Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year!

It is almost the New Year! There is something about celebrating the new year that I love and I don't just mean the midnight champagne toasts! The idea of newness, fresh starts, change and beginnings. Out with the old and in with the new- it really is sort of a "do-over" opportunity for adults. Birthdays have the same sort of magical power, marking a new year of life. I am lucky in that we will celebrate the new year twice in my house - the traditional date this week-end and Chinese New Year during the first week of February.

It is the time for those resolutions that so many of us make and break within the month of January - eat healthier, exercise more, get in better shape, get organized, write more, get published, get more sleep, deepen my spiritual growth... I have made them all over the years. Lily said to me once after I rattled off some resolutions when I turned 47- "Isn't that what you were going to do last year." I did not stangle her...just chucked at her wisdom (OK - I admit part of me wanted to...)

This year is going to be different and I am NOT going to make a long list of resolutions. I will simply have one - finding and creating more joy in my life, in all areas of my life. 2010 has been a stressful time for me on a lot of fronts and and I am honestly just out of energy/juice/interest in operating at the same level of angst and pressure (self induced and externally created) in the new year. Being drained is just not healthy and when that means the joy has seeped out of your life- you are in trouble. I want to replace level of high anxiety with joy....with more laughter, with more lightness of spirit. This joy diet will result in some changes (big and small in my life) and will also mean having a new, lighter attitude and approach and a reminder of the humor and absurdity of what I consider challenges. Joy begets joy, optimism begets positive circumstances and gratitude begets growth.

I believe that the influx of joy will impact all the other parts of my life that I wish to improve....if not, at least I will have a good laugh along the way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holidays, escape and hope

I sit tonight in a warm, cozy home cuddled with my amazing daughters, munching on popcorn and watching Elf on television. In the corner is our beautiful Christmas tree, lit and glowing with colored lights. Under the tree are gifts given in love and joy. We are happy, healthy, content and blessed. Upstairs my mom packs for her trip home - she has spent ten days with us. My niece and her fiance left yesterday- it was a joy to have them with us for the holidays this year. My sister and her boyfriend were with us as well and are now safe in Philadelphia, having made it through the blizzard.

I am alternately tired and content- a week of cooking, baking, entertaining, shopping, wrapping, eating big meals, listening to well meaning but sometimes frustrating "advice" and most of all, making my home a welcoming place for visiting family and friends have taken a toll. I love entertaining and caring for those whom I love so while not a burden, the experience was a bit exhausting. And since I have a 7 year old daughter who has not yet lost the glorious belief in Santa - it was also quite magical.

I must say that in spite of the fatigue of the last week or so, I am enjoying this escape from reality. Of course, part of me wonders why my reality is something to escape from... Of course I watched the weather reports of winter storms across the country. I am amazed as always at the resilience of the human spirit and the ability to find joy, fun and adventure even in dire circumstances.

That idea struck a chord with me- no matter what the circumstance, culture or situation, we humans find a way to comfort one another, create traditions and celebrate. There is a wonderful movie called "City of Joy" with Patrick Swayze that came out about ten years ago. It is based in the poorest of the poor slums of Calcutta and follows the lives of locals and the foreign doctors and missionaries who inhabit the city. The ending follows one family and their struggle and ultimately their joy and bliss as they celebrate a daughter's wedding. The whole community comes together to continue their beautiful traditions and bring two young people together. Surrounded by abject poverty, disease and dirt, the "city of joy" is lit with thousands of lights, food, drink, music, dancing and passion. Maybe it is these moments, these special times that help us re-charge our lives and passions and become hopeful for the future.

We human beings seems to have a need- or is it a wonderful abililty, a connection with the divine- to come together and rejoice. Rejoice in our ties to one another, rejoice in our connection to God, rejoice in love, rejoice in the moment. The holidays are a great opportunity to do that one thing that we all seem to talk about - living in the moment. They offer us an opportunity to truly escape from our everyday stresses and find joy.

Oh to take some of that joy, passion and connection back into the real world next week...I will surely try to do so...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gratitude List

It is the time of year when we look around and count our blessings. We are thankful for our gifts, abundance and friends. Funny how even the tough stuff we have gone through can seem like a blessing in hindsight- because we learn and grow through those experiences often more than we do through the good ones. I am grateful for so many things, here is a partial list..

1. My children- no surprise here. These amazing, delightful, strong girls who delight and challenge me and have caused me to stretch the imaginary boundaries of love. I have become a better person simply because I have been given the honor of being their mother.

2. My family and friends.. My wonderful sister with whom I have shared good times and bad and my brothers and parents... They helped give me a strong foundation for life. Even when relationships have been strained, there is always room for growth. It is interesting to grow up and become a parent yourself - you have a new realization that your parents did the best that they could with what they knew and with what they had. I am surrounded by some of the best people one could hope to have in their life. Friends who love, play, rejoice, support and cry with me. Friends who have helped me celebrate and who have lifted me out of despair.

3. My health. Since I work for a health organization, I am all too familiar with how challenging life can be when you become ill; when all you pray for is the chance to beat a disease and live. For instance, if you have ever had a health scare, you have had just a taste of the feeling that a cancer patient has- the fear, denial and fervent praying and hope that it is not to be true. When you are told that all is clear, relief washes over you and for a moment or two life stays in perspective. So when I wake up and can breathe, walk, see, hear, think, talk taste, smell... I need to remind myself that no matter what happens that day - don't whine, be thankful.

4. My home. I am blessed to have a beautiful home and live in a neighborhood filled with caring people. My house needs work certainly, but it is ours (and the mortgage lenders)- the girls and I have created a home, a place of refuge from the outside world that is warm, loving and happy even with leaky sinks and unfinished carpentry work. I simply love my kitchen. When you put it all in perspective, there is always going to be something to repair or improve but as my youngest put it.. "We are lucky to have a house, we could be like the people in Haiti who don't have a place to live." Enough said.

5. Books, books, books - and all the glorious combinations of the written word. I can escape for hours into a book. I always marvel at the talent of the writers whom I admire. Not only do they have the talent and vision - but also the guts, energy and drive to actually put it on paper and make it happen.

6. Opportunity. The ability to move forward, explore new options and grow my career and work life in different directions. It wasn't so many years ago that, as a woman, my choices in how I might choose to make a living and express myself were quite limited. I am thankful for the women who bravely went before me and opened doors, cracked glass ceilings and explained over and over again that having a vagina did not mean that you were any less intelligent, capable, creative or strong.

7. My faith and spirituality. I believe in God, a divine path, the spiritual connection of all souls and that coincidences are not accidents but little miracles. Faith is to me - a quiet knowing that I am protected and no matter what...things will be OK.

8. Differences. The wonderful differences in this sea of humanity around us- racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, age, sexual orientation, opinion, viewpoint and so on. Wouldn't life be impossibly boring without the variety and spice that these differences provide in life? I find people fascinating; especially those who are not like me. Isn't it interesting that all of these distinctive lives share the planet and are on their own unique journeys along side of our own?

9. The strength of my femininity. Yes, women are strong, powerful and feminine. It is a different kind of strength than that of a man but no less intense or glorious. It allows me to lead a meeting, guide staff and then go home and kiss the fevered brow of my child and nurture my family without missing a beat.

10. Men - Not necessarily from Mars but those wonderful beings who look at the world through such different eyes. Once again - thank heavens that they do. I love to get a man's perspective on the issues in my life and find that there is often a directness of focus with a man's opinion that helps me gain new clarity. Not to mention that it is quite lovely, as a woman, to be fully appreciated by a man. I don't always understand men and can get exasperated at times, but enjoy the process of trying to figure them out

11. Laughter - the bubbling up of joy as it spills out of you. I treasure a good laugh and would like to add a few more to my life these days.

12. Love. Love in all of its varieties - familial, romantic, platonic, any version is powerful. It is the ultimate softener of life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearts don't break..they break open

Another celebrity breakup due to infidelity... Seems like it is almost not news anymore since it happens so often. When you add those reported in the media circus to the number of everyday folks like us who experience it in a relationship - it seems as though infidelity impacts society more than one can imagine.

As someone who experienced the pain and I use the following term with full knowledge of its power - hell- of living through it, I always feel for the people involved when I hear of another story of betrayal. When I discovered my ex-husband's affair, I experienced pain and sadness on a level that I never had felt before in my life. I am talking about curl up on the floor in a fetal position and sob level of pain. I never thought I would smile again, laugh again, feel joy again and never heal. But I did- in fact I more than healed, I blossomed.

With the help and support of amazing friends and family, years of healing, a few sessions with a great counselor and a wonderful online support group I came to terms with it all:

* the reality of my new normal
* the loss of the dream I had for my family and creating a new one
* that the pain that would fade over time
* the understanding that it was not my fault - he had his own issues
* the knowledge that my kids would be OK- being from a broken home is much better than living in one
* forgiveness ultimately equals freedom
* love is more powerful than anything else on earth
* renewed awareness of my own power and strength
* that I can make it through anything
* experiencing pain makes you a more compassionate person
* that I deserve a faithful man

Marriages and relationships break down for lots of reasons and both parties can play a role in that disintegration of the partnership. However, the decision to step outside of the marriage with an emotional or physical affair lies squarely on the shoulders of the person who decides to cheat. There are other options to deal with marital unhappiness that do not disrespect the spouse and cause as much pain as that of betrayal. A few examples- verbalize unhappiness, try to make it work, marriage counseling or leave the relationship- certainly before beginning a new one.

As one of my friends puts it "cheating is a cowardly act- grow some balls or guts (women cheat too) and have enough respect for yourself, the memory of the relationship you once had, the vows you took and the person you had it with to leave it before you jump in bed with someone else." Seems pretty straightforward to me. It is also unfair to make the decision to have an affair to deal with unhappiness when your spouse is in the dark about your actions- they have a right to know that changes in the marriage have occurred and that vows and promises are being broken.

For me, the betrayal was far more painful than the divorce itself. I certainly learned that many who are having an affair are in a state of denial and fantasy that is often termed the "affair fog." Unfortunately, spouses are not in the same fog and pain caused is unreal in its intensity. Some couples make a marriage and relationship work after betrayal- if the cheating spouse takes responsibility for their actions and the couple commits to dealing with through their issues, often with a qualified counselor. Sometimes the result is divorce. In either scenario, I believe that the healing for the betrayed spouse begins when they take back control of their life and they make the decision to move forward in the direction that is right for them.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it through this and can come out stronger, more compassionate, with better clarity on your expectations and with a new perspective on what makes a relationship work. My divorce happened over five years ago and I am happier and more whole than I ever have been in my life. Through the experience, I learned more about love, forgiveness and re-birth than you can imagine. Yes, my heart was broken all those years ago, but it was also broken open and I am more free to love.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today I read the final version of something that brought tears to my eyes and left me feeling happiness, pride and peace. Lily had the assignment of doing a creative writing exercise about one of the most important people in her life. It could be a story or a poem, including song lyrics, and needed to describe why the selected person was so influential in her life. No, my child did not select her mother,,, she wanted "someone cooler, sorry mom."

Lily wrote about her big sister, D, -my remarkable step-daughter who is now a senior in college. Even though her father and I divorced over 5 years ago, I still love her as my own and consider D my step-daughter. She and Lily and Avery are incredibly close.

The story was beautifully written and conveyed emotions that my usually un-sentimental eleven year old daughter does not normally express in words. I would include the essay, but it is not mine to share, it belongs to Lily and her sister. They are her words, her feelings and not mine to give to others. I reminded Lily that the feelings that she expressed so originally and completely are deeply felt and shared by someone else in her life. They are quite similar to the feelings that her little sister, Avery, has for Lily.

I was reminded again today of the real meaning of family. It is so much more than the connection between parent and child. The connection of my girls with one another and between them and their big sister is deep, soulful and is not about me. We share love, of course, but it it absolutely fills my heart to the brim to see them together and to read about their love for one another.

The sense of peace that this brings to me as parent can not be fully described. They will have one another and can be there for one another long after I am gone. It is amazing to know that they will be in each other's lives when mine is complete. That may sound morbid, but it is a very real truth that gives me joy. They will treasure, value and lift one another up through good times and bad... just have my sister and I have in our lives.

Hooray for family- brothers and sisters, step-families, cousins, friends who are family.... The love will get us through anything.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Receiving vs. Taking and the Law of Allowing

A good friend of mine recently helped me out in a big way, he offered..I did not ask but had to decide whether or not to take the help. As I dealt with the question to I accept or not, another friend pointed out that even my language about the issue was telling. I was not "taking" something I was "receiving" it. Taking had undertones of selfishness, of perhaps obtaining something that was not mine to have, that I had not earned. Receiving or accepting had a completely different feel - it was gratefully accepting help from someone who, with good intent, simply wanted to help me and make things a bit easier in my world.

I have a hard time accepting help. I am very independent and have been for years. But independence aside, why do I push back or resist when someone tries to help me? My first inclination is to turn it down assistance under the assumption that I can do it on my own, don't want to burden or "owe" someone. I have actually grown alot in this area in the last five years. Life post-divorce as a single mom has pushed me to be more open to accept help.

As I delve deeper into the reason for my initial hestitation, several things come to mind. Is it ego - the idea that I don't need help? Is it a fear of being vulnerable- especially when the help is coming from a man in my life? I try to be a generous person and help out others whenever possible. So why is it so uncomfortable for me to be on the recieving end? The full answer is not clear to me yet but life is certainly pushing me in the direction of figuring it out. Funny how the universe seems to give us what we need to learn our lessons.

There is a theory out there called the "Law of Allowing." One of the premises is that the reason so many of us do not have the circumstances, jobs or people we think we want in our lives is because we simply do not allow it to flow to us. Allowing the good and even the challenges to enter life without judging, putting up walls and questioning why is tough for alot of us. Have you ever worked for something (a new job or business venture, a finished manuscript ready for critique, a relationship) or visualized it coming into your life and then - gulp - when it arrives you doubt yourself or it just can't believe it is real. The Art of Allowing is accepting the success, relationships and fulfilled dreams without the doubt or hesitation. We can allow it because we deserve it, are worth it and our act of receiving does not mean we are taking something from someone else. Maybe I have my answer after all and the art of allowing is directly related to my hestitation about accepting help from others.

The Art of Allowing - may just be what I need in my life.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Adoption Month

November is national adoption month, so I gathered some thoughts about adoption and asked my kids as well.

Ten Things to Know about Adoption- from an adoptive parent’s perspective

1. Adoption is a very personal decision that an individual or couple makes on how to build a family. Don’t automatically assume they have fertility issues or it is a “second-best choice.” It is a permanent, court approved loving decision and one way that parents and children come together. The choice to adopt domestically or internationally is based on many factors and we frequently just “know” our children are waiting for us.

2. Adoptive parents are not “saving” a child and/or looking for “gratitude” from our kids, particularly if the child has been adopted from a developing country. As any adoptive parent will tell you, we are the lucky ones to have these amazing kids in our lives. We will work hard to make sure that they have a full understanding and appreciation for their birth country and heritage.

3. If you are really interested in adoption, the costs and the process- most of us would be happy to discuss our experience or refer you to our adoption agency. We do not, however, want to have these conversations in front of our children. And we will probably not discuss our child’s or their birthparent’s personal history with you.

4. Yes, there are costs involved in adoption, but we do not buy our children. The costs are for attorney fees, travel, paperwork, medical care and orphanage support. Similar in fact to the costs associated with pregnancy and delivery- without the healthcare insurance.

5. We are our children’s “real parents” and they have “real brothers and sisters” in their families. Our children have birthparents who gave them life. We have the joy of raising them and are their parents.

6. It is important not to belittle birthparents. We often have no idea as to why the painful decision was made to place a child for adoption. Even when a child is officially abandoned without record, as often happens in China, there are numerous factors- poverty, government policy, family and cultural pressure that led to the decision.

7. The vast majority of adoptions are wonderful experiences. The media, however, will report on the rare occasions when it does not work out well and an adoption is interrupted. Yes, these are sad and heartbreaking stories and trust me, we have already heard them. Just as a pregnant woman does not want to hear about labor and delivery horror stories, an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent does not want these to be repeated time and time again. We work with our adoption agency and or counselor to prepare for problems that we could face.

8. My child was not “chosen” for adoption because he or she is special. That terminology puts an unnecessary pressure on a child to stay special or perfect. It is actually, the parent(s) that is selected and must live up to certain criteria to be matched with a child. It is our responsibility to make it work.

9. My child is not permanently damaged because he or she was adopted or spent time in foster care or an orphanage. Yes, problems can occur and there are many programs and therapies available to offer solutions to parents and children. However, I don’t assume every behavioral issue or act of misbehavior is because my child is adopted. We are vigilant in getting our kids the help they need – just as parents of biological kids deal with their kids issues. Studies show that the vast majority of adopted kids adjust well and become successful in life.

10. As fellow parents, please speak up when you see an adoption myth being perpetuated in the media or in conversation. Help us spread the word about adoption and help your kids understand that our families are very normal- we just built them in a different way.

Thoughts from my children about adoption

7 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted- “meeting my mom and dad”
• Why did your mommy adopt you – “we matched’
• What do you think about your birthparents in China- “they still love me but could not take care of me.”
• What do your friends ask you about being adopted from China – “why don’t you speak Chinese?”

11 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted –“it is cool to have an interesting background”
• “Don’t like it when people look at us strange or stare because you are white and we are Asian, I think most people who stare do not know what adoption really is all about.”
• Do you ever think about your birthparents and a loss with them not in your life-
“No, because with a loss comes a gain, I am curious, but do not get sad about it.”
• “What matters most is the scenario or family you get adopted into “
• What is more challenging to deal with- being adopted or a being Asian – “being Chinese – it is more noticeable”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reinvention- one year later

It has been almost one year since I began this blog- my first post was November 8, 2009. It is hard to imagine that an entire year hsas flown by (and I have yet to change my age in the intro summary of this blog- maybe I won't..LOL) I am trying to figure out what I have changed in my life, what needed to stay the same and what is left on this journey that I had titled "reinvention."

On the surface, it looks like not too much had changed. I did complete a 1/2 marathon March of 2010 and will do the race again in 2011. May even consider tackling a full marathon next year. Still am not in the shape that I would like to be in- so that journey continues.

My career is still in about the same place - am still pursuing my next steps. I am convinced that growth and changes are forthcoming and with it, will be abundance (would really love not to stress about finances so much)- so that journey contiues.

My relationsip with my daughters is deeper and better than ever. It is amazing to watch your kids grow and change. From Avery's new self confidence and realization of her own strength to Lily's entry to the pre-teen years (gulp) and middle school- they are changing before my eyes. Talk about reinvention - or perhaps in their case, it is might be evolution.

Dating - I dated alot in the last year and met some interesting, wonderful men. I am very glad that I ended my self imposed dating hiatus and got back out there in the crazy, sometimes frustrating world of dating post divorce in your 40s. I learned alot about what I do and do not want in my next relationship. I also was reminded that there are also some lovely aspectsw to being single. This part of the journey continues.

One of my goals of blogging was to put the discipline of writing back into my life. I still feel much work remains undone when it comes to writing. Overcoming whatever block is there remains a part of this journey. I have very much enjoyed writing this blog and will continue. I remain amazed when I see how many views this blog gets from other countries- now South Korea, Brazil, Poland, France and Slovenia are on the list.

What did I reinvent this past year? Seems like most of it was internal- I did a ton of inner work, soul searching, thinking and often got these thoughts onto paper. Perhaps this is all part of the process. Did my life change in dramatic ways over the past year? No. Did it change for the better in smaller ways - yes and I am now in a place emotionally, mentally and spiritually for the bigger changes. I look forward to creating a new vision board for the upcoming year and allowing even more blessings to enter my world.

I remain a work in progress!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dreams, sleep, messages from my Dad ??

Have you ever had one of those dreams that seems so real, so intense that it stays with you all day, even if you try shake it? My favorite are when you wake up irritated at someone because of a dream. I had one of those last night and I wish I could remember all of the details.

My late father was in my dream last night. Not a dream about my father, but he seemed to actually be in my dream visiting me- fully recognizing that he was dead and reaching out to me. He was specifically here to give me career advice, that I unfortunately do not clearly recall. To make it stranger, he told me too look up something- to research it (of course I don't remember what it is) to prove he was real. Then my siblings were with me. My sister and I could see and hear my dad and my brothers could only feel him if they reached out. We had to sort of prove to them that he was really there. Then in the crazy way that dreams begin to shift scenes..he was gone but sending me advice by text message! Modern technology invaded this space. How strange it all seemed to be.

I have had intuitive dreams before. I remember before I learned of my ex-husband's affair (during the affair actually) that would end our marriage, I had these vivid dreams where I could not find him and a feeling of panic and sadness would wash over me. I would call and call him on the phone and he seemed to have disappeared. I would wake up and he would tell me I was imagining thimgs and to go back to sleep. The day I found out about the affair - the exact same feeling washed over me -it was downright eerie.

Of course, these two dreams are very different but I am left wondering what this latest one means. Is this my subconscious trying to tell me something? Could my father really be reaching out to me? And most importantly what was his great advice? I remember asking him in the dream, "isn't it hard for you to be here, when you are supposed to be on the other side?, can you go back and forth?" I did not get an answer but woke up with the aha moment of perception that perhaps he wasn't fully there yet because my mom is still here- they were married for 53 years and he didn't quite want to leave, even though he passed away five years ago.

I guess I need to keep a pad and paper next to my bed to capture whatever dream state wisdom comes my way. Sleep is critical for health of all types - mental, physical, emotional - it restores, heals....perhaps it connects as well. Perhaps when the mind gets that quiet then anwers come for tough questions. I wonder where those answers originate?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 matters when it is you...

I have the amazing honor of raising two children who happen to be of a different race - Asian, chinese to be precise. People have asked me "are they mixed with something" when they see us together. I suppose that is a roundabout way of figuring out if I have an Asian husband or if they are indeed adopted. I am tempted to say, "yes, most days they are mixed with sugar but some days they are mixed with attitude like their mother!" Curiosity about our situation aside, raising Chinese daughters has been a fascinating experience when it comes to race, ethnicity and how much it impacts your life experience.

I was born and raised in your typical white, Catholic, middle class existence. Not too much diversity in my life. In fact, I think I was in about 3rd grade before I realized that everyone was not Catholic. In my small, sheltered world, everyone went to the same church and parish school. I made friends with people different than myself in high school and college and of course when I got in the work force, my world opened up even more. I have always been comfortable around folks of different backgrounds so I didn't really concern myself too much with the the trans-racial aspect of adopting my kids. Before adopting and shortly after, I read alot and attended various seminars about parenting kids of another culture or race to get ready to face any issues that would occur. Sometimes, I think we like to tell ourselves that it doesn't really matter, people should not or do not see color and that people make a bigger deal out of race than they need to and are too sensitive. That is an easier reaction when you happen not to be the one in the minority.

I remember when I first felt the flaw in that theory. Lily was about 18 months old and I had some photos taken at Sears. We had spent a lot of time outside that summer including a trip to the beach and in spite of my generous use of sunscreen, Lily's skin had deepened to a gorgeous tan. I stood at counter at Sears as the photos of kids came up on the screen. Up popped this photo of a beautiful, brown skinned Asian child and for a split second I had that exact thought before I recognized my own child. I had never thought of her as anything other than my Lily. In that moment all those many years ago, I had one of the biggest revelations of my life- that other people are going to see and first identify my child by her race. Before they even get to know her, some people will already have begun the process of forming an opinion about her and what she might be like.

That does not happen to me and I am not identified or described by my race. People do not say - "Oh yeah, I know Laurie, she is white, mom of two..." However, when you are of a different race or ethnicity, it sets you apart and is s defining factor in how others see, describe you and potentially react to you. And you are reminded of that fact every time you look in the mirror. It is something that I will never be able to fully understand since I have never experienced it. Of course, I do not believe that all people are out there making judgements every day about my girls or other people of color. But the fact is that it does and will happen at some point in their lives. The closest way I can try to relate is remembering times when I dealt with others who made assumptions about me because I am a woman. I remember many years ago when we stopped at a fast food restaurant in a rural area on the way to the beach, the young lady at the counter, asked this of my step-daughter about her sisters.. "what are they?" Dani responded, "they are children" and walked away.

I am fortunate that my girls attend very diverse elementary and middle schools so they have tons of exposure to children and adult of many backgrounds. Avery is still young enough to be living in childhood innocence about race. She and her classmates are not color-blind- they know they have differences, but they think those things that set them apart are cool. "Isn't it neat that Neha is Indian - she celebrates Diwali." "Speaking Spanish with my friends is fun."

Lily is entering a whole new world of awareness about race and identity. I asked her the other day what she remembers about our trip to China to adopt Avery. Lily was just about 5 years old and we took her with us on the journey. She remembers the long plane ride, falling asleep in her dinner and recalls thinking that "for once everyone else looked like she did." Her mom was the one who didn't look like the rest of the people around her.

I am watching Lily expand her circle of friends to include more and more girls of color. Before middle school started, she was having an online chat with three of those friends- one is Indian and two are African-American. She explained that the topic of conversation was about how the kids from one of the local elementary schools that feed into their new middle school were going to treat them. She explained that they went on a joint field trip with this school last year and there was only one child from that school class who was not white. Would the kids from this school treat them differently because they were not white? Of all the things they could be discussing before the start of middle school - this was on their mind. Obviously, one or more of the girls had experienced or read or heard something to cause concern. Of course, all worked out fine, the kids are all becoming friends and things are pretty smooth.

I will admit that I am in unfamiliar territory as I strive to help my girls navigate the waters of race. I am observing my eldest as she figures out who she is and how being from China fits into that picture. She seems to look everywhere for undertones of judgement about race and racism in TV shows, movies and in how others act. From what I have read, this is probably a very natural reaction and phase at this stage of her development as she learns how to grow and thrive and deal with uncertainty. Over time and through experience, she will learn how to more closely discern what is real and what is not. She will learn that for every person of prejudice, there is another who is not. She will learn to be careful not assume that she knows another's intention. She will learn to be strong and to be proud of being Chinese so that another's opinion will lose power.

I do not have the answers, but I do know that the world is not colorblind and when you are the one who is different, you feel that more deeply. My job is to help my daughters understand that yes they will be identified as Asian and that is a very good thing. The world is filled with an infinite variety of people - thank God. Imagine how boring it would be if it were not.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changing the world?

I have had some energizing conversations lately with people dedicated to changing the world - literally, transforming people's lives. Fighting disease, ensuring clean water is safe in developing countries, teaching, protecting and empowering girls and women... Making a difference and strengthening connections with others have always been personal and professional goals of mine- my career has been dedicated so far to the non-profit world. I try to make sure that my personal choices: how and where I volunteer, what I read, write and study, donate and how I raise my family reflect this goal. Is changing the world for the better, too lofty of a personal goal?

The challenge on the professional side of the equation is balancing idealism with realism. For instance, the need to make sure that I can support my family through my work. Finding that balance is often tricky because on the one hand you want to follow your heart and passion..on the other, there are bills to pay, braces needed and college tuition looming in the future.

I have come to realize that the balance is possible, if you focus on the broader perspective. For instance, passions can be followed and pursued as a volunteer. I can write about adoption, spiritual connection and volunteer to talk to prospective parents but don't need to look for a job running an adoption agency. I can expose my children to some reality of the world around them and how they can improve it while still giving them a stable and joy filled childhood.

I read a fascinating article by Martha Beck in this month's O magazine about finding your life's purpose. Discovering what you love to do now and used to love as a child, what gets you in the zone and causes you to lose track of time. These can be important keys. However, translating that to a purpose in life is a bit trickier - you love to bake....that does not necessarily mean you want to or should want to open a bakery. But, what is it about baking that is so appealing - creativity, research/searching for recipes, following and/or testing recipes, feeding others, the sensual aspects - rolling dough, smell of baking cookies. Those may be the keys that you look for to find life's purpose- be it professional or personal.

My trigger is that I do need to feel that my professional life is an extension of my personal mission to make a difference and positively impact the world. I feel as though my life would be wasted if I don't try to make the impact that I believe that I can. I feel this burning need to teach about how interconnected we all are on a deep level. I am going to be mad at myself on my deathbed if I have not written some of the things that I need to and have not yet done. Certainly, I have made some decisions in my life that have been spot on correct and necessary for my life to have purpose - prime example is adopting my daughters.

As I sit here at 47 - midlife and mid-career (yes mid-career: I will be working at something forever), I remind myself of that fact. Yes, non-profit work has its challenges, but for now it does resonate with me and allow me the ability to make a difference. For others, that purpose and ability to change the world may come from a professional life in the for profit sector - starting a business, creating art or music that brings joy, working for a company and being a great manager and coach, creating much needed jobs, making a great salary and generous donations... The key , I think, is finding your own passion and purpose and fulfilling it in a heart centered, generous way.

If we don't try to change the world...who will?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Penny pinching with a mindset of abundance?

Are we living in a time of creative abundance or scarcity? Keeping a positive mindset about money, doing what you love, visualizing success, utlizing the law of attraction - do these methods still work in an economic environment that others around you call a recession? Or is it more important than ever to "think and grow rich." Some may consider it new age "woo-hoo" but it is fascinating to read how many self created successful people from Henry Ford to Suzi Orman to Tony Robbins believe that your attitude and thoughts about money and abundance form the foundation of success. It becomes challenging to maintain that attitude when every news outlet proclaims recession, jobless rates and people all around you are seem to be losing their jobs or struggling.

I told the universe "no thank you, I do not accept your invitation to the recession." However, some of its unwelcome essence has oozed into my life anyway- a house in which what I owe and costs of repairs/upgrades needed to sell mean I would be under if I sold, leftover divorce debt, reduced income, and expenses that are going up as my girls get older. When I fall off of the "positive wagon", it can sometimes be hard to breathe as I think of college expenses looming in the future and current home repair dollars needed. Like so many others, finances are my biggest source of stress. I am not person who needs a ton of money or wants a bigger house, I just want to be comfortable and secure, able to support my family, make a difference in the world and pursue a few dreams.

However, when I do breathe through it, I try to get back to creating a plan to penny pinch and create abundance even when surrounded by economic negativity.

* Remember to be grateful for what I do have- a job, the capacity and skills to look for a higher paying one, a home, family, health and talents. I remind myself that the job market is opening up, headhunters are calling, and everyone I know from my company who lost their position last year has found a good job. I know a great opportunity will come my way.

* Remember the lesson that you should always have more than one income stream in your life. Your job may me be one but always have another iron in the fire - freelance, side business, something that could bring in additional dollars.

* Don't forget your dreams and passions - even if your current job does not provide you an outlet for them. Dream, visualize, research, write, plan, scheme, volunteer... do something to bring those to life. And look for a way to turn them into that second revenue stream. I will be writing, looking to publish and sell, working with a friend on a business idea and baking - buy your holiday cookies from me!

* Clip coupons, bring your lunch to work, comparison shop, swap books, shop consignment shops. I need to be smarter about the grocery store and we love to eat out which needs to be an occasional treat for us. So how do you reconcile living a life of visualizing abundance with pinching pennies. Spending money and valuing my resources is a way to express gratitude by not being wasteful.

* Read inspirational books and articles about abundance and try to stay away from reading the negative. There is a fine balance between understanding the reality of the world around and staying open to the fact that we are constantly creating and adding to the universe. There is enough to go around, the pie can get bigger after you take your piece.... or bake another one.

How are you building abundance??

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Its a small world ...after all

Never fear, I am not going to repeat this phrase over and over again like some sort of annoying soundtrack that gets stuck in your brain. I was just struck again today how small the world really is and how connected our lives truly seem to be. Have you ever discovered that one of your Facebook friends is connected to another one of your friends from a different part of your life, your past, or from another part of the country? And they didn't meet through you. Now of course the world is not supposed to revolve around you, but how the heck does that happen?

Technology has certainly impacted this shrinking universe of ours and we are more aware than ever of the joys, tribulations and challenges of those separated from us, be it by geography or the distance of of socio-economic status. I was blown away to see the stats for this blog and find that it had been viewed (many times mind you) in the United States, Canada, Brazil, China, Latvia, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Russia and Denmark. I have never been to most of those countries - so how did we connect. If you are one of those people - leave a comment so I can meet you!

My up close and personal experience with a shrinking world came through the amazing arrival of my daughters into my life. Two babies living in orphanages in China become the light and love of my life and they could not be more my children than if I had given birth to them. I was profoundly and forever changed by this experience. Beyond the joys and lessons of motherhood, I learned that we as human beings are far more alike than different. In spite of differences in race, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, culture- our human experience and spiritual essence connect us and create more similarities than we sometimes like to recognize. It is a fascinating experience to spend time in another country with a vastly different government system, culture, language and history.... and to have someone greet you with a warm smile, handshake, hug and genuine interest in who you might be. Folks who just want to take care of their families, make a living, foster friendships, be healthy, enjoy life and often help one another.

This transformative experience is why I feel so compelled to get involved with organizations like CARE and am concerned about international issues. It could be me or my daughters sold into sex slavery or not allowed to attend school or born into poverty in this country. Being born in fortunate circumstances doesn't mean we are better than others or get to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. As my dear friend Cathy likes to say, "there but for one different chromosone go I."

There must be a reason for our shrinking world and perhaps it means we can't claim ignorance anymore. I am not some sort of unusually enlightened person - there are thousands of blended families - children or spouses of different races, religions, political beliefs or backgrounds. If we can combine families in the most intimate of ways, surely we can come together on other issues. In this wonderful country - we have an even more common experience. In amazes me that we can't see our common ground and have become so polarized by politics, race and religion. Disagreeing with a person's political beliefs does not mean it is OK to call them names, demonize them and get personal attacks. If we can cross international boundaries to connect, surely we can do it within our borders. The danger comes from resisting, becoming fearful and retreating into a bubble to avoid the unknown. Ironically that bubble (some call it the good old days) is pretty bland, colorless and dry when you think about it. Our lives are richer, fuller and more colorful when our experiences are more broad.

Think of the magnificent potential of a more connected, caring world. There are brilliant minds on opposite sides of the planet who can now work together and inspire one another. Maybe the skills and genius needed for the cure for cancer or AIDS is in school child in Pakistan or comes from a collaborative project of researchers in the US, China and Australia. Maybe all orphans could find a home. Maybe what appear to be the overwhelming problems of the planet and environment could be improved by combining the energies and efforts of many. Idealistic? Absolutely. Unrealistic...yes by current circumstances. But as the world gets smaller. perhaps just perhaps it could be a future possibility.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pure transforming love

I have watched in amazement as my girls settled into 2nd and 6th grade over the last few weeks. They are both doing incredibly well and I can't help but marvel at the transformation over the last few years in my youngest child.

When we brought Avery home from China 6 1/2 years ago she was an underweight, sick, incredibly shy, sad little one year old girl. My daughter cried for almost the entire two weeks we were in China -as anyone in my travel group will attest! As the days went by in China, she decided she would not cry when I held her or when she slept. The poor child had an ear infection, sore throat, intestinal parasites, and had been handed off to perfect strangers. Once we got some antibiotics into her system - she began to heal. I was incredibly blessed that she really just had typical childhood illnesses- very treatable, just easily spread in a crowded orphanage.

It was quite an interesting dynamic because adopting Lily was a completely different experience- when handed to me, she promptly peed on me, laughed at that, cried for about 10 minutes and then was content. Avery tells me now that she cried so much as a payback to me for taking so long to come to China and get her!

In addition to my girls having completely different personalities and temperments, their orphanage experiences varied dramatically. Lily was in a more rural setting- the only photos we saw of the orphanage were from a distance and it looked rather run down. Even though she may have missed material comforts; I could tell that Lily was loved and cared for while she was an infant. She was a chubby little baby and her caretaker nanny cried when she handed her over to me. Avery was in a crowded urban orphanage and I do not believe she had the one on one love and attention that Lily received.

So that became my purpose - love, love, love her, shower her with affection and stimulation and give her the attention, help (speech therapy has been remarkable) and care she needed. Over time and with lots of love, this child has blossomed, grown and transformed into an incredible little girl. She is affectionate, caring and loving. This is my child who covers me with hugs and kisses and tells me she loves me every day. She has grown confident, no longer clings to me and loves school. She has gone from being painfully shy to a child who makes friends easily and cares deeply for people, animals and all living things.. she is truly a remarkable soul. I can only imagine the good she will do in the world. Those who will have her in their lives will be lucky.

I certainly have been lucky to have her in mine. Both of my girls have given me more love than you can imagine. I am so blessed to have been the recipient of their pure, transforming love. They have changed me in more ways than I can list. In loving them, I have been transformed as well. I wish all the folks out there who are considering adoption would put aside their fears and realize what joy they are missing. There are always risks and challenges when deciding to become a parent through adoption or through biology. The love and joy far outweighs all else. If you feel there is a child waiting for you...go for it. The love will transform both of you.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good-bye to the rut!

Time to get out of the rut! I think the balance between the comfort of routine and falling into a life-sucking rut is dicey. On the one hand, routine helps us get things accomplished in our lives, to work and school activities on time..etc. On the other hand, it can create a pattern of life, behavior and actions that make life sort of a numb, dull existence - in a word -BORING! Same route to work, same job, same meals, same workout routine, same Saturday night plans, same music, same TV shows. And then wondering why our lives don't change or improve. Reminds me of the defition of insanity- doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.

I have seen interesting studies lately about how important new activities are to keeping the brain well wired. Changing things up, trying something different, developing new skills helps stave off depression, increase happiness and keep our relationships and lives fresh. It literally helps the brain function better.

I watch how my kids embrace life and new adventures - soccer for a while, then a switch to karate; Chinese dance then a switch to ballet; No more dance, now I want to try tennis; Chinese language- no I want to take Spanish; about guitar and piano. One the one hand, we want our kids to stick with something, but perhaps they are onto something. They are figuring out who they are and finding their passions. Plus they are engaged, inspired, learning and having...dare I say!
Yes, adults can and should have fun too!

As part of my 90 day life shake up, I am committed to trying and doing something different or new every day and well. This list contains both big and small options:

* take a different route to work
* change my hair -hmm auburn highlights?
* learn Spanish
* try new foods
* grow an herb garden
* learn to bake bread
* walk/run at a new park
* put aside crossword puzzles for sudoku(finally figure out how to do it)
* read a biography instead of a novel
* take an online class or workshop
* join that new gym opening up around the corner
* Re-arrange the furniture
* pay the toll of the person behind me on the highway
* paint

The list could go on and on, but I have things to do!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New school days, change and do-overs

I had the distinct joy of watching my girls go back to school this week. Avery is starting second grade and Lily is making the big transition to middle school (gulp.) Gulp for me not for her. She is thrilled, ready for the challenge and only a bit nervous. I was the one with tears in my eyes as the bus pulled away. Thank God she did not see the was bad enough that I waved goodbye to her through the bus window. Parental displays of emotion are not very cool to the 6th grade set.

We have shopped for binders, pens, crayons, pencils...etc and the always sought after needed hand sanitizer and kleenex for the classroom. Everything, even the new sneakers are shiny and new. After the sticker shock; I got a kick out of watching my kids sort, stack, decorate and organize their supplies. Everything is exciting and different - new teachers, routines, subjects, stuff to learn, classmates and as in Lily's case - a new school.

I started thinking that there was a certain peace and even beauty in this process. A clean slate...every year. Of course, transcripts and reputation follow a student, but there is a tremendous opportunity to start fresh.

What if life had "do-overs" like this? A chance every once in a while to really start fresh. Not New Year's Eve new with resolutions that often don't make it past the champagne toast, but real opportunities to try on new skills, new stuff to learn and altered routines. In the case of our kids, this annual process is just how things work. As adults, we get into ruts, limited thinking and self doubt resulting in fear of change. Imagine if every year or two, we adults changed jobs or workplaces, learned new skills, made new friends and had a chance for a "do-over."

Hmmm, makes me wonder if once again - I have something to learn from my kids!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

creation, discovery or both?

Are we here to find ourselves or invent ourselves, find our purpose or create it, discovery or creation? So many of the wonderful texts that I have read on spiritual development, living your life on purpose and fulfillment seem to be at least on the suface at cross purposes on this question. On the one hand, I am encouraged to stop, breathe, relax, let it flow, meditate, dream, visualize, manage my thoughts and imagine. On the other hand, I am here to create and to manifest my reality and myself. I am a co-creator with God..capable of calling on the depth and width of the universe to improve my reality. Use your talents, fulfull your passion, your gifts and your desires to fill your life. As a magnet on my refrigerator says "life is not about finding yourself, but about creating yourself."

So which is it - create or discover..or a bit of both? I will admit that my natural tendencies used to be toward action and movement. The acts of introspection and discovery were challenging at first when I wanted to just get cracking and make it happen. Now, I have discovered the fun of peeling back the layers of life and of myself and revel in the aha moments - now a joyous part of my life. To dream about what might be possible, remember what brings me passion and happiness, visualizing my opportunities are all second nature now. So how do I make it all it time to step up and re-engage the creation portion of the equation? Have I gone so far to the dreaming side of the process, that I need to take more action? When do you let it flow and when do you act?

Perhaps life is about both - discovery/dreaming and creation/manifestation. Maybe, the first step is to spend the time and mental, emotional and spiritual energy to dream, visualize and discover one's passion, dreams, long forgotten talents and true soul's purpose. Step two is action - the creation and manifestation of those dreams and desires. The process is fluid, continual and never ending... The rub, I think- where we get screwed up - is in making sure thsat step one and two are in sync. Is what you are trying to create and bring into your life in alignment with step one? Will your actions and efforts to create, develop or build result in bringing to life your dreams, desires and life's purpose.

Writing seems like the perfect example. To tell a story, you need to dream, think, imagine the characters, do the research, let the story flow into and or through you. You also have to do the work- schedule the time in front of the computer, write, get the words on paper, edit, re-write, read, re-write again and make it happen. The process requires the whole equation.

When step one and two are in sync- life seems smoother, as though it has purpose and rhythm. You are more peaceful and content and full. Life doesn't seem to be so much about seeking, trying to make things fit that don't or looking for what's missing. Life seems fuller, more peaceful and on track. I have been on both sides of this equation at different phases of my life. Time to take a look at where I am now and celebrate both discovery and creation.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Be it ever so humble...home sweet home

One of the benefits of frequent travel for work is the joy of coming home. I don't just mean the sweet relief of landing at the Atlanta airport- side note, flying home to Altanta on Friday afternoon/evening-forget about it! I mean the welcoming comfort of your home, your own space.

My home has a laundry list of needed repairs and home improvement from the cosmetic (paint, tile to be put in place) to the more urgent (gutters need replaced, basement water damage, stupid ants- sorry my Buddhist tendencies only go so far.) Lets not even get started on the backyard and unfinished laundry room. It is enough for several HGTV shows and a fantasy come true for a diehard do it yourself home improvement fan. Some of the work is a hold over from my long ended marriage (ex was a contractor) and some of it is just the wear and tear of owning a 25 plus year old house. So the complaining is finished, the point of this rambling is actually that there is still no place like home.

When I divorced, I kept the house and all related debt for several reasons. I live in an amazing neighborhood with neighbors who are like family and friends who actually support and care for one another. I also wanted to give my daughters who were quite young at the time - 2 and 6 - the sense of stability that remaining in their home would bring them. With the subsequent housing bust - this may not have been the smartest financial move of my life. But it felt right and still does. Like so many, I will not be moving anytime soon- in the current market with what I would need to invest in the house to fix it up to sell - I would owe more than I would make.

I love making a house a home and have had the incredible fortune of being able to open whatever home I have lived in at the time to friends and family when they needed a place to stay. I have been blessed in that way. Makes me realize that a home is so much more than an investment or a project. I am truly lucky to have a place to go home to at all.

Even with all of the work my house needs, it is still mine (OK I share that ownership with Citimortgage) and my kids. It is still the place in which we laugh, cook, eat, sleep, celebrate, play and disagree. Even Lily, who has many opinions about what needs to be done (new deck doors, yard is embarrassing, pressure wash needed, paint, rug in family room) looks forward to getting back home after being away.

So there is no place like home sweet home. I celebrate you - my leaky, work in progress and realize that I am blessed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Flexiblity = Balance?

August is going to be a crazy, busy that on paper may stretch and pull my work/life/mommy balance in new directions. I have quite a bit of required work travel, primarily to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer kick-off breakfasts and then conducting post breakfast trainings in those locations throughout our Division -Raleigh, Baltimore, Wilmington, Richmond... The good news is that I love to facilitate and train. It is my absolute favorite component of the job. In fact, I would love to train, faciliate, write and coach full time.

The challenging news is that the dates of some of the travel coincide with some key times for my children - school open houses and first days. I should, according to the calendar, be in DC on August 23 - but that is Lily's 1st day of middle school and I can't miss that experience. She will need my attention and love more than ever in the coming years. Fortunately, an amazing colleague is going to fill in that day for me. Add in the following: back to school shopping, bus schedules, after school child care arrangements for Avery (still not firmed up - yikes), the usual cleaning, laundry, cooking, exercise and the myriad of needed home repairs/work that seem to be adding up daily and I may laugh hyserically..or cry.

The month will require flying out in the evening after open houses, same day early morning travels, calling upon my friends and sister for help with childcare and just dealing with it.

Flexibility will be key...from me, my kids and hopefully my colleagues. The push/pull is that as a single parent; I need to be here for my kids and I am also the breadwinner. So being here for my kids also means making money to take care of them and provide them what they need to thrive and grow. At this point in time, that means a job with a tough commute and travel. I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation and growth my career provides. Fortunately, I have great kids who go with the flow, pitch in to help and seem to appreciate what it takes.

So flexibility and a few deep breaths here and there will help make it work.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gorgeous sunsets and another year..

What a way to spend a birthday - watching a gorgeous sunset over the ocean. It really is an awe inspiring sight. According to Avery, it looks like the ocean just swallows up the sun. And quickly since in a matter of minutes, that beautiful orange blob is just a memory leaving beautiful colors in its wake. Feels that way sometimes as another year passes -where did the time go? Before you know it, that year is gone, swallowed up by time. Just like that and the time is gone. Surely memories and the impact of the time remain; some as beautiful colors and some with darker hues.

I am entering my 47th year with a feeling of change and restlessness gnawing at me that I can't fully define. Some of it is certainly work related with changes underway to my current role and other opportunities ahead. I think part of the restlessness is due to the fact that the sun does seem to sink a little faster every year. Time does seem to go by more quickly. And turning 47 is not a big deal in terms of aging. I got over the aging issue many years ago, in fact growing older has distinct advantages. I am more concerned about what is left as of yet undone. I am very blessed and grateful for the wonderful things in my life - chief among them my incredible kids, health, friends and the ability to provide for my family. I know I have accomplished much, and at the same time, I have the distinct feeling that there is alot more left here for me to do. I have to put my finger on what it is- work based, writing, more kids, spiritual growth, love, partnership? Ever feel as though you are not quite complete? not quite doing enough or fully using your gifts? That you had better snap to it and start doing so before the big orange blob sinks down again?

As amazing as this wonderful week was with my kids, I have yet to completely relax.. the little bits of things left undone still not quite done. I am not there yet. Perhaps we never ever feel "done" and that is on purpose so we continue to savor the wonderful sweet mystery of life and stay plugged in, alive and moving forward. But this feels different..change is around me in a way that I can feel, taste and sense.

I say bring it on 47! I am more than ready for the changes! After all, following a gorgeous sunset is an equally dazzling sunrise...

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Llittle R and R

A little R and and relaxation. What a concept! Actually taking a little time away from the daily routine and work for respite, fun and a chance to re-connect with those you love. I believe it is also referred to as a vacation!

I don't know about you, but it has been a while since I have compeletely disconnected and plugged back into my children. Maybe is our culture, my work culture in particular, expectations of availability due to technology or a self created need to always keep on top of things. We have a generous leave policy at my place of employment - however that many of us don't take it. We roll over vacation days to the next year, bring our laptops to the beach and sit on conference calls while in line at a theme park or even in labor... (all are true- I admit to being the theme park violator) and yes I had a colleague in the hospital about to deliver a baby and on a conference call. As my daughter asked me.."are you really going to be on vacation, or be on the blackberry with work the whole time?" Ouch. Suffice it to say I declined two conference calls next week.

I know that this is not unique to my workplace. Look around you, people are harried, need a break and do not take it. The holiday, vacation, sabbatical is a time honored tradition and for good reason. Look around the world, in some countries it is widely accepted (for good reason) that it is imperative for good health and sanity to take an extended break from the grind. In fact, it makes you a better and more productive employee. I have a friend whose employer expects 24/7 availablity and even a week off is frowned upon. Time to reassess employment opportunities! I think there is a bit of ego involved also when we refuse to take a break. At almost 47 years old, I have finally gotten the loud and clear message that the world really is not going to implode if I am out of touch for a while.

The human mind and spirit was built to need quiet, down time and a change from the regular routine. Time to breathe and think and relax. That is when brilliance flows and ideas germinate, because the mind has time to quiet and finish a thought. It is time for me to have some R and R.. relax, breathe, re-connect..

Friday, July 16, 2010

the power of friends

I have been reminded this week about the power of good friends. When it comes down to it, relationships and the people in my life help make my world wonderful. They help me share the good times and help pull me through the rough stuff. At the end of the day, they are what really matter to me.

I have had very tough week with some challenges that will inevitably bring some additional changes to my life. Changes that I believe will actually turn out to be great when I make them happen. The power of friendship got me through the tough days this week. The former colleague who emailed me to check in, my dear friends who called and talked me through my disappointment and helped me plan.

I tend to think of the best in others and figure that most people are good at heart so I am always surprised when someone turns out not to be trustworthy. On the other hand, much more often than not, the people in my life surround me with support and love. For that I am very grateful.

People and our amazing connections...are more important..than money, material things, job titles, and status. I will continue to try and be the best friend that I can, have integrity and treat others with honesty and love. My wonderful friends deserve it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Writer's Block

Writer's block: fact or fiction. As someone who writes, or more often lately, purports to write versus actually doing it, I am pondering the idea of wrtiter's block. Is it a real affliction? Or the result of being tired? Or some wacky form of self sabatoge?

I have so much to say through words - fiction, an idea for a non-fiction book, children's stories. Some works are finished, some in research phase and some are just ideas (very persistent ideas) floating around in my gray matter.

Perhaps to overcome writer's block, one must research and write about it. Hopefully, this is not another attempt to avoid actually writing. LOL.

Here is some content (not written by me) dicovered on the concept of writer's block:

"Most writers will have trouble with writer's block at some point in their lives. The possible reasons for writer's block are myriad: fear, loss of inspireation,anxiety, a life change, the end of a project, the beginning of a project…almost anything, it seems, can cause that particular feeling of fear and frustration. Fortunately there are as many ways to deal with writer's block as there are causes."

Of the possible solutions- these made the most sense to me

"Implement a Writing Schedule.
Carve out a time to write and then ignore the writer's block. Show up to write, even if nothing comes right away. When your body shows up to the page at the same time and place every day, eventually your mind -- and your muse -- will do the same. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, every morning. Five hundred words is only about a page, but with those mere 500 words per day, Greene wrote and published over 30 books."

"2. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself.
In fact, don’t be hard on yourself at all while writing. Anna Quindlin wrote, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.” Turn the critical brain off. There is a time and place for criticism: it’s called editing."

I write best when it I do not censor or edit during the creative process. Those are the times when I get lost in the research or the act of putting thoughts into words and on paper. Time seems to disappear. Perhaps the issue is exactly that - disappearing time..a precious commodity to me. Perhaps, I am not letting myself disappear into China in the 18th century, my stacks of research on footbinding and the precious connection between mother and daughter for my unfinished novel. Perhaps rewriting a children's book manuscript on adoption and soul connections is a seen by some part of me as a waste of time since it is incredibly tough to get a children's book published. Perhaps I procrastinated too long on my non-fiction book idea "Spirit Connects Us All" - a compilation of amazing adoption stories (since I saw that Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul is already out there.) Perhaps, I let the more rational and logical parts of my personality take over which squashes the creative. "You do not have time to work on this- there is real work to do, laundry to be done, a house to clean and kids to care for."

This leads to the first suggestion listed above - establish a writing schedule and stick to it. Maybe that is a way of using my logical side instead of going to war with it. Building writing time and a sacred space in which to do it (another challenge altogether) would put the structure around the creativity.

My daughter Lily is an avid reader and had begun writing in the evenings. I have peeked at it (after all she uses my laptop) and am amazed at how well she has written her short stories. They are truly interesting and always have a bit of fantasy or magic woven into the storyline. Watching her at work (or should I say at play) on them is fascinating. She loses herself and track of time and seems to be writing for the fun of it and as she has said "I have a great new idea for a story and just have to use the computer right now."

Maybe my answer to writer's block sits with my daughter...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good enough??

Do you ever feel pulled in so many directions that it doesn't seem that you are accomplishing much at all? Be it your boss, work pressures, kids, home repairs, financial pressures,family, friends - you name it. You want to be there for everyone yet often feel as though you end up not doing anything to the best of your abilities? For my single parent friends - ever feel really tired of doing it all by yourself and feel even worse that your kids just don't get what other kids do? Either not as much of your time because you are working/traveling to pay the bills or they don't get to take karate right now or have a Wii because it just is not in the budget. The balancing act can sometimes make me want to pull the covers up over my head and shut out the world for a while.

I try to then re-focus myself back to reality and the fact that it is impossible to make everyone happy, meet all expectations, be the perfect mother, the most appealing and attactive date (some of the requirements of those in the online dating world are interesting- but that is another post), a great daughter/sister/friend/colleague all of the time. Sometimes you just have to call "uncle", wave the white flag and do the best that you can. Perhaps, just perhaps, others are not expecting top performance all the time (OK maybe our bosses are- LOL) and the pressure is sometimes self-imposed.

When life and expectations get overwhelming, I have decided to try a new tactic. My life is filled with amazing and interesting people. I find people- how they think, feel, and experience life to be fascinating. Maybe this is why I enjoy books and movies; the chance to experience life through another's person's world. It is helpful for me to focus on these amazing people and getting to really know them instead of worrying about my to do list and my "I did not get it done very well at all" list.

Interestingly enough, most people tend to be less hard on us than we are on ourselves. Perhaps others are feeling just as pulled as I am. Time to take a deep breath, be really present with those around me, really focus on the little girl(s) behind those knowing brown eyes and realize that sometimes that is enough.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What you love is what you are gifted at - Barbara Sher

My dear friend Jennifer has created a fabulous website aimed at women called Femcentral - filled with resources for women and their health, relationships, careers- emotional and spiritual needs- Several weeks ago she featured a video clip by a woman named Barbara Sher about mapping out your life, particularly the second half of your life if you happen to be in my age group. I had never heard of Barbara Sher before but it turns out she is somewhat of an icon in the career coaching, find your way movement; a life coach before they were known as such. The message of clip has stayed with me for weeks and I have shared it with friends.

The bottom line premise is simple - what you love is what you are gifted at, there is no other way to know who you are. According to Barbara, every single one of us is born with a gift, a unique vision of the world. We need to find our inner genius. If we can tap into that, our path in life is so much richer. Discovering, or in many cases, remembering what we love is more powerful than any other tool you an use to find your way.

Unfortunately, that is not always the message that we get from parents, teachers and others who influence us- she said imagine being a little artist born into a family of lawyers...they will wonder when the child will stop scribbling on the floor and get on with picking a career. Conversly, imagine the little lawyer born into the family of artists- he or she would be seen as obnoxious, argumentative and probably sent to therapy.

I have heard the message before that you should do what you love, follow your bliss and find out what "you are good at." Interestingly, you can be good at many things that you do not love; that don't tap into your passion. The message that I took from her work is that if you really want to thrive and adore your work - you know some people really do- then you have to find a way to figure it out. What is it that you truly love? When are you so in the "zone" that you forget what time it is? It is the most accurate guidepost that we have in life to find our way. The cynic in me says, but what about reality - who is going to pay you to read or bake or fight for chidren, meet new people, thow a party or write or train or speak...wait a second maybe there is something to this!

The other lesson for me from Barbara's work was about my kids and how darn careful I have to be to not make assumptions about the path their lives should take. I could assume Lily will end up in law because of her tendency to argue and negotiate. However, she also loves music, especially the piano and cello and lately she has been spending her evenings reading and writing very imaginative and colorful short stories. Avery is a gentle soul who loves to draw and is a whiz at math. She also is an instinctive caretaker who has a "wild heart" or way with animals. Who knows what my daughters will discover that they love. My task is to keep an open mind, encourage them to try new things and stay out of the way as they find their path.

What you love is what you are gifted at; there is no other way to know who you are...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day = reminder of faith

It has quite a while since I have blogged; life and a certain amount of writer's block have been in the way. I am inspired by this special day - when I get to rejoice in being a mommy and the connection that my daughters and I share with one another.

Some days when I get caught up in the business and busy-ness of life, the miracle of our story is not top of mind. I don't think about our journey, how I felt and knew these children were waiting for me across the ocean, how "right" and destined it felt and most of everything lined up to make it happen. All of the coincidences, lost paperwork, delays in my adoption processes led me to my sweet girls. I believe that when you follow your heart and instincts you are on the right path and God and the universe line up behind you. I have never once questioned my decisions to adopt my daughters. No matter the challenges I have faced- single motherhood, divorce, financial constraints - nothing has ever felt more right and natural than being their mother. In fact, I would adopt again in a heartbeat.

Some days I have a tougher time connecting this fact to other areas of my life where frustration and disappointment crop up especially in my career or romance. After a particularly rough week, I realize that making these connections are going to be critical for me to do. Why do I feel as though some days I cannot seem to do enough, that I am off track? Am I missing something? Am I doing what I am called to do? Why do I seem to have trouble attracting the right man into my life? Why do I hang onto relationships that are not meeting my needs? Perhaps it is because I do not like what my instincts are telling me.

My fiend has an amazing website called FemCentral.. which is a virtual institute for women. She has a link to work by a wondeful woman named Barbara Sher- author of the classic book "Wishcraft, How to Get What You Really Want." Her new work is about finding direction and purpose in the second half of life. Her key advice is simple but brilliant " What you love is what you are gifted at. there is no other way to know who you are." Everyone has a unique vision and gift - tapping into that is the answer to finding your path. That advice resonates with me, because when you do what you love, tap into those talents and gifts - it feels natural, on track and right. Just like it did when I became a mother.

In terms of love and relationships..I have to believe that the same rules apply. When it feels right, natural and dare I say it - smooth for both of us, then perhaps we will have found one another. Certainly there are differences of opinion, challenges and times of tension in any relationship. But if at the core, you know that this is the person for you- then you are able to work through those situations. How do you know if he is that person? For me it is through what my instincts and heart (and his actions of course) are telling me. My challenges have come when I ignore those instincts. All I really need to do is follow my heart and let thoughts drift to my children. I will be reminded that if my heart and mind remain open- what is meant to be will happen.

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring break bookshelf

I took the opportunity over the past week to indulge in one of my favorite past times - reading. I can honestly say that I love the written word - fiction, non-fiction... you name it and I will give it a try. I checked out my bookshelves this week and they are overflowing. I tend to buy books vs.check them out from the library- not the wisest fiscal choice but it is one of the few treats that I allow myself. I consider books an investment, often pulling them down to reread - or pass on like a treasure to friends. A review of my shelves this week found me going down memory lane with a few reads that I had forgotten that I own. I found themes among the titles, times when I have been fascinated by various cultures: tons of Asian authors from Ha Jin to Amy Tan to Jhumpa Lahiri (had a spell when I was fascinated with India), Latin-American authors,African- American writers and a number of works by Jewish storytellers. Here are a few of my favorites- by NO means an exhaustive list...just the first handful I came across on shelves one to three..

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver- one of my all time favorites. She is an amazing writer and her characters feel so real that you swear that you know them. This story of a missionary who takes his wife and daughters to Africa is one of her best. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different family member. I read an interview with the author who said that she wrote a version of each chapter from every character's position and then selected the one that best fit as the book came together.. Amazing amount of work and vision by this talented woman.

"The Lost Daughters of China" by Karin Evans..subtitled Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America and the Search for a Missing Past. A must read for anyone who has or is considering adopting a Chinese child. The writer is a journalist and mother of a Chinese daughter who defines the complex problem of abandonment of female babies and children and adoption - she does not oversimplify the issue or villify anyone in the situation. Published in 2000 - the year after I adopted Lily, this book answered questions, felt so familiar and is extraordinary.

"Expecting Adam" by Martha Beck - yes this is the same woman who now is a life coach and writes for O Magazine. This book is a memoir of when she was pregnant with her son Adam and she was informed that he would be born with Downs Syndrome. At the time, Martha had another child, was married and avidly pursuing an advanced degree at Harvard - known for intellectual pursuit and perfection. It was certainly not an environment where carrying this "imperfect" child to term and being excited about his arrival were widely accepted. The experiences that she has while expecting Adam were miraculous, other worldy and simply not able to be explained away by science or logic. He is a blessing beyond imagining in her life. An amazing book.

"The Joy Luck Club," "The Kitchen God's Wife," "Saving Fish From Drowning," "The Bonesetter's Daughter" - all by Amy Tan. Maybe it is because my children are Chinese, perhaps because they girls.. but I love her work. I get absorbed easily in her tales of family, Chinese culture, duty and love. When I crack open an Amy Tan novel at bedtime, I have to be careful because the next thing I know it is 3 am and I have been lost for hours in her words.

"Man's Search For Meaning" by Victor Frankl and "Night" by Elie Wiesel - what can you say about two amazing pieces of work about one of the most horrific times in history and human experiences- the Holocaust. How in the world do you survive such and experience with not just your body but your mind and spirit intact?

"The Secret of Jin-Shei" - by Alma Alexander - in the spririt of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: -this novel tells the story of connection between women in ancient China. Thought of as property, chattel, a nuisance and inferior, women bonded together to survive. This is the first time that I learned because women in ancient China were not allowed to learn to read and write, they actually created their own language, passed it onto their daughters and corresponded by writing inside of fans..

"Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi - Reading in secret...learning in secret - why? Because you are a woman and the Islamic Republic of Iran has forbidden that you do so. As you read this book, you get drawn into the world's of the characters and their lives, there is so much more to these women than the political circumstances in which they find themsleves. Ultimately a story about triumph and the power of words.

"Many Lives..Many Masters." by Brian Weiss MD - Weiss is an Ivy League trained, very practical psychiatrist trying to help his patients overcome their fears and phobias. He uses hypnosis to try and find the root of his patients issues in childhood and in the case of Catherine finds that the hypnosis goes back further - to her past lives. The door seems to have cracked open and this cynical doctor finds his patients benefit from these past life regressions..but he benefits even more. Whatever your belief in reincarnation - this book is fascinating, actually makes sense and may leave you saying..hmmmm.

"Cane River" by Lalita Tademy- wonderful of those novels that are really hard to put down. It is about four women who begin their lives in slavery, survive war, injustice and prejudice. Based in Louisiana it is steeped in Creole culture and you will be amazed at the strength of the women portrayed in the book. I am always horrified when I read about slavery - especially from the perspective of women- and how easily families were split, husbands sent away and children sold away from mothers. How could any rational human being ever think that was OK?

"Thirteen Senses" by Victor Villesnor - what keeps a couple married for 50 years? This is a fabulous story of a family, passion, magic and the marriage of Salvador and Lupe. It is funny, sad, and told in a unique voice. I loved it.

"Daughter of Fortune" by Isabel Allende - while I love everything she has ever written, this is my favorite. It hops from Chile to California in the gold rush to Hong Kong. Her books are so detailed that you think you can see, feel and taste the experience. This book makes me wonder- what would I be willing to do for love? What chances would I be willing to take?

" The Seat of the Soul" - hang on to your hats and open your mind - way open in fact-for Gary Zukav's unique take on the soul, God, our relationships to one another and to the greater universe. The combination of spirituality and quantum physics make this a fascinating read. In my because some chapters certainly require me to tackle them again to get a greater understanding of the concepts.

"Betty Crocker's New Cookbook- everything you know to learn to cook" - first cookbook I ever purchased and how I learned to cook. Frankly better than the Joy of Cooking due to the photographs so you know if what you concocted looks like it is supposed to.

For the beach - any book by Jennifer Weiner - while considered "chick lit" I think her books are wonderful - well written and completely absorbing.

Again, this is just taste of my bookself. Hopefully my spring cleaning will allow me to re-discover some more old favorites!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lightening Up

I just finished reading amazing essays by two accomplished women - writer Elizabeth Gilbert and TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes. Both were in a section in the latest O Magazine about happiness. They both resonated with me. They talked about our quest for having it all, self improvement and measuring ourselves by the accomplishments of others and our "lists for ourselves." It struck a chord with this woman on her reinvention journey. I do have a lot of plans and goals, many as of yet unrealized for my life.

That is not necesarily a bad thing,.... but how do you find "happiness" if you can never get it all done and meet those expectations that are often set by yourself. Elizabeth (I will call her by her first name since I have read all of her books- the most well known being "Eat, Pray, Love") wrote about how we women compare ourselves to one another and never feel like we are doing quite enough.

Here is a quote from the article that has stuck with me all day (O Magazine - May 2101 issue): "My sister Catherine, told me recently about a conversation she had with a sweet neighbor who - after watching Catherine spend an afternoon organizing a scavenger hunt for local kids- said sadly "you are a better mother than I will ever be." At which point my sister grabbed her friend's hand and said "Please lets not do this to one another OK". No seriously, please lets not. Because it breaks my heart to know that so many amazing women are waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning and abusing themselves for not having gone to art school, learning French or organizing the neighborhood scavenger hunt." She goes onto to write about how a quest for perfection can cause one not to take chances and make mistakes - which in itself is the biggest mistake of all. Because screwing up - marrying the wrong man, taking the wrong job, blowing your diet is how we learn and the "maps of our lives are created by our mistakes and lessons learned."

I have never been one of those ziplock baggie moms- the type who always had everything their kids might need -from diaper wipes when they were young, to crayons, bandaids and organic crackers- all neatly tucked and ziplocked in their purse for when they are needed. Thank God those wonderful women exist because I was the one borrowing what I needed from them. My kids watch too much TV, often sleep with me, aren't involved in as many extracurricular activities as others, went to daycare and probably eat more pizza than they should. I am not the room mom, don't buy only organic food or have a perfect house..they have seen me cry, fall apart, screw up, apologize and pick myself back up. Not the perfect mom..but a pretty darned good one. How do I know that? Because my kids are somehow turning out to be pretty great. They are smart, loving, kind and other moms always tell me how well mannered and polite they are - that part seems to happen outside of our house! We laugh, love, argue and enjoy one another. I want them to be strong, smart, make good choices in life and realize that no matter what happens -they will thrive through it.

Shonda's article (going with first name here because I watch the programs she created and produces - Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice) chronicles how easy it is to forget "our happy." Seriously, she states, "we live in a country where food is plentiful, we are safe, there is no malaria or genocide." Seems a little whiny to complain about traffic, 10- OK - 15 extra pounds- especially when you have so much. How many times do we say .. I would be happier..if I fit into those jeans, had a man in my life, wasn't struggling financially...

What if this is it? What if we need to find "our happy" right now with our lives just as they are? I think that is possible if we take the advice of both Elizabeth and Shonda and maybe lighten up on ourselves. We are not going to be perfect, it is OK to mess up, OK to take longer to reach a goal and make a mistake - date the wrong man in the quest for love, stand up to your boss, submit that imperfect manuscript. I still have my dreams and desires...but perhaps lightening up will make it a lot more fun to get there. Plus that inspires gratitude for my amazing life and allows me to find my "happy" right now..

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring, Easter and new beginnings

This is a gorgeous spring day, a beautiful Easter Sunday! Tulips, my absolute favorite flower are blooming in the yard, trees are awash with pink and white - eveything seems lighter, brighter and more beautiful. Even people's moods seem to be more cheerful.

It strikes me that with all of this new growth, beauty and change, perhaps Spring is the best time for beginnings, self-discovery, life altering decisions and the real time for "New Years" resolutions. Or perhaps the warmth; newness of the fresh, fragrant colors and sense of possibiity in the air resurfaces the dreams, desires and plans that have been tucked away. It feels like anything is really possible.

Now it is time to tap into that potential to move forward with some of my dreams.... writing, career growth or change, new or blossoming relationships. I can feel it in the air- the ripe potential of the future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Advantages to getting older..or Holy Crap- when did that happen!

Yes, you read the title correctly....this is my ode to the positive things about getting older. Please note that I did not say aging. I am not quite there yet. This is my response and attempt to stay upbeat after one of those mornings when you look in the mirror and say "Holy Crap - when did that happen!!" Ever notice how on the inside you still feel 25 years old, but the rest of you does not cooperate with that feeling? So here is my list..would love to know what you think!

* Confidence - ah, the wonderful sense of knowing that you can handle what may come your way in life- the good, the bad and the ugly. This is built by life experience and actually living through, no make that thriving through the hard stuff - disappointments, loss of loved ones, health issues, workplace politics, rejections and even a broken heart or two. At the time, you may feel like crying and that things won't ever get better..but they really do. After years of life, these experiences turn into confidence in yourself.

* The small stuff really is small.. Man I wish I understood this when I was younger! Again, this is tied to life experience and shifting priorities as you grow, parent, become responsible for others, and watch your own parents age and pass away. Good grief - wish I could get back all of the time spent worrying about nonsense, unimportant things and small stuff. Have a laugh, have fun - everything is not so serious.. If you need a reminder, remember that face that stared back at you in the mirror this morning!

* Knowing your worth. This may be a by-product of confidence but as you grow older, it becomes so much easier to have those tough conversations with others and yourself (yes talking to yourself can be a result of getting older,) stand up for yourself, go for what you want and not fall apart if you do not get it. I know what I am worth and what I want out of life and my relationships. And I won't be spending much time and energy on people and situations that don't match that path or honor my worth. Ever watch an older woman go through a divorce and rebuild her life? She can become quite the force to be reckoned with.

* Time and life are precious. As those years and birthdays tick by, it becomes more and more obvious that time is not to be wasted (see bullet point above.) Remember feeling immortal in your youth and thinking that you had what seemed like forever to figure it all out? Well, you don't. So the sooner you get busy with the process of living and squeezing joy out of every circumstance and each day the better. Sometimes that means making a decision and just going for it!

* Answering to yourself and staying true to yourself. After I rounded 40, my mother told me that an amazing thing was going to happen. You will stop caring what others think about you and your choices and will stop comparing yourself to others. It is really true and has only gotten stronger at the age of 46. Wonder what 50 will bring? I don't have the time, energy or desire to compare or compete with other women. In my opinion, this is something that we as a gender, need to fix overall and start supporting and cheering for one another instead. There is always going to be someone smarter, more beautiful, thinner and more successful than you..period. Spending energy fighting that is pointless. So I work on bettering my best not someone else's and presenting myself as who I am. I have to tell you that it is alot more fun!

* You are smarter.. Maybe not in the IQ test sort of way, but in the abiity to size up situations and people. You have done it many times before. Plus your BS meter is really tuned and it is easier to spot dishonesty, other people's agendas and take care of yourself.

So the outside may no longer match the inside but perhaps the advantages outweigh all of that.