When my children were little, the urge to guide them, protect them, shield them from the world was something I felt deeply in my bones. Even as I watched them struggle to learn new things, I found it hard to stand back, to not rush in to make it easier for them. I remember knowing, deep in my gut, that they needed to struggle, needed to feel the rush that comes from hard won success, needed it to grow and learn, but, nevertheless, struggling with it.
I’m their mother. Their guardian. Their protector. Their teacher.
It hurt to not fix, smooth, facilitate.
Logic almost always won out and I held myself back from intervening (unless they were in danger, because come on, mother, not monster). I even coached various family members who had a tendency to jump in with help before it was really needed, held them back gently so that the kids could claim their victories.
And then, as they grew, the challenges got bigger.
Instead of learning to scale a chair, they had to face the first day of Kindergarten.
Instead of figuring out how to tie a shoe, they had to learn to navigate the friendship seas.
Instead of puzzles featuring puppies and ponies, there were schedules, homework, relationships.
And, in parallel, the urge in me to fix, smooth, facilitate has gotten stronger and stronger.
I don’t remember the first time I tried to get on a chair, but I remember trying to understand how I fit in with the other kids at school.
I don’t remember struggling to tie my shoe, but I remember the pain of losing friends.
And every day that my kids come home, hurt because of some slight, or upset because they don’t quite understand the murky interpersonal waters of the pre-teen pool, a piece of me shrivels up a little.
I want to fix it. I want to make the pain just go away. I want to find the magic words that will make it all better.
And then tonight, as I was doing some much needed laundry, I remembered, that’s not my job.
My job is to give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, whatever that will look like for them.
My job is to encourage them to be their truest selves and gently guide when guidance is requested.
My job is to send them off with hugs and love so that they know that, however far they roam and whatever they do or face when they get there, they do so knowing that they are unconditionally loved and supported.
My job is to offer a safe place to land, a warm set of arms to hold them when the world is proving inhospitable, a soft kiss on their brow creased with angst.
And then, my job is to send them back out to keep on trying.
Because my job isn’t to fix them, to fix their path, it’s to be their support, their safety net as they become who they’re meant to be.
I am their mother. My job is to have faith in them and in everything they have learned and continue to learn from me, from their father, from the rest of our family, and to believe that they will be OK, even if their path isn’t the easy one I would have chosen for them.
And damn if it isn’t the hardest job in the world.
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So, the holidays have passed and now, finally, so has Valentine’s Day, which means that, unless your birthday is conveniently located in the dead of summer, you have long, long months to wait until someone gets you any nice presents.
You know the solution, right?
Time to get yourself something nice. Preferably in a service that delivers surprises monthly.
I’m not ashamed to say that I subscribe to a couple monthly boxes. OK, maybe one monthly and two quarterlies. Don’t judge. I like getting presents. Especially presents I got for myself, but didn’t have to pick out.
Here’s the rub. With the millions of new subscription boxes that pop up every week, which one should you treat yourself to? Lucky you, I asked my Facebook friends to suggest a few good ones. And no, they’re not all dirty.
(Note, I’m skipping all the food prep boxes. They’re all fine and dandy, but a subscription box that assigns you work is no gift.)
Yes, you’ve heard of it. Yes, you’ve seen the countless Facebook posts showing off what people have received. So why haven’t you tried it yet?
Personally, I adore StitchFix. When that box arrives every month, I feel a little thrill. Before I open the box, I make sure that I have enough time to really savor what it contains…and that no one is around to taint my enjoyment.
To be brutally honest, I don’t love every single box. Sometimes I send everything back, sometimes I keep just one item. A handful of memorable times I’ve purchased the entire box and happy danced around the room because of my beautiful new clothes AND the 25% off the final price. The pieces I have kept have been in steady rotation and get me the most compliments of all the things I own.
Details: Subscription is $20/box. If you buy something, that $20 is credited to your purchase. If you buy everything in the box, you get 25% off. Bonus: StichFix is now available for men and for maternity wear.
I’ll admit to hesitating before signing myself up for FabFitFun because I worried I’d be getting a box filled with random stuff that I wouldn’t either really want or know what to do with. Fact of the matter, it is a box of random stuff, but I’ve loved each one I’ve gotten.
Opening the box, which arrives quarterly, is kind of like opening a packed treasure chest filled with a mixture of beauty supplies, fun doodads, and a few fitness related items. I’ve received scarves, jewelry, yoga towels, hair serum, coloring books, tote bags, make-up, candles… you name it, it’s probably going to show up in a FabFitFun box one day.
This is one subscription box that truly makes you feel like you’ve gotten yourself an indulgent gift filled with little things that someone took special care to choose for you.
Details: You can sign up for Seasonal Membership to be charged $49.99 quarterly, 3 weeks before the box ships. Or you can sign up for an Annual Membership for $179.99 charged when you sign up. Annual Members have the option to select the items that go into their box before it ships. Seasonal Members receive a total surprise. All Members are allowed to purchase “add-ons” to supplement their boxes. Add-ons are generally items left over from previous boxes.
So, remember that thing I said up there about not including food boxes? Well, this one is an exception, but only because Roost Crate sends you carefully curated “treats” rather than ingredients you need to assemble and cook. While I personally have never tried this particular box, my Facebook friends swear by it. What you’ll get is a monthly box filled with 4-6 farmer’s market type products that could be found at local Upstate NY & New England stands and shops. Think handmade, artisan items like jams, honey, sauces and snacks; candles, soaps & scrubs, home & kitchen items and of course coffee & teas. This delectable box is curated by food blogger Kelly Pugliano.
Details: Select month-to-month for $39.95, three-months for $109 or 6 months for $219. Boxes ship on the 20th of each month and include 4-6 carefully curated non-perishable items.
So, this subscription box is hands down the favorite for my make-up loving friends. For a mere $10 a month (no, that’s not a typo) you get a “glam box” filled with deluxe samples and full sized beauty products. People rave about this box. To get started you have to answer a bunch of questions about your skin type and color, make-up preferences, and product likes. On the Ipsy website you’ll find some amazing tutorials and videos related to the products that get sent out. You know, in case something arrives that leaves you scratching your head.
Details: $10/month, no apparent discount for signing for more more than a month at a time. You might get placed on a wait list when you sign up, but rumor has it the wait list moves fast. There’s a somewhat obscure “points” reward program, which I happily invite anyone familiar with to explain in the comments below. Certain “extra” products can also be bought on the site for additional fees.
Here’s the deal, I won’t ask what you read when you tuck yourself into bed at night if you don’t ask me what’s on my Kindle. Ok? Phew, I’d hate to have to admit just how much fantasy fiction I read. But, if you’re the kind of person who likes the odd sultry romance, then this subscription box is definitely for you. At least, it is if we’re to believe my Facebook friends, many of whom were quick to recommend Bawdy Bookworms, prompting me to go check it out.
Dude. It’s the ultimate self-gift.
And I mean that in every sense of the term.
In short, every month, you receive in the mail a steamy read and…ah…an accessory or two that will help you take care of any urges the book stimulates.
Bawdy Bookworms was born when friends kept asking the founder (popular blogger Thien-Kim Lam) for advice on what to read after Fifty Shades or recommendations on the best bedroom toys. She dreamed up this subscription service and the accompanying members’ forum where people can come discuss books, toys, or anything else they don’t feel comfortable discussing in a more public space.
Details: If you’re into surprises, sign up for the quarterly subscription for $34.95. If you like peeking, then consider some of the boxes for sale on the site. Prices range from $57.95 to $29.95.
*Please note: links to StitchFix and FabFitFun are affiliate links, which means that, should you sign up for either of these subscription boxes, I would get a small commission. All other recommendations are shared with zero strings attached.
There is a sign that lives above my desk that reads “Celebrate the Successes.” It’s something my sister once told me as I related to her how I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy and stagnation. About how life sometimes just feels so hard and how everything feels like just one long series of failures.
We had that conversation long ago, maybe last year, maybe the year before. I can’t remember, but the paper the sign is printed on is pretty tattered, so it certainly wasn’t recently.
And yet, today I need it more than ever.
Because life is hard, yo. It’s a constant struggle. And, yes, it still feels like one long series of failures.
I was going to come here to whine about just how hard it all is and how low I feel right now, but then the sign caught my eyes and I realized that maybe, just maybe what I need today is a moment celebrating the successes instead of going over the list of failures one more time.
I have work. I even enjoy some of it.
I’m successfully working from home.
The kids are having great years.
I’ve started working on a new novel.
I’m making time to make more family meals.
I’m making more time to walk and take care of myself.
I’ve cultivated and nurtured some amazing friendships.
When I stop to think about the successes in my life, both big and little, it’s like a weight lifts from my shoulders and the dark clouds over my head get a little less heavy.
It’s been a rough few weeks. So much angst and worry and sadness. So many burdens to shoulder. I know I’m not the only one struggling this month. I see it all over Facebook and among my friends. January is hard. Brutally, unapologetically hard. It’s good to stop and remember that finding a little light to make the darkness more bearable is within our reach.
The other day when I was organizing my office, I moved the signs on my wall around. I think I need to move this one sign back to where I can see it easily so I keep reminding myself that success lies everywhere and it’s up to me to look for it.
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I was still living in France on 9/11, so while I fully felt the effect of watching my country be attacked, I didn’t experience the mass grief effect that affected everyone on American soil. By the time we landed in California just over a month later, the initial shock had passed and people had started processing and moving on.
In short, this week, I’m experiencing mass grief for the first time, and while it has some uncanny physical similarities to the grief I experienced when my father passed away, it’s so very different in so many ways. Not the least of which is the fact that, since so many of us are feeling this way, it’s hard to know how to comfort others or know how to find comfort from them.
Also, the anger. So much anger everywhere.
I keep asking myself “what now?” and, more importantly “what do I want my kids to think/do and how do I role model that for them?”
I’m not ready to accept anything or simply “get over it.”
I’m not just upset that Trump was elected, like many others, I feel betrayed by the people who elected him both because of or in spite of his rhetoric. My heart is breaking for every woman whose post-assault PTSD is triggered every time they see his picture. My soul hurts for every person who feels like each Trump vote was a vote against their personal human rights. And I feel a silent scream building when I start to think of the world this will create for my children, for all of our children.
And then there’s Facebook.
Where everyone is just yelling and screaming and not listening to anyone else. Making the situation a million times worse.
So, what now?
How about we start with something incredibly simple and unbelievably powerful.
When someone is saying something, instead of instantly jumping to the defensive, let’s all try to
STOP and LISTEN.
Set aside whatever discomfort the words cause you and just LISTEN.
Say “That is not how I see things, can you tell me more?”
Say “I’m not sure I understand your point of view, can you explain it to me again?”
Say “I’d love to hear your side, please tell me how you feel.”
Say “Things are different where I live, please share with me how things are by you.”
Or, just don’t say anything and LET THE OTHER PERSON TALK.
And while they’re talking, actually LISTEN. Don’t mentally prepare a response or a defense. Don’t think about how you feel. Look at them, and listen.
It’s the hardest thing in the world to do, and the most important at this time.
We have reached this point, as a nation, because everyone is so damn convinced they are right that they never take the time to hear anyone else. Social media and cable news has made it so we don’t ever have to hear anything we don’t agree with, so we’ve literally forgotten that people can think differently.
It’s time for that to stop.
It’s time to stop putting people in neat little buckets and assuming that, once filed, you know how they feel or think.
The only way to get past that is to LISTEN.
“Tell me what that safety pin means to you.”
“Tell me more about your take on this.”
“Tell me how you’re feeling.”
And then, shut up, and LISTEN.
And if you really have something to say, AFTER the person is done talking and you are done LISTENING, then, I highly suggest you start your sentence with the word “I.”
It’s simple. “I” sentences engage. “You” sentences alienate and put people on the defensive.
“You” starts an argument. “I” starts an exchange of opinions and ideas.
On Tuesday night I watched the election results and wept. And then I kept right on crying as the reactions unfolded. It’s been a brutal week. A week where I have had to, repeatedly, put aside my own knee jerk reactions to people’s comments so that I could actually hear what they say.
I keep wanting to yell at the top of my lungs “I AM A WHITE WOMAN AND I AM SCARED TOO. I AM NOT TO BLAME. DO NOT LUMP ME IN WITH THE REST.” But I haven’t and instead I’ve been trying to listen. It’s how I was actually able to hear the person who explained that I have guilt by association because I didn’t do enough to convince other white women to vote.
It stung, but it’s not wrong. I was complacent in the belief that sharing Facebook posts to my already converted audience was enough. I could have and should have done more. At the very least, I should have asked more questions, and listened more carefully to the answers.
Just like we all should now.
Listening, letting people feel heard, is so much harder to do than we can ever imagine. But it’s also the greatest gift we can offer to others and to ourselves. Listening leads to compassion and understanding, and there’s no way to achieve peace in our hearts or in our nation until we go through that process.
I beg of you, for yourself, for your family, for our children. Stop talking, just listen. Whatever side you’re on, hear the pain and sit with it until it becomes a bit of your pain too. Only then will we be able to move forward together.
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