The Important Thing About Yelling

the important thing about yelling #handsfreemama

I cherish the notes I receive from my children—whether they are scribbled with a Sharpie on a yellow sticky note or written in perfect penmanship on lined paper. But the Mother’s Day poem I recently received from my 9-year-old daughter was especially meaningful. In fact, the first line of the poem caused my breath to catch as warm tears slid down my face.

“The important thing about my mom is … she’s always there for me, even when I get in trouble.”

You see, it hasn’t always been this way.

In the midst of my highly distracted life, I started a new practice that was quite different from the way I behaved up until that point. I became a yeller. It wasn’t often, but it was extreme—like an overloaded balloon that suddenly pops and makes everyone in earshot startle with fear.

So what was it about my then 3-year-old and 6-year-old children that caused me to lose it? Was it how she insisted on running off to get three more beaded necklaces and her favorite pink sunglasses when we were already late? Was it that she tried to pour her own cereal and dumped the entire box on the kitchen counter? Was it that she dropped and shattered my special glass angel on the hardwood floor after being told not to touch it? Was it that she fought sleep like a prizefighter when I needed peace and quiet the most? Was it that the two of them fought over ridiculous things like who would be first out of the car or who got the biggest dip of ice cream?

Yes, it was those things—normal mishaps and typical kid issues and attitudes that irritated me to the point of losing control.

That is not an easy sentence to write. Nor is this an easy time in my life to relive because truth be told, I hated myself in those moments. What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?

Let me tell you what had become of me.

[Read more...]

Changing the Way the Story Ends

Changing the Way the Story Ends

*name has been changed to protect privacy

For ten years I thought of him every day, but yet I never thought to look him up.  The only former students of mine that I happened to hear from were the ones that had looked me up.

Then all of a sudden, it was important to how Kyle* “turned out.” Reader’s Digest was going to publish our story and the editors wanted to know what Kyle was doing now. It had been ten years since I last saw Kyle, and I had moved several times since then. I told the editors I was sorry, but I did not know where or what Kyle was doing now.

Then just before the article went to print, I was asked Kyle’s actual name. Over the last decade, I thought of him only by his first name – which happens to be very unique. But for verification purposes, the editors at Reader’s Digest needed to know his real name.

I typed his first name in the reply email, and then embarrassingly, I drew a blank. After several minutes of racking my brain, I realized his last name would more likely come to me if I stopped thinking about it. I set the email inquiry aside and went back to a piece I was writing.

Minutes later, like a neon sign suddenly switched ON, Kyle’s last name vividly displayed in my mind.

But before I responded to the editor, I knew there was something I must do.

[Read more...]

Living Life With Open Hands

“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.” ~author unknown

I recently took a weeklong trip in celebration of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.  The excursion was perfect except for the fact that work commitments prevented my husband from joining us. Perhaps it was because my daughters mentioned daily how much they missed their daddy that I began noticing many attentive fathers along our travels.

One particular night, we found ourselves on the outskirts of a dance floor. As the talented musicians played the first notes to “Cupid Shuffle,” children flocked to the center and began moving excitedly to the beat.

I marveled at the one lone father who scooped up his youngest daughter, held the hand of his other child, and summoned his lovely wife out to the dance floor. Praying I did not look like a stalker, I stole glances at this loving father who so clearly was a constant source of laughter, fun, and spontaneity in his family.

I had to smile to myself as I watched the children delight in their dad’s silly antics because I knew if my husband were with us he would be engaging our family the same way.

And while experiencing this tangible longing for presence of my own lively husband, I came to a conclusion.

There’s something special about the way dads live life.

And this space (which happens to be called “Hands Free Mama”) seems like the perfect place to explain what that something special is.

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Keep Reading

 
In this space I call “Hands Free Mama,” I write about letting go of distraction to grasp what really matters. In my life, distraction comes in two forms: external and internal. And although I began this journey to break free of technology’s grip on my life, I found that my inner critic was just as effective at robbing my “moments that matter” as my electronic devices. So in honor of Mother’s Day, I offer some healing words. It is my hope that something written in this post will quiet the inner critic living inside a woman you love. Perhaps that woman is you or the one who shares your life. 

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For the woman who savors a backwards letter in childlike scrawl and secretly hopes “liberry” and “strawbabies” will never be pronounced correctly …

For the woman who crawls on achy knees into her child’s tiny bunk bed to read stories and inhale his just-bathed scent  …

For the woman who would prefer a dandelion bouquet carried in a dirt-filled palm over a dozen red roses in a crystal vase …

For the woman who cries at the sight of her child and cannot explain why …

For the woman who feels her awkward bulges and morning breath slowly dissipate when a cherub voice says, “You’re so pretty, Mama” …

For the woman who is never at a loss for words when it comes to defending her child …

For the woman whose babies will never, ever become too heavy to carry …

If this sounds like you, keep reading.

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A Sign of Love

I haven’t taken many vacations without my children, but whenever I do, the same unsettling feeling overcomes me before I leave.

The last time I got the feeling, it prompted me to write detailed letters to each of my children, which I described in one of my most popular posts, “More Than I Love You.”

This time, the unsettling feeling stuck me just as I was zipping up my suitcase at 5:30 a.m. on the day of departure.

There was not enough time for me to sit down and type them a lengthy note explaining what it was about each of them that amazes and inspires me.

As my husband carried my bag out to the car, I ran to the junk drawer in our kitchen, (you know, the one where you reach in and there’s 1,000 pens but only one that works?), and grabbed two brightly colored Post-It notes.

In big letters I wrote the words that I had whispered over and over to the girls as I held them in the sacred comfort of my arms the night before.

I love you.

It’s the three words you always want to leave someone with, especially if somehow your plans to come home are tragically diverted.

With the completed notes stuck to my fingers, I quickly surveyed the room searching for the spot that two people of short stature, but with observant eyes, would never miss.

Ah ha. The fish tank. Their morning ritual is to sit on the ottoman in front of the fish tank and make sure everyone lived through the night.

Satisfied my daughters would not miss the hot pink and green notes covering the home of Snowy, Orange-O, Stripey, and Mr. Froggy, I closed the door behind me.

When my husband and I returned five days later, I immediately noticed the Post-It notes were still there, transferred only a short distance from the aquarium glass to the wall directly beside it.

The next day, I was doing what most do upon returning from vacation … unpack, tackle heaps of laundry, and get things back “in order.”

Since I strive to live in realness, I will admit that Drill Sergeant Rachel was on the verge of overtaking Hands Free Rachel. I pretty much looked like I was “on a mission” as I sped from room to room, picking up dirty clothes and other random items that were misplaced from their usual location.

In fact, I was moving so quickly, focusing only on “getting things done,” that I almost missed it.

I quickly grabbed the lime-green Post-Its off the light switches on the way down the stairs.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, there was another one affixed to the light switch, which I hastily grabbed on my way to the kitchen.

As I headed straight for the trashcan, I saw another note displayed on the kitchen light switch.

I think it’s safe to assume my Hands Free voice was longer a gentle whisper. In fact when I finally stopped, it was screaming.

“Hold on a minute! Enough with the tunnel vision! You are about miss something big here.”

Someone thought long and hard about where to place these notes so I would be sure and see them. Thank God my Hands Free inner voice allowed me to grasp what really mattered before they were carelessly discarded with the trash.

I fully realized I needed to sit down and look carefully at each note. I immediately noticed there was a central theme to all of them: A little girl and a mom. And there was love … so much love.

Someone wanted me to know that she missed me while I was gone.

Someone wanted me to know that her days just aren’t the same when I am not here.

Someone wanted me to know she loves me.

And she placed them on every light switch in the house so I couldn’t miss possibly miss them. I physically shuddered thinking I had almost thrown them away.

I am fully aware how much my daughter loves me, but it sure feels good to be shown in a beautiful, tangible, lay it next to your bedside, place it in a box and read it twenty-five years from now kind of way.

Even a Post-It note with stick figures can speak volumes when it comes to one’s heart.

As I stared at the collection of loving messages, I was suddenly overcome with a childhood memory. There on my checkered-green bedspread placed next to my well-loved Pooh bear was a little white note.

I can’t recall if it said, “I love you,” or “Your room looks great, Rachel!” but there was a smiley face; there was always a smiley face.

My mom worked long hours when my sister and I were in middle and high school. We had many responsibilities about the house. But my mom always took time to reinforce our efforts with these randomly placed little notes. Even though my mom left very early or sometimes didn’t get home until very late, she somehow managed to leave us these tangible reminders of her love and appreciation.

I can’t believe I had forgotten about the notes. But had I? Perhaps it was the memory of my mother’s notes buried deep in my subconscious that prompted me to leave surprise messages for my daughters. And to my amazement and delight, my five-year-old daughter brought the powerful gesture full circle by leaving some for me.

As parents, our actions (both positive and negative) do not go unnoticed by our children and can make an incredible, lasting impact.

A few days after I had discovered the notes, I read a moving account of a teenage girl who sent text messages to her mother while she hid from the deadly shooter in Oslo, Norway.

At the beginning of the harrowing ordeal, the teenager’s mother asked her daughter to send “a sign of life,” every five minutes.

Every five minutes, for over 90 minutes, the texts came through; some of the messages were frantic and fearful, other times, they were an answer to prayer with three mere words of: “I’m still alive.”

At one point, the daughter even wrote what was on her heart: “I love you even though I yell at you sometimes. ”

These exchanges lasted until the mother saw on the news that the shooter had been captured and was able to text her daughter the glorious words, “They got him!”

(I encourage you to read the entire harrowing account here.)

This compelling story reminded me so powerfully of something I too often forget. Why do I wait until I am going to be separated from my children to leave them letters or love notes? Why wait to tell/show my loved ones how much they mean to me?

Why wait for the moments when I might be the one hoping and praying for a sign of life? Why not make it an every day occurrence to give a sign of love?

It’s no more than a card on a bed, a Post-It note on the mirror, a message in a lunch box, a letter in a briefcase.

I find myself thinking about that brave mother who kept her wits about her as she agonized over the fate of her beloved daughter.

And I think about their reunion.

I can only imagine how many signs of love this mother will bestow on her daughter in the days to come … in the precious God-given days to come.

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Grab a piece of paper, a Post-It note, or a card right now. Write a short message to someone who is important to you. Place it in a spot where he or she can happily discover it.

A sign of love.

At age three, thirteen, thirty-three, or seventy-three, one never tires of seeing a tangible sign of just how much he or she is loved.

And then keep your eyes open … someday your note recipient might follow your example and leave you a sign in return.

*It’s back to school time for many children! This is the perfect opportunity to write a special note … a concrete sign you love them and are thinking about them even when you are apart.

**Please share this message and be the reason a mother or father, husband or wife, grandma or grandpa, friend or neighbor decides now is the time to make someone’s day with a sign of love.

I See Beautiful

I saw a sweaty mess in a beloved ball cap, but a stranger saw something more.

The other day I stopped at Walgreens for a few items. It was an extremely hot day and I had just finished exercising. I would have preferred to at least shower before the quick shopping trip, but sunscreen, band-aids, and an anniversary card could not wait until my once-a-week grocery store excursion.

I was comparing the (outrageous) price of spray sunscreen verses lotion sunscreen when a male voice came up and startled me out of my SPF price-comparing reverie.

“I just gotta say, ‘You are beautiful,’” he stated just as casually as he would tell me my shoe was untied or that I should really invest in some deodorant or that Banana Boat lasts way longer than Coppertone when it comes to sun protection.

But he didn’t say those things. He said, “You are beautiful.”

And as the young man (whose years appeared to be half of my almost forty) walked away he added, “Go Tarheels,” and smiled in reference to my baseball cap.

I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open. I wouldn’t have been able to speak if Pat Sajack stood before me and asked me to choose a letter.

There is no way that guy was talking to me.

I actually looked over my shoulder to make sure there wasn’t a Scarlett Johansson look-alike coyly deciding which tanning oil to lather on her curves (in all the right places, I might add).

At this point I would have paid fifty bucks for whatever sunscreen I happen to be holding in my hand at that moment and did a dead sprint to the checkout counter.

Who needs band-aids and store-bought cards anyway? I decided we could use masking tape for the band-aids I was leaving without, and Hallmark cards are completely overrated anyway. I was certain my parents would love a homemade anniversary card this year.

Once I was in the safety of my car, I had a moment to reflect.

I actually tilted the rearview mirror down until I could see my reflection. I quickly tilted it back up. I surely did not see anything qualifying as “beautiful” there.

And in that moment of confusion, bewilderment, and shock, the words of a dear friend and loyal blog reader came back to me.

She had recently posted an array of vacation pictures on Facebook. A particular photo of her in the album captivated me. It was a close-up of her face. She wore not a stitch of make-up, and she was laughing.

In the comment section below the picture I had written one word: Beautiful.

In fact, I had never seen this gorgeous woman ever look so beautiful.

Later, she sent me a personal message. She has graciously given me permission to share those words with you now:

Yesterday on Facebook, you made a comment about a picture that I would have never made of myself. In fact, it took me by surprise. You typed “Beautiful” about the picture of me laughing. I almost replied, “I don’t think so. I hate the way my nose crinkles up and how my chin looks in this picture.” But then I realized your comment is your perception of the picture, not mine, and that I should consider looking at it again. I then smiled and said a peaceful and sincere “thank you” to you in my head.

My friend went on to describe her personal battle (and recent small successes) against her cruel inner voice and poor self-image issues.

I tilted the rearview mirror down one more time. Maybe I should reconsider it, too.

I liked how my cheeks were flushed a peachy rose color from the intensity of my just-completed five-mile run.

And how my hair curled into soft waves from the sweltering heat and humidity.

I even saw the faintest sparkle in my eyes resulting from the exercise endorphins still radiating through my body.

Beautiful?

It was a stretch. But OK, maybe so.

At this point you may be expecting a grand revelation about overcoming the debilitating affects of a negative self-image. I am sorry to disappoint, but you will not find one here.

(At least not yet.)

I am still a work-in-progress battling my “Somedays,” still trying to hear my “Victory Song” of total acceptance playing at a steady, consistent hum.

But I will say this …

If you think someone is beautiful … in their sweaty mess, in their laughing fit, in their actions toward others, or in their own radiant light, tell her so.

If you think someone is beautiful, tell him today; tell him right now.

They probably will not expect it; they might even doubt it. But for one split second they might consider it.

And maybe, just maybe, they will see something beautiful, too.

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We so often overlook our best qualities. We commonly experience tunnel vision straight to the “problem areas,” instead of seeing our not-so-obvious beautiful features, both inside and out.

I challenge you to let go of distraction and perfection and grasp what matters by doing these two things:

1) Consider your own beauty. Take a look. Zero in on something you like about yourself and celebrate that appealing physical (or non-physical) characteristic.

2) Consider someone else’s beauty. Tell him or her these simple words: “You are beautiful.”

I welcome you to use this post as a catalyst for those words. Simply use the “share” button below. Do it today. Do it right now. We so often have the words someone else needs to hear at the exact moment he or she needs to hear it.

Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine

Parents, are you listening?

*Permission granted to use authentic first name

When I began publishing my Hands Free journey seven months ago, I had no idea where it would take me; I had no idea who it would bring me.

But I have discovered the most meaningful things are unplanned; the best things happen when you least expect them.

This is not my story; this is *Christy’s story, and I am privileged to put it into words today…

A few weeks ago, a woman named Christy contacted me. She said she was creating a flyer. This flyer would be going to a large number of people in hopes of raising money to offset the cost of her medical bills.

The design of the flyer was not a problem for this professional graphic designer, but the wording was. It is difficult to find the words when you are writing about the fight of your life, the fight FOR your life.

That is where I came in.

Christy asked if I might be able to add my “special flair” to her story, as she so generously described my talent as a writer.

These are the moments that I know with certainty that my journey to grasp what really matters is taking me somewhere. These are the rare occasions in my life when for one brief second, my purpose on this earth is crystal clear.

Christy sent me her information over email. Once I got my daughters to bed, I took her information and jumped on the treadmill, which is where I do my best thinking.

Within twenty minutes, the emotional impact Christy was hoping for appeared before me in jagged, uneven sentences across the page.

This is Christy’s story; this is what she has lived. I simply had the easy part of putting it into words…

Imagine at age 39 being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of malignant cancer.

Imagine thinking you had beat cancer, only to find that it had returned.

Imagine having to look into the hopeful eyes of your three beautiful children and tell them, “I have cancer.” Not once, but twice.

Imagine being told that in order to survive, you must leave your beloved family over and over again to receive life-saving treatments.

Imagine wondering what devastating news today will bring, let alone tomorrow, and the next five years.

Imagine never being fully free from pain, worry, frustration, and despair.

Imagine a long, bleak road that currently has no end in sight.

Christy does not have to imagine these things; she has lived them all, and continues to live them today.

In November 2008, Christy was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. Because this is a rare type of malignant melanoma, the oncologists in Cincinnati referred Christy to a national melanoma specialist in Pittsburgh. It was there that she began a yearlong treatment with a drug called interferon. Christy’s children will never forget holding their mother’s hand as their father administered the injections.

Six months after being given the “all clear” and told to resume life as normal, Christy noticed a small mass at the original surgery site. The melanoma had returned, but this time it was in the form of a tumor.

Christy was immediately sent back to the melanoma specialists in Pittsburgh for an evaluation. She was fortunate to be selected as a patient in a clinical trial for a new drug developed to fight melanoma.  She received four treatments in five months and underwent and one intensive surgery to remove the tumor.

Christy is still experiencing many side effects from the treatment, which will remain in her system for up to six months.  The medication she takes to combat the side effects make it very difficult for Christy to balance work and domestic duties, while being a loving parent. Yet, Christy rises above her daily struggles simply because she views each and every day on this earth as a precious gift.

Sadly, Christy feels certain there is a new tumor near her original site, which will mean more surgeries and treatments in the near future.

Christy recently had new scans and evaluations in Pittsburgh and will soon learn if there has been any new tumor growth.

Imagine bringing peace to an aching heart.

Imagine touching a broken soul with a loving hand.

Imagine looking into scared eyes and saying, “You are not alone.”

Imagine offering something that can only come from the heart.

You don’t have to imagine these things; you can make them a reality.

Every touch, every embrace, every word of comfort, every prayer of hope, every gesture of kindness is like a ray of hope to an incredible survivor with a tremendous will to live.

Just imagine the possibilities.

_____________________________________

I sent the completed manuscript to Christy and requested she let me know what needed to be added, deleted, or modified.

I expected to hear back from her quickly, as I had in our previous correspondences, but I didn’t this time.

When I didn’t hear from Christy, I assumed I had not captured her story the way she wanted; I was afraid perhaps it was not to her liking.

When I did receive her response, she immediately explained the delay. This is what she wrote:

It took me a while to get through the first part. This was difficult hard for me to read; I kept tearing up. I read stories about people like this, but never imagined I would be reading one about myself.

I knew I owed it to Christy to go back and read it again, this time not as the detached author.

And when I did, the overwhelming, breath-taking, agonizing realization hit me.

This could very well be me.

I baked my skin in the summer sun year after year.

The skin on my nose peeled off in strips like a band-aid, over and over again.

I shunned SPF and used baby oil instead.

This could be me fighting for my life against malignant melanoma.

Suddenly my own words came rushing back to me as I re-read Christy’s story.

In a post entitled, “Healing Hands,” written right after a deadly tornado devastated my state on April 27th, I wrote:

When tragedy strikes your backyard, a cold, harsh reality hits you between the eyes and breaks your heart in half. Suddenly you realize the difference between “us” and “them,” is a matter of five miles, is a slight change in wind direction, is the placement of your home.

With a frightening realization you discover the difference between “us” and “them” is a radical cancer cell, a clogged artery, a misjudged runway, a reckless driver, or a deadly undertow.

You realize the difference between “us” and “them” is simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

You realize it could have just as easily been “us,” instead of “them,” standing in utter despair and shock wondering where life as you once knew it has gone.

Christ’s story could be my story.

That is just a simple fact.

There might come a day when my doctor looks into my hopeful eyes and whispers unimaginable words that swallow me into a dark, desolate hole.

And suddenly I will find myself on the other side of that line, praying that somehow I could go back to the day before when my good health was something I took for granted.

In a correspondence with Christy, I asked, “What do you dream about being able to see or do when you are totally healthy?”

I thought she might talk about seeing a place she always hoped to see or doing something she never thought she would get to do.

But alas, she is much farther on her journey to grasp what really matters than I am.

This is what she said:

I would like to see awareness raised about melanoma. I would also like to see tanning beds banned. Teenagers are too young to understand the extensive damage that tanning beds can have on their skin.

People think that skin cancer can be easily removed, and then you just go on with life; I know I did. People do not realize skin cancer can be deadly. It is the fastest growing cancer and affects more people than prostate, breast, colorectal and cervical cancers combined. One person dies every hour from skin cancer.  I don’t understand why no one is talking about it.

Two days after I received these words from Christy, a friend posted a video entitled, “Dear 16-Year-Old Me.”

Once I watched the video, I knew Christy’s story must be shared. I knew her wish to educate more people about melanoma must be honored now, not later.

I was already ultra-cautious about protecting my family’s skin, but Christy’s story, in conjunction with this video, has tripled my awareness and my determination to guard my family.

Our children rely on us to guard them from the dangers of skin cancer that they do not yet know about or understand. Their precious skin needs protection now, not later.

Please do not navigate away from this page before watching this video. It could save your life or the life of someone you love.

Video: Dear 16-Year-Old Me

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Today’s challenge is twofold:

Whenever you go out in the sun, put sunscreen on yourself; put sunscreen on your children. One bad burn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of cancer. In addition, invest in sun protection swimwear shirts like the ones found here.

Secondly, spend time with your family. Tell them you love them. You just never know when you might find yourself on the other side of that very thin line between “us” and “them.” You just never know when you might find yourself in that dark and desolate place where the sun doesn’t shine.

*Update on Christy: Just mere days ago, Christy’s story took a devastating turn. The recent scans in Pittsburgh led to a painful lung biopsy that confirmed melanoma.  This diagnosis will now require a new approach to Christy’s treatment, which is yet to be determined.

Please pray for hope, courage, and strength for Christy and her amazing family as she bravely fights to beat cancer once and for all. And please help spread greater awareness about skin cancer by sharing her story with someone you love today.

*Thank you, Christy, for sharing your story so that someone else can be spared the pain you have lived. You are an incredible inspiration to us all.

Words He Seldom Hears

This is how my daughter recently greeted her daddy after he had been away. This moment inspired the following message that is meant to be shared.

A critical part of living Hands Free to grasp what really matters is having awareness. I have realized I cannot fight the distraction that takes priority over my relationships if I do not allow myself to fully acknowledge my areas of negligence.

Typically, I write about my attempt to grasp what really matters in my role as “parent” or as simply as an individual. Rarely do I write from my perspective as “spouse.”

But today I am willing to go where I don’t normally go in order to bring awareness about a critical topic.

Yes, it could be considered a Father’s Day tribute, but I am challenging myself to make this an every day gift to my husband.

You see, this message is written FOR men, but it is equally important that women read it, too. Perhaps it is even more important for women to read it.

And by being open to the awareness this message brings, a greater connection to the one you love may be possible.

This is my message…

Today I am celebrating the “Good Guys” of the world.

And I am willing to acknowledge I don’t do it enough.

In fact, I am willing to admit I don’t express appreciation to the #1 Good Guy in my life, my husband, to the extent that I should or as often as I should.

But today, and in the days hereafter, I have the power to make a great man feel loved.

And so do you.

Don’t worry if words are not your thing; I’ve got you covered. All I ask is this: read the following message, allow a little “awareness” to seep in, and acknowledge the areas that could use some extra attention.

Because here’s the truth: Guys “Deserve a Day,” just as women do (see my popular Mother’s Day post for that message), yet guys often don’t get a day, let alone an hour, or even fifteen minutes. Many men do not hear words of kindness, love, or appreciation often enough from the people who love them.

Today can be different. And so can tomorrow.

Let it begin right here…

You Deserve A Day

You deserve a day void of criticism and blame,
A day when words of affection are attached to your name.

You deserve a day free from reminders of what you lack,
A day with the weight of the world lifted off your back.

You deserve a day when inner confidence never hides,
A day free from the pain of past sports and piggy back rides.

You deserve a day to be placed first instead of last,
A day to be embraced instead of quickly brushed past.

You deserve a day when you’re not racing against time,
A day when total relaxation isn’t considered a crime.

You deserve a day when it’s perfectly acceptable to cry,
A day to fondly reminisce the glory days gone by.

You deserve a day when someone else mans the barbeque,
A day without the words, “Honey, would you do…?”

You deserve a day when past mistakes are taken with the wind,
A day when the cuts on your heart have a chance to mend.

You deserve a day when you don’t live by numbers or lists,
A day when diets and high blood pressure cease to exist.

You deserve a day when you don’t have to be strong,
A day when someone else is the first to admit she’s wrong.

You deserve a day free from all your worries and fears,
A day when stress doesn’t take away your best years.

You belong in a tiki hut with scented oil on your back,
You belong in a racecar going 220 on an open track.

You belong on a lazy raft with a cold beer in hand,
You belong with a parachute and a soft place to land.

You belong in a convertible against a painted sky,
You belong near to a warm campfire as the savory fish fry.

You belong in a place of forgiveness and grace,
You belong with tender kisses on your face.

You belong with the freedom to be who you are,
You belong in the presence of a shooting star.

You deserve a day to be embraced without release,
A day of unconditional love that will never cease.

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Guys, if you received this message:

Someone thinks you are fabulous.
Someone thinks you are amazing.
Someone’s appreciates all that you do.
Someone is grateful for your presence in the world.
Someone can’t imagine life without you.

“You Deserve A Day” simply because you are a good man and have made a difference in someone else’s life.

Ladies, this is for you:

If you appreciate something your guy does, tell him.
If you are grateful for something he adds to your life, show him.
If you haven’t treated him the way he should be treated, apologize to him.
If you love him, talk to him and listen to him.

Open the lines of loving communication! Start by sending this message with a word of thanks to your special guy or any guy you appreciate. He does not hear these words often enough.

*If you think this is a worthy message, please click the “share” button. My hope is that Father’s Day 2011 can be the start of heightened connection between people who love one another, but often don’t take the time to say it or show it.

Give the gift of yourself; there is nothing in the world he wants more.

No Thanks Necessary

The week before Easter, I had a proposal for the good people of The Hands Free Revolution. I asked that we ban together and collectively recognize those who are underappreciated and often forgotten.

And our targets were the faithful trash collectors and mail carriers that diligently serve us in rain, shine, sleet, and snow every single day.

I asked that your family choose one day of the week leading up to Easter to leave a small token of appreciation on your trash container or in your mailbox. I made this request in a post entitled, “There Will Be Tears.

It was my hope that our gestures would touch someone’s heart to the deepest level, the level at which emotion is so moving it is revealed through one’s tears.

And happy tears are the best kind of tears.

My daughters and I had recently left treats for our trash collectors and mail carrier on Valentine’s Day, (you can read about the amazing results of that action in “The Clean Lines of a Loving Heart”). Yet, the girls were excited to do it again, this time uniting with our entire neighborhood and possibly with my blog readers from all over the world!

They were excited about the possibilities, and so was I.

In my neighborhood, Thursday, April 21st was the day.

Unfortunately, it happened to be one of those mornings. (You know the kind of morning where you are surprised that one of your children is not dropped off at school with a disoriented expression, still in her pajamas, sporting major bed-head, munching on a Pop-Tart.)

Well, at least we managed to get the two Easter baskets to the end of the driveway and another one safely tucked inside the mailbox.

But aside from depositing the treats in their proper location, every other intention I had that morning managed to slip right through my fingers.

I planned to catch the garbage collectors en route and witness their surprised reactions first hand.

 

It didn’t happen.

I planned to drive around the neighborhood and take pictures of the colorful gifts that sprinkled life onto the dismal, gray trash containers.

It didn’t happen.

I planned to stop at each treat, read the children’s beautiful notes (while wiping away tears), and admire every creative illustration.

It didn’t happen.

I planned to hug the life out of Mrs. Jackie, my mail carrier, when she delivered my mail.

It didn’t happen.

I had all the best intentions. But yet,

I didn’t get to see their joyful faces.

I did not get to see the precious hand-made cards.

I did not take any photos showing the incredible number of participants in this community gesture.

I did not get to see the results of our actions.

I did not get to see how it all turned out.

And I didn’t get to see if there were any tears.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

I felt like I truly let you all down. Everyone wants to hear how the gift is received. Everyone wants to hear the happy ending.

But then my Hands Free inner voice came to my rescue. (For as many times as that voice can annoy me with ridiculous requests, it does manage to keep Control-Freak Excessive Planner Extraordinaire Rachel in check.)

And this is the poignant reminder I received from my Hands Free inner voice:

A multitude of children just spent the last several days shopping, baking, icing, creating, stuffing, writing, drawing, and even praying for complete strangers.

These children did not do this because they were going to “get” something; they did not expect to have a reciprocated Easter basket on their doorstep when they got home from school; the thought of a “thank you note” from the trash man didn’t even cross their mind. Those are not the reasons why they did it.

The reason they made treats and set them in an unusual place was for one simple reason.

They did it to make someone happy.

Pure and simple. No strings attached. No “thanks” necessary. Just wanted to make someone smile.

That’s all.

(If that is not a lesson for the Hands Free Mama in training, I don’t know what is.)

Now this…THIS….is exactly how I want to live my life: Expressing love and kindness to those around me without expecting anything in return, without expecting a reciprocated favor, without waiting for a thank you… simply expressing acts of kindness to others because it is the right thing to do. Because that is how I would like to be treated. Because exhibiting love toward someone else without a hidden agenda is a generous and content way to live.

And if these children could set their gifts upon the trash can with the mere satisfaction that they PROBABLY made someone’s day, then surely I could be satisfied with that, too.

Now at this point, I could wrap this baby up and tie it with a bow.

But there is more to the story. And it is too good not to share.

As I have seen time and time again on this journey, the best things come from the unplanned. The most meaningful things are unexpected. The best things come when I simply let things BE, when I let them unfold the way they were meant to unfold.

A few days after I let go of the need to know how everything turned out, I received this message from a dear neighbor:

I just happened to see Miss Jackie on the day of her surprise and wanted to tell you about it…

Miss Jackie pulled up in our driveway to give me a package. My three-year-old son and I came out with her Easter basket.  She began to cry. Through her tears, she said, “I have never experienced so much love and gratitude from a neighborhood like this before.”

Then she opened the door to her truck. There stood a heaping pile of cards and gifts.

She pointed to the abundance and said, “This is better than Christmas! Y’all have blessed me! Y’all have blessed me so much. You just don’t even know.”

And then she began to cry again.

The next day, I opened the mailbox to find this:

Our sweet mail carrier had written a thank you note to the multitude of families who had given her a treat that day, even taking time to lovingly attach a purple curled ribbon on the outside of every card.

Even though I fully realized that the beautiful outcome of this gesture of kindness was not the part that mattered, I will admit it is nice to know…

It is nice to know that most people want to be a part of making someone’s day.

It is nice to know that children still choose card making and cookie baking over video games and iPads.

It is nice to know how easy it is to touch someone’s life.

It is nice to know parents welcome the opportunity to teach their children the importance of kindness.

It is nice to know the power of many hands coming together toward one goal.

It is nice to know people still write thank you notes.

It is nice to know that little things do mean a lot.

It is nice to know there are still happy endings…even if you don’t always get to see them. 

Oh yes, and it is nice to know people still shed tears.

It sure is nice to know that yes indeed, just as I hoped, there were tears.

And they were the happy kind.

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If you think this is a worthy message, please click the “share” button below. In your hands, this message holds the power to touch the lives of hundreds of people who are often forgotten and unappreciated. It doesn’t take much to spread a little love … whether you see the happy ending or not. 

Visit “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook for more inspiration and tips on how to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters in life!

You Deserve A Day

You deserve a day to dance with the one you love, in barefeet and soft grass with angels singing from above.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. I know many moms and grandmothers will receive lovely gifts, gorgeous flowers, maybe even breakfast in bed. And let’s hope all mothers receive a break from any and all domestic duties!

But there is something from which most women never get a reprieve.

There is something that sticks with many women and mothers every single day of their life; and this “permanent fixture” prevents them from living in full and complete joy.

I am referring to that harsh, inner critic that lives and breathes in all of us, (some with voices louder than others).

I am talking about that negative, nagging voice that goes straight to our greatest insecurities, directly attacking our most vulnerable and tender places.

I am referring to the hurtful voice that we can never quite silence, no matter what age we are or how long or impressive our list of achievements.

But today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I am asking you to give one beautiful woman in your life a break from that voice.

And you have the power to do it.

For one woman today, you can replace the negative messages with words that are loving, accepting, and kind.

For one woman today, you can silence the mean and nasty inner critic and allow the voice of forgiveness, mercy and grace to speak.

“But how? I am not very good with words,” I can hear many of you say.

Not to worry, because words are my specialty. And I am honored to give them to you. The only condition is that you must share them with someone else.

These words are for any woman in your life who is a mother, has acted as a mother, or may one day become a mother.

This is for any woman you think deserves to have a little kindness, a little compassion, and a little love planted inside her heart to grow and flourish.

This is for any woman that comes to your mind as you read this.

This is for her…

You Deserve A Day

You deserve a day to feel beautiful in your own skin,
A day where certain body parts are neither too fat nor too thin.

You deserve a day to see your valued presence on this earth,
A day where age, weight, and IQ don’t determine your worth.

You deserve a day when you can speak your mind with ease,
A day where every dream you ever had is yours to seize.

You deserve a day where your thoughts go up like bright balloons,
A day without judgment and ridicule to last for many moons.

You deserve a day to feel good in the place you are,
A day to embrace your imperfections and heal your hidden scars.

You deserve a day to feel proud of the life you’ve made,
A day where regrets and past mistakes suddenly fade.

You deserve a day to be loved without restraint,
A day free from being judged as a sinner or a saint.

You belong in a valley with pink daffodils beneath your feet,
You belong in an orchard with apples tasty and sweet.

You belong on a lazy hammock with an icy cold drink in hand,
You belong in a field of yellow sunflowers fragrant and grand.

You belong in the sunshine and never in the rain,
You belong in a place of safety far from misery and pain.

You belong on an island with coconut breezes in your hair,
You belong in a peaceful sanctuary far from worry and care.

You belong in place of forgiveness and grace,
You belong with rays of hope shining on your face.

You deserve a day, if not one thousand more,
To be celebrated, appreciated, and lovingly adored.

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If you received this today:

Someone thinks you are beautiful.
Someone thinks you are amazing.
Someone’s heart beats for you.
Someone is grateful for your love.
Someone can’t imagine life without you.

May all these good things come to you simply because you have loved someone like a mother, and there is no greater gift than that.

Today’s challenge is one of my favorite Hands Free tactics which is called, “Take Time to Say It.” Someone came to mind while you read this. You know what to do. Click the “share” button below. Send it as a message of gratitude for all she has added to your life. This message is meant to be shared. Let her know that she deserves at least a day, if not one thousand more.