Resolutions and Reconnecting

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New Year’s resolutions are often broken or forgotten, right? Not this one. Not for me.

Back in early January, I’d written a post about having a fresh start and making resolutions, which I don’t like to do. They’re too much pressure. Instead, I prefer to strive for goals throughout the year.

BUT… This year I did make one resolution I was determined to follow through with:

Build deeper, more meaningful, richer relationships. Nourish those I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

Last fall, a friend introduced me to a book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D. She writes about the importance of human connections. It reminded me that this is an area where I could use some improvement.

Brene says, “I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Friends

I’ve taken my New Year’s resolution to heart. I’ve been mindful of connecting more with friends and family, and building new friendships.

It takes time and effort to connect. But the benefits are so rich, it makes it all worth it.

A great example of this is my experience this past weekend.

A brief background: I was on the speech team in junior college. I’d never felt such strong camaraderie and connection. We worked on speeches together, traveled together for tournaments, and became each other’s vital source of encouragement and support.

We were united by the same goal: to be the best individual speaker or debater we could be, for our own personal development, and for the success of the team. We lifted each other up, in good times and in bad.

We became close friends during the two or three years we competed. We were inseparable, like we were looped together by an imaginary string.

Who do you spend most of your time with? Are they someone who you want to reflect? Do they push you to be the best version of yourself?  I'm so grateful to be building a team of positive caring and motivated women who are reaching out daily to help others.  We help each other build each other up and celebrate successes together.  Each of us are surrounded by other strong motivated women building a business in our own way!  #girlpower #girlbosses #positivevibes #lawofattraction by @crysp via http://ift.tt/1RAKbXL

Even though we’d vowed to keep in contact, after graduation we went our separate ways. We lost touch. Life happened and time flew by. It had been nearly 35 years since we’d seen each other.

Until last weekend.

It was challenging, as the four of us live in different cities. But we made it happen. We met in a central area at a restaurant for lunch. We’d kept in touch through social media, but… I admit, I was a bit nervous. Would we still feel that connection we’d had so many years ago?

I was thrilled that the answer was a resounding YES.

After huge, tight bear hugs and big smiles, we started to catch up on the past 30-plus years. Marriages, children, divorces, careers. It wasn’t just “surface” talk. We reconnected on a deep, emotional level. We inspired and empowered each other all over again. I could see why I liked them so much when I was 19.

Now we’re grown, with more experience and wisdom. Robert has a son and is an award-winning speech coach, at the college where we all first met. Paige is an accomplished businesswoman, now a stay-at-home mom of twin girls. Alexis has a teenager and preteen twins. She’s also a criminal defense attorney. (not their real names). I’ve been married 29 years, with two daughters in their twenties. I’m a writer and mental health advocate.

We’ve all taken different paths. But that string that held us together so closely at one time has merely stretched, over time and miles. We forged a bond that won’t break.

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At the end of our three-hour lunch, Robert looked around the table and said, “As I’ve been listening to each of you talk, I’ve realized something. We’re all doing what we’re passionate about.” That comment gave me goosebumps. He summed it up perfectly. Maybe that passion is our common link.

And it’s what I’ve always wanted for myself and now, for my daughters. I encourage them to figure out what they love and live their lives filled with passion and purpose.

Make connections. Nourish those relationships. Don’t let the special ones drift away.

We can’t get through this life alone. We aren’t meant to. We’re here to help each other.

At the end of our lunch, we had someone take a picture of us. I showed it to my daughters and they both said, “Mom, you all look so happy!” We were.

And we definitely won’t wait another thirty-something years before we see each other again.

Winnie the Pooh usually hits the nail on the head when it comes to displaying love for your BFF.

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Time to Connect

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Ah, it feels nice to sit here at my computer and write a blog post again. I took time off of social media during the holidays. The past few weeks have been filled with family, friends, food (too much, of course), and special moments.

I spent time with family I usually see just once a year because we’re scattered throughout the world. I met my 10-month-old great nephew for the first time and couldn’t get enough of him. My husband Alex and I spent lots of time with our daughters, who live away from home. It was awesome to re-connect.

But the holidays weren’t all magic and sparkle. There was anxiety too, which has a way of creeping in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I couldn’t keep track of the times I told myself to take a deep breath and relax.

To add to the stress, we started a major remodel on our business the week after Thanksgiving. I know… not great timing.

Life is calming down a bit now — sort of. It felt good to box up our holiday decorations and declutter. The house looks a little bare, but fresh.

January is a clean slate.It's a new year and a fresh start! Make 2015 be your best year yet and do things that make you happy! Live for you!! Happy New Year!

Yesterday Alex asked what my New Year’s resolutions are. I don’t like to make them, it’s too much pressure. I prefer to set goals throughout the year, instead of a long list in early January. But his question got me thinking: is there anything I’d really like to change? Some area in my life I want to improve?

Like many people, I want to eat healthy, exercise, and lose five pounds. I want to read more and carve out time to meditate, do yoga, and work on the puzzles and mindfulness coloring book my mom and dad gave me for my birthday last fall.

But there’s something else I want to work on, a different type of resolution for me.

Connections.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a friend (I’ll call her Teresa). She talked about the importance of finding and maintaining connections. I was intrigued because this is one area in my life I’d like to improve.

Life is all about connecting with others and being vulnerable enough to let them into our lives. Friends to laugh with, cry with, learn from, share experiences with, to support, to love.

I  have a close group of friends and wonderful family relationships. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at taking the initiative to keep in contact or arrange time to get together. Building and nurturing friendships takes effort, for both sides.

Pinning on this board...It helps me in my own journey and I hope it helps in yours. Thanks for being there, Pinterest people.

Teresa told me about author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D., and  suggested I read Brene’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Alex bought it for me for Christmas and so far I’ve read the first couple of chapters.

I relate to much of what Brene talks about, and I love this quote:

“I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

It’s giving and receiving with an open heart. And despite the fear of rejection, putting yourself out there to connect on a personal or professional level. Maybe it’s asking a friend to go to lunch, joining a club, taking a class, or calling a business contact to further your career.

Connect.

So that’s my resolution: to nourish the relationships I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’m excited to see what bonds will forge this next year.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

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The Music of My Life

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When I was in second grade and made my First Holy Communion, my parents gave me a silver charm bracelet and a record album. I don’t remember who the artist was, but the title song was called “Happy the Man.” I still know some of the words. When I think of that song, I don’t just hear the music.

I feel that time. Living in the house I grew up in, with my mom, dad, and two sisters. My pink bedroom with flowered wallpaper and a canopy bed. My childhood.

In high school I was a cheerleader. During the summer before my junior year, the team and I practiced our routines every morning on the football field. We had a boom box and danced to “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s—over and over and over again. We were 16 years old, excited about prospective boyfriends, new clothes, hair styles, and parties.

I feel that time. Being with my friends. Friday nights at the football stadium. My classes and teachers. Carefree, yet also insecure and desperately wanting to fit in.

One of my best friends got married and I was one of her bridesmaids. My future husband and I were dating. At the reception we slow danced to the song “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh. I wore a pink lace dress and wished I was in a slinky red one. The DJ must’ve noticed how in love we looked. He said to us, “I bet you’ll get married next.” I beamed. We weren’t engaged yet, but knew we were meant to be together forever.

I feel that time. On cloud nine. Excited about the future. Imagining myself as a bride.

Soon our first daughter was born. Two years later, our second little girl came into the world. I loved to sit on the glider in their bedrooms and snuggle with them. The smell of fresh baby skin, velvety soft. The tickle of their wispy hair on my neck. At night I’d turn on a lullaby CD. Sweet songs like “All the Pretty Little Horses” made me tear up.

I feel that time. Middle of the night feedings. Quiet and peaceful. Exhausted. Overwhelmed with love.

The years flew by, and Mackenzie and Talee were in high school. They introduced me to all sorts of fun music. Taylor Swift songs, like “Love Story” and “Our Song” remind me of driving them to school in the minivan, our dog in the back seat.

I feel that time. A flurry of activity in our home. Friends. Homework. Curfews and social media boundaries. Football games. The girl’s basketball team. Open houses. College seminars. Graduation.

Music is always with me. It moves me. I not only hear the beat and listen to the words, but I feel the songs. They take me back to a previous time in my life.

Like when my husband and I went to a U2 concert to celebrate his 50th birthday. The Black Eyed Peas were the opening act. I’ll never forget how we danced under the stars and sang to “I Gotta Feeling” (woo hoo… that tonight’s gonna be a good night!)

Music is also there in sad times. Like when my mother-in-law passed away. The funeral reception was at our home. We had dozens of balloons that we handed out to each guest. We played “Harbor Lights” through the backyard speakers. That was her favorite tune to play on the piano. We said a tribute and released the balloons. We watched them float to the heavens until we could no longer see them.

Each song filled with its own special memory.

It isn’t just the songs that are special, it’s the people I remember when I hear the songs play.

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Just a Thought…

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I love this quote because it’s so true in my life. I have a handful of close friends who I know will always be there for me, and me for them. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve talked, we pick up right where we left off. We can be thousands of miles away, but it’s like we’re next door.

It isn’t easy to develop close friendships. It takes time, effort, and a special connection. My mom has always said most people can count their true friends on one hand.

When life happens–we get married, move, have children, advance in our career–those true friends let go, and let us grow. Because they’re growing too.

Time passes, and circumstances change. There’s comfort in knowing those friends will be there. It’s like they’re holding an invisible long, twisty string that binds our lives together.

There’s nothing like talking to girlfriends. Every Thursday morning, two of my closest friends and I go for a walk with our dogs. We chat about anything and everything. We’re there for each other to listen. To help solve problems. To laugh. We need those walks.

One of my “walking friends” works full time. When she started her job, she was able to arrange her schedule to go in a little later on Thursday mornings to accommodate our walks. She never mentioned the reason why. One Thursday she had to go to the office early because she was swamped. An employee asked, “Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be at your therapy appointment?”

I can just imagine the look on her face. She laughed and had no idea her co-workers thought the reason she couldn’t come in early on Thursdays was due to a therapy session.

But actually, it’s not that far off.

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Turn Back Time

My oldest daughter Mackenzie, who lives in the city, came home this past weekend. On Sunday, we had a great time shopping and running errands. When we were ready to head back, Mackenzie suggested we go “the pretty way.” Also known as the back way. It’s a two-lane road with white fences on either side and sprawling ranches in the backdrop.

Before we got to the “pretty” road, we passed the lake. It’s partly surrounded by a shopping center, with restaurants and boutiques. I gazed at the sparkling water and let out a loud sigh. Mackenzie looked at me, as if to say, What was that for?

Memories came flooding in.

That’s where I often went with a special group of friends. There were six of us. We’d have lunch at one of those restaurants. We’d sit on the patio, with a stunning view of the lake. It felt like we were on a cruise ship, dining on the outside deck.

My friends and I met years ago when one of the ladies hired a chef to give a cooking class at her house. Once a month, we traded off meeting at each of our homes. We’d peel, chop, and sauté all morning and then sit down to enjoy the fruits of our labor for lunch. We called ourselves “the cooking club.”

Eventually we didn’t have the chef come anymore. So we did potlucks. Until we decided to go out to eat instead. We were still known as “the cooking club,” but without the cooking.

None of us ever wanted to miss that monthly gathering. Our children were in elementary through high school, and we had funny or heartbreaking stories to tell about each one. We chatted, listened, and sympathized. But mostly we laughed. I cherished that laughter. I treasured the way we understood each other, and could relate mother to mother, wife to wife, woman to woman.

Back then, I took it for granted that I’d always have this wonderful group to go to lunch with. And that our life journeys would remain relatively smooth and filled with joy.

But that precious sliver of time didn’t last.

I’ve often wanted to go back to what we had before. Before our lives evolved and change was forced upon us.

Before my mother-in-law fell and broke her neck. Before one of us was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before three of our mothers passed away. Before one of us moved across the country. Before one of our husbands died suddenly of a heart attack.

Now we’re empty nesters and in a different season of life. But I have no doubt that members of our “cooking club” will be friends forever.

Our bonds are stronger because of our challenges. We’ve made it through our hardships because of our friendships.

I hold these women near and dear to my heart. And oh, how I’d love to sit at a table with them at that restaurant on the lake. We’d munch on salads and sip iced teas, chat, and laugh so hard we’d cry.

Mackenzie, that’s the reason for my heavy sigh.

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Forever Friends

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Last night I made dinner for a friend and her family. My friend’s husband was in a mountain biking accident and suffered brain damage. His broken bones and flesh wounds are healing. But it’s going to be a very long, slow road to recovery. Because of his brain trauma, he’ll be spending countless hours in physical, speech, and occupational therapy.

My friend and I live just fifteen minutes apart, but we don’t see each other often. We stay connected through sporadic phone calls, texts, and Facebook posts. We met eighteen years ago, when our oldest kids were in preschool together.  After that, my two girls and her three boys went to different schools, so we grew apart. But we’ve always known we’re there for each other — no matter what.

It’s hard to find close friends who will stick by you, through good times and bad. It takes work to build strong relationships.

Sometimes I get angry with myself because I don’t put enough effort into maintaining and building my friendships. I tend to take friendships for granted, figuring they’ll always be there. I know better.

I can’t count the times I’ve said, “Oh yeah, we definitely need to get together soon,” and don’t follow up. Life gets busy and it’s easy to get distracted.

I know women who are great at calling friends, planning lunches, and coffee dates. I’m envious because they always seem to be connected. They put friendships first, even though their lives are equally as busy as mine. I’ve let opportunities slip and have regretted that. Felt anxious and guilty about it.

Case in point is my relationship with the friend and her husband that I visited last night.

A year ago my husband and I went to dinner and a show with them and had a great time. I kept telling her we must get together again for another double date, and dinner’s on us. Weeks turned into months. I never phoned her to make plans. It was always in the back of my mind.  Some day.

Last month I got the horrible news that her husband was in the tragic mountain biking accident. We never went on the date I promised would happen.

Don’t wait. Because we’re never sure what the future holds.

Thankfully, my friend’s husband is improving. He’s expected to make a full recovery. But that will take months.

My friend and her husband were so grateful I brought them dinner, and it was wonderful to visit with them. They’re thinking of moving out of state. Not soon, but it’s on their radar. A lower cost of living and a simpler life sounds intriguing to them.

I will keep in touch. And we will go on another double date.

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