the next time you are walking the aisles, gaining attention of judgmental eyes – smile and whisper to yourself:  These are the Best Days of My Life, because they are MINE!

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You.

 Posted by at 7:40 pm
Mar 202012
 

happiness

When I was five years old, my birthday landed on Easter. There was an egg hunt at my uncle’s and the prize was a Golden Egg.  My heart was racing with excitement as I gazed every area of the yard, looking for the prize.  Suddenly it appeared, and I was presented with a $5 bill.

You would have thought Publisher’s Clearing House had shown up to my door with a big check.  Stephanie, you are the winner of. . . drum roll please, FIVE DOLLARS! Taaa Daaaaa! I saw confetti, in my mind, that day.

I carried my golden egg (eh hem – boiled egg dipped in gold paint) around in a little tin bucket and took it to bed with me. Not long after my birthday, however, I discovered that in the middle of the night, ants had made their way up the wall, like a little army, and had destroyed my perfect golden egg which sat on a bookshelf. At the time, this egg represented my happiness and just like that – snap – it was gone!

Webster’s defines happiness as “a state of well being or contentment.” They didn’t sayanything about a golden egg.  Often times, we carry our happiness around like it’s this fragile object that can be taken away at any moment.

Hello, my name is “Surface Happy,” a “fly by the seat of my pants” friend.  It’s that (wear it on your sleeve) shallow happiness.  With one blow of a car horn or conversation with a rude customer service rep, everything goes to hell in a handbasket.  The minute someone “bumps your happy” – BAM! – happiness leaves the building and crazy takes its place.

Don’t allow those individual circumstances – the kids scraping a little paint off your car door with their bike handles – to define your day.  Happy needs deeper roots, like an oak tree planted firmly along a rushing stream.  Don’t let instances beyond your control steal your happiness.

With all the places we go and the things we do, we’re constantly in-and-out of nice and not-so-nice moments.  The kids make you breakfast (ah, how sweet!), a parent calls you out on something (ugh, I’m a bad mother).

Of course we’re going to feel things in the moment, but we can’t allow occasional negative instances to determine the path of our entire day.  Don’t carry the isolated incident to the next situation; we have to separate it into its own box and see it for what it is.  Learn to quickly slosh off the junk and embrace a sturdier, hardier, healthier happy that can’t easily be bumped, destroyed or stolen.

Your happiness is no golden egg, rather an oak tree not easily moved.  Walk in deep-rooted “happy” today and when there’s a bump in the road, see it as just that: a bump.  If you can hold on to being “happy in life,” you’ll feel as though Publisher’s Clearing House made you a winner, and may even see confetti in your mind.  Taaa Daaaaa!

Here’s to living the best version of you!

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog Spit-up & Heels and is also a columnist for NorthFulton.com.

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Mar 192012
 

My husband usually calls on the way home from work and asks if I need anything from the grocery store. 95% of the time I try to say no, as I understand he’s tired and would love to arrive home sooner, than later. But not this day. It had been on of those “Crazy, Can’t Take it Anymore” kind of days that only God and chocolate could fix.

It started at 6:30am when the kids came running down the stairs like a herd of cattle, with one hollering “Mom, I’m in a skit today and need a trench coat.” Uh, as in right now, you couldn’t have told me this, YESTERday?

One kid left his lunch box 3 days in a row on the kitchen counter and the other came home with a note that he spent $20 on chocolate milk and owes the cafeteria $1.38. What? Is that possible?

One forgot to turn-in his homework and the other forgot his book report. I read their class journals and discovered notes the teacher’s had written: one slept in class and two couldn’t stop talking. I think I passed along the talking gene. Perhaps it’s not really their fault.

As I picked them up from the bus stop, the kindergartener said a curse word he heard at school, in front of all the neighbors. That’s when you feel like you’ve failed as a parent. Dear God, what else can go wrong? I shouldn’t have asked. At that moment, I get a call from the neighbor, that our dog is in their yard. As we pull along the street and get out of the car, my 8 year old opens the minivan door and hollers: Mom, where do baby comes from?

As I ring the door bell, I hollered across the lawn: from your belly, now get back in the car. As the lady is introducing herself to me (and the door is closing on his face), he yells: No, mom, my friend say they come from down H-E-R-E. Cue the “Look of Death” cause that’s what I gave him. It must be their mission to embarrass us to death. I threw the muddy dog into our newly detailed car, dropped off one child at a friends, put the dog in the house and headed back across town to drop off yet another kid at Art class.

As I’m unloading 2 more kids at Home Depot, (wait, how many kids is that), to buy more Electric Fence line, I noticed a missed call from a neighbor saying: We have your dog. Seriously? Is this an old voice-mail? Can it be, that my dog is a magician and escaped our house, again?

Turns out, the kids left the back door open. Nice. So here we go, back across town to pick up the dog at a house that has already called us once before. I felt like I owed the neighborhood an apology. Do you ever have one of those days? If not, you should be feeling pretty good about yourself, right now. I’m sure our neighbors are dreaming of seeing a “For Sale Sign” on our lawn one day. They are probably thinking we’ve met our maximum capacity for kids, dogs, gerbils and skateboards left on the cul-de-sac.

So here’s to spouses willing to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work – and having days, that no matter how bad they become, you know God and chocolate are on your side.

Here’s to living the Best Version of You.

 Posted by at 8:41 pm
Mar 092012
 

The Happiness Project

Has your life’s exclamation point . . . become an exasperation point?  The highlights of life can be sabotaged by discontentment, discouragement and frustration.  Sometimes we have to re-arrange the way we do things, in order to boost the energy we need to catapult us to greatness.

When I worked in public relations, every day was crazy, exciting, unpredictable – full of “pats” on the back or “kicks” in the rear; one way or the other, you knew where you stood.  I’ve worked from home, in the office, worn the heels, gone from suits to sweats and am now somewhere in the middle.

On any given day, I find myself researching a new business venture, catching up on laundry, planning girls’ night out, conferencing other parents to discuss a class party, meeting deadlines, all the while thinking about how I’m going to cook chicken for the third time this week.  Then it occurred to me:  Is this my life?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy, the deep kind of happy that a few bad days or set of circumstances can’t steal.

But my life needed a tune-up, like a musical instrument.  I love my husband; he’s very supportive, loving and fun to be around. And as a bonus, he’s good-looking, too.  I have a small core of really good friends.  I have four kids that are loud, fun and interesting.  My life is full, but I knew with the tools and resources I had, things could be better.  I sat on the bed one day and just explained to my husband how I felt.

Without fear or threat that perhaps he had not provided a good life for us, he did a little research (another great quality of his: thoughtfulness) and by morning handed me a book that has taken me on quite a journey, to fine-tune my happiness from mediocre to deep contentment, where people want to know why you’re smiling.  My quest began with The Happiness Project, written by Gretchen Rubin.

I’ve heard it said:  When a student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.  Happiness is a state of mind.  Per Webster’s dictionary, happiness is a state of well being, a feeling of contentment, joy, satisfaction or pleasure.

I felt this, but not to its fullest capacity.  My mom is always reminding me that my calling here on this earth (no matter what position I hold in or outside the home) is to invest in the hearts of my children.  It’s not about recognition, fighting for a position on the corporate ladder, the need to feel appreciated by the outside world or add another gold star to my collection, but about devoting time and energy into raising healthy, well adjusted children that will go into the world with confidence, knowledge, and a sense of community; all the while, living the best version of me.

But in order to do this, Mom needs to be happy!  And if she ain’t happy, well…you get the gist.  The first category in The Happiness Project is: Boost Your Energy.  To be honest, I’ve never been so tired in my entire life.  Before kids, I trained for a marathon, raced in triathlons and had endless energy.  Now, it’s a different story.

The Happiness Project lists four things that are needed to “Boost Your Energy”:

1) Go to sleep earlier

2) Exercise better

3) Toss, restore and organize

4) Tackle a nagging task early

I don’t know about you, but my entire life, I’ve gone to bed late, put exercise on my to-do list (and only half the time crossed it off).  I allow that pesky task to haunt me all day (hoping it will just go away – of course it gets bigger and steals my joy).

It’s like a perfect storm – just as the kids are saying “Mom I’m Hungry” (after they just ate), you open the closet – and out springs jackets, scarves and a skate board into the floor, about the time the door bell rings and unexpected company has arrived.  You feel conquered, overwhelmed and under pressure.  Then comes the guilt . . . I’m a terrible mom, how will my kids turn out?

First Month’s Challenge

1) Sleep Earlier:

I began going to bed earlier. Can you say hard.  I stared at the ceiling and noticed all the blinking lights in the room, from the phone to the clock to my lap top, it was like the Las Vegas Strip.  Some people count sheep:  I was counting loads of laundry.  Your body has to be reprogrammed.  But with my next challenge, sleep came earlier and easier.

2) Exercise Better:

I’ve never liked waking up early.  My dad always said “the sunrise is so beautiful.” I figure the sunset looks much like the sunrise, so I’m OK with that.  But, in order to exercise better, I began taking the kids to school, so I could just keep going – head downstairs and begin working out.  The first week, I didn’t like it.  I felt angry, tired.  The workout guy’s voice on the DVD annoyed me.  But then I created my favorite playlist on my iPod for better motivation.  Now that I’ve created this routine, I enjoy the time for me.  Plus, when 6:30am rolls around, my eyes just pop open.  Your body gets use to what it knows, getting up and working out.

3) Toss, Restore and Organize:

My bedroom closet had become Central Station for things that didn’t have a name, a home or description.

I had a hard time letting go of those 80s concert t-shirts or giving away the red shoes I’ve never worn, but am waiting to find a fantastic dress to match.

I found parts to toys I didn’t know we had, books I’d never read, snack wrappers, gifts that had never been given.  It took three days to cleanse my closet, but in the process , it cleansed my mind.  I found 10 incredible outfits to choose from and it felt great!

4) Tackle a Nagging Task Early:

Between emails I needed to write, bills to be paid, calls yet to be returned or a mess still needing cleaning, it haunted my thoughts all day.  It drove me crazy.  Now, I wake up, conquer the the task and feel good about the victory, early on.

Want to boost your energy?  Start with you!  You are the family’s “hub of communication” – the CEO of your household.  Take charge, girls! In cleaning those closets and exercising for you, you’ll feel Accomplished, Organized and Victorious.  Rid your life of exasperation points and make them exclamation points to your happiness!

Here’s to living the best version of you!

Please click here to see more articles by Stephanie Pletka.

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog Spit-up & Heels and is also a columnist for NorthFulton.com. She lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband John and four children, Jack, Will, Andrew and Ava.

 Posted by at 12:35 pm
Mar 022012
 

be fearless

The dictionary defines “fearless” as: Brave, courageous, bold, adventurous. The opposite of fearless is, well “fear” – worry, doubt, anxiety and apprehension.

When I was eight, I spent the night at my grandma’s farmhouse. She lived in the middle of a 100-acre hay field, with creaky doors and tall seven-foot windows from floor to ceiling. The light switch was a dangling light bulb hanging from a six feet cord over the bed; the kind you have to stand in-the-center of the mattress and search for, in mid-air.

At bedtime, during a huge electrical storm, I tried walking bravely to my room, but lightening struck and so did my fear, right into my throat. I leapt from the door to the bed in two jumps. Lying there, I noticed what appeared to be something large at the foot of my bed. I stared it down. It just kept looking at me. I didn’t move. It didn’t move. Finally, I flew under the covers, hiding, where I remained for half an hour, sweating as I pondered its presence. I peeked over the blanket and to my dismay, it was still there. The audacity! I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move. I was being held prisoner by the unknown.

When I could no longer take the fear (or the hot blanket for that matter), my courage rose and I jumped straight into the air, grabbing for the dangling light bulb overhead, prepared to fight for my life. The bulb swung this way and that, before I wrestled it down and pulled the cord. To my amazement, I was being held captive by a trench coat and hat someone had hung on the bed post.

We imagine the worst in life: watch CNN and the economy is taking a nose dive, terrorism is in our backdoor and our country’s debt is spiraling out of control. Will our kids go to college, how will we pay the bills, should I take another job, downsize my home?

We form ideas based on fear, creating self-fulfilling prophecies that life is not going to turn out like we thought. Maybe it’s not.

Suze Orman, in her book: The Money Class said it best: “Perhaps the American dream as we knew it, is dead. It’s time to take the dream back into our hands and reshape it.” Maybe we need a new dream. Who said it needs to be a family of 4 with 2.3 kids, a 9-5 job, with a two-hour commute and a white picket fence?

How awesome would it be to live life outside of the box? If instead of being scared, living on the cusp of what ifs, you channeled fear into something positive and started your own business, telecommuted to work, changed jobs, downsized your home, created a blog, wrote down your bucket list and began conquering it? Fostered kids, adopted more, climbed Kilimanjaro, took a missions trip, built homes in Haiti with Compassion.com, helped with clean-water initiatives in Africa, with 410Bridge.com and changed the world!

Shake it up a bit and live a life worthy of the calling, a life you can truly look back on and say: You lived it. You grabbed fear by the horns and wrestled that trench coat to the ground with light bulbs swinging.  Share with us, what’s holding you back.  We’re in this together, girls!

Here’s to the living the best version of you!

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog Spit-up & Heels, is a contributor to http://www.women.com and  is also a columnist for NorthFulton.com. She lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband John and four children, Jack, Will, Andrew and Ava.

 Posted by at 1:54 pm
Feb 232012
 

Woo woo, don’t we all want one of those. Well, they’re out there, and one of them could be yours.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a farm and that’s where we spent most of our time. We gardened, bottle fed the calves and celebrated at the end of the day by jumping from hay bale to hay bale drinking a coca-cola.

From tree climbing to making bike ramps, life was good, because we earned it. My parents taught us responsibility. We had to help with the dishes, the laundry and vacuuming the floors. We were a part of a team and it felt good. It was all for one and one for all. There were times we would see a friend with a new bike or hip jeans and wanted them so badly. Which is fine. Wanting and demanding are two different things. It’s all in the tude, the attitude, that is, of how we conduct our wish.

Selfishness is like gaining weight. If you do nothing, it will come. It’s a fight to stay humble. Webster’s dictionary defines self-ish-ness as lacking consideration for, concerned mainly for ourselves.


In an effort to turn Selfish into Selfless, it’s important to show our kids what it looks like. You can talk about it all day, as we live in our little “bubble of life” going to and from soccer and ballet practice, where everyone seems to have enough money, enough food, plenty of jobs and resources at their fingertips.

But within a 20 miles radius, if you look for it, you’ll find homelessness, children going to bed hungry, (can you imagine) and parents frustrated they can’t provide for their family.

Have your kids volunteer at a shelter, a charity where they see first hand, ordinary families like you and me, that fell on hard times. Take them to a foster care facility and let them take goodies they bought with their own money. Have them play with the kids. Self-LESS-ness takes the “me” and turns it into “we.” The “me, myself and I” mentality becomes a community, a team effort.

Don’t you appreciate the items you bought or the activity you enjoyed much more when it’s earned, rather than handed to you? An action verb carries much more weight than a passive verb. Mary drives a car. Mary is driven. Wouldn’t you rather be driving, jumping, providing clean water for / or building a house with Habit for Humanity. Let’s get out there and be the action verb in someone’s life today.

5 Steps to SELF-LESS-NESS: {T.E.A.M.S}

T Team Spirit. (It’s all for one and one for all.)

E Early Arrival. (Being late is selfish. You think the world should have to wait on you?)

A Ability to show empathy. (Put yourself in their shoes. What must it feel like to need help and have to ask for it?)

M Money, give some away. (Invest your money in worthwhile causes / charities that make a true difference.)

S Stubborn – don’t be. (Take Responsibility for your mistakes. No excuses. Own it and move on.)

Kids do what we do, not what we say. They are little reflections of us. If we act conceited, self involved, always argumentative and placing our needs over those around us, we’re leading them down the same path. They mimic what they’re taught. Turn those self-involved attitudes into team players that make a true difference in this world. Now go find your version of a hay bale and start jumping.

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You.

 Posted by at 1:41 pm
Feb 212012
 

by Stephanie Pletka

I met up with a friend today. You know this friend – she’s the one who makes your life greater for being in it. That’s her, my new friend Niki – Mom extraordinaire, an incredible photographer, a sister to four brothers, a daughter, a wife, a friend and mom of two.  She’s 38, and one of those creative types that seem to splash the world with color and imagination everywhere she goes. When I first met her at a Christmas party a couple of months ago, I noticed her look:  edgy, funky, could wear any hat and make it look fabulous. I mentioned how much I loved her shorty-short blonde hair and how few could pull it off, when I discovered HER STORY.  Everyone has one, you know…

Up until January 3, 2011, life was cruising by for Niki. But it all changed in a split-second.  Those things that seemed to matter – everyday life, paying bills, juggling schedules – all came to a screeching halt when doing a self-breast exam. Having just flown back from a Caribbean vacation and in the best shape of her life, she found a lump the size of a small bb. After a mammogram and ultrasound, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma; it had already spread to her lymph nodes.

After a long weekend of waiting for a diagnosis, feeling as though she couldn’t wait another second, the doctor called.  He was quite upset to give her the report.  Yet oddly enough, her first reaction was to comfort and encourage him She explained there was nothing to worry about; it would all be OK.

The news was devastating.  When trying to Google someone exactly like herself who had gone through this very experience:  a 37 year old mom of two with breast cancer – Stage 2, she found only one person.  At that moment, she set out on a mission to be an example to other women by documenting every aspect of her journey.  So from then on, she had a camera or video following her around, documenting the entire process.

Breast Cancer Statistics (Source: BreastCancer.org)

  1. Cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and treatable
  2. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms starting at 40 years old and encourages self-breast exams for younger women
  3. 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women in the U.S. are expected in 2012
  4. Of those invasive cases, 85% will be ductal carcinoma
  5. Treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, and/or hormone therapy

The Rush of Emotions Expected After Diagnosis

  1. Niki fought moments of fear and anxiety. How could this be?  At 37, she wasn’t old enough to meet the minimum age requirement for annual mammograms.
  2. What if she had not done a self exam?  She was shocked how fast the stages of cancer had grown from Stage 2a to 2b in a matter of two weeks.
  3. One minute you’re encouraged and emotions are stable.  The next you can be in a grocery store and have a panic attack, not able to breathe.  The world closes in.
  4. Anything can trigger a panic attack and you may not see it coming.  Your life flashes before your very eyes, wondering how long you have to live, will you get a clean bill of health, will it creep its way back in and spread unknowingly.

Upon hearing the news, she began the next step, notifying her friends via Facebook.  What would she say?   She wrote and re-wrote it, erased and edited many versions, then simply wrote:  “I HAVE BREAST CANCER.” and pressed SEND.  That’s when it became real.  When life felt dark.  The peripheral became a blur.  It was now time to stare the enemy in the face.

The Moment of Empowerment

She planned a “Hair-Shaving Party” after being assured by doctors that she would indeed lose all of her hair.  She invited 50 of her closest friends and blasted Katy Perry’sFirework, a song of empowerment, and donated her hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada.  The black-and-white still shots documenting her journey were emotionally raw.  With each click of the camera, out came strength, vulnerability, tears, fear, inspiration . . . with hands held high.  She met it face-to-face and took back the power.

Her friends rallied and love came in the form of notes, food, flowers, prayers and personal conversations.  Her son’s football coach, parents and students made encouraging signs on Game Day, wearing pink wrist bands, socks and shoelaces to support the cause in her honor. They showed up . . . and they showed up big.

Her “Aha! Moment” came after six months of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation, where she had gained weight from the medications, began losing what little hair re-growth she had . . . hardly recognizing herself.  She discovered that while on the outside, her appearance wasn’t sexy and sassy as usual, she found a deeper place, where your soul comes to the forefront.  Your looks don’t define your core.  They’re just the marketing side of who you are.

Screen shot 2011-12-19 at 8.58.33 PM

Cancer doesn’t define Niki, it’s just a blip on the radar of her entire life. Like a tapestry, our lives are woven pictures, threads of ideas, stories filled with life’s ups and downs to create a brilliant canvas of our life from beginning to end.  This thread that found its way into her moment in time, created a platform for her to speak, share her story, empowering other women to walk through the storm.  On her last day of radiation, the song “Firework” began to randomly play in the doctor’s office.  With tears and perseverance, her journey to the finish line had come full circle. In wrapping up our three-hour conversation at the coffee shop, she looked down to see written on the wooden arm of her chair, read these words:  “Logic will get you from A to Z; Imagination will get you Everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

Here’s to embracing life when it strikes and imagining what it CAN and WILL be – a platform to share our “Tapestry of Life” with those around us.

Click here to see more articles on Women.com by Stephanie Pletka.

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog, Spit-up & Heels. She lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband John and four children, Jack, Will, Andrew and Ava.


 Posted by at 10:06 am
Feb 162012
 
COLUMNIST written for Northfulton.com

Attaining the Golden Handcuffs

Stephanie Pletka image

I was raised in The South and have an accent to prove it. Life was pretty simple growing up. All you needed was a good bike, fishing pole and a trampoline. Brushing my hair wasn’t a high priority, but tree-climbing was.

We lived in a modest house, but no one told me. Life was full of adventure, dirt roads and all the ice cream you could eat. I had parents who loved me and told me daily. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

My husband and I moved to Atlanta, bought a house that seemed way too big for a family of 3. Now that there are 6, it often feels as though we’re bursting at the seams. I love my house. It’s full of large windows, high ceilings and lots of character. But then we made a mistake. It was more out of curiosity, really. We visited a friend’s home exponentially more fabulous than our own.

We went to a party over the holidays and this house should have been listed in the “Parade of Homes.” When we got back to our house, disappointment set in. All of the sudden, my ceilings were too low, the TV was too small, the kitchen felt too tight and I was pretty sure the living room had shrunk! There’s always something bigger, faster, hotter, younger, wealthier, funnier, richer around the corner.

We are all on an upward spiral to attain the Golden Handcuffs, the dangling carrot, the top of the corporate ladder. When is the house big enough, the car styling enough, the corporate title impressive enough?

The problem with this “Pie in the Sky” mentality: There is no finish line. There is no race course with a flag at the end that says: You made it!!! Congratulations, you are Officially SUCCESSFUL! You can rest now.

Contentment is the state of being satisfied. It is A State, not An Estate! Finding satisfaction and keeping it, is a balancing act, with someone constantly trying to knock us off the “balance beam” of life. The grass is always greener, the schools we are not accepted to – are better, the tennis outfit she’s wearing is hipper. It’s a never-ending cycle that steals the joy of the moments we’ve worked so hard to attain. Life is never quiet good enough because we don’t have a finish line to know where “good enough” is.

Contentment comes from within. If this button isn’t fixed, all the upgrades in the world can’t repair or fill the void.

What really matters is the legacy we pass along. I’ve never read an obituary that said: His house was 10,000 sq. feet! Can you believe it? or she was the top realtor in town with 1 million in quarterly sales.

Instead, you will read words that describe their character . . the impact this person had on their friends, family and community. How they prayed big . . . helped big, loved big.

What is the most valuable item here on this earth, that if it were hurt, sick, bothered or taken, you would give your life to protect it? This should be your focus. A house can burn, a car can stall, a job can be lost . . .

Invest in things that matter, your family, your spouse, your kids. Value the time spent with them at the park, on a date, in the car, working on a school project; etch in your mind the hilarious stories and endless laughing you enjoy with your friends. The late night walks and meaningful talks. For tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Go back to the simpler days; have a picnic at the park, lay on a blanket with your spouse. Bring back date night. Write your friends a “hand written” note. Take your buddy fishing. Life is short. Let go of your search, like a heat seeking missile, for the Golden Handcuffs. For in it, you will find contentment and great satisfaction.

Here’s to Living the Best Version of You.

 Posted by at 5:18 pm
Feb 132012
 

Written for Women.com

Click here to see more articles on Women.com by Stephanie Pletka.

sexy

Have you ever been eating a fantastic dessert, holding an interesting conversation and then looked down and thought, “Who Ate My Pie?”

As I’ve raised kids, started and sold a business, worked from home and dealt with life’s struggles and juggles, I looked up and wondered:  “Where did my Sexy Go?”

I started looking for it.  Did someone steal it from under my nose?  Did I loose it on the way to having kids?  Did it get tired of seeing me wear PJs till noon during the baby years?  Had I not made room for it amongst soccer, ballet, deadlines and dishes?  Was there not an extra seat in my minivan?

As I began to search for my distant friend, I had to remember what it looked like.  Had it matured?  Could we still be friends?  Would we fit together with the ease we once knew?  Would we recognize one another?

Defining “sexy” is a bit ambiguous. Sexy is more than a little black dress, heels, red lipstick and a come-hither attitude.

Sexy is:

  1. Confident
  2. Strong / Independent
  3. Chivalrous
  4. It’s Quiet, it’s Loud
  5. It’s Smart
  6. It’s Empowered
  7. It’s Vulnerable
  8. It’s Courageous
  9. It’s Capable
  10. It’s Authentic

Sexy is an attitude. A mindset without a specific physical look.  Sexy is not whiny, needy, in constant longing of affirmation. It’s not weak.  It’s not crying over why your life didn’t turn out the way you expected.

Sexy pulls you up by the boot straps and turns your life around, makes changes you’ve always needed but hadn’t.  It’s the girl that realizes she’s the BOSS of her OWN life, the leading lady in her own movie, the conductor of her own train, the decider of her own fate.

With every decision you make and every word that comes from your mouth, choose to be confident and empowered. Sexy either lives here or it doesn’t and a little black dress is just one of its many outfits.

Here’s to celebrating the Empowered You – now that’s sexy!

Click here to see more articles on Women.com by Stephanie Pletka.

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog, Spit-up & Heels. She lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband John and four children, Jack, Will, Andrew and Ava.

 Posted by at 5:40 pm
Feb 032012
 

Did you know that love is work?  If you didn’t, it’s safe to safe you haven’t been in love.  Having clean dishes is work.  Having a car that smells good – is work.  Having kids that don’t fight is. . . well, that’s virtually impossible, but you get the gist.  Life can easily go from a dust storm to a full fledged F5 tornado in a heart beat.

The divorce rate in America is slightly over 50%, meaning one in two couples will divorce.

There’s a cycle of life, and while I’m making it sound quiet simple, it’s anything but.  For most, we go off to college, get a job, get married, have 2.3 kids, raise them, transition into empty nesters, enjoy the grandkids, travel, and the cycle continues. Sounds so simple. So clear cut.  But of course, each phase of life is complex: full of fun, fights, heartache, tough conversations and celebrations.  There’s personality conflicts, vet bills, hurt feelings, championships awarded, breast cancer survivors.

It’s all the stuff in the middle that makes staying in love a lot of work.  Love isn’t just the kisses and electricity that pulls you together when you first meet.  Love goes deeper.  Love washes the dishes for the other person, when they can’t take another step.  Love rubs their shoulders after a tired day at the office. All the outside activities:  taking the kids to school, paying the bills, working a 50 hour week, helping kids with science projects is the product of love.

Often times we forget the core of the family, Central Station – You and Your spouse.

It’s time to re-focus the attention toward each other, shake off the dust, let the other activities fade into the back ground and plan a date night, a picnic at the park, a vacation away, just the two of you. Discuss your dreams and goals.  Write a note, tell ’em what you like about them.   Do all the fun stuff you did before kids, before all the accountability and responsibility that life tends to throw upon you like a monkey on your back.

Love takes work.  It’s a fight to spend time together.  You’re fighting against kid’s schedules, your lack of discipline to make it happen.  Just like exercising and eating healthy, it’s a daily task.  Red lipstick and heels once a month is not gonna get it.  It’s arranging babysitters, asking your spouse to dinner, courting them, getting creative in showing your love and affection for one another.

Keep the “Crazy” at bay and find that spark.  Do what it takes to keep it alive.  So when life comes at you, full force, find each other in the eye of storm (the most peaceful place) and hold on.  You’re worth it.

 Posted by at 12:07 pm
Jan 312012
 

As moms, it’s our job to protect our brood, guide little hearts, create productive citizens, all the while spinning plates and juggling life, as if it’s just another day in the park.  We don’t have to pretend to be perfect, rather a work in progress.  Just as our kids are going through new phases, so are we.  It’s our first time being a mom to screaming infants, wild toddlers & moody teenagers.

We do other moms a disservice by not admitting hard times.  Having coffee with a friend, a mentor, finding time to play tennis, golf, whacking a ball, is enough to set us back on track.  Even the toughest of jobs has a one or two day break; so take one for yourself.  Now, for the Top 10 Mom Confessions…

1) Our house is usually a disaster.

2) We don’t know everything and don’t always like to share.

3) If we never see another episode of Spongebob, Dora or iCarly, I’m sure we’d survive.

4) Playing games with our kids is usually not that much fun.

5) We love taking baths in peace and dream of a hotel room for one (OK, maybe two).

6) We love eating food someone else prepares.

7) We hate sticky things.

8) We occasionally make mistakes / Sometimes we’re wrong (though rarely LOL).

9) It’s hard to ask for help.

10) And drum roll please . . . When the baby’s diaper has a blow out, we sometimes say: Go Get D-A-D!

Hang up the Super-Mom Cape and make your way to the kitchen – as you step over race cars, Lego blocks and soccer equipment that’s set up like a mine field.  Grab yourself a coffee or a hot tea, take a deep breath, and realize you don’t have to be something you’re not.  Don’t create expectations you can’t maintain.  So as you’re taking a bubble bath and little notes are being passed underneath the door – because you told them not to knock – take a deep breath and know it’s happening to millions of other moms out there.  This is nothing new under the sun.  It’s job security and you are set.

Here’s to living the best version of YOU.  Don’t forget to BREATHE!

written for http://www.women.com

 Posted by at 11:59 pm
Jan 162012
 

Dr. Seuss said it best:

Everyone is Just Waiting,

Waiting for the Fish to Bite,

Waiting for the Wind to Fly a Kite

Waiting Around for Friday night.

Doesn’t waiting seem like a waste of time, a useless place?  Yet, in fact, there are lessons to be learned in the Waiting Place.  Waiting is defined as:  remaining stationary, in readiness or in expectation, to rest in patience.

I enjoyed a girl’s three-day weekend away from the hustle and bustle of life.  There were no techno gadgets, just nature, walking trails, lakes and Canadian Geese.  What a great time to clear my head, think and be.  I anticipated a quiet get-a-way of thinking and waiting in expectation for answers to questions.

But the transition from the “fast-paced-to the “slow-paced” was difficult.  Women are multi-taskers.  We shine best in a storm, when life is in turmoil, when chaos is at its peak, when lives are at stake.  Give us a day to think and wait, and it’s a little un-settling.  It’s in our blood to keep the balls juggling and the plates spinning.

After 10 minutes of waiting by the lake, hoping for a quick revelation to life’s ponderings, my mind filled itself with the infamous “To-Do” list:  buy groceries, fix the car, office deadlines, pay the bills.  My brain was full of logistics.  But as I sat there long enough, taking a deep breath, determined to do nothing but wait, something amazing began to occur; I began to smell the roses, hear the birds singing; my mind began to clear, and like the sun peeking through the clouds, I slowly began to see things differently, about my kids, my life, my goals and dreams for myself.

We hurry through life and forget that “Waiting” (remaining stationary) is a valid step to life’s processes.  It’s where new perspective, new ideas and new attitudes are formed.  Priorities begin to re-arrange themselves.  The important stuff seems to rise to the top and the “not-so-important” falls off the list.

Like death and taxes, laundry and dishes will be with you Always.  Our children won’t be young forever.  They won’t always be willing to hang with us, let us share in their disappointments and victories.

Embrace the quiet, live in readiness and expectation.  Don’t stray far from resting in patience.  For in the Waiting Place, life gains new perspective . . . And Oh, the Places You Will Go!

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Jan 032012
 

I visited a doctor’s office the other day and for insurance purposes the questionnaire asked what I did for a living. Never understanding why it matters, I wrote:  MOM.  I used to say Director of Communications or Business Owner and boy did that feel good.  It said everything I needed to say in 2 -3 words to boost my ego.

Now, when I fill in the box with :  MOM – I hear 2 little words in my head:   “JUST A.”  I felt compelled to explain, as if I needed a paragraph to say: I cook for a small army, ya know, planning menus, organizing schedules, responsible for annual budgets.  We’re teachers, accountants, counselors, chauffeurs; we’re public relations, risk management, the CEO of our Household all rolled into one.

For whatever reason, I’ve become my own enemy in viewing the word MOM, as if I had been retired from active duty, been put to pasture, as if staying at home meant doing nothing.  With a title like Director of Something, there’s a value set to it; a monetary figure, a set of skills earned to attain this position.  With the title of MOM there’s no financial figure tied into the equation, therefore motherhood doesn’t reflect the respect it deserves.  After all, who would work for nothing?

While I know that’s not true, I somehow felt compelled to march in a parade, hold my flag high as if to say:  we guide little hearts into adulthood, teaching them to be productive citizens, raising leaders of tomorrow.  Perhaps it’s because our pay rate doesn’t translate in monetary form.  No real salary, pay increase, bonus or vacation days.  While greenbacks are a definite bonus, the benefits of parenting far out way financial perks.

I then realized, why do I care what the world thinks.  I’m not in charge of changing global perception, rather my own.  The problem is with me.  In the end, I know my credentials, my capabilities. There’s no need to post a sign on my car advertising my resume.  What matters is that I’m focusing my attention, my abilities and talents on guiding my children (doing my part) to raise the best individuals they can be, one person at a time.  One day they will be someone’s employee, boss, spouse, parent, friend;  that’s my contribution, my legacy.

So here’s a shout out to all those moms (working at home/ in the office) who will NOT make the Forbes’ Top 100 list.  Your reward is mentoring those trailing a little behind you in life’s journey.  There are no term limits, no set guidelines.   No matter what you write in the BOX OF LIFE, that one-word description can’t possibly DEFINE all the many facets of Who You ARE and what you do. Here’s to Living in Confidence, knowing you are where you need to be, this moment in time.

 Posted by at 5:42 pm
Dec 202011
 

Someone asked me the other day, what was my most memorable Holiday. I think they were anticipating a story filled with fun traditions and great family memories.

Instead, I said:  We lost our 4 yr old son at Mall of America.  You know, the largest Mall between here and Canada.   Nestled in Minneapolis, MN, this 5.2 million square foot facility contains roller coasters, a water park, a  theme park – and that’s just the first floor!

We lost (Oh I’m sorry – I mean, my HUSAND) lost our son while watching the 4 of them in Lego Land.  I traveled 3 stories from the food court with 6 bags of chicken nuggets and upon my return, noticed one was missing.

We searched high and low for that child.  No doubt, my husband’s hands were full.  Four kids ages 8 to1 in Lego Land can’t be easy.  But the more we searched and couldn’t find the little fella, the more my anxiety grew exponentially.

After calling Mall Security, we noticed a commotion, almost like a parade of people marching from the 3rd floor, making their way down the escalators.  Police officers, lightening equipment, cameras:  It looked like channel 2 news had arrived on the scene.  As I’m telling my husband, through tears, what I’m gonna do to him if we don’t find our child, we are circled by a camera crew – recording tears, private conversations and police interviews.

It turns out, Mall of America was taping Mall Cops for a television series on TLC.  Seriously?  Only to us would this happen – The Crazy Family; though we look fairly normal on the outside.

They asked if we’d be interested in signing a contract to be on TLC’s 1st Thanksgiving episode.  Now isn’t that Special.  Their first episode.  (Do you hear the cynicism)?

She said: It’s a story about families coming together.  Oh REALLY! ?  Uh, I wasn’t born yesterday, but I’m thinking it’s a story about Horrible Parents who can’t keep up with their kids in a mall the size of Montana.  After finding him in Spongebob Land, we made a bee-line to the car with TLC’s paparazzi camera crew chasing us with a contract, begging us to share our “Wonderful Family Reunion Story.”  We were all out of breath, running with strollers and diaper bags. I’ve never buckled kids in a car so fast. I’m pretty sure we left skid marks in the parking lot.

So when you’re beating yourself up for thinking you’re a terrible mom, because you forgot to feed little Johnny something with color for dinner or you missed Timmy’s Parent-Reader Day, forgot to slip money under the pillow from the tooth fairy or didn’t sign up your son for the football team, just think, you could be sharing your story on TLC with the whole world.  We all have tough days when life’s margins are running thin.  Just remember, we’re not perfect, but a work in progress.  Do your best and forget the rest.  Here’s to making holiday memories – ONLY the GOOD ONES!

 Posted by at 11:24 am
Nov 282011
 

A couple of months before I headed to college, my mom felt the need to write my name on everything I owned:  My clothes, my type writer (I know, a what???) my books, my suit case, MY underwear (nice) and anything else that couldn’t be nailed to the ground.

One night, during a prayer service at University, I knelt to pray.  As I was getting up, I realized on the bottom of each shoe, written with a Black Sharpie was my FULL NAME from toe to heel.  Sixteen letters!  If embarrassment could of killed, I would have died that night.

If I was lost, I was found:  all I had to do was look at my shoes, my underwear or my purse to remember who I was.  The only thing my mom didn’t write my name on, was an umbrella – and it was stolen on the first rainy day.

Do you know who you are?  Sometimes, we get caught up in the pressure of life, whether it be money, status, certain relationships, keeping up with the Joneses’, trying to stay ahead of the game, being something we’re not and we forget about what really matters:  our integrity, helping others, common sense, good character and remembering that the journey is WAY more important than arrival . . . because we’re never really there, we’re just on our way.

We get in a groove, a rut of sorts, living our nice little life, surrounding ourselves with our BFFs, enjoying “girl’s night,” sports night, placing our kids in every music class, on every athletic team and trying to maintain the status quo . . . Cause after all, we’ve gotta keep up appearances.

Don’t forget the person of adventure who used to try new things, the person who used to write letters to change wayward political views, the person who sought to help those in need, the one who used to ski, scuba dive or golf, but can never find the time, the once fit mom or dad who’s got the (I have a family and don’t have time to take care of myself” syndrome).  If we look at our TRUE Self, we may not recognize the current person in the mirror.  It’s time to RECLAIM Our Life!

It’s time to come clean, start exercising, writing, golfing, reclaiming date night, family night; go back to basics and talk to each other eye to eye, not text to text.  Don’t be the stolen umbrella of life, the person who is so far away from who you really wanna be, that your true identity has faded.  It’s time to reclaim who you Really Are, who you wanna be . . .

Just as those shoes had my name boldly written on them, claiming their owner, Be the Owner of Your Life. Find your True Self and Write Your Name on it.

 Posted by at 10:20 am
Nov 032011
 

Asking a mom if she ever feels guilty is like asking a woman if she likes chocolate.  It’s a “no brainer.”  It comes with the territory.  Show me a mom and guilt is around the corner.

Like the song:  Should I Stay or Should I Go, guilt peeks its ugly head like a fire breathing dragon.  Should I quit work and stay at home.  Should I go back to work?  Do I volunteer enough, did little Johnnie get plenty of hugs last week?  Are my kids eating healthy enough, are they in the correct activities?  If only I were a better cook, skinnier, happier – and as the plates continue to spin, so does our head.

Guilt is tricky in that whatever you do, the void can’t be filled.  Whatever choice you make, it’s the wrong one.  If you’re here, you should be there, ying should be yang, up should be down, right is wrong, the grass is always greener, and the cycle continues.

There’s a book recently published called:  “Enemies of the Heart”.  It discusses the characteristics of Guilt and spurs one to answer the questions:  Who do you owe and What do you owe?

Often, the “Guilty” hat follows us around like a permanent cloud, a dark shadow you can’t outrun.  The author, Andy Stanley suggests if we can answer Who do we owe and What do we owe, we’ll break free from this emotional control.  Guilt, a destructive power, tries to set us up for failure, before we’re out of the gate.  Look guilt in the face, make it play a fair game.

Whatever circumstances you’re in, perhaps something unforeseen, a bad marriage, a bum deal at work,  miscommunication, a child in a difficult phase, whatever the case, set up a plan of action.  If you’re happy at work, embrace it.  If you’re happiest at home and can afford to stay, seize it.  We’re not living in Utopia where everything is perfect.  We’re living in a world full of too many choices, too little time and one mom trying to juggle it all.

Don’t let Guilt rob you of the joy you have, in whatever position or spot you land.

Guilt is a “Happiness” robber, a contentment thief.  It’s no respecter of persons and doesn’t care what side of the fence, saddle or route you’ve chosen. Guilt will find fault with whatever stance you take, making you feel as though you’ll never meet the standard, complete the race or be truly successful.  It’s a 2nd guesser, a what-IF-ER.

It’s not your friend, rather an enemy that needs to be set sail.  If you had a “friend” who treated you this way, they would be sent on their way in a heart beat, with a footprint on their back side, yet we cuddle up with GUILT like a warm blanket and hot chocolate, hosting it in the most sacred position: our home, our heart, our life.

Identify Guilt for what it is, recognize it and whack it with a broom.  Tell it out loud:  NO MORE!  Answer the questions:  Who do I owe and what do I owe and in this, you’ll find the peace, the contentment you need to embrace the Happy in the place you’re in.

Do Your Best and Forget the Rest.  Here’s to living a life with contentment and purpose.

 Posted by at 7:57 am