A Real Man Raises Real Men

Last night I couldn’t sleep.  Correction.  Wouldn’t sleep.  I was enthralled in a great read.   You see, little by little we’ve been moving stuff from my fiancee’s home into mine and, this week, it was a box full of his journals. Lots of journals.  I’m in awe over the diligent writer he was, from the time he was a little boy until he reached adulthood.  I’m also in awe over the things I read.  (Of-course, I had his permission).  The words of Charles Dickens holds true.  “A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.”

Sure, he recorded a lot of mundane tasks, “Today I played with ‘so and so’.  I woke up.  Stared out the window. Ate breakfast…”  But I also  read extraordinary things. Things that made my heart melt, and eyes cry.  His teenage dilemmas and thoughts.  The choices he made and his reliance upon the Lord.  His appreciation for the righteous things in life, and his understanding of the happiness they bring.   I was spellbound as I watched his developing character unfold on paper and, most importantly, his integrity.  Proof that good little boys become astonishing grown men. I went to sleep smiling; holding a new respect and admiration for the man I love.  He, like every man that has ever existed, has built his character upon years of implementation.  Thankfully, he chose to focus on traits and habits of magnificence rather the mediocrity.

It has been said that a boy is the only thing God can use to make a man.  And, so I ask the father of every boy, “What kind of man are you raising?”   Like it or not, your example is creating a cycle that will likely be repeated, and how you live will impact the future husband, future father, and future leader your son will (or will not) be.   Certainly he has his agency and will choose what he desires, but no peace of mind can replace looking back without regret – knowing you lived your best.

The cycle continues:  Little boys become men and little girls become women.  Regardless of the different influences she encounters, I will always be the example of what a woman should be to my daughter, simply because I am her mother.  For this reason, I try my best to live right.  Should I be blessed with sons,  their father will always be the example of what a man should be, simply because he is their father.   I’m incredibly grateful I’ve found a man that, not only they can admire, but I can too.  I see the life he has lived, the life his father has lived, and the clear example he will set for my sons to live.

Through their actions, every parent chooses the cycle they set for their children.  What cycle are you creating?

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The Courage to Bloom

Courage muscle.  That’s the phrase that woke me at 5 this morning.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s that tissue adjacent to the “determined” muscle,  laced with “anxiety” nerves.   Awe, yes.  That’s the spot.  It’s one that rarely gets worked, but when it does, you know it!

The last three weeks I’ve worked a lot of muscles and, though my progress may not be obvious to others, I feel a tremendous difference.    I feel stronger, more confident.  My reward is in knowing I’ve gone to the very edge of my limits, then pushed just a smidgen beyond.  Three weeks ago I could only do 7 push ups.  Today I did 18.   18 “boy” push ups!  (Don’t ruffle your feminist feathers. They’re called boy push ups, and I’m gonna keep calling them boy push ups)!  There’s a certain high,  a rush, from pushing oneself.   Not the “how many beers can I chug” kind of push, but the “beauty beyond the barrier” kind of push.   (Nice alliteration, Natalie.  Hang that on the fridge).  We feel good about ourselves when we accomplish something hard. Period.

I’m a fan of measuring progress. I measure the strength of my muscles.  I measure my body fat.  I measure my muscle mass and I even measure my V02.   I have graphs for inches lost and charts for pounds shed.  I realize this makes me a complete and total nerd, but I thrive off this stuff.  (Heck, you should  see my finance sheets).  My courage muscles, however, are not so easy to measure, but I know when they’re being used because my stomach holds excited knots, and my body a surge of adrenaline.  I know when they’re getting stronger because something that petrified me a year ago, 2 months ago, or 3 hours ago is suddenly attainable, and even necessary.   Build your courage muscles, and what once scared you will now leave you gratified and complete.

I’m taking a class that presents weekly challenges and, I must admit, the last 2 weeks my courage muscles have taken a pounding.  As silly as it may be, I find myself comparing it to running.  In my training, whenever I come to the beginning of a small hill it’s then that I push myself hardest.  Why?  Because that’s the very resistance that will make me stronger, and I know it.  My legs. My lungs. My heart.  If I’m running anyway, I might as well get the most of it.  If you’re living anyway (and you must be, because you’re reading this), then you might as well get the most out of life.  Push yourself!  Get out of your comfort zone and do something great TODAY that scares the crap out of you. Something positive, something building.  I mean it! (Insert: yelling passionately).

I know, I know, I can hear the groaning and complaints already, the endless list of excuses and the justification to settle for mediocre.  I know how it goes.  Minutes before tackling the task every fiber of the body will scream to turn back, and many people will.  Ok, not every fiber.   There are those courage fibers,  tucked safely behind fear.  Which muscle are YOU building?

What’s I find intriguing is the reaction I have after accomplishing a “scary” feat.  Every time.  I step back, admire my work and brush my hands off, thinking to myself, “Now that wasn’t so bad. I made that out to be a way bigger deal than it actually was.”  Sound familiar?  And that, my friends, is exactly what fear is.  In his book, Infinite Possibilities,  Mike Dooley uses the acronym: F.E.A.R. Failing to Experience Actual Reality. We won’t know actual reality until we actually experience reality. So be brave!  Experience what awaits and, eventually, it will be difficult not to.

“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before…to test your limits… to break through barriers.  And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.” – Anais Nin

I challenge you to work your courage muscle.  Today!  Invite your neighbor to dinner.  Make that sales phone call.  Start looking for that new job or ask for that raise.  Then, if you’re really brave, comment below by sharing what you did!  … Bloom.

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… Don’t you deserve it?

Last night I wanted potato salad.  More than anything!

I’d been to a BBQ with my fiancee’s family, and on the way home all I could think about was polishing off the leftover potato salad I’d made.   It was past 9pm and I knew eating the creamy goodness wouldn’t help my fitness goal, but I was revved up to binge anyway.   Sure, it wasn’t the most dignified idea, but it’s not like I’d gain weight overnight.  The worst that could happen is I’d wake up feeling sick.

“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself.  “Am I really ok with waking up sick?  If I go home and eat this I know, for a fact, that I will wake up feeling like garbage.  Why would I CHOOSE to feel like garbage?  I deserve better than that!”  And so I went home, tucked the salad safely in my fridge and left it there.

As I climbed into bed I started pondering what more I want.  What more I deserve.  I came to a conclusion:  We give ourselves exactly what we believe we deserve, and what we believe we deserve is based on the view we hold of ourselves. In other words… if you don’t like the outcome of your life (overweight, unfulfilled, promiscuous, unhappy, etc.) it’s up to YOU to change the way you view yourself.  The body will follow whatever story the mind feeds it – so start telling yourself a new story.  Decide your worth and start giving it to yourself, because nobody else can do it for you.  There’s only one of you, and you only get to do this life once.  Love yourself.  Cut out the crap, stop blaming others, and start living life at the next level, simply because you deserve better.  Not better from others – that’s called self-entitlement.  Better from yourself – that’s called self-respect.

So, lying in bed, I decided I deserve an abundance of physical energy and to be spiritually fulfilled.  I’m not doing bad, but I deserve to do better.  And so, I’m taking the next 90 days to do just that.  A program to achieve peak physical health and a program to deepen my spiritual senses.  And, though programs aren’t a lasting answer, they sure provide a jump-start in the right direction.  I’ll be working out with P90X and reading the entire Book of Mormon in 90 days, occasionally recording my thoughts and progress here.   Today marks the beginning of my new life!  (Ok, not really – I’ve just always wanted to say that).

You deserve better, and you know it.  So tell me… what do you deserve, and what will you start doing TODAY to get it?

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The Greatest Regret

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” – Sydney J. Harris.

After reading this last week I started asking myself what things I regret NOT doing in my life. My failure to act. Sure enough, the regret of NOT acting outweighed regret of the things I have done (and I’ve done some pretty dumb things).  Psychologist Neal Roese put it best in his book If Only. He wrote, “If you decide to do something and it turns out badly, research shows that it probably won’t haunt you down the road. You’ll re-frame the failure, explain it away, move on, and forget it. Not so with failures to act.”

When faced with an opportunity, too often we convince ourselves that we might regret trying when, in fact, the greatest regret comes from NOT trying.   A regret of omission.  These are most impressionable and last for years, because we’re left questioning what might have been.

My college experience might have been completely different. I might have toured the world. I might have avoided my dead-beat boyfriend. I might have made girlfriends whom I’d still adore today. I should have ignored the snide looks from my competition. I should have recognized the judges comments as an indicator that they were considering me for the team. I should have given my all, and put aside my fear of rejection. But I didn’t. And now I will forever regret leaving early at the auditions for my college dance team.   Ahhh… what might have been.  It’s true: We regret the things we don’t do far more than the things that we do.

Today I made a list. I asked myself, “If I continue doing what I’m doing (or rather, NOT doing) what will I regret a year from now? 5 years from now? 20 years from now?” I worked from the outside in, and came up with 3 goals that carry more weight today than they did a week ago, because I can anticipate the regret of NOT achieving them.

What have you not done that you regret? What do you need to do today, so you won’t create future regrets?  And you know that thing you’ve been considering doing?  Do it. Because “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”

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Still a believer.

Last week I had a birthday. A big birthday. Not just because it had a zero on the end of it, but because it marked the start of a new phase of life. The beginning of the beginning. You see, the man I love asked me to marry him… and I said yes!!! I didn’t expect to be planning for marriage again so soon, and I didn’t expect my time as a single woman to be so short, yet I’m at peace. I’m moving forward in faith, and it’s a good thing… or I’d never remarry. lol

Marriage isn’t easy. I know the ups and downs. I know the joys and pains. I’ve experienced the elation of building together, and the loneliness of growing alone. I understand the reality of falling out of love, and the reward of climbing back in. I have lived through beatification, and I have lived through disappointment. In the end, I choose to rise above my fears, not crumble under them. I am (still) a believer in marriage.

This time I know exactly who I am, and exactly what I want.

… And I got it!

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Ain’t no other man

It’s no secret I’ve been lost in my own little world, climbing out just long enough to handle the necessities of life.  Friends are starting to miss me, and readers wonder where I have gone.  This entire year has been a whirlwind, and the adage holds true:  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Falling in love certainly qualifies as fun!  Yes yes, I’m in love, and what a surprising place to be!

Life never turns out quite the way we imagine.  I guess that’s what makes it so great.  Though unexpected tragedies dot the path, euphoric joys are also part of the journey, and a sure guarantee if you live in a way that enables them.  Expect great things. Hope for great things.  Invite great things, and great things will find you.

There IS life after divorce.  Love after heartache and trust after after disappointment.  It’s simply a matter of being the right person. (Notice I didn’t say finding the right person).  The man of my dreams found me.  The kind of man I always imagined, but never believed existed.  What a pleasant surprise.

A few weeks ago I made him a little something for his birthday, and decided to post it here since it describes pretty well how I feel.  For your viewing pleasure  (and believe me, it IS a pleasure) allow me to introduce my man… Hotness!

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Fascination Lubrication

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with the power of the mind.  I remember going to the public library and checking out books on the topic,  most of which went over my head.  (For years I thought placebo was pronounced “place-bow”  because that’s how my fifth grade eyes read it).   I obsessed over handwriting analysis and its connection to the mind, then studied it relentlessly my seventh grade summer.  I read books about energy and the power of the subconscious mind,  books on hypnotism and even one on auras.  For years I had a secret desire to levitate objects, and was nearly convinced my mind could.  Eventually I gave up on levitation, but I still catch myself staring at speakers during church, hoping to see their aura.   :)

Many faucets of the mind intrigued me, however, the ability to create what we visualize is one aspect that continues to captivate me – and rightfully so.  At age 12 I experienced a powerful lesson when I began the infamous battle with acne, my T-zone being the war-zone.  It hadn’t gotten bad, but I knew where it was heading if I didn’t intervene.  My older brother taught me how to meditate, visualize and use affirmations.  (It was he who first sparked my interest in the power of the mind.  Appropriately, today he is a Neurologist.)  I meditated every day for 2 weeks and my “T” zone cleared right up and has never presented a problem since.  Ever.  Intriguing.  I applied the principle to other desired results, physical and mental, and achieved them exactly as imagined.  Empowering.   The fact that my mind, every  mind, holds such power is overwhelming, and emphasizes the importance of developing a strong imagination in my children.  I can’t fathom harnessing the full power of my brain!  You’ve probably heard that we only use 10%, but the human brain’s potential is infinite so even 10% is an over generous amount, since you can’t calculate a percentage of infinity. Mind-boggling.

So what’s got me pondering the power of the mind?  This extraordinary documentary about Daniel Tammet. I planned on watching 10 seconds, and and 30 minutes later was still enthralled.  His mental arithmetic, linguistic and memory skills are such that he took five hours and recited Pi to the 22,514 place, then learned a new language in a week and was tested for the film makers. The documentary was incredibly fascinating, and well worth the 47 minutes.

Though I’ll never be a true savant (think “Rain Man”), the fact that they  exist provides a glimpse into what we could become. Someday. In some life. Until then,  I’ll have to work with what I’ve got and fatten my chunk-a-brain with sudoku, chess, and Big Brain Academy.

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She wasn’t expected… She was selected

I had no idea what to expect… I just knew my friend needed me so I said I’d be there.  I wrapped my arm firmly around his broad shoulders and placed my hand gently on his knee, listening intently as his legal rights were read out loud.  I rubbed his back, offering what little comfort I could, while trying my best to hide the tears rapidly escaping down my cheeks.  The sporadic jolts from his sobbing body were felt in my own and immediately transferred to my chest, adding to my heartbreak.  At age 34 he was finally going to be a dad.  Father to a beautiful, healthy girl.  A daughter he would, unfortunately, never have the opportunity of raising.

Months prior he had broken up with his girlfriend, Beth. One week later she discovered she was pregnant.  Thankfully, they took responsibility for their actions and immediately ruled out abortion.   Should they marry? Should they give it up for adoption? Should she keep it? Should he?  The question lingered for months as they tried to make their relationship work, every day proving further that it wouldn’t.  The dilemma was not an unfamiliar one to Beth (name changed for privacy).  Ten years prior she had put herself in a similar situation and was faced with the same decision.   As a young 22 year old, she choose to keep the baby.  Ten years later, still unmarried and raising a child on her own, she had life-experience to learn from.  As difficult as it would be, this time around she would not be keeping the baby.

My dear friend had never experienced such sorrow, and each time I saw him his countenance had dropped further.  The best I could do was offer a listening ear and redundant advice.  “We all makes mistakes. You are truly a great person.  Turn to the Lord and I promise you will come out stronger.  Someday you’ll be grateful for this trial and the growth it will give you, and the opportunity you’ll have to help others.”  Redundant or not, this reassurance provided comfort in his time of need.   Life was lonely, and the consequences of his actions were in full swing – a poor trade off for one moment of transitory pleasure.  I remember him longing to keep the child, shattered he didn’t have a wife to share her with.  He would brainstorm out loud,  debating how he could be a single-dad while working and going to school.  In the end, he knew his reality.  Giving his daughter the opportunity to be raised in a healthy, balanced home was the selfless thing to do.  And so he did.

That day, sitting beside him while he signed away his rights, will forever be in my memory.  (It’s not something I experience every day, and I’m honored he turned to me for support).  I’m in awe over the selflessness both he and Beth displayed.  I only wish I could have witnessed the moment their angel was placed in the arms of that loving mother who’d waited years for her arrival.  Time has passed and life has moved on for my friend.  Life has moved on for Beth.  And life has just begun for their little one.

*dedicated to my dear friends who have adopted, are in the process of adopting, or have selflessly given their child for adoption.  You know who you are, and you have my admiration.

I’ve written from the viewpoint of a man.  Now read a separate story from the viewpoint of a woman … a touching post you’ll never forget!   Thanks to my friend Katie, for her willingness to share such a personal story.

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In over my head ^ and I don’t carrot all

Well, I did it again.  I bit off more than I can chew. (literally)  A few days ago I was grocery shopping, when I saw a lady with a 25lb bag of carrots in her grocery cart.   “Why on earth would anyone need that many carrots?”  I thought to myself.  “I’ve never seen a bag that big.  Weird.  …But economical. I think I’ll get some.”  And so I did.

I continued shopping,  proudly displaying an entire garden in my cart, while mentally creating a flawless plan involving several carrot soups, sesame carrots, carrots lyonnaise and carrot bread.  Surely I could use up 25lbs, and stow each meal in my trusty freezer.  I got home and went right to work. 3 batches of soup. Check.  Two batches of Sesame Carrots.  Check.  A huge serving of carrots lyonnaise.  Check.  Carrot bread… forget it.  It just isn’t worth the measly 3 carrots called for.  Now, after all that cooking, what am I left with?  (drum roll please)…

20 pounds.  That’s right.  I went from 25lbs, to 20.  Let’s say 15, just to give me hope.  I even took a picture, to show the large dent I’ve made.  At this point, I would be completely content to go an entire year without seeing another carrot.  This is one time I might have to admit defeat, and throw out the remaining $5 worth of carroty-goodness.  (Who am I kidding?  I’m far too stubborn for that.  I will COOK those carrots until they scream my name, and then I will eat them until my skin turns orange)!

I’m in over my head, but can’t deny that the process has left me laughing.  My kitchen is a wreck, but I’ve discovered some creative recipes along the way.  My conclusion:  Once in awhile, bite off more than you can chew and let your silly ambitions get the best of you …  just make sure it’s only a $7 risk.

(JUICER!  That should use up at least 3lbs. Brilliant!  Suggestions are welcome lol)

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My Greatest Competition

Before I had Gracie, I would hear women comparing their mothering to another and think to myself,  “I’ll never do that. I’ll raise my kids the best way I know how, and I’ll know I’m doing my best.  What’s to compare?”  The answer?  Everything – if you allow it.

Last night my friend’s kid sang his ABC’s at a mere 20 month.  My daughter just turned 2 and is, well… a very normal 2 year old.  She knows a handful of words, is barely starting to repeat what I teach her, and is mostly content to just run around playing, giggling and babbling to her hearts content.  (I might be laughing as I type.  Her carefree spirit is intoxicating).  I was feeling sad like, somehow, I haven’t done enough because my child can’t recite the capitals of each state by age two.

“This is bull crap,” I thought, breaking free from my boo-hoo trance. “Gracie has learned exactly what I want her to learn.  She has her own mind and her own voice, she’s free-spirited, adorably stubborn and blissfully happy.  She’s coming along just fine.  Now relax, her ABC’s will come with time.”  I enjoyed the rest of my night while pondering the pitfall of comparing myself to others.

I remember the day I resolved to overcome this ugly trap.   It was my first year in middle school and, a few weeks into it, I realized the list of things to compare were never ending, from the shape of my feet to the sound of my voice.  I distinctly remember analyzing my walk, and asking myself if I looked normal, then asking what normal even looked like.  Was my backpack cool, did I use the right book covers, should I plaster my locker with Hello Kitty, or Green Day, and how should I lace my laces?  (A simple criss-cross used to suffice).  Pressure came from every direction, regarding every petty detail, and I quickly realized they would never end, unless I put a stop to them.

It was a Monday, and as I sat in first period I was pondering a quote I had heard the day before, in church.   It said something about unhappiness, and how it was sure to find us if we compare ourselves to others.  I liked being happy.  I had always been happy.  I wanted to continue to be happy.  I determined then and there, in my tiny desk, to never compare myself to others and to simply enjoy being me!   And I did. I walked exactly how I wanted to walk (with a slight strut) and let my obnoxious laugh ring loud and clear through the halls.  It was mine, and it needed to come out.  I left my locker bare, because I couldn’t understand the obsession with Hello Kitty and, frankly, I had no idea who Green Day even was. I ignored the cool-lace fad and embraced flip-flops, even though I knew darn well my feet were ugly.  I stopped asking what was cool and decided that if I did it… it was cool enough.  Overconfident, perhaps, but this attitude got me blissfully through those rough pre-teen years, and I emerged with a self-assurance that left most baffled.  Though I can’t say I NEVER compared myself to others, I did a decent job of living my own life, and being satisfied with being me.  And I continue to.  Most of the time.

And so, here’s to resolution.  Again.

You see,  the problem with comparing yourself to others is it will either build your ego or damage your self-worth based on a superficial and faulty scale.   We all bring a different package to the table, so measuring is skewed to begin with.  Of course there are things you’re better at than “her.”  And, of course there are things “she’s” better at than you.  This doesn’t make you any less or more of woman, nor any less or more loved by others.  In fact, it’s these very differences that provide texture to life, and create the interwoven opportunity to learn and grow from one another.  Truly, in the end, the only standard to weigh yourself against is your own:  What YOU know to be your best.  Then, as you live up to your beliefs, ego is set aside and a true sense of self-worth is developed – the unshakable kind that can not be influenced by others.   Being your best develops self-worth and inner-love, while being better than others can only build ego and satisfy pride.  One is lasting, and one is not.

It’s time we rise above the comparison game, appreciate each-others differences, and focus on self-worth rather than ego.  After-all, in the end we are all measured by that solid and unchanging scale of which we’ll never escape.  Our own.

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