Thank you, Not-So-Pleasant Moment in Life

thank you hands free mama

I was riding in a cab in Austin, Texas when she said her tummy hurt.

I was standing in a hotel lobby in San Francisco when she complained of a sprained ankle.

I was sitting on the runway in Detroit when she described the pain in her left ear.

And while on the last leg of my book tour in Toronto, she called to say, “My throat hurts. I think I have strep,” in the most pathetic voice I’d ever heard.

Normally, such dismal medical updates from my seven-year-old would have sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard, but while on the road, I came to relish those calls.

That little whiny voice on the other end of the line brought comfort to this lonely mama’s soul. That little voice was HOME—safety, security, and familiarity. It surprised me that I was relishing these phone calls because they surely didn’t represent the best parts of home. But as I offered assurances to my child hundreds of miles away, I realized something significant about the whiny, messy, unpredictable moments. They are what make home a home and a life a life. They are what make up my life … my one precious life.

Before my book tour began, I professed my fear of television interviews, large metropolitan areas, and speaking in front of big groups of people. Little did I know the angst I would experience while being away from home. Although I managed to get comfortable in front of the camera and learned to navigate my way through large airports and cities, I never got accustomed to being away from home. But as most of you know, there is something quite profound that happens when you miss something so badly it hurts.

You gain appreciation.

You gain perspective.

You grasp what really matters.

Just when I thought my Hands Free journey could not open my eyes any wider to what really mattered in life, I began seeing what I could not see before: Glimmers of Goodness in the mundane, the mess, and the mayhem … Glimmers of Goodness in the exaggeratedly dramatic sprained ankles and the never-ending doses of Amoxicillin.

And a tragedy didn’t have to strike in order for me to see all the goodness.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

So now I must share it. This newfound perspective I gained while on the road may help someone else discover life’s daily blessings among the distractions and challenges of life. I call this approach “Glimmers of Goodness.” Because having a full and complete day of goodness is hard, maybe even impossible, with life’s daily stresses of children, bills, schedules, deadlines, responsibilities, and pressures. But finding Glimmers of Goodness within a day is possible—even when you are irritated, annoyed, or frustrated. In fact, it is in times of overwhelm that I can find these bright spots most easily. It may sound odd, but I’ve been taking each not-so-pleasant experience or feeling and thanking it. And from that place of gratitude, I find a Glimmer of Goodness. Take a look …

Glimmers of Goodness

Thank you, hurried morning. It is in the hunt for shoes, library books, and backpacks that I appreciate the slow Saturday. I shall pay attention and appreciate the Slow Saturday.

Thank you, perpetually dirty house. It is in finding rumpled sheets, toothpaste blobs, and abandoned socks that I appreciate the evidence of life being lived.  I shall pay attention and appreciate Life Being Lived.

Thank you, aging face. It is in finding another gray hair and another laugh line that I appreciate the gift of another day. I shall pay attention and appreciate the Gift Another Day.

Thank you, stop-and-smell-the-roses child. It is when I take life at your pace that I notice the unnoticable. I shall pay attention and appreciate Noticing the Unnoticable.

Thank you, free-spirited child. It is in experiencing everything a little faster, a little louder, and a little riskier that I appreciate the courage it takes to be bold. I shall pay attention and appreciate Being Bold.

Thank you, sensitive soul. It is in experiencing everything a little deeper and a little more quietly that I see the beauty of a tender heart. I shall pay attention and appreciate the Tender Heart.

Thank you, pang of guilt. It is in wishing that I did things differently that I appreciate the opportunity of Second Chances. I shall pay attention and appreciate Second Chances.

Thank you, disappointment. It is in experiencing let down that I appreciate the fact that I had the courage to try. I shall pay attention and appreciate the Courage to Try.

Thank you, daily challenge. It is in looking straight into the face of sorrow, struggle, fear, frustration, heartache, and worry that I appreciate the fact I keep showing up. I shall pay attention and appreciate the fact that I Keep Showing Up.

And I will keep showing up.

Because there are Glimmers of Goodness in each day if I pay attention. Even the bad moments have some good in them when I stand back and view them from a distance.

Because with a little perspective,

And a little appreciation,

I can see that even the not-so-pleasant moments make a home a home … and a life a life.

My life.

My one precious life.

And a tragedy didn’t have to strike for me to see it.

Thank you, whiny voice on the other end of the line. It is in hearing every ache and pain in your precious body that I appreciate We Are Alive. I shall pay attention and appreciate the fact that We Are Alive.

And because of that incredibly momentous fact, I shall use today to grasp as many Glimmers of Goodness as I can find.

thank you handsfree mama 3

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Friends, tell me how you find Glimmers of Goodness in your day. Tell me what life experiences provided you with life-changing perspective. Your stories are like gold to me and to those who read the comment section of this incredible community. When we see each other’s scars, we love each other more. That’s what I believe. There is so much to be gained by sharing our hearts. Thank you for being here.

If you’ve ever wanted to ask me question about living Hands Free or about writing a book, here is your chance! On Wednesday, March 19th at 1pm ET, I am participating in a Live Author Chat sponsored by FaithGateway. You can submit your questions via Twitter and I will answer them LIVE on the Google Hangout in real-time. (Only the author and host are on camera. You just watch and listen – you don’t need a webcam for these chats.) Click here to register and learn more. 

Friends, the book tour for HANDS FREE MAMA enabled me to meet so many incredible people, answer thought-provoking questions, and experience many Hands Free revelations. With the incredible national and international response to my new book, I find I am in need of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. So in honor of my children’s spring break beginning next week, I will be taking a two-week break from blogging to spend time with my family and document the incredible experiences I had while on my book tour. You can look forward to a new blog post the week of April 7th. Thank you for supporting my commitment to authentically LIVE the Hands Free life that I write about!

 *For beautiful reminders to live Hands Free, be sure and check out the Hands Free Shop to see the gorgeous bracelets & hand-lettered prints that would make unique & meaningful gifts for Easter and Mother’s Day this spring. To go to the shop, click here. I am truly grateful to all who are giving my book as birthday gifts and gifts to new parents. Thank you for spreading the Hands Free message of hope far and wide! 

 

The Ten Minutes that Changed My Distracted Life

“By offering to give love, you are offering yourself a chance to be loved.”  –Rachel Macy Stafford

“By offering to GIVE love, you are offering yourself a chance to BE loved.”
–Rachel Macy Stafford

Something happened over the holidays that I wasn’t planning to share, but I’ve decided it must not be kept to myself. You see, lately I am getting a lot of messages from readers that say, “I am who you once were, but I don’t know if there is hope for me; I don’t know if I can change; I think it’s too late for me.”

Three and a half years ago, I said those same words to myself. In fact, when I began taking steps to let go of my distracted, perfectionistic, hurried ways I didn’t tell anyone for three months. Why? Because I thought change was not possible for me. I once believed I was too far gone to ever come back. But this past December 24th, I was powerfully reminded what I once believed was so wrong. Here is my story. May it reach someone who longs to believe change is possible. Believing is the first step.

 ______________

We were supposed to leave the house in nineteen minutes. In my hand, I held my child’s holiday dress and her pretty tights.

“Honey, it’s time to wake up and get dressed for the Christmas Eve service,” I said gently to my seven-year-old daughter who was barely visible under a mound of blankets.

“I’m too tired,” she moaned without opening her eyes.

Two hours earlier I’d suggested she take a nap since we’d be up late, but now I was regretting it. My lethargic child looked as if she could sleep for several more hours.

“Come on, I’ll help you get dressed,” I offered.

She didn’t move a muscle.

This was not like her, but yet I was starting to feel agitated. “You can have two more minutes to rest, then it will be time to get up,” I firmly stated using a tactic that worked well with my former special education students.

After tidying up a few things around her room and glancing at my unusually put-together appearance in her mirror, I told my daughter it was time to get up now.

“I don’t feel good,” she cried.

I expelled a long, hot breath before speaking. “Mommy is trying to be patient with you, but I am starting to feel impatient,” I said honestly. “I’ll take you to the bathroom and then I bet you’ll feel better.”

At the pace of an elderly person with bad arthritis, she gingerly crawled out of bed and plopped down on the toilet.

“I will put on your tights right here,” I said knowing we needed to leave the house very shortly if we were going to get seats in the service.

“I don’t feel good,” she repeated once again—but this time the word “good” turned into one long wail. Her face crumpled in pain.

Three and a half years ago, this is when I would have lost it.  This is when I would have gruffly shoved her feet into those tights and barked that we were going to be late. This is when thoughts of my own agenda, my own appearance, my own timetable, and my own demands would have overruled all else. This is when things would have gotten ugly.

But things are different now.

[Read more...]

When You Get it Right … and When You Don’t

what's right 2 handsfree mama

“I must have done something right,” the father of a nineteen-year-old young lady was telling me after having fixed my troublesome garage door.

Although his daughter had drifted a bit during her early teen years, she was now coming over to her parents’ house on the weekends and was genuinely enjoying spending time with her parents again.

The repairman’s eyes lit up when he talked about the renewed relationship with his daughter. He seemed relieved about how things had turned out.

“I must have done something right,” he had said a few minutes earlier.

His oldest daughter is nineteen. My oldest daughter is ten. I don’t want to wait nine years to know whether or not I’ve done something right. Because now is when I need to hear it.

Now—when I am in smack dab in the middle of raising her.

Now—when I feel the pressure to examine every choice I make, wondering how these choices will affect her now and in the future.

Now—when I want to trust my gut and live by heart rather than simply go along with mainstream opinion or “expert” advice.

Now—when I need little glimmers of hope to cling to each day.

So I decided not to wait.

Each day for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking for a little rightness—a little what-is-right-in-my-world.

Notice I say “a little.” Because what I am talking about is practically unnoticeable. It’s hardly note-worthy. And it’s definitely not anything worthy of public sharing—at least not according to societal standards. But that’s why it’s working for me. That’s why it’s encouraging to me. Because looking for what is right in my world – in my day – in my hour – is far more encouraging than looking for what is “right” in my world according to social media, societal standards, or popular opinion.

I invite you to take a look. Maybe this list will inspire you to see what is right in your world today.

[Read more...]

Three Words for the Critic in Your Head

 someone #hands free mama1

When that little voice says, “You messed up again,”
Remember every tear you ever wiped,
Every knee you ever dusted off,
Every broken heart you ever mended,
Every disaster you ever fixed,
So someone else could be put back together.

When that little voice says, “You lost it again,”
Remember all the times you waited outside the school doors,
waited in the audience,
waited on the sidelines,
waited in the waiting room,
waited in the cold,
So someone else could be found.

When that little voice says, “You can do better,”
Remember all the times you put someone’s needs before your own,
Sacrificed sleep so someone else could rest,
Pushed away hunger so someone else could eat,
Gave everything you ever had,
So someone else could triumph.

When that little voice says, “You are missing out,”
Remember when you juggled a million things so you could be there.
When you smiled through your exhaustion,
When you crawled in the bed at midnight,
When you held a shaking hand,
So someone else could feel unalone.

[Read more...]

The Power of ‘Just One’

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” --Mother Teresa

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” –Mother Teresa

For the past five years, I’ve helped organize a community event where kids learn a simple way to bring hope to children in poverty-stricken situations. Through a PowerPoint presentation, kids are able to see how a simple shoebox filled with items like pencils, toothbrushes, and plush toys can bring joy to needy children. Although they were very small when I started this tradition, my daughters have always been eager to help. I hoped that someday one of them would come to me and say they wanted to step off the sidelines and stand in front.

And I really hoped it would be this year.

When I dreamed of publishing a book, I had no clue what it would entail. Sadly, I realized my current writing and promotional obligations would prevent me from creating this year’s PowerPoint presentation and script. With high hopes, I went to my tech-savvy ten-year-old, Natalie. After all, she holds a mini summer school for neighborhood children in our family room every summer—I thought for sure she would say yes to my proposition.

“No way,” Natalie said adamantly when asked if she would do the shoebox event presentation. “That would be WAY too embarrassing to stand up there in front of all those people,” she argued sounding a little too much like a feisty teenager.

“But you know all those kids .. and you know how to pack a shoebox … and you are great at making PowerPoints,” I argued persuasively.

She paused, and then shut me down completely. “Sorry, Mom.”

I was heartbroken. What could I do? I decided I would put the problem out of my mind for a few days and maybe Plan B would present itself.

A few days later Natalie came to me. “Okay, I will do the presentation, but my best friend is going to do it with me,” she assertively informed me.

Three weeks later, my daughter and her friend captivated children ranging from age four to twelve-years-old. They’d worked hard on putting together a powerful slideshow with unforgettable stories and photos.

The girls thought to ask questions and engage the children in the discussion. After showing them photos of barely clad, hungry, crying children Natalie asked, “Why do you think we are telling you these sad stories?”

[Read more...]

Enough

enough handsfree mama

Sometimes I find myself sitting behind the wheel of the car thinking,
Enough.
Enough with the bickering.
Enough with the chauffeuring, the gas-guzzling, the bumper-to-bumper.
Enough with the gum wads stuck between cracker-crumb filled crevices where nice leather seats used to be.
Enough, I say. Enough.

Sometimes I find myself staring at my reflection in the mirror thinking,
Enough.
Enough with the wrinkles, the puffiness, and the sleep-deprived eyes.
Enough with the loose skin and the unstoppable gray hairs.
Enough with the laugh lines that look anything but happy.
Enough, I say. Enough.

Sometimes I find myself standing in front of an open refrigerator thinking,
Enough.
Enough with the meal prep: morning, noon, and night.
Enough with the picky eater, the slow eater, the dirty dishes, and lack of counter space.
Enough with finding the unachievable balance of nutritious and kid-approved.
Enough, I say. Enough.

Sometimes I find myself gazing at photos of tropical beaches and secluded getaways thinking,
Enough.
Enough with the perpetual ticking clock,
Enough with the steady stream of demands, the dust bunnies, and missing library books.
Enough with the needs of others that never seem to be satisfied.
Enough, I say. Enough.

But then something happens to pull me out of my negative abyss and set my head on straight.

[Read more...]

Cleaning Up the Heart Break

"In some families, please is described as the magic word.  In our house, however, it was sorry." ~Margaret Laurence

“In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was sorry.” ~Margaret Laurence

We were on our way out the door, which has always been a little stressful since having children. There’s just something about making ourselves and our kids look presentable—all at the same time—that causes tensions to run high.

On this particular evening, I’d actually put on something other than my typical Writer’s Uniform—meaning I was not wearing anything made out of Dri-fit fabric and my hair was not in a ponytail. We were finally experiencing fall-like temperatures in the South, so it was cool enough for jeans, a sweater, and boots.

I was actually feeling pretty good at this departure. My kids were in Dri-fit material from head to toe, but their hair was combed so we were good to go.

My older daughter decided to use the restroom one last time before we headed out to meet friends. That’s when I heard: “Mom, the toilet is clogged!”

I quickly ran to assess the situation desperately hoping she was mistaken since The Official Toilet Plunger of the family (my husband) wasn’t home.

Much to my dismay, my daughter’s assessment was accurate. Someone had used the bathroom and apparently it required an entire roll of toilet paper to do the job. The muddy water was scarily close to the top of the bowl.

Although it was tempting to get upset, I swallowed an “are you serious?” and stifled an exasperated sigh. I didn’t even ask, “Which one of you did this?” although I had my suspicions based on the fact that Little Sister was now cautiously peering from around corner.

With clenched teeth I said, “I’ll get the plunger.”

[Read more...]