Being Present in Transition

PresentinTransitionWe’re a family in transition. We have been for a few months now. My husband started a new job in early May. Our eldest graduated from high school a few weeks later and then left the state for a summer job. Our sixteen-year-old took her first job a month after that.

It has been exciting and exhausting all at once. Which is to say that it’s an emotional time in our house, even if those emotions aren’t readily apparent on the surface. For that reason – the transition and its accompanying emotional weight, I’ve been largely absent from the virtual world. Where many others are posting pictures from vacations and outings and summer fun, I’ve been offline. While blogging moms and writer friends have continued to explore and document life as it occurs, I’ve been silent.

So I apologize if you’ve stopped by this space and found it growing stale and musty. I haven’t been here for a few months.

Instead, I have been playing board games or card games after dinner nearly every night with my husband and two of our daughters. I have been texting with our other daughter who has been away at camp for her second summer working as a lifeguard. I have stayed up late eating, laughing and talking with my parents, siblings and nephews during a week-long family reunion/getaway. I have stared at the stars and breathed deep of evergreen and campfires while on our annual camping trip. I’ve both paddled hard and drifted lazily in a kayak. I’ve talked and listened and walked and run and read books and lazed around.

In a word, I’ve been present.

I knew as we reached the exhausting end of my daughter’s senior year that I needed a “reset” of some sort. I needed centering; grounding; a disengaging from my relentless pursuit to Be All The Things – wife, mom, writer, secretary, speaker, friend, volunteer.

So this summer, instead of being something or filling some role, I’ve just been. In the place of doing and giving, I’ve been receiving. And in the space of being, that is, being present, I found my capacity for joy and gratitude expanded. Where anxiety and compulsion once resided, I found room for acceptance. I learned that I could take life as it comes and appreciate it for what it is. I moved through my days with less anger, less frustration, and more compassion, more warmth.

We’re still transitioning. In fact, I feel like the biggest transition is yet to come in a week-and-a-half when we drop our eldest off at college. But being present for the past ten weeks has me better prepared. Maybe not for the emotion of sending her off, but for the sendoff itself. I know I can, and will, be fully engaged with that process. I’ll be able to make the most of the handful of days between her return from camp and departure for college. I’ll continue to be cognizant of her youngest sister’s grief over the impending change. And I’ll hopefully be attuned to where I’m wanted in my college-bound daughter’s preparations and where she needs to step out on her own.

If I’ve learned one thing about bucket lists from the journey of being present this summer it is this: once in a lifetime is the moment you are in right now. That moment will never return. Yes, keep a list of what you’re looking forward to. Go after your goals and dreams. But in the meantime, get as good as you can at savoring what’s in front of you. The ability to be present in the day-to-day will serve you well during those long-hoped-for experiences too. Including the awaited moment of sending a child off to college for the first time.

The Roller Coaster Ride of Raising Children: When Your Child Turns 18

Roller CoasterIn many ways, raising children is a roller coaster ride. We hop on (at pregnancy or adoption) in anticipation of the thrills, fastening our restraints and holding our breath for what’s to come. And then the dips and loop-de-loops of late night feeding, tantrum calming, homework helping and all the rest of what it takes to raise kids consume our focus. The in-betweens of snuggles on the couch and giggling together over bedtime stories fuel us for the next round of whiplashing turns and spins.

And then comes high school. You sense the ratcheting click, click, click of the roller coaster climbing the last long, tall hill when your child reaches their junior year. ACT and SAT exams and college visits remind you that this is it. There’s not much time left until this child is grown and done being watched over in such close quarters. Click, click, click. You feel the gravity of it, your body pressing harder and harder against the seat, your face tilted nearly straight up to the sun. And then you reach the summit. The pause just before you’ll plummet full speed, terrifyingly fast to the end of the ride.

We’re there this week with our eldest. At the summit. We’ve click-clicked our way through the college application process and college acceptances. The decision is made. And all is still. Come Sunday we’ll attend our first senior banquet. Monday she turns 18. The Saturday after is prom. And then award banquets and assemblies, final exams, graduation, departure to work away at summer camp. College drop off. The end of the intense roller coaster ride of raising this girl from birth to young adulthood.

I talk a lot here about family bucket lists and seizing all the opportunities you can while your children are under your roof. Make the most of those 18 years, I’ve said. Now here I am. And I wonder, did we do it? Did we make the most of that time?

I’d like to think that we did. We didn’t check everything off our family bucket list. But we’re still a family. And there will still be college breaks and other family time together. We did pour ourselves out on our daughter’s behalf, taught her how to treat others well, encouraged her to think for herself, reminded her over and over again that she is loved by us, however imperfectly, and loved unconditionally by God. We’re proud of the confident, bright, ambitious young lady she’s become. We’re as ready as we can be for the ride to end.

Just don’t be surprised to see us walking on shaky legs in the next few months. It’s been quite a ride, as it is for all parents!

If you want a small glimpse into my own journey during those 18 years, an essay I wrote, “This is What It Costs,” has been published in an anthology called Everbloom that releases next week. I’ll be doing a giveaway for it here on April 25th. But in the meantime if you want to learn more, check it out on Amazon.

Why I Didn’t Create an Over-the-Top Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day yesterday was low key at my house. My husband cooked an amazing meal for me on Sunday. I gave him chocolate and each of my girls a little Valentine’s candy on the 14th.

Over-the-top Valentines Compared to the heart-themed-breakfast, love-notes-in-lunch-boxes fusses many of my fellow moms made, it doesn’t sound much like a bucket list celebration, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

Over-the-top celebrations aren’t sustainable for me. And I would argue they aren’t healthy or sustainable for most. They raise the bar and set expectations such that we’re often scrambling to find ways to make the next event memorable, to wow our kids or spouse or friends or social media followers with our creativity and pizzazz, to outdo ourselves. And in the process we cheapen everyday life and rob our kids of anticipation.

Going big has become such a way of life in our culture that I suspect we’re losing the ability to appreciate the ordinary. Our sense of perspective has been skewed by this desire for every milestone or occasion to be bright and amazing. When Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and Easter share the same level of riotous hype in a household, how do kids learn which of those days is most significant?

When teenage girls become accustomed to up-do’s and manicures and professional makeup for homecoming dances, preceded by an elaborate “ask” by their date, then prom must include limousines and multi-hundred-dollar dresses and fancy “after parties.” But what’s left for the day they become engaged? And how can they help but expect the type of wedding that requires an exorbitant price tag when a mere high school dance merited so many frivolous expenses?

We have become so focused on giving our kids everything now, that we are leaving nothing for later. What will your children’s bucket lists look like when they reach their 20s and their 30s? When they are your age, what will they be hoping to do? How will they not be bored in retirement having done it all already?

More importantly, what do your kids bucket lists look like right now? In the wake of the hype and the busyness and the constant need to go big and achieve much, I’m hearing from kids how they just want a day to hang out at home and do nothing. They want a break from it all. Are you brave enough to give it to them? Or do you fear making them feel “left out” by not giving them every over-the-top experience you think their peers are getting?

Break the cycle. Dare to be the parent who invites their kids to enjoy the ordinary and leaves some bucket list experiences for the future. I know a lot of other moms who would appreciate it. And I’m pretty sure in the long run, your kids will too.


1603UdemyDisct Feeling exhausted from trying to match the over-the-top expectations prevalent among parents? Are you still eager to give your kids meaningful experiences that bring your family closer? I can teach you how. Check out my book Family Bucket Lists, or take my online course, Bonding Through Bucket Lists.

How Do You Spell Success as a Parent?

spell-successI nearly blew it again. My youngest daughter turned thirteen this past weekend and I almost didn’t have a card for her. As a rule, I don’t buy cards. I’m a crafter and I know I can make a card that I like much better than anything I’d find in the store. And I enjoy making them. But I have a hard time getting down to the business of making cards – it requires pulling out my stamping supplies and finding the creative bandwidth to generate a design.

On my daughter’s birthday, cards arrived in the mail from her grandmother and great aunt, as they do every year. Me? I missed sending my nephew’s birthday card last month. And I hadn’t started yet on my daughter’s card.

I beat myself up about it. I want to be like my mother and my husband’s aunt. I want to be the person who always sends a birthday card. And I’ve always felt like a failure because I’m not.

Then it occurred to me this week: whose priorities am I trying to live by? What do I really want success for me to look like?

I once met a dad who boasted about never missing one of his son’s basketball games from youth league on through high school, despite holding a job that required him to travel. It was impressive. He had committed himself to being there. It fit his definition of success and he fulfilled it. But me? I’ve missed gymnastics meets and soccer games. I haven’t bent over backward to be present for every one of my girls’ sporting events because that isn’t what I feel called to do (not to mention that it’s physically impossible when you have kids in events at the same time in different places). I’ve never considered myself a failure for missing my girls’ meets because perfect attendance was never part of my definition of success.

I realized this week that as much as my bucket list gives me goals to shoot for, I have to pay attention also to those I am not shooting for. I have ask myself, “How do I spell success as a mom? When my girls graduate from high school, what do I want to be able to say I did without (or nearly without) fail? What do I want to be able to check off my parenting bucket list? And what am I not going after?”

My priorities include serving a family meal every night of the week (success!), seeing them off to school every morning (success!), and making them a card for their birthdays (working on it). But my priorities don’t necessarily include being that person that doesn’t miss sending a card to everyone else. That might be a priority for me in another season of life.

I’m ready to stop trying to measure myself against other people’s priorities. I hope to recognize when I’m tempted to feel bad about measuring up against a standard that I haven’t subscribed to. And I’m only including on my parenting bucket list those things that truly matter to memy priorities.

Would you do the same? Think about how you spell success as a parent. Let go of trying to be the mom who throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties if that’s not you. Don’t push yourself to execute the perfect bedtime tuck-in every night if it’s not working. Find the goals that do suit you and pursue those. Put them on your bucket list so you, like the perfect attendance basketball dad, can celebrate your accomplishment when the time comes.



September 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: Pass It On

What is something you do well? Have you ever thought of passing along your expertise to someone else?

September 2016 Bucket List Life DareI have been sewing since I was 16 years old. After making a skirt in Home Ec class in high school, I was hooked. Sewing is not for the faint of heart. For one thing, there are the patterns. If you’ve ever tried to follow one, you know what I mean. It’s like reading a foreign language. Just when you think you have one figured out, something goes awry in the execution. Thankfully, my mother is an excellent seamstress. For many years I consulted Mom when problems arose during my sewing projects – which was pretty much the case with everything I made. Knowing that I had expert help on call gave me courage to stick with it.

I still remember the first time I completed an entire project without having to seek Mom’s help. It was a Halloween costume for my daughter. Every year when the girls were young I would create one new costume. With three girls that meant someone got a new one while the others had to choose something from the closet. Each year I sought Mom’s help with the costume. Until the fifth one. By then I had been sewing for nearly 20 years. That’s how long it took to master the skill of sewing.

Sewing is something I love to do that I’m proficient at. And it’s something I gladly teach to others when I can – my daughters, children of friends. But I still feel like I have more to give when it comes to sharing this knowledge. “Teach someone how to sew” remains on my bucket list.

My goal for this month’s bucket list life dare is to spend time teaching someone a new sewing skill. I think my youngest (who is already comfortable around my sewing machine as a quilter) may be needing to learn how to make button holes. But if other opportunities to teach sewing arise, I’ll seize them too.

In light of the new school year, I’d like to dare you to add an element of teaching to your bucket list, a way use what you know and pass it on to others. Even if you can’t accomplish it this month, think about completing the phrase, “Teach Someone to/How to…” as an item for your bucket list.



FBL Starters Freebie Updated - Cover