Look for the Good and the Beautiful. A New Era of Parenting

Look for the Good, the Beautiful. A New Era of Parenting

Sunday afternoon my husband and I went out our front door with our dog, Sage, into the wild for a hike on a well-worn trail near our house in Central Idaho. The sun was peaking in and out, snow still seen under the trees where the warmth of springtime had not thawed the chill of winter.

Sage, thrilled to be outside, bounds up and down the hills scanning for sensory experiences that were covered by snow for so many months. As my husband watches her, his eyes come upon two gray wolves watching from a very close distance. We immediately call our forty-pound, happy-go-lucky Springer Spaniel to our side as we weigh the option of turning back. Ultimately we decide to modify our hike and to go in the other direction from these two majestic, wild animals which are still watching with their heads held high and ears perked at the ready.

As we continued up the dirt path that I have come to know so well, I felt the grace of having seen these beautiful animals in their own habitat, as well as the fear of being only a couple hundred yards from them. Hiking on this same trail this last month, I have seen animal bones that I needed to shoo my dog away from, antlers and clumps of hair shed from the herds of elk that make these hills home during the winter months, as well as herds of mule deer who wait until Sage and I pass before prancing like gazelles through the sagebrush to the other side of the trail. Even watching my beloved companion take off towards a herculean male elk with an immense rack was no match for this pair of wolves that were now, seemingly, watching my dog like a succulent snack. We reminded ourselves that wolves have never attacked a person, however we had our ‘puppy’ whose favorite thing in the world is to bound up the very hill this wolf pair has now occupied.

For those of us that still have our original wiring that says “Wild animals are WILD and can hurt you,” a sensation of fear feels like a pang in the depth of our being. I say this only because there are so many of us that have only seen animals, such as the gray wolf, behind bars in city zoos. We have shed those connections of fear, replaced by the fear of our fellow human beings. Ourselves. However, there is no longer a way to differentiate who might be dangerous, as much as we try. How do you discern between a person who is normal, who only wants to create a life for themselves and family versus the person who uses a gun to shoot innocent children or who sets off bombs in the middle of a celebrated city marathon? Should we be fearful of everyone unless proven otherwise? Should we go merrily about our life without regard to the danger that is lurking? This new danger is unknown. We can’t study its habitat, its predators or even its characteristics. We can’t arm ourselves when stepping into the wild anymore.

Our cities have become the wild places where danger or even death could be just around the corner. What do we teach our children about the world they live in and how to protect themselves? In these new wild places we can no longer show them what to look for — large furry animals, long slithering snakes, eight-legged insects…

If we teach our children to be fearful of wild places they would grow up with constant anxiety about all that could happen but probably won’t. Instead, we have to teach them about the things that could be dangerous, but most importantly we have to teach them to look for the GOOD and the BEAUTIFUL people, places and things. We have to teach them to differentiate and be discerning about the people they let into their life and to constantly be aware of their environment. This is the opposite of staring at a mind-numbing screen for hours at a time. This new education requires our children to be in nature, in the cities, a part of their communities, and in relationships.

Life is dangerous and it is beautiful. We must show them how to look for the good, the lovely people in life so they will not grow up fearful to leave their homes or to look beyond the many types of screens vying for their attention. They are learning everyday and the requirement bar for adulthood has been forever raised. Life is no longer simple no matter what we choose to teach our children or how we choose to live. We cannot teach our children to live in fear of their world, just as we cannot shield them from horrific circumstances that seem to be happening far more frequently then the dangers of the wild not too long ago. The dangers that are in nature are no match for what we have found in the suburbs and cities where we live. We have to teach our children to look for the good amid the chaos, to look for what is beautiful about the people they come upon, to see the helpers in untenable situations. We have to teach them to live life fully with presence and awareness. Our world is far more beautiful than it sometimes seems and it is much easier to see the ugliness than it was fifty years ago.

Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

I leaned hard into my career at one time. I loved working as a marketing director close enough to NYC to enjoy the skyline. I got so angry when a coworker (male) would tell me that I wouldn’t want to come back to work when my child was born. Determined to prove that I was not the ‘typical’ woman in the workforce, I doubled my efforts. My daughter was born, we moved back to the Northwest and my beloved suits got relegated to the top bar in my closet. I am reposting this Blog now that I have read Lean In and getting ready to go back to school for a PhD. in Clinical Psychology. The grit that I once had and needed to survive in the business world has been replaced by self compassion, intuition and the love I feel for my family, for my three daughters. Maybe I will Lean Into my career in psychology once my girls are on their way. For now I am learning to lean into my own voice of understanding what will work for me. I say this because of my personal journey in this world and know that all women forge their own. Love that!

Love is all we need...

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I…

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Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I had visions of having our beautiful child, spending 3-4 months at home and then returning to my career just as I had planned since I was thirteen. I would get up in the morning, dress for work just as Mary Poppins would glide in and provide my baby everything they would need and then some. My husband and I would come home from work and we would sit down for a family dinner lovingly prepared by Ms. Poppins… We would stroll around town on the weekends stopping in to get a NY bagel and a Starbucks. Ahhh life was going to be AMAZING.

Then Ground Hog Day began. My daughter cried for a year. We moved back to Washington State into Suburbia. My husband was traveling at least 60 percent of the time. Mary Poppins was nowhere to be found and my job was back in New Jersey. My suits would have to wait for a year or two. That will be okay. I was sure that I would be back in them in no time. We won’t speak of them being a size 4.

Two more children and suddenly eight years has gone by. My beloved suits and high-heels are covered in dust – actually I think it transitioned to dirt by this point. I resolved to send them to a charity for professional women and so I gathered half of them and put them in another closet for removal when I got all the information together. Two more years go by. Now it has been ten years. My rational brain is looking at the size 4. My rational brain understands that I will not be going back to work in the same capacity as I did before. My rational brain understands that these suits aren’t even close to current style. My rational brain reminds me that the hundreds of dollars that I spent on them is way past sunk cost. Why was it so hard to give them away?

Then I received an email about a women’s charity that would be collecting women’s professional clothing in my home town. I gathered every bit of resolve to finally remove my old life so that I could make room for the new. I loaded my suburban to the top and started driving downtown. My stomach seized and by the time I got there (15 min) I didn’t know if I would be able to get out of the car. I went into the store that was collecting the clothing and the woman gave me a rack to hang my clothes. I stumbled in and out of the store and literally filled the rack with all my beautiful clothes. My professional life before children. Afterwards I went back to the woman to get my receipt but she had me sit for a minute while she attended to another customer. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. I started to sweat and became clammy. I needed to just hold it together to leave the store before ‘something’ happened. By the time I left the store I thought I might need my husband to come and get me. After sitting for a few minutes, I was able to drive home. I walked in the door and went directly upstairs to lie down. Fifteen minutes later I was absolutely fine.

Letting go of my before-child life was really, really hard. So hard I believe that I felt that loss physically. I did it though and there was no going back. That day I tried to remember all the clothes that I had just donated and if I really wanted them back. I didn’t. I haven’t missed them at all. I love my new life. I love being a mom. I love the opportunity I have to figure out what I really want to do when I grown up.

Ahhh. Letting go is so liberating in so many ways.

Life on the Edge of the Curve

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My husband says that I am “an all-in or all-out” kind of person. I haven’t always known where to put this information as I ‘see’ gray, I’m not just a black and white type of person. There is always another way to look at things and I feel that I have the ability to understand both sides most of the time. However, as I was thinking about this while exercising this morning, you can be an all-in or all-out kind of person AND see gray in the world. It is more about balance and how you achieve balance in your life. Yes, balance. I have read many a book that have discussed it’s importance, offered ways to find it, gave examples of others who were off balance and after following three easy steps, they found it.

Somehow the illusive three easy steps were never enough for me. No, I must start on one side of the curve until it is fully explored in it’s extreme until I figure out that this will just not work for me. After said exploration, I sprint to the other side of the extreme only to find that this extreme doesn’t work either. Only THEN can I find the balanced perspective that I had sought all along.

I am turning forty-three in a few days which is always a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. Over the past twenty years I have lived and embodied two extremes: career driven, take no prisoners, keep going at all cost versus mother, wife, a little granola and all are welcome. I went to the University of Washington as the first person in my family to go to college. I graduated in 1992 which was a year when the newspapers warned that college students wouldn’t be finding jobs. I was on a mission to get a job and start my career in the business world and that I did. I worked for a large computer firm right out of college and then switched to the pharmaceutical industry where I was in sales, sales training and marketing. I moved to New Jersey and worked ten miles from Manhattan. While working 60 hours a week, I went to graduate school at night to earn an MBA, got married, traveled for work and pleasure, went to grand events in Manhattan and did not stop even as pregnancy had me sick (really sick, sick) and oh so tired. M-U-S-T  K-E-E-P  G-O-I-N-G. Where I was going, I have no idea. I was on the extreme side of that bell-shaped curve. Balance? Nope.

Over the next ten years I fully explored the other side of life on the edge: motherhood. After experiencing the effects of living in the Northeast after 9/11 my husband and I started getting Montana Living Magazine. It was time to head back to the Northwest and move along that path called life. My husband was able to get a transfer back to Seattle six weeks after Daughter #1 arrived. Suddenly, I am in suburbia central, my best friend (husband) was traveling all the time, no job, no school, no friends, and caring for my screaming baby who did not sleep. WOW! Talk about wanting to get back to the other side. I may have been numb but at least I was dressed up, solving problems and had a sense of accomplishment. I did interview with a few companies but I couldn’t get my heart into it. I started to read brain development and parenting books and suddenly I could not do it and luckily we had set our life up so that I didn’t have to go back to work since my husband was traveling so much. The all-in and all-out thinking was front and center. I knew nothing about raising a child or about being a mom. I didn’t have a mom and the various step-mothers I had did not do anything to help my confidence. I had no gage for how to balance my career and being a mother. I was so afraid that I might mess this up that all I could do was hold my oh-so-colicky baby and love her. I held tight to the edge I was on and fully embraced that time to learn about myself, my girls, our family’s health, psychology and most of all, what my life passion might be.

Over the course of that ten years we had two more beautiful girls and I jumped fully into the soccer/dance mom life – it took about three years to stop fretting that I would never get a job again and to trust that it would all work out. It has all worked out as now I can rest. I have explored a life in the corporate world, dressed in suits and meeting with the movers and shakers. And I have explored the stay-at-home mom side of life without showers, screaming babies, mind-numbing repetition, big hugs, snuggles and more love than I ever imagined.

In the next decade I am free to explore the middle, to be balanced. Maybe now I don’t have to be all-in or all-out, I can just BE.

Have you lived on the edge of that bell-shaped curve? How do you achieve balance? Is it possible to live in the middle?

I am grateful to receive a SMILE

I recently had a conversation with a friend about Givers and Receivers. Of course my friend and I were both Givers. The alternative seems so selfish. This concept has perplexed me because we need both in life don’t we, as who would Givers give if there weren’t any Receivers receiving? Yet we do not want to think of ourselves being a Receiver, of being selfish.

Actually, I believe we all have the potential to be Givers and Receivers and it is a continuum that should have fluidity to go back and forth. Another bell-shaped curve. The happiest among us are able to freely move within the bell-shaped curve to Give and Receive and to reside in a neutral position on a daily basis. However, we are not a world or even a country full of shiny, happy people are we? In fact, there are many that really are just Givers or just Receivers and they usually attract each other.

I am learning to reside in the middle, at neutral and not to be only a Giver attracting only Receivers. Once again we learn how to Give, Receive or reside in the middle by our families of origin, by our parents. Our attachment patterns when we were younger provide a framework for us to connect with others. When we become aware of our own patterns, we can be more fluid in how we reach out or accept others who might be reaching out to us. We can feel comfortable that by residing in neutral position we can still connect with others in a more flexible way.

My family and I just moved to a very small town in the mountains of Idaho. In the past I would have been very motivated to connect with others by being extra friendly and outgoing even though my core personality is more on the introverted side. I now understand this knee-jerk reaction that I have and am free to choose how I will connect and with whom to connect. Being friendly is still very important to me as I have figured out that with a smile and a hello to a passerby I am BOTH giving and receiving. I am in neutral and within the bell-shaped curve. But I can choose to be friendly to strangers AND choose to connect with those that are important to me – like my family. These two concepts are separate. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It is healthier to reside in the gray area.

I went trail running yesterday and about six women in their mid-forties came racing down the mountain on bikes. As each one went by me they had big smiles and said “Hello”. Wow. It felt so good to be the receiver of friendliness. I, of course, smiled and said, “Hello,” back. Later I passed another woman mountain biking where I was the one who smiled and waved. She didn’t smile or say hello. I smiled again.

I am grateful for the little people in my life

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I am grateful for the little people in my life.

Their sense of adventure, curiosity, exuberance, innocence, happiness, creativity, emotion, tenacity, sensitivity, empathy, strength, vulnerability, presence, joy, delight, their love. Really, I love it all.

Please add your words to my list of reasons that you love children.

I am grateful for all the children in my life, but especially my three beautiful girls.

I am grateful for my family

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I am grateful for my family.

Everything that is good in my life has it’s origins in my husband and our three sweet girls. I am a mom. Being a mom and raising our girls with my husband is living my best life. How did I get so lucky? I don’t know but sometimes I need to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. Really when I stop to think about it, I don’t feel lucky at all. Really, I feel God’s grace on a daily basis.

I feel God’s grace because I didn’t grow up with a mom. I did have three step-mothers but they certainly were not mothers to me. I was raised with my younger brother by my dad who was raised by a motherless mother (my nana was raised by her Norwegian grandmother in North Dakota). My dad’s family was ‘motherhood-and-apple pie’. He was the oldest with a dad that worked, a mom who stayed home, one brother and one sister. They went camping every weekend and are still close but my dad struggled with relationships. They were a family though through thick and thin.

There was always strife in our house. My childhood is marked by which stepmother was in our lives at the time. I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me. “How long will you stay,” I would think.  I never felt the solidarity of my immediate family. I did have an extended family that we spent all our holidays and birthday with and that was a blessing because I had the construct of belonging to a community. This was extremely important but I didn’t have that daily reminder of who I was. To whom did I belong? Where would my loyalties be directed? Who had my back? Who could I trust? These were all impossible questions but as a young person you just adapt and keep going. These are core needs. We are human therefore we are social.

I became really good at whatever I did whether it was at school or my job and identified myself by the company and title of my job. My community was the people I worked with and I had the illusion that they had my back. Then BAM! we had our first child, moved from Metro NY area and landed in Suburbia Pacific NW (where we are from). Suddenly there was nothing to stand on. Suddenly there was no easy community or a job to feel proud of. It was just me doing rasberries and Ellie during the day. My husband was the one I trusted, he had my back and my love so that was covered but there was no community anymore.

It was hard. I made friends and tried to create a community but I think my expectations were a little tweaked. Was I looking for friends to be my family? I chose a friend or two that weren’t the best choices for bringing into the family. Finally (after 8 years) I started seeing a therapist to help me identify patterns that I didn’t even know were there. I learned that I don’t have to ‘create’ a community. I am in communities just by being. My sun was not circling my own family because I was too busy looking outside for that group that I felt so secure in as a child – my extended family. Wow. It is amazing how just a small insight into your own psyche can change your whole perspective. I don’t ‘do’ anything different but I do care a lot more about what my little family is doing and a lot less about what other people are doing – or not doing.

My stars have been aligned and the sun now rotates around my world, my family. We have an amazing life together and I cherish every moment. My life has become my dream.

I am so grateful for my family. For Bob, Ellie, Abbie and Lexie through thick and thin.