Thanks Mom!

As Mother’s Day approaches, many of us are thinking about the moms who brought us into this world, who adopted us or stepped up to be step-moms and, no matter the circumstances, nurtured us through life.  Can we ever imagine what our mothers went through for us?

As the oldest of five kids born in the space of six years, I can’t imagine what my mother went through, even now that I’m a mother myself.  My mother raised us virtually on her own from the time I was eleven and the youngest was six.  Did we ever stop to think about how we could make it easier for her?  Not so much.  Not until we were all adults and we realized just how much Mom sacrificed to keep food on the table, the bills paid, her kids safe from trouble and rooted in her strong faith in God.

There were times I thought my mom was so mean – that she must have hated me.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized she was loving me with all of her might and dying a little inside.  There were times I was completely selfish and wanted to do my own thing.  Now that I realize how selfless my mom was I want to do anything I can to make her happy.   There were times when my life was a mess and I needed someone to turn to – and my mother was always there for me with a huge heart and without judgment.

I am grateful to my mother for the strength she demonstrated every day; for her faith, which eventually did rub off on me (thank you, Mom, for your constant prayers); for her unconditional love that never ends; and for her support and always being there.  She is the one woman who knows me so well that I can talk to her about anything.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it is a great time to stop and think not only about your own mother, but all of the mothers who put their hearts into raising their children, who struggle and sacrifice and sometimes even suffer to be there for their children.  Please remember all mothers – single mothers and older mothers; mothers who work in the home and mothers who also work outside the home; the moms in the military and the moms waiting for military dads to come home; the mothers who take their kids with them to volunteer for the community and feed the homeless and the mothers who sometimes must feed their children at a soup kitchen; the mothers who have adopted their children and the mothers who do everything they can to make their house a loving home for all who live there and welcoming for all who visit.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there – and especially my very special Mom!  May God bless you with strength, peace and joy and keep you in His care always.

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The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas has always been a very special and important time to me.  It’s a time to spend with family and those you love the most.  Over the years, my faith has grown stronger – to the point that I have seriously stretched my comfort zone of old.  And yet it is so easy to get stuck in the old patterns of what Christmas is – the lights, the tree, the presents, that one special person who you hope will treat you extra special at Christmas, parties and time with family and friends.  This year I was also aware of how painful this time of year can be for so many. 

I have people around me who are alone, essentially with no family close by; people who lost loved ones – a couple of friends who lost a parent and one who lost a husband; I have a friend going through divorce;  and a friend who went through surgery just before Christmas.  I have also been through my own trials recently.  All of it had me take a look at what Christmas really means to me.

I have certainly been alone more than once, although I am very grateful that have never been without friends and people who care about me to share the holidays with.  But this year I was looking at things in a different light. This year I asked myself, what if I was alone with no gifts, no tree, no one special person to share it with?  What would Christmas be?

I thank God the answer came to me easily.  Christmas is not about any of those things.  It is about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is about the ultimate gift God gave to us by coming to this earth in the form of a baby.  It is about how He took human form and faced every temptation that we face, yet did not sin.  It is about a life created for one purpose –  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer! For Jesus has overcome the world. John 16:33

Life brings pain and disappointment.  There are also many wonderful experiences of blessings, surprises and friendship.  All of it is temporary and short-lived.  I am forever grateful for the ultimate gift of salvation that Christmas is really about.  And that gift never wears out.  Praise God!

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Walking a Mile in My Mom’s Shoes

Being the mother of a teenager is a bit like riding a roller coaster.  It is certainly an adventure that comes with ups and downs – some more dramatic than others.  I have a 16-year-old son who has tested me on multiple occasions.  I know my love for him is deep because it does not waver, regardless of the circumstances.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t raised my voice or experienced frustration, upset and worry.  But I always love him and want him to be happy, healthy and successful in what brings him the greatest joy in his life.  Isn’t that what every mom wants for her children?  I feel very blessed to have my son in my life – he brings me a great deal of joy and pride. I am also very grateful that I have ONE child.  I don’t know that I could handle more than one.  That’s just me.

My mother, on the other hand, raised five children.  While it was fun having four brothers and sisters (I’m the oldest), I cannot imagine what it was like for my mother to raise all of us.  And she did it alone from the time I was eleven.  Imagine raising five kids ages eleven, nine, eight, seven and six – alone.

When my son criticizes me because he doesn’t agree with my rules and he thinks I am ridiculous, I console myself with the thought that he might understand why I did what I did when he has kids of his own.  After all, I can remember having similar thoughts when I was a teenager.  As a child, I thought at times that my mother was weak, inconsistent and old fashioned.  She didn’t make sense to me.  I remember giving her quite a hard time on more occasions than I care to admit, not even considering the fact that I was not the only one she had to deal with. I even got angry enough to leave home and go out on my own without saying good bye.  Yet, my mother always forgave me and has always been there for me.

While there were times when we struggled financially, my mother did everything she could to make sure she could pay the bills, put food on the table and get us clothes.  Sometimes that meant working multiple jobs aside from the huge job she already had of raising us.  She also taught us about God and planted seeds of faith in each of us.  While I’m sure there were times she probably wondered if it was taking root at all, I can assure you her faith impacted all of us.  I, for one, am very grateful for her example.  My faith today is stronger than ever because of my mother.  Her faith was built on a strong and solid foundation that was never compromised because of our situation.  If anything, my mother leaned on her faith even more.  She has been an inspiration to me.

It is only since I became a mother, that I began to appreciate just how much my mother did for me and my brother and sisters.  My regret is that it took me so long.  My mother made tremendous sacrifices for us.  Her strength, courage, faith and huge heart influenced all five of us to be the best we could be.  My prayer is that I am able to let her know just how much I appreciate all she has done and how much I really do love her.

That is why I want to honor my mother as part of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers Mile for Mothers – Walk a Mile in Mom’s Shoes walk on May 1st, 2010.  Thank you, Mom!  You are a truly amazing woman.

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What could be more exciting?

Yesterday, I asked a co-worker what her plans were for Valentine’s Day. She mentioned that she and her husband didn’t have much planned and that, since they had their baby girl, who is now four months old, she and her husband are not very exciting. That statement hit me as a sad way to think about our roles as parents. What concerns me is that I know that I have had the same thought. The perspective on the work of parenting in our society seems to be colored by undertones of menial, less important work that gets in the way of the really important stuff we need to do. Yet, what could be more important, critical – and yes, exciting – than raising the next generation?

We get excited by a new job, a new project, a major success in our career or an opportunity to travel to a new place. We get excited at the prospect of taking a vacation, buying a house or being recognized for an achievement. Excitement for some is being able to go out and celebrate on the weekends, socialize with friends or get away from it all for a brief break. Yet, how fleeting are so many of these things? By comparison, raising a child is a huge commitment to contributing to the next generation and a responsibility to help a new human being grow and develop.

Every moment of being a parent has its own joys and challenges. For women, they are amplified by the fact that we have the privilege of actually having the child grow and make its passage into the world through our very bodies! I remember how excited I was by every kick and movement my baby made as he grew inside of me. After 26 hours of labor I thought all I would want to do is pass out and sleep. As tired as I was, the excitement of having my baby next to me was greater than my exhaustion and I could not sleep at all. I will never forget walking in the park with my sister and mother when my son was three months old, and sharing my excitement about my son seeing his first flower bloom, his first butterfly and his first frog! My sister eventually said, “Cath, give it a break!”

I have done my best to not take a moment for granted and have so enjoyed all of his firsts. My son is 16, taller than me, and his firsts have not stopped. Soon, he will drive for the first time (eek!) and get his first job and go out on his first date. I marvel at the young man he is becoming. There are still so many firsts ahead for him and it is such a huge responsibility to be there for him, guiding him and supporting him each step of the way.

Since I began working for the National Association of Mothers Centers and now volunteering for the MACC Initiative, I have revisited my perspective on what it means to be a mother. Boring? My experiences as a mother have been many things. Challenging, awe-inspiring, heart breaking, wonderful, and filled with amazement and amusement. But honestly, they have rarely been boring.

I think we need to reframe how we think of motherhood and fatherhood. When you stop and think about it, it really is one of the most exciting and amazing endeavors a human being can experience in life.

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Watch your vision come to life!

I just started a new job.  After years of experience in different industries, bringing skills I have developed together to take on positions I had never even dreamed of, exploring new possibilities and continuing to learn and grow in the process, I can say I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  And I am finally in a job where I can be that and do work that allows be to be completely self expressed! 

I am working for an outstanding organizational development firm, SVI, with a fantastic team and an awesome vision.  Not only that, one of my colleagues started a nonprofit organization, The MACC Initiative, as a resource for women pursuing successful careers who are also committed to being great mothers.  The MACC Initiative is also a resource for companies whose leadership recognizes the value of understanding how they can support working mothers in their organizations.  I have the privilege of being able to work with her as well.

As I was reflecting on how grateful I am for this amazing opportunity and what brought me to this point, I remembered that I had put this new career on more than one vision board I had created.  (A vision board is made with pictures cut out from magazines or other sources and words that represent goals and dreams for your life.) In fact, I also had pictures representing marriage and family, public speaking, a great living space, visiting the mountains and shorelines, getting massages and having a great wardrobe.  I haven’t looked at these vision boards in a while and decided to take them out.  Much of what is on them has manifested in my life and is still growing!

What I have come to realize is that it is not simply that I put these things on a vision board that have brought them to pass.  I’d like to share with you what I have come to understand about the power of doing a vision board. 

First, it is playful.  Creating a vision board is a creative process that is fun.  The process of creating it puts you in your heart and, I believe, connects you with God.  I’ve found it helpful to invite God into the process because things appear on the vision board that go beyond what I might have thought possible for my life.

Second, it keeps you focused.  Focusing on the images gets your mind working on the goals.  I find I have, because of the new awareness and focus, been drawn to people, opportunities, books, classes that I may have otherwise missed or overlooked.  I feel that one key to success is to surrender your dreams to God and have faith that if these things include what God has planned for you that they will come to pass.  Faith includes taking action and doing your part by believing in and talking about your dreams, sharing them with people, learning what you need to learn and following up on opportunities.

It has taken several years for some of my dreams to come true.  When I look back, I can see how I have been guided toward their fulfillment little by little.  I have had to learn and grow a lot to get here. I have had to strengthen my faith in God and lean on Him more than ever.  I have had to let go of control and needing things to happen in a certain time.  And I have had to take time to heal and get stronger through some trials and challenges.  The years still pass and here I am – watching my dreams come true!

I invite you to dream if you haven’t – and if you have, do one thing to move yourself toward those dreams.  Use whatever tool works for you – a vision board, writing and journaling, sitting quietly in nature – connecting with God, visualizing, sharing with a good friend or reading about someone else who has pursued your interests successfully.  Do what works for you.  But do it.  You will not only be making a difference in your own life, you will make a difference for the people whose lives you touch. 

Why do I care?  I do care that you pursue your dreams – you, who I have never met, you whom I have yet to meet and those who are my close friends and family members.  Why?  Because I have come to know and even experience in small spurts that we ARE all connected. As you are self expressed, doing what it is you love and what you were put here to do, as you fulfill your God-given purpose in this life, you open the door for others to do the same, you make an important contribution to the world and you will experience fulfillment and joy.  Your success multiplies exponentially to all the people you, with your skills, talents and purpose, touch with your love expressed through your work.

My big vision is world peace.  World peace starts with peaceful people – one peaceful person at a time.  God created us in His image to continue His creation through the use of our gifts, skills and talents so that we can have fulfilling and abundant lives.  I know when I pursue my dreams and put my skills to work doing what I love and allowing God to work through me I experience the greatest success, the greatest fulfillment, the greatest peace and the most amazing joy.

Won’t you join me?

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Day 16 Thankful for my family

My Family

On days like today I realize how much I miss my family.  Growing up the oldest of five children, there was never a shortage of people around for the holidays.  Once we all have spouses and then families of our own, family gatherings became a time to break out the folding tables and chairs and a new game or family favorite.  When the crowd gets that big, SPOONS always works.  And my youngest sister, Lisa, and her husband, Greg, have become quite good at scoping out new favorites like LCR.  When I look back on the holidays, it seems like Thanksgiving was the one holiday when we would remember the funny stories of growing up together – like the time we were all supposed to be in bed while my parents were next door and my brother saw the man in his closet that turned out to be an odd placement of hat and glove in just the right places so that the image through his slatted closet door looked like a man waving – and I, being the oldest and attempting to be brave, announced that “we won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt us.”  No, I will never live that one down even though it’s been almost 40 years since it happened, nor do I want to.  And then there are the confessions that are made because Mom or whoever can no longer do anything about it now any way.  Ah, like my sisters confessing that they used to “borrow” my clothes without me knowing.

As you can imagine, five kids can have their good times together – and those times of bickering and chaos.  While I cannot IMAGINE raising five kids myself – God bless my mom! – I would not trade growing up with all of my sisters and my brother for anything.  If you were to look at us together, you may not see a striking resemblance.  Each of us is very different and we each have our own approach to life, our own experiences and personalities.  At the same time, there is an energy about us that I think you an see that we are siblings.  And we have a common bond that keeps us close even when we live in different parts of the country.

I am very grateful for my family and the love that we share.  It is a tremendous blessing!

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Day 14 – Thankful for my health!

In the last few days I have had conversations with people who either need surgery or are recovering from surgery.  I had a conversation with someone today who has to take medication for a condition and deal with the side effects. 

The health challenges that people have seem to evolve and morph over time.  It does seem that some diseases have become alarmingly prevalent while others seem to be insidious.

We all have challenges in our lives that we have to face and get through one way or the other. I have come to experience and believe that that which doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger – and wiser, and more humble and accepting and empathetic to others.  And I am very grateful that, in spite of any other challenges, I have my health!

In fact, I just realized that I have gotten a little sloppy lately with my self care program.  So I think I will use this extended weekend to kick my exercise back into gear.  While I’m at it, I will also raise the bar on my diet.  Why wait until January 1?  There is no time like the present!  And every day is a gift to be treasured and enjoyed.

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Day 13 – Thankful for the People In My Life

Friends

Friends
Let the Love of Friends
Give You Comfort
The Love of God
Give You Peace

This is engraved on a little heart that is in front of me on my desk.  It was given to me by my friend, Donna who has been a good friend since just after we graduated high school.  I have other small tokens from friends that I have kept, reminding me of the precious times we have shared over the years.  And FaceBook has made it possible to connect with friends who go even further back as well as stay connected to the friends I have made all over the country and the world.

If the value of my life was based on the people who have been and are my friends, I would be one of the richest people on the face of this earth. And I am because of the people who have come into my life.  People with big hearts.  Creative people and brilliant people.  People who have been incredibly generous. People who have been mentors and coaches. People who have shared their friendship for a season. And people I know I can always count on to pick up the phone – either to call me or answer my call. People who have taken me shopping or who have shopped with me. People who have opened my eyes to new places and people who have opened my awareness to new aspects of life. People who have helped me become conscious of new parts of myself.  People who have loved me unconditionally and people who have forgiven me.  People who have accepted me and people who have believed in me and given me new opportunities to see what I could achieve. People who have challenged me and people who have joined me in learning on a deeper level.  People who have made me feel welcome in a new company, church or state.  People whose wise words and encouragement I often hear in my mind.  People who have left an impression on me and people who will always have a place in my heart.

I am thankful for the people who have come into my life and those I have yet to meet.  People are the greatest treasure on the face of this earth!

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Day 12 – Thankful My Mom Taught Me How To Bake

Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie

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Day 11 – Thankful my son is okay!

I am very grateful days like this are few and far between.  I got a call from the school nurse.  My son was hurt.  As it turned out, I had to take him to the emergency room.  It was scary for a bit.  They had to do a cat scan, blood tests and check that he was able to remember what day it was. Thankfully, he only has a minor concussion.  Everything else came back clean.

Now I have to wake him up every two hours to make sure he is okay.  It’s been a long time since I have had to do anything like that.   And it’s okay.  I’m thankful that it isn’t anything more serious.

That is what I am most thankful for today.

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