Your Personal Mission Statement

Mission StatementWe enter this world without much direction that isn’t either instinctual (meeting our own needs) or given to us by other people. As teens or adults, we have the privilege of choosing our direction, and each year we progress toward independence, we have more power to choose.

Have you thought about choosing well? 

Think about the last big decision you had to make. How hard was that? Did you make a list of pros and cons, consider each carefully, and still end up looking to a trusted friend to ask what she or he would do? Most of us do that, or we make an impulse choice based on our gut feeling about the decision.

As Dan Ariely’s book “Predictably Irrational,” pointed out so well, our gut feelings are notoriously untrustworthy.

What can we do to minimize our inherent irrationality, particularly when it comes to big decisions or choices that can change our lives and those of our family?

I suggest borrowing a concept that makes businesses and nonprofits successful. Continue reading

Considering the Second Child

A friend asked me the other day if the memory of the pain of childbirth goes away. I was kind of surprised and asked why he wanted to know.

“We are thinking about a second child, and I wondered if women just forgot the pain or blocked it somehow to make it possible to go through that again,” he said.

“I can’t speak for all women because each birth experience is highly individual,” I said, “but my first childbirth was fairly pain-free with an epidural and so I was not at all mentally or emotionally prepared for the natural childbirth that occurred my second time around.  It was tough.”

He asked, “What if the first experience was like the second? Would you have done it again?”

I had to think about that for a while because my first reaction was, “Heck no. I would have stopped at one. No doubt about it!”

But stepping past that first reaction, I thought back to the wondrous love and joy I have derived from both of my daughters, the good people they have become, and how much I treasure them in my life, and I realized that I can’t even visualize the world without those precious women in it. I also can’t visualize them not having each other.

Siblings Without Rivalry BookWhen you start a family, it usually begins with the two of you joined by one more. (Unless you have multiples, and then all bets are off!) At some point, you have a conversation about adding another to the family, and it is usually at the apex of cuteness of your first child (or at least after they are out of the truly labor intensive stages). Things have settled in a routine, you love that first child dearly, and so you start picturing another baby.

Be sure you are communicating clearly about this with each other.

Children as surprises can be like puppies as surprises. Things can go South quickly if you aren’t prepared. Talk together, check out “Siblings Without Rivalry,” by Faber & Mazlish, and think through some of the logistics. Discussing the practical considerations will get you out of the purely emotional pull and will help you step back and make realistic plans. Those are usually good for everyone. Sometimes nature takes a hand and you have no control over the planning, but as soon as you realize that, these same conversations and preparation will help you deal with the changes that are coming in your family.

As for that second child, no matter how different the birth experience or how different the child is from your first, you will find that your heart can expand to fill with love for yet another member of your family. Women who experience postpartum depression will have a more difficult time with this and please don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support. It will pass, but it will pass more quickly if you have assistance.

Best wishes!

Writing in Times of Darkness

Angry WomanIf you have ever had a blog or published writing of any kind, you know what I mean by “writing in times of darkness.”

Expressing yourself when you are in pain, either physical, emotional, or mental is difficult. You want to share your viewpoint and feelings but may want to reconsider a rant, raging, or creating a message that is as dark or depressed as you may feel at the time.

Time is fluid, my friends and your angry or hateful words can come back to haunt you later when times are better and you no longer feel that way. This is why diaries are a better place to store those rage-filled rants, comments that aren’t completely logical or factual, and negative or even violent fantasies you may have. Diaries are rarely forever unless you are a famous person whose writings get collected. I don’t think I have to worry about that.

The Internet, however…now that is forever and everywhere. I can do a simple search and find a poem I wrote for something decades ago!

My message to you today is to guard yourself against going off on someone or something because you are currently in pain. Take a breath, a moment, a week, month, maybe even several months to consider what it is you would say if you were not angry or hurting.

Would it be different?

If the answer is yes, take that time for yourself and wait to express your truest and most understandable thoughts about the subject. Those of us in chronic pain, if we are wise, use this strategy on a regular basis.

Your children are watching and your readers, no matter how many or how few, deserve your best.

Mentoring Mena at Christmas

jpeg-image-658fde1eb35f-1The holidays are a very interesting time for mentors in the Seedling Mentoring Program.

The children in the program come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances and the only thing they all have in common is the challenges that come with having an incarcerated parent.

Seedling Mentoring does a great job of training and preparing us to talk with our young friends without ever making them feel uncomfortable or ashamed of their situations, whatever they may be. We are there to be an adult friend, someone who knows them and cares enough to show up every week to listen, laugh, play, read, and sometimes to just hold space for them to talk about things that they may not feel like they can share with just anyone.

It is a gift and a privilege.

When holidays roll around, Seedling training warns us not to give too much, even though we may have that urge. Many of our kids live in poverty. Home may be shared with another family…or two…or might even be something we wouldn’t normally think of as a home. Presents may be hard to come by, or may not exist at all. We never want to eclipse what the caregiver for our mentee can do. That relationship is the most important of all to our little friend and our job is to nurture all of the supports in their young lives.

So, we keep our gifts under $10-15 in value, and many of us give books that we think they will enjoy for years to come.

Occasionally, and particularly as they grow up with us in their life, they may give us a gift. Continue reading

Weddings, Finances & Your Kids

1986-10-4-wedding-14It’s a whole new world out there for those of us who have children of marrying age.

Many of our kids are holding off to marry after their education is completed or they have some work experience, and a whole new dynamic has emerged for us that may make old customs or “rules of etiquette” functionally obsolete.

I will be frank, that many of these societal niceties passed my husband and me by as we married in 1986 in our late twenties. We had education and careers under our belt and financed the whole shebang (except the rehearsal dinner, which his parents graciously covered) with our own funds.

I did not ask for guidance or help on my wedding, and the results were truly what Dan and I wanted. We chose The Abbey (a Victorian house that hosted weddings, and had a sweeping staircase to the upper level) for our wedding and we kept it small (100 guests). We took advantage of the wedding coordinator The Abbey offered, and their catering offerings. With a 7:00 pm wedding in mind, we offered appetizers, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and wedding cake. We did not do a sit-down meal or buffet and it was not missed. Continue reading